NJSEA and RU-N Partnership Enhances, Expands Vital Scientific Research in the Meadowlands
On March 16, The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA) and Rutgers University-Newark (RU-N) heralded the merger of the Authority’s Meadowlands Environmental Research Institute (MERI) into the RU-N Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences. The move enhances and expands critical scientific research in the Hackensack Meadowlands Estuary that leads to a broad array of environmental improvements.
“MERI and Rutgers University-Newark are home to top-level scientists who are widely recognized for their talents,” said Wayne Hasenbalg, President and CEO of the NJSEA. “Uniting the intellectual and technological resources of these premier research entities significantly advances MERI’s work that has helped spur an environmental renaissance in the Meadowlands District.”
RU-N and MERI have a long and fruitful history. The Institute began as part of Rutgers-Newark in 1999 and became the scientific and research arm of the Meadowlands agency in 2004. The new merger was officially completed in December. MERI and RU-N scientists have already worked together over the past 13 years on wetlands studies based in and around the Hackensack River within the District, making the merger even more practical.
“We are excited to welcome MERI back into our renowned Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences through a seamless transition thanks to the cooperation, collaboration and hard work of Rutgers University-Newark and NJSEA staff,” said Dr. Jerome D. Williams, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost of Rutgers University-Newark.
“Through its operation under the University, MERI now has the advantage of increased scientific resources and manpower, the ability to apply for a greater number of grants and a greater means to attract world-class scientific talent,” Dr. Williams said. “In addition, the Institute takes on a greater educational component as students can work with scientists and participate in research studies.”
MERI’s research has helped to considerably improve the air, water and sediment quality in and around the Hackensack River and its marshes. This work has played a key role in the revitalization of the Meadowlands’ unique urban ecosystem and wetlands, leading to the return of birds, fish and other species of wildlife that now call the area home.
Current MERI research includes studies measuring the amount of gasses emitted and taken in by wetlands, mapping and monitoring marsh vegetation, and measuring and assessing marsh sediment quality. A joint wetlands study between MERI and the NJSEA’s Natural Resources Department is examining the biodiversity and pollutant levels in macroinvertebrates and the sediments in which they live. The study will produce new knowledge about the ecological health of the Hackensack River system, its surrounding marshlands and the associated food web.
MERI resources include a cutting-edge research laboratory with more than a dozen precision instruments that identify measure and analyze organic and non-organic compounds using ion chromatography and mass spectrometry. Detailed information is available at meri.njmeadowlands.gov/lab.
In addition to performing field research, MERI provides important resources through its award-winning Geographic Information Systems group (GIS). The GIS group produces hi-tech, digital maps of all properties in Meadowlands District municipalities that are available online as well as aerial and topographical images that enhance on-the-ground scientific research.
The GIS group also provides a water level alert system and flood prediction maps to first responders and the public. The email and text-based alerts for Meadowlands District towns are sent when water levels reach 5.5 feet above sea level and continue to be relayed as the levels rise. The interactive, web-based flood prediction maps include the parts of District municipalities that may flood from sea surge levels of 4 to 8 feet.
The MERI Library collection includes more than 12,000 hard copy and digitalized books, engineering reports, research studies, photographs, maps, newspaper clippings and other current and historical documents related to the Meadowlands region.
The Institute maintains a weather station in DeKorte Park, the home of the NJSEA. The station is included in the NJ Weather & Climate Network, which is managed by Rutgers University. Weather station data can be found at www.njweather.org/station/111.
For more information on MERI, visit meri.njmeadowlands.gov
About the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority
The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA), the premier agency for sports and entertainment in the Meadowlands region, also serves as the planning and zoning agency for the 30.4-square-mile Meadowlands District, which comprises parts of Bergen and Hudson counties.
The agency protects this environmentally sensitive area and its unique urban eco-system, and provides solid waste planning and management services. In addition, the NJSEA Meadowlands Environment Center offers environmental education programs for Grades K-12 through a contract with Ramapo College of New Jersey.
The Authority also provides support for the ongoing operation of the MetLife Sports Complex, an internationally renowned sports and entertainment hub. This support is provided to MetLife Stadium, New Meadowlands Racetrack and the Meadowlands Arena through the Authority’s Engineering, Site Operations, Security, Emergency Medical Services, Fire, and Arena side Traffic and Parking Operation departments.
For more information visit www.njsea.com
About Rutgers University-Newark Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (EES) offers unique geoscience education and research opportunities. We focus on applied environmental education and research that serves well students wishing to pursue careers in the growing environmental consulting sector that is strong in New Jersey.
Our faculty strengths are in atmospheric chemistry, soil geochemistry, near surface geophysics, ocean biogeochemistry and structural geology. We have a well-established PhD program in Environmental Science. We collaborate closely with the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at New Jersey Institute of Technology, the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Rutgers (Busch Campus) and the School of Environmental & Biological Sciences at Rutgers (Cook Campus) to offer broad educational-research opportunities for both faculty and students. The department is also heavily engaged in educational outreach programs that offer unique opportunities for minority high schools students within the Newark Public Schools system. The department was ranked No. 49 in the country for its graduate program in 2014 by U.S. News and World Reports.
For more information visit www.ncas.rutgers.edu/ees