Cassie Bauer is currently a second year Master’s student at SoMAS. She is the most recent recipient of the Evan R. Liblit Scholarship award, a scholarship by the Evan R. Liblit Memorial Fund to support graduate studies at SoMAS in the field of waste management and/or marine, terrestrial and atmospheric pollution. In addition to the Liblit award, as an undergraduate at Stony Brook Cassie received an Evan Frankel scholarship to support summer research.
Cassie’s research involves investigating the physical factors that contribute to summer hypoxia events in Smithtown Bay on Long Island Sound. Hypoxia is a major issue in many of Long Island’s local estuaries, and is especially problematic in western Long Island Sound. Human-derived nutrient run-off into the estuaries is often identified as the primary factor contributing to hypoxic events and considerable efforts have been made to reduce the amount of nutrients entering the sound. While substantial reductions have been achieved, hypoxia continues to occur every summer in Smithtown Bay.
Enter Cassie’s research, with her main hypothesis postulating that the cause of hypoxia in Smithtown Bay is likely to be a combination of physical factors, not just nutrient loading. These physical factors include wind, currents and tides, which all affect the vertical structure of the water column. When these factors act in a certain manner, they can prevent the water column from mixing and create vertical stratification, which results in hypoxic bottom waters. Smithtown Bay’s coastal geography, with the Bay flanked by two glacial headlands – Eatons Neck to the West and Crane Neck to the east – might also create a partial boundary for mixing between Smithtown Bay and the rest of the Sound, limiting tidal flushing which might otherwise prevent hypoxia.
Additionally, Cassie is assessing the historical water quality of the western bays of the South Shore Estuary Reserve (see article on SoMAS website). These bays are listed in the New York State List of Impaired Waters. Wastewater effluent is the main nitrogen source to these bays, leading to summertime hypoxic events there. State regulations necessitate a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for nitrogen to be established for these waterways. Cassie is examining historical water quality data for these bays to determine what this TMDL should be and to evaluate the effectiveness of using TMDLs in the Western Bays. She works closely with Dr. Larry Swanson, Director of the School’s Waste Reduction and Management Institute (WRMI) on her research.
Cassie tells all …
What made you choose SoMAS?
I got interested in waste management after taking an undergraduate course with Larry Swanson. I decided to apply to SoMAS in order to work with Larry in the Waste Reduction and Management Institute.
What do you perceive as the major waste management problem facing Long Island currently?
Long Islander’s, on average, produce 7.5lbs of garbage per person per day, compared to the national average of 4.5 lbs per person per day, and we have nowhere to put it. The current incinerators and landfills on Long Island don’t have the capacity to deal with all our waste. We ship about half of our waste off the Island, which is expensive, not sustainable and usually buried in landfills that don’t have strict environmental regulations.
You spent time working on legislation to curb the use of disposable bags at Long Island shopping centers. How was this experience?
It was a great learning experience. I was able to attend and speak at public hearings and learn how our legislative system works. I also learned how hard it is to pass a local law. Even though the law hasn’t passed yet, it was nice to see that some politicians care about the environment.
What’s with you winning scholarships named after Evans (Liblit and Frankel)?
I don’t know. I guess a lot of Evans have done many great things for the environment. If I ever have a son, I should probably name him Evan.
Do you prefer the north shore or the south shore?
The north shore, definitely. I grew up in Huntington so the north shore will always feel like home to me.