Julie is a natural resources specialist with the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office in Annapolis, Maryland. She focuses on climate issues in collaboration with the Chesapeake Bay Program. Julie has been with NOAA for just under a year.
Describe a project related to habitat that you are currently working on.
I’m bringing together data from NOAA and partner organizations to develop climate change indicators—measurements to track changes to conditions over time--that will help us assess climate change impacts to our natural resources. Indicators show trends between past and present conditions. They can be paired with future climate change model projections. Comparisons between past, present, and plausible future conditions help us develop management strategies so we can better prepare for and withstand unfavorable outcomes to our natural resources. For example, warming temperatures and increased precipitation in the Chesapeake Bay can harm aquatic life habitat. Our team is working on an indicator to track water temperature changes in fish habitat areas. Natural resource managers can then use this information to plan where additional measures may be needed to improve the habitat for fish survival under changing climate conditions. Strategies could include increasing streamside forested areas near vulnerable fish habitat to improve shading to cool the water.
What habitat work has been especially successful or inspiring to you?
I am very inspired by the Chesapeake Bay Program and their successes to restore and protect the water quality, habitat, and natural resources of the Chesapeake Bay. This impressive partnership includes multiple federal, state, and local government agencies, universities, nonprofit organizations, and industry groups throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. I coordinate the Climate Resiliency Workgroup as part of NOAA’s contribution to the partnership. I am constantly inspired by the collaboration and innovative strategies of my colleagues and our partners in tackling large-scale restoration initiatives for the Chesapeake Bay and the pursuit of efforts to build resilience to changing climate conditions.
Describe a time when you were surprised by fish and/or habitat.
Earlier in my career as a water chemist, I was recruited to assist with a fish habitat project in Lake Erie as part of a graduate program with the University of Windsor’s Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research in Canada in partnership with the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in the United States. I was tasked to develop chemical signatures for river plume habitats in Lake Erie to figure out where surviving fish were spending the majority of their early lives. I was surprised that I would be using fish ear stones, called otoliths, to develop these chemical signatures. It turns out that fish otoliths can form daily rings and incorporate trace elements from the water. As a result, otoliths can be used to age fish, similar to counting tree rings, determine growth rates from the length of the rings, and track where fish have been based on their chemical signatures. I was amazed at how much information could be obtained from these small ear stones, which for the youngest fish, were no larger than the size of a speck of dust.