Virginia Coast Reserve LTER - Project Overview

The Virginia coast is an extremely dynamic landscape. The Virginia Coastal Reserve (VCR) LTER focuses on understanding the relationships between natural and anthropogenic forces on the ecology of a coastal barrier island, lagoon and mainland system. Frequent storms, tides, and winds cause sea level variations that affect over 70% of VCR's land area. Over the last century sea level rose 35 cm, the highest rise along the Atlantic coast. Seventy years ago the dominant species, eelgrass, disappeared from the lagoons; recolonization began anew in the past 5 years. In addition, 60-90% of the barrier island uplands is new land since 1871. This land creation has left a century-long legacy that we can now use for natural experiments. The central hypothesis of the VCR LTER program is that ecosystem and landscape dynamics and land use patterns within the watersheds of the VCR are controlled by the vertical position of the land, the sea, and the freshwater table surfaces.

The VCR/LTER is administered through the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia. Researchers from many other institutions participate in research. These include East Carolina University, Old Dominion University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Institute of Marine Science and the Nature Conservancy. The VCR/LTER is supported by National Science Foundation grants BSR-8702333-06, DEB-9211772, DEB-9411974 and DEB-0080381 and is part of the U.S. Long-term Ecological Research Network.

The field station maintained in Oyster, Virginia is currently housed in a large Victorian Farm House built in 1933 by the Rippon family and named the Shirley House. The Virginia Coast Reserve/Long Term Ecological Research Program began operation in this facility in 1987 under the auspices of the National Science Foundation, the University of Virginia and The Nature Conservancy.

The field station provides laboratory and dormitory facilities, logistics and technical support to visiting LTER researchers from various institutions and agencies. Field station personnel maintain the site, conduct collaborative research with other PI?s, collect data from meteorological stations, tide gauges, well transects and water level recorders. The staff are here to support your research, logistics to and from research sites, integration of GPS surveys (both kinematic and static), assisting in laboratory facilities and availability and housing/dormitory requirements. Please contact the LTER staff with any of your individual research or personal needs while visiting the Eastern Shore. We encourage a high level of communication with visiting PI?s and students.

The main level of the LTER site is office, conference and laboratory facilities, with additional labs in the basement. The second story is dormitory space in which we traditionally house 20-25 PI?s, students and their guests during the intense field season. Fax, electronic mail and internet access is available on site with adequate computing facilities. We host a fleet of four boats to provide all types of logistics to the VCR barrier islands, mainland creeks and seaside ports.

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