Research ProjectLong-Term Studies of a Chesapeake Tributary

Long-Term Studies of a Chesapeake Tributary

SERC fish weir

SERC fish weir, which temporarily catches fish for population surveys

Project Goal

The goal of this project is to gain insight into population and community dynamics of fish and macro-invertebrates in a representative subestuary of the Chesapeake Bay.


Infographic of 5 types of long-term surveys: Fish weir, seining, infaunal benthic invertebrates, trawling and predation experiments

Spanning more than three decades, our ongoing, long-term studies describe the population dynamics and community structure of fish and invertebrates throughout the Rhode River study site, Maryland. This research tracks seasonal, annual, and decadal variation in species composition and abundance of fish and macro-invertebrates using multiple sampling methods. The long-term descriptive data, in combination with our experimental studies, provide a unique window into estuarine population dynamics and community structure. These data, along with other long-term research at SERC, enable the study of community responses to changing weather, seasons, climate, water quality, fisheries, predator-prey dynamics, land use and drivers of ecosystem change. These studies also provide data supporting the SERC Core Site of the Tennenbaum Marine Observatory Network (TMON) and MarineGEO.

The combination of long-term sampling programs gives us a larger view of how an estuarine ecosystem functions. With our long-term data, we can learn much about the life history of species, including their habitat partitioning, their reproduction and recruitment patterns and requirements, their trophic (feeding/energy) levels, and the effect of environmental changes on their behavior. Changes in environmental conditions and their subsequent effects on species may not become evident for several years, and our long-term sampling program helps to clarify often highly variable population trends. Follow the links to the right for detailed information on our five long-term studies.