This summer, Hallee Meltzer, an environmental science major at the University of Miami and Photo Editor for The Miami Hurricane, studied estuarine responses to El Niño at Tijuana River NERR in Imperial Beach, CA. Hallee’s research, conducted in conjunction with the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project, was part of a region-wide monitoring effort which covered 12 different sites in CA. She analyzed data from stations at Tijuana River NERR and the more residential Upper Newport Back Bay during the 2015-2016 El Niño event, investigating how tides and water levels changed. She then compared the data with models for future climate change scenarios, predicting that the higher sea levels seen during El Niño could become the norm in 15-30 years.
Hallee found elevated sea levels and increased wave events likely led to a sediment build up, which caused Tijuana River NERR to close off from the ocean. Tijuana River NERR was manually reopened this season after a decline in oxygen levels threatened wildlife. Hallee notes that estuaries must be managed on a case-by-case basis, but there are more options to mitigate impacts from these events in a natural system, such as Tijuana River NERR.
During her internship, Hallee learned about data analysis and management. She worked with multiple stakeholders and collaborated with other scientific organizations. Hallee is continuing with her project, and hopes to publish in a peer-reviewed journal, as well as present her work at the ASLO Ocean Sciences Meeting. Hallee plans to apply to graduate school in environmental science, and her long term goals include making scientific research more accessible to the public.