Environmental Services

Environmental Services - Benthic and Plankton Laboratory - Versar, Inc.

Coastal & Estuarine Science

Versar's coastal and estuarine staff has provided science-based solutions for the monitoring and assessment of coastal ecosystems for four decades. With an in-depth understanding of coastal ecosystem function, we combine technical expertise with innovation to deliver sound and cost-effective results. Our team has wide-ranging capabilities that include estuarine and marine ecology, water quality, statistics, data management, survey design, indicator development, laboratory processing, and environmental review and compliance. Versar coastal and estuarine scientists are providing expert coastal and estuarine scientific support to most of the federal agencies responsible for protecting the nation's coastal environment, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Ocean Service (NOS), the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service (NPS), the US Army Corps of Engineers, and numerous state and local regulatory agencies. During our long-term support to EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program, Versar experts pioneered the development of the benthic index of biotic integrity (B-IBI), an innovative diagnostic tool used to assess the health of Chesapeake Bay.

Versar supplies subject matter specialists in the areas of estuarine and coastal resource mapping, marine debris monitoring, ecosystem assessment, and monitoring estuarine conditions.

Our work with the NPS is an example of estuarine and coastal resource mapping. For this project, Versar supported the NPS with an assessment of benthic resources and near-shore habitats within the Assateague Island National Seashore. This work included survey design and field inventories of benthic resources; physical and biological resource analysis and creation of benthic biotype maps; and characterization of benthic habitats under NPS jurisdiction.

For marine debris monitoring, Versar experts designed and conducted field surveys of marine debris to assess National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) debris survey protocols and quantify shoreline and pelagic debris; assessed spatial and temporal variation through statistical analysis; confirmed effectiveness of shoreline sampling protocols; and recommended survey design modifications. Versar's survey approach is being integrated into NOAA's nationwide standards for marine debris assessment.

Versar specialists assisted NOS with an integrated ecosystem assessment in three small watersheds in upper Chesapeake Bay; coordinated and conducted benthic sampling from a Versar research vessel; processed and analyzed benthic faunal samples in the Versar Laboratory; quantified greater benthic impairment in more developed watersheds; and published the results in the journal Environmental Assessment and Monitoring.

Versar has supported EPA's Chesapeake Bay Program for 30 years in the assessment and monitoring of benthic communities in Chesapeake Bay. This effort includes collection of field samples throughout the Maryland portion of Chesapeake Bay; laboratory analyses; statistical analysis and interpretation of long-term trends in benthic community condition; and development of biological indicators. We pioneered important tools for understanding estuarine environments such as advanced tools based on the B-IBI and diagnostic tools used to classify regions of the Bay affected by contaminants. Versar specialists also developed biological criteria based on the B-IBI to assist in the impaired waters assessments required by the Clean Water Act (303d list).