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Benthic and Infaunal Community Structure within Offshore Wind Lease Areas

Advisor: Dr. Daphne Munroe

Sophia Piper is a first-year Ph.D. student in the Rutgers Ecology and Evolution Program working at the Rutgers Haskin Shellfish Research Lab. She received her B.S. in Environmental Science from Stockton University in NJ. Sophia's research interests lie in the intersection of marine biological resources and sustainable energy development. She is particularly interested in how the development of offshore wind energy may provide unique habitat that will create opportunities for shifts in benthic invertebrate communities in and around offshore wind farms. Specifically, the infrastructure associated with the farms (rock on the bottom, and hard substrate pilings that extend the depth of the water column) have been known to support communities of marine invertebrates that otherwise would not flourish along the continental shelf off New Jersey. The ways that these shifts in habitat will cascade through the community ecology on the shelf are of particular interest to Sophia and will be the focus of her graduate studies.