Marine Community Ecologist Zhang Awarded $1.22 Million Grant to Develop Restoration Strategies
The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation have awarded Stacy Zhang, assistant professor in the Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, and her colleagues a $1.22 million grant to develop new restoration techniques for coastal systems.
Zhang is the principal investigator on the project, which seeks to reestablish biodiversity and increase resilience to environmental stressors in three coastal ecosystems — oyster reefs, salt marshes and seagrass meadows. To accomplish this, the researchers will test the effects of harnessing mutually beneficial interactions between species. The project will expand on previous research suggesting that such interactions among key species more effectively reduce high physical stress among organisms and ecosystems, enhance biodiversity and increase recovery rates, in comparison to taking the more commonly used single-species approach to restoration. Fostering positive species interactions could also increase restoration yields at little to no extra cost.
Zhang will collaborate with Brian Silliman at Duke University, Todd Miller and Lexia Weaver at the North Carolina Coastal Federation, and Bo Lusk at the Nature Conservancy.
“Our goal is to amplify evidence-based approaches in conservation so that we can preserve coastal biodiversity and enable people to use the most cost-effective and climate-resilient strategies in restoration,” said Zhang.
Through their newly formed Partnership to Advance Conservation Science and Practice (PACSP), NSF and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation have awarded a total of $8 million to fund six projects focused on protecting diverse ecosystems and endangered species around the U.S. A separate group of NC State researchers received another one of the six grants, in partnership with North Carolina Aquariums, to conserve the crystal skipper butterfly in a coastal urban environment.
Zhang’s research focuses on the role of biodiversity, species interactions and anthropogenic change on coastal ecosystems in order to develop new approaches to marine restoration. She earned her doctorate in marine science and conservation from Duke University in 2019. Zhang joined NC State as a faculty member in the College of Sciences in the fall of 2022.