Wetlands Research

field crew working in a tidal freshwater wetland

The Wetlands Section focuses on evaluating the functions and services of tidal freshwater wetlands and brackish and salt marshes, and how these ecosystems are affected by and respond to anthropogenic changes (e.g., sea level rise, mosquito control, nutrient inputs, and climate change). Research includes examining nutrient and carbon cycling, storage in wetland plants and soils, and the exchange of these elements between the plants, soil, water, and atmosphere.

Specific projects within the Wetland and Biogeochemistry sections include the development and coordination of an intensive long-term monitoring program in wetlands along the Delaware Estuary and Barnegat Bay, NJ. The Patrick Center is partnered with two National Estuary Programs, the Partnership for Delaware Estuary and the Barnegat Bay Partnership, along with other federal, state, and academic partners to implement evaluation of elevation, water and soil chemistry, plant composition, and biomass changes over time in over seven wetlands of the Delaware Bay and three wetlands in Barnegat Bay.

Staff | Capabilities | Facilities | Selected Projects


Dr. Tracy Quirk, Section Leader
215-299-1109, quirk@ansp.org
Dr. Quirk is a wetland ecologist interested in vegetation dynamics in coastal wetlands including factors that influence organic matter accumulation and decomposition and carbon and nutrient cycling. Her recent dissertation research was on the distribution of carbon and nitrogen pools in a salt marsh fringing a coastal lagoon and ecotypic variation of wetland plant species in biomass, carbon and nutrient allocation. Her current work includes establishing long‑term fixed station monitoring of tidal wetlands along the Delaware Estuary and Barnegat Bay. The goal is to relate factors of soil and water chemistry, plant biomass, hydrology, and elevation to wetland accretion rate to determine whether these wetlands will be able to maintain their elevation relative to sea level.
Support Staff
Viktoria Unger, Drexel University
Viktoria is a Masters degree student in Environmental Science at Drexel University and is studying the factors influencing carbon storage in salt marsh soils.


  • Nutrient and carbon cycling in salt marsh plants and soils
  • Belowground organic matter composition and loss through decomposition
  • Plant, sediment, and hydrological interactions on surface elevation changes
  • Ecotypic or population variation in wetland plants
  • Wetland restoration


The Wetland Section along with the Biogeochemistry section uses a range of field and laboratory equipment including:

  • Water quality meters (e.g., YSIs)
  • Continuous water level and conductivity recorders
  • Surface elevation tables
  • Particulate carbon and nitrogen analyzer
  • Nutrient auto-analyzer
  • Various coring supplies

Selected Projects

  • Seasonal denitrification in an urban tidal freshwater wetland in Philadelphia, PA
  • The effect of Open Marsh Water Management on sedimentation, hydrology, and porewater chemistry in salt marshes