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Coastal Carolina University 

SOCAN and researchers from Coastal Carolina University (CCU) wrapped up this project in Spring of 2024 with the presentation of the results at Mary Olson's Masters defense. The goal of the project was to assess the potential for acidification at pier sites in Long Bay and Murrell's Inlet. This project, funded through South Carolina Sea Grant, is the first of its kind in South Carolina. During 2022 and 2023 the team collected water samples for carbonate chemistry and combined the new data with existing pH and dissolved oxygen data with the goal of determining short-term changes in acidification variables and decadal scale trends. The final outcomes of the project included formal and informal educational materials for High School through Graduate levels and valuable information for State and Local level water quality management planning. For more information about this project check out the links below.


Coastal and Estuarine Acidification in Long Bay, South Carolina

This project is run by Coastal Carolina University through South Carolina Sea Grant funding.

The proposed project seeks to provide a characterization of coastal ocean acidification (COA) using the waters of Long Bay, South Carolina (SC) where hypoxia (low oxygen) and acidification (in the form of low pH) have already been documented. Data from this local characterization will be used in informal and formal education settings to increase public awareness of COA as a statewide coastal concern. The project serves as a pilot effort to guide future expansion to the rest of the state’s coastline.


The project meets Objective 1.2 of SC Sea Grant’s Strategic Plan with regard to Program Area I, Healthy Ecosystems to,


“generate and deliver science-based information on the effects of changes in water quality and quantity on coastal and ocean ecosystems and communities to support land, water, and living resources management decision-making.”


Additionally, the proposed project addresses Program Area V, Scientific Literacy and Workforce Development, which envisions the advancement of a,


“scientifically literate public, at both youth and adult levels, understands the value and vulnerability of coastal and marine resources, makes wise decisions regarding these resources, and supports the development of a well-trained and diverse workforce in coastal-and marine-related careers”.


The goals of this project seek to determine the impacts of COA on water quality in Long Bay, SC, provide information to stakeholders, and create opportunities for education and future COA monitoring efforts.

March 2024

Project Update

Property-property plots (pHNBS vs. pHT, TA vs. Salinity and pHT vs. Salinity, Temperature and Dissolved Oxygen) were compared using geometric mean regression. Sensor pHNBS measurements were compared to calculated pHT measurements. Data show that DIC and TA peaks coincide with Chl a increases and DO decreases which indicates respiration taking place and adding CO2 into the system (Schulz and Riebesell 2013). Oyster Landing and Rum Gully Creek both had values that fell within the pHT, pCO2, ΩCA and ΩAR thresholds for Eastern Oysters (Gobler and Talmage 2014) and Summer Flounder (Chambers et al. 2014) indicating periodic events where they could be experiencing acidification events detrimental to their development. The estuarine sites showed strong linearity at Oyster Landing and Rum Gully Creek. No strong linear relationships were found between TA and salinity due to a highly dynamic coastal system. Current methodologies used by the volunteer monitoring program, at the estuarine sites, shows pHNBS can potentially act as a proxy for pHT. However, due to the lack of a conservative relationship between TA and salinity more information is needed to identify potential acidification trends. Future studies should be done to obtain more observations and sampling to better identify potential acidification trends (Pimenta and Grear 2018). Due to the highly dynamic nature of these systems future sampling should also include measuring pHT from discrete samples in the laboratory to compare CO2SYS calculated pHT to the discretely measured pHT to help identify areas of error (Dickson et al. 2007, Fassbender et al. 2017). There should be a future focus on the need for better and more holistic data collection (i.e. nutrients, carbonate parameters, water quality parameters, etc.) in order to better understand and describe potential acidification in these estuarine and coastal-ocean systems.


Ongoing hypoxia research in Coastal South Carolina waters and the link to coastal acidification 

Long Bay Hypoxia
Monitoring Consortium

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The Long Bay Hypoxia Monitoring Consortium is supporting water quality and biological monitoring at three fishing piers on the Grand Strand.  The consortium was established by a resolution of the Coastal Alliance signed in August 2011.  The Coastal Alliance is comprised of the mayors from the coastal municipalities of the Grand Strand, including the cities of Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach, the towns of Surfside Beach and Atlantic Beach, and the unincorporated areas of Horry County.

The link between hypoxia and acidification is likely important, especially in coastal waters where large quantities of organic matter are decomposed back into their inorganic components via bacterial processes that consume dissolved oxygen in the water. CO2, which is released by the bacteria during this process, contributes to decreasing the pH and causing more acidic conditions.

Some initial results at several locations around Long Bay show that pH decreases (top left graphic) and the water gets more acidic when dissolved oxygen (bottom left graphic) decreases. This generally happens over the summer when there are greater amounts of phytoplankton and other organic plant matter in the water (growing season), whereas in the winter the pH and dissolved oxygen increase again.

Since the summer of 2008, a volunteer monitoring program has been collecting water samples for various dissolved nutrients, oxygen, phytoplankton biomass, and pH. 

Coastal Carolina University Project Personnel 

Angelos Hannides, Ph.D. Associate Professor |

Angelos' current research activities center on sandy shores, land-ocean exchange of pollutants, specifically nutrients, and the biogeochemical implications of coastal engineering interventions such as beach nourishment and channel realignment. He has a keen interest in sensors for biogeochemical parameters on static, ship-borne, and autonomous platforms. He is invested in the process of science informing policy, based on prior experience as an EU-member-state government scientist, policy maker, and consultant for the private environmental consulting sector.


Susan M. Libes, Ph. D. Professor/Director, Waccamaw Watershed Academy |

Susan Libes is the director of CCU’s Waccamaw Watershed Academy and its state-certified Environmental Quality Laboratory. She engages in research, teaching, and public outreach to meet regional needs for protecting water quality in the rivers and coastal waters of Horry and Georgetown counties. This includes deployment of real-time water quality, physical and meteorological sensors at three fishing piers on the Grand Strand of South Carolina. Other monitoring programs that provide data online include four volunteer water quality monitoring programs located in the Waccamaw River, Murrells Inlet and Surfside Beach and Briarcliffe Acres.


Danielle Viso, Director, Environmental Quality Laboratory |

Danielle Viso presently serves as the technical director of the Environmental Quality Lab at Coastal Carolina University. Viso has been with the EQL for 11 years, prior to which she was a Geologist with a large private sector consulting company for 5 years. Her research interests involve environmental impacts on developing watersheds and methodologies to monitor environmental quality parameters at a variety of scales in coastal environments. Viso manages operations and projects associated with the state-certified EQL, educates and mentors student interns, and also teaches environmental monitoring methods in a graduate course at CCU.

Mary Olsen, Master's Student at Coastal Carolina University funded by South Carolina Sea Grant

Mary Olsen graduate student in the Coastal Marine and Wetland Studies Masters program at Coastal Carolina University. Mary is a master's student in the Coastal Marine and Wetland Studies Program. She is from Delta, Pennsylvania, and is interested in the Chesapeake Bay and water quality. She received her bachelor's degree from Coastal Carolina University with a major in Marine Science and an Applied Mathematics minor. She is interning with the Environmental Quality Lab (EQL) as a field and lab technician. She is also working with her graduate advisor, Dr. Angelos Hannides and the EQL on her Coastal Ocean Acidification thesis project. 

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