Estuary Watershed Research

We have been working since 2006 to map vital land-estuary habitat connections, develop regional and local scale habitat integrity models, and identify management and conservation actions that provide the greatest benefit to estuary health and resiliency.

Our  program addresses four key areas:

  • Monitoring the status and trends of biodiversity in the Hudson Valley
  • Modeling and mapping habitat connectivity
  • Conducting cross-system research 
  • Climate Change Research

Monitoring Biodiversity

Beyeler-and-Field-CrewAlthough it seems daunting to monitor multiple wildlife populations and their habitats within an entire region or statewide, the task becomes more manageable using multi-species inventory, rotating inventory, centralized stewardship of data, and by capitalizing on partnerships with ongoing state and federal monitoring programs.

This project was completed in 2014 with support from the NY State Wildlife Grants and the Hudson River Estuary Program

Forest breeding bird monitoring began in 2006 with field survey and predictive modeling. The sampling effort continues with the objective of tracking the current population status of interior forest species that are particularly sensitive to fragmentation.

Modeling and Mapping Habitat Connectivity


The region’s extraordinary biodiversity and the benefits it provides are threatened by sprawling development that fragments ecosystems and blocks pathways for movement. Without corridors to link habitat types and provide routes for migration and dispersal, many wildlife species that require a complex of habitats for survival may decline. In addition, fragmented landscapes reduce the capacity of ecosystems to provide clean water and promote the spread of invasive and overabundant plants and animals.


Integrity-based Forest Connectivity Modeling at Regional and Local Scales

Since 2012 we have been utilizing spatial models to identify and prioritize critical habitat linkages that, if preserved, may contribute to the sustainability of healthy ecosystems throughout the Hudson River Estuary Watershed.


Cross-System Research

Cross system picWe are currently designing and implement a research framework for identifying and quantifying threats to vital land to estuary habitat connections. We plan to utilize field surveys and existing data in order to identify the most important natural areas and watershed connections for supporting and sustaining a healthy estuary and increasing the resilience of the estuary and watershed.


Connecting Patterns of Terrestrial Biodiversity to  Stream Health
Using Wood Turtles as Indicators of Terrestrial to Aquatic Habitat Integrity

Climate Change Research



Sea-Level Rise Affecting Marshes Modeling

Sea level rise poses a threat to rare, freshwater tidal systems that border the Hudson River estuary. Relative sea level rise from Kingston northward is predicted to be 20-127cm by 2080, or 0.29-1.84cm/year. Whether sediment accretion in the existing freshwater tidal wetlands can “keep up” with sea-level rise is an open question. Cornell DNR worked with Scenic Hudson to model tidal habitat migration for the estuary. The results will identify and prioritize high-impact protection, management, and restoration opportunities to facilitate tidal habitat transition.

Tabak, NM, ML Laba, and S. Spector. 2016. Simulating the Effects of Sea Level Rise on the Resilience and Migration of Tidal Wetlands along the Hudson River. PLoS One 11(4): e0152437. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0152437.


Additional Information:


Publications & Reports



Dr. Patrick Sullivan, Department of Natural Resources

Fernow Hall, Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853
(607) 255-8213

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