Elise Granek, Portland State University – Understanding the Impacts of Anthropogenic Stressors on the Ecosystems of Coastal Transition Zones

On Portland State University Week:  The changing atmosphere is putting stresses on ecosystems.

Elise Granek, associate professor of environmental science & management, determines how to identify solutions to keep coastal environments viable.

Dr. Elise Granek graduated with her MES from Yale University and went on to earn her PhD from Oregon State. Her general fields of study include marine ecology, conservation biology, mangrove-coral reef interactions, land-sea connections; disturbance ecology, and marine conservations science and policy.

Dr. Granek’s research focuses on the transition zone between land and sea examining how coastal and subtidal habitats interact in terms of biotic and abiotic processes. These studies specifically focus on organism movement and nutrient/energy flow between terrestrial-coastal-subtidal systems.

Understanding the Impacts of Anthropogenic Stressors on the Ecosystems of Coastal Transition Zones


The coastal zone- transition zones between land, sea, and atmosphere – provides vital ecological, cultural, and commercial benefits. Around the world, these ecosystems are home to a vast number of species, support critical industries, and sustain the cultural heritage of the people who have called them home. As with all ecosystems, they are vulnerable.

Near-shore waters, estuaries, tidal flats, and the species they support are on the front lines of human activities. Coastal zones are among the most rapidly growing areas, increasing both the human dependence on them the and human pressures they face from habitat modification,  non-native species introductions, and pollutant runoff, all of which disrupt these ecosystems, harm native plants and animals that inhabit their waters, and threaten their ecological, cultural and economic vitality.

Critical marine organisms including clams, oysters, crabs, and fish ingest microplastics, pharmaceuticals, and forestry-associated pesticides originating primarily from upstream. These contaminants make their way into the food chain. Ecologists are only beginning to explore the long-term implications of these pollutants for marine animals, plants, and ecosystems. We partner with communities, tribes, governmental and non-governmental organizations to identify contaminant concentrations, hotspots, sources, and effects on animals to provide the resources necessary to inform action.

Given the intense human dependence on the continued viability of these coastal ecosystems, understanding the impact of human activity on the species that inhabit them is essential to identifying solutions to address the suite of impacts. What are the sources of contamination? What are the potential outcomes for the species impacted by pollutant exposure? And what can be done at the individual, community, and policy levels to mitigate the adverse effects of human activities on these ecosystems.

No Responses