Jackson Estuarine Laboratory

  • Sunrise at the Jackson Estuarine Laboratory.
  • Ray Grizzle, Research Professor of Zoology uses custom-made underwater videography systems to map oyster reefs.
  • In the Great Bay, a team of undergraduate and graduate students collect oysters to look at environmental conditions that might favor Vibrio parahaemolyticus.

  • Great Bay Estuary

    Is it too late for the Seacoast's Crown Jewel?

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Jackson Estuarine Laboratory (JEL) is located five miles from the Durham campus on the shores of Great Bay Estuary, one of the largest estuaries in northern New England. JEL features well-equipped facilities where scientists conduct field-based and experimental research on physical and biological components of coastal ecosystems. Research at JEL has advanced our understanding of coastal ecosystems, especially with regard to human influences and management, in New Hampshire, the Gulf of Maine region and the world.  In a typical year, 25 projects are carried out by the scientists at JEL, with total external funding often exceeding $2 million. In 2015, The New Hampshire chapter of the Nature Conservancy named JEL its Restoration Partner of the Year!

Research at the Jackson Estuarine Laboratory

  • Restoration of eelgrass, shellfish, tidal marsh and mangrove habitats
  • Identification, assessment and control of invasive species
  • Monitoring and assessment of nutrients and inputs to estuaries
  • Mapping and monitoring seagrass in estuaries worldwide
  • The ecology and population dynamics of pathogenic Vibrio spp.
  • Tracking sources of and exposure to bacterial and toxic chemical pollution
  • Censuses of native and introduced seaweed populations
  • Physiology and behavior (seasonal movements) of estuarine animals
  • Ecosystem services and responses of habitats/organisms to climate change
  • Blue Carbon assessment of seagrass, salt marsh and mangroves

About the Laboratory

JEL has eight resident faculty members from the departments of Biological Sciences, Natural Resources, and Earth Systems Science, along with several support staff, research associates, students, post-doctoral fellows and visiting scientists.  In addition, non-resident faculty and students from other UNH departments conduct research at JEL.  A fleet of small research vessels is based at JEL, including five outboard powered boats ranging from a 12-foot skiff to a 22-foot center console.  Facilities include a pier with a 2,000-pound crane and a floating dock with slip spaces for four boats. JEL has a full analytical laboratory to study water quality, and labs dedicated to sedimentology, animal physiology and behavior, shellfish/seafloor ecology, microbiology, phycology (study of benthic algae), tidal marsh ecology, and seagrass ecology. In addition, flowing estuarine water is provided to a wet lab, greenhouse, and outdoor facilities to support the study of estuarine plants and animals.

Mission and Vision

The mission of the Jackson Estuarine Laboratory (JEL) is to advance science, support education, and inform management, primarily through research activities that increase understanding of estuarine and coastal ecosystems.  The only academic laboratory dedicated to the study of estuaries in the Northeast, JEL is located on the shores of the Great Bay Estuary (GBE). Our team of scientists, students and technical staff conduct research, education, and outreach activities to promote the viability and health of estuaries for their sustained use and enjoyment by residents and visitors to the Seacoast.

We envision healthy coastal and estuarine systems that support human and natural communities, provide for sustainable use, and are resilient to natural and human pressures.  To this end, JEL scientists work together with partners from New Hampshire, New England and the world to develop new insights and yield knowledge that enhance management of coastal areas and the processes that sustain them.   


David Shay, Assistant Director for Marine Facilities and Operations

David Burdick, Interim Director