Mentor: Dr. Stephen Gardiner
Cape Henlopen State Park of Lewes, Delaware encompasses 5,193 acres of beaches, dunes, pine forests, salt marsh, freshwater wetlands and ponds. It is home to a wide variety of both marine and terrestrial organisms. Among the marine organisms are a wide variety of polychaetes (Phylum: Annelida). Polychaetes are among some of the most common marine organisms and are an essential component of soft sediment benthic communities. Polychaetes help to aerate the sediment and increase the depth of the oxygenated layer, which allows for other organisms to survive there. Even the presence of empty polychaete tubes has been shown to increase general biodiversity. The benthic communities of Cape Henlopen contain a diverse population of Polychaetes but the makeup of that population is unknown. This study will examine the biodiversity of polychaetes in Cape Henlopen to determine two things; which species are present in the benthic community and what proportions they are present in. Furthermore, this study will also analyze the morphometrics of the populations of certain polychaete families.