Misty morning at the York River site

British Columbia

Herons on eelgrass bed at low tide


The predatory fish Labrus berggylta in eelgrass at Gullmar Fjord


Eelgrass, Batture aux Outardes


Bald eagle over eelgrass bed, Kachemak Bay

North Carolina

Middle Marsh


Eelgrass fouled with filamentous red algae

Welcome to ZEN

Welcome to the Zostera Experimental Network! ZEN is a collaborative partnership among ecologists throughout the northern hemisphere, and is conducting coordinated research in beds of eelgrass (Zostera marina) to tackle big questions about how biodiversity, climate change, and natural variability across the globe influence ecosystem structure and functioning. ZEN’s primary funding comes from the National Science Foundation, but also benefits from in-kind support from partner institutions throughout the world. Watch the video above to hear ZEN’s lead scientist, Dr. Emmett Duffy, discuss the project and some emerging results. Continue Reading

ZEN Research Teams

The Zostera Experimental Network includes partners from six US states and eight countries — Japan, Canada, USA, Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, and Portugal. Partners include professors, postdoctoral researchers, graduate students, undergrads, and scientific staff. Our group’s expertise encompasses experimental ecology, population genetics, taxonomy, systematics, and quantitative analytical methods. See the short movie, above, made by a College of William and Mary undergraduate student working with the team at the ZEN site in Virginia, USA.

ZEN Blog

The ZEN blog is where team members post the latest updates on research activities, results, interesting natural history observations, and other ruminations from the Zostera Experimental Network.
Click here for the ZEN blog.

Setting the Stage

Working with a large, global network of collaborators poses unique opportunities — as well as challenges. Before ZEN’s parallel experiments could start at the 15 widely scattered partner sites, the VIMS team had to purchase, fabricate, assemble, package, and ship the experimental materials to the sites located throughout the northern hemisphere. We shipped out up to 6 crates and over 500 lbs of gear per site (that’s almost 3.8 tons total!). There was a lot to be done before we could pull on the dive booties and plunge into the water at our own site!

Eelgrass Bed Wildlife

Seagrass beds are highly productive habitats, and provide structure and food for dense and diverse communities of animals. In many areas of the world beds of eelgrass and other seagrass species serve as nursery habitats for juvenile fishes and shellfish, thus providing essential habitat for fisheries. These fishes and shrimps were collected by seining from eelgrass at the ZEN site in southern Japan and illustrate the assemblage of predatory animals living there.

ZEN Experiments

The first ZEN experiment, in summer 2011, was conducted at 15 partner sites, from southern Japan along both coasts of North America to Portugal, Scandinavia, and into the inner reaches of the Baltic Sea in Finland. Partners at each site set up a “top-down/bottom-up” experimental manipulation, excluding crustacean grazers and fertilizing eelgrass plots to follow their impacts on growth and health of eelgrass, and proliferation of nuisance algae.  Continue Reading


Welcome to the Zostera Experimental Network