Just a few days after returning from the Gulf of Mexico and conducting oil spill response research, the Delaware II left the Woods Hole Laboratory dock on Wednesday, August 18, to continue the Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s long-term Ecosystem Monitoring Program (EcoMon).
The EcoMon surveys, which monitor environmental conditions and marine resources, are conducted six times each year at 120 randomly selected stations throughout the continental shelf and slope of the northeastern U.S., from Cape Hatteras, N.C., into Canadian waters to cover all of Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine. This area is known as the Northeast U.S. continental shelf Large Marine Ecosystem.
Unlike the past several EcoMon cruises, we are not working with scientists from Old Dominion University and NASA to provide data for the Climate Variability on the East Coast (CLiVEC) program. This time we have two scientists from the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS) at the University of Miami accompanying us, along with their In Situ Ichthyoplankton Imaging System (ISIIS).
This remarkable towed body is able to provide high resolution video imagery and simultaneous hydrographic data while undulating through the water column as is it is towed along at 5 knots, or about 6 miles per hour. We are hoping to integrate data collected with this system with data we have collected from our long-term CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth) and bongo sampler operations. We also have two scientists aboard from Staten Island College of the City University of New York making observations of marine mammals and birds, and a teacher from California to assist with our EcoMon data and samples.
We commenced work with ISIIS today on blessedly flat calm sea conditions and sunny skies. We are now in the middle of Stellwagen Bank, towing the instrument through internal waves generated by the tidal flow rushing over the submerged peaks and valleys of this national marine sanctuary. Using technology like this may yield insights into the transport of larval fish across this area, a topic which is not easily studied by conventional plankton sampling operations.
After our ISIIS operations are concluded today, we’ll return to our more routine bongo net and CTD operations for the next several days or so until we reach the Mid-Atlantic Bight, another area of interest for larval fish transport. There, weather permitting, we’ll deploy ISIIS again, south of Long Island and off the coast of New Jersey.
As I watch the RSMAS scientists in the dry lab staring into the computer monitor outputs from ISIIS as they “fly” it behind us through the water column, I think it’s ironic that the venerable Delaware II, now over 40 years old, is helping to usher in a new age of oceanographic exploration!