May 29, 2019
Today marks one week into the voyage of the Henry B. Bigelow Spring Ecosystem Monitoring Survey, also known as EcoMon, and we have covered a lot of ground, literally, since our last update. Now we have completed 60 stations as we move onto Georges Bank for the northern portion of our survey. Aided by very good weather, we’ve been able to make good progress, and the sampling has proceeded smoothly with no stations missed from our truncated cruise plan.
Our plankton catches have been light, unencumbered by any algae blooms, thankfully unlike our plankton tows from last fall which were often dominated by dense blooms of a diatom, Thalassiosira mala, that coated our nets with a green mesh-plugging slime!
Fish larvae from the Mid-Atlantic Bight and Southern New England waters have been sparse. We have a student on board, Quentin Nichols, who has been retrieving fish larvae from one of the bongo plankton nets, but has met with only modest success from the tows he has examined in the southern part of the survey.
Sometimes we do encounter rather unusual “planktonic” finds. One tow had two colonies of gooseneck barnacles which had attached themselves to two fragments of buoyant plastic that were scooped up by our bongo nets. It was ironic to find pieces of plastic, one of today’s greatest threats to the ocean ecosystem, providing a habitat for some organisms.
Ecosystem monitoring cruises from the Oceans and Climate Branch of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center collaborate with other institutions to conduct joint research while underway. In addition, there is often an outreach component, usually in the form of a NOAA Teacher-at-Sea candidate who will sail with us to assist in deploying gear and recording data. In our case a teacher wasn’t available to join us, but we do have representation from some young students in the form of hand-decorated Styrofoam cups.
Fourth graders from the Springbrook Elementary School in Westerly, Rhode Island, have given us 60 of these cups to take out to sea. Placed in a mesh bag and attached to our Niskin bottle rosette, they will provide an excellent
demonstration of Boyle’s Law for the students as they shrink from repeated submersion with the sampling array as it’s lowered to the sea floor to collect water samples and hydrographic data. These cups, now already a fraction of their original size, will be returned to the students after we disembark on June 6 as mementos of their class’s sea-pressure project!
Now with one week left to this survey we are planning a route that will take us across Georges Bank and through the Gulf of Maine, sampling as many stations as we can reach in the time remaining. What has been unusual compared to surveys at other times of the year is that the weather has been consistently good, and is forecast to remain so for the near future, which certainly makes planning a lot easier!
HB 1902 Spring Ecosystem Monitoring Survey