James J. Howard Marine Sciences Laboratory at Sandy Hook

New Jersey Laboratory of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center. The primary mission of the Howard Laboratory is to conduct research in ecology, leading to a better understanding of both coastal and estuarine organisms and the effects of human activities.

Our Location

The James J. Howard Marine Sciences Lab is located within the Sandy Hook Gateway National Recreation Area. Our proximity to both major urban waterways and the pristine estuaries of southern New Jersey allows our staff to investigate a range of habitats and human effects on ecosystems.

Directions to James J. Howard Lab

In July 2023, NOAA took ownership of the James J. Howard Laboratory in New Jersey. At a ribbon-cutting ceremony, NOAA celebrated the agency's commitment to a long-term presence in the mid-Atlantic.

Learn more about the event

Our Leadership

Management Team

Our History

In 1961, following passage of the 1959 Marine Game Fish Act, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife established a laboratory focused on sportfish at Fort Hancock on Sandy Hook in New Jersey. The laboratory originally operated out of a former military hospital. In 1971, the laboratory became part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Marine Fisheries Service (now NOAA Fisheries). Research expanded to include studies of ecosystem responses to toxins and other environmental degradation, focusing on the highly impacted areas like the New York Bight. In 1985, the Sandy Hook Laboratory was destroyed by arson. Most equipment, and a 33,000 volume fisheries library were lost. After the fire, the staff moved into trailers and old former army barracks to carry out modest experiments in limited space. Reconstruction began in the late 1980s, near the former laboratory site. At the groundbreaking ceremony in 1989, the new lab was named the James J. Howard Marine Sciences Laboratory after the late James Howard, U.S. Representative of New Jersey's 3rd District, who led the lab rebuilding effort. Today, the laboratory continues to conduct valuable research to understand human impacts on marine ecosystems. Recently the laboratory also established a program to promote diversity and inclusion of staff and to support interns from Minority Serving Institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities.