Building Blocks - The Foundations of Our Science
Without a strong foundation, structures become weak and fail. Science is no different. Here are a few of our foundational building blocks that have become an established baseline for ocean stewardship and science excellence.
Sound science requires a strong foundation made with solid, reliable building blocks. Developing those building blocks takes time, thought, and fortitude. For us, that’s 150 years of asking tough research questions. Many of our surveys, equipment, methods, research programs, and reference collections simply started as questions: Can we measure it?, How do we measure it?, or What do we measure it with?. Let’s take a look at the history and evolution of a few of our foundational building blocks, and see how they became established baselines of ocean stewardship and science excellence that you can’t find anywhere else.
Bottom Trawl Surveys: Capturing How Species and the Ocean are Changing Over Time
Begun in 1963, these spring and fall standardized sampling surveys of the Northeast Shelf are the longest running in the world. They tell us about the abundance and distribution of species, and how they and ocean conditions are changing over time. The survey records and reports contain data not available anywhere else and are used by researchers in many disciplines.
Learn more about our bottom trawl surveys
Algal Culture: Growing Food for Shellfish Research and a Hatchery Resource
Different microalgae are collected and cultured at our Milford Laboratory for research and for the shellfish hatchery industry to use as feed. Originally started in the 1950s, the culture collection has significantly expanded to include more than 230 strains today. It serves as a resource for our research and for commercial growers and hatcheries throughout the United States.
Learn more about the microalgal culture
Fish Collection: Identifying and Learning More About the Fish in the Sea
From the local harbor to the deep sea, fish and data about fish have been collected by NOAA Fisheries since 1871 using ever-improving technology and methods. Our early specimens were sent to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History and accounted for a large percentage of the Institution’s initial collection. Fish collection continues today on numerous resource surveys and from other field projects. New species continue to be found, and more is learned about those we have already discovered.
Read more about fish collection and early U.S. Fish Commission efforts
Age & Growth Specimens: What Fish Earbones Can Tell Us
Knowing the age structure of a fish population helps to monitor, assess, and manage stocks for long-term benefits. Each year our researchers and technicians determine ages of tens of thousands of fish and shellfish. Aged scales and otoliths collected decades ago are archived for future needs and help answer current research questions. More than 3.1 million samples dating back to the 1920s are stored in our warehouse.
Learn more about aging fish and shellfish
Benthic Surveys: Secrets from the Ocean Floor
Surveys of the ocean bottom and the water just above it have been conducted since the federal fisheries service was founded. Many bottom samples were sent to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History and are housed in the Woods Hole Benthic Specimen Reference Collection. Taxonomists and systematists from many research institutions and countries use the data for describing new species or species distributions. Samples also reveal information about natural and human impacts on the ocean floor.
Learn more about the history of the center’s benthic research
Cooperative Shark Tagging Program: Citizen Scientists and Researchers Working Together
Begun in 1962, the cooperative shark tagging program is the oldest continuing citizen science program in NOAA Fisheries and the longest such program in the world. Thousands of recreational and commercial fishermen participate in the program to learn more about Atlantic sharks.
Learn more about the Apex Predators Program and shark research
Passive Acoustic Monitoring: Listening for Sounds in the Ocean
Innovative passive acoustic technologies and methods help to understand the distribution, movements, and behavior of marine animals and the soundscapes in which they live. Center researchers also evaluate the impacts of human-made sounds on acoustically sensitive marine animals to aid management, monitoring, and conservation efforts.
Learn more about passive acoustics research
The Milford Method: NOAA Fisheries' Role in Shellfish Aquaculture
The Milford Lab, now renowned for its groundbreaking research, supported these early oyster growers by developing culture techniques. The lab is particularly well known for developing the “Milford Method,” a breakthrough technique for breeding and growing shellfish that is still used worldwide.
Learn more about the Milford Method
The Monitoring Decade: Learning About the Future from the Past
The Marine Resources Monitoring, Assessment and Prediction Program, or more easily referred to as MARMAP, was the longest-running ecosystem monitoring program of its time. The “MARMAP Decade” ran from 1977 through 1988, when the program collected biological and environmental information from periodic surveys of northeastern U. S. continental shelf waters.
Standard Seawater? Yes, There is Such a Thing!
Spencer Baird established the first federal fisheries lab in Woods Hole for a number of reasons. One of them was the salinity of the seawater, which he felt was suitable for rearing animals and a consistent source for research experiments.
Learn more about standard seawater
Today the NEFSC has an entire laboratory built to support aquaculture. But did you know this charge goes all the way back to 1872, when $15,000 in Congressional funding to the U.S. Fish Commission started a nationwide fish propagation effort? Read more about how the commission took on this project and successfully moved live fish from the East Coast to the West Coast in the days before flight.
Read more about the U.S. Fish Commission’s fish propagation effort
NOAA's Long History of Water Column Sampling in the Northeast
What started as ocean exploration in 1912 is now a broadly focused, long-term program. We supply critical information to climate research and predictions, fisheries and protected species management, and basic science.
Learn more about the history of column sampling