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Ecosystem Monitoring Cruise Samples the Mid-Atlantic Bight

June 26, 2023

Smooth sailing as students and scientists reach the southernmost point of the cruise and begin the journey north.

Student with short brown hair wearing a green sweatshirt monitors data on a laptop screen while talking into a two-way radio transceiver. Morgan Hadley, Endicott College student, is guiding Chris Taylor’s deployment of the submersible radiometer by monitoring its data output. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Jerry Prezioso

Since our last update, the NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow has made excellent progress. We are now approaching our 63rd station, about 10 miles south of Long Island. We have completed 59 bongo tows and 14 Conductivity Temperature Depth rosette casts. We reached the southernmost point of the cruise off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, on Saturday night (June 10) at 9 p.m., and since then have been working our way north along the inshore stations of the Mid-Atlantic Bight.

Diatoms, Pteropods, and Seabirds

 A hand holds a glass sample jar, and the view is of the bottom of the jar. It’s full of seawater with amber particulates, and there are darker colored particulates in a spot at the bottom of the jar.
Pteropods are visible as a dark spot in the bottom of the glass plankton sample jar when the sample is swirled. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Jerry Prezioso

Plankton catches have been very light, and the abundance of Calanus copepods that we saw previously disappeared as we went south. Norfolk Canyon seemed to be the dividing line where they dropped off. Imagery collected using our Imaging FlowCytoBot shows mostly small diatoms, with not many dinoflagellates appearing on the laptop screen. We have been getting amazing numbers of tiny pteropods (planktonic snails) in many of the samples. They are much too small to see with the naked eye, but readily apparent when a “swirl” technique is used to concentrate them in the center of the bottom of the glass sample jar. Our seabird and marine mammal observers have not seen the numbers of dolphins and whales that we had earlier in the trip on our way south, but there are now more birds than we had then. They have also spotted a few loggerhead sea turtles.

Male scientist in green sweatshirt sits at a lab bench looking through a microscope and holding a pair of forceps.
Research fishery biologist Harvey Walsh in the chemistry lab of Henry Bigelow, picking out pteropods under the microscope for preservation. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Jerry Prezioso

Smooth Sailing

The ship is performing well. With this excellent weather we are always able to transit quickly between stations, greatly helping our progress. People are all doing well too. Everyone is healthy and going through the myriad tasks that we have in our itinerary for this cruise. Even measuring light in the water column with the submersible radiometer, which was a last minute add-on to this cruise, is going more smoothly than I had anticipated. The ship’s command works with us during deployment of the radiometer. They nudge the ship slowly ahead so that the optical sensors don’t get shadowed by proximity to the ship’s hull as they are hand-lowered into the water.

At a Crossroads

Later today (June 14) we will be at a decision point as to which way we’ll be heading to carry out the northern part of this survey: Georges Bank first, or Gulf of Maine? I’ll meet with the vessel command, review the latest forecast, and see what our group comes up with. Stay tuned for our next update!

A map of the North Atlantic Ocean off of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nova Scotia. Blue dots along a blue line show two tracks, one closer to Maine and one off the coast of Massachusetts.
Station layout and proposed track line for the northern part of the 2023 Ecomon survey. Credit: NOAA Fisheries, Office of Marine and Aviation Operations/Shelley Rofrits

Jerry Prezioso, chief scientist for HB2302 Spring Ecosystem Monitoring Survey

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Last updated by Northeast Fisheries Science Center on June 29, 2023

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