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Welcome Back, Winter EcoMon

March 13, 2024

Winter survey season is not for the faint of heart! Research fishery biologist Katey Marancik participated in the winter 2024 Ecosystem Monitoring Survey (EcoMon) and shares the literal ups and downs of trying to get to the survey vessel and out to sea.

A person wearing a winter jacket, knit hat and a life jacket stands on the side of a boat taking a photo of another boat with their cell phone.

I was waiting at the dock. 
I could feel the wind shake my car. 
I could see 3-foot seas in the protected harbor. 
I pondered the small boat that sits 18 inches above the water line and would transfer us to a ladder to climb onto NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow.

I thought to myself… welcome back, Winter EcoMon.

A view from a dock with the dock and a small dingy in the foreground. The water is covered with white caps. A bridge and land can be seen in the background.
White caps in the sheltered harbor of Newport Naval Base in Newport, Rhode Island. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Katey Marancik

We set out on the first Winter Ecosystem Monitoring Survey—EcoMon—since 2017! For 6 days, we called the Bigelow and the northwest Atlantic Ocean our home. Our team of researchers collected samples from southern New England to the Gulf of Maine during one of the most demanding and in-demand times to collect marine samples.

We’re Going to Need a Fast Response Boat

Two people stand inside the wheelhouse of a boat with their backs to the camera. They are wearing orange and black coast guard jackets and black knit caps. A large white ship can be seen through the boat’s wheelhouse windows.
The Coast Guard ferried us to NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Allison Black

But first, we had to get onto the boat. We delayed the transfer a couple hours to wait for the winds to die down. A Coast Guard Fast Response boat ended up bringing us to the Bigelow . Everyone and everything arrived safely. We still had to climb the ladder.

No Hibernating Here!

The A-frame of a research vessel is uplit at night. There is a full moon just above the A-frame and off in the distance a bridge with lights can be seen. Also in the background are city lights illuminating the horizon.
View of the Train Bridge from the back deck of the NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow while transiting through the Cape Cod Canal during the winter 2024 EcoMon Survey. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Audy Peoples

It was winter in New England. If you looked out your window, it would have been easy to imagine the whole northern hemisphere was asleep. Plants and animals, even some humans, had hunkered down for the coldest, darkest months of the year. But at sea, winter is far from calm—this is a time of rapid change, fish spawning, bird and whale migrations, and winter storms!

Audy Peoples wears a camo jacket and a gray knit cap inside a lab. He is using a screwdriver to tighten a ring clamp onto plankton sampling gear.
Chief scientist, Audy Peoples, prepares a 20-centimeter diameter bongo. We call it a “baby bongo” because it’s smaller than our standard bongo nets. We use these nets to collect plankton. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Katey Marancik

Winter is unfortunately undersampled despite the data being highly sought after! With only 6 sampling days, we had to streamline our mission a bit. This survey covered most of the southern New England region and Cape Cod Bay.

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Last updated by Northeast Fisheries Science Center on April 10, 2024