Seas Expedition Voyages to Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary
Peering into the Microscopic World of the Sanctuary
A Fish's Eye View of the Deep Boulder Reefs
Seeing into the Sanctuary with Sound
A Day in Nature's Classroom
No, It's Not a Jellyfish--Collecting & Studying Marine Debris
Diving into the Sanctuary Without Getting Wet
Seas Expedition Voyages to Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary
hydrophones, whales, microscopes and a blimp were all part of
the Sustainable Seas Expedition to the Gerry E. Studds/ Stellwagen
Bank National Marine Sanctuary which began on July 4th. As Bostonians
celebrated the holiday with the traditional turnaround of the
USS Constitution (aka "Old Iron-sides"), the Boston
Pops Concert, and a massive fireworks display, the sanctuary and
SSE team opened an exhibit tent at the New England Aquarium and
loaded the DeepWorker submersibles on the NOAA research vessel
FERREL. The following day, Assistant Secretary of Commerce Terry
Garcia introduced the media to the SSE program.
Sustainable Seas Expeditions is a project of the National Geographic
Society in partnership with NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration), made possible by an initial grant of $5 million
from the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund. The three fundamental
goals of the expeditions are undersea exploration, scientific
research, and education. The mission to Stellwagen Bank looked
at the wide ranging diversity of species in the sanctuary and
how they utilize their habitats. Noted marine explorer Dr. Sylvia
Earle completed the first dive, one of a series of dives she is
making to document the biodiversity of the nations marine
research coordinator (and National Undersea Research Center-NURC
science director) Peter Auster and James Lindholm, the sanctuarys
two DeepWorker pilots, focused on deep boulder reef fish communities;
NURC bioacoustician Peter Scheifele, two students from the American
School for the Deaf and the MIMI sailing vessel studied background
noise and whale behavior; while Virginia Edgcomb, Marine Biological
Laboratory and Michael Atkins, Woods Hole Oceano-graphic Institution
peered into the microscopic world of the waters and sediments
of the sanctuary with scopes loaned to the expedition by the Zeiss
into the Microscopic World of the Sanctuary
people think that bigger means better. But in an ocean ecosystem,
the tiniest creatures, many of them far too small to be seen with
the naked eye, perform some of the most important tasks. Cyanobacteria,
or blue-green algae, provide more oxygen to the earth through
the process of photosynthesis than all land plants combined. Likewise,
marine bacteria take up massive amounts of carbon from the atmosphere
and fix it into mineral deposits, virtually driving the earths
"Microbes are the true engines of the biosphere," said Virginia
Edgcomb, a staff scientist who studies highly intricate and interdependent
communities of microorganisms at the Josephine Bay Paul Center
in Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution within the Marine
Biological Laboratory at Wood's Hole. "They essentially drive
all processes that make life possible for larger organisms."
Despite their essential role in creating an inhabitable planet,
little is known about most of these algae, bacteria or other simple
unicellular organisms. Scientists estimate that, at most, five
percent of all microbial species have been described, leaving
an abundance of work formicrobiologists. "It's an incredible world
out there on the ocean floor, just teaming with life. There is
almost no end to what we can study," said Edgcomb, noting that
each exploratory dive might yield another undiscovered species.
The Sustainable Sea's Expedition of the Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary
is no exception. For two days of the expedition, Edgecomb and
Mike Atkin of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution took waters
samples at about six to ten meters depth to get a look at the
planktonic community of the Stellwagen Bank. After concentrating
a water sample through a process of filtration, they investigated
the microscopic life it contained, using a microscope/camera system
donated by the Zeiss Company specifically for the expedition.
The researchers noted that the planktonic community structure
at this depth differed over the course of the day. In the morning,
various arthropods or copepod species made up the largest percentage
of the organisms in the sample. But by about three o'clock in
the afternoon, a larger dinoflagellate called Ceratium dominated
the planktonic community.
to Edgcomb, this might be evidence of some type of diurnal migration
in which Ceratium travels up and down the water column depending
on the activity of other organisms. One possibility, the scientists
speculated, is that the morning glut of copepods and other crustaceans
feed on Ceratium, and so the dinoflagellate escapes to lower waters
to avoid predation. More research will be necessary to develop
a substantial hypothesis as to why this intriguing change in community
said. The research team also found a variety of plankton, bacteria,
diatoms and flagellates during the expedition, some of the more
unusual of which they've taken to their laboratory at Woods Hole
for further identification.
To gauge the diversity of microbes on a deeper level, researchers
at the Bay Paul Center have embarked on studies that compare the
DNA from a variety of different organisms. The Marine Biological
aboratory has become internationally known for its efforts to
map microbial genomes, including the genome of giardia, the infamous
protist that causes intestinal discomfort and diarrhea in humans.
The time required for mapping a microbe's genome is steadily decreasing,
said Edgcomb, and the genetic information gathered from genomics
can tell us a lot about the evolutionary origins of the organisms.
With the speed and accuracy of new DNA mapping techniques combined
with the power of new bioinformatics systems to store and process
biological data, Edgcomb said she believes knowledge about the
microbial world will grow by leaps and bounds in years to come.
"It's an exciting time to be an evolutionary biologist," she said.
Fishs Eye View of the Deep Boulder Reefs
Scientist-Pilots Study Reef Ecology
shallow, crystalline waters of the Caribbean have attracted many
a marine scientist and wildlife enthusiast. For this reason, we
know a great deal about the role of coral reefs in these warm-water
ecosystems. But unbeknownst to many, Stellwagen Bank contains
reefs that are just as important to northern marine habitats as
their tropical counterparts are to the equatorial climes.
deep boulder reefs of the Stellwagen Bank sanctuaryareas
where glaciers dropped large piles of rocks some 14,000 years
agoare home to a multitude of marine fish and crustaceans.
Some of the most economically important fish species in New England
inhabit these rocky depths. But because the turbid, chilly waters
surrounding the boulder reefs are inhospitable to researchers,
relatively little is known about these ecosystems.
people can envision tropical coral reef fish in action, but they
have only seen deep boulder fish from their dinner plate or from
the deck of a ship," said Peter Auster, science director
for the National Undersea Research Center for the North Atlantic
and Great Lakes (NURC) at the University of Connecticut and research
coordinator for the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.
"The lives of boulder fish are certainly as interesting.
Its just harder to study them."
one-person submersibles used in the Sustainable Seas Expedition
this July provided a new research platform for scientists to probe
these little understood regions of the sea. At depths of up to
300 feet, Auster, along with NURC post-doctoral fellow James Lindholm,
observed populations of redfish, ocean pout, cunner, cusk, cod,
haddock and other deep boulder species, noting differences in
behavior and distribution across reef structures of varying complexity.
By combining their fish population and distribution observations
with high resolution maps of the ocean floor provided by Page
Valentine of the U.S. Geological Survey in Woods Hole, Mass.,
the researchers hope to gain an understanding of how changing
underwater landscapes effect fish behavior. "It is well-known
that tropical fish have a very structured response to changes
in topography or current, but it is unclear whether deep boulder
reef fish have that same response," said Lindholm. "Only
by going under water, using various manned and unmanned submersibles
can we do the types of studies that our counterparts in the tropics
have done so well."
cornerstones of the North Atlantic ecosystem, deep boulder reefs
provide structure and shelter for a variety of ocean residents.
Soft corals, sponges and tunicates affix themselves to the rocky
coves to become a secondary layer of structure. Schools of groundfish
often retreat to the refuge of the crags and crevices of these
bespeckled boulders, escaping strong bottom currents or piscine
predators. "Its a fish eat fish world out there,"
remarked Auster of the unforgiving ocean food web.
of the protective function of the rocky areas, understanding boulder
reef ecology could be the key to setting up a successful management
scheme for the sanctuarys fisheries, according to Lindholm.
Dramatic declines in groundfish stocks over the last decade in
the Gulf of Maine and Stellwagen Bank have threatened the future
of fishing in the sanctuary. In 1998, the National Marine Fisheries
Service closed some popular commercial fishing areas due to fears
that groundfish populations might collapse. Two study sites for
the sub dives were within the large Gulf of Maine closed area
which intersects the eastern section of the sanctuary.
closed areas now provide an opportunity for Auster and Lindholm
to study the relationship between bottom structures and fish populations.
Over time, the protected zones will be recolonized by corals,
anemones and other sessile organisms that had been removed by
bottom-dragging gear. The researchers are monitoring fish populations
as the living structures regenerate, and are forming some hypotheses
about how fish associate with their habitat. "Much more experimentation
is needed, but we have found some evidence that as the bottom
cover grows, fish survivorship increases," said Lindholm.
the Sustainable Seas Expedition, Auster and Lindholm will shed
further light on how fish behave in the deep, dark world of Stellwagen
Banks boulder reefs. In doing so, they hope to educate the
public about this critical ecosystem.
people can easily see how protecting coral reefs or kelp beds
is important," Auster said. "But hopefully, with some
more information, we can help them see that protecting deep boulder
reefs in areas like the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
is important, too."
into the Sanctuary with Sound
the help of imaging techniques that allow scientists to visualize
sound, some unlikely researchers joined the Sustainable Seas Expedition
to study bioacoustics in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.
Two top-notch high-school students from the American School for
the Deaf in West Hartford, Conn., teamed up with a National Undersea
Research Center (NURC) researcher to gauge levels of noise pollution
in the underwater world off Massachusetts congested coast.
pollution is insidious," said Peter Scheifele, director of
marine education programs and bioacoustic research at NURC/ North
Atlantic and Great Lakes who teaches marine science classes at
the ASD. "You cant see it, touch it, or taste it, so
most people just ignore it until something catastrophic, such
as deafness, results." But he and students in ASDs
advanced placement physics class hope to change that. For the
last year, the class has learned about scientific techniques that
will allow them to measure sound levels underwater and to distinguish
natural sounds of waves or vocalizing sea animals, from the anthropogenic
noises of ships or low-flying airplanes.
just dont know how man-made noises effect the habitat of
marine animals like whales who depend on sound to communicate
and survive. Our research is a first-step toward solving that
problem," said Scheifele, a physicist who began teaching
at ASD four years ago as a part of NURCs education outreach
initiative called the Aquanaut Program. Through this program high
school students and teachers have had the opportunity to actively
participate in on-going research projects using the Stellwagen
Bank Sanctuary as a natural "laboratory."
on the 9th of July, the research team on board the MIMI sailing
vessel (famous from the nationally recognized video series and
middle school curriculum "The Voyage of the MIMI") gathered
five days worth of acoustic data from the bottom of Stellwagen
Bank. To do this they used a hydrophone, an underwater microphone
that can pick up sounds within a mile radius, which they lowered
off the side of the ship to measure sound at various depths. The
hydrophone transmits sound signals to a digital audio tape recorder.
A spectrum analyzer and specialized acoustic software allowed
the operator to divide the sounds into their component waves.
These waves were displayed on monitors from the deck of the ship,
where the young scientists kept watch for changes in sound patterns
from day to night, and looked for recognizable vocalizations of
identified the sounds produced by passing ships, and recorded
a variety of ocean background noise throughout the expedition.
They also captured on tape a new vocalization that humpback whales
have been making in recent years at the bottom of Stellwagen Bank.
Approaching the ocean floor, the whales give a loud low-frequency
"shout" that some scientists speculate may be an attempt
to drive sand lance out of the sand. "It could be a new adaptation
in feeding behavior, but we just dont know," said Scheifele,
adding that he hopes the data collected during the Sustainable
Seas Expedition will shed more light on these new calls. Whale
researcher Mason Weinrich of the Cetacean Research Unit in Gloucester
and Sanctuary Advisory Council, will provide additional field
observations of humpback activity from CRUs research vessel.
tough questions like these is only one goal of the acoustic monitoring
study. As importantly, the project will give the students some
hands-on experience in a field that has remained largely inaccessible
to deaf people.
is a career choice these students might not have had without this
program," said Denise Monte, an audiologist at ASD who takes
part in instructing the class on sound science and who has helped
to create a marine acoustics curriculum for deaf students scheduled
to go on-line at ASD next year. Scheifele, Monte and ASD science
instructor Mary Laporta Hupper plan to make the curriculum available
to other deaf schools by the year 2002.
with developing a curriculum, they hope to inspire necessary additions
to the somewhat limited non-verbal language of sign. As it stands,
official sign language vocabulary does not include signals for
important scientific terms such as "wavelength" or "amplitude,"
a shortcoming that poses some significant problems for science
teachers in deaf schools.
that you had to teach a physics class but you had to spell out
every other word," said Scheifele. "It can really slow
has developed a type of shorthand with her students to cope with
the problem, using unofficial signs that the class agrees upon
to represent certain scientific concepts or instruments. Hupper
said it is a necessary substitute for a more permanent solution.
"Science is very specific, so you need a specific vocabulary
to talk about it," she said. "At this point sign language
doesnt have that."
the three educators will work with linguists in the deaf community
to develop official signs that will broaden the scope of sign
language to include scientific subjects.
now, all three strive to give deaf students access to a world
long closed to them; the world of sound. In doing so, they have
broken through some of the traditional boundaries of teaching,
creating an environment where the learning process occurs on both
sides of the student-teacher relationship.
experiences like the Aquanaut Program and Sustainable Seas Expeditions
have helped. Peter Scheifele remembers well one of the first classes
he taught in which a deaf student asked him to describe the sound
of a calling whale. "I was stumped," he recalled. "I
thought How could I explain to a person who has never even
heard her own voice what a whales voice sounds like?"
I know. I can just point to the images of sound waves on the computer
screen and sign, It sounds like that."
Research Coordinator Wins Pew Grant
Auster, science director of the National Undersea Research Center
at the University of Connecticut and research coordinator for
the sancutary, has been named one of 11 Pew Marine Conservation
Fellows for 1999. The award was announced on July 12 during the
Sustainable Seas Expedition into the sanctuary for which Mr. Auster
served as one of the two scientist-pilots and co-mission coordinator.
He will use the fellowship to address the problem of overexploitation
of demersal species and habitat destruction in subarctic, temperate
and tropical outer continental shelf systems. Using cost-effective
underwater video techniques, he will document the effects of fishing
on the seafloor and collect biodiversity data to support more
sustainable fisheries management measures. In addition, the funding
will allow development and distribution of educational materials
to inform the public about the diversity of ocean habitats and
their importance in supporting healthy fish stocks. The Pew Fellowships
are a program of the Pew Charitable Trusts in partnership with
the New England Aquarium. The ten grants total $1.5 million, making
it the worlds largest award for marine conservation.
Sanctuary Relocates to Scituate
administrative offices for the Stellwagen Bank National Marine
Sanctuary moved to Scituate at the close of 1998. A need for additional
office and storage space was the motivating factor in seeking
a new location. The Coast Guards decision to move Station
Scituate to smaller quarters was fortuitous for the sanctuary,
the station providing the much needed space as well as docking
facilities. At this time, the sanctuary is leasing the space from
the Coast Guard and sharing the spacious building with the Coast
Guard (while its new station is constructed across the harbor),
NOAA Office of Enforcement and Massachusetts Environmental Police.
on Hurricanes Available Through NOAA
are predicting that residents along the western edge of the Atlantic
Ocean may once again see a greater than average number of hurricanes
this year. The official hurricane season began on June 1st and
continues through November 1, with the following names pre-selected
for identification of 1999 Atlantic storms: Arlene, Bret, Cindy,
Dennis, Emily, Floyd, Gert, Harvey, Irene, Jose, Katrina, Lenny,
Maria, Nate, Ophelia, Philippe, Rita, Stan, Tammy, Vince, and
Wilma. Information on hurricanes and other weather events can
be accessed through theWeather Service web site at: http://www.nws.noaa.gov.
Ship Reporting Program Initiated
new reporting system, proposed by the United States (with input
from the sanctuary) and approved by the International Maritime
Organization, may take some of the guess-work out of avoiding
right whales in coastal waters. Under the system developed by
NOAA and the Coast Guard, which started operating in July, 1999,
all ships traveling through the northeast right whale habitat
(Great South Channel,Cape Cod Bay, and the Gerry E. Studds/Stellwagen
Bank National Marine Sanctuary) must report their location, course,
speed, and destination and in return receive automated messages
containing more specific information about whale sightings in
the area. These messages will also include some precautionary
tactics the ships can take to avoid potential collision with whales,
such as changes course and speed. A similar reporting system is
in place for the southern calving grounds off Florida and Georgia
for the period between November 15 and April 15.
Barr Assumes National Role in Sanctuary Program
Barr, former manager of the Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary has been
named a senior policy analyst for the National Marine Sanctuary
Program. He is now based out of a newly established policy and
planning office which shares space with the U.S. Geological Survey
in Woods Hole, Mass. Mr. Barrs responsibilities include
the assessment of threats to the marine resources in all 12 sanctuaries,
development of national policies to address those threats, and
analytical/technical support in marine protected area planning
and management on both regional and national projects.
Outfall Permit Issued; Sanctuary Concerns Addressed
years of research, design and development, the plan for the discharge
of effluent from the massive Deer Island treatment plan has been
permitted. The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System
Permit (or NPDES) was issued jointly by the Environmental Protection
Agency and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
under federal and state Clean Water Acts; it imposes rigorous
ambient monitoring requirements, stringent pollution prevention,
water conservation, and best management practices. This action
marks a key milestone in the effort to address pollution in Boston
Harbor. After secondary treatment at Deer Island, the effluent
will travel through an ocean outfall tunnel 9.5 miles offshore
into Massachusetts Bay. The final permit requires that the Massachusetts
Water Resources Au-thority submit an annual report to the sanctuary
that includes all monitoring data related to the sanctuary and
documents any effects of the discharge on sanctuary resources
and qualities over the previous year.
Relief Program for Fishermen Announced
Commerce Department will provide $5 million in disaster relief
to commercial fishermen who have suffered losses because of declining
fish stocks in the Gulf of Maine, Commerce Secretary William M.
Daley announced. The program requires eligible fishing permit
holders and their crews to provide a day of research for every
day for which they received compensation. If vessel owners are
not asked to participate in at-sea research, they will be required
to supply socio-economic information, including tax returns for
five years, so managers will have more complete data regarding
the economics of commercial fishing.
Day in Natures Classroom
any classroom teacher and they will admit it: experience is the
best instructor. With this in mind, over twenty high school teachers,
set out on July 12 aboard the EnviroLab III, a teaching vessel
operated by Harbor Explorations out of the University of Massachusetts,
to witness first-hand the rich and diverse marine resources within
the Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary. Their journey was one part
of the Sustainable Seas Expeditions (SSE) education initiative.
the EnviroLab III left the dock at the University of Massachusetts,
no one could have foreseen just how memorable that day would be.
About an hour into the trip, the group sighted a trio of pilot
whales traveling toward Stellwagen Bank parallel to the ships
track. A flock of cormorants hovering just to the right soared
and dipped above the surface waters in pursuit of a mid-morning
the boat entered the sanctuary, a truly magnificent show unfurled.
As many as eight humpback whales surrounded the ship, spouting
streams of hot breath up to ten feet in the air with a low, hollow
hiss. The whales rested at the surface, with occasional dives
to deeper regions, revealing majestic flukes on the way down.
A minke whale traveled along in front of the boat, and a white-sided
dolphint flew over the water in a graceful arch then disappeared
under the water only to reemerge with a burst of speed moments
later. A bobbing sunfish, or mola mola, idled nearby unmistakable
with its enormous dorsal fin. Then, in the distance, more than
16 humpback whales breached within a time period of about 20 minutes
creating a rare and beautiful spectacle.
that look like the purest expression of joy?" one of the
teachers asked in a hushed voice that broke the awe-filled silence
on deck as one by one the giant animals spirited above the surface,
then with both fins outstretched, splashed back into the water.
exchanging cheerful salutations with the MIMI research vessel,
the EnviroLab began its own exploration of the Banks waters.
With a glass jar and some twine, the crew collected a sample of
surface water that contained a multitude of organisms. Using a
microscope with a visual field that fed directly to a computer
display, Betsy Broughton, a fisheries biologist from the National
Marine Fisheries Service gave the teachers a crash-course in plankton
identification, pointing out various copepods, dinoflagellates
and larvae that inhabit the Sanctuarys fertile waters.
who are familiar with tropical water are always amazed when they
see how abundant these critters are in the North Atlantic,"
said Broughton in response to the many oohs and ahhs at the variety
waters are a lot more nutrient-rich than the warmer waters and
can support more life. Even scientists are often shocked the first
time they see North Atlantic water under high magnification."
the EnviroLab made its way back to its dock, the participants
gathered on deck to go over the curriculum, swap activity ideas
and relax in the rays of a fierce afternoon sun.
great part about this trip is that we can get some exposure to
the open ocean within the context of education," said Derek
Wiberg, an environmental sciences teacher from Framingham High
School. "The whole trip is about the joy of learning."
Rebecca Pollard, associate editor
University Program in Science Journalism
Fleet Provides Platforms for
Studying Sanctuary Whales
summer of 1999 will see the flight of several of the nations
airships (blimps) over the sanctuary in the name of science. This
years flights started with the H.P. Hood blimp during the
Sustainable Seas Expedition. Sightings of feeding whales were
relayed to the MIMI sailing vessel to coordinate acoustic and
visual studies of behavior. The Sanyo airship completed a sanctuary
overflight in late July. The research flights are being coordinated
by Dr. James Hain of Associated Scientists of Woods Hole who has
found the blimps to be silent, stable platforms for these sorts
of field observations.
Research Cruises in the Sanctuary
waters of the sanctuary will be busy this summer with a variety
of research cruises. The U. S. Geological Survey will be continuing
its program mapping sea floor environments and biological habitats
using video and photo imagery and collection of bottom sediments.
These images and sediment samples are required to groundtruth
earlier multibeam sonar images acquired in past surveys. This
cruise will occur in middle to late July.
National Undersea Research Center brings its Aquanaut Program
to the sanctuary for acoustics and habitat fieldstudy in July
and August. The program is designed for high school teachers and
students who are motivated and interested in science. Prior to
their visit to the sanctuary, the teachers and students will have
undergone a rigorous curriculum that covers scientific methodologies,
development of hypotheses, use of statistics to validate or reject
hypotheses, and effective methods to present results. A select
group of students are chosen to particpate in the summer fieldwork.
National Undersea Research Center and Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary
will support a series of one-day research cruises looking at fish
habitat utilization, using a drop camera system.
cetacean researchers will be using the whalewatch fleet as a platform
for whale behavior studies. The Center for Coastal Studies is
continuing work on humpback whale genetics with which they are
tracing family trees. The skin and blubber samples are being sent
to scientists elsewhere for studies of levels of toxic contaminants.
Its Not a Jellyfish Collecting & Studying Marine
the summer months a project called Marine Debris Survey and Collection
will be conducted aboard the NOAA vessel HAWK within and around
the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary . The objective
of this project is to collect floating debris and document the
type and location of this solid pollution. Data will be mapped
to discover patterns which can then be used in management plans
to limit pollution in the sanctuary. Katrina Kibner, a student
at the University of Connecitcut, will be responsible for both
the data collection and the report summarizing the findings of
debris is a persistent and ubiquitous problem in the worlds
oceans, appearing in such out-of-the-way locations as Antarctica
as well as such highly travelled waters as New York Harbor, according
to reports from the Center for Marine Conservation and statistics
generated by CMCs annual coastal cleanup program.
collected along Massachusetts shores, with its dense population
and high visitation rates, indicate that this region is no exception,"
notes Anne Smrcina, education coordinator of the Sanctuary and
formerly Coastsweep Coordinator for the Massachusetts Coastal
Zone Management Office. Among the items commonly found along our
shores and itemized in the annual cleanups are cigarette butts,
plastic pieces, glass pieces, plastic food bags, styrofoam pieces,
paper, straws, rope, caps and lids, and cans. In addition, balloons
make up a significant portion of both the beach litter and solid
pollution found in the Stellwagen Bank area.
majority of these balloons were filled with helium, some intentionally
and others accidentally released. However, all balloons regardless
of how they got in the air return to the earth. As the surface
area of the earth is primarily covered with water, a vast number
of these balloons fall into the worlds oceans.
balloons are used as floats by fishermen fishing for Atlantic
bluefin tuna on Stellwagen Bank, a prime summer habitat. At times,
hundreds of vessels may be plying the waters in their search for
this commercially important fish, a giant tuna selling for tens
of thousands of dollars. Typically, three to five balloons are
deployed from each vessel during these trolling operations. At
times balloons break off and float in the upper layers of the
oceanic water column.
nearby shoreline and waters within and around the sanctuary are
heavily trafficked by people throughout much of the year. With
these people come a large amount of garbage including aluminum
cans, six-pack rings, plastic wrappings from manufactured products
and other non-bio-degradable items. "To fish and turtles
that prey on jellyfish, the floating balloons and other plastic
articles of pollution appear to be natural food. In some animals
the plastic may not pass through their digestive systems, leading
to fatal results," said Ms Kibner. "Clearly, the motive
behind such a project would be to aid in the prevention of such
needless deaths of marine organisms," she added.
The procedure for this summers debris survey will require
recording of starting position and starting speed at time of departure.
The methods of detecting solid pollution include laser range finders,
GPS, and manual visual scanning. The time and position of when
and where debris is found will be entered on the appropriate track
lines and calculations of daily coverage will be made.
with the data collection, the HAWKs crew will be collecting
the debris whenever possible. "We will have the satisfaction
of knowing that each piece of debris we recover from the ocean
is one less piece that had the potential to kill or injure a marine
organism such as a turtle, whale or fish," said Ms Kibner.
results of the project may also have implications for marine resource
management. Better information on debris movement and type may
lead to more effective public awareness programs that target particular
groups that use the waters in and around the Stellwagen Bank National
into the Sanctuary Without Getting Wet
people have an opportunity to visit the deepest recesses of the
Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary to explore the pavilion
of encrusting invertebrates found there, or to watch solitary
skates and an array of armored crabs meander across the cobble.
Until recently, only marine scientists and the occasional deep
water diver could witness the awe-inspiring underwater world hundreds
of feet below the surface waters.
a new exhibit at the New England Aquarium can take even the most
insistent land-lover to the bottom of the Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary
with the help of digital animation technology.
Immersive Theater, the nations first interactive digital
animation exhibit, allows participants to virtually probe the
vast and hidden wilderness of Stellwagen Bank with the help of
fictional miniature diving cameras, or "probies." Images
of a mother humpback whale and her calf, or flounders fluttering
along the sanctuary bottom fill the three viewing screens as the
probies purportedly relay "real-time" video from the
Sanctuarys waters. Former Congressman Gerry E. Studds, co-author
of the 1992 Act of Congress that created the Stellwagen Bank National
Marine Sanctuary, provides the recorded narration.
exhibit is more than a simple 15 minute ocean tour. The theater
is designed to emulate a control room where participants can make
important decisions regarding the future of the Stellwagen Bank
Sanctuary, and at the same time, receive a crash-course in marine
protected areas management.
point is to give people an idea of what goes on in the Stellwagen
Bank ecosystem and to illustrate just how much decisions we make
now can impact the future of the sanctuary," said Dr. William
Spitzer, Director of Education at the Aquarium.
on the top floor of the Aquariums exhibition ship "Discovery,"
the Immersive Theater control room contains 25 individual computer
consoles, in addition to the large viewing screen. At these consoles,
participants can view relayed footage from the probies, answer
brief pop-quizzes on sanctuary trivia or zoom-in for a closer
look at what is appearing on the big-screen. For instance, as
a large cetacean appears on the screen, a curious participant
might click on the whale at their console to open a fact window
that contains more information, such as a whales average
life expectancy, its trophic level, or its average size at maturity.
That way, each participant can tailor their immersive experience
to their own curiosity and education level.
"The beauty of the theater is that each visitor can take
their own journey, but, in the end, their collective decisions
will be what affects the ecosystem at Stellwagen Bank," said
Spitzer. "Its a good model of how a society functions
visitors explore the sanctuary, they will learn about various
external forces that shape the environment. The newly designated
"managers" can watch as storms come and go, or see fishing
vessels arrive and disappear, casting their nets along the ocean
floor in search of bottom-dwelling fishes.
working together, participants tackle the toughest management
issues of the sanctuary, such as how to prioritize water quality
issues, mitigate the effects of land-based pollution, or set workable
restrictions on fishing to maintain sustainable stocks.
creating a new management plan, the visitors take a virtual tour
of the sanctuary ten years into the future to find out how just
how well the plan has worked.
the end, theyll get to see just what can result from the
decisions theyve made as managers," said Spitzer. "If
they managed for water quality but not for habitat, the water
may look great. But the ocean floor will look like a parking lot."
purpose of the immersive theater is to educate as much as it is
to entertain the public. A host of scientific advisors, headed
up by the Aquariums marine scientist Carolyn Levi, have
ensured that the exhibits content accurately reflects the
current scientific understanding of marine systems. And digital
technology from Immersion Studios, a private animation company
based in Toronto, renders a very realistic viewing experience.
Immersive Theater will remain open throughout the end of this
year, and according to Spitzer, may mark the beginning of a new
trend in interactive exhibits.
we are planning our own extensions, this exhibit will act as a
test to see what kind of role high-tech simulation technologies
will have in future exhibits," said Spitzer. "Who knows?
This may be the future of eco-tourism."
Contributes to Top Education Web Site
North, an online project that immerses more than 200,000 K-12
in environmental science has been named the top education site
the Web by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences
18th. The Webby Awards (www.webbyawards.com) known as the "Oscars
of the Internet," recognize the best sites on the Web. Journey
involves 4,000-plus teachers and their students throughout
North America who track the coming of spring through the migration
patterns of butterflies, birds, and land and marine mammals, the
budding of plants, changing daylight, and other clues in their
In cases where students cant provide sighting data, experts
in the field submit regular reports. For
the past four years, the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuarys
education coordinator, Anne Smrcina, has served as the Journey
North Humpback and Right Whale correspondent. "I call upon
a network of experts
in the field," notes Ms. Smrcina, "including whalewatching
in the Dominican Republic and researchers working off the coast
of Florida. These reports can give students an up-to-date reading
the whales migrations, something they are not able to observe
as they can with butterflies and songbirds." The
Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary reports have also included information
whale migrations in other sanctuaries, including Hawaiian Islands
Whale Sanctuary, Monterey Bay, Channel Islands and Gulf of the
Farallones. Gray whale migrations have spun off into a separatereporting
track for Journey North. Journey
North is a free site funded by the Annenberg/CPB Math and Science
Project. "By sharing field observations with each other through
North, students come to see their own backyards as part of a global
ecological system," explained Journey Norths project
Howard. The "backyards" of these Journey North participants
from Alaska to Florida, and from New Brunswick, Canada to Michoacan,
Mexico, plus ten other countries across the globe. "The Stellwagen
Bank Sanctuary is proud to be associated with this outstanding
educational initiative which brings students in contact with real
world programs," said Ms. Smrcina.
Seas Curriculum Book and Web Site Available
Sustainable Seas Expeditions Teacher Resource Book, designed to
complement high school marine science curriculums is now available
from the Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary office, NOAA National Marine
Sanctuaries headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, or through
any of the other 11 sanctuaries. The
book features sections on the sanctuaries and DeepWorker, designing
a submersible, neutral buoyancy, air purification, planning a
mission, and special "explorations" of two sanctuaries
-- Monterey Bay and Stellwagen Bank. The project is a cooperative
effort of: NOAA/National Marine Sanctuaries, National Science
Teachers Association, National Geographic Society, and Learning
in Motion. Although materials in the book are intended for grades
9-12, materials can be adapted for middle school science programs.
The Sanctuary is planning on offering several teacher workshops
during the upcoming school year based on the materials and information
generated during this summers expedition. Contact the sanctuary
at (781) 545-8026 for more information. As
an additional educational tool NOAA Special Projects Office, in
cooperation of NGS and input from each of the sanctuaries, has
developed an excellent SSE/Sanctuaries web site, with impressive
photo galleries, eloquent essays, and comprehensive background
materials. Location of this site is: http://www.sustainableseas.noaa.gov.