From phytoplankton to whales: Ecological interactions on Stellwagen Bank

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Mark Baumgartner with 9 m tagging pole.

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Tagged humpback whale on Stellwagen Bank.

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Deployment of instrument package consisting of a conductivity-temperature-depth profiler, fluorometer, optical plankton counter, and video plankton recorder.

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Side-looking scanning multibeam sonar deployed on starboard side of R/V Tioga.

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RATS buoys used to track tagged whales in 3 dimensions and in real time.

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Summer 2005 Wiebe lab from left to right: Nancy Copley, Mark Baumgartner, Gareth Lawson, Max Li, Astthor Gislason, and Peter Wiebe.


Principal Investigators:  Mark Baumgartner (WHOI Biology), Dezhang Chu (WHOI AOP&E), Peter Wiebe (WHOI Biology), David Wiley (Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary), and Colin Ware (University of New Hampshire Data Visualization Research Laboratory)

Engineering Support:  Terry Hammar (WHOI AOP&E)

Our objective is to explore the dynamics of a major food chain within the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS) consisting of phytoplankton, zooplankton, bait fish, and baleen whales.  Field operations during this pilot project include (1) monitoring the foraging behavior of baleen whales by deploying suction-cup attached tags to the whales and continuously tracking them in three dimensions (3D) using the new Real-time Acoustic Tracking System, (2) observing the 3D distribution of the whale’s prey (bait fish such as sand lance and herring) in proximity to the tagged whale using a side-looking, scanning multibeam sonar system, (3) measuring the vertical distribution and abundance of zooplankton (via a video plankton recorder), phytoplankton (via a fluorometer), and several physical oceanographic properties, including temperature and salinity (via a conductivity, temperature, and depth instrument) and currents (via an acoustic Doppler current profiler), in proximity to the tagged whale.  These collocated observations will allow us to explore the dynamic interactions among four trophic levels in a complete food chain and the influence of the local physical oceanography on those interactions.  The proposed project will advance the science of marine ecology by improving our understanding of ecological interactions and ecosystem functioning near the top of the food chain.  This project will also support the ongoing development of an effective ecosystem-based management strategy within the SBNMS.

Support for this project provided by NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration.


 

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Last updated April 18, 2011
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