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Clam Research Cruise on the F/V ESS Pursuit

WHOI PO postdoc Nina Whitney (center) and scientists from University of Mississippi and Virginia Institute of Marine Science sort Atlantic surfclams (Spisula solidissima) and ocean quahogs (Artica islandica) on the F/V ESS Pursuit.

WHOI PO postdoc Nina Whitney recently returned from a research expedition on the F/V ESS Pursuit.  The primary purpose of the 5 day research research cruise was to perform an unbiased survey of the Mid-Atlantic Bight shelf region off of New Jersey and Long Island occupied by the biomass dominants surfclams and ocean quahogs to document potential range shifts of the two species. Surfclams have been anecdotally shifting their range farther offshore as a response to warming waters. This shift has caused surfclam habitat range to overlap with that of the ocean quahog (who live in deeper water, farther offshore) in places and poses substantial challenges for clam fishermen, who are not permitted to bring both species back to port under current regulations and therefore must spend valuable time sorting the species at sea. In addition to the survey, during the cruise, samples were collected for several different research projects, including Dr. Whitney’s research on reconstructing past ocean circulation and hydrographic changes in the Mid-Atlantic Bight region using the isotopic geochemistry in ocean quahog shells, which a precipitated in annual increments and can record hundreds of years of oceanographic changes.  Photo provided by Alex Marquardt.