Bay Environmental Quality Study Team (BEQST)ality

Evaluating Buzzards Bay Water Quality


Working Together on the Bay

George Hampson, benthic biologist and WHOI/Woods Hole Group retiree, approached Chris Reddy, chemist and Coastal Ocean Institute Director, in the Fall of 2009 with concern about dissolved oxygen (DO) levels in Buzzards Bay and how they may be affecting marine life. George had evidence of very low DO levels in areas in the Bay, as well as accounts of bivalve kills and a bluefish that he netted from his boat near Cleveland Ledge with a tumor on its side.

Soon after George and Chris's discussion, the Town of Falmouth's Department of Natural Resources Assistant Director, Chuck Martinsen, contacted Chris about starfish kills, the largest number washing up on Racing Beach.  Chuck contacted a veterinary pathologist who was not able to analyze the samples immediately.  The samples were frozen to preserve them and were ultimately not able to be analyzed because freezing them killed the cells.  Chris, George and Chuck agreed to attempt to make a plan for similar future occurrences for triage and analysis to determine the cause of illness/death.

George became aware of a Buzzards Bay modeling project that United States Geological Survey's Neil Ganju is leading.  Neil's research has revealed low DO levels in various areas in the Bay.  As the idea of sampling for temperature, salinity and oxygen during the summer months at set stations in the central axis of the Bay came to fruition, the collaboration grew to include Mark Rasmussen, President and Buzzards BayKeeper, The Coalition for Buzzards Bay and Anne Giblin, Senior Scientist, The Ecosystems Center, Marine Biological Laboratories.  The group calls itself, Bay Environmental Quality Study Team, "BEQST".

At the recommendation of Dennis Aubrey, President, Woods Hole Group, in June 2010, Jon Fincke, an undergraduate student at University of New Hampshire and WHOI Summer Student Fellow, began sampling at six stations in the Bay from The Coalition for Buzzards Bay's 29-foot vessel, Baykeeper, as well as WHOI's R/V Tioga.  Jon sampled in the Bay in the summer of 2009 during an internship at Woods Hole Group.  In 2010, the first year of the program, Jon worked with other WHOI Summer Student Fellows who joined him on sampling days for field experience.  In Jon's absence, Neil and his Summer Student Fellow, Jenny Thomas, sampled as well.  
Though this collaboration is in its infancy, after a few years we will have enough data to tell a story.  It’s a step in the right direction to have formed this group, working together to research the health of the Bay to ultimately find ways to protect and preserve the place that many animals and humans call home.


  • Coastal Ocean Institute, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
  • The Coalition for Buzzards Bay
  • Department of Natural Resources, Town of Falmouth
  • The Ecosystems Center, Marine Biological Laboratory
  • United States Geological Survey
  • The Woods Hole Group