Wednesday, June 30, 2010

June Aerial Survey

On June 22nd the crew took a helicopter survey and found many areas of Narragansett Bay to be heavily loaded with algae. Some areas, particularly the coves in Greenwich Bay, had a milky hue to them which is indicative of low dissolved oxygen. Much of Greenwich Bay and Allen Harbor had bright red streaks in the water.

The red streaks in the water are patches of the dinoflagellate Gynodinium.
Certain types of phytoplankton (microscopic algae) grow very quickly and form thick, visible patches. Some of these phytoplankton blooms are harmful to plants, animals and humans, and are known as harmful algal blooms (HAB). After we landed we traveled down to Allen Harbor to collect a water sample to take back to the lab and look at under the microscope. Fortunately, the red phytoplankton we saw was not a HAB. A fellow professor here at the URI Bay campus identified it to be a harmless species of Gymnodinium, a dinoflagellate. There are however, several species of Gymnodinuim that produce toxins that cause shellfish poisoning. These red-tide events often coincide with high concentrations of nutrients, especially iron and high temperatures.

For more information on dinoflagellates
go to

After our aerial flights we go out to the beaches to identify the algae species seen from the air. As expected, we found the northern part of the Bay (north of Conimicut) loaded with the green algae Ulva species (sea lettuce). Conimicut and many areas south to Narragansett beach have a wide variety of red, green and brown algae.

The green seaweed Ulva and brown seaweed Fucus cover Bold Point.

A mix of reds, greens and browns were found at Sabin point.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Meet the Science Research Team of 2010

Every year NBEP hires at least one intern to help us out with our summer research. Whether we hire through the RI Department of Environmental Management or the University of Rhode Island, our interns must have a strong interest in the environment and have at least two years of higher education schooling in marine or environmental sciences.

The Veterans

Dr. Chris Deacutis

Dr. Chris Deacutis — Has been the Chief Scientist for NBEP since 1993.  Prior to joining the NBEP team, Chris worked with RI Department of Environmental Management in the Division of Water Resources. It was his research and suggestion of hypoxic problems in Narragansett Bay that sparked the efforts of the Insomniacs in 1999. From the summer of 1999 to 2003 Chris organized and coordinated nighttime dissolved oxygen surveys. Since 2004 Chris has been collaborating with Brown University and the University of Rhode Island to conduct daytime dissolved oxygen surveys throughout the summer.


Lesley Lambert
Lesley LambertAfter graduating from Roger Williams University in 2005 with a major in Marine Biology and a minor in Economics, I began working with NBEP in 2006 as an RIDEM intern and had the great fortune to continue with the program, becoming Project Coordinator. I have recently become the Digital Communication Manager, so in addition to conducting the summer research and mentoring our interns, I am now in charge of maintaining our website, designing the Narragansett Bay Journal, and other outreach materials and events.

2010 Interns:

Rebecca Sacks
Rebecca Sacks Becca is a senior at the University of Rhode Island, majoring in Marine Biology. She began working with us during the spring semester while maintaining a full course schedule. In the past four months she has received experience in analyzing aerial photographs as well as algae identification and biomass estimates through ground truthing. We look forward to having Becca on our team and showing her the ropes of working in the local environmental field.

Bart Johnsen-Harris

Bart Johnsen-Harris Bart is a Junior at Brown University majoring in Environmental Studies. Aside from his strong interests in environmental policy, he is also an outstanding piccolo player and bass singer for Brown's Wind Symphony and "Bear Necessities" a cappella group. Bart will be assisting us on our boat surveys this summer.

We will post our 2011 interns when they come on board next week!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

First Water Quality Survey of the Summer

The NBEP science team embarked on our first water quality survey of the season on June 8th. We used the R.I. Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) boat and left from the East Greenwich Bay Marina. We were able to take measurements at 28 of our 30 fixed sites throughout Greenwich Bay and the west passage of Narragansett Bay before a squall came about and forced us to go in and get out of the inclement weather.
Sudden Bad weather
Sudden Squall

The north western part of Greenwich Bay was found to be just at the hypoxic level at 2.9mg/L of dissolved oxygen. However, the southern parts of Greenwich Bay and much of the rest of the Bay was well mixed and oxygen levels were sufficiently high. The squall likely mixed the water  and oxygenated it further.

Marine animals breath oxygen too and when oxygen levels drop below 3mg/L there is not enough oxygen to go around. Creatures that live on the bottom of the bay such as oysters, littlenecks, and marine worms are at a greater risk during hypoxic events because they cannot move to a different area. Schooling fish such as menhaden are also affected by hypoxia because they are often chased into coves by predators such as striped bass and the school will use up the oxygen faster than it can be produced by photosynthesis or mixed into the water at the surface from the air.

Our next water quality survey will occur in the second week of July, however we hope to do a video survey next week to look at the sediments throughout Greenwich Bay.
Our captain Heather and intern Bart.
Lesley and Becca work on gathering the data.