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What is the NES-LTER?

The northwest Atlantic, renowned for its fisheries, is experiencing faster-than-average warming and other impacts from environmental variability and human activities. Although patterns of ecosystem change over seasons to decades have been documented in this region, key mechanisms linking changes in the physical environment, planktonic food webs, and higher trophic levels remain poorly understood. The Northeast U.S. Shelf (NES) Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) project integrates observations, experiments, and models to understand and predict how planktonic food webs are changing in this region, and how those changes impact the productivity of higher trophic levels.

The NES-LTER focuses on a cross-shelf transect from MVCO to the OOI Pioneer Array (foreground). However, quarterly cruises in partnership with NOAA NEFSC will provide select information at broad spatial scales and a greater contextual understanding of changes occurring in the NES ecosystem (central map shows example cruise track). Additional observations will come from regional observing system components (e.g., NOAA buoys). Our multi-scale modeling effort encompasses a domain that extends beyond NES boundaries (top left, with characteristic SST distribution).

Where is the NES-LTER?

The NES-LTER is co-located with the Northeast U.S. Continental Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem, spanning the Middle Atlantic Bight and Gulf of Maine. Our broadscale studies are conducted on NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center Ecosystem Monitoring (EcoMon) cruises, also known as Shelf-Wide Plankton Surveys. Our focal cross-shelf transect along longitude 70 deg 53’ W extends about 85 nautical miles (~150 km) southward from Martha’s Vineyard to just beyond the shelf break. Real-time observations are available for the inner shelf at the Martha’s Vineyard Coastal Observatory (MVCO) and for the outer shelf at the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) Pioneer Array.

» Link to list of NES-LTER Standard Stations

» View an interactive map of present conditions and the forecast for the next 3 days at the Northeast Coastal Ocean Forecast System (NECOFS)

Who is involved?

The NES-LTER is led by Dr. Heidi M. Sosik at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), with 11 co-Principal Investigators (co-PIs) from University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, University of Rhode Island, Wellesley College, WHOI, and NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center. Technical staff, postdoctoral researchers, graduate students, and undergraduate students also participate from all the partner institutions. We also have an education specialist for the Schoolyard.

Our affiliated programs include the Martha’s Vineyard Coastal Observatory, the Ocean Observatories Initiative, and NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center Ecosystem Monitoring (EcoMon) program. Affiliated researchers from several institutions are collaborating with the NES-LTER. Affiliated educators include participants in the Schoolyard, presently from Middle and High Schools in MA and RI (including Fall River, Falmouth, New Bedford, Quincy, and more).


NES-LTER participants on the 2018 Winter Transect cruise EN608 (photo by Lynne Butler)

Get involved

  • Researchers: If you are interested in submitting a companion proposal for research associated with the NES-LTER, contact Lead PI Heidi Sosik.
  • Educators: If you are interested in joining the NES-LTER Schoolyard for Middle and High School teachers, contact Annette Brickley.
  • Undergraduate students: If you are interested in Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs), contact Kama Thieler.