Detecting Hydrographic Features and Gelatinous Zooplankton “Hot Spots” in the Northwestern Atlantic Ocean

Advisors: Mary Beth Decker (Research Scientist in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and YPM Invertebrate Zoology Curatorial Affiliate) and Casey Dunn (Professor in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and YPM Invertebrate Zoology Curator)  




Length: 6-8 weeks in the summer 


Project description: 

Gelatinous zooplankton, such as ctenophores, medusae and siphonophores, tend to be patchily distributed in pelagic waters. However, aggregations of zooplankton are often associated with hydrographic features, such as fronts and eddies. These physical features can be detected with information gathered by satellites and oceanographic buoys. This project will access remotely-sensed images of the sea-surface, as well as data from oceanographic buoys, to identify hydrographic features near Block Island, in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean. By examining historical images and datasets of environmental parameters, such as temperature and ocean color, the project will examine the spatial and temporal variability of hydrographic features in our study area. In addition, images and hydrographic data will be collected in near-real time to guide sampling locations during the upcoming field season. Experience or coursework in remote sensing and oceanography is recommended. The project can be completed remotely. However, if COVID-19 protocols allow students to participate in field-work during the summer of 2021, the intern can assist with collections of specimens and in-situ oceanographic data in nearby coastal waters. Specimen information can be entered to the Museum database, Axiell's EMu, via remote access if students are not able to visit the Division of Invertebrate Zoology office.  


Outcomes:  Specimens for the YPM Invertebrate Zoology Division's collections, a library of satellite images and buoy time series data, and the foundation for a peer-reviewed scientific publication. 


Connection to YPM collections and departmental/divisional goals:  This work will directly impact the collections both technically and biologically. Technically, it will inform where and when collecting will be most productive. This is very important given the expense of off-shore sampling. This will help improve the Invertebrate Zoology collection at the Peabody. Biologically, this work will contextualize future specimens collected in this region by providing much improved detail on the environmental conditions under which they were collected. 


Summary of potential costs (e.g. supplies, travel): Field work will be covered by available research funds. 


Stipend: $2250-3000