Environmental Monitors on Lobster Traps

Project Description
The eMOLT project (http://www.emolt.org/) is a non-profit collaboration of
industry, science, and academics devoted to monitoring of the physical
environment of the Gulf of Maine and the Southern New England shelf. In a
series of phases funded by the Northeast Consortium (2000-2005), we have
developed low-cost strategies to measure bottom temperature and salinity and,
most recently, surface current velocity with the help of nearly 100 lobstermen
dispersed along the entire New England coast. We hope to extend our existing
multi-year time series (as well as our monitoring capabilities), continue
integration with the Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing System (GoMOOS), and
contribute to whatever operational system is developed for our region in the
future.

The eMOLT partners currently include all the major lobstermen associations in
New England (Maine, Massachusetts, Downeast, and Atlantic Offshore), a NOAA
scientist, the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation, and the Marine Science
Department at the Southern Maine Community College. Having created this
network of participating fishermen, our primary goal is to supply these
individuals with the latest in low-cost instrumentation sufficient for
maintaining continuous time series of physical variables at fixed locations and
depths. Our database now consist of 1.3 million hourly records of temperature,
80k hourly records of salinity, and 40k satellite drifter fixes. While our
mission is primarily motivated by lobster science and the need to document
background conditions, we make our database accessible to the general public
and the recently-formed GoM Ocean Data Partnership in the form of web served
products and raw data (see www.emolt.org).

In our quest to minimize instrumentation cost, we have partnered with engineers
in the private sector to develop devices that may be of interest to the
oceanographic community in general. The first is a GPS drifter at nearly a
third the cost of conventional units that implements the SENS technology with
the GLOBALSTAR low-orbiting satellite system. These units have already logged
more than 30 thousand kilometers of ocean. Another is a real-time bottom
temperature sensor (attached to lobster traps) that wirelessly transmits data
to a shipboard system as it is hauled on deck. Both of these units should be
commercially available in 2005.

We expect the primary users of eMOLT data, aside from the lobstermen
themselves, will be local ocean circulation modelers. The need for data in
initialization, assimilation, and validation of their numerical simulations is
becoming more and more obvious. The complex time-varying nature of the Gulf
of Maine system calls for incorporating as much data as possible in order to
generate realistic flow fields. We hope to supplement the data supplied by
GoMOOS by providing modelers with a extensive array of bottom observations as
well as Lagrangian drifter tracks. Our hope is that these numerical models
will someday help in our understanding of lobster larvae drift and the fate of
any particles for that matter, such as Harmful Algal Blooms, along our coast.
What are the mechanisms that govern the both the short-term and long-term
variability of the GoM ecosystem and can we generate realistic, time-varying,
3-d simulations of these changes?

Our philosophy is that local fishermen already spend their days at sea, have
the biggest stake in preserving our coastal marine resources, and are the most
knowledgeable of the local waters. Their interest, curiosity, and enthusiasm
are sincere. They should play an important part in our nation's Integrated
Ocean Observing Systems.

[Abstract taken from http://www.emolt.org/]