Chris Melrose - Research Oceanographer, United States of America

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) Oceanography Branch conducts two monthly continuous plankton recorder (CPR) transects off the east coast of the United States: one across the Gulf of Maine and one across Mid Atlantic Bight. It is the second longest running CPR program after that of SAHFOS.

CPR deployment - Courtesy of Jerry Prezioso (NOAA)

It is also one of the longest running plankton time-series in the Northwest Atlantic. Both NEFSC CPR transects are conducted aboard co-operating with cargo vessels during their routine monthly transits. These vessels are made available for oceanographic research thanks to the cooperation of Bermuda Container Line and EIMSKIP.

NEFSC established its first CPR route from New York towards Bermuda across the Mid Atlantic Bight in 1976. This route extended about 450-500 km from New York, off the edge of the Shelf and past the Gulf Stream. Beginning in October of 2011 the route was extended to the full distance from New York to Bermuda across the Sargasso Sea. As of October 2011 there have been 445 tows on this route.

NOAA Sampling Area

The Gulf of Maine transect was originally established by the Oceanographic Laboratory at Edinburgh in 1961. Responsibility for operating the route was later transferred to NEFSC in 1974. It covers approximately 425 km between Halifax, Nova Scotia and Boston, Massachusetts. Between 1974 and October of 2011, NEFSC has conducted 421 CPR tows on this line.

These CPR studies have become part of a more broadly focused ships of opportunity program that deploys a variety of scientific instrumentation aboard commercial vessels. The program supplements the less frequent but more intensive sampling of the U.S. Northeast Shelf by dedicated research vessels. Both NEFSC CPR transects also incorporate thermosalinograph, expendable bathythermograph and dissolved CO2 measurements. The New York to Bermuda route additionally includes an acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP). These supplementary physical measurements are conducted in partnership with NOAA's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML), the University of Rhode Island and Stony Brook University.