Using telemetry and eDNA to quantify marine biodiversity

Characterizing trophic interactions of near-shore communities.

We are using acoustic telemetry, active acoustics, passive acoustics, eDNA, and traditional sampling to track the movements and diets of important predators, Atlantic cod, and common terns in relation to forage fish.

Project Goals:

  • Characterize seasonal and interannual changes in Atlantic cod and common tern movements and their diets in two coastal systems.
  • Correlate movements and diet of predators with regional marine biodiversity.
  • Determine how indicators of biodiversity vary with environmental changes.
  • Use bioenergetics modeling to predict potential consequences of changes in water temperature and food availability on energy budgets of Atlantic cod and common terns.

The Coastal New England Biodiversity Observation Network (CNEBON) project is integrating powerful technologies (acoustic telemetry, environmental DNA (eDNA), and acoustics) with fisheries sampling to quantify the importance of estuary mouths to coastal predators and marine biodiversity.

Beyond unveiling important relationships between predators, prey, marine biodiversity, and environmental conditions, we will determine the scales at which varying perspectives of marine biodiversity correlate. Within the rapidly warming Gulf of Maine, we will focus on estuarine-coastal systems: the Isles of Shoals near Great Bay, New Hampshire, and Casco Bay, Maine where permanent acoustic telemetry infrastructure is lacking.

A researcher tags a cod fish aboard a small fishing vessel.
Researchers place a tagging device on a cod and mark it, which will allow the telemetry devices on the sea floor to track the movements of the tagged fish.
Two researchers on a boat are handling tagged cod fish in a net.
Researchers prepare to release the tagged cod back into the ocean.
The tagged cod is carefully released.
The tagged cod is carefully released.

Via telemetry we will track the movements and diet of important predators, Atlantic cod and common terns, to determine their reliance on forage species. Using eDNA, active acoustics, passive acoustics, and traditional sampling, we will track marine biodiversity and the presence of forage species, including herrings. We will integrate biodiversity data with environmental observing via publicly available data through NERACOOS, among others.

Comparing and contrasting species’ responses to environmental change will both provide biotic indicators of ecological dynamics and help predict the “winners and losers” of climate change.

A researcher in a boat steers the vessel toward two floating orange buoys.
GMRI Senior Research Associate Zach Whitener steers the research vessel toward the recently surfaced telemetry device for retrieval.
A researcher uses a fishing net to snag two orange buoys from the ocean.
GMRI Senior Research Associate Aaron Whitman uses a fishing net to retrieve a telemetry device from the sea floor.

GMRI Project Team:

Project Partners

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