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Rutgers University Marine Field Station

         A field facility of the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences


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Location and Facilities

The Mullica River-Great Bay estuary is an exceptionally productive estuarine system for shellfish and finfish and is the site of early estuarine studies (late 1890s) (Woodward and Waller 1932). The estuary is comprised of 87 square km of salt marsh and 56 square km of shallow (average 2 m) estuarine waters. Unlike most estuaries in the northeastern U.S., the surrounding area, including most of the Pine Barrens watershed, is protected from large-scale human disturbance. The Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer, which is the subject of a major program of study through the U.S. Geological Survey, feeds the estuarine system. Almost the entire upstream portion of the Mullica River drainage basin is part of the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve (also named as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1983). The downstream portions of the Mullica River are further buffered by federal (Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge) and state (Great Bay Wildlife Management Area) wildlife refuges. The system has only a few populated areas. As a result, the Great Bay-Mullica River estuary is probably the cleanest estuary in the Boston-New York-Philadelphia-Washington, D.C. megalopolis and one of the cleanest on the east coast. In recognition of its unique status this estuarine system, including a portion of the adjacent continental shelf, has been designated as the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve System (Psuty et al. 1993). Also, the year-round access to high-quality, high-salinity water (22-30 ppt), makes the sea water laboratory an ideal location for the spawning, culture and study of marine and estuarine fishes and invertebrates.

The location of the Rutgers University Marine Field Station (RUMFS) near Little Egg Inlet provides immediate access to the adjacent Atlantic Ocean and a Long-Term Ecosystem Observatory (von Alt and Grassle 1992, von Alt et al. 1997) at 15 m depth (LEO-15) As a result this site is the focus of multi-disciplinary studies that integrate physical, chemical, geological and biological approaches to the study of seasonal (e.g. upwellings and hypoxia), low-frequency (e.g. major storms), and aperiodic events.

The RUMFS complex was built in 1937 as a life boat station operated by the U.S. Coast Guard. Rutgers University established the Marine Field Station at this location in 1972. Renovated in 1995, the main facility is equipped with dry analytical laboratories, flow-through sea water laboratories with the capability to heat and cool the water, marine railway, dive locker, and office space. The labs are equipped with dissecting microscopes, and a high-power compound microscope attached to an Optimas image analysis system. In addition, there is a dormitory about 6.5 miles from the RUMFS complex. The dormitory can house up to 25 students, faculty, and visiting scientists year-round. RV ArabellaThe number of people involved in research at RUMFS varies seasonally with 40-50 people during the summer and 25-35 people in winter with frequent, daily visitations from other Rutgers campuses and other institutions. RUMFS has nine small vessels (17-24 ft) for work in the estuary. Larger vessels include the R.V. Caleta (30'), R.V. Joy Sea Devil (28') and the R.V. Arabella (48') for work on the adjacent continental shelf.

The Long-term Ecosystem Observatory at 15 m (LEO-15) is designed to collect long-term oceanographic data with high temporal resolution, that can be used to answer questions across several disciplines. Data from this site can currently be viewed over the World Wide Web (Real-Time Data). The long-term data is collected from three basic sources: 1) in situ instruments (current profilers and meters, thermistor strings, plankton samplers, optical back scatter sensors, etc.) that are deployed at the LEO site and connected to a fiber optic data/power link that transfer data, in real time, back to RUMFS, IMCS, and worldwide through the internet; 2) remote sensing data (AVHRR) is being collected via a satellite dish mounted on Rutgers University's Institute of Marine and Coastal Science Building; 3) meteorological data (wind speed and direction, air temperature, barometric pressure, and humidity) is collected from RUMFS 70 m meteorological tower.

Woodward, C. R. and I.N. Waller. 1932. New Jersey's Agricultural Experiment Station. 1880- 1930. pub. The New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, New Brunswick, NJ.

Psuty, N.P., M. P. De Luca, R. Lathrop, K.W. Able, S. Whitney and J.F. Grassle. 1993. The Mullica River - Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve: A unique opportunity for research, preservation and management. pp. 1557-1568 In: Coastal Zone 1993, Vol. 2. Proceedings of the Eighth Symposium on Coastal and Ocean Management. O.T. Magoon, W.S. Wilson, H. Converse and L.T Tobin (eds.), American Society of Civil Engineers, New York.

von Alt, C.J. and J.F. Grassle. 1992. LEO-15: an unmanned long term environmental observatory. OCEANS 92 Newport, R.I.

Von Alt, C., De Luca, M.P., Glenn, S.M., Grassle, J.F., Haidvogel, D.B., (1997). LEO-15: Monitoring & Managing Coastal Resources. Sea Technology, v. 38, n. 8, pp. 10-16.