As the oceans are facing increasing industrialization and multiple stressors—wind farms, tidal power stations, underwater noise, pollution, coastal development, fisheries and bycatch impacts, and now climate change—we need to better understand and mitigate these impacts, particularly on species that are endangered. Survival of many marine species and ecosystems will depend upon enhancing their biological resilience, which will require minimizing the number of anthropogenic stressors affecting those species and habitats, particularly in the face of global climate change effects.
The Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium takes a holistic approach to assessing impacts of multiple stressors, including injury, pollution, disease, noise, and other consequences of human activities. Building on the expertise of our scientific researchers, veterinarians, and animal care staff, we have developed programs involving rehabilitation and clinical research on cold-stunned sea turtles, health assessments of entangled leatherback sea turtles, research on shell disease in lobsters, and emerging endocrinology studies on sea turtles, fish, and other species.
Future work will address the impacts of climate change, comparison studies using captive animals and control populations to characterize baseline levels of health for multiple marine species, and strategies for mitigating stressors and their impacts on marine animal populations and ecosystem health.
As an example of the Aquarium’s leadership in the area of marine animal health, our researchers led a collaborative effort to compile five years of baseline data on marine animal life in designated wind energy areas off the coasts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
The main objective of this study was to collect visual and acoustic baseline data on mammals, in particular endangered whales and sea turtles, in proposed wind farm sites. Secondary objectives were to assess the degree of inter-annual variability in animal distributions and to integrate aerial survey, acoustic, and photographic survey data on endangered large whales and sea turtles to provide an overview of habitat-use patterns. This survey was done at the behest of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.
Other examples of our researchers’ work
- Endoscopic surgical techniques on turtles first described by Aquarium researchers and veterinarians are now used in the management of Galapagos tortoises and desert tortoises and conservation programs.
- The Aquarium’s turtle transport physiology work has had an influence on the interpretation and impact assessment for turtles that were managed during the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010.
- The Aquarium’s satellite tracking maps of endangered Kemp’s ridley and green sea turtles are being used by federal partners to identify the habitats of sea turtles in the western North Atlantic Ocean.
The Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life will continue to build on this work.