The Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life combines cross-cutting research, data-driven conservation solutions, and public engagement to ensure a healthy future for the global oceans.
The projects listed on this page support a number of Anderson Cabot Center programs, but are important research in their own right.
Climate-induced changes in marine mammal habitat
Today we know marine mammals to be a highly visible indicator of climate change and of the impact of human activities in the oceans. Their distribution in space and time has ripple effects for tourism, commercial fishing and shipping, and it informs our understanding of unseen connections within the marine food web. This research integrates information on the health of marine habitats and ecosystems to address challenges in marine mammal conservation by analyzing data from satellites and climate models alongside data from marine mammal surveys. The goal is to understand how short and long term environmental changes, both from anthropogenic sources and climate mechanisms, affect ecological relationships and drive plankton, fish and whales to new habitats. Of particular interest in this program are climate-induced changes in phenology – the natural seasonal cycles of life, such as migration. In theory, if plankton blooms occur earlier or later than expected, fish and whales that consume plankton should change the timing of spawning or migration accordingly. A “mismatch” could occur if animals are not able to adapt to changes in the phenology of their prey, leading to less productive ecosystems with lower species diversity.
- Lead: Dan Pendleton
Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to benefit ocean conservation and research
Researchers at the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium have understood the potential of using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for conservation and research in the marine environment since 1996. GIS allows researchers to analyze data geographically to better understand species distributions, study various impacts of human activities on populations, analyze movements, and search for environmental predictors to support conservation actions. Through the years, with the use of GIS, our researchers have helped move shipping lanes in the Bay of Fundy to protect the North Atlantic right whale, tracked rehabilitated marine mammals and turtles, integrated oceanographic data collected from satellites with species locations, and use novel techniques to map species distributions to support Marine Spatial Planning. We are continuing this research to further investigate spatial questions within the marine environment.
- Lead: Brooke Hodge