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eMOLT Overview

The eMOLT project is a non-profit collaboration of industry, science, and academics devoted to monitoring of the physical environment of the Gulf of Maine and the Southern New England shelf.  In a series of phases funded by the lobsterNortheast Consortium (2001-2008),  we have developed low-cost strategies to measure  bottom temperature and salinity and, most recently,  current velocity with the help of nearly 100 lobstermen  dispersed along the entire New England coast.  We hope to extend our existing multi-year time series (as well as our monitoring capabilities), continue integration with the Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing  System (GoMOOS),  and contribute to whatever operational systems are developed for our region in the future.

The eMOLT  partners currently include all the major lobstermen associations in New England (Maine, Massachusetts, Downeast, and Atlantic Offshore),  a NOAA scientist, the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation, and the Marine Science Department at the Southern Maine Community College (SMCC).  Having created this network of  participating fishermen, our primary goal is to supply these individuals with the latest in low-cost instrumentation sufficient for maintaining continuous time series of physical variables at fixed locations and depths.   Our database now (2006) consist of  1.8 million hourly records of temperature,  80 thousand hourly records of salinity, and  40 thousand  satellite drifter fixes.  While our mission is primarily motivated by lobster science and the need to document background conditions,  we make our database accessible to the general public and the recently-formed GoM Ocean Data Partnership in the form of web served products and raw data.

In our quest to minimize instrumentation cost, we have partnered with students at SMCC's Marine Science Department and local engineers in the private sector. This has lead to  development of devices of interest to the oceanographic community in general.  The first is a GPS drifter at nearly a third the cost of conventional units that implements the SENS technology with the GLOBALSTAR low-orbiting satellite system.  These units have already logged more than 50 thousand kilometers of  ocean and are beiing used by several other research groups. Another is a  real-time bottom temperature sensor (attached to lobster traps)  that wirelessly transmits  data to a shipboard system as it is hauled on deck. Another is a low-cost bottom-current meter that implements new inclinometer technology. While the drifters are fully operational, the wireless temerature sensors and the tilt-sensor current meters are still under development.

We expect the primary users of eMOLT data, aside from the lobstermen themselves, will be local ocean circulation modelers.  The need for data in initialization, assimilation, and validation of their numerical simulations is becoming more and more obvious.  The complex  time-varying nature of the Gulf of Maine system calls for incorporating  as much data as possible in order to generate realistic flow fields.  We hope to supplement the data supplied by  GoMOOS by providing modelers with a extensive array of  bottom observations as well as Lagrangian drifter tracks.  Our hope is that these numerical models will someday help in our understanding of lobster larvae drift and the fate of any particles for that matter, such as Harmful Algal Blooms,  along our coast.  What are the mechanisms that govern the both the short-term and long-term variability of the GoM ecosystem and can we generate  realistic, time-varying, 3-d simulations of these changes?

Our philosophy is that local fishermen already spend their days at sea,  have the biggest stake in preserving our coastal marine resources, and are the most knowledgeable of the local waters.  Their interest, curiosity, and enthusiasm are sincere.  They should play an important part in our nation's Integrated Ocean Observing Systems.