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Contact Information

NEFSC James J. Howard
Marine Sciences Laboratory
74 Magruder Road, Sandy Hook
Highlands, NJ 07732
(732) 872-3000

Sandy Hook Lab History and Facility


The Howard Marine Laboratory was preceded by NMFS' Sandy Hook Laboratory, which began operation at Fort Hancock in 1961. It was established as a research arm of the Interior Departments's Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife, following passage of the Marine Game Fish Act in 1959, and became a regional center for research on marine game fish and the environment. In 1971, the laboratory became part of the newly formed National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Marine Fisheries Service. Research expanded to include studies of ecosystem responses to toxins and other environmental degradation, focusing on the New York Bight, where inshore impacts were profound. In 1985, the Sandy Hook Laboratory was destroyed by arson. Most equipment, and a 33,000 volume fisheries library were lost. After the fire, the staff moved into trailers and old former army barracks to carry out modest experiments in limited space. In 1986-87, New Jersey was selected as the location for constructing a new facility close to the former laboratory site. At the groundbreaking ceremony in 1989, the new lab was named the James J. Howard Marine Sciences Laboratory after the late James Howard, U.S. Representative of New Jersey's 3rd District, who led the lab rebuilding effort.

The Facility

The facility consists of two buildings: a 32,000 sq ft structure housing experimental seawater, analytical chemistry, and microbiology laboratories and, directly across the street, a renovated 35,000 sq ft Army barracks building converted into offices, conference rooms, and the Lionel A. Walford Marine Science Library. The new laboratory was completed in October 1993. Renovation of the historic 1890s army building was completed in 1994. Design of the new building and renovation of the old were carefully planned to retain the unique historical character of Fort Hancock (a historic landmark), while meeting rigorous technical standards demanded by scientists and conforming to environmental and safety requirements. NOAA leases a major portion of the facility, which is owned and operated by the State of New Jersey.

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