Your browser does not support JavaScript

Contact Information

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

Ecosystems Processes Division

The mission of the Ecosystems Processes Division is to understand the effects of environmental variability and human disturbances on fish and shellfish productivity relative to habitat.

  • General Information
  • Coastal Ecology
  • Marine Chemistry
  • Behavioral Ecology
  • Oceanography
Map of NE Sea Scallop

The Ecosystems Processes Division (EPD) seeks to understand the effects of natural and human-induced environmental factors on fishery resources, and ultimately to predict the effects of variation in such factors on the composition, distribution, abundance, and production of fishery resources. An emphasis is placed on the study of reproductive activity and early life stages since these are generally the most vulnerable to environmental variation. Research is principally process-oriented, which includes both field and lab studies.

See Demographic Information for other types of research at the Howard Lab

Trawling on Hudson River figure

The Coastal Ecology Branch conducts field and laboratory studies on life history and habitat relationships of economically and ecologically important marine fishes and invertebrates. The purpose of this research is to determine how fish and invertebrates are affected by both natural processes and anthropogenic activities in the marine environment.

The Branch also conducts research on mapping benthic habitats and relating habitat parameters to the occurrence of species of fish and invertebrates, in particular deep sea cold water corals. This work is aimed at determining the relative functional value of specific habitats and predicting where suitable habitat exists for particular species.

Current research includes: Mapping benthic habitats, with a particular focus on Hudson Canyon and Georges Bank, which involves the use of towed camera sleds and autonomous underwater vehicles. The development of habitat suitability models for deep sea corals and field testing of model predictions. And, assessing and modeling benthic habitats to investigate the relationship between habitat type and the distribution and abundance of fish.

The Branch leads the Environmental Processes Division's efforts to provide needed information to users such as the NMFS Northeast Regional Office and fishery management councils and commissions.

Figure: Soxhlet extractors

The Marine Chemistry Branch focuses on a wide range of research problems related to the health and well-being of marine resource species, and the extent to which environmental conditions such as ocean acidification and contamination affects sustainability and utilization.

The Branch investigates the impacts of ocean acidification on managed fisheries and conducts studies on contaminants in water, sediment, and tissues of fishes and invertebrates to determine how contaminants accumulate and are distributed in nearshore and estuarine systems and through food web transfer.

The Branch measures carbonate chemistry, nutrients, trace metals and organic contaminants with an emphasis on developing new, more rapid and cost-effective detection techniques. Additionally, the Branch develops, tests, and applies analytical methodology to ensure the highest quality in fishery products sold or consumed in the United States.

Figure: Bluefish in large seawater tank
Figure: Fish tank farm

The Behavioral Ecology Branch employs a multidisciplinary, experimental, and community-based approach to investigate mechanisms that affect recruitment, distribution, and abundance of economically significant marine fishes and invertebrates.

The Branch conducts field and laboratory studies on habitat requirements and preferences, predator-prey relationships, movement and migration patterns, reproductive behavior, and other behavioral responses that influence populations of resource species. Emphasis is placed on interactions among managed species, their predators and prey, and environmental parameters such as sediments, macrophytes, water column characteristics, and hydrography.

Both qualitative and quantitative aspects of the habitat are explored, and behavioral processes at all stages of animal development are considered.

The behavioral norms established in the research serve as baselines against which the effects of environmental perturbations can be measured or predicted.

Hydrocast figure - from NEFSC Photo Archives (

The Oceanography Branch analyzes data collected on the Northeast Continental Shelf ecosystem to understand how the components of the ecosystem influence the distribution, abundance, and productivity of living marine resources (LMRs). The Branch conducts process oriented research on the influence of the environment and lower trophic levels on LMRs. Specific focus is given to studying the physical and biological processes which control the growth and survival of the early life stages of fish populations and of their zooplankton prey organisms.

Link disclaimer | Email webmaster | Privacy policy |     File Modified Dec 07, 2017