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January 31, 2019
Contact: Teri Frady

10 NEFSC Things That Blew My Mind in 2018

Data, Serendipity, Persistence, and Life

As editor-in-chief of our digital content, I work with my branch and people from around the Center chasing down ideas, developments, events, images—anything that will make a good story that helps people understand what NOAA Fisheries is up to, who is doing it, and why it matters.

In 2018 we posted more than 100 new stories about NEFSC work, more than 20 blog posts from scientists in the field, weekly new images and videos, and daily social media posts on Facebook and Twitter. Every day I see just a little of the data, serendipity, persistence, images, and personal commitment that power the stories we tell. Here are my top 10 memorable items from 2018, in no particular order.

Photo credit: NOAA National Ocean Service

Everything is Touched by a Warming Ocean

Rapid change in the Gulf of Maine is underway. As waters warm, marine creatures are on the move. Our Center bristled with new work on climate-related change in fishery stock growth, shellfish numbers, whale behavior, large-scale ocean processes, fish finding habitat in new areas, and a whole group of projects focused on New England's groundfish in a changing climate. If we can understand what’s happening, it gives me hope that we can find good ways to respond.

Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries/Lynn Kurth

The Power of a Picture

This year, we learned that more than 50 million Americans visited U.S. shores to relax, have fun, fish, get a change of scene. The number one activity? Watching and photographing sea life, beaches, and oceanscapes. This image of a pisaster starfish in a tidepool was taken by NOAA Teacher at Sea Lynn Kurth. I'd definitely snap a picture of this guy if I had the chance. Also, would not have to get too wet in order to get the shot. That's how I like it.

Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

Won Over by a Sense of Humor

My favorite field blog this year came from salmon researcher Graham Goulette, who chronicled the adventures of a “robust group of handsome fishery biologists” as they braved Maine spring weather to plant some Atlantic salmon eggs.

Photo credit: Massachusetts DMF/Greg Skomal

Basking Shark Bonanza

We collect all kinds of data here, accumulating some long time-series that are envied by researchers elsewhere in the world. In the day-to-day routine of it all, one forgets just how powerful this kind of information can be, how critical it is to distinguishing true change from a blip in a series. Also, by collecting widely, you get information you weren’t expecting. Like our report this year on basking shark behavior, based on more than 30 years of aerial surveys that were actually focused on whales.

Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

A Lecture Leads to a Revelation About North Atlantic Right Whales

This year, Peter Corkeron and his whale researching colleagues published an important new paper that looked at why the endangered North Atlantic right whale isn’t recovering on par with Southern right whales – a closely related species. The answer came with a side-serving of optimism about intrinsic growth rates if more female North Atlantic right whales could be protected from harm. But I was more fascinated with how the study came about, and the respect among colleagues that led to crediting two authors posthumously.

Photo credit: WHOI/Paul Caiger

We Have Entered the Twilight Zone

Who doesn’t love unraveling a mystery? We’re a part of a large-scale adventure helmed by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution that will assay what’s in a twilit layer of the ocean where a massive migration of marine life occurs daily. They’re using a towed sampling and imaging array dubbed the “Deep See”. There’s a lot of technology and know-how going into this work, but it’s the image of a creature full-lit, likely for the first time in its life, that stuck with me. I absolutely hate having my picture made; I think this Atlantic longarm octopus, captured by the Deep See’s lenses, may be a soul mate.

Photo credit: Massachusetts DMF/Greg Skomal

How Old is that Shark? Older Than You Think.

Our readers are big shark fans. Things we post during Shark Week are always among our top-visited for the year. For decades, people who study sharks have worked to refine the way ages are estimated for these top-level predators, and we made some progress this year by figuring out how not to age a shark. What I liked about this story was its outcome: finding that some shark species live longer than we thought. At my age, that’s encouraging.

Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

Wallpaper Wow

Did I mention we get a lot of images to work with? They come from all over the NEFSC and sometimes we can’t resist having a little fun. This year, we made two galleries of smartphone wallpaper from our collection of sea life images that you can download anytime: Halloween Spooktacular, and Heart-Warming Holiday.

Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

A Search for the Holy Grail – of Cod Stock Structure

This is a great tale of two countries, hundreds of quests over several decades, and a grand plan to bring it all home. A group of US and Canadian researchers started working this year to assemble the first full picture of the multiple cod stocks thought to comprise what we think of as the Atlantic cod population that we study. It’s heroic, and hard, and I can’t wait for the results.

Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

Spring is Just Around the Corner

River herring runs on Cape Cod are much anticipated as a sure sign of spring. Several staffers volunteer their time to help with herring counts. This year we caught up with Ruth Haas-Castro, who volunteers for a local count at Mill Pond in Marstons Mills, run by the Clean Water Coalition and the Town of Barnstable. Whenever I need a dose of Spring fever, I turn to this YouTube video. It’s just a few seconds of river herring making their move into Mill Pond, but I guarantee you will smell lilacs in bloom.