On November 12, 2014, I attended a workshop in Chelmsford, MA for the Integrated Sentinel Monitoring Network (ISMN), which was initiated in recognition that ecosystem level changes, such as ocean acidification, sea level rise, or changing storm patterns, are expected to intensify and put important marine species and commercial fisheries at risk. This effort is a collaboration between NERACOOS (Northeast Regional Association for Coastal Ocean Observing Systems) and NROC (Northeast Regional Ocean Council) and involves a number of organizations focusing on the Northeast region from the border with Canada to as far south as Long Island Sound. The steering committee is developing a science implementation plan to "inform researchers, managers, and the public about ecosystem vulnerabilities and impacts," and encourage regional approaches to improving community and ecosystem resiliency.
To tackle this enormous task, the steering committee and participating organizations have been divided into three work groups to focus on three different regions of the ocean-- pelagic (in the water column), benthic (ocean floor), and estuarine (where the river meets the ocean) and nearshore habitat. Each work group has been charged with identifying sentinel ecosystem indicators, gathering information on existing monitoring efforts that relates to their assigned habitat and identified sentinels currently underway in the Northeast, highlighting gaps in current monitoring, and providing a synthesis of their work for the final report. Ideally the report and this work will leverage funding to monitor the gaps identified by this group and to provide continued support to current monitoring efforts underway that are deemed critical to providing information about ecosystem level change.
At the workshop, I participated in the estuarine and nearshore habitat work group and believe this discussion will be particularly helpful in guiding which indicators we choose to monitor on Hurricane Island in the future. We want the parameters we monitor on Hurricane to be comparable with other field sites so we can understand how that variable changes over time and along a latitudinal or regional gradient as well as consider monitoring the gaps in current efforts. Collecting this data will also ideally support the work of visiting researchers as well as our education programs.