Additional Participants

Organizational Partners

University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography
University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
SUNY at Stony Brook
University of New Hampshire

Other Collaborators or Contacts

Dr. Ted Durbin
Dr. Changshen Chen
Dr. Cabell Davis
Dr. Rubao Ji
Dr. Robert Beardsley
Dr. Charles Flagg
Dr. Jeffrey Runge

Project Period

May 1, 2006-April 30, 2009

Level of Access

Open-Access Report

Grant Number


Submission Date



A fundamental goal of Biological Oceanography is to understand how underlying biological-physical interactions determine abundance of marine organisms. For animal populations, it is well known that factors controlling survival during early life stages (i.e., recruitment) are strong determinants of adult population size, but understanding these processes has been difficult due to model and data limitations. Recent advances in numerical modeling, together with new 3D data sets, provide a unique opportunity to study the biological-physical processes controlling zooplankton population size. This project uses an existing state-of-the-art biological/physical numerical model (FVCOM) together with the recently processed large 3D data set from the Georges Bank GLOBEC program to conduct idealized and realistic numerical experiments that explore the detailed mechanisms controlling seasonal evolution of spatial patterns in dominant zooplankton species on Georges Bank. Hypotheses that address how dominant copepod species populations are maintained on the bank, including local dynamics and large-scale forcing will be examined. A specific goal is to determine whether the observed characteristic seasonal and spatial pattern of each species (long-term and inter-annual) is predictable from the interaction between its characteristic life-history traits and physical transport. The extent to which the copepod populations are controlled by food-availability (bottom-up) or predation (top-down) processes will be examined, including the influence of Warm Slope Water versus Labrador Slope Water (NAO-dependent) on nutrient influx through the Northeast Channel and subsequent upwelling and biological enhancement on the bank. Self-sustainability of each species population on the bank itself and in the Gulf of Maine will be studied by controlling immigration from specific source regions. Large-scale forcing including NAO and catastrophic global warming (e.g. complete polar ice melt) will be examined explicitly by forcing the model at the boundaries, using scenarios based on basin-scale data and from concurrent basin-scale modeling efforts.

This modeling study will provide new insights into the role of local and large-scale processes controlling zooplankton abundance in the ocean. The dominant copepod species to be studied include small species that are the dominant prey for larval cod and haddock in this region, thus providing critical information for concurrent larval fish modeling studies. This detailed, process-oriented, regional-scale modeling with boundary forcing will lay the groundwork for integration with models of the entire ocean basin. The resulting model will be a legacy of the GLOBEC Georges Bank program by providing a powerful new tool for understanding how local and large-scale forcing interact to control plankton production in the sea. Results of the proposed work will be broadly disseminated to the general oceanographic community, the fishing industry, K-12 institutions, and to the population at large, through web-based servers using existing infrastructure. Web-based users will be able to access model results and run the model using chosen parameter settings to obtain predictions of currents, hydrography, and plankton abundance patterns given selected climate forcing scenarios. Collaboration with the WHOI/UMASS COSEE program will foster communication with K12 students and the public both nationally and internationally.