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Science in Action – Plankton tows during whalewatch cruises in Stellwagen Bank

MIT Sea Grant led a team of scientist conducting plankton tows during whalewatch cruises in Stellwagen Bank, collecting valuable data for oceanographic researchers and providing science education experiences for the general public.

Each whale watch cruise includes a captive audience of hundreds of people in the context of awesome ocean creatures, and the boats can serve as mobile platforms for in-situ data collection and public education

Onboard a whale watching vessel operated by Boston Harbor Cruises and New England Aquarium with over 200 passengers, Keith Ellenbogen, Ben Bray (MIT Sea Grant) and Deepa Rao (Ph.D candidate WHOI/MIT) conducted plankton tows.  As part of the collection process we presented current microscopic research and the connection to the marine environment.

We learned fundamental techniques for plankton collection and storage supporting research, and talked about plankton collection and related marine biology topics with the passengers and on-board naturalists. The total number of passengers and naturalists on the two cruises we participated in was approximately 400.