|LONG ISLAND SOUND RESOURCE CENTER|
|A Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection and University of Connecticut Partnership|
Just about 20 years ago in 1986, Barbara Welsh from the University of Connecticut at Avery Point conducted a dissolved oxygen (DO) survey of the western half of Long Island Sound. The survey was prompted by a new study, the Long Island Sound Study, which had identified cultural eutrophication and bottom water hypoxia as potential problems. Dr. Welsh's survey confirmed our worst fears - not only was there hypoxia (DO < 3 mg/L), but it extended from New York City to [at least offshore] south of New Haven, the easternmost area she sampled. Dr. Welsh also noted viscous phytoplankton blooms proliferating in many areas, which she described as looking like "chocolate mousse". The alarm was sounded and 20 years of monitoring and research began that has resulted in a nitrogen management program that will certainly cost in the billions before the problem is solved.
It was a surprise to many that the problem had previously gone unnoticed and that, in fact, so few monitoring data were available for Long Island Sound. Was hypoxia a recent phenomenon? Naturally occurring? Had we just recently exceeded a threshold of environmental insult? No one seemed to have a good answer but many knew of the chemical and biological surveys published in the Bingham Oceanographic Collection by the Peabody Museum at Yale University and thought an answer might be found in those studies. This series, "The Oceanography of Long Island Sound - 1952-1954" reported on one of the few comprehensive surveys conducted on the Sound. This trove of data and findings not only provided rare insight into past DO conditions, but meticulous surveys of phytoplankton, zooplankton, benthos, and fish eggs and larvae and insightful analyses of productivity and even chemical characteristics of plankton.
Two researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Charles A. Parker and John E. O'Reilly, tried to reconstruct a history of dissolved oxygen in the Sound and relied heavily on the Chemical Oceanography chapter of Gordon A. Riley and Shirley A. M. Conover and their subsequent work, along with a long-term database from New York City in the far western part of the Sound. While the Riley and Conover study was very descriptive and helpful, the 11-page summary did not provide enough of the data for a detailed statistical analysis. Drs. Parker and O'Reilly wanted the actual data. And they did find it stored in the archives of the Peabody Museum! This allowed them to better characterize the DO "history" of Long Island Sound in their 1991 publication, "Oxygen depletion in Long Island Sound: a historical perspective", in the journal Estuaries.
Thanks to the wonders of modern technology and through the interest and courtesy of the Peabody Museum, the Bingham Oceanographic Collection is now at our fingertips.
Paul E. Stacey, 2006
The complete text and individual articles are available to download. These publications are courtesy of the Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University.
The oceanography of Long Island Sound was the subject of Volume 15 of The Bulletin of the Bingham Oceanographic Collection published in 1956. It is considered by many to be the first major publication about Long Island Sound. The bulletin included articles describing the findings from sudies of a variety subjects including physical oceanography, chemical oceanography, phytoplankton, and zooplankton