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April 29, 2003
Marine Biological Laboratory Expands Plum Island Research Program, Purchases Five-Acre Farm in Newbury

WOODS HOLE, MA— The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts recently purchased a five-acre farm in the North Shore community of Newbury.  The property will enable the expansion of the Laboratory's Plum Island Sound Research Program, which focuses on understanding how coastal ecosystems are affected by changing land cover, climate, and sea level.

Scientists in the MBL's Ecosystems Center have been studying Plum Island Sound and its watersheds—the Parker, Rowley, and Ipswich River basins—since the mid 1980s. The area has long been recognized as one of the most valuable estuarine habitats on the Atlantic coast and is particularly noted for its extensive salt marshes and tidal flats, rich shellfish beds, and abundant fish and wildlife. The Plum Island Sound Research Program has grown to become one of the National Science Foundation's 24 sites across North America and Antartica designated as Long-Term Ecological Research Programs.  Research in the area now involves over 50 individuals from more than two dozen institutions.

The MBL’s newly acquired property, Marshview Farm, consists of two houses, a garage, and a large barn/farm market building as well as a few smaller outbuildings. The buildings, which will maintain their farm-like appearance, will provide office space and housing for short- and long-term researchers, space for sample processing, equipment and boats, and facilities to conduct experiments.

Marshview Farm will supplement the small house and garage on Batchelder Landing in Rowley, which the MBL currently leases from the Essex County Greenbelt Association. "In the past five years the size and nature of our activities have increased to the point that the Batchelder Landing facility is not sufficient," said Linda Deegan, Senior Scientist in the MBL’s Ecosystems Center and a lead investigator at the Plum Island site.   "As we continue to attract scientists from around the state, nation, and world wanting to work in Plum Island, and as our educational program expands, our requirements for offices, laboratories, conference facilities, living quarters, garage and storage space have increased.  The combination of the Batchelder Landing and the Marshview Farm facilities will enable us to meet these needs for the foreseeable future."

Scientists currently sample the many environments of Plum Island year-round, from saltmarshes, to streams, to the surrounding watershed.  Studies range from identifying the relationship between land use and water quality in the Ipswich and Parker Rivers, to the effect of sea level rise on the integrity of intertidal salt marshes, to the importance of habitat quality on the production of estuarine fish.   In addition to scientific research, education and outreach activities have and will continue to be important components of the Plum Island Sound Research Program. Currently scientists, teachers, students from K-12 through post-doctoral fellows, town and state resource managers, and volunteers from the general public have joined forces to study the watershed, estuarine and nearshore ecosystems of the Sound.  Outreach activities to date have consisted of lectures by scientists to local organizations, and participation by scientists on regional task forces. Project leaders hope to expand our outreach activities to include public forums on local environmental issues.

The Marine Biological Laboratory is an independent scientific institution, founded in 1888, that undertakes the highest level of creative research and education in biology, including the biomedical and environmental sciences. The research of the MBL's Ecosystems Center, which was established at the MBL in 1975, is focused on the study of natural ecosystems. Among the key environmental issues being addressed are: the ecological consequences of global climate change; tropical deforestation and its effects on greenhouse gas fluxes; nitrogen saturation of mid-latitude forests; effects of acid rain on North American lakes; and pollution and habitat destruction in coastal ecosystems of the United States.