Marine and Estuarine Studies
The goal of this program is to study the quality and overall health of the waters surrounding Cape Cod, and its
creeks and embayments. Through this program, scientists have been tracking the health of this ecosystem on
Water Quality Monitoring: Over 70 stations located along the shoreline and throughout Cape Cod Bay and
Nantucket Sound are monitored for water quality by PCCS staff and citizen scientists. Data on water temperature,
salinity, dissolved oxygen, pH, water clarity, chlorophyll, nitrogen, and phosphorous are collected regularly.
These data are essential to establishing baseline conditions and tracking changes. The wide coverage of these
stations throughout the Cape Cod ecosystem is key to evaluating the impacts of local polluters versus pollution
from upstream sources.
Eelgrass Monitoring: Eelgrass ecosystems are a vital part of coastal embayments, not only because they provide essential fish and shellfish habitat, but because they act as an indicator of water quality. Any fluctuations in eelgrass production and/or distribution could relate to changes in the health of the waters of Cape Cod as a whole.
Eelgrass habitat has been closely monitored by PCCS staff from the air, by boat, and by SCUBA divers since
2007. Based on the environmental and physical data collected, initiatives have been made to restore eelgrass in
Pharmaceuticals: The dangers posed by pharmaceuticals in the marine environment, though not completely understood, are wide-ranging. Potential impacts include abnormal physiological effects, impaired reproduction, and increased cancer rates. The potential reproductive effects on marine organisms are of particular concern for the waters of Cape Cod because of their role as a nursery to numerous species of finfish and shellfish. Preliminary work conducted by PCCS in collaboration with scientists at the University of Massachusetts, Boston found detectable levels of several pharmaceutical compounds in both offshore and inshore waters. This initial work will be expanded to include studies on the seasonal variation in types and concentrations of pharmaceutical compounds in the waters and on the possible impacts of these compounds on the flora and fauna that inhabit this ecosystem.
Marine Invasive Species: Marine invasive species are prevalent in virtually all ecosystems. They have impacted
both the ecology and the economy of Massachusetts waters. To address the threats posed by these organisims, a
variety of state and federal agencies and nonprofit organizations, such as PCCS, have formed the Massachusetts
Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS)Working Group. With leadership from the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone
Management (CZM), this group works to prevent new introductions and manage the impact of AIS already
established in Massachusetts.