History of the Near Shore Project: Assessing Intertidal Macroinvertebrate Communities of Cobscook Bay and the Maine Coast

View of Dennys Bay from the high intertidal of Outer Birch Island, Cobscook Bay. Photo by Tom Trott.
View of Dennys Bay from the high intertidal of Outer Birch Island, Cobscook Bay. Photo by Tom Trott.
Project Summary:

This project collected historical and present day biodiversity data to contribute to the NaGISA (Natural Geography in Shore Areas) database and to establish a baseline of data against which to assess future changes.


Birch Island, Cobscook Bay, Summer 2007 and 2008


Biodiversity data can be especially valuable when it is part of a time series of data. Knowing how biodiversity has changed through time can allow scientists to begin to piece together cause and effect. This project is part of a global endeavor to reach back in time to create a baseline of data against which to measure present-day conditions. It also contributes data to the growing NaGISA database, housed within the Ocean Biogeographic Information System, accessible at www.iobis.org.

  • Principal Investigator:
  • Tom Trott, Suffolk University and Friedman Field Station,
  • In collaboration with:
  • Peter Lawton, Centre for Marine Biodiversity,
  • Gerhard Pohle, Hunstman Marine Science Centre,
  • Robin Rigby, Natural Geography in Shore Areas (NaGISA) and Seto Marine Biological Laboratory of Kyoto University
  • Lou Van Guelpen, Hunstman Marine Science Centre,
  • Funded by: History of the Near Shore (HNS), a joint effort by the Natural Geography in Shore Areas (NaGISA) and the History of Marine Animal Populations (HMAP); and the Gulf of Maine Area Program
Project Detail:

Overview of History of the Near Shore (HNS)

The HNS project combines present-day data and historical data on the distribution and abundance of organisms in the near shore to build a more complete understanding of coastal biodiversity and its changes through time. Because the near shore is the most accessible marine environment, it is frequently the most heavily impacted by humans. The HMAP project has developed methodology to derive biodiversity and human activity data from historical sources. At places where historical data are especially rich, there is great value in revisiting sites with modern protocols such as those of NaGISA to measure current-day biodiversity. Capturing present-day data for comparison with historical data and incorporating it all in the NaGISA global near shore database is the goal of the HNS project.

Cobscook Bay Project

Cobscook Bay, a sheltered, macrotidal estuary near the US-Canadian border, has been studied for some 200 years by naturalists and scientists because of its outstanding biodiversity. In fact, Cobscook Bay has the highest biodiversity of any area on the eastern seaboard of the United States north of the tropics. Consequently, extensive historical records exist that have allowed scientists to establish a clear picture of historical biodiversity (Trott, 2004). Because of this rich historical record, Cobscook Bay is an ideal location for present-day study. Hence, the HNS Cobscook Bay project was established.

In this project we implemented NaGISA (Natural Geography in Shore Areas) protocols in Cobscook Bay. We started the field work in the summer of 2007 on Outer Birch Island, Cobscook Bay, and will conduct a second year of intertidal sampling in summer 2008. The 2007 data has been contributed to the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS), and we will do the same for the 2008 data.

We hope that elucidating past and present biodiversity will help to initiate a long-term monitoring program for this unique and invaluable ecosystem.


Trott, Thomas J. 2004. Cobscook Bay inventory: A historical checklist of marine invertebrates spanning 162 years. Northeastern Naturalist 11 (Special Issue 2): 261-324. PDF (PDF of this paper generously made available by the Northeastern Naturalist.)

The data collected in Cobscook Bay may be found in the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) at http://www.iobis.org/