Biodiversity Monitoring Program

Beginning in 2020, Great Pond Foundation will be starting a new project: Documenting Diversity in the Depths of Edgartown Great Pond. This project enables us to explore the biodiversity of life within the waters of the Pond. Biodiversity refers to the number of different species that reside in a particular habitat. This work is made possible by a grant from the Permanent Endowment for Martha’s Vineyard, and we are grateful for this opportunity to learn more about the species that live in the Pond!

What types of data are collected?

The goal of this program is to understand how water quality affects biological resources, such as fish and shellfish, while connecting the links in the food web. We hope to answer the following questions:

  • What fish species are present?
  • What types of plankton are present? Plankton consist of tiny plants and animals that live suspended in the water column.
  • Which species are most abundant?
  • Do the assemblages of species change seasonally? Or after the Pond is cut?
  • Are the species that live in the coves different than those that live by the barrier beach?
Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus)
Atlantic silverside (Menidia menidia)
Mummichog (Fundulus heteroclitus)

How do you collect biodiversity data?

We utilize different kinds of nets to capture different kinds of species.

  • A beach seine net is used to capture fish in shallow water.
  • A zooplankton net is used to capture tiny animals, such as invertebrates or larval fish.
  • A phytoplankton net has a smaller mesh size than a zooplankton net, and captures microscopic plants.
  • Both plankton nets are towed behind a boat.
beach seine net
plankton net
measuring fish after capture in seine net

Why are we interested in biodiversity?

Great Pond Foundation is committed to collecting high quality, high resolution data on the health of the Great Pond, and this provides another tool in our arsenal.

A simplified food web illustrating the different groups of organisms we will be studying.
  • Biodiversity is used as an indicator of ecosystem health, as having a greater diversity of species is a sign of a healthy, resilient ecosystem.
  • Monitoring biodiversity generates baseline data, so we can detect future changes, might they occur.
  • We can gain a more holistic understanding of how changes in water quality affect the species living in the Pond
  • These tools and knowledge gained from monitoring biodiversity can be shared with stakeholders of other ponds and used to develop more effective management practices.
Diatoms, a type of phytoplankton.
Daphnia sp., a type of zooplankton.
A copepod, a type of zooplankton.

Who else studies biodiversity around the Pond?

Great Pond Foundation monitors water quality and the biodiversity of marine and aquatic species within the Great Pond. Yet, we collaborate with other organizations that monitor other important parts of the ecosystem.

Piping plover chick (photo by Lanny McDowell)
Oysters in EGP
Claw from a Blue Crab on the shores on EGP