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Ocean drifters are four-sailed, floating structures that are deployed in the ocean. They track currents, temperature and salinity. These drifters were deployed to deepen the understanding of climate change in the gulf.

Students across the GoM watershed built ocean drifters in their classrooms, and deployed them at different points to track specific parameters. 

You can read first-hand accounts of the drifter project from students and teachers who participated on past editions of the journal, or click directly on some of the titles below. 

My Experience with Ocean Drifters by Andrea Samuelson, 2016. 

Every Turtle Counts by Valerie Bell, 2017

Forming A Better Understanding of the Waters of the Bay of Fundy Bay by Steve Millar

GOMI contributing to our local ocean observing system: Drifters by Jim Manning, 2018

Ocean Drifters: Bringing Technology Engineering into the Science Classroom by Kristen Vicente, Mary Kate Allan,  and Brad Balkus, 2018

Go With the Flow: Bethlehem Elementary School’s Watershed Unit by Bryan Smith, 2018

Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary Drifter Project: Motivated by Sea Turtle Strandings by Olivia Bourque, 2018

Results from GOMI-B-WET drifters, 2015-2016

Throughout 2015-2016, GOMI was funded by a NOAA B-WET grant to continue our preexisting (2013-2015) Ocean Drifters Project. The data collected are stored in a NOAA database and are readily available to the public. 

Session 1:

Late 2015/Early 2016 are displayed on a Google map here.

A total of 16 drifter deployments were made in the late 2015/early 2016 period. Two deployed by River Valley Charter School on Oct 14th off Gloucester, MA came ashore within a few weeks at Star Island and Rye, NH, respectively.  When they were refurbished and redeployed later in the year, they survived a longer track before one came ashore on outer Cape Cod and one failed off the cape after several weeks. In a multi-institutional collaboration between Harborlight Montessori Schools, Salem Sound Coastwatch, Gulf of Maine Research Institute, and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, another unit was deployed in Massachusetts Bay on December 18th to simulate the track of recently spawned cod larvae. This unit survived several months, and traveled half way across the Atlantic Ocean. A similar unit, this time involving Kennebunk High School (ME), was deployed in another potential spawning ground near the southern portion of Jeffrey’s Ledge in January 2016 and arrived just to the north of Georges Bank a few months


A large cluster of 10 drifters were deployed within Cape Cod Bay under the direction of Massachusetts Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary with the help of multiple Cape Cod schools as well as Middlesex Community College during the turtle stranding season.  Nearly all of them oscillated with the tide for a week or two before coming ashore at a variety of places on Cape Cod ranging from Barnstable Harbor to Truro.



Session 2:

Early 2016 are displayed here.


The next set of drifters was deployed off the North Shore (northern coastline of Boston Harbor). Salem Sound Coastwatch (SSCW) designed and deployed a few eco-friendly drogue drifters using a variety of materials, including some bamboo frame and mushroom flotation. Although several of these
drifters ran aground or encountered winds that prevented them from making in to the gulf, the designs proved successful. The Nock Middle School (Newburyport, MA) also deployed a few drifters off the North Shore during this period (6 July). One surface drifter deployed by SSCW and two by Bethlehem, NH schools did escape Massachusetts Bay.  One of Bethlehem’s surface drifters helped document a large Warm Core Ring off Georges Bank. The other helped document the shelf edge jet and the effects of Post-Tropical Storm Hermine in late October.


Session 3:

Late 2016 Bay of Fundy track are displayed here.

Four drifters were prepared and deployed with help from Acadia University and a few other Nova Scotia schools at the mouth of Minas Basin in late August 2016.  On 25 September, after more than a month of oscillating back and forth in one of the world’s largest semi-diurnal tides and traveling more than 2500 kilometers each, they came ashore not far from Halls Harbour where they originated. 



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early 2016 drifter.webp
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late 2016 drifter.webp

Ocean Drifters Project

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