New Boat Will Help Expand LIS Research and Monitoring Efforts

CT DEEP will acquire a new research vessel to use alongside the RV John Dempsey. The vessel will collect data for the monthly water quality survey and will improve the efficiency and capacity to conduct research in Long Island Sound.

A new research vessel with expanded laboratory space will complement the 1990-built RV John Dempsey.
A new research vessel with expanded laboratory space will complement the 1990-built RV John Dempsey. Photo courtesy of CT DEEP
This article was originally published in December 2022 as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law fact series.

For decades, the research vessel John Dempsey has enabled resource managers and scientists to conduct invaluable research and monitoring to better understand the health of Long Island Sound and its fisheries. Recently, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) decided to acquire a modern boat to complement the RV Dempsey’s work. The new vessel will be funded by the Long Island Sound Study (LISS) using allocations from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL).

The custom-built RV Dempsey has been used since 1990 to collect data for a variety of different research and monitoring efforts. Most notably, these efforts include CT DEEP’s Long Island Sound Water Quality Monitoring Program and the Long Island Sound Trawl Survey. But the ship is aging, so in 2020 CT DEEP officials decided to investigate what it would cost to upgrade the vessel to meet current needs. They determined the cost to retrofit the RV Dempsey was too high for a ship of that age. Instead, they decided to invest in a second vessel to be used alongside the RV Dempsey.

Staff have identified a catamaran vessel as being most effective for their needs. This design features two parallel hulls, which give off a low wake, and fewer waves. The new vessel will have a higher top speed than the RV Dempsey, which will allow researchers to travel from one centralized dock instead of having to carpool to different locations.

The catamaran will also be able to travel into waters as shallow as two feet in depth. This will expand research opportunities into bays, harbors, coves, and estuaries too shallow for the RV Dempsey and allow new projects, such as eelgrass monitoring, to be conducted.

The lab on board the new research
vessel will be twice the size of the
RV Dempsey, (pictured).

The new vessel will also have double the lab space of the RV Dempsey. This will allow for more scientists conducting research on Long Island Sound to join crew members on the boat to collect their own samples, or to utilize the samples that have already been collected. Without access to a research vessel, these scientists may not be able to complete their research.

Design plans for the vessel will be finalized in early 2023 and the construction phase will take an additional year. Staff are hopeful the new vessel will be ready to work alongside the RV Dempsey by the summer of 2024.

The catamaran will be responsible for all water quality monitoring studies, which currently include a monthly nutrient survey, hypoxia (low oxygen level) surveys, plankton community assessments, and ocean acidification monitoring, as well as any new research projects. Acidification monitoring is a new program that helps increase understanding of the causes for why the Sound is becoming more acidic, including changes in climate and excess nutrients. The RV Dempsey will continue to be used to conduct fish trawl surveys.

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