Rutgers maintains marine field station in Tuckerton, New Jersey

<p>The Rutgers University Marine Field Station (RUMFS) is one of the many experimental field stations that Rutgers offers students, with opportunities to examine fish and their ecology.</p>

The Rutgers University Marine Field Station (RUMFS) is one of the many experimental field stations that Rutgers offers students, with opportunities to examine fish and their ecology.


The Rutgers University Marine Field Station (RUMFS) is one of the many experimental field stations that Rutgers offers students, with opportunities to examine fish and their ecology.

Thomas Grothues is a research associate professor at the RUMFS located an hour south of the Rutgers University—New Brunswick campus in Tuckerton, New Jersey.

“Part of Rutgers’ mission and its history as an agricultural school ... is to include fishery,” Grothues said.

Rutgers has blueberry, cranberry and peach farms and shellfish laboratories to give graduate and doctoral students hands-on experience, Grothues said.

The station was built as a Coast Guard Station in 1935, and was later abandoned after being partially burned down. The University bought it in 1972 for $1 from the federal government, formally owning it in 2002.

“(The station) was built in ’35 or so, and is a platform raised up on pilings over a marsh and boat basin so I have fish under my office at high tide,” Grothues said.

Fish and fish ecology in marshes are the two focuses of the studies in this location, Grothues said.

RUMFS’ location has been proven ideal for research in the past, used for an off-site data cable observatory in the 1990s. An underwater data cable connected to the on-land site, making this the first off-site data cable observatory of its kind in the world, Grothues said.

“It’s very synergistic, because you can start building a new data set on top of an old data set,” he said, “So you’d have comparisons of things. This was the first time that divers can go down and plug in their equipment and all of a sudden you can see your equipment online. This was all when the internet was growing fast.”

Researchers found this important because data could be streamed, equipment could be modified and the field station became a hub because of previous data as well as the new resources available to researchers.

The station is entirely soft-money funded, which means that everything that they do comes from grants that they have to find and apply for. After Hurricane Sandy, the boat basin was flooded and the station still has not recovered from it, losing saltwater pumps and fire suppression systems. 

A grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has helped dredge the boat basin and let bigger vessels come into the station once more, Grothues said.

Dr. Kenneth Able, director of the RUMFS, said the location allows students to gain experience that they would not receive on campus. 

One example is students can study fish larvae growing up in the Mullica River Great Bay Estuary before they enter the ocean. They have been sampled once a week for 30 years. There is no other data set like this in the United States, Able said.

Embedded in the bay and the Pinelands National Reserve, the station has little human population in the area and has begun focusing on the effects of climate change, Able said.  

“We have focused a lot on climate change and sea-level rise on marsh systems (in recent years),” Able said.

Postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and undergraduate students come to class-related field trips. Summer interns and technicians spend time at this station as well and are able to use this data and equipment such as robotic vehicles for their research.

“I wish I had these opportunities when I was an undergraduate. (Students) could really become immersed in the research and a lot of it is real hands-on kinds of things, so that they learn from both from the theoretical and practical kinds of view,” Able said. 


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