Long Island Sound Integrated Coastal Observing System (LISICOS)

With more than eight million people living in its watershed, Long Island Sound is one of the nation's preeminent urban estuaries. Long Island Sound provides the New York and New England region with an abundance of natural resources, including oysters, clams, lobsters, and a wide variety of finfish. Commercial and sport fishing, recreational boating, maritime traffic, and the coastal beaches all contribute over $5.5 billion dollars to the regional economy.

Long Island Sound graphic
LISCOS is funded by NOAA’S COS Program

Ocean Observation Site

Long Island Sound Coastal 
Observatory (LISICOS)UCONN Long Island Sound Coastal Observatory (LISICOS)
Jim O’Donnell
Phone: (860) 405–9171
E-mail: james.odonnell@uconn.edu


Information and Downloads

For Long Island Sound priorities for ocean observations click here


The goal of the Long Island Sound Integrated Coastal Observing System is the development of a sustained capability to observe the Long Island Sound ecosystem and an adequate capability to understand and predict its response to natural and anthropogenic changes. LISICOS was established in 2003 as a component of a regional/national ocean observing system, with the initial goal of developing a capability to observe and understand the LIS ecosystem and predict its response to natural and anthropogenic changes.

LISICOS monitors salinity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, surface wave, photosynthetically available radiation and chlorophyll throughout the sound. Nutrients, sensors, and current (CODAR and ADCP) measurements will be added in the near future.

Current LISICOS activities include: 1) the integration of a three-dimensional circulation model and simple ecosystem and biogeochemical box models to predict oxygen concentrations; 2) Analysis of existing hydrographic data to infer exchange between LIS, the Hudson River, and the shelf waters; 3) Process studies of mass balances of C, N and O; 4) Development of a comprehensive regional database; and 5) Development of in situ sensors.

Besides providing critical information for resource management, LISICOS will address the needs of other users for predictions of wind and wave conditions, pollutant and sediment transport.

The following summarizes the range of topics identified as the most significant issues, needs and in some cases the type of data needed that the LISICOS could provide.

Preserving & Restoring Healthy Marine- Ecosystems

Hypoxia - The issue of hypoxia was a clear priority for Long Island Sound, with more continuous measurements for nutrients and dissolved oxygen (DO) needed. The ability to predict the onset of hypoxia in both space and time was also listed as a need.

Harmful algal blooms – the ability to forecast the onset and extent and to predict the trajectory and movement of HABs is needed.

Riverine and groundwater inputs – the continued and expanded monitoring of river and streams in both coastal areas as well as the tributary sources is needed. More frequent point source measurements are also required.

Transport Systems - Understanding the transport systems at work in LIS, New York Harbor, the Race, Block Island Sound in particular and in harbor vs open sound areas in general will help with predictive capabilities, especially for spill trajectory prediction for better mitigation.

Wildlife - Health indicators of native and non-native species are needed, both in normal conditions and when stressed are needed.

Deposition rates - in local harbors and any contaminants associated with this deposition is needed. We also need the ability to connect what we see happening in water quality to the sources.

Local meteorology - to understand local, specific forcing on LIS, e.g. wind, heat flux on stratification

Shoreline stability and erosion – need to understand natural and human impacts, especially those involved with wetlands loss.

Ensuring Public Health

Safe beaches – the ability to rapidly determine/measure bacteria at beaches was noted due to improve the timing of beach closings to ensure safe swimming.

Safe seafood – the means to ensure the safety of seafood from LIS was noted. This includes monitoring of toxins, both organic and inorganic, in both chronic as well as catastrophic (i.e. spills) timeframes. Pathogen monitoring needs to be a part of safe seafood and safe beach measurements. New pathogen probe development that is inexpensive and autonomous to provide time-series measurements should be developed and integrated into observation systems.

Safe & efficient marine operations

LIS Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) – the potential development of any LNG offshore Facilities will require accurate current and wave height data.

Dredge disposal – effective dredge spoil disposal will require data on current Speed and direction.Port Operations – accurate water levels will be required to accommodate current and planned shipping activities.

Recreational boating – will require readily available and understandable data on wind & waves, i.e. sea state.Commercial fishing – will require also require readily available wind, wave and water temperature data.

Search and rescue – operations will require wind, current direction and magnitude data and accurate predictions of water movement to improve the efficiency of search and rescue operations.

Spill response – current and wind – both direction and speed needed to provide better spill trajectory, area and speed.

Managing Resources for Sustainable Use

Broader ecosystem measurements – more monitoring beyond target species is needed, particularly more benthic monitoring and monitoring of immigration/emigration of species into and out of LIS, this should include native and non-native species. This should also include benthic mapping, to establish better baselines.

Marine reserves – need to establish and validate their role in sustainability Plankton – need predictive models for spring bloom and a better understanding of the community structure of the plankton, which should include eggs, larvae, zooplankton, adults.

Fish surveys – need better optical and acoustic survey methods, need data on grazing pressure on fish, need ability to relate DO and other parameters to finish distribution & abundance.

Year round observations – systems that don’t go offline in winter, expand data availability to 12hrs, pesticide concentrations, also high frequency time – series to observe short-term, episodic events. e.g. dumping, lobster die-off.

Aquaculture - provide near-shore, inner bay surface & bottom water quality that could serve as a warning system for aquaculture systems.

National Security

Critical Infrastructure – The role of the LISICOS as a value added capacity (buoys with power and telemetry) for greater protection of critical infrastructure in LIS, including the Milford nuclear plant, the U.S. Submarine Base and the Shelter Island Disease Laboratory

Mitigating natural hazards

Storm surges prediction – the need for accurate meteorological data is needed for a better storm surge warning and prediction system.

Climate change

Long-term change – need long term data to track the impact of climate change on the ecosystem, e.g. facilitating the establishment and spread of nvasive species.