Seas the Day! Order the Lobster

A live text-chat for this problem took place on Thursday, February 16, from 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. EST with the problem author in the "Comments" section below!

Maine is practically synonymous with lobster, but not long ago many states in New England had booming lobster industries. Lobsters prefer cooler water; in warm water they are more vulnerable to disease and less likely to reproduce. Climate change has caused a rise in water temperatures and lobsters have migrated north to Maine where there is a cool marine thermal layer (thermocline) [1].

The length of lobster season has also been extended due to climate change, with anglers able to continue farming lobsters well into November, which was unheard of just 25 years ago. The lobster industry in Maine today represents about $1.4 billion in revenue, employs 4,100 people directly, and drives a booming tourism industry [2].

However, even the cool thermocline in Maine is at risk of warming, which may force lobsters even further north to the Canadian Maritimes or to deeper waters (where people cannot catch them). While the questions below are about lobsters, this same issue is being observed in other marine populations, such as Alaska snow crabs [3,4].

Read the data provided in the links below to help you answer the following questions for this problem.

  1. Model the population of lobsters in Cape Cod, Massachusetts over the past 40 years. Model the temperature of the ocean water off the coast of Cape Cod over the past 40 years.
  2. Model the water temperature and population of lobsters in Maine over the past 40 years. Use your model for Cape Cod to inform your model for Maine. Predict the population of lobsters in Maine for the next five years. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your models and predictions.
Data is provided which may help you answer these questions. You may use some, all, or none of the data provided to answer the questions.
Problem Author: Dr. Kathleen Kavanagh of Clarkson University