The Mullica River-Great Bay estuary is an exceptionally productive estuarine system for shellfish and finfish and is the site of early estuarine studies (late 1890s) (Able 2015). The estuary is comprised of 87 square km of salt marsh and 56 square km of shallow (average 2 m) estuarine waters. Unlike most estuaries in the northeastern U.S., the surrounding area, including most of the Pine Barrens watershed, is protected from large-scale human disturbance. The Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer, which is the subject of a major program of study through the U.S. Geological Survey, feeds the estuarine system. Almost the entire upstream portion of the Mullica River drainage basin is part of the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve (also named as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1983). The downstream portions of the Mullica River are further buffered by federal (Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge) and state (Great Bay Wildlife Management Area) wildlife refuges. The system has only a few populated areas. As a result, the Great Bay-Mullica River estuary is probably the cleanest estuary in the Boston-New York-Philadelphia-Washington, D.C. megalopolis and one of the cleanest on the east coast. In recognition of its unique status this estuarine system, including a portion of the adjacent continental shelf, has been designated as the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve System (Psuty et al. 1993). Also, the year-round access to high-quality, high-salinity water (22-30 ppt), makes the sea water laboratory an ideal location for the spawning, culture and study of marine and estuarine fishes and invertebrates.

The RUMFS complex was built in 1937 as a life boat station operated by the U.S. Coast Guard. Rutgers University established the Marine Field Station at this location in 1972. Renovated in 1995, the main facility is equipped with dry analytical laboratories, flow-through sea water laboratories with the capability to heat and cool the water, marine railway, dive locker, and office space. In addition, there is a dormitory about 6.5 miles from the RUMFS complex. The dormitory can house up to 25 students, faculty, and visiting scientists year-round. RUMFS has five small vessels (15-24 ft) for work in the estuary. Larger vessels include the R.V. Caleta (30′) and the R.V. Arabella (48′) for work on the adjacent continental shelf.

  • Able, K. W. 2015. Station 119: From Lifesaving to Marine Research. Down the Shore Publishing, West Creek, NJ. 128 p.
  • Psuty, N.P., M. P. De Luca, R. Lathrop, K.W. Able, S. Whitney and J.F. Grassle. 1993. The Mullica River – Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve: A unique opportunity for research, preservation and management. pp. 1557-1568 In: Coastal Zone 1993, Vol. 2. Proceedings of the Eighth Symposium on Coastal and Ocean Management. O.T. Magoon, W.S. Wilson, H. Converse and L.T Tobin (eds.), American Society of Civil Engineers, New York.