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A recently published study led by NOAA researchers found a trend of reproductive failure and death in Gulf of Mexico bottlenose dolphins over nearly five years of monitoring following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Of the 10 Barataria Bay (LA) dolphins confirmed to be pregnant during a 2011 health assessment, only two successfully gave birth to calves that survived. This unusually low rate of reproductive success—only 20 percent—stands in contrast to the 83 percent success rate in the generally healthier dolphins being studied in Florida's Sarasota Bay, an area not affected by the 2010 spill.
A Blue Ribbon Panel of scientists from NOAA, state, and academia released a report addressing environmental concerns with the development of a net-pen aquaculture industry in the Great Lakes. Great Lakes Net-Pen Commercial Aquaculture: A Short Summary of the Science details many issues, including the need for best management practices for operations and considerations of fish health and disease. Important ecological interactions attributable to aquaculture, such as nutrient effects, invasive species, and escapes, are also identified. The Great Lakes ecosystem accounts for 20 percent of the world’s surface freshwater; however, decades of pollution, coastal development, overfishing, and the introduction of non-native species have resulted in severe impacts. Given the growing importance of aquaculture as a strategy to grow coastal economies, managers are considering ways to develop aquaculture to meet the growing demand for seafood.
NOAA Ship Hi‘ialakai left its homeport in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, this week, to support a two-week research cruise around the Main Hawaiian Islands. Sponsored by the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, the cruise’s objective is to characterize the sanctuary’s nearshore coral reef habitats. The research will focus on assessments of coral bleaching and disease on shallow (30 m) coral reefs, and the characterization of mesophotic (30-100 m) coral reef ecosystems. Sanctuary scientists will collect data on some reefs that have not been monitored or assessed for bleaching. The team will also document the state of the reef with panoramic and close-up photography. Other key partners include the University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program, NOAA Hawaiian Islands Sentinel Site Cooperative, National Marine Fisheries Service Coral Reef Ecosystem Program, and the State of Hawaii.
Since 2005, OR&R has teamed up with California’s Office of Spill Prevention & Response (OSPR) to provide oil spill training known as the Environmental Response to Oil Spills (EROS) class. Recently, more than 40 spill responders from the U.S. Coast Guard, OSPR, and other California state, local, and industry partners met in Monterey, where they were introduced to the use of science during oil spills through tabletop and field exercises and classroom instruction. A wide variety of topics were covered, including oceanography and coastal processes, oil chemistry, toxicology, ecological effects, shoreline assessment, environmental trade-offs, cleanup endpoints, Natural Resource Damage Assessment, oiled wildlife, fisheries closures, spatial data, and response resources available in California.
OCS Director Rear Admiral Gerd Glang led U.S. participation at the 5th Arctic Regional Hydrographic Commission Meeting, held in late October in Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation. The agenda included reports on the status of Arctic charting coordination, hydrographic surveying, and the development of an Arctic Voyage Planning Guide. The commission is a voluntary association of members of the International Hydrographic Organization who share regional interests and promote improved safety of Arctic navigation. Member nations include Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russian Federation, and the U.S., with Finland and Iceland as associate members.
The National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) are funding a project to help the Sitka Tribe of Alaska and other communities in southeast Alaska establish a harmful algal bloom (HAB) monitoring program for recreational and subsistence shellfisheries. In October, two cases of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) were reported by the state and prompted the closure of most southeast Alaska commercial shellfishery areas since the opening of the fall fishery. However, recreational and subsistence shellfishers in the region continue to get sick from PSP exposure in non-tested areas outside the commercial zone. The NCCOS project will support a workshop for state and tribal resource and public health managers, where researchers from NOAA, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and a contractor will provide expert guidance on running a HAB monitoring program, hands-on training on HAB cell identification, and advice on toxin detection methods. Support for NOAA participants will be provided by the Sitka Tribe of Alaska.
The Office of Coast Survey (OCS) supported efforts to clear a navigational hazard from the Mississippi River last week, after a barge sank in the river south of Baton Rouge, La. Since the specific location of the wreck was unknown, shipping was halted until a clear path for navigation could be assured. With the closest NOAA survey vessel working states away and unable to immediately respond, an OCS navigation manager consulted with the U.S. Coast Guard and a private survey company, to help plan the surveys conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers and their team. The barge was located, and traffic was reopened to deep draft ships as plans were made to raise the wreck. To ensure that removal operations avoided underwater pipeline crossings, an OCS cartographer plotted the wreck position and provided the NOAA nautical chart with locations indicated.
On Nov. 19, the National Geodetic Survey (NGS) hosted a webinar on how to acquire accurate heights in western states. Participants from federal and local governments, universities, and private industry learned about NGS' National Height Modernization Program initiative to establish accurate, reliable elevations using Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) technology in conjunction with traditional leveling, gravity, and modern remote sensing information. NGS presented its plans for a new vertical reference frame and familiarized participants with the products and tools it provides to the public. Participants discussed how other states and agencies are implementing height modernization and the challenges involved in obtaining accurate elevation information in western states, such as tectonic motion and localized subsidence.
On Nov. 15, NOAA's National Marine Protected Areas Center issued a new report on the state of marine protected areas in the United States titled, "Marine Protected Areas of the United States: Conserving Our Oceans, One Place at a Time." The report provides a detailed snapshot of the coverage, level of protection, resources protected, and ecological representativeness of MPAs in U.S. waters. It also features brief case studies in MPA management from around the country, including NOAA's Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. For the first time, the report summarizes data on U.S. MPAs specifically protected for their natural heritage--ecosystems, biodiversity, habitats, and species--as well as for their cultural resources and values. This focus on natural and cultural heritage MPAs provides greater comparability with the accepted international definition of MPAs established by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
The University of California, Santa Barbara Ocean Science Education Building (OSEB), home to the new main office for the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, has been awarded LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. The certification recognizes the building's energy and resource efficient design, storm water management, and low environmental impact from construction practices and materials, which included more than 20 percent recycled content. In addition to the sanctuary office, OSEB will eventually house the Outreach Center for Teaching Ocean Science, an interactive space for children and adults to learn about marine ecosystems and processes. The LEED Gold Certification signifies that OSEB was designed and built to achieve high performance in key areas of human and environmental health.
On Oct. 29-30, the Alaska ShoreZone Partners held their annual meeting in Anchorage for scientists, GIS specialists, non-governmental organizations, and government agencies to present new developments in 2013. ShoreZone is a mapping and classification system that specializes in the collection and interpretation of low-altitude aerial imagery of the coastal environment. At the meeting, ShoreZone presented a new development (with funding from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement) to digitize video and photo imagery for the North Slope. A representative from the Office of Response and Restoration presented at this meeting on the integration of ShoreZone imagery and biological information into Arctic ERMA® that can be used for planning, preparedness, response, or a natural resource damage assessment. Looking ahead, plans are being discussed to integrate ShoreZone imagery into stand-alone ERMA® for use in situations where Internet connectivity is unreliable.
Hawaii has new ocean and coastal data available to inform weather forecasts and enable safer, more efficient marine transportation. The Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System (PacIOOS), a regional member of the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS®), with support from Young Brothers, recently deployed a wave buoy about three nautical miles off Hanalei on the north shore of Kauai. The buoy measures wave period, height, and direction as well as sea surface temperature. The buoy joins the existing PacIOOS network of 11 real-time wave buoys in Hawaii, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Marshall Islands. This is the first buoy off the island of Kauai. Wave buoys stream data to inform safe navigation and recreation as well as provide critical information for coastal hazards and low-lying inundation forecasts for north-facing shores.
In response to the impacts of Sandy, a team of federal agency policy and science experts partnered to create an interactive sea level rise mapping and calculator tool that helps planners, managers, and decision makers identify and prepare for future flood risks related to sea level rise. Recognizing the need to more quickly inform rebuilding decisions, the team expedited development of the tool. The team was awarded Climate Champion for the 2013 Presidential GreenGov Awards. The GreenGov awards celebrate President Obama's Executive Order 13514 on Federal Leadership in environmental, energy, and economic performance. The team included staff members from NOAA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and U.S. Global Change Research Program.
The NOAA Digital Coast website now includes a number of new Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) data sets contributed by outside partners. These data sets provide LIDAR in areas that were lacking high-resolution elevation data, provide newer LIDAR to existing areas, or provide a source for customized LIDAR downloads. A 2012 LIDAR data set provides complete coastal coverage of the Northeast region from Connecticut through Maine. Data for 2000-2012 covers the Puget Sound area. Taken together, 2006 data from Ohio and 2006-2008 data from Pennsylvania cover the U.S. shorelines of Lakes Erie and Ontario. A sizeable portion of the Mississippi River Delta is covered in a 2009 data set. Lastly, multi-county areas in the state of Mississippi are covered in a 2011-2012 data set.
Scientists funded by the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) participated in a recent forum held by the Michigan House Democrats’ Great Lakes and Conservation Task Force to address human-caused stresses to Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay. The team presented findings and recommendations related to phosphorus inputs and eutrophication symptoms that are adversely affecting the bay’s fisheries and water quality. The NCCOS-funded team is currently involved in a five-year project to study the combined effect of multiple stressors on the bay, which have resulted in the loss of many ecosystem services people value. Eutrophication, unchecked, can result in the loss of many ecosystem services people value.
This week, the National Geodetic Survey (NGS) performed a geodetic survey of the peak of the Washington Monument. NGS fabricated an adapter to enable a GPS antenna and traditional survey instruments to be affixed to the peak for the project. These surveys will allow NOAA to establish a new definitive height for the monument and allow comparisons with future surveys to detect any changes in height. While the peak has been used as a visible survey point for more than a century, it is rare for the monument to be occupied by survey equipment. The last height survey was done in 1999.