Passing the Torch to New NOAA Coastal Management Fellows
Since 1996, NOAA’s Coastal Management Fellowship program has groomed future coastal management professionals and provided assistance to coastal management programs. A fellowship-matching workshop held each year connects postgraduate students with state-proposed projects. This year, three former Coastal Management Fellows now employed by coastal management programs participated in the workshop. The 2017-2019 class will focus on marine spatial planning in Connecticut, climate resilience techniques in Maryland, critical ecosystem services in Massachusetts, living shorelines in New Hampshire, and oil spill response plans in Oregon.
NOAA’s Response Role Highlighted at ‘Science during Crisis’ Workshop
OR&R participated in a “Science during Crisis” workshop held at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge, MA. The workshop was held as part of the Academy’s wider Public Face of Science initiative. Participation allowed sharing of OR&R’s role in science coordination during responses to oil and chemical spills and other coastal hazards through NOAA’s Scientific Support Coordinators, as well as the concept of optional science and technology advisor and advisory group roles being considered for inclusion in the National Incident Management System. The importance of incorporating science into the operational response to oil and chemical spills was the underlying reason for the formation of the SSCs more than 40 years ago.
Multi-Agency Team Tracks Restored North Carolina WetlandMulti-Agency Team Tracks Restored North Carolina Wetland
Wilson Bay in Jacksonville, NC, was transformed from a polluted waterway to a healthy wetland ecosystem by a community-wide partnership. To assess the success and future health of the restored wetlands, a multidisciplinary team is tracking the habitat restoration site. Partners include NCCOS, the University of North Carolina Institute of Marine Sciences, City of Jacksonville Stormwater Division, NOAA North Carolina Sentinel Site Cooperative, and U.S. Navy. To determine if the bay is handling natural erosion forces such as storms and rising sea levels, NCCOS worked with Jacksonville to install surface elevation tables (SETs). NOAA personnel trained the Jacksonville team on SET reading and turned over maintenance and data collection duties earlier this year. The Wilson Bay SET will be part of a national network of SETs that measures elevation over time in restored and natural marshes.
‘The Dynamic Ocean: Changes and Impacts’ Online Education Conference
NOAA’s Climate Stewards Education Project collaborated with the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) on the virtual conference, “The Dynamic Ocean: Changes and Impacts.” NOAA and partners gave presentations to 200 educators from across the nation. NSTA President Carolyn Hayes introduced the six-session conference, and Dr. Michael Whitney of the University of Connecticut gave the keynote address, which laid the foundation for sessions on sea level rise, changing ocean chemistry, coral reef bleaching, and fisheries species migration. Each session included a 20-minute overview of education resources so educators could take the science back to their classrooms. Office of National Marine Sanctuaries educator Marlies Tumolo gave the closing presentation, which focused on NOAA programs for educators and students to learn more about the oceans and engage in active ocean and climate stewardship. The conference was NOAA’s first use of NSTA’s innovative technology enabling concurrent online presentations. Participating educators will have access to the conference archive.
Small Bloom Predicted for Gulf of Maine Red Tide in 2017
This summer’s red tide in the Gulf of Maine is predicted to be relatively small with limited impacts, as forecast by researchers at NOAA, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), and North Carolina State University—continuing the pattern of smaller blooms seen over the last three years. Seasonal forecasts depend on counts of seed-like cysts of the alga Alexandrium fundyense in bottom sediments in the Gulf of Maine. Cyst abundances measured in late 2016 by NCCOS and WHOI were among the lowest recorded since surveys began in 2004. However, changing meteorological and oceanographic conditions can also affect the location and toxicity of Alexandrium blooms (red tide), making continued monitoring necessary. Throughout spring and summer, NOAA will issue weekly updates of modeled bloom extent, trajectory, and intensity to complement the seasonal forecast. Alexandrium blooms can produce a potent neurotoxin that accumulates in shellfish and may lead to paralytic shellfish poisoning in people who eat contaminated shellfish.
Regional Climate Experts Prepare for New Extremes
The Southeast and Caribbean Climate Community of Practice hosted a gathering of climate and resilience professionals, nonprofit representatives, and community leaders in the largest-of-its-kind meeting to date in Charleston, SC. The Community of Practice was formed in 2010 to exchange knowledge on climate and hazards, with support from OCM, Sea Grant, NOAA Southeast and Caribbean Regional Collaboration Team, and NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information. Panelists presented information on, and lessons learned from, hurricane impacts and recovery efforts. NOAA shared emerging trends related to extreme events, and communications specialists, including those from the National Association of the Deaf, shared experiences about the critical needs and challenges of delivering effective communications during an extreme event. Presenters also discussed emerging opportunities for economic recovery planning.
Twenty-plus Tons of Debris Removed from Washington Coast
As a founding member of Washington CoastSavers—an organization dedicated to keeping Washington beaches free of marine debris through coordinated beach cleanups, education, and prevention—Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary organized staff and 1,300 volunteers to haul away more than 20 tons of marine debris from 65 beaches along the Washington coast. Debris consisted of hundreds of bags of garbage, boat parts, floats, ropes, and all sorts of plastics. Volunteers represented the Youth Environmental Stewardship Program, Port Townsend Marine Science Center, Northwest Watershed Institute, and AmeriCorps. This year, through a new partnership with TerraCycle, some hard-to-recycle marine debris will be recycled instead of heading to a landfill.
Monitoring High Water Levels in Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River
Water level measurements at stations maintained by CO-OPS on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River are currently at or near historic high levels. On May 9, water levels at New York’s Alexandria Bay station exceeded its maximum high-level record (set in April 1993) by more than 11 centimeters. Unusually high water levels are causing erosion and flooding along the lakeshore and in the area surrounding Montreal Harbor.
Sanctuaries Seek Advisory Council Applicants
National marine sanctuary advisory councils are seeking new members to contribute their knowledge and advice on issues including management, science, service, and stewardship. National marine sanctuary advisory councils are community-based advisory groups established to provide recommendations to site superintendents. More than 440 advisory council members, including alternates, represent a broad cross-section of the communities that lie adjacent to national marine sanctuaries and the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve. Members bring many interests to the table, including recreational fishing, conservation, education, diving, boating, shipping, tourism, harbors and ports, maritime business, agriculture, and maritime heritage. The current period to accept applications closes May 31, 2017. Applications not received or postmarked by May 31 will not be considered.
National Estuarine Research Reserve System Funds Science Transfer Awards
The National Estuarine Research Reserve System Science Collaborative, which supports collaborative estuary research and science, awarded more than $250,000 to six projects. All projects are designed to enhance the nation’s coastal management efforts. They include self-assessments for fishery businesses, water quality data enhancements, and the development of American Sign Language education modules.
St. Louis River Area of Concern Federal-State Partners Meeting
OR&R participated in the annual St. Louis River Area of Concern Federal-State Partners meeting in Duluth, MN, hosted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes National Program Office with the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin. The St. Louis River Superfund site was listed on the National Priorities List in 1983, due to historical industrial operations along the river that released numerous hazardous chemicals into the environment. The St. Louis River/Interlake/Duluth Tar site was used for industrial purposes since 1890, where activities included coking plants, tar and chemical companies, the production of pig iron, meat packing, and a rail -to-truck transfer point for bulk commodities. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are the primary contaminant of concern.
Ocean Warming Expands Range of Harmful Algal Blooms
A recent study led by NCCOS and Stony Brook University concludes that rising ocean temperatures are expanding the geographical range of harmful algal blooms (HABs) and intensifying the blooms themselves in the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans. Using 35 years of satellite-based ocean temperature data to model trends in growth rates and bloom-season duration for two toxic algae, Alexandrium fundyense and Dinophysis acuminata, the research team established, for the first time, a quantitative link between increasing ocean temperatures and the expansion of HABs. As blooms extend to new areas, more people will be at risk of suffering the harmful physical effects of toxic algae. The authors note this could be of particular concern for residents of coastal south-central and southeast Alaska, one region where the model predicts expansion of blooms due to rising ocean temperatures.
NOAA Joins U.S. Delegation to Global Hydrographic Assembly
The International Hydrographic Organization’s (IHO) 2017 Assembly met in Monaco this week. The interagency U.S. delegation, led by the U.S. Department of Defense, included representatives from NOAA, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Department of State. Foremost on the technical agenda were major initiatives on ocean mapping and data applications. The assembly also elected new IHO leadership for the next three years. NOAA Office of Coast Survey Director Rear Admiral Shepard Smith served as alternate head of the U.S. delegation. Established in 1921 as an intergovernmental organization charged with charting the oceans and fostering cooperation among member states (nations) for safe navigation, the IHO now numbers 87 member nations.
Worst-Case Discharge Exercise in Seattle
The U.S. Coast Guard and SeaRiver Maritime, Inc., led a waterfront worst-case discharge exercise on the Seattle waterfront. The exercise simulated a vessel collision at sea, resulting in the discharge of 80,000 barrels/3,360,000 gallons of Alaska North Slope crude oil approximately 10 nautical miles west-northwest of Cape Flattery, WA. An incident command post was established, and approximately 250 personnel participated in the response, including eight OR&R staff and two employees of Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. Cape Flattery is the western entrance to the Straits of Juan de Fuca and the commencement of all shipping traffic heading to major West Coast ports in Washington State and Canada, including five oil refineries in Washington and one in Canada.
Enhancing Support for Coastal Communities and Economies
A Memorandum of Understanding between NOAA and the University of New Hampshire School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering will increase both parties’ capacity to support coastal communities and economies. Of particular interest is the development of innovative approaches to nationwide ocean and coastal mapping, oil spill response, marine research, and coastal management. An upcoming addition to the partnership will be the completion of a real estate agreement for NOAA staff located at the university.
‘Sister Sanctuaries’ Collaborate to Protect Humpback Whales
Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary protects humpback whales that feed and nurse in sanctuary waters. The migratory whales are also highly dependent on Caribbean waters, where they mate and give birth. The Sister Sanctuary Network was created to protect humpback whales beyond U.S. waters along their North Atlantic and Caribbean migratory route. With the recent addition of Yarari, the Caribbean Netherlands’ Marine Mammal and Shark Sanctuary, the network grew by almost 7,000 square nautical miles. Starting with 638 square nautical miles off the coast of Massachusetts, the joint effort now encompasses nearly 195,000 square nautical miles.