California Youth Science Program Produces Sound Research
LiMPETS (Long-term Monitoring Program and Experiential Training for Students) is a citizen science program that encourages the next generation of scientists, decision makers, and policy makers among California youth. LiMPETS monitors coastal ecosystems to provide publicly accessible long-term data to inform marine resource managers and the scientific community. At the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco, participating students presented their research. At the Beyond the Golden Gate Research Symposium, LiMPETS collected data that demonstrated a correlation between El Niño events and recruitment of sand crabs in San Francisco. The sound science collected by the students can be found in products like the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Condition Report, and helped establish a baseline of key indicator species for the new system of California Marine Protected Areas.
Deep-Sea Coral Initiative in the Southeast: First-Year Successes
In 2016, NOAA’s Deep-Sea Coral Research and Technology Program launched a four-year initiative to study deep-sea coral and sponge ecosystems across the Southeast—a region that includes U.S. federal waters in the South Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico. Led by NCCOS, the initiative is a cross-line office effort that includes personnel from NOS, NOAA Fisheries, and NOAA Research, and aims to collect scientific information to manage and conserve deep-sea corals throughout the region. Fieldwork for the initiative commenced in August 2016 with two successful expeditions that surveyed deep-water banks in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico to collect information pertinent to the proposed expansion of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, and deep-sea canyons off North Carolina to support regional characterizations of canyon ecosystems. New species and seafloor communities were documented in both regions.
Marine Debris Program Funds Removal of Long-Lived F/V Western
On December 21, 2016, the fishing vessel F/V Western was removed from Coos Bay, Oregon, where it sank in January 2015. The Oregon State Marine Board managed the project in collaboration with the Oregon Department of State Land and with the support of a NOAA Marine Debris Program Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant. Billeter Marine, a local salvage contractor, conducted the removal, brought the wreck to land, and disposed of it. This was the end of the journey for the wood-hulled vessel, built in 1934, that spent its early years trolling for salmon in Alaska and had sunk twice before and been refloated! The boat’s deteriorating condition and the location where it sank for the third time required removal to prevent both environmental harm and risks to other vessels in the area.
New Sensor Aids Safe Navigation in South Carolina
CO-OPS installed a new sensor on the Arthur Ravanel Jr. Bridge in Charleston, SC, which will improve the safety of mariners transiting the area. The sensor’s microwave radar air gap system will accurately measure clearance under the bridge, allowing safe passage in and out of nearby seaports. The sensor is part of the Charleston Physical Oceanographic Real Time System (PORTS®).
The Power of Pairing Hazard Resilience and Smart Growth
Coastal communities that combine smart growth and hazard mitigation approaches can boost community safety, ecosystem health, economic vitality, and resilience to hazardous events. That’s the take-home message of a Digital Coast case study featuring Kinston, North Carolina. After suffering repeated flooding from multiple hurricanes, the City of Kinston relocated residents from inside the floodplain to higher, safer community locations while also restoring floodplain functions. After the first big storm following relocation, the city saved approximately $6 million in avoided flood losses, and in 2016, many residents said the strategy reduced the harmful impacts of Hurricane Matthew.
Coast Survey Deputy Selected as Vice Chair of MesoAmerican Commission
The United States, represented by the OCS deputy director, will serve for the next two years as vice chair of the MesoAmerican-Caribbean Sea Hydrographic Commission (MACHC) of the International Hydrographic Organization. During the two-year term, the U.S. and Mexico (organization chair) will advance the region’s technical cooperation and training in hydrographic surveying, marine cartography, and nautical information. Of special importance, from the U.S. perspective for supporting the maritime industry, is eliminating duplication and filling gaps for electronic and paper charts in the regional charting scheme. The officer election was conducted during December’s MACHC meeting in Brazil. By providing hemispheric leadership in navigational charting, NOAA is helping to provide more timely, accurate, and relevant data products and services for mariners who travel through international waters on their way to or from U.S. ports.
Sanctuary Participates in 117th Annual Christmas Bird Count
Several conservation agencies use the data collected in this long-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations, but Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary takes it one step further. Since birds are easier to observe and count than the food they eat, the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) can provide a snapshot but comparable view of fish populations that live deep below the ocean’s surface. While most surveys are on land, the sanctuary and the Stellwagen Sanctuary Seabird Stewards completed surveys at sea aboard the sanctuary's R/V Auk. The December 2016 survey results included three times the number of common murres and four times the number of razorbills compared to last year’s CBC, but did not observe northern fulmars or shearwaters, both species that were observed in 2015. The Stellwagen Bank CBC covers a 15-mile circle that includes the southern end of the Bank and a portion of the northern tip of Cape Cod.
Improvements to NOAA's Online Positioning User Service (OPUS)
NGS recently upgraded OPUS, which provides simplified access to high-accuracy National Spatial Reference System (NSRS) coordinates, to improve results in areas where Continuously Operating Reference Stations (CORS) are distributed unequally. By considering both base station direction and proximity, OPUS now selects CORS more appropriately for Rapid-Static (RS) GPS data processing. This will increase OPUS-RS availability from 93 percent to 98 percent in the central United States, and should improve positioning accuracy under more challenging atmospheric conditions. OPUS allows users who upload a GPS data file collected with a survey-grade GPS receiver to obtain an NSRS position via email. This latest improvement provides enhanced NSRS access for users, advancing NGS’s mission “to define, maintain, and provide access to the NSRS to meet our nation's economic, social, and environmental needs.”
Harmful Algal Bloom Technology Transfer to African Nations
An NCCOS technical expert led a two-week training course on harmful algal bloom sampling and toxin analysis at the Kenya Marine Fisheries and Research Institute in Mombasa. The course was part of a project to establish toxin sampling and analysis capabilities in African nations. Participating countries included Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Seychelles, Sudan, and Tanzania. Topics included algal sampling, paralytic shellfish poisoning and ciguatera fish poisoning toxin extraction from shellfish and finfish, respectively, data analysis, and a demonstration of NCCOS-developed receptor binding assays. The United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency funded the project.
Illinois to Host its First Coastal Management Fellow
For the first time, Illinois has been chosen as one of six state agency hosts for a 2017 Coastal Management Fellowship Fellow. When selected, the fellow will work to promote tourism supporting the coastal economy in the state’s northernmost communities. Five additional fellows will work for state coastal zone management programs in Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Oregon. The two-year fellowships provide on-the-job education and training while addressing critical state and territory coastal issues that affect healthy ecosystems, resilient communities, and sustainable economies. Fellows selected in spring 2017 will begin work in August 2017. OCM administers the fellowship program.
International Initiative Tackles Multiple Coral Reef Threats
Coral reefs face unprecedented dangers related to climate change, marine pollution, and other perils. The U.S. and other members of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) passed recommendations to combat reef bleaching and microbead marine pollution and strengthen the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network through 2018. At a meeting in Paris, France, members designated 2018 as the Third International Year of the Reef. CRCP supports the ICRI, which highlights the pivotal role of coral reefs and ecosystems in food security, environmental sustainability, and cultural well-being.
Many Benefit from Georgia Post-Disaster Planning Guide
Urban, oceanfront communities and rural, inland communities wrestle with very different disaster recovery and redevelopment issues. Post-Disaster Recovery and Redevelopment Planning: A Guide for Georgia Communities names these differences and charts a recovery path that addresses cost estimates, potential aids and funding sources, and key partners and stakeholders. The guide helps communities move forward with recovery and redevelopment efforts. Information from the guide has been presented to local officials and planners, regional resilience and hazard mitigation groups, and participants in the Georgia Climate Conference and American Meteorological Society Conference. OCM worked closely with the Georgia Coastal Management Program and other partners to fund and facilitate the work.
Spill Prevention Exercise in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Staff from Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary joined in a Naval Air Station Key West spill prevention training and exercise. Participants from multiple federal, state, county, and municipal agencies had the opportunity to respond to a small discharge (3,000 gallons) scenario and discuss response strategies and tactics. The exercise included the deployment of equipment, establishment of decontamination areas, simulated boom deployment, and discussion of booming strategies for a nearby wetland area. The Florida Straits historically have been the access route for illegal immigration attempts. The boats (“chugs”) utilized during these activities are often found abandoned on shorelines throughout the Keys. The impacts from these and other abandoned vessels, including oil pollution and vessel groundings, pose threats to the protection and health of the Keys, the adjacent marine ecosystem, and, potentially, the public welfare.
Annual Meeting of the Arctic Domain Awareness Center
The annual meeting of the Arctic Domain Awareness Center (ADAC) was held in Alexandria, VA, with NOAA sharing information about its contribution to Arctic domain awareness. OR&R’s Environmental Response Management Application (ERMA) plays an important role as the end-user visualization platform for an ADAC project called the Arctic Information Fusion Capability (AIFC). AIFC combines satellite imagery with available modeling, sensors, web-based communications, and appropriate social networking feeds to gain domain awareness in support of operational decision making for responders in the field and in command posts. An ADAC project involving oil and ice modeling was also presented. The project team is maintaining contact with OR&R to facilitate compatibility of developed algorithms with NOAA’s GNOME (General NOAA Operational Modeling Environment) oil spill model.
Digital Atlas Available for Choptank Complex Habitat Focus Area
A new digital atlas—consisting of a web-based mapping portal, a distributable geospatial database, and a baseline status report—is available for the Choptank Complex Habitat Focus Area. Each component of the atlas is designed to support a greater understanding of the Choptank and Little Choptank River watersheds. The Choptank Complex is an important component of the larger Chesapeake Bay watershed, being home to significant natural resources including oyster reefs, salt marshes, and spawning and juvenile fish habitats. Topics covered include land cover, shoreline composition, water quality, benthic community condition, submerged aquatic vegetation, fish, and oysters.
U.S. and Cuba Collaborate on Navigation Safety Improvements
NOAA’s Navigation Services programs welcomed representatives of Cuba’s National Office of Hydrography and Geodesy (ONHG) to Silver Spring this week to pursue collaboration on issues outlined in the NOAA-ONHG Memorandum of Understanding. Representatives from both agencies will reviewed, revised, and are poised to approve a new international chart—the first cooperative charting product between the U.S. and Cuba during the modern era. NOAA expects to release the new chart in mid-December, at a meeting in Brazil of hydrographic officials from the Western Hemisphere. The U.S.-Cuba dialogue has expanded to include an emerging geodetic component, NGS will discuss current datums and plans to transition to new datums by 2022. Representatives from both agencies have also expressed interest in tide and current monitoring, modeling, and forecasting. The exchange of data and information will improve the accuracy and quality of these products.