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August 15, 2003

NOS Seeks Members for Hydrographic Services Panel

NOS’s Office of Coast Survey (OCS) is soliciting resumes for the new Hydrographic Services Review Panel. Resumes must be received by September 29, 2003 for consideration. The 15-member panel will serve as an advisory group to the NOAA Administrator on topics such as the Office of Coast Survey National Survey Plan, technologies relating to operations, research and development, and the dissemination of data pertaining to hydrographic surveying and data, nautical charting, and water-level, currents, geodetic, and geospatial measurements. As with all FACA (Federal Advisory Committee Act) panels, full-time military officers and federal employees of the United States are not eligible as voting members, but may attend panel meetings. For more information, contact: Gretchen Imahori.


Researchers Collect Baseline Data in Virgin Islands MPA

Initial surveys of areas in and around the recently established U.S. Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument suggest that the boundaries of the monument frequently extend to, but do not include, regions of relatively high habitat quality. These findings are unfortunate in that areas most capable of supporting high abundance and diversity of fish populations appear to have gone unprotected. The survey work, which is being conducted by NOS’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science in partnership with the National Park Service and the U.S. Geological Survey, will inventory, characterize, and monitor marine resources around the monument. The monument was established in 2001 as a no-take Marine Protected Area (MPA), but the regulations have yet to be enforced. This gives researchers a unique opportunity to study the natural resources and determine baseline conditions against which future changes can be measured. This will help them determine the MPA’s effectiveness once the regulations go into effect. The Virgin Islands National Park Superintendent recently called NOS’s work there “invaluable.” For more information, contact Chris Caldow.


August 8, 2003

NCCOS-sponsored Research Finds Big Storms Make the "Dead Zone" Smaller

A team of scientists led by Dr. Nancy Rabalais of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium and supported by NCCOS’s Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research recently mapped the area of oxygen-poor water off the Louisiana coast and found it to be smaller than in previous years. This hypoxic region, often referred to as the Gulf of Mexico “Dead Zone,” covers about 3,305 square miles, which is roughly half the size of the usual summer average for the past 10 years. Earlier forecasts predicted that the zone would cover 4,770 to 6,900 square miles. This year’s smaller zone is likely the result of two large storms that passed through the region just prior to the mapping cruises. Both storms created 10- to 15-foot waves that mixed well oxygenated waters from the surface down through the water column. This reduced the extent of waters severely depleted in oxygen. As the area impacted by the storms begins to settle and restratify, the size of the hypoxic zone will likely expand, unless more large storms disrupt the region. For more information, contact Kenric Osgood or call 301-713-3338 x163.


NCCOS Helps Fisheries Investigate Unexplained Whale Deaths

NCCOS is helping NOAA Fisheries determine the cause of recent whale deaths off coastal Massachusetts near Georges Bank. Marine mammal experts from NOAA Fisheries, working closely with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, have documented the deaths of 12 endangered humpback whales, one pilot whale, and one fin whale in the area between June 17 and July 30. An international panel classified these deaths as an “unusual mortality event.” The Analytical Response Team of NOAA’s Marine Biotoxins Program, located at NCCOS’s Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research Laboratory, is helping NOAA Fisheries analyze samples obtained from the dead whales and their prey. They will test for the presence of saxitoxins, one of the most potent naturally occurring toxins, which are produced by marine algae. In people, symptoms of saxitoxin poisoning include uncoordinated movement, incoherent speech, lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting, eye irritation, and respiratory distress.

In addition, the Monitoring and Event Response for Harmful Algal Blooms (MERHAB) program, part of the NCCOS’s Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research is supporting Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution researchers who are currently sampling plankton in the area. Through the efforts of both NCCOS centers, scientists may be able to determine if the whale deaths are related to harmful marine algal blooms. For more information on the MERHAB response, contact Marc Suddleson, or call 301-713-3338 x162. For more information on the Marine Biotoxins Program response, contact Greg Doucette or call 843-762-8528.


August 1, 2003

NOS Issues First “Dead Zone” Forecast

A team of scientists from NOS, the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON), and Louisiana State University is forecasting that this summer, the infamous "Dead Zone" (area of low oxygen) off the coast of Louisiana and Texas could cover from 4,770 to 6,900 square miles, an area approximately the size of the state of Connecticut. Typically, the affected area is approximately 4,900 square miles. This is the first advance forecast of the annual hypoxic (low-oxygen) event in the Gulf of Mexico, and is an example of an innovative environmental service, known as ecological forecasting, that scientists believe will become an important tool in coming years for both decision-makers and the public. The forecast is based on U.S. Geological Survey data on nutrient loads from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers in May and June. The team recently published its forecast model in the scientific journal Limnology and Oceanography. For more information, contact Dr. Dave Whitall or Dr. Don Scavia.


NOS Motivates Tomorrow’s Leaders Today

The week of July 21, NOS’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science participated in a world congress of 350 outstanding high school sophomores in Washington, DC. The annual Hugh O’Brian Youth (HOBY) World Leadership Congress provides a forum for 10th graders to participate in interactive leadership development seminars with professionals from business, government, education, and technology. NOS researcher Dr. Shawn McLaughlin, of the Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research in Oxford, MD, was a panelist in a session titled “How Do We Approach New Problems in the New Millennium?” Sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences, the session discussed global warming, emerging diseases, aquatic nuisance species, the decline of coral reefs, and biomolecular research. HOBY’s mission is “Motivating Tomorrow’s Leaders Today” by teaching future leaders how to think, not what to think. For more information, contact Shawn McLaughlin.


Federal Register Notice on Marine Managed Areas Inventory

On July 23, NOAA and the U.S. Department of the Interior published a notice in the Federal Register requesting public comment on the criteria, definitions, and data fields that will be used to develop an inventory of U.S. marine managed areas (MMAs). This is the first step in compiling the list of marine protected areas called for in Executive Order 13158 and will support analyses of federal, state and tribal MMAs. The deadline for comments is September 22. For more information, contact Joe Uravitch.



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