NOS Assistant Administrator Weekly Update

November 21, 2019

Greetings NOS Colleagues:

November has been a busy month here at NOS.

Last Thursday, November 14, I joined other NOAA leadership and leaders from across the federal government, academia, private sector, philanthropic community, and just over 100 others at the White House Summit on Partnerships in Ocean Science and Technology. This one-day event focused on strengthening partnerships in ocean science and technology to address societal needs such as exploring the ocean, conserving marine biodiversity, and leveraging big data.

I facilitated a session titled “Protecting Coastal Health and Safety,” where we discussed mitigating impacts of harmful algal blooms, predicting and mitigating coastal weather and other hazards, and assessing and communicating risk effectively. I was also asked to participate in the Summit’s closing panel, during which I emphasized NOS’ leadership role in providing authoritative data and services to coastal communities as we enter an era of rapid change.

Having such a prominent role in the Summit — the first of its kind — was a privilege and an honor. I look forward to continuing the positive momentum we built with Summit participants, as well as cultivating the many strategic connections that we made.

Seven participants of the White House Summit on Partnerships in Ocean Science and Technology sat on a stage

Nicole LeBoeuf participates in the closing plenary panel at the White House Summit on Partnerships in Ocean Science and Technology. Left to right: Dr. Neil Jacobs/NOAA (moderator), and panelists Mark Abbott/WHOI, Tom Drake/ONR, Vincent Pieribone/Ocean X, Nicole LeBoeuf/NOAA, Bill Brown/BOEM, Ruth Perry/Shell.

Also related to the Summit, I am pleased to spread the word that NOAA has released four draft NOAA Science and Technology Strategies for public comment: NOAA Unmanned Systems, Artificial Intelligence, `Omics, and Cloud Strategies. These initiatives will serve as enablers to dramatically expand our application of these four emerging science and technology focus areas by improving the efficiency, effectiveness, and coordination of their development and usage across the agency.

As a reminder, the NOS All Hands & Recognition Ceremony is on Tuesday, December 3, from 1 – 3 pm (Eastern) in the NOAA Auditorium adjacent to SSMC4, 1305 East-West Hwy., Silver Spring, Maryland. Check the For NOS Employees website a few days before the event for details on participating by webcast and phone. Add this event to your Google calendar by clicking on this link.

Speaking of recognition, I’m proud to share with you the NOS recipients of the Department of Commerce’s Gold and Silver medal awards, as well as NOS recipients of the NOAA Administrator’s Award. Please take the time to review this list of recipients below, and join me in congratulating them for their tremendous accomplishments.

Lastly, we’ll be taking a break from the NOS Weekly next week for the Thanksgiving holiday. The report will return on Thursday, December 5. Enjoy your holiday!

The Department’s Gold Medal recognizes distinguished performance characterized by extraordinary, notable or prestigious contributions that impact the mission of the Department of Commerce and/or one operating unit, and that reflect favorably on the Department. To warrant a Gold Medal, a contribution must focus on qualitative and quantitative performance measures reflected in the Department’s Strategic Plan.


Jason Woolard (NGS)
Jon Sellars (NGS)
Srinivas Reddy (NGS)
CDR Christopher Kerns (OMAO)
Maryellen Sault (NGS)
Gretchen Imahori (NGS)
LTJG Christopher Licitra (OMAO)
Michael Aslaksen (NGS)

Nominated by NOS for excellence in improving technical and administrative processes for emergency response imagery distribution for 2018 hurricanes.

The Department of Commerce Silver Medal recognizes exceptional performance characterized by noteworthy or superlative contributions that have a direct and lasting impact within the Department. To warrant a Silver Medal, a contribution must focus on qualitative and quantitative performance measures reflected in the Department’s Strategic Plan.

Dr. Billy Sweet (CO-OPS), Dr. Jeff Payne (OCM), and other staff outside of NOS were part of a group award nominated by OAR for delivering the 4th National Climate Assessment, an authoritative and comprehensive assessment of climatic changes and risks for the United States.

The NOAA Administrator’s Award recognizes employees who have demonstrated exceptional leadership, skill, and ingenuity in their significant, unique, and original contributions that bring unusual credit to NOAA, DOC, and the federal government. The award includes a plaque and $5,000.

Juliana Blackwell (NGS)
Brett Howe (NGS)
Paul M. Scholz (MBO)
LaTonya Burgess (ORR)
Michelle Crockett (AA)
Sherri Watkins (NGS)

Group nominated by NESDIS for developing and implementing an innovative, first-ever Individual Mentoring Program for all NESDIS employees which was employed NOAA wide.

Suzanne Skelley (NCCOS)

Nominated by NMFS For leading a multi-year effort to develop the Envision the Choptank partnership and its common agenda.

Dr. Quay Dortch (NCCOS)
Marc Suddleson (NCCOS)
Maggie Broadwater (NCCOS)
Richard Stumpf (NCCOS)
Michelle Tomlinson (NCCOS)
William Holland (NCCOS)
Dr. Ransom Hardison (NCCOS)
Ruth Kelty (NCCOS)

For mitigating the impacts of the historic 2018 FL HAB event through sustained, comprehensive scientific support and outreach.

David N. Stein (OCM)
Mark Finkbeiner (OCM)
Dr. James Morris (NCCOS)
Ken Riley (NCCOS)

For their foresight, ingenuity, and hard work developing OceanReports, a web-based geospatial application for analyzing U.S. ocean neighborhoods.

Chris Taylor (NCCOS)
Andrew Mason (NCCOS)

For providing government-collected data documenting the source and origin of an oil and gas leak, leading to actions to halt the leak.

Allison Castellan (OCM)
Kristine Wall (OCM)

For exceptional leadership and knowledge in implementing the National Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program.

Dr. Leila Hatch (ONMS)

Nominated by OAR for creation of the nation’s first, comprehensive, underwater sound sensing network including all U.S. coastal regions & several marine national parks.

Steady as we go,

Nicole R. LeBoeuf
Assistant Administrator (Acting)
Ocean Services and Coastal Zone Management,
National Ocean Service

Weekly Website Highlight

a turkeyfish
A turkeyfish?!

Instead of turkey on your plate this holiday, how about a 'turkeyfish'? That's just one of the many imaginative names people use when referring to lionfish, an invasive species in Atlantic waters. Whatever you call it, turkeyfish can be a viable dinner option. Once stripped of its venomous spines, cleaned, and filleted like any other fish, the lionfish becomes delectable seafood fare.

Program Office Highlights

In the Gulf of Maine, seasonal forecasts of Alexandrium catenella (the cause of Gulf of Maine Red Tide) severity depends on the number of "cysts," or seed-like cells that exist in sediments. Cyst abundances are measured in the fall or early winter prior to the forecast release in the spring. Gulf of Maine Red Tide produces a toxin that can accumulate in shellfish. Human consumers of toxin-contaminated shellfish can experience paralytic shellfish poisoning, which is a serious and sometimes fatal illness. To protect human health, state agencies conduct rigorous monitoring and ban harvesting of toxic shellfish. An NCCOS-sponsored cyst cruise, in partnership with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, documented cyst abundance across the Gulf of Maine. NCCOS provides forecasts of Gulf of Maine red tide events that enable proactive responses to protect coastal economies, making the region more resilient to red tide outbreaks.


NOAA attended the Diving Equipment & Marketing Association (DEMA) show, the largest trade-only event in the world for business in the scuba diving, water sports, and dive-travel industries. ONMS staffed an outreach booth and engaged with more than 500 dive and tourism industry professionals, set meetings to discuss partnership opportunities, and led a panel discussion. The DEMA- sponsored panel "Dive Into Your Ocean Parks, Lend Your Voice" highlighted the importance of national marine sanctuaries to the dive industry, and how working with the dive industry is crucial to the mission of national marine sanctuaries. ONMS director John Armor facilitated the discussion among the panelists and audience of 70 attendees. Panel members included sanctuary-recognized business dive operators from Monitor and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuaries, the co-founder of Force Blue (a national level constituent group), and the ONMS Science Coordinator.

Contact:, and

Staff from OR&R’s Marine Debris Program (MDP) participated in the Coastal Estuarine Research Foundation’s biennial conference in Mobile, Alabama. MDP representatives co-chaired a session titled, "Marine Plastic Pollution from Nano- to Macro-scale: Fate, Effects, Solutions," and presented research that focused on spatial and temporal trends in 28 years of marine debris data collected by citizen-scientists during the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup events in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  In a half- day session, staff also participated in a discussion about new research from microplastic and shoreline debris abundances, as well as impacts of plastic on the nitrogen cycle.


Scientists from NGS and the Canadian Geodetic Survey (CGS) met to discuss the coordinated modernization of the American National Spatial Reference System (NSRS) and the Canadian Spatial Reference System (CSRS) by 2022. This meeting continued the technical collaboration required for both countries to provide consistent geodetic reference frames across North America. Discussions ranged across technical and policy arenas, with a number of decisions reached. NGS and CGS agreed to choose an industry standard grid format for all gridded products and services from both agencies, and further agreed to a variety of naming and nomenclature decisions which should make cross-border work more seamless in the future.


NOAA is undertaking a five-year program to end all raster and paper nautical chart production. Ultimately, production of all NOAA paper nautical charts, raster navigational charts (NOAA RNC®), and related products, such as BookletCharts, will cease. NOAA is seeking feedback through a Federal Register Notice published on November 15, 2019. This information will shape the manner and timing in which products’ phasing out process will proceed. The International Maritime Organization now mandates that all large commercial vessels on international voyages use ENCs. In 2016, the U.S. Coast Guard started allowing regulated commercial vessels on domestic voyages to use ENCs in lieu of paper charts. To meet these needs, NOAA is in the midst of a multi-year program to improve its ENC coverage. NOAA is currently testing a Custom Chart prototype which is intended to serve as a replacement for traditional paper charts.


The Coordinating Committee on Great Lakes Basic Hydraulic and Hydrologic Data held their 107th meeting in Silver Spring, Maryland. CO-OPS and NGS are working with their Canadian counterparts on this committee to update the International Great Lakes Datum (IGLD), a common vertical water level reference datum. Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River System, one of the world's largest freshwater resources, is shared by the U.S. and Canada. Management of this shared resource requires a common elevation reference surface, or datum, from which to measure its water levels. Due to the gradual rising of the Earth's crust from receding glaciers, the IGLD must be adjusted every 25-30 years. This updated reference system is critical for safe and efficient navigation, shoreline development, and habitat preservation in the Great Lakes. An updated IGLD (2020) datum is due to be released in 2025.


NOAA and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announced projects recommended for funding under the 2019 National Coastal Resilience Fund. The fund will invest $29.3 million in 44 projects that restore, increase, and strengthen natural infrastructure — the landscapes that help absorb the impacts of storms and floods — to ultimately protect coastal communities and enhance fish and wildlife habitat. There was significant interest in this grant program in 2019, with 176 eligible pre-proposals requesting a total of $101 million in funding. The total investment, including non-federal match, is $89 million. OCM is the lead federal partner on the fund.


Nicole R. LeBoeuf

Nicole R. LeBoeuf
Assistant Administrator (Acting),
National Ocean Service

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