Telecasts Beam Sanctuary Visitors into Deep-sea Exploration
ONMS teamed up with the Ocean Exploration Trust to explore West Coast marine ecosystems, including five national marine sanctuaries. A recent voyage aboard the Exploration Vessel Nautilus explored and characterized paleo-shoreline features in and around California’s Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. The Nautilus is equipped with telepresence capabilities, which allow scientists and the public to actively participate in the expedition in real time. Telecasts enhance STEM education and connect students with the National Marine Sanctuary System. During the three-week-long Channel Islands leg of the expedition, more than 2,400 youth and families virtually explored ancient shoreline features submerged in the sanctuary via 71 live ship-to-shore interactions with scientists and explorers.
Gulf of Mexico ‘Dead Zone’ Largest Ever Measured
Scientists have determined that this year’s Gulf of Mexico dead zone, an area of low oxygen that can kill fish and marine life, covers 8,776 square miles—an area about the size of New Jersey. It is the largest dead zone measured since mapping of the area began in 1985. The research team, led by NOAA partners at the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium and Louisiana State University, conducted the survey cruise to determine the dead zone’s size. NOAA funds monitoring and research for the Gulf dead zone through the Northern Gulf of Mexico Ecosystems and Hypoxia Assessment Program. The annual measurement of the dead zone is the primary measure of progress used by the interagency Gulf of Mexico/Mississippi River Watershed Nutrient Task Force to evaluate whether ongoing efforts to reduce nutrient loading of the Mississippi River are yielding results.
Mississippi River Commission Annual Low-Water Inspection Trip
OCS Director Rear Admiral Shepard Smith is participating in the Mississippi River Commission’s annual low-water inspection trip along the Mississippi River. Public meetings held aboard the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Motor Vessel Mississippi are providing a forum for local partners, stakeholders, and residents to voice their concerns, issues, and ideas to commission members. All meetings are open to the public. President Barack Obama appointed Rear Admiral Smith to the commission in December 2016.
Tampa Bay Marine Channels Forecast Improves Navigation
CO-OPS launched the Tampa Bay Marine Channels Forecast, a new tool that gives vessel operators transiting through Tampa Bay access to critical oceanographic and meteorological forecasts. Ship pilots will no longer have to check multiple sources for information as they move up the navigation channel. The map-interface tool integrates NOAA forecasts of water levels and tidal currents with 24-hour weather forecasts, including winds, wind gusts, precipitation, visibility, and marine hazard alerts.
Socioeconomic Infographics for Coral Jurisdictions Highlight Residents’ Perceptions
In support of the National Coral Reef Monitoring Plan (NCRMP), NOAA social scientists and their partners collect a variety of socioeconomic data in seven U.S. coral jurisdictions to track information on each jurisdiction’s population, social and economic structure, the impacts of society on coral reefs, and the impacts of coral management on communities. A snapshot of results from the most recent NCRMP socioeconomic monitoring surveys are now available as infographics for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The infographics highlight residents’ perceptions, values, and level of support for coral reef management alternatives in each jurisdiction.
NGS Director Advises United Nations on Geodesy
NGS Director Juliana Blackwell advised the United Nations (UN) on geodesy, geodetic reference systems, and geospatial management activities at the Seventh Session of the UN Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management at UN Headquarters in New York City. The committee provides a forum for coordination and dialogue among nations and international organizations, and proposes work plans and guidelines to promote common geodetic principles, policies, and standards for geospatial data and services.
U.S. Senate Helps Spread the Message about Marine Debris
The U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard held a hearing to explore efforts on marine debris in the oceans and Great Lakes. Nancy Wallace, director of NOAA’s Marine Debris Program, participated as a witness, along with U.S. State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Fisheries David Balton, and University of Michigan professor Dr. Melissa Duhaime. Subcommittee Chairman Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska and Ranking Member Senator Gary Peters of Michigan are co-sponsors of the Save Our Seas Act of 2017, which was introduced in April. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, another co-sponsor of the Save Our Seas Act, provided guest testimony. The hearing drew strong bipartisan interest, with 11 of the subcommittee’s 15 members in attendance. Members encouraged the witnesses to consider how Congress can assist in the fight against the growing problem of marine debris.
Federal Partnership Launches ‘Nutrient Sensor Action Challenge’
A federal partnership led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that includes IOOS and NOAA launched the Nutrient Sensor Action Challenge to unite new-generation nutrient sensors with nutrient pollution problems. The challenge builds on the 2014 Nutrient Sensor Challenge, which facilitated development of high-performing nutrient sensors that could be deployed for long periods for less than $5,000. The Nutrient Sensor Action Challenge calls for demonstrations showing effective use of low-cost sensors, partnerships to pilot the sensors and data management, and methods to integrate the collected data and information into state and local decision-making. By proving successful strategies for incorporating affordable nutrient sensors into existing water-monitoring efforts, the challenge can help states and communities overcome major barriers to taking action to prevent and reduce nutrient pollution. In Stage 1 of the challenge, closing September 20, 2017, teams will submit their proposed action plans. Stage 2 will involve deployment and data collection.
Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Identified in Lake Erie
CO-OPS identified a developing HAB in Lake Erie based on water samples collected by its regional partner, NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. While bloom concentrations were detectable in satellite imagery of the lake, the water samples indicated low levels of toxin. CO-OPS recently began to issue twice-weekly Lake Erie HAB Forecasts.
Professional Development for Midwest Educators
As part of a professional development course, 23 public schoolteachers from Omaha, NE, traveled to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula to learn about national marine sanctuaries, ocean conservation, and marine debris. Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary provided hands-on training on marine debris and demonstrated how Omaha students can help contribute to trash-free seas. National marine sanctuaries work with teachers across the nation to foster ocean literacy and encourage the next generation of ocean stewards, educators, scientists, and managers.
Lake Level Viewer Gets a Major Update
The first large-scale update to data used by NOAA’s popular Lake Level Viewer tool (on the Digital Coast) will increase topography and elevation coverage for the Great Lakes, bringing the total mapped area to approximately 11,000 square miles. The update, which fills significant gaps in Lake Level Viewer coverage, also includes new water level layers, updated map services, and, for the first time, coverage of Lake St. Clair. The new features will assist with planning for coastal storms, mapping fluctuating lake levels, and identifying changes to aquatic vegetation in a changing climate.
NOAA Center for Coastal and Marine Ecosystems (CCME) Fosters Diverse Workforce
NCCOS hosted the 2017 NOAA CCME annual meeting in Charleston, SC. The event brought together science leaders and faculty researchers to coordinate partnership activities supporting CCME and NOS’s mutual science and workforce development goals. CCME was created last fall through a cooperative agreement administered through the NOAA Office of Education. The center’s primary mission is to train students in NOAA mission-related sciences and to increase the number of minority STEM professionals available for recruitment by NOAA and other science agencies. The center’s focus areas are directly aligned with the NOS Roadmap. The meeting provided an opportunity to build relationships between CCME and NOS.
Robots Help Locate Origins of Shellfish Toxicity in Eastern Gulf of Maine
NCCOS-funded scientists deployed four Environmental Sample Processors (ESPs) in the Bay of Fundy and the eastern Gulf of Maine to count the red tide dinoflagellate Alexandrium fundyense. The ESP sensors tested whether A. fundyense cells originate in the Bay of Fundy and travel down the coast to the eastern Gulf of Maine, where extensive bivalve shellfish resources are located. Eastern Gulf of Maine blooms remain poorly understood despite their annual recurrence, and bloom predictions are not very accurate.
NOAA Marine Debris Program Participates in Microplastics Workshop
Two staff members of NOAA's Marine Debris Program—its chief scientist and research coordinator—participated in a microplastics workshop held by the U.S. EPA in Crystal City, VA. The workshop brought together microplastics experts from academia and government agencies (e.g., EPA, NOAA, FDA, USGS) to discuss research needs and data gaps in microplastics research. Participants focused on four topics: microplastics methods, sources and fate of microplastics in the environment, ecological impacts of microplastics, and human health impacts of microplastics.
NOAA Hosts Open House on Nautical Cartography
OCS hosted NOAA's first open house on nautical cartography. The event featured posters, presentations, and tours focusing on nautical cartography and highlighting the fields of charting and GIS. The open house welcomed 200 visitors representing 24 countries. The event was held in conjunction with the 28th Annual International Cartographic Conference 2017 in Washington, DC, where NOAA made presentations and had an exhibit. Industry partners including ESRI and CARIS, international mapping groups including the Cartography and Geographic Information Society and General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans, government agencies including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Navy, and many international charting offices attended the open house.
Lake Erie HAB Forecast Moves from Research to Operations
CO-OPS officially took over operations of the Lake Erie Harmful Algal Bloom forecast. The bulletins moved out of the experimental research and development phase and were incorporated as official NOAA forecasts. The transition is a culmination of years of research led by NCCOS, and includes dedicated resources for maintaining the forecast system, technical support, and backup servers. CO-OPS issued NOAA's first official operational HAB forecast bulletin on July 3 and will continue to issue twice-weekly bulletins during bloom events and until the season ends, usually in October.