Research Reserve Builds Awareness, Inspires Change Across Borders
The watershed in the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, which straddles southern California and Mexico, is severely impacted by sediment, trash, and King Tides. The reserve worked with stakeholders in both countries to launch the Baja King Tides Project to build awareness and inspire change. The project recently partnered with the Secretariat for Environmental Protection for the State of Baja California, Mexico, to hold a photo exhibition. The photos, taken by members of participating communities, demonstrate King Tide impacts on infrastructure, habitats, and people; help people visualize flood risks and sea level rise impacts; and serve as a record and a driving force for community members, government agencies, planners, and scientists.
Enhancing Navigation Safety in Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach
NOS recently installed an air gap sensor at the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach to provide vessel pilots with real-time information on how much clearance they have to safely navigate under the Vincent Thomas Bridge. The sensor is part of the Los Angeles/Long Beach Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System (PORTS®), which provides accurate real-time information about environmental conditions at the seaport, helping mariners and port operators avoid accidents and safely continue the flow of commerce in and out of the port. CO-OPS installed the sensor in partnership with the Port Authority and the California Department of Transportation.
NOAA-Funded Research Results in Protected Habitat Expansion
A NOAA-funded study led to the expansion of the Pulley Ridge Habitat Area of Particular Concern through approval of Coral Amendment 9 by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. The increased area of protection includes the coral area discovered by the study in 2014, which contains the densest and most extensive area of plate corals known in the Gulf of Mexico. The study is led by the University of Miami and funded by NCCOS and the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research in partnership with the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, National Marine Fisheries Service Southeast Regional Office, and Gulf of Mexico Regional Collaboration Team.
NOAA Leadership Highlights Benefits of Ocean Recreation
NOAA Sanctuaries recently represented ocean recreation at the predominantly land-focused 2018 Partners Outdoors Annual Conference in Washington, DC, where RDML Tim Gallaudet, PhD, USN Ret., Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, and NOS Assistant Administrator Russell Callender moderated panel discussions about the economic benefits and opportunities of ocean recreation. Conference attendees also had the chance to explore the ocean depths through Sanctuary Virtual Dives. This is the first time in more than 20 years that the conference had such high-level participation from NOAA, and illustrated the connection among NOAA products, services, and the outdoor recreation sector.
Online Story Map Highlights Marine Protected Areas
ONMS released an online story map that highlights recreational opportunities in marine protected areas (MPAs) across the nation by encouraging people to “Make the Most of the Coast.” The story map illustrates some of the diverse recreational activities in MPAs, highlights a range of MPA sites and programs, and offers tips on where to find MPAs, how to visit responsibly, and how to get involved in initiatives that promote ocean conservation. MPAs play a critical role in the preservation of marine resources. They are also hubs for a wide range of recreational activities that allow people of all ages to connect with the sea.
NOAA Surveys Lake Champlain for Improved Flood Modeling, Mitigation Strategies
At the request of the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL), OCS deployed a survey team and autonomous survey vehicle (ASV) to gather hydrographic data in Vermont’s Lake Champlain basin. The new ASV is OCS’s first to be equipped with multibeam sonar—the same type of sonar that larger NOAA survey vessels use to gather high resolution hydrographic data. Prior to the survey, much of the hydrographic data for Lake Champlain was dated and sparse. Updated and detailed data will allow GLERL to complete hydrodynamic models and develop flood mitigation strategies for the region.
Volunteer Efforts Spearhead Major Recovery for Puerto Rico Reserve
Hurricane Maria devastated the habitats, trails, and facilities of the Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, one of Puerto Rico’s largest and most important estuaries. In response, the nonprofit National Estuarine Research Reserve Association generated significant financial and volunteer support, making it possible for staff from across the reserve system and NOAA to travel to Puerto Rico and provide hands-on assistance. These efforts, along with those of volunteers from Mars Hill University in North Carolina and a local corporation in San Juan, resulted in more than 3,000 volunteer hours worth more than $70,000. As a result, all of Jobos Bay’s trails were restored to pre-hurricane conditions. Trails are now open to the public for visitors to explore and learn about the reserve.
Partnership Aims to Explore and Understand Marine Hotspots
Scientists from NOAA and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute are collaborating on a Marine Biodiversity Network (MBON) project that explores ecosystem hotspots by using long-range autonomous underwater vehicles (also known as gliders) to collect eDNA—DNA from environmental samples. Data from the project will provide insight into the functions and roles of marine hotspots to support effective planning and management of marine resources. The samples gathered from the project are compared to ones gathered by traditional means to assess glider sampling. Collaborations like this are opportunities for NOAA to leverage expertise, technologies, and budget alongside those of nonfederal entities to benefit both parties while advancing research capabilities. IOOS provides national coordination for the MBON program and supports the management of glider data.
NOAA Announces Launch of Crowdsourced Bathymetry Database
Bathymetric data from citizen scientists and crowdsourced programs are now available to the public through an International Hydrographic Organization Data Viewer. The database contains more than 117 million points of depth data, which hydrographers and cartographers may use to improve knowledge of the seafloor and chart products. NOAA and George Mason University are using the depth data to assess nautical chart adequacy, determine when areas require updated survey information, and identify chart discrepancies before an incident occurs.
NOAA Scientists Address Oil Spill Preparedness, Share Best Practices
An important part of the natural resource damage assessment process is NOAA’s immediate response to pollution that threatens marine resources and coastal habitats. In an effort to improve how NOAA scientists collect data to determine if natural resources have been damaged, and how best to assess that damage, OR&R staff gathered in Silver Spring, Maryland, to share oil spill assessment strategies. The meeting focused on time-sensitive data collection, leveraging NOAA-wide assets, and recent science updates.
Sanctuaries Names Volunteer of the Year
NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries recognized Captain Will Benson as Volunteer of the Year at the Capitol Hill Ocean Week awards gala. Captain Benson led the creation of the Blue Star Fishing Guide program, which recognizes fishing charter operators committed to conservation and education. Every day, passionate people make contributions to protect and conserve America's underwater treasures. In 2017 alone, national marine sanctuary volunteers contributed more than work 130,000 hours. Volunteers get involved to help make underwater parks available for future generations to enjoy.
NOAA Restores Reefs in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico’s coral reefs sustained significant damage as a result of Hurricane Maria in 2017 and a winter storm in 2018. OCM and NCCOS staff joined forces with NOAA Fisheries to evaluate and repair the damage. The multifaceted effort involved assessing 80,000 corals over 414,354 square miles at 153 sites. Through these efforts, and with the help of FEMA funds, more than 7,000 coral fragments were salvaged and reattached to promote regrowth of the reefs. Coral reefs are critical to the territory’s tourism and seafood industries and provide invaluable ecosystem services—protecting lives, livelihoods, and infrastructure.
Supporting Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Boundary Expansion
NCCOS developed a biogeographic assessment and a geospatial decision support tool to help inform Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary’s proposed boundary expansion. The team analyzed 14 years of data to produce the assessment, including a deep-sea data set with 20,000 direct observations of ecologically significant corals in the geospatial tool. The Sanctuary Advisory Council’s Boundary Expansion Working Group used the NCCOS products to develop boundary recommendations for 14 proposed new management areas. The working group is comprised of stakeholders representing commercial and recreational fishing, oil and gas, research, and conservation. Last month, the council approved the working group’s proposal and forwarded the recommendations to ONMS for further action.
Waterway Receives ‘Improved Quality Classification’ from NOAA
NOAA assigned an improved quality classification to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) bathymetric survey data for a portion of Delaware Bay—the first USACE-surveyed waterway in the U.S. to be recognized as such. Upgrading how NOAA encodes USACE channel depth data reduces additional safety margins applied to the draft of large ships during transit and berthing operations. Every foot of draft represents a significant dollar amount in the shipping industry, so the upgraded classification allows operators to maximize their loads while ensuring that maritime navigation approaches remain safe.
Course Brings ‘The People Side’ to Coastal Management
Social science methods bring the “people side” of things—their economic, cultural, and social values—into coastal management. Recognizing the need to build these skills among coastal managers, OCM developed "Social Science Basics for Coastal Managers," a course that offers foundational concepts in the social sciences. Participants also learn methods and best practices for writing effective survey questions, conducting interviews, and planning and administering focus groups. The course can be customized for specific needs and audiences.
New PORTS Makes Corpus Christi Seaport Safer for Navigation
The seaport of Corpus Christi, Texas, received a new Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System (PORTS) declared fully operational by CO-OPS. Strong currents in Corpus Christi Bay make it extremely difficult for vessels to navigate through channels into the Port of Corpus Christi. The Port Authority requested a PORTS with current meters to provide pilots with the information they need to safely reach the seaport. PORTS information enables port and vessel operators to optimize cargo loads and transit schedules for available water depth and other environmental conditions. Just one additional inch of usable draft can translate into millions of dollars of additional cargo per vessel transit.