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May 27, 2005


Monitoring Network Expanded to National Marine Sanctuaries
The National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) is expanding their team of monitoring volunteers with the addition of the Southeastern Phytoplankton Monitoring Network (SEPMN). SEPMN includes volunteers from high schools, colleges, citizen groups, aquaria, museums, and park facilities that sample algae throughout the coastal southeast and report their findings to NCCOS researchers. Education coordinators of the 14 National Marine Sanctuaries learned about SEPMN at a recent National Marine Sanctuary Program educational workshop. SEPMN staff will provide phytoplankton identification training to staff at the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and Northwest Hawaiian Island Sanctuary Educational Center this July. For more information, contact

Scientist Discusses Impact of Dead Zone

Dr. David Whitall, a scientist in the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS), was recently interviewed by National Geographic News about the Gulf of Mexico “dead zone,” a region in the Gulf with low oxygen levels, and its impact on marine life. The article explains how nutrient inputs from agriculture and other sources (e.g., human waste, atmospheric deposition) flow from rivers into the Gulf of Mexico and stimulate coastal algal growth, leading to depleted oxygen in the bottom waters. The interview also included scientists from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and the University of Michigan. For more information, contact or read the article online at National Geographic News.

GPS Satellite Orbit Accuracies Improved

For more than a decade, NOAA has promoted high precision positioning by computing accurate locations for Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites as they orbit Earth. During the past 18 months, a team of NOAA scientists improved the accuracy of these locations from eight to three centimeters. The team developed software that applies prior information to supplement GPS tracking data, which enables NOAA to apply parallel processing techniques to process complex computations, required to locate satellites. This new method of parallel processing allows NOAA to perform orbital solutions in significantly less time and to increase the number of GPS tracking stations from roughly 70 to over 110. For more information, contact


May 20, 2005


Online Documents Aid Hurricane Planning

Internet access to historical hurricane documents may help coastal communities better prepare for the next tropical cyclone. Over 60 historical documents are now available on the Web to help coastal resource managers, emergency response managers, researchers, and the public generate ideas on storm planning and response, support post-storm assessments, and aid in evacuation planning. NOAA’s Coastal Services Center (CSC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency worked together to scan, catalog, and provide access to the documents at a centralized location on the CSC Web site. Visit the Hurricane Planning and Impact Assesment Reports or for more information, contact

Oyster Reef Created to Restore Habitat

Beginning in 1994, NOAA served as the lead natural resources trustee for the Lavaca Bay Superfund Site in Texas (halfway between Houston and Corpus Christi), and led the effort to clean-up the 64 square-mile estuary from mercury contamination and restore injured natural resources. NOAA and Alcoa, the responsible party for the site, worked together to restore the damaged area. To compensate for the loss of ecological services from the natural oyster reef habitat damaged by the contamination, the two parties recently created a new oyster reef. Construction of the 11-acre oyster reef started April 13, 2005 and was successfully completed by May 3, 2005. By May 11, water temperature reached 25ºC, which is expected to enable oysters to initiate spawning. For more information, contact

Program Assists Communities with Harmful Algal Blooms
Coastal communities faced with an unexpected harmful algal bloom (HAB) now can quickly receive technical assistance from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science’s (NCCOS) Harmful Algal Bloom Event Response Program. The Program communicates the needs of coastal managers to the research community to help manage unpredictable HAB events, which can negatively affect economies and public health. The NCCOS Program recently provided assistance to Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife managers and University of Texas researchers to determine conditions associated with a HAB that turned the water a coffee color (known as a brown tide) in the Laguna Madre. This data will help guide future seagrass and water quality monitoring in the Laguna Madre, which will help scientists and managers forecast similar HAB events. The National Office for Marine Biotoxins and Harmful Algal Blooms at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a partner in this effort. For more information, contact, or visit NCCOS's Harmful Algal Bloom Event Response Web page.



May 13, 2005


Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Supports Dolphins' Release

On May 3, 2005, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary provided vessel support for the release of seven rough tooth dolphins, survivors of the mass dolphin stranding that occurred earlier in the year off of Marathon, Florida. The dolphins were nursed back to health and then simultaneously released in 650 ft of water off Key Largo. The group immediately took off in a southerly direction against the axis of the Florida Current. Sonic tags were attached to their dorsal fins to track their movement. Several dolphins from the stranding were kept back that are not yet ready for release. For more information, contact


New Shellfish Poisoning Test Developed

The National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) developed and validated performance criteria for a new method of testing for paralytic shellfish poisoning. This new method may replace the regulatory shellfish testing method currently used worldwide and, in turn, reduce trade barriers to U.S. shellfish products. NCCOS, in collaboration with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and International Atomic Energy Agency, will transfer this technology to regulatory laboratories in the U.S. and internationally. NCCOS’ results were presented to European Union seafood industry and regulatory agencies at the Association for Official Analytical Chemists Task Force Meeting on Marine and Freshwater Toxins on April 11 in Baiona, Spain for potential regulatory applications. NCCOS will lead the next phase of validating the method through an international collaborative trial. For information, contact


Tracer Release Experiment Conducted in Houston

On May 16, Columbia University scientists and NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, performed a tracer experiment within the upper Houston Ship Channel and the Port of Houston. A tracer is an identifiable substance that is added into the environment at a certain point to track its movement. The purpose of the experiment is to compare observed tracer concentrations with model-simulated concentrations derived from the Galveston Bay Operational Forecast System (GBOFS) hydrodynamic circulation model and to determine the time it takes for a contaminant to get flushed out of the estuary. One of NOAA's Navigation Response Team vessels released the tracer at the confluence of Patrick Bayou and the Houston Ship Channel and is tracking it for about 10 days or until concentrations near equilibrium values. The results will help to evaluate the GBOFS model and provide new insight on the flow characteristics of the estuary. The GBOFS model provides mariners, port managers and emergency response teams with present and future conditions of water levels, currents, temperature and salinity and can be used for homeland security (in the event of a purposeful spill of a poison, contaminant or chemical) and spill dispersion modeling. For more information, contact



May 6, 2005


NOAA Develops First Comprehensive Hydrographic Data Layer

On May 6, 2005 NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey (OCS) delivered its first comprehensive H-cell, a hydrographic data layer containing both depth soundings and feature information, for incorporation into NOAA’s Electronic Navigational Charts (ENCs). H-cells are produced in the same format as ENCs but update faster and more directly. Once this process is fully implemented, NOAA expects to see significant time-savings when adding hydrographic information into the nautical charts. This effort culminates years of research and software development by OCS, the NOAA/University of New Hampshire Joint Hydrographic Center, and the CARIS digital charting software company. For more information, contact


Real-time Coastal Observations Web Portal Released

On May 10, 2005 NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey plans to release a new version of its nowCOAST Web-mapping portal. nowCOAST is a planning aid that provides geo-referenced links to real-time meteorological, oceanographic, river, and water quality observations from federal and state networks and regional land, ocean, and Great Lakes observing systems. The new version has added new links to real-time observing networks including the Integrated Flooding Observing and Warning System; the National Interagency Remote Automated Weather System stations; Lake Champlain, Vermont mesonet (a local or regional meteorological observing network); National Weather Service’s recently automated cooperative climate stations throughout New England and New York State; and inland Automated Surface Observing System stations. The new version also includes geo-referenced links to live Web cameras in U.S. coastal states including real-time air pollution and visibility monitoring web cameras.

nowCOAST can be found at
For more information, contact


Lionfish Limited by Winter Water Temperatures

Based on results from a recent cruise and laboratory thermal tolerance studies, scientists from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) believe that the inshore distribution of the invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish may be limited by winter bottom water temperatures. During an April 8-22 cruise, no lionfish were found at five reef locations at water depths of 65-105 feet, where bottom water temperatures can get as low as 8º C in winter months. The cruise and laboratory studies are part of NCCOS’ examination of the status of the invasive lionfish, the first known Pacific marine fish to become established in the Atlantic, and the potential risk of this invasion to native Atlantic communities off the coast of North Carolina. This research will help scientists forecast the potential extent of this threat through a better understanding of the factors that control the survival and spread of the lionfish. Since the summer of 2000, NCCOS researchers have documented the rapid spread of lionfish in relatively warm (greater than 15º C year-round), deep (greater than 115 feet) water reefs that are close to the Gulf Stream where the lionfish are established year-round. For more information, contact



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