The Diving Deeper Podcast Archive

This archive presents a list of National Ocean Service Diving Deeper podcast titles, publication dates, audio (mp3) links, and transcripts for all episodes released between 2009-2016. This podcast was retired in 2016, replaced by the NOAA Ocean Podcast.

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Reef Resilience

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/sep16/dd67-reef-resilience.mp3

Thu, 22 Sep 2016 09:15:19 -0400


Microplastics

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/june16/dd063016.mp3

Thu, 30 Jun 2016 08:33:37 -0400


Living Shorelines

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/apr16/dd040716-1.mp3

Thu, 07 Apr 2016 12:13:04 -0400


Exploring Hawaii's Coral Reefs

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/dec15/dd120315.mp3

Thu, 03 Dec 2015 10:14:34 -0500


Nuisance Flooding

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/oct15/dd102215.mp3

Thu, 22 Oct 2015 15:32:05 -0400


Hurricane Katrina: 10 Years Later

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/aug15/dd082715.mp3

Thu, 27 Aug 2015 09:14:00 -0400


Ocean Economy

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/june15/dd062515.mp3

Thu, 25 Jun 2015 08:24:29 -0400


World Ocean Day (Special Feature)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/news/june15/wod.mp4

Mon, 08 Jun 2015 11:18:56 -0400


GPS on Bench Marks

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/apr15/dd041615-1.mp3

Thu, 16 Apr 2015 08:22:52 -0400


Invasive Species

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/feb15/dd022615-3.mp3

Thu, 26 Feb 2015 09:20:53 -0500


Coral Bleaching

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/dec14/dd120214-2.mp3

Mon, 01 Dec 2014 15:07:37 -0500


Tides and Currents

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/mar14/dd031814.mp3

Tue, 18 Mar 2014 14:28:23 -0400


The Intracoastal Waterway

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/feb14/dd022014.mp3

Thu, 20 Feb 2014 10:31:22 -0500


[Shorts] Invasive Lionfish

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/feb14/dds020614.mp3

Thu, 06 Feb 2014 14:22:06 -0500


Planning Ocean Uses

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/jan14/dd013014.mp3

Thu, 30 Jan 2014 13:01:17 -0500


[Shorts] Restoring Natural Resources

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/jan14/dds011614.mp3

Thu, 16 Jan 2014 10:56:50 -0500


Health of Coral Reefs

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/dec13/dd120513.mp3

Thu, 05 Dec 2013 10:56:50 -0500


Health of Coral Reefs

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/dec13/dd120513.mp3

Thu, 05 Dec 2013 10:56:50 -0500

Diving Deeper: Health of Coral Reefs
Episode 54 (December 5, 2013)

HOST: Beautiful, colorful, calm, and serene. These words may come to mind when we see amazing images of a diver underwater surrounded by coral reefs, but these incredible resources have faced and continue to face many threats.

Here to talk to us today on Diving Deeper is John Christensen, the director for NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program. John will help us explore the health of coral reefs, the threats facing our reefs, and hopefully some actions that we can take to do our part in protecting these important resources. Hi John, welcome to our show today.

JOHN CHRISTENSEN: Thanks for inviting me here today Kate. It's always been a pleasure to step away from the hustle and bustle to talk about the many values of coral reef ecosystems and what NOAA's doing with its many partners to conserve these majestic places.

HOST: Well, John, to start off, what can you tell us about the overall health of our coral reef ecosystems?

JOHN CHRISTENSEN: Well Kate, on balance, experts agree across the globe that coral reef ecosystems are in peril. As with most things in nature, healthy, intact ecosystems are a delicate balance of the physical environment, their biological inhabitants like fish and turtles and mammals and corals among many others, and the people who interact with these systems. As each of these elements change in relation to one another by definition, the very ecosystem itself also changes. Over the past several decades, the net result of these changes has been an overall decline in the condition of reefs globally.

HOST: So would you say then, and maybe you just touched on this, are we declining, improving, or staying about the same from where we were say 10 years ago?

JOHN CHRISTENSEN: As I've just mentioned, coral reefs have been in a state of general decline over the past several decades including over the last 10 years. We see this expressed in the health, abundance, and diversity of the coral reefs themselves and the animals that depend on healthy coral.

HOST: And before we get into the threats that our reefs face and the impacts of these threats to the overall health of our coral reefs, can you remind our listeners, why are corals so important to us?

JOHN CHRISTENSEN: Coral reefs provide an incredibly wide range of benefits. What usually jumps to people's minds is that coral reefs are a bastion of biological diversity often called the rainforests of the sea. Covering less than one percent of the ocean floor, reefs support an estimated 25 percent of all marine life with over 4,000 species of fish alone. So, corals provide habitat, its home to over one million different aquatic species. It provides income for people, billions of dollars and millions of jobs in over 100 countries around the world depend on coral reef ecosystems. Of course, part of that is food, food for people living near coral reefs, especially in small island nations. It also provides protection, coral reefs are actually a natural barrier protecting coastal cities, communities, and beaches from storms. And what most people don't think about, but equally important, is the potential use in medicine. Extracts from corals are used in treatments for many of the world's most prevalent and dangerous illnesses and diseases.

HOST: OK, so we can't argue with that. They're very valuable to us, to everybody, anywhere that you are. So John, let's get right into this and the topic of our podcast today. What are some of the threats facing our coral reefs today?

JOHN CHRISTENSEN: While there are many threats that face coral reefs today, the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program tends to focus on three key issues. That includes land-based sources of pollution, the impacts of fishing, and climate change on these ecosystems.

HOST: So, let's take these one by one from the list of threats that you just mentioned and talk about these a little bit more. First—pollution. What kinds of pollutants are entering, and how are they entering, waters around coral reefs?

JOHN CHRISTENSEN: Pollution from land-based sources is a cause of coral reef decline throughout the world. In the Caribbean for example, about 80 percent of ocean pollution originates from activities on land. As populations expand in coastal areas and develop, it alters the landscape, increasing the runoff from land, so this runoff often carries large quantities of sediment from land clearing for example, high levels of nutrients from agricultural areas and sewage outflows, and pollutants such as petroleum products and pesticides.

HOST: And what can happen to a reef when the water around it becomes polluted?

JOHN CHRISTENSEN: Well, going through the list that I just mentioned, excess nutrients for example, results in poor water quality, leading to enhanced algal growth on reefs, which crowds out corals and significantly degrades the ecosystem. In addition, sediment deposited onto the reef can smother corals and interferes with their ability to feed and to reproduce. And finally, pesticides for example, can interfere with coral reproduction and growth. Sewage discharge and runoff may also introduce diseases into coral reef ecosystems.

HOST: So, we'll come back and talk about that threat again in just a few minutes, but let's go next up to fishing impacts. Can you tell us how this is a threat to our coral reefs?

JOHN CHRISTENSEN: Yeah, you know fishing impacts actually can be seen in a number of ways and tends to be actually fairly complicated, but as I think about it in more simple terms, you can have mechanical impacts, that is, things like fish traps breaking reefs or a trawl scouring the bottom. There's population level impacts—if you fish in a place and you extract all the fish, suddenly they're all gone and the ecosystem therefore is impacted. And then the ecosystem level impacts so this is where it all comes together and for example, you might have a fish which usually grazes on the reef and keeps it clean of algae and so forth, well, if they're removed from the reef, suddenly the reef becomes impacted more and more by this algae that we talked about. So there's a number of ways which fishing can impact coral reef ecosystems.

HOST: John, probably the one threat that we've heard the most about is climate change. How does climate change threaten coral reefs?

JOHN CHRISTENSEN: Well, climate change impacts have been identified as one of the greatest global threats to coral reef ecosystems. As temperatures rise, bleaching and infectious disease outbreaks are likely to become more frequent. Additionally, carbon dioxide, absorbed into the ocean from the atmosphere has already begun to alter the sea water chemistry through changes in pH or ocean acidification. This change can actually dissolve reef skeletons.

HOST: So from these three main threats to coral reefs—pollution, fishing impacts, and climate change. Are one of these three having a greater impact on our reefs or does this vary based on your geographic location?

JOHN CHRISTENSEN: All of these things come together at varying degrees depending on your geographic location. So the truth is that one of these probably plays a more predominant role depending on where you're at. Also of note though is the global effect of climate change is ever present no matter where you're at. So if you were to ask me to answer which is truly always omnipresent, I would say that climate change is there and we are able then to address the other threats more strategically on the ground.

HOST: And John, what is the role of NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program in all of this that we've been talking about today?

JOHN CHRISTENSEN: Well, actually the Coral Reef Conservation Program plays a central role in all of this. Not only do we bring together the great community of scientists and managers here at NOAA to work on common issues related to coral reef conservation, but we also serve as sort of the center-piece to bring the federal family together to work on issues that are much greater than just what NOAA alone can work on. A big piece of that is actually the relationship that we have with the states and the territories, with universities, with non-governmental organizations, so truly the entire conservation community comes together, and that's one of the roles that we play is convening all of these people with common purpose and cause.

We all address together some of the issues that we talked about—climate for sure being one on everybody's plate and pollution of course, fishing as well.

HOST: John, from what you've told us so far today, I think most of us would like to know what, if anything, we can do to help?

JOHN CHRISTENSEN: Well, even if you don't live near a coral reef, you can help protect coral reefs in the United States and around the world. There are lots of actions, little and big, that you can take in life to help conserve a coral reef. If every household, for example, in the U.S. replaced a burned out bulb with an energy-efficient EnergyStar qualified fluorescent bulb, it would prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to that from at least 800,000 cars. That's 800,000! So climate change is clearly one of the leading threats of coral reefs.

Educate yourself about coral reefs. So what we're doing here today is incredibly important. Understand not only what a coral reef is itself, but the animals that they support. How many different species live in reefs, what new medicines have been developed from reef organisms. Participate in training and educational programs that focus on ecology. When you further your own education, you can help others understand the fragility and value of the world's reefs and that awareness is actually key to conservation across the globe, coral reef or not.

Another example is to be an informed fish tank owner. Only buy marine fish and other reef organisms when you know they've been collected in an ecologically-sound manner. Don't release store-bought fish into local waterways and ask store managers where these organisms came from, for example.

HOST: Well, that's quite a list of things we can do and things we can do which is really important to know, it's not just if you live close to a coral reef. John, my last question for you today, is just to see if you have any final, closing words for our listeners?

JOHN CHRISTENSEN: Yes. I'd actually like to take the opportunity to say that even though coral reef ecosystems face these incredible threats, that I have great optimism. That together as a community across the globe, we can protect and preserve coral reef ecosystems for future generations.

HOST: Thanks John for joining us today on Diving Deeper to share some of the threats facing our coral reefs and what we can all do to help. To learn more, visit coralreef.noaa.gov.

That's all for today's show—thanks for tuning in. Diving Deeper will take a break until the new year. See you all again in 2014!


Forecasting Harmful Algal Blooms

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/nov13/dd112113.mp3

Thu, 21 Nov 2013 09:04:23 -0500

Diving Deeper: Harmful Algal Bloom Forecasting
Episode 53 (November 21, 2013)

HOST: Today on Diving Deeper we'll talk forecasting. We're all familiar with weather forecasts and even tides, but did you know scientists forecast so much more than that?

Today, we'll be joined by Allison Allen who is part of a team of scientists working on forecasting harmful algal blooms. Hi Allison, thanks for joining us today!

ALLISON ALLEN: Thanks for inviting me here today Kate.

HOST: So Allie, let's start by defining harmful algal blooms for our audience. What exactly is a harmful algal bloom?

ALLISON ALLEN: There's many different types and species of algae and not all of them are harmful. In fact algae are really important to marine and freshwater ecosystems and most species of algae are not harmful. But algal blooms occur when conditions are favorable for rapid growth for one reason or another of a particular species and sometimes these blooms can have harmful effects. So blooms are considered harmful when they have a negative impact on either people or the environment, but a very small percentage of those blooms are actually toxic, actually less than one percent of those.

So, when most people think of what a harmful algal bloom is, they think of discolored water - red, brown, yellow, maybe it's slimy, maybe it smells bad, sometimes it can even make the water taste bad.

HOST: And besides the fact that harmful algal blooms can cause the water to change color and look bad like you've just mentioned, are there other reasons we should be concerned about these?

ALLISON ALLEN: There are. Harmful algal blooms or HABs can cause a wide range of impacts to human and ecosystem health. Those impacts are really the reasons that we pay such close attention to these events. HABs can cause toxins and they can kill fish, mammals, and birds and cause a range of illness in people. Sometimes we see large fish kill events when we have a harmful algal bloom or we might see what we call an unusual marine mammal mortality. In fact HABs are the major cause of unusual mortality events which may mean a dramatic increase in dolphin deaths or even endangered species such as manatees we see in some of these events.

HABs can last for several months and then even after that they can remain in the tissues of shellfish for months after that so there's long-lasting impacts. And in terms of impacts to people as an example, the species Karenia brevis in the Gulf of Mexico causes an aerosol that can cause respiratory distress in people, which makes people feel similar to having asthma. In fact, there are a number of increases in ER visits when there's a major bloom in Florida. In the Great Lakes for instance, recurring blooms of green algae or cyanobacteria take place nearly every year and those blooms are of concern to the drinking water, which then must be treated, when they're having one of those blooms.

And even blooms of non-harmful algae can cause dramatic ecosystem impacts such as depleting the oxygen in the water, blocking sunlight from benthic organisms, or even by clogging the gills of fish. And as a dog lover myself, one of the things that people don't always think about is impacts to dogs that can get sick from swimming in water that is having an algae bloom. In short, harmful algal blooms can have significant economic and cultural consequences too and all of these impacts really just stress the importance of understanding HABs and developing the tools to forecast their impacts.

HOST: Thanks Allie, you've given us quite a list of impacts so this should answer anybody's questions, if you've ever been wondering before if we should be concerned about harmful algal blooms, that definitely yes we should. My next question is, where do harmful algal blooms typically occur?

ALLISON ALLEN: Harmful algal blooms really occur in all coastal states in the U.S. The specific nature of the impacts varies depending on the species of concern and a number of other factors. HABs also occur in freshwater so the Great Lakes is a great example of that and then there's also particular seasons when HABs are more likely to occur in a specific area.

HOST: And you mentioned before a little bit about some of the economic impacts that we might see from harmful algal blooms. Do we have statistics on what a bloom can cost a community? And what this economic impact is?

ALLISON ALLEN: We do and it's pretty dramatic. So a coastal HAB event has been estimated to cost over $100 million a year in economic impacts, which is substantial. The impact is especially dramatic for coastal communities that depend on seafood and tourism industries. HABs can disrupt commercial and recreational seafood harvesting. And in fact the impacts to tourism don't end at the beach or waterfront properties and that's what sometimes people forget, but all service related industries in a coastal community can be impacted, you know, people don't go to the restaurants. And areas impacted by regular blooms, such as those causing discolored or foul-smelling water, may even see long-term impacts in property values over time.

HOST: And Allie, for our listeners who don't live in a coastal city that is prone to harmful algal blooms, how does this affect them?

ALLISON ALLEN: Well, you don't have to live at the coast to appreciate seafood, right? So eating shellfish that has become contaminated from a HAB can cause a range of illnesses or even in rare instances, death. It doesn't mean of course that the seafood that we all eat is unsafe, there's rigorous monitoring programs in place to ensure that all legally-harvested seafood is safe for human consumption, but beyond just the impact to shellfish and fish, people who don't live in a coastal city can be impacted if they're planning a vacation to a location that's routinely impacted by a harmful algal bloom.

While that's certainly not necessary to avoid visiting those places all together, it's important to know where to find up-to-date information on conditions to stay safe and informed. There may be times that beaches are closed and vacationers will likely want to know that information before traveling. But because these blooms are often very patchy, it's also often the case that knowing where to look can allow you not to cancel a beach day, but to find an unimpacted beach that's nearby.

HOST: So, seeing as how HABs have a huge negative impact for coastal communities, what can we do about this? Can we prepare for these events in some way?

ALLISON ALLEN: We can. Finding and measuring harmful algae has historically been difficult and labor intensive. For instance, research cruises to collect and analyze water samples, while both important and accurate, can be time and resource intensive, so it's been really important to develop methods for forecasting harmful algal blooms, particularly in the areas with the greatest ecosystem, health, and financial impacts. Advanced warning of HABs increases the options for managing these events and their impacts and it can decrease the cost of dealing with the event and the time it takes to rebound from the event as well. So to this end, NOAA is developing Harmful Algal Bloom forecasts and the forecasts are provided to state resource managers and other decision makers to take necessary action, for instance, issuing beach or shellfish bed closures.

HOST: What kind of data do you need to create one of these harmful algal bloom forecasts?

ALLISON ALLEN: HAB forecasts rely on a range of different data types. Because there's such regional difference in HAB characteristics, forecasts are really tailored to best address the issues of concern in a particular location from the information they provide to the science and the tools used to develop that forecast. For instance, in the Gulf of Mexico, ocean color is a really important component to the forecasts while in the Northeast, sea surface temperature plays a larger role as an indicator.

But in general, the type of data we use includes satellite imagery, field observations such as samples, glider data, oceanographic and atmospheric monitoring platforms such as buoys or surface current mapping technology to help us determine the location, extent, and potential for development or movement of the bloom. We also rely on a range of models and forecasts such as wind forecasts or models of transport.

HOST: And Allie, how are people involved? Is a forecast just produced automatically with computers and maybe data from satellites or do people really play a role in developing a harmful algal bloom forecast?

ALLISON ALLEN: It's a combination of all of those things, but people really play a big role. So forecasts do rely on human analysis and verification. We have a number of HAB analysts working in NOAA's Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services, working to put together all of the operational forecasts on a daily basis. They are working with all of the data, combining it with their own expertise to issue the best forecast. But I would mention too that the science behind the forecast is very much inter-discplinary. So you have, for instance, biologists working right alongside oceanographers to make sure the reasoning behind the forecast is accurate.

HOST: And what kind of information does a forecast provide?

ALLISON ALLEN: Our HAB forecasts, which are issued as bulletins, include information on forecasted conditions for the next three to seven days depending on whether there's an active bloom underway including information on potential or confirmed HAB events, chlorophyll levels, and the forecasted winds. The bulletins also provide forecasts for potential human impacts associated with confirmed blooms, it also provides information on the bloom size, movement, intensification, and the potential for bloom formation.

So there's different sections of the forecast that we provide. There's public conditions that are geared more towards the public, focusing on those potential health impacts while a more in-depth analysis provides the detailed information on the likely changes in the bloom over the next few days such as changes in the intensity of the event or the extent, which is more helpful for informing necessary actions such as monitoring.

HOST: Allie, who uses harmful algal bloom forecasts?

ALLISON ALLEN: These forecasts are not only used by the public who want to know if their beach will be impacted, but by a wide range of resource managers and decision makers who need to take necessary action. So, necessary action depends on the location and nature of the bloom. It might include beach or shellfish bed closures, providing information to the public on the nature of potential impacts, going to collect water samples in a particular area, or even in some cases, taking action to assist or relocate endangered species in an impacted area. Longer range, seasonal forecasts can also be quite helpful for longer-term planning such as knowing how much states need to budget for monitoring of drinking water in a given year.

So, while NOAA's not itself taking these actions. Information provided by the forecasts is critical to be able to do so.

HOST: Allie, in what regions, what parts of the U.S., do you currently have harmful algal bloom forecasts?

ALLISON ALLEN: NOAA currently has operational HAB forecasts in the Gulf of Mexico, specifically that's the west Florida shelf and then into Texas as well. There's several other forecasts under development to be transitioned to operations in the next few years and that includes the Gulf of Maine and Lake Erie.

HOST: So Allie, besides forecasting harmful algal blooms, are there other types of forecasts that NOAA is working on?

ALLISON ALLEN: NOAA's uniquely positioned to provide ecological forecast products and services. For instance, NOAA already collects huge amounts of weather and climate, oceanographic, coastal, and biological information that's ready to be assimilated into predictive systems to be able to support these forecasts. These components are the cornerstone of NOAA's collective ability to protect lives and property, enhance economic security, and meet its stewardship mandates.

So, over the past year, NOAA's really made good progress with developing an ecological forecasting program or roadmap to be able to better provide a coordinated approach to developing and delivering these ecological forecasts that best meet NOAA's science, service, and stewardship mandates.

The effort's really focusing on an initial set of priorities including harmful algal blooms, but also including hypoxia and pathogens. And when I talk about hypoxia, I'm referring to the condition of depleted oxygen in the water column and by pathogens, I'm referring to, in this case, naturally-occurring, disease-causing bacteria. So, the goal of this effort is to develop operational forecasts in these areas, similar to what exists for HAB forecasts in the Gulf of Mexico and we're looking at delivering these forecasts at a national scale, but with regional specificity and delivery needed to appropriately address specific issues.

HOST: So Allie, you started off with explaining to us why we should care about harmful algal blooms, why this is a problem, then we've moved into talking about that we can forecast these blooms to help us prepare, the kinds of data that go into these forecasts, and the information that come out of them. Can you share with us maybe an example or two of how these forecasts are being used by folks?

ALLISON ALLEN: Sure. In 2005, there was a historic bloom in New England resulting in unprecedented closures of shellfish beds. That was really to prevent paralytic shellfish poisoning in human consumers of those shellfish. So those closures alone were estimated to have an impact of $18 million in Massachusetts of lost shellfish sales and almost $5 million in Maine. So that's substantial, and so what I want to point out is just as important as the forecasts are for being able to close those shellfish beds to avoid impacts to humans, the reverse is also true that those forecasts are necessary to be able to avoid unnecessary closures, when every day of revenue lost has such a dramatic impact on the economy.

In addition, illnesses associated with the pathogen Vibrio vulnificus can be especially challenging if a physician doesn't know what to look for. And misdiagnosis can have drastic consequences if the illness isn't caught and treated in time. Just this past summer, a doctor contacted the operators of a demonstration Vibrio model in the Chesapeake Bay to confirm possible exposure to the bacteria based on where the individual had been swimming. So these are just a few examples of the impacts of these forecasts and of early detection. While we still have a long way to go to have the necessary forecasts everywhere they're needed, the need for this information and the benefit of this information is clear.

HOST: Allie, is there a way our listeners can help, really just to step up and do something to help with this problem of harmful algal blooms?

ALLISON ALLEN: Yes, there is. I mentioned earlier the need to constantly improve the science and the monitoring behind the forecasts. And there's a number of citizen science programs emerging, such as the Phytoplankton Monitoring Network, where people can get involved with monitoring coastal waters for harmful algal blooms. This particular program has over 11 years of data in some areas and that's been an invaluable resource to inform the research needed for effective forecasts. These programs really increase the number of eyes that we have on our coastal waters and allow us to better understand what is happening.

In the future, there may also be additional social media and smartphone apps to better allow the public to serve as the spotters for events such as HABs.

HOST: And Allie, as we wrap up our discussion for today, what would you like to leave our listeners with?

ALLISON ALLEN: Well, first I want to thank you for letting me join you today because I think this is an important topic for people to learn more about. But I guess the bottom line from today's discussion is that HABs can be serious events with significant and far-reaching impacts. Understanding these events is the first step in minimizing health impacts and economic losses. There's a lot of exciting work being done to improve forecasting capabilities to better inform coastal and resource management needs.

HOST: Thank Allie for joining us today on Diving Deeper and sharing with us more about NOAA's work in the field of ecological forecasting and specifically harmful algal bloom forecasting. To learn more, visit oceanservice.noaa.gov/ecoforecasting/.

That's all for today's show. Diving Deeper will be back in just two weeks!


After the Storm - Collecting Aerial Imagery

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/sep13/dd092613.mp3

Thu, 26 Sep 2013 10:29:08 -0400

Diving Deeper: After the Storm - Collecting Aerial Imagery
Episode 52 (September 26, 2013)

HOST: Have you heard the expression - a picture is worth a thousand words? Well, this is especially true following a coastal storm. Images collected immediately after a storm can document the level of disaster for a community and can help to outline the steps for recovery.

Today on Diving Deeper, we're going to talk with one of the NOAA pilots who responds after a coastal storm to collect aerial imagery of the damage that was done. Now, I'll welcome Commander Albert Girimonte to our show. Commander Girimonte is the deputy chief of the National Geodetic Survey's Remote Sensing Division. Hi Commander Girimonte, welcome to our show.

COMMANDER ALBERT GIRIMONTE: Hi Kate, thanks for having me here, it's my pleasure.

HOST: So Al, if I may if that's okay, Al, to start off, there's several offices across NOAA that are responsible for responding after a coastal storm has struck an area. For your office specifically, the National Geodetic Survey, one of your roles is to collect aerial imagery of the damage following a storm, is that correct?

COMMANDER ALBERT GIRIMONTE: That's correct. In addition to conducting the Coastal Mapping Program and the Aeronautical Survey Program, we also conduct this mission which we refer to as the emergency response mission. This essentially entails collecting georeferenced aerial imagery when there's an event of significance in which NOAA's missions or interests are affected. Now, that could be a storm, other natural disaster or other man-made disaster. So in the case of a coastal storm we conduct aerial surveys to assess potential or actual impacts to NOAA navigation interests in order to protect life, property, and to ensure the safety of maritime commerce. What adds value to the collection of the imagery is that we process it and rapidly distribute the data.

HOST: Fantastic, and how long have you been personally flying these missions?

COMMANDER ALBERT GIRIMONTE: I've been a pilot for about 18 years, the first 11 which were in the Navy and the last seven or so have been with NOAA.

HOST: Can you walk us through maybe a little bit of your experience - what's it like to collect this imagery. Just helping us visualize this. What can you tell us first about the planes that you use to fly these surveys?

COMMANDER ALBERT GIRIMONTE: The aircraft we use primarily is a Beechcraft Super King Air. It's the newest one that we have in the fleet. It was acquired back in 2008. It's a twin engine turbo prop. It has a range of about 2,400 nautical miles and a maximum endurance of about eight hours or so. It's not a particularly large aircraft. It's only as long as maybe two cars parked end to end. It's a pretty popular model, but NOAA's model has been modified in order to perform this and other missions for the agency. Specifically, it has long-range fuel tanks, it has a more robust electrical system to power mission equipment. It has observation windows in the back, and most importantly it has two large ports or holes cut into the belly of the aircraft - they're about the size of two pizza boxes I guess - and that's the most important because that's where we mount our sensors and our camera equipment to look down and to photograph the imagery below.

Occasionally we'll use another aircraft, say if the primary aircraft is in maintenance or if it's such a large response that we need two aircraft to rapidly gather all the data and that would also be a NOAA aircraft, it's a NOAA Twin Otter. It has similar mission capabilities and size, but it's not as fast and it doesn't have quite as much range as the King Air.

Now, what it's like to actually respond to such an event, our office maintains a database of some pre-planned survey lines throughout the United States. It's pretty much along the coastal areas and along territories of the United States. So, when there's an event in which we need to respond to, we'll have numerous internal and external coordination calls and then we'll take a look at those survey lines and modify them as needed. Once we determine the appropriate areas to respond to, we'll send that message to the air crews out in the field, they'll pick an airfield, generally within 100 miles or so of the damaged area to operate out of, they'll get there, they'll set up a GPS base station, and then they'll start conducting flights, generally around two flights a day for approximately four hours in duration each.

HOST: Al, how many people are on the plane at a time to do this image collection? I know you said the plane's about the size of two cars, two parked cars, so I'm not sure how many folks you can fit in there to get all this work done.

COMMANDER ALBERT GIRIMONTE: Believe it or not, we only three to do the mission we need to do. We have a pilot and a co-pilot and someone in the back we call the sensor operator that flies along with us and they operate all the remote sensing equipment that captures all this data. The primary instrument is an aerial mapping camera, it's a high-performance digital camera that has a 60mm lens and it collects color and near infrared images. Now those are primarily black and white but they're near infrared. And it has 39 megapixels of resolution.

We also use a LIDAR, which is an acronym for light detection and ranging. And it uses an invisible, eye-safe laser that scans the surface below to create what we call point cloud image. The added benefit of a point cloud image over just a visible image is that the point cloud image provides horizontal information, much like a photograph would, but it also provides vertical or height information, so it kind of gives us a 3D image of the area below. We don't use it as much as the camera itself because most people are interested in the actual photograph vs. the LIDAR imagery.

HOST: So Al, how soon after a storm can you actually go out and conduct these overflights?

COMMANDER ALBERT GIRIMONTE: Crews generally get out into the survey area within 24 hours of the storm, however weather is pretty much the limiting factor in this response time. So really more specifically it's the cloud heights and the visibility. For us, the ideal survey altitudes are about 10,000 feet above the ground. We can go higher, but higher altitudes result in resolution degradation. Conversely, if the clouds force us to operate the aircraft lower, the amount of area covered by each image will be smaller and this requires additional survey lines and a whole bunch of extra data for our technicians to capture and process and it adds a great deal of workload. So again, 10,000 feet is the ideal altitude, but if we really can't get into 10,000 feet and we're starting to feel the urgency, we'll try to get in there at least at 3,000 feet. Anything below that is really just not practical for us to operate in.

HOST: Have you ever conducted flights during a storm, say during a hurricane?

COMMANDER ALBERT GIRIMONTE: So storms generally bring clouds and rain and low visibility so those aren't exactly ideal conditions for collecting imagery so no I haven't conducted these missions during the storm, but I also fly the hurricane hunting aircraft. So I've had the unique opportunity to get up close and personal with not only the storm itself, but the aftermath of the storm too.

HOST: Must have been quite interesting as a hurricane hunter then I'm sure, or still doing that work.

COMMANDER ALBERT GIRIMONTE: It is. It's a very rewarding mission and believe it or not, it's not as bad as people think it is. It's still a very rewarding mission to conduct.

HOST: We focused a lot of our answers right now on collecting aerial imagery after coastal storms, specifically after something like a hurricane may have struck an area. But are there other times you would go out and collect this imagery?

COMMANDER ALBERT GIRIMONTE: Well, coastal storms generally encompass the bulk of the work that we do because it's directly related to our mission to survey the coast. However, we've flown for events inland where there's a NOAA interest or mission at stake. Some examples of this kind of work that we've done in the past include river floods in the Midwest or along the Mississippi which assist with the NWS River Forecast Center and the Deepwater Horizon spill that assists the Office of Response and Restoration.

For other inland events of national interest, we'll work closely with federal agencies like FEMA and we make them aware of the capabilities that we have, so if we think that they can potentially assist in carrying out their mission. If our services are requested, then they'll initiate a formal request via official channels. Some examples of these type of events include September 11, the Joplin, Missouri tornadoes and also the Birmingham and Tuscaloosa or Alabama tornadoes in 2011.

HOST: Al, so after a flight is completed, is the data ready to be used right away? You talked a little bit about some processing and getting that stuff up. I guess how long, what is that delay time to do that work?

COMMANDER ALBERT GIRIMONTE: Well, the image that the plane captures is essentially a JPG image, similar to what you would get on your own personal digital cameras, so that is obviously not a final data. So what we do, there is a post-processing step in which the images come off the airplane and then we apply GPS and what's called inertial measurement unit data which basically geo-rectifies the image.

And then after that those images are all stitched together to create a mosaic of the area. And that entire process from the time the image comes off the airplane to the time that it's ready to be posted is anywhere around six hours or so - it's been less at times, sometimes it's been more, it just really depends, but we try to maintain six hours or less from the time we get the image off the airplane.

HOST: Fantastic. And who uses the storm imagery and what do they typically tend to use it for?

COMMANDER ALBERT GIRIMONTE: A wide range of stakeholders in federal, state, and local government, mostly emergency managers and decision makers use it, they assess the overall damage and determine if there's an ongoing threat to life and property. This helps them to determine where to focus their response and recovery efforts and that primarily happens immediately after the event. In months to years even to follow, some coastal zone managers and community planners will use it to help develop more resilient coastal communities that are better able to deal with similar events that may occur in the future.

But probably one of the most personally rewarding uses of the data is by just the general public, you and me. We are able to go to the website, download the images and assess damage to public and private properties around. And this is especially beneficial to them if they're unable to return. If local authorities have closed off the area. It helps them plan their own personal recovery and helps them seek a return to normalcy.

HOST: I can see that it would definitely be, just so valuable for that audience. How is the imagery distributed to the folks who need to access it? Is it mainly just through the website?

COMMANDER ALBERT GIRIMONTE: Primarily, the imagery is available through an interactive web map that can be accessed through a desktop or even a mobile device. We also generate a web map tile service, what's called a WMTS, that more for the GIS community and it allows the data to be viewed in most popular GIS software. Imagery again is available again in six hours in all of these formats. The web address is pretty long, but if type in "NGS storms" into any search engine, the home page will be one of the first listed.

HOST: OK great. So Al, you've really painted a picture for us of all of the different kinds of surveys that you've done and I'm sure that these probably stand apart in some way in your mind from each other as you just have this remarkable view from your airplane of the damage and devastation that you encounter. Can you tell us maybe a little bit about one or two of the more remarkable in some way, maybe memorable's not quite the right word, but what can you tell us about this experience that's really just left a mark on you?

COMMANDER ALBERT GIRIMONTE: Probably the first one that was most memorable for me was the tornadoes that I mentioned in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa in the spring of 2011. That was the first time I had seen such a large scale devastation in the United States, up close and personal vs. seeing it on the news and reading about it. It was just a real eye-opening site when viewed from the aircraft. The path of the storm was just so clearly visible, practically connecting the two cities from Birmingham all the way down to Tuscaloosa.

And it was spring time so there was a lot of green vegetation all around the surrounding areas and in the area where the storm's path was, it just seemed as though the storm had just sucked the color right out of the Earth, there was just nothing but brown and it was just a sight to see. And there was just debris field on either side and it was almost two miles at certain points connecting the two cities again about 50 miles apart. So for me, that was just pretty humbling to see.

The next one I would probably say is Sandy. So the reason why it's more memorable for me is because I had grown up in that area, so it was a little more personal because I could relate to the people and places that I was seeing on the ground. I was especially shocked by how quickly the transition was between the areas that sustained the brunt of the storm vs. those that were just a few miles away. And this was most evident along the Jersey Shore obviously where Atlantic City had fared pretty well in the storm, but only a few miles north there was just complete devastation in the Seaside Heights community. One of the things probably, the image that will last in most Americans and my mind as well is the one of the amusement park in Seaside Heights. Just seeing the roller coaster there and just gobbled up by the ocean essentially. I remember seeing it first hand and I was quite shocked by it and then there was just the massive devastation to the surrounding homes and businesses. It just really looked like a war zone - just wreckage, debris, uncontrolled fires everywhere. I'd never seen anything like it in the United States.

HOST: Thanks Al for sharing a little bit about that experience for us, I can only imagine how difficult it is to also view it that way. On a more personal note here as we transition just a little bit, I wanted to talk about your position with the NOAA Corps. As we mentioned you're here and you're speaking for the Office of National Geodetic Survey, but you're also part of NOAA's Corps and wanted to ask you a little bit about what made you want to join the NOAA Corps and what can you say to those of our listeners that may also be interested in something like this?

COMMANDER ALBERT GIRIMONTE: Well, I have a science degree so obviously that's what the NOAA Corps prides itself in is being the science agency or the science uniformed service so I was attracted to that aspect of the mission as well as the opportunity to continue to serve my country as a uniformed officer, I started off, like I said, previously in the Navy. But my service in the Navy could best be described as a sustainment of a state of readiness through rigorous training and in between those training periods, there was real-world operational missions. I enjoyed that culture and that mission, but eventually I felt it was time to move on. I wanted to do something else.

So in the NOAA Corps, we also train and sustain that readiness that I talked about but we also conduct real-world operations, pretty much we sustain real-world operations all the time too so the training and the readiness are overlapped with real-world operations so the opportunity to perform operational missions on almost a day-to-day basis, combined with the science aspect of the mission is really what convinced me to pursue a career in the NOAA Corps. Well, it certainly helps that the pay and benefits and travel are all great. If this appeals to anybody out there, I would encourage them to contact the NOAA Corps recruiter and visit the NOAA Corps website and get more information.

HOST: And now just to close out this episode, just my last question here for you today, I wanted to see if you had any closing words to leave our listeners with?

COMMANDER ALBERT GIRIMONTE: I just really appreciate you having me here today Kate to talk about this extremely valuable mission that we conduct and also about the NOAA Corps. It's been my pleasure and I really encourage your listeners to view the NGS Storms website to take a look at some of the imagery that we've collected, play around with some of the features and tools. We have imagery that dates back to coastal storms all the way back to Hurricane Isabel in 2003. So I really encourage the folks to kind of get a look at it. One of the things that we didn't touch on before that I'll bring up now is not only do you get to see some of the damage imagery from the storms again I mentioned going back to 2003, you can actually, there's a feature on the website that allows you to see the before imagery so you really get to assess the impact that whatever storm had to that particular community so I encourage folks to take a look at that.

HOST: Thanks so much Al for joining us today on Diving Deeper to share more about your experience collecting these powerful aerial images after disasters. To learn more, the website that was mentioned again is visiting storms.ngs.noaa.gov.

That's all for today's show - thanks for tuning in. Diving Deeper will be back in just two weeks!


[Shorts] Historical Maps and Charts

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/sep13/dds091213.mp3

Thu, 12 Sep 2013 12:37:48 -0400

Diving Deeper Shorts: Historical Maps and Charts
Episode 27 (September 12, 2013)

HOST: The Office of Coast Survey is home to a historical map and chart collection with more than 35,000 scanned images covering offshore and onshore areas including things like the nation's earliest nautical charts, city plans, and even Civil War battlefield maps. Today on Diving Deeper Shorts we will revisit our interview with Meredith Westington on the Historical Map and Chart Collection.

Let's listen in.

HOST: Meredith, what exactly is a historical map or chart?

MEREDITH WESTINGTON: Well Kate, in the context of NOAA's Historical Collection, a historical map or chart is any map or chart that's not used today because it's out of date. The product may not list the most current navigation obstacles, water depths, or shoreline--just to name a few items that are frequently updated on NOAA's nautical charts which are produced by NOAA's Office of Coast Survey. Other maps may depict historical events against the geographic landscape at that time. Our collection of maps depicting the Civil War battle sites are good examples.

HOST: How far back do our maps and charts go?

MEREDITH WESTINGTON: Well, that's an interesting question. Our collection of historical maps and charts dates to the 1700s, but the Office of Coast Survey, which formed in 1807 as the first federal scientific agency, produced its first charts in the early 1840s. That was after several decades of fundamental land-based and offshore survey work.

Some interesting things that you might find in the collection are from 1803 we have the King Plats of the City of Washington, which are public streets rights-of-way in Washington, DC. We have sketches of Anacapa Island in California which is from 1854, it was created by James McNeill Whistler, who some may remember for his great works of art, but he was actually employed briefly at the Office of Coast Survey as an engraver. And we also have a Chattanooga battlefield map from 1863 which is considered one of the best Civil War maps at that time. It's a far ranging collection.

HOST: How can the public access these charts and maps?

MEREDITH WESTINGTON: Well, you can go to the Office of Coast Survey website, which is nauticalcharts.noaa.gov, and from there you can link to the Historical Map and Chart Collection or you can go directly to our website by adding "/history" to our URL. From there you can click on a link to browse the collection. You can search by a number of parameters. You can preview the images and you can download the images. All the images are available to the public for free.

HOST: That's all for today's Diving Deeper Shorts, thanks for tuning in. Want to learn more? See our show notes for a link to the full episode. Diving Deeper is back in two weeks.


Finding the Robert J. Walker

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/aug13/dd082913.mp3

Thu, 29 Aug 2013 10:33:43 -0400

Diving Deeper: Finding the Robert J. Walker
Episode 51 (August 29, 2013)

HOST: Are you fascinated with shipwrecks? Then today's special Diving Deeper is just for you! We have a two-part interview today so be sure to hang in through the full episode. Let me give you just a little bit of history to set the stage on this particular shipwreck.

On June 21, as part of a memorial tribute to the 20 sailors who lost their lives when a federal survey ship sank on that day in 1860, NOAA vessels transited the area where the ship was thought to have gone down. In today's Diving Deeper, we will meet two of the staff involved with this effort as they tell us about their journey to find the U.S. Coast Survey Steamer, the Robert J. Walker.

First, let's kick off this episode with Vitad Pradith. Vitad is a physical scientist from NOAA's Office of Coast Survey. Hi Vitad, thanks for joining us today.

VITAD PRADITH: Hi Kate.

HOST: Vitad, before we get into how your team found the Walker, can you tell our listeners a little bit about the history of the Robert J. Walker?

VITAD PRADITH: Sure Kate. So the Walker is actually the U.S. Coast Survey Steamer, Robert J. Walker, and she was a Coast Survey vessel. We know that she was struck around 2:15 in the morning by a schooner about 12 miles off the coast of Atlantic City, New Jersey. She was struck in heavy seas and fog so from what I understand, she took on water pretty quickly, ran toward shore, and unfortunately she sank and was lost at sea. This occurred on June 21, 1860, ironically is also World Hydrography Day, marking about 153 years ago that the accident occurred. And for Coast Survey, it's actually our worst single disaster where we lost 20 of our colleagues.

HOST: Definitely a very tragic loss - to lose 20 sailors. This year, on the June 21 anniversary, the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson, from my understanding, was surveying in this general area where the Walker went down, as just part of normal survey operations, a project that you had going on. What did this additional survey entail to try to find the Walker?

VITAD PRADITH: Sure. Well, the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson and her very capable crew were performing hydrographic surveys in support of the Hurricane Sandy recovery work that's actually happening right now. So essentially she's using contemporary survey techniques with different forms of sonar, multibeam echosounder, side scan sonar, and advanced sensors, and her goal is to do what we've always done in terms of Coast Survey which is keeping our waterways safe for maritime commerce. So there wasn't much additional in terms of what we've already been doing, it's just we've been working in the same area as the Walker, potentially where she could have sank.

HOST: And timed just right there with that anniversary. So Vitad, what can you tell us about the surveys and how do you find a wreckage like this underwater?

VITAD PRADITH: Sure Kate, well, there's many things happening at the same time. Primarily, there's three tools that we use when we're trying to do this work. So the first tool is the multibeam echo sounder and what this does is it provides us with the 3D topography or the relief of the sea floor. The next tool is the side scanning sonar. And what this provides us is with a picture of the sea floor. It's almost akin to kind of peeling back the water itself and seeing what's on the actual sea floor. And the last sensor of the three is the advanced GPS sensors that not only tell us where we are, but also how the ship is moving through the water so how the ship is heaving up and down, if it's swaying side to side or if it's surging back and forth. So essentially, the GPS sensors answers the 'where' and the sonars answer the 'what.' But ultimately it's an intricate and well-choreographed dance and really in concert these tools allow us to accurately and precisely map the sea floor.

HOST: Great. Vitad, is this a fairly routine process? I'm sure things happen differently every research cruise, but did you have to do anything different with your general survey approach when you were looking specifically for the Walker in this case?

VITAD PRADITH: Not so much, Kate. In many ways, it was fairly routine in terms of how the survey was planned, how it was executed, we just had this other extra information that kind of clued us into potentially, hey look out, there might be something here too as well. You might want to key in on it as well, but that was other ancillary information that we gained from our partners too. What was different about this survey was we had the input of the Maritime Heritage Program as well as the archaeologists and what we gleaned from them was context. So essentially, it's applying hydrographic science to nautical archaeology and kind of the combination of the two fields itself is what made this project successful.

HOST: And what makes it very cool! And for those of us who are interested in shipwrecks and in this kind of a story, with this unique history behind this story for NOAA, it's nice to get that behind the scenes perspective from you today. What was the atmosphere on the ship or what was kind of the level of excitement when you did come across what looked like it might be the Walker in your scans?

VITAD PRADITH: Sure. The crew of the Thomas Jefferson, they were already briefed on essentially the significance of the Walker - what she was, her history. So there was extra attention paid on this actual survey itself just because of that, because the crew did realize, this is 20 of our colleagues that were lost at sea. From that standpoint, there was quite a bit of extra attention paid on the survey itself.

HOST: Vitad, when you did find that sort of general outline of the vessel on your scans, what happens next? What's the next step?

VITAD PRADITH: Well, the next step is what I call the human interpretation process if you will. So there's the two perspectives that I employ. In my world, it's the science based interpretation. So from an objective standpoint, I know, how did the sonar return look, what did it look like in the sonar record, but then there's an art to it as well and that's where you take a context to it as well. So you say, ok, I can see the shape of it. I sort of know that it's in the shape, the outline of a hull of a ship itself, so this is where we really rely on our colleagues for system context. So our colleagues with the Maritime Heritage Program, they're the ones that are the experts in this and they provide the context in terms of things such as the composition of the ship itself, any machinery, any specific feature that may be distinguishable in the science record itself.

And what they did is that they took the innate ability of humans to synthesize information. So they took our data, they did some diving observations as well, they had their own data, and they learned/processed and kind of put everything into context. They're the ones that actually provided the context to say yes, this is the actual Walker. So in summary, you have a ship or platform that's about 85 feet above the actual Walker and through some remote sensing techniques that we provided, we acoustically imaged something on the sea floor, but ultimately, it's the human eye that usually is going to be your best sensor. So in this case, science found the feature, but it was the art of interpretation that applied the context to tell us what this was.

HOST: Thanks Vitad for taking us through the hydrographic surveying portion of what went into finding the Walker and before I transition to your colleague, Jim Delgado, I just wanted to ask you if there was anything you wanted to leave listeners with from your experience on finding this particular shipwreck.

VITAD PRADITH: Sure. In many ways, this was much more than just finding a shipwreck. It was really about bringing our colleagues home. And how fitting it was to have the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson, named after the father of Coast Survey, honor them and I think we will continue to honor them by doing the same mission that Thomas Jefferson envisioned over 200 years ago by keeping mariners safe and keeping maritime commerce flowing.

HOST: Thanks so much Vitad for taking us through this part of the journey to find the Walker. Now, let's transition to our second interview today with James Delgado, Director of the Maritime Heritage Program at NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. Hi Jim, thanks for joining us.

JIM DELGADO: Hi there, glad to be here.

HOST: Jim, you were part of the dive team that located the Walker, correct?

JIM DELGADO: Yes indeed, privileged to be part of that team.

HOST: What can you tell us about this experience?

JIM DELGADO: You read about something in the history books and in the case of Walker, thanks to Captain Skip Theberge, we know a fair deal about Walker's history, but reading about it, seeing a portrait of it as we were fortunate enough to do at the Mariner's Museum is one piece of it, but it is in some ways, not to pun, it's flat, it's two-dimensional. It's like that picture, you want to go through that gateway and learn more. And that's what diving on these shipwrecks does, is it connects you physically to the past.

And so, for the team, as Matt Lawrence and Dan Basta and Tane Casserley and Russ Green all dropped down, what confronts you is this sense of that history, now three-dimensional, and real. To see the hole, punched in the side of the bow and to see blankets still there preserved in the mud where the crew tried to stop the leak as Walker was sinking and as the steam was going and they're racing for the lighthouse, makes something otherwise found in a newspaper online, come to life. And in that you begin to appreciate what it was like for those guys on the Walker, and the one lady, that night, when 72 of them sailed into harm's way and 20 of them lost their lives.

HOST: Thanks Jim for sharing with us a little bit about your experience and how tragic to have lost 20 sailors that terrible evening. What can you tell us about the characteristics of the ship or what were you able to see that helped confirm to you and your team that it was in fact the Walker and not another shipwreck?

JIM DELGADO: The New Jersey coast is littered with many wrecks, but fortunately there's an exceptional group of sport divers, wreck divers who regularly go out there, sleuth, try to discover more and it was thanks to some of those divers reports and in particular Captain Eddie Boyle, one of the pioneered dive boat captains on the old Gypsy. Eddie had dived down there and he'd a rectangular brass porthole and brought that up. And that's a pretty interesting thing. Most portholes that come off a wreck are round, but this rectangular one was a mystery.

He shared this with Joyce Steinmetz, who's a researcher at East Carolina University and Joyce has worked as an intern and in Washington, we knew her and she shared some of her research on wreck diving, but also on fishing in and around wrecks. So when the thought of trying to find Walker came up, we contacted Joyce. And she said, well, there is this one wreck and nobody knows its name, it's called the $25 wreck because that's what the price was to get the coordinates to dive it after a fisherman found it and sold those numbers to Captain Boyle.

She said, a lot of people have dived it, but no smoking gun yet, but there's this funny rectangular porthole. The Mariner's Museum had this portrait of the Walker and you look closely and Joyce sees that the portholes there are rectangular because this is a very early iron steamship. This is being built before gold is discovered in California in 1849. It goes into service in January of 1848, at a time when iron is about to make a big impact in the United States.

So, with that as a thought. More research showed that it had a particular rare type of engine. It was so big, it was in this area and all of that led, thanks to the opportunity to be out on the water doing some post-Hurricane Sandy surveys, and in the case of the sanctuary boat SRVX because they were on their way in response to a community request to try to find a historic lighthouse that Sandy had knocked off and into the ocean to see what was left and if it could be recovered as an important piece of history.

Chance came for two vessels to go out there and to take a look. Thomas Jefferson did an incredible survey with Vitad Pradith and Joyce Steinmetz joining him and that showed the wreck was in the right spot, just a mile and a half away from where it was thought to have hit the other ship. And it was pointed directly to shore, heading for the Absecon Inlet Lighthouse, which today still stands, and it was the beacon towards which these guys were racing as the cold water came in and extinguished the fires and down she went. The characteristics on the sonar showed two small engines lying in there and side wheels on each side and the bow had actually bent up, thrust up as if the ship had sunk rapidly by its head, hit the bottom, and just strained it and pushed that iron until the bow was rising towards the surface. And the shape of the bow could be figured out through the sonar and it matched the type of bow the Walker had. So with that, as sound paints incredible pictures, but you also need to put human eyes on it. In this case, the wreck was only 85 feet deep and so the Sanctuaries team, on the way to New York to look for the lighthouse, stopped, dropped into the water, and the engines not only looked the same as the patent drawings filed with the government for Walker's engines, the dimensions matched perfectly. The type of construction matched perfectly, the layout of the ship matched perfectly. So there were all these points where you could say, yes, yes, yes, and yes, even though your moving with visibility of only a few feet. The team's pretty skilled. They were able to map it all out in their mind's eye. They came up and I remember standing on the deck and asked Matt Lawrence, "well, what do you think?" And he goes, "it's the Walker." That was a great moment, because what had previously been an obstruction marked on the chart was now a wreck that in many ways is a very important ship for the entire country and in particular for all of us in NOAA because this was the largest loss of life ever in the history of NOAA or a predecessor agency.

HOST: Jim, will the Walker be removed from the sea floor or will it remain there and be preserved in this final resting place?

JIM DELGADO: Walker sits on the bottom in an active area of ocean where people fish, people dive, none of that's going to change. Walker is owned by the U.S. Government as a Coast Survey ship, like Navy ships it would never really be abandoned and it would remain the property of the government and in this case it still belongs to NOAA. We're not going to make the Walker a marine sanctuary, we're not going to put any fences up, we're not going to require any permits, we want to enhance the diving experience and have people gain more appreciation by working with them and helping facilitate more mapping, more study, the idea being no restrictions, but we do ask that people don't take souvenirs. Anything that has been found already, we're working with local communities to put those on display in area museums so that people who don't dive can learn more about Walker's story and we're looking to try to establish a permanent memorial to the 20 who died somewhere close to the wreck site, probably in Atlantic City itself.

HOST: Jim, what is the goal or the purpose for keeping this area open for wreck diving?

JIM DELGADO: What we want to do is with this one ship in particular, this is a perfect opportunity for us to work hand in hand with the rec diving, sport diving community. There's some great folks out there that do a tremendous amount of work. There's folks who researched this history. Gary Gentile has written incredible books about the wrecks of New Jersey, Dan Lieb heads up the New Jersey Historical Diving Association, there's the New Jersey Maritime Museum headed by Deb Whitcraft, all of these people can be powerful partners in sharing the story and learning more about what's on the bottom of the ocean and if anything should ever come up, any other artifacts, they could be treated and go on display in a museum if they really help make the connection and give people that sense of, this is not just something I read in the newspaper account, this is not just that picture on the wall, this is real.

HOST: So James, my last question for you today, is just to share your thoughts on finding and preserving shipwrecks just in general throughout your history of the things that you've worked on. Why is this important for us to do - to find these shipwrecks and to preserve these areas and what can we learn from it?

JIM DELGADO: I think questing to find shipwrecks is part of an ongoing thing that we all need to do as human beings to better understand the oceans. It's not just that they cover so much of the planet, it's because the ocean is vital to us. That's one of the key missions of NOAA. It's to explore, to learn, to preserve wherever possible, to understand how the oceans drive our weather, how they create oxygen, how they're the source of half the world's food, how they're a highway that connects us and why the Coast Survey has to chart our coasts to keep the stream of commerce going because 90 percent of our goods move by water. All of that is important and if we look at heritage, maritime heritage, not just in the national marine sanctuaries, but beyond and see how this connects us as Americans as human beings to the oceans, perhaps in that, we can learn a few things.

One - that we have a stake in this planet and we have used this ocean and at times abused it and that history is reflected. That these places on the bottom are powerful links, not just to big events, but to ordinary people like you and me who occasionally are rendered extraordinary by exceptional circumstances or who get caught up in things bigger than themselves and the ocean is one of those places. But it's also an opportunity through these discoveries to remind people, particularly young people, that there is a vast ocean of opportunity as well and our chance to reach out to explore. You don't need to join Starfleet to boldly go and to seek out new life and evidence of old civilization. You can do that in the ocean, so join us at NOAA, join many of our partners working in other agencies and states and in non-profits. The oceans need the attention, they need our help, and they also need, and I think a discovery like this helps remind us that understanding that we are inexorably linked to the oceans as President John F. Kennedy said, "the sea is in our blood literally," and it has been the source of our life and it is indeed the only real source of ongoing life this planet has, so we need to pay heed and take care of the oceans.

HOST: Thanks so much to Vitad and Jim for joining us today on Diving Deeper to share more about your discovery of the Robert J. Walker. To learn more, visit oceanservice.noaa.gov.

That's all for today's show. Thanks for tuning in to Diving Deeper. We'll be back in two weeks!


[Shorts] Oil Spill Response

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/aug13/dds081513.mp3

Thu, 15 Aug 2013 11:38:57 -0400

Diving Deeper Shorts: Oil Spill Response
Episode 26 (August 15, 2013)

HOST: Get a glimpse into how NOAA responds to oil spills and why spills happen in today's Diving Deeper Shorts. We will revisit our interview with Amy Merten from NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration.

Let's listen in.

HOST: Amy, before we get into how we actually respond to oil spills, it would be great to talk about why oil spills happen in the first place.

AMY MERTEN: Well, they happen mainly because we are so dependent on oil in the U.S. We use about 700 million gallons of oil every single day. And how do we use oil? We're heating our homes, we're fueling our cars, we use oil to make plastics for you name it - toys, radios, computers, and even medicines. Oil's a fundamental part of our economy and our way of life.

If we continue to need oil, we're going to continue to have spill risks. We have oil moving around the country in high volumes - in ships and barges and pipelines and trucks - so that oil is getting to us minute by minute. So the ships have the potential to cause these larger spills that we think about and we see on TV, but really the biggest source of oil to our waterways is from nonpoint source, kind of the small spills in parking lots from you and me and everyone else is actually contributing to more oil pollution in the water than a big ship would.

HOST: How do we clean up after oil spills occur?

AMY MERTEN: Well we have a couple of tools that we can use to start cleaning up a spill after they occur. It really depends on what type of oil gets spilled; all oil's different and it's made up of lots of different other chemicals so it behaves differently sometimes than what you might expect. The weather really impacts what we can do, so if it's a stormy day, there's not a lot we can do. It depends on how far away the spill is from bird and animal resources, how far away it is from people, on what we can actually do.

So we tend to use a few key tools that we've been using for a long time. So kind of our first approach is trying to use things in a mechanical capacity, so we use booms, which are floating barriers that keep the oil contained. So you can put a boom around a vessel or you can put a boom to block an inlet or a wetland area so the oil doesn't go into that area, making it harder to clean up. And we also have these specialized boats that skim the oil off of the surface, so taking advantage of oil floating on water. Skim it into a container and then take it back and offload it and recycle it and reuse it.

So that's kind of what we like to do if we can, but we have some other things we can do. We can burn oil in place, so right there on the water, if we can get it thick enough, we can actually burn it there. We can burn it in a marsh. We can also use things called dispersants and what dispersants are they're chemicals that actually break the slick up into smaller droplets. It doesn't remove the oil from the environment, it just makes it smaller, gets it off the surface. So you might use that if you're trying to protect birds so if you have a lot of birds in the area and you're going to trade off that resource and put the oil into the water column. So, we don't use those very much, but we do have them available.

HOST: Amy, what's the role of the National Ocean Service in responding to oil spills?

AMY MERTEN: Well, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency are actually the first federal responders for a spill. So, the Office of Response and Restoration, which sits in the National Ocean Service, along with staff from other offices in NOAA work to support the federal on-scene coordinators - the Coast Guard and EPA. So what we do, in the Office of Response and Restoration for a spill, is we first provide trajectory models, so forecasts of where the oil is going to go.

We actually get on-scene and conduct overflights to assess the extent of the spill and ground truth our models, so we have a lot of experience doing that. We spend a lot of time coordinating shoreline assessment surveys and spending a lot of time walking shorelines and calculating how much oil is there. And then we work with the Coast Guard and the responsible party to evaluate what the cleanup options are available and again we try to do this in the most practical and environmentally sound way, so we jointly develop a plan on how to actually do the cleanup.

HOST: That's all for today's Diving Deeper Shorts. Want to learn more? See our show notes for a link to the full episode. Diving Deeper is back in two weeks - see you soon!


NOAA Gulf of Mexico Disaster Response Center

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/july13/dd072513.mp3

Thu, 25 Jul 2013 15:13:41 -0400

Diving Deeper: NOAA Gulf of Mexico Disaster Response Center
Episode 50 (July 25, 2013)

HOST: Join us today on Diving Deeper as we visit the NOAA Disaster Response Center! I'm your host Kate Nielsen.

Our guide for today's tour is Charlie Henry who's joining us by phone. Charlie is the director of NOAA's Disaster Response Center. Hi Charlie, welcome to our show.

CHARLIE HENRY: Hi Kate, thank you for inviting me.

HOST: So Charlie, first, can you tell us briefly what the Disaster Response Center, also known as the DRC, what this is?

CHARLIE HENRY: OK, the Disaster Response Center in many ways is a facility, it's a building, it was built in Mobile, Alabama, and I'll tell you more about the Center as we go along, but really I like to think of the program as two different parts. One is the resource that the Center provides and the resource that the staff provides in addressing emergency response issues in the region.

The Disaster Response Center, which officially we call the NOAA Gulf of Mexico Disaster Response Center, because of its physical location in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. We look at the Center as providing a physical asset, a hardened asset, and a resource for federal response to a disaster. At the same time, the DRC provides a home for a group of folks that provide different types of support in planning for emergency operations and building resiliency to the Northern Gulf of Mexico. That's what I think of as the program elements to the Disaster Response Center.

On one hand we have a very new, high tech, hardened facility, 15,000 square foot, built to withstand Category 5 hurricane winds. Has a Force 5 tornado shelter built into the facility. It's purposely built on high ground so it's not in any risk or danger from storm surge or any flooding events. And it's designed and built to be able to withstand what hopefully is the worst that nature can dish out and be a physical resource to assist in the response to that disaster after the fact. And then second is the people that make up the DRC that work day to day trying to look at building a better response posture, a better response community in the Gulf of Mexico. The two together is what encompasses what we call NOAA's Gulf of Mexico Disaster Response Center.

HOST: And why are you located in Mobile, Alabama?

CHARLIE HENRY: Mobile, Alabama was selected as the home for NOAA's Gulf of Mexico Disaster Response Center primarily because of its central location along the Northern Gulf of Mexico coastline. If you took an 'X' and made an 'X' kind of dead center across the Northern Gulf of Mexico coast, you'd be pretty close to where Mobile, Alabama is. And Mobile, Alabama also was an area that was fairly void of a lot of other NOAA resources so it fills a gap in our continuous coverage across the Gulf of Mexico.

HOST: So Charlie you touched on this a little bit there at the end of your last response, but why did NOAA need to have such a facility?

CHARLIE HENRY: Well, I think the question's actually even larger, it's why did the federal government believe that they needed additional federal resources to plan for and to assist in disaster response. And this goes back to the history of the NOAA Disaster Response Center, in that after the 2005 hurricane season, it was identified that there was a need for additional federal resources in the Gulf of Mexico in the event of the next disaster and we know that incidents such as Hurricane Katrina and Rita are going to reoccur. The history of the Gulf of Mexico is the vulnerability to hurricanes, so we knew that those types of events would reoccur.

And you kind of put in perspective, why do we need a something like a hardened facility like the Disaster Response Center. After Hurricane Katrina when we responded, most of us were working out of tents or out of make-shift trailer facilities or anything that we could find to be able to set up and manage different field command posts to work on that federal response. And that's in part because the nature of a disaster. When there's a disaster, a lot of facilities that may normally be available are no longer available. Having a hardened facility like the Gulf of Mexico Disaster Response Center provide a resource that's available not just to NOAA, NOAA owns it and maintains it, but we see it as a facility that we use jointly with our partners such as FEMA and the U.S. Coast Guard and the state of Alabama and other federal agencies to assist in response.

HOST: That's a great segway to our next question. So the word "disaster" is part of the Center's name. What do you mean by disaster? Are you focused solely on things like hurricanes?

CHARLIE HENRY: Disaster is kind of a buzz word and really I like to think that we provide, in our thinking and planning we look at all hazards, not just natural disasters such as hurricanes, but also manmade incidents such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. But when you think of what is a disaster, incidents and accidents happen every day that have an impact to a family and to them, that's a disaster. So it's really a matter of scale or magnitude. When we think of disasters, we're thinking about events that have an impact to a series of communities, towns, states, such as you would with a large event such as Hurricane Katrina or Rita or with a major oil spill such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. So when we think of disasters, we really think of something that because of the scale and magnitude, it's impacting or exceeding what a local community could respond to and it requires an intervention or the assistance of the state and the federal government to assist in that response and recovery activities.

HOST: Charlie, I imagine that your daily operations at the DRC, that it changes leading up to and then of course following a storm. Can you tell us what the DRC looks like at this time?

CHARLIE HENRY: Well, today actually we have a training activity going on. We have a four-day workshop that's being hosted by us, but it's actually being put on by the U.S. Coast Guard on incident command system and this is how they manage emergencies and disasters. And so we have about 40 people that are actually running drills and activities as part of that training event in our big operations center and using the break-out rooms, it's set up pretty much how you would during a response because they're simulating that to do training in what's called the incident command system. So if you walked in today you'd think there might be an event going on, but there isn't, it's just a training activity.

We do know that this time of year we're in, the hurricane season and we look at those storms, and we look at what the potential trajectories may be of those storms and what might be the impact and then as they get closer, usually three to four days out, we have a better idea of what might be at risk and then the nature of the Center may change because then we'll be activating a lot of our agreements with our partner agencies such as the U.S. Coast Guard and others on where we might be pre-positioning people and equipment to be in the right structure to manage those response operations after the fact.

An example would be after Hurricane Isaac last year which was actually right after we dedicated the new facility. We provided support to the Coast Guard on the front end to relocate a lot of their assets to high ground to have it in the right posture to respond and then after that tropical storm passed and the flooding events, we supported a large amount of the FEMA recovery efforts directly within the facility, housed their people, and helped them manage their operations. We were primarily providing the host in that situation with FEMA personnel, but we provided that environment for them to work in and do their job effectively.

HOST: And Charlie, what can you tell us about your staff?

CHARLIE HENRY: The office side complex is actually very small. I only have a total of four staff including myself. And then we have staff that are co-located within the Center from other program offices such as NOAA's Marine Debris Division, National Marine Fisheries Restoration Center, and we have other staff that programmed to come in. We want the co-located staff to reflect those folks across NOAA that are actively involved in planning for, assisting during responses. And just as importantly, building that resiliency so that we have less issues in the future. And that's the ultimate goal of the Center itself as far as staffing is those staff that are co-located here that work collaboratively together for the same goals.

HOST: That's great so it's a really unique position then that you all provide as that hub and being that central facility that all of the right folks can come together...

CHARLIE HENRY: Yeah, and let me point out that I think that that is really what makes the Disaster Response Center kind of a unique entity in that it never was really thought of to be a program office on its own. It is really to provide that environment that we can have folks from different program offices and different line offices within NOAA and connections with other federal agencies that we work together for a common goal. So the program staff will always be small, but hopefully the impact that we have to the larger response community will have a great effect.

HOST: Great, thanks. So Charlie, can you tell us a little bit about yourself maybe - how did you get to this position as director for NOAA's Disaster Response Center?

CHARLIE HENRY: Well, I guess first I had to apply for it, but I think you're asking in a broader sense. Actually I really feel fortunate to have this position in that, I think it really builds upon my history working with NOAA over the last 25 years. My background is in chemistry and marine science and I started out working with NOAA actually when I was at Louisiana State University as a scientist under contract to NOAA to respond to emergencies and I worked spills such as the Exxon Valdez and the Kuwait oil fires and many other disasters as basically a contractor to NOAA.

But I really loved NOAA, I thought NOAA was a great organization and I was fortunate enough at the time a position opened up in the Gulf of Mexico for what is called the Scientific Support Coordinator and the Scientific Support Coordinator is part of the Office of Response and Restoration and their number one role is to be that front line in the field support providing decision making support and technical support to the U.S. Coast Guard and other federal on-scene coordinators during emergencies. And I did that for 13 years and kind of as things moved along, I thought it was the best job in NOAA, in fact I know it was the best job in NOAA and I never had any thought or intent to change jobs and I thought that was how I was going to continue my career within NOAA.

And then there was an incident that happened called the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and I responded very quickly to the Deepwater Horizon in fact I was called probably two and a half hours after the initial explosion and went on-scene working with the Coast Guard and as the response grew and as the NOAA response, which was a critical element throughout the whole incident grew, I really recognized that there was a real role in building a stronger and better response posture across NOAA. Not that we don't have a great team of scientists that do work that just blows my mind all the time, but I could see that role that we could provide additional coordination and connections between different groups that we can leverage the expertise that we have with NOAA to apply it to different emergencies.

And so through that process of working the Deepwater Horizon oil spill where I had a huge team of brilliant people just doing things that was exciting, the opportunity for the director for the Disaster Response Center opened up and thinking about it, I thought that would be a position that would really have an impact. My real role, my real goal is to be able to have an impact that we do things better and I always believe that you can always improve and even though you can look back at the history of our organization and the history of response, we have a lot of things that we can hang our hat on. Every time I look at it, I go, yeah, but we could do it a little bit better and that's really what we do. We do that with our forecasting for hurricanes, we do that for our forecasting for tornadoes, we do that on how we provide forecasting for oil trajectories, we do that on how we coordinate with different agencies to build that better response and better educated response community.

And I saw that the Center, the DRC, as a real opportunity that could add value to activities that were already going on and build upon the successes that we already had in NOAA and how NOAA connects to our other federal partners. And I saw that it was a vehicle to really expand and improve across not only the Gulf of Mexico but the experience that we had to build the response posture across the United States. And so I applied for the job and I was fortunate enough to get it and I've been the director now for almost two years and we're coming along and building a program to do just that.

HOST: Thanks Charlie - what an amazing career you've had so far. You mentioned earlier that the DRC may host trainings, kind of like what you have going on this week. And I wanted to find out more how your facility is set up for these kinds of trainings?

CHARLIE HENRY: That's a good question. One of the things that we look at is trying to create an environment that's very conducive to provide that training. Our main training facility is actually also our operations center and we think that you basically respond as you train so doing training in an operating center type environment we think is a very good thing, very conducive to the activities we do. It's also very flexible space. We have a very large room with adjacent break-out rooms and adjacent conference rooms. It has ability to connect to the internet all through the facility so that we're very well wired. We also have, which I think is very unique, we have a 24 screen video display system on one wall that provides, during operational events, a situational awareness wall, but at the same time during training events, it provides a very valuable asset to assist in training. We could have multiple screens showing different types of information, feeding a variety of information.

But my goal is, my vision is, that being the hub, being kind of a center hub, that we coordinate a lot of these activities whether it's a actual disaster where we're actually linking in different elements within NOAA and other federal agencies so that we can make sure that we're on the same page on what the threats are and how we're responding to those threats. That that same technology we can use to then link people together in training environments and training venues, whether it's drills or even just training activities, such as a lecture series or whatever, but build that almost as good as being there in person type of feeling to make that very effective and that's a very big challenge.

HOST: So let's do a little training right now for our listeners as part of this visit to the Disaster Response Center. Given that we are in hurricane season, what advice can you give folks to help us all better prepare before the storm?

CHARLIE HENRY: Well, that's a simple one in that always have a plan. People sometimes let the oncoming storm get ahead of them, but the number one thing that anyone can do is always have a plan and the plan is not just for themselves and their immediate family, but you should plan also for your pets and plan for your property. Kind of the golden rule of emergency response is you want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. And that applies to every member of the public as well. If they have a good plan, if they've safely put themselves in a location that they're safe, they're protected, then that doesn't take resources away from the other response needs. So that's the number thing that you have to do is that you have to have a plan in advance.

Finally Charlie, to close out our episode for today, what do you want to leave folks with, what do you want us to remember about the Disaster Response Center?

CHARLIE HENRY: That's a good question. I think what I leave people with is that the Disaster Response Center is a state-of-the-art facility, but it's just a facility. It's a resource that we hope will add value when there is an event. That we can make a difference because I want to make a difference and that's what NOAA does, we try to make a difference, but I think the unique thing about the Disaster Response Center is that it's a concept of pulling people together from different groups with the common goal in trying to build a better response community and a better response posture so that the end result is that we have more resiliency and less impact from storms and that's our ultimate goal is to build a resilient community that when there's a threat from hurricanes or other disasters, that we're prepared for and that we weather those storms and that we recover with the least amount of threat to the public and to property and the environment.

HOST: Thanks Charlie for joining us today on Diving Deeper as we explored NOAA's Disaster Response Center. To learn more, please visit oceanservice.noaa.gov/hazards/drc.

That's all for today's show. Remember, if you have questions on this episode or the National Ocean Service in general, you can contact us at nos.info@noaa.gov. And if you're on social media, don't forget you can find us, it's usoceangov, on Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube; and noaaocean on Twitter and Pinterest. Please join us for our next episode in two weeks.


[Shorts] Remote Sensing

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/july13/dds071113.mp3

Thu, 11 Jul 2013 15:26:04 -0400

Diving Deeper Shorts: Remote Sensing
Episode 25 (July 11, 2013)

HOST: Today's Diving Deeper Shorts explores the science of remote sensing. In just a few minutes, we will explore what remote sensing is, some of the benefits, and specifically how remote sensing supports emergency response efforts. Follow along as we revisit a past episode where we talked with Chris Parrish from NOAA's National Geodetic Survey.

Let's listen in.

HOST: Chris, is there any additional explanation that you can give us on remote sensing?

CHRIS PARRISH: When I explain remote sensing to people, I'll typically put it in terms of examples of people that I actually know and work with, who work in the field. So for example, I have one colleague who works for a large commercial satellite imagery company, and that company operates Earth observation satellites, they supply imagery to the U.S. government and military as well as to other commercial firms. I also work with a lot of people, including several of my NOAA coworkers, who are involved in collecting, processing, analyzing remotely sensed data collected from aircraft so that could include aerial imagery or light detection and ranging, lidar data, that's used for topographic mapping, and those data will be used for just a huge variety of applications. It could be anything from forestry to agriculture to military applications, ecosystem mapping and monitoring, emergency response, climate change for example. And in our office, we typically use the data for coastal mapping, particularly mapping the national shoreline.

HOST: What are some of the real benefits of remote sensing?

CHRIS PARRISH: Kate, in answering the question of what the benefits of remote sensing are, I think it's kind of helpful to go back to when people first started putting cameras on airplanes or even before that, going back to the 1800s when people were putting cameras on balloons or even on kites, and to ask the question, what was the motivation for doing that? And a lot of times the motivation was simply that people wanted to be able to map a relatively large area a lot more efficiently and probably a lot more cost effectively than if they had to do it through a ground survey. And I think that today, a lot of those same motivating factors often hold true.

And then just to throw in a related benefit, a lot of times, remote sensing is the only feasible way to collect data in areas that might be dangerous or in some cases, really impossible to put people on the ground to collect the data. And you can imagine a really remote area in Alaska as maybe an example of that.

HOST: How does remote sensing support emergency response perhaps following something like a hurricane?

CHRIS PARRISH: Kate, our office, NOAA NGS is pretty frequently called on to respond to hurricanes and other disasters. Typically what we'll do is we'll try to fly the impacted areas as soon after an event as possible. So one of the really common goals is to be able to acquire imagery and have it online for people to download within 24 hours of a hurricane making landfall and we'll try to provide geo-referenced aerial imagery, which means that each image pixel is associated with a particular set of map coordinates, a latitude/longitude for example, and the way that's used - first responders can use it in looking at what the most heavily impacted areas are, sometimes property owners can use it if they've been displaced and they want to know what's going on with their property, was it damaged.

HOST: That's all for today's Diving Deeper Shorts. Want to learn more? Go to oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast.php and click on the October 2010 podcast archive to listen to the full episode. Diving Deeper is back in two weeks - see you soon!


World Hydrography Day and the Robert J. Walker

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/june13/dd062013.mp3

Thu, 20 Jun 2013 08:08:28 -0400

Diving Deeper: World Hydrography Day and the Robert J. Walker
Episode 49 (June 20, 2013)

HOST: Today on Diving Deeper we will talk about World Hydrography Day and some history related to NOAA's Office of Coast Survey. I'm your host Kate Nielsen.

To help us explore this topic, we will be joined by Rear Admiral Gerd Glang. Rear Admiral Glang is the director of NOAA's Office of Coast Survey as well as the U.S. National Hydrographer. Hi Admiral Glang, welcome to our show.

RDML GLANG: Hi Kate, thanks for inviting me here today.

HOST: So Admiral Glang, we have a lot to cover today! First, we're going to talk just a little bit briefly about your office, NOAA's Office of Coast Survey. When was the Coast Survey founded and why did we need to have such an office?

RDML GLANG: So the history of Coast Survey goes back to the very beginning of the United States when our country was just 15 states and territories and we were all clustered on the East Coast of America. Nearly all of our commerce had to move between the states by coastal shipping. There weren't really roads or ways to move things over land. And all foreign trade too, that had to come to us from overseas as well into our ports and that really was important especially for a brand new nation like the United States.

So we were very much a leading maritime nation right from the beginning. In February 1807, the Congress acted on President Thomas Jefferson's recommendation and adopted a resolution for a Survey of the Coast, and this was partly in response to recognize that for ships coming in and out of our ports and harbors they really needed to have accurate nautical charts. So Jefferson, being a man of science, understood that if you wanted to safely bring a ship in and out of our ports or sail up and down the coast that it was really important to have accurate charts or surveys. These are the nautical charts that mariners still use to this day. This Act of 1807 authorized the President to cause a survey to be taken of the coast. And in this way the U.S. Coast Survey became the federal government's first scientific agency.

HOST: And what is the Coast Survey responsible for today?

RDML GLANG: Well, so the Coast Survey is still the nation's chart maker, just like we were 200 years ago. We still do the same mission of producing over a thousand nautical charts. It's a charting mission that's not going to end soon because the sea floor is always changing. Coastal storms will change where the shallow areas are, new marine debris or obstructions appear on the sea floor, we discover old wrecks, sometimes new wrecks happen. It's important that we chart these wrecks accurately to help inform mariners so that they can navigate their ships safely.

HOST: What makes charting or surveying different today than it was 100 years ago?

RDML GLANG: What makes charting different nowadays is that we use much different technology. We use sonars that generate a complete picture of the bottom of the sea floor with very accurate depth measurements. It's the way that nautical charts are being used nowadays that's changing as well. While we still have the traditional paper charts, more and more mariners, and soon they'll have to, use electronic navigation charts. So these are the charts that operate the electronic displays and systems on the bridges of these large ships that mariners rely on more and more.

HOST: Admiral Glang, when I introduced you today to our listeners, not only are you the director of NOAA's Office of Coast Survey, but you also are the U.S. National Hydrographer. What are your responsibilities with this position?

RDML GLANG: Navigation is a global enterprise. Ships come and go from our ports, go around the world, come back. There are mariners from other countries that sail across the oceans and come to our ports. So the chart, the nautical chart, is really a graphical tool to communicate to mariners how to come into our ports. It gives them the directions, it tells them what's dangerous.

In order to portray the nautical chart in a standard way, so that mariners from all around the world see a common picture with the same kinds of symbology, the same kinds of colors, the same way to identify wrecks and obstructions, we have to collaborate around the world with other hydrographic organizations. So as the U.S. National Hydrographer, I represent the United States navigation charting interests to these other countries. And we work with them very closely to try to make sure we've got standards on what a chart should like look and especially important are the standards used to collect the depth measurements that are portrayed on the charts.

HOST: So I can see how these two positions are connected and how it would make sense to have one person hold the role of both director of NOAA's Office of Coast Survey as well as U.S. National Hydrographer. Can you tell us a little bit about what is hydrography, maybe define this term for the audience?

RDML GLANG: Sure, I talked about the nautical chart and the science that lies underneath the nautical chart is hydrography. Hydrography is this work of mapping the ocean floor, of getting the accurate depth measurements and locations for things like these rocks, wrecks, shallow areas that are dangers to surface navigation. Hydrography is really the original science from which oceanography came. But the way we talk about hydrography here in NOAA and Coast Survey it's really the science that lies underneath the nautical chart.

HOST: So let's switch gears a little bit from the history and the current mission of Coast Survey to the significance of tomorrow, June 21, or World Hydrography Day. Why is this day important?

RDML GLANG: So June 21, World Hydrography Day was adopted by the International Hydrographic Organization. It's our annual day when the 81 maritime nations that belong to the International Hydrographic Organization take time to explain to the public what hydrography is and what we do and why it's important.

HOST: And what is the theme or the focus for this year's World Hydrography Day and how do different countries celebrate?

RDML GLANG: This year's theme for World Hydrography Day flows right along with one of the top global concerns - the economy. So, key to a strong and growing maritime economy is safe and efficient shipping, that's what gives us reliable commerce, that's what helps us protect lives at sea and lives at shore as well, and that's what helps protect the environment. And we get all those benefits out of accurate and timely navigation charts.

HOST: Admiral Glang, besides the fact that World Hydrography Day is celebrated every year on June 21st, is there another reason that this date has significance for your office?

RDML GLANG: Sure. At NOAA, we're using World Hydrography Day to acknowledge the sinking of one of our own Coast Survey vessels, the Robert J. Walker. One hundred and fifty three years ago on June 21, 1860, Coast Survey had the largest disaster in our history. As a result of the sinking of the Walker, we lost 20 of our own sailors.

HOST: And what can you tell us about this tragic sinking of the Walker?

RDML GLANG: So this is probably one of the historical injustices, I guess you could say, because we don't know a whole lot. What we know about the sinking of the Walker is what we've obtained from some of the contemporary newspaper articles that reported the sinking of the ship.

Sometime in the early morning on June 21st, as the Walker was sailing from Norfolk to New York, it was hit by another ship. The newspaper articles tell us that seas were somewhat rough, the ship went down quickly, and no formal investigation was ever undertaken out of that.

HOST: How truly tragic to have lost 20 staff that evening with this ship's sinking. How are the crew remembered for this ultimate sacrifice?

RDML GLANG: Well, just as there was no inquiry into what happened, what were the circumstances of the sinking of the ship, we haven't yet had any formal recognition for the loss of this crew or the fact that they paid the ultimate price in the service of the country.

HOST: And Admiral Glang, how will Coast Survey honor the lost crew of the Walker this year, on, what you've noted, is the 153rd anniversary?

RDML GLANG: So purely by coincidence, tomorrow is the anniversary of the accident and it's the celebration of World Hydrography Day, so we're going to use that opportunity to officially honor these 20 lost sailors. They gave their lives while supporting hydrographic surveys while supporting our Survey of the Coast mission.

One of the activities we've got planned is the NOAA Survey Ship Thomas Jefferson will actually be searching for, where we believe, the wreck site is of the Walker. They're going to take a moment and pay tribute to the crew by laying a wreath out over the area of the wreck. At the same time, here in Silver Spring, we're inviting NOAA employees to come and observe the day with us, it'll be just a very brief ceremony. While the Thomas Jefferson is laying the wreath at the approximate site of the wreck off the coast of New Jersey, we'll have a ceremony here in which we'll ring the ship's bell 20 times - once for each of the sailors who died.

HOST: Admiral Glang, what do we know about the location of the Walker?

RDML GLANG: Well, we think we know where the wreck is, but it's never been officially documented. We're working with NOAA's Maritime Heritage Program and a researcher from East Carolina University to use contemporary accounts from recreational divers and some of our other wreck database information to try and confirm where we think the potential site is and then by actually having divers go down from NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary Program - these are actually experts in marine archaeology - they're going to try to take a look at where we think this spot is and where we think there's some wreckage from the Walker and try to make a positive identification.

HOST: I'm not sure if there's statistics out there for this, but are we safer today, when navigating U.S. waters, than 150 years ago? Of course I understand that we know more about our waters now, we have surveyed and produced more nautical charts, but there are also more vessels in the water. What can you tell us about navigation safety today?

RDML GLANG: Well, certainly our charts are much more complete, much more accurate than they were 150 years ago. Keep in mind that the mission the Walker was on is the same mission that we pursue today. Our challenge, as always, is to survey a continuously changing coastal area and coastal ocean sea floor. We need that hydrographic data to update our charts and to make sure we know where these dangers to navigation are so that ships can sail safely.

That's an ongoing challenge - in many ways we're always playing catch up because of these changes and we also have a pretty large area that we're responsible for charting. There are over three and a half million square nautical miles of U.S. coastal waters that are represented in our nautical charts. And earlier I talked about ships being much bigger now than they were, they have much deeper drafts, so charting precision and accuracy are now even more important than they were 150 years ago.

HOST: Admiral Glang, in wrapping up our conversation today, do you have any final closing words to leave our listeners with?

RDML GLANG: I think there are two thoughts maybe I could leave with your listeners. The first is, if you're hearing this on Friday, June 21, take a moment to think about the 20 sailors who died in the service of their nation, in this particular case working for the Coast Survey. The second point is to think about the purpose of World Hydrography Day and how nautical charts enable reliable commerce, create jobs, keep our goods flowing in and out of our country.

HOST: Thanks Admiral Glang for joining us today on Diving Deeper for a great history lesson on NOAA's Coast Survey, World Hydrography Day, and the tragic collision of the Coast Survey Steamer Walker back in 1860. To learn more, please visit nauticalcharts.noaa.gov.

That's all for today's show. Remember, if you have questions on this episode or the National Ocean Service in general, you can contact us at nos.info@noaa.gov. And if you're on social media, don't forget you can find us, it's usoceangov, on Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube; and noaaocean on Twitter and Pinterest. Please join us for our next episode in two weeks.


[Shorts] Research in our National Marine Sanctuaries

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/june13/dds060613.mp3

Thu, 06 Jun 2013 10:12:27 -0400

Diving Deeper Shorts: Research in our National Marine Sanctuaries
Episode 24 (June 6, 2013)

HOST: Today's Diving Deeper Shorts explores research at our national marine sanctuaries. Our national marine sanctuaries are special areas that protect important marine ecosystems around the country - making these unique places for research as well. NOAA scientists and resource managers closely monitor everything from water quality to living resources to habitats, all to better understand overall ecosystem health and look for trends over time. To learn more about research in our sanctuaries, let's revisit a past episode where we talked with Steve Gittings from NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

Let's listen in.

HOST: Is there a science program for our sanctuaries, something that ties all of the aspects together?

STEVE GITTINGS: There is a science program. It's a very diverse one and it's diverse because the needs for all the marine sanctuaries are so different. As we said, they range in habitats from kelp forests to coral reefs and ledge communities off Georgia, Humpback Whale Marine Sanctuary in Hawaii, and then American Samoa is an example of a Western Pacific reef. So because the resources themselves vary so much, so does the science.

We have a program we call the Conservation Science Program in the Marine Sanctuary System and these are the types of science programs that link the science itself to management activities that go on in the sanctuaries. There's also what we call a Maritime Heritage Program, which deals with the archaeological investigations and resource management needs of the program.

HOST: Steve, can you highlight a few examples of some of these research activities?

STEVE GITTINGS: Some of the examples of the more interesting work that happens in our program, and this will give you a flavor of the nature and diversity of the science. Whales get a lot of attention in the Marine Sanctuary Program, not because they're charismatic as much as they're protected species and the Sanctuary Program helps support the research related to restoring species that are endangered or threatened, so whales fit into that category.

In the northeast, one of the research projects had to do with identifying the locations of high densities of certain species of whales, particularly right whales which are so endangered, and following that, identifying the locations of shipping lanes that were nearby and it just so happened that the shipping lanes cut right through one of the areas of highest abundance for right whales and other species in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. We were able to eventually get a change in the shipping lane locations off Boston. They were shifted only a few miles to the north, but they reduced the risk of collisions with whales by something between 60 and 80 percent, depending on the species of whales that you were talking about. So that was a very good management application of one of our research activities.

We're also mapping sensitive areas within marine sanctuaries so that we know more about areas that need special protection in the event of spills for example. Collecting data and monitoring and mapping within those sensitive areas is critical so that we can have a baseline against which to measure any effects that might happen and targets for restoration of those areas after the insult is gone.

In the future, research will evolve the way research always does, we'll look for needs and we'll identify them by putting people to the task.

HOST: That's all for today's Diving Deeper Shorts. Want to learn more? Go to oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast.php and click on the September 2010 podcast archive to listen to the full episode or visit sanctuaries.noaa.gov.


The Lionfish Invasion Part II: Controlling the Spread

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/may13/dd052313.mp3

Thu, 23 May 2013 10:59:05 -0400

Diving Deeper: The Lionfish Invasion Part II: Controlling the Spread
Episode 48 (May 23, 2013)

HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we explore important ocean topics with National Ocean Service experts. I'm your host Kate Nielsen.

Back to talk to us today is James Morris for part two of our discussion on lionfish. Today we will explore what we can do to stop the lionfish invasion as well as NOAA's role. Thanks James for joining us again on Diving Deeper.

JAMES MORRIS: Hi Kate, so glad to be here.

HOST: So James, in our last episode, I think you really painted the picture for us that this is a problem, it's a big problem, it's a growing problem. What kinds of things can we do, can people do to help stop the growth of lionfish?

JAMES MORRIS: Absolutely. So we are confident that lionfish can be controlled in some places. Some of those places that lionfish control is a priority are places like our very important national marine sanctuaries. We know that these are places that the American public has designated as special, special for conservation, special because of the biodiversity that they hold, special because of their importance because of tourism and ecosystem services that they provide.

And we know that we can control lionfish in some places that have small boundaries, places that intensive efforts to remove them can be marshaled and those kinds of things. We also know routine culling can happen in areas outside of sanctuaries such as artificial reefs. The very purpose of building an artificial reef is really jeopardized by lionfish. If you think about an artificial reef as being important for nursery habitat for reef fish or sort of providing refugia and those kind of things, lionfish are threatening the very purpose of building those artificial reefs. So we are talking with and working with various artificial reef programs to being thinking about how to do lionfish control in their artificial reef program, which artificial reefs are most important, if you have resources to deploy control where are you going to do it, how are you going to decide, how are you going to monitor the effectiveness of those control efforts and those kinds of things.

So, a lot of our work now is trying to help domestic as well as our international partners with lionfish control. And we're very excited to see some of the success with our sister agency in Mexico, CONANP, that works to manage their marine parks along the Yucatan. We have a great collaboration with them looking at various control strategies for lionfish and one of the things that we can learn from our Mexican partners in this is that lionfish control is really a community response. That it requires the restaurant/tourism community, the dive operators, the commercial fishermen - everyone is in this problem together and no single sector of the community can singlely address the problem - that it really takes everyone working together, having a coordinating body to work with all those entities.

HOST: James, can you tell us more about this venom defense that lionfish have. How do people catch lionfish and how do they do this safely?

JAMES MORRIS: Lionfish venom is located in the spines of lionfish. And I should also point out that people in their native range have been eating lionfish forever. It's a fairly good meat to eat actually. It's a white, flaky meat. The taste is a reef fish taste. And scorpion fish have been harvested commercially for many, many years. When we think about some of the major scorpionid fisheries - one is the rockfish fishery of the West Coast. It's a large fishery and it's based on harvesting a scorpion fish just like lionfish and rockfish have the same venom basically that lionfish do. It's a neurotoxin from the spines and so the idea of harvesting lionfish as a food fish is really not a novel or new concept. There is a lot of attention right now about controlling invasive species through "eat 'em to beat 'em" types of approaches and certainly we include that as a type of control strategy, and even probably it's now understood to be really the most effective way to marshal resources for control.

Certainly, we're good at fishing, we have overharvested many fish in the past and certainly we're good at catching things and harvesting things so certainly applying that fishing pressure to lionfish is one strategy to control them. But there's challenges with that type of approach. One of the challenges is that this fish is a reef fish that doesn't come out from the reef that easily. It likes to stay hooked into those nooks and crannies for the most part and it doesn't necessarily recruit to hook and line like a snapper or a grouper does. When you drop your hook on the reef, you can catch a lionfish, but not very often. They don't recruit very frequently into the fishery.

They are however recruiting into some trap fisheries, not all trap fisheries, but some trap fisheries like the lobster fishery of the Keys and in places in the Caribbean where they have other types of fish traps. So we are seeing now where lionfish are beginning to show up in commercial markets, pretty regularly from these trap fisheries. Even in high biomass there's been some reports of significant lionfish landings as bycatch in some of these trap fisheries.

So the overall role that harvesting or lionfish as bycatch, removing them by specific fisheries, the overall role that that could have in terms of local population control is really yet to be understood or documented. We hope and like to think that those fisheries can use that bycatch as supplemental income. That that control effort, removal effort, will have an impact on the local population, but that really has yet to be really demonstrated.

HOST: Is it safe to eat lionfish? Is there any venom that's left in the fish after you remove the spines? And is there anything else health-wise that we should be concerned about when eating the lionfish?

JAMES MORRIS: Sure. So a common strategy is to actually remove the spines when you are cleaning the fish and there are available instructions now that you can find online where folks provide instructions on how to prepare lionfish for cooking. There's even a cookbook that was produced by one of our partners that we work closely with, the Reef Environmental Education Foundation, where they provide some instructions in the cookbook about how to safely clean and prepare lionfish.

The venom itself is in the spines. It's not a poison that's in the flesh. And some folks will confuse venom with poison, in this case, lionfish venom is a venom located in the spine.

One concern that has come up a lot recently is the type of toxin that can accumulate in some reef fishes from some locations called ciguatoxin. And ciguatoxin is a neurotoxin that is derived from types of algae called dinoflagellates, that can harbor, can accumulate these ciguatoxins in the flesh. There have been areas around the Caribbean that have been known to have issues where the reef fish will have high levels of ciguatoxin that will be toxic to people. We think that lionfish, as a reef fish, may be capable of accumulating ciguatoxins. Certainly, we've been collaborating with the Food and Drug Administration to provide analytical tools and advice about ciguatoxin concerns and they recently just added lionfish to the list of reef fish that could possibly have ciguatoxin in their flesh. This is really not new information, we sort of knew that. Lionfish are a reef fish, like other reef fish, can become ciguatoxic.

So as a consumer and someone interested in eating lionfish, we certainly encourage people to have the same level of awareness for eating lionfish that they would for snapper or grouper or any of the other reef fish that they might be consuming. If you're from a location that traditionally doesn't have problems with ciguateria, consult with your local health officials on that if you're concerned about it and be aware. We are working in our laboratory though to understand more about the ecology of ciguatera fish poisoning and the ecology of harmful algaes that cause ciguatera.

So that's a very active research line for us and we're working to use those analytical tools that we have developed in our laboratory to study ciguatoxin analysis to do some baseline assessments in the region looking at ciguatera in lionfish. We hope to have some new information about lionfish specifically on ciguatera fish poisoning in the future.

HOST: OK, well that will be very interesting, we'll definitely stay tuned on that. We talked about a lot of different control methods that are being explored, there's a lot of resources out there for coastal managers in these different areas to look at. What about for somebody who's not a coastal manager, is there a role that they can play in helping to stop the lionfish invasion?

JAMES MORRIS: Certainly lionfish control takes a community. It really takes everyone. From the coastal manger to the school teacher to the restaurant and food industry to the reef enthusiasts and conservation-minded folks to the dive operators. It really takes everyone. And we have really been impressed over the years of how some communities have responded aggressively, want to protect our reefs types of initiatives and adopt a reef types of initiatives, we have folks that literally go out on a regular basis and prune and cull lionfish off of reefs because they want to conserve those reefs. And I think those are very noble efforts. They're diving with a purpose, they're getting in the water and they are making a difference on those reefs. And when we think about the overall impacts of those patchy areas, we have to think about it in terms of everyone doing their part - whether it's becoming more aware, encouraging your friends and colleagues to become more aware of this problem and to learn about it and to teach about the impacts of invasive species and to reach a new place in our society about this type of biological pollution and the role that it can have and to think about ways that we can prevent this from happening again. Those are all important things that we need to continue to work on.

HOST: So James we've talked a lot about all of the players that are involved both at the local community up to your international partners, but what is NOAA's role and specifically what is the National Ocean Service's role with lionfish?

JAMES MORRIS: Well, that's a really good question. So the lionfish issue as we've talked about before is really a biological pollution, coastal planning, trust/resource stewardship problem so many times people think of the lionfish invasion as being a fishery issue and really it's much larger than that. Being in the National Ocean Service, we are working on coastal planning, we're working on issues relating to coastal ecosystem stressors, certainly lionfish is one of those stressors, it impacts marine protected areas like sanctuaries. We have to work to develop management plans to control this invasive species and to work with managers to develop resources and provide those tools and services to help them make decisions about this particular problem, which in this case is invasive species.

So in our laboratory and in our program office, we're working very hard to work on developing those tools and services to help managers make those decisions about particularly controlling this invasive species.

HOST: So James, do you have any final closing words for our listeners today?

JAMES MORRIS: Thank you Kate for hosting this podcast and I guess in closing my only comment would be that we are really learning for the first time how to deal with a reef fish invasion that's of this magnitude in this region of the world. And certainly there are mistakes being made and there are hard lessons that are being learned and that we are going to be dealing with this invasion really forever or until some technological or solution comes forward. And that we need to take these lessons and apply them so that we can change this situation and change the probability of this happening again, we can make that lower. And so we need to think about how this invasion occurred and we need to think about how the lack of resilience in our coastal ecosystems to invasions like this and consider those things as part of our management solutions.

HOST: Thanks James for joining us to wrap up our discussion on lionfish. To learn more, please check out our show notes on oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast.php.

That's all for today's show. Remember, if you have questions on this episode or the National Ocean Service in general, you can contact us at nos.info@noaa.gov. And if you're on social media, don't forget you can find us, it's usoceangov, on Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube; and noaaocean on Twitter and Pinterest. Please join us for our next episode in two weeks.


The Lionfish Invasion Part I: Covering New Ground

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/may13/dd050913.mp3

Thu, 09 May 2013 09:28:26 -0400

Diving Deeper: The Lionfish Invasion Part I: Covering New Ground
Episode 47 (May 9, 2013)

HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we explore important ocean topics with National Ocean Service experts. I'm your host Kate Nielsen.

Today we will have part one of an update on the invasive lionfish since our last interview on this topic in April 2012. We'll focus a little bit on the spread of the lionfish and just some basics of lionfish in general in today's discussion. Back to talk to us today is James Morris with the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science. Thanks James for joining us again on Diving Deeper.

JAMES MORRIS: Hi Kate, so glad to be here.

HOST: So James, for our listeners today who weren't with us for our last episode, can you highlight just a few of the basics about lionfish?

JAMES MORRIS: Oh absolutely. So lionfish is an invasive species. It's actually the first marine reef fish that has become invasive along the southeast U.S., Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean. It's a scorpion fish so it actually has venomous spines that can sting people as well as are used for predator defense. Lionfish first were introduced in 1985, is the first record that we have of them. Since the mid 80s, they've spread to include basically the entire region and are invading coral reef and hardbottom reef habitats and are really quite a concern.

HOST: OK and a beautiful fish, at least from what I've seen from the pictures, beautiful but quite problematic.

JAMES MORRIS: They're very beautiful, as a matter of fact, that's why they're here. They were largely, we believe, released from the aquarium trade. We believe that there was probably no single introduction that there were multiple introductions over a period of time. We certainly have some diverse genetics in the population that suggests there were at least nine female lionfish that were released. We are certainly concerned from a management perspective in terms of the ecological impacts that they can have in the reef systems and need to be more concerned about the release of non-native species.

HOST: Ok, so in the past year then, since we last talked, what has changed with the status of the lionfish?

JAMES MORRIS: Well the lionfish invasion continues to spread rapidly. We're continuing to see them grow in densities along the southeast U.S. and especially in the last year or two in the Gulf of Mexico. So lionfish now are found as far north as North Carolina, they can be found farther north than North Carolina in the late summer where some of the tropicals actually are transported north along the Gulf Stream and recruit. Tropicals don't live over winter so lionfish like other tropicals will die north of North Carolina. We also see lionfish as far south now as the coast of Venezuela. So the entire Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, southeast U.S. is now the new habitat of lionfish.

HOST: And a lot of this change did happen over the last year?

JAMES MORRIS: So over the last year to two years, the invasion to the Gulf of Mexico and of course that that southward march continues to occur.

HOST: So we know that the lionfish is continuing to spread to new regions - moreso as you're saying over this last year to two years. But is there any kind of limit then to where the lionfish will spread because they don't like the colder water temperatures? What is too cold for a lionfish?

JAMES MORRIS: So we know from laboratory experiments, looking at the thermal tolerance that lionfish will stop eating around 13 to 14 degrees Celsius. They perish at around 10 or 11 degrees Celsius. And there's some error around those particular temperatures. And so that places their southern limit, based on sea surface temperatures, somewhere around the northern coast of Argentina and as far north as North Carolina.

HOST: In this range that we've talked about, do lionfish have a preferred habitat, are they spread out pretty much the same density throughout the region or do you see hot spots of lionfish?

JAMES MORRIS: Absolutely, we do see hot spots. Lionfish are a reef fish and they're associated very much to habitat that has high relief. We see high lionfish densities specifically around artificial reefs like shipwrecks, we see them around in coral reefs where there's large relief height, but we also do see some lower densities of lionfish and general occurrence in some of the lower relief habitats. One of our questions right now is what are our densities of lionfish in the deeper habitats, some of these coastal systems, and we really need to work on that and try to understand more about their deeper water densities and habitat preferences.

But by and large the general trend is that lionfish really prefer those high relief habitats. We see large numbers many times around even bridge pilings or sea walls, we can find numbers there, it can be somewhat patchy, some reefs will have higher densities than others, some have been invaded for longer periods of time so there's been larger populations that have been recruited there, so it really depends on the region that you're talking about and the length of time that the invasion has been happening there, and the types of habitat that exist there.

HOST: So they really are just spreading like wildfire it seems and they keep multiplying. What can you tell us about lionfish reproduction? How does this play into the whole lionfish invasion?

JAMES MORRIS: Yes, that's a good question and it's one that we've been working on for a long time in our laboratory. The reproductive biology of lionfish was really something that interested us from the very beginning. We were wondering how is this invasive species reproducing so quickly and what is their reproductive biology look like. Interestingly there really have not been a whole lot of reproductive biology done on this species in their native range so there was a lot of really uncertain questions that we had to address from the beginning such as: how often do they reproduce, how do they reproduce, how many offspring do they release over time, and some of those basic questions. What we've learned over the years has been quite alarming and certainly the reproductive biology has in some way influenced or even facilitated such a rapid and aggressive invasion.

We've learned that female lionfish can release more than two million eggs a year. We've learned that they release them in gelatinous egg masses that float at the surface. They release them often - about every three to four days a female lionfish can release eggs, we've seen that both in the Bahamas as well as off the coast of North Carolina. And as an invasive species, that reproductive strategy sort of hedges your bets in terms of being successful in recruiting to a suitable habitat. If you reproduce often and you have these pelagic eggs which become pelagic larvae and they float up at the surface for 30 days or more, then they will settle down to reefs that are far away and that can be an advantage I think from an invasion point of view that you sort of spread your risks, you spread your progeny throughout out a large range, and that likelihood of probability that you will be successful in becoming established increases when you spread that probability. So we are kind of fascinated by the reproductive biology.

HOST: So, let's talk a little bit about predators. Let's go first and think about predators in that natural environment and then maybe humans we can talk about a little bit afterwards. Can you tell folks why we haven't found a predator yet for the lionfish?

JAMES MORRIS: The predator question is a really good one and it's one that we get probably more than any other question about lionfish and it's one that probably is a little bit controversial because we get lots of reports of someone finding a lionfish in the stomachs of such and such species. And there's been over 15 or probably 20 accounts of different species that have been reported to me and to my lab about finding lionfish in the stomachs. The problem is though that we're not finding lionfish in the stomachs of any of these species with any regularity.

The other problem is that we really have very little evidence that lionfish populations are lower in density because of natural mortality associated with predation on for lionfish either for juveniles or adults. What we do have evidence though is that based on laboratory trials that we've done in our laboratory, certainly our native reef fish recognize the coloration pattern that lionfish have. It's a warning coloration pattern. It's universal in the animal kingdom. And our native predators, in these feeding trials, in the laboratory and even looking at behavioral stuff in the field, our native predators recognize lionfish as a venomous fish.

And that venom defense system is really, really effective. As a matter of fact and I like to teach this when we talk about sort of some of the evolutionary biology around the lionfish invasion is that there is a species of octopus called the Indo-Malayan octopus that actually mimics lionfish to keep from getting eaten. It mimics lionfish as an animal that it wants to look like because it has evolved to know that if it can make itself look like a lionfish it will have less likelihood of getting eaten. That tells us a lot about the effectiveness of venom defense. So we have to be cautious about the role of predators in controlling lionfish. Time will ultimately tell. Personally in my opinion, I'm more inclined to think that lionfish may compete with themselves as a limiting factor more than predation mortality. They will begin limiting their distribution. And classically that is the way of invasive species. Many times we see invasive species begin incurring intra-species competition or competition with themselves for resources rather than competition with other native species.

HOST: So there's no known, really strong, effective predator; lionfish continue to spread, they continue to cover more ground, or more ocean, than ever before. Do we need to stop the lionfish invasion? What impact are they actually having on the ecosystems that they're coming into contact with?

JAMES MORRIS: So, invasive species cause billions of dollars worth of economic damage annually. Some of the major invasive species problems include things like kudzu or Asian carp, zebra mussels. Some of these species, there are some termites for example that are invasive. When you think about the economic impact of invasive species, it is really, really high. Such is the case with lionfish. When thinking about the economic impact of this invasion, when you calculate the coastal resource managers staff time throughout the entire invaded range - which remember is from North Carolina to now Venezuela - when you calculate the impacts of predation by lionfish on economically important species like grouper and snapper, when you calculate the impacts to human health by people getting stung and interacting with lionfish, when you look at all of those impacts and sort of package it together, the cost, in terms of dollars is quite high. It's almost hard to fathom the cost that this single introduction is having.

The problem with invasive species that I think we still are gaining experience in sort of placing it context with some of the other coastal ocean stressors that we deal with is really placing it in a way that we can compare it. And one of the analogies that I like to use with lionfish is that invasive species is really a type of pollution. It's a type of biological pollution. We typically think of pollution as being something that's abiotic, we typically think of it as being something that's chemical, or something like noise pollution or light pollution or oil pollution. In biological pollution, like invasive species, can cause these same and sometimes even greater impacts than some of these other more conventional types of pollution. And so I like to compare lionfish really to like an oil spill or some other type of chemical pollutant. The difference though is that this is a living organism in that this type of pollution continues to spread, to reproduce and to get worse over time until it reaches some type of new equilibrium in the ecosystem. And then at that point the ecosystem, in this case the reef fish community, will never return to the state that it once was. You cannot clean up this pollution problem throughout the entire invaded range - we just do not have the tools and the ability right now, in terms of technology, to say we're going to get rid of all the lionfish. We wouldn't even know where to go look for all the lionfish from North Carolina to Venezuela if we wanted to. Certainly there's some fishing pressure that can be placed on lionfish, but that has its own level of challenges and so when we think about invasive species as pollution, it really places it in context to the other types of coastal ecosystem stressors and it's quite alarming to think of the scale.

HOST: So what happens then if we don't or if we can't stop lionfish?

JAMES MORRIS: Well, we are going to reach some type of new place - new equilibrium in the reef fish community that now includes lionfish. What I hope though is that we learn some lessons from this invasion about the importance of invasive species prevention and awareness. Did we learn some new lessons in terms of coastal ecosystem management and rapid response to non-native species to try to head off and keep something like this from happening again? We also though learn about the relative importance of this problem compared to some of the other types of problems.

We have the data now and there's lots of good scientists that are working on this problem. But the data is really showing very aggressive, ecological impacts from this single invasion. This is not something that just NOAA is talking about or working on, this is something that has been supported by National Science Foundation dollars to some of our academic collaborators and partners and all of the data show that significant impacts are happening. And my concern is that those are long-term impacts, that we can never really go back to where we once were within the entire system.

HOST: Thanks James for joining us and for giving us this update on lionfish. You can hear more about lionfish in the next part in this series where we will explore what can be done to help control this problem locally and specifically what NOAA is doing to help. To learn more, please visit www.ccfhr.noaa.gov/stressors/lionfish.aspx.

That's all for today's show. Remember, if you have questions on this episode or the National Ocean Service in general, you can contact us at nos.info@noaa.gov. And if you're on social media, don't forget you can find us, it's usoceangov, on Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube; and noaaocean on Twitter. Please join us for our next episode in two weeks.


Animal Tagging

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/apr13/dd042513.mp3

Thu, 25 Apr 2013 08:42:43 -0400

Diving Deeper: Animal Tagging
Episode 46 (April 25, 2013)

HOST: Today on Diving Deeper we explore the research method of animal tagging - from how it's done to why scientists find this data so valuable. I'm your host Kate Nielsen.

To help us explore this topic, today we will be joined by Zdenka Willis. Zdenka is the director of the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System - a NOAA-led national partnership. Hi Zdenka, welcome to our show - again for the second time!

ZDENKA WILLIS: Kate, it's great to be here this morning.

HOST: So, Zdenka, let's get some terminology out of the way, just to get everybody on the same page - does telemetry mean the same thing as marine animal tagging?

ZDENKA WILLIS: You know Kate it took me awhile to figure out the terminology myself. So, telemetry can refer to almost anything that emits a signal at a distance. So it's important for us to have the words marine animal telemetry. But yes, a sensor with a signal attached to an animal is a tagged animal, also referred to as marine animal telemetry. There are other animal telemetry applications in which the animal is not necessarily tagged, such as passive acoustic receivers detecting whale vocalizations.

HOST: OK, very interesting, I did not know that. So, why do we do animal tagging? What is the benefit of this?

ZDENKA WILLIS: Data from these animals are transforming the way scientists study our waters and opening up new data sources. The Integrated Ocean Observing System or IOOS is making marine animal tagging a priority because it really will improve the lives of Americans. The vastness of the ocean limits our ability to observe. This technology is leading to profound advancements in understanding these animals and how they interact where they live. The knowledge translates to a better understanding of our planet and emerging issues on climate change and improvements in the management of marine living resources.

They collect valuable data at the depths of the ocean from remote and difficult to reach environments where conventional oceanographic sensing techniques are technically not feasible or economically unviable. This technology allows researchers to investigate how animals use their three-dimensional world and quantify important biological aspects of their environments. This data can be used to improve ocean forecasting by reducing errors. In fact last year, IOOS and Navy's Office of Naval Research funded a project that made 3,000 tag tracks available to both Navy and NOAA modelers.

As well they inform federal and state fisheries management, conservation, and sustainable use management policies. There's also a commercial aspect to this effort in providing information and guidance to maintaining sustainable and commercial fisheries. Fisherman know that to remain viable they need to decrease their by-catch and avoid endangered species and this tag information can help them do that.

HOST: OK, so you've given us a lot of great benefits, a lot of different reasons for why we do animal tagging. Let's talk just a little bit about what the tag is like. What exactly is the tag that you use? What does it look like/what is it made of? What can you tell us about that?

ZDENKA WILLIS: So think of little tiny computers that record and store data about the animals and their environment. Generally, a researcher must recover a tag to download the data, we call that an archival tag. Other tags can transfer information acoustically or by satellite. Sometimes, we insert them inside the body of the animal and other times they're on the outside. So think of a little chip or a microphone.

HOST: Is it heavy for the animal or are there different types of tags that you use for different sizes of marine animals?

ZDENKA WILLIS: We do. The type of tag and the size of the tag is dependent on the animal and the information we want to collect. Some are really as small as a pill and a whale, as you can imagine, can collect something larger. So you wonder if this actually interferes with what the animals do and it doesn't. We've actually watched elephant seals and we've studied them physically with these tags on there and we see no change in their movement and in fact they have mated successfully. So we don't see anything changing in their social behavior.

HOST: That's great. Which animals get tags? Are there certain species that this tagging works better with than others?

ZDENKA WILLIS: Yeah, there are many things that we tag. We tag salmon, sturgeon, halibut, seals, sea lions, and fur seals, fish from very small to large ones like tuna and sharks, whales, eels, turtles, seabirds like albatross, squid, crustaceans, and others. It depends on what we're trying to study is what animal we'll tag and also collectively all of these tags tell us a significant amount about their behavior. So depending on what we need to study and what we want to study, that's what we'll tag.

HOST: So Zdenka, how are tags attached to the animals? Is it safe?

ZDENKA WILLIS: First, let me tell you it is safe. We attach them in various ways. Some of them we actually surgically insert into the body. Some of them are like getting a shot at the doctor, so a little pinch. Others we even glue on in the case of seals, seabirds, and most turtles. We have evaluated those animals. It does not hurt them and they thrive.

Yes, the tags are safe. As in most scientific studies, sometimes things don't always go perfectly. But the people who are doing the tagging, they have such a love for the animals and the environment. The last thing they want to do is hurt the animals. They're really trying to help them by understanding their behavior so yes, it is safe.

HOST: Thanks Zdenka. Are tags removed after so much time or do you ever lose tags?

ZDENKA WILLIS: So it depends on the type of tag. There are some tags which the scientist will remove. Some of them are programmed actually to release from the animal and come to the surface and through their signal, we'll track them down. And of course, yes, some of them get lost, some of them we recover, and some of them we don't. We had one that we thought we were tracking large squid on the bottom of the ocean and really what we think it was was a tag that was just sitting on the bottom of the ocean.

HOST: Oh no! So onto this data then that you receive, what kind of data do these tags actually collect?

ZDENKA WILLIS: So we collect a number of environmental information like temperature, conductivity, light level, oxygen, and chlorophyll, and equally exciting is we collect information about the animals themselves, like their migration routes, how deep do they dive, where do they live, where do they hang out, where do they eat.

HOST: So this really is a wealth of information then. The data that you're downloading, it actually helps the animals carrying the tags. Can you explain this to us a little bit more?

ZDENKA WILLIS: Sure. I talked about climate change and how these data helps the U.S. earlier. But it also really helps the scientists better understand the habitat requirements of the marine animals, how they move with the flow of tides and currents, and it provides insight on how they may be altering their behavior or migration patterns in response to climate change. We really need to understand what's happening before anyone can help the animals.

It is a low cost, low risk of the scientist helping to discover where the animals are going, what they're doing, and what the environments are like when we can't actually see them and how it's affecting their behavior.

HOST: So Zdenka, I know IOOS is a national endeavor and you've got partners from academia, industry, non-governmental organizations, and state, local, tribal government entities, federal partners - just all across the board. Who are the partners that you are bringing together in the animal tagging world to do this work?

ZDENKA WILLIS: So before I talk about the actual partners, I need to bring up a program called the Census of Marine Life. That was a ten-year effort, funded by the SLOAN Foundation, that concluded in 2010. But it really was the foundation for all of the projects that are ongoing today. That was a very large program that had three goals: assess diversity - how many different kinds; the distribution - where they live; and abundance - how many in the marine life. And without that foundation, the programs that we have today, really would not be where they are in their maturity.

So when we look at it from a federal and state perspective, within NOAA, the National Marine Fisheries Service and their Science Centers are very active in tagging. The United States Geological Survey, the United States Navy through their Office of Naval Research, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Fishery Commission, and also within NOAA, our Chesapeake Bay Office. We have a host of academic partners, the world-renowned Tagging of Pacific Predators, or TOPP, is run out of Stanford University with a tremendous list of their own international and national partners; the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology out of the University of Hawaii; the University of Delaware's Atlantic Cooperative Telemetry Network; the University of Alaska Fairbanks; the University of California, Santa Cruz; Rutgers University Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences; and St. Andrews University in Scotland.

So internationally, the Canadians are leading the ocean tracking network with the Global Ocean Tracking Network, or OTN. During 2012, OTN deployed 1,025 acoustic receivers worldwide. Their lines included sites in Canada, Australia, South Africa, the Azores, United States, and Norway. There's also a partnership with industry - the industries who make the tags - Lotek Wireless, Vemco, and WildLife Computers.

And, through our own U.S. IOOS regions, IOOS is funding tagging operations. The Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation, the Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System, the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System, and the Alaska Ocean Observing System are all funding the purchase of tags and the deployment of those tags.

HOST: Thanks Zdenka, that gives us a nice holistic picture of who is doing this and kind of where these things are happening a little bit even out into the international realm. So where is the data collected? Are there projects that are around the U.S. or is this focused more in just one area where you're trying to collect this data?

ZDENKA WILLIS: So these different scientists are actually collecting information in all of our U.S. waters. So the major challenge that we have is to synchronize the many tagging programs and improving data sharing to the broader ocean science community. And that's where IOOS comes in. With the broader science community behind us, we have become engaged and linking this to IOOS, we'll be able to provide the information more readily to state and federal officials who need it most.

Scientists are already collecting this data for their own research. But by bringing it together, we can make it available on the broader scale. We're also trying to bring together that biological data into this national system and that's always been referred to as the 'messy' data. So we're trying to bring it together in a way that's easy for everybody to use.

And the underpinning of IOOS is that integration. That technology in tagging is there, we are very supportive of those efforts, but really the ability to work with our folks at NOAA, USGS, and others is really where that power comes from in leveraging all of that technology.

HOST: And that's definitely no small task - being able to use the data that we get is a pretty important thing.

ZDENKA WILLIS: It sure is.

HOST: So is data downloaded once a day or is this a continuous real-time stream of data coming from these tags?

ZDENKA WILLIS: So it depends. If we're talking about satellite tags, when the animal is up towards the surface and we can communicate, then we can get that near real-time information. Some of the tags are archival in that we can't really recover the data until we recover the tag. Some of the acoustic tags we actually have boxes on the bottom of the ocean that's recording the information and we don't bring that back until we actually return the box. So it depends on the type of tag.

HOST: OK, thank you. What would you say is the greatest challenge with doing animal tagging?

ZDENKA WILLIS: Well, first our animals can be unpredictable, they don't exactly go where we need them to tag, and then getting out on the ocean is always unpredictable so we have to be able to match the weather conditions/safety with the location of the animals. Miniaturization of the packaging of the electronics is still a challenge - packaging them in a container that keeps seawater out at high pressure, has buoyancy and a radio transmitter for recovery, and is small enough to be attached to a dolphin without affecting swimming behavior. We have seen progress in the last decade, but there is work to be done.

Also, development of new sensors such as pH sensors to be added in response to concerns about the impact of ocean acidification and hypoxia on marine biological resources and the health of marine ecosystems.

Battery life. In most tags the electronics are rather small, much of the size of the tag is determined by the battery. A small battery means a short life and/or short transmission range or time. While larger tags last longer and transmit information better, they're also heavier and larger. So new methods of powering the tags would be a big improvement in size and longevity of the tag.

And finally, sustaining the funding for these kinds of efforts.

HOST: So Zdenka, given the technology aspect of a lot of the things we've talked about today, is animal tagging a relatively new research method?

ZDENKA WILLIS: Scientists started in about the 1990s, so it's been around for about 20 years. I think what's new is people's realization of how important this information really is and what it can tell us about behavior. And so, being able to bring that information forward to the public, that's the new and exciting piece of this.

HOST: And how long has NOAA been involved with the effort?

ZDENKA WILLIS: NOAA's really been involved since the beginning. NOAA is a leader in this ocean science technology.

HOST: Zdenka, my last question for you today - do you have any final closing words to leave our listeners with?

ZDENKA WILLIS: We like to say that this really is a perfect example of why IOOS is an important overarching network. We're able to see various researchers' data and make that information available from one place so you can see the bigger picture. It's kind of like the difference between seeing a regular movie and an IMAX 3-D movie, you just see more detail.

HOST: It's a great analogy Zdenka, thank you for that - a regular movie versus an IMAX 3-D movie, that's what it gives us. Thank you so much Zdenka for joining us today on Diving Deeper and discussing animal tagging with us. To learn more, please visit www.ioos.noaa.gov/observing/animal_telemetry.

That's all for today's show. Remember, if you have questions on this episode or the National Ocean Service in general, you can contact us at nos.info@noaa.gov. And if you're on social media, don't forget you can find us, it's usoceangov, on Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube; and we're noaaocean on Twitter. Please join us for our next episode in two weeks.


Marine Debris Movement

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/mar13/dd032813.mp3

Thu, 28 Mar 2013 10:02:23 -0400

Diving Deeper: Marine Debris Movement
Episode 45 (March 28, 2013)

HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we explore the ocean topics that are important to you. I'm your host Kate Nielsen.

Today we will talk about how marine debris moves in our environment, what causes it to move, and if we can predict where debris may ultimately end up.

To help us explore this topic, today we will be joined by Sherry Lippiatt. Sherry is joining us by phone as she is the California Regional Coordinator with the NOAA Marine Debris Program. Hi Sherry, welcome to our show.

SHERRY LIPPIATT: Hi Kate, thanks for inviting me here today.

HOST: So Sherry, to get us all on the same page, can you remind everyone what we mean when we say marine debris?

SHERRY LIPPIATT: Marine debris is any solid, man-made material in the marine environment that is not meant to be there. So, marine debris can be made of a number of different types of materials, like plastic, rubber, and metal. And, it can range in size from microscopic pieces of plastic to derelict fishing nets or abandoned vessels that are hundreds of feet long.

HOST: And how does this marine debris get in our environment in the first place?

SHERRY LIPPIATT: So, people are the ultimate source of all marine debris. And regardless of how far upstream it originates, debris can make its way from land into our oceans through runoff and storm drains or it can be disposed of or abandoned directly into the marine environment.

HOST: And Sherry, why are we concerned about marine debris?

SHERRY LIPPIATT: Marine debris has physical and chemical impacts on the marine environment and it can also have economic impacts on our coastal communities. For example, debris can damage habitats, fish and other marine species can ingest or become entangled in debris, and debris might act as a vector for contaminant transport.

And then there's also the human element, where there are known socioeconomic impacts from marine debris. For example, decreases in tourism, navigational hazards, and losses in catch to the fishing industry.

HOST: OK so it sounds like it can definitely be quite a nuisance, quite a problem then. Thanks so much for giving us that background on just marine debris in general. And now to get us to our real topic of the day, first, can you tell us about how marine debris behaves in the environment. Does it move from place to place or does debris tend to stay in just one place?

SHERRY LIPPIATT: Marine debris certainly moves throughout the marine environment. And debris that's made of persistent materials, like plastic, can travel long distances from far inland within a watershed through rivers and streams and out into the ocean. Once debris makes it to the ocean, it might be deposited back on shore or move very far offshore. And we know that debris can travel long distances because it's been found in these really remote regions of the world, like the Arctic and Antarctic. And, even on our shorelines here in California, we often find debris from overseas.

HOST: What kinds of things then cause marine debris to move?

SHERRY LIPPIATT: There's a number of factors that affect where a piece of marine debris will move and how long it will take to get there. And, along its journey, debris in the ocean will move both horizontally and vertically in the water column, and this movement depends on physical factors, like winds and currents, and characteristics of the debris itself. So, for example, marine debris that's denser than seawater will sink out of surface waters and debris that's less dense than seawater is going to remain floating and might travel very long distances with surface ocean currents.

Now, there's also something called the windage of an item, or how high a piece of debris floats above the surface of the water. And this windage determines how much of the debris movement is affected by the wind. So, something like a large buoy, which is exposed to the wind, will move faster in the downwind direction than say a piece of lumber that's mostly submerged beneath the surface of the water and is moved by the ocean surface currents.

HOST: So if we have this data on currents and winds, can we predict, almost like a forecast, where a piece of debris will move and maybe where it will ultimately end up?

SHERRY LIPPIATT: Yeah, we can use computer models to simulate the movement of debris. And, there are three key components that these models need to work properly. Those are data on winds, currents, and how the actual stuff you want to move around is going to behave in time. For example, you might have a large buoy with a known windage, but you also need to know what environmental forces are acting on it and how that will affect its trajectory.

Now, the same challenges that are faced by meteorologists in predicting the weather also apply to oceanographers. Because winds and ocean currents are really variable on smaller scales and are constantly changing even on large scales, we're limited in our ability to forecast debris movement. So, what NOAA and our partners are doing is using a tool called the General NOAA Operational Modeling Environment, which provides a hindcast, rather than a forecast, of the movement of debris. The model moves simulated particles under the influence of known wind and current data, and it tells us where these particles, which represent debris, have travelled over time up to the present day.

But, it's important to mention that even though we do have this data on how winds and currents have behaved in the past, there's always a degree of uncertainty associated with these hindcasts. One example is that the model doesn't account for debris degrading or sinking over time and the quality and resolution of the wind and current data will also affect the accuracy of the model.

HOST: OK, so still it's pretty cool even if it is a hindcast and we're able to get that data. Why do we need to know where marine debris is going? Why is this important?

SHERRY LIPPIATT: So the more information that we have about where debris tends to accumulate, the more prepared we are to respond. Whether it's a large amount of debris that's generated from a natural disaster or even if we're just talking about typical everyday debris, we want to be as prepared as possible to remove hazards to navigation and prevent other economic and environmental impacts that we talked about earlier. So having even a rough prediction of where debris might accumulate will help us guide any response efforts.

HOST: Sherry, what sorts of challenges do you face when you're trying to predict how marine debris will move in the environment?

SHERRY LIPPIATT: Predicting or forecasting the movement of marine debris is very difficult. So as I mentioned, the movement of debris in the ocean depends not only on winds and currents, which we know are variable on seasonal and other time scales, but the movement also depends on characteristics of the debris itself.

One key piece in predicting debris movement is having this data on the major sources and types of debris which tells us where it originated and what kind of material it might be composed of. But, even if we did have that information, we know very little about how long it takes for different materials to degrade in the marine environment and these rates of degradation or weathering are also affected by marine life that tends to colonize the surface of debris. So, using the same example of a large buoy, we might know where it came from and its initial windage, but that could change if barnacles cover the surface of the buoy and cause it to float lower in the water column. At the end of the day, there are a number of challenges and questions that modelers face in trying to predict debris movement, and our understanding of how this debris behaves is pretty limited.

HOST: So, just to make sure that I understand because we've touched on this a little bit, we've talked about where debris will end up or even starting there at the end in a sense and then going backwards with that, kind of a hindcast, rather than a forecast. Is it possible to tell where debris came from in the first place, where it originated?

SHERRY LIPPIATT: Debris can travel very far distances and persist in the environment for long periods of time. Given the vast size of our oceans and the number of potential types and sources of debris, in most cases it's really hard to tell where a particular item of debris originated and how much time it's spent in the ocean. However, there are some cases where debris might have unique identifying information that could be traced back to a specific source. For example, a registration number on a vessel or some other unique name or marking.

HOST: I think when folks think about marine debris right now, especially something that's in the news and people are hearing about is debris related to the Japan tsunami. For that event, you have that origin of the debris - so this kind of answers our first question - where did it come from. What have we learned about marine debris movement following the tsunami given that we have this crucial first piece of data?

SHERRY LIPPIATT: That's right, so in the case of Japan tsunami debris we know when and where the debris from this tragic event entered the ocean, but we really don't have a great idea of what and how much debris was washed out of the tsunami inundation zone. So in responding to this issue, one thing that we've been reminded of is how the small scale turbulence and variations in winds and currents can lead to big differences in when and where something may wash ashore. And one example is two 65-foot-long dock pieces that were both ripped away from the Port of Misawa in Japan, back on March 11, 2011. So, about 15 months after the tsunami occurred, back in June 2012, one of the docks washed ashore in Oregon near Newport, and then in December 2012, a second dock from Misawa washed up on a remote shoreline in Washington state. These two very similar items that left from the same location at the same time washed ashore more than 200 miles and 6 months apart. The fact that these two docks took such different paths across the ocean shows us just how hard it is to predict how a given item is going to behave at sea especially given the natural dispersion by winds and currents. But, to answer your question on what we've learned through the effort, the data that NOAA is gathering through these confirmed sightings of Japan tsunami debris is going to help us to refine our models, and be able to better predict debris movement in the future.

HOST: Well, thank you so much for those great examples and that really does paint the picture for us that these two docks, as you've said, it was the same time, the same origin, and then six months apart and totally different locations they wash up. That's really something. I could see how it's challenging to be able to predict this movement. What is needed to make our models stronger or really what do we need to have to help us better predict the movement of marine debris?

SHERRY LIPPIATT: Well, we talked about the three key components that we need to be able to predict how this debris is going to behave in the ocean, so that was winds, currents, and information about the debris itself which includes where it came from, what it is, and how it behaves in the ocean. And, of these three pieces, I think that the largest gap is the last one - a good understanding of the life cycle of these different types of debris. So this includes reliable data on the sources and sinks of marine debris and the time that different items will persist in the marine environment. Factors like debris degradation rates and the colonization or fouling of debris by marine life are all going to affect the amount and location of debris in the environment and also it'll determine whether the debris remains floating, submerged beneath the surface of the water, or falls to the ocean floor. And again, if we have a better idea of where debris is likely to end up, we'll be able to do a better job of managing the problem.

HOST: Sherry, just to close out our show today, I wanted to see if you had any final, closing words to leave our listeners with?

SHERRY LIPPIATT: Thanks Kate. The final thought that I'd like to leave is that outside of natural disasters, marine debris is completely preventable. And we can all make small changes in our daily lives, like consuming less, choosing to use reusable products, and responsibly disposing of our wastes. These small, easy steps will go a long way in preventing marine debris from making it into the ocean in the first place.

HOST: Thanks Sherry for joining us on Diving Deeper and talking about how marine debris moves in our environment. To learn more, please visit marinedebris.noaa.gov.

And that's all for today's show. Remember, if you have questions on this episode or the National Ocean Service in general, you can contact us at nos.info@noaa.gov. And if you're on social media, don't forget you can find us, it's usoceangov, on Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube; and that's noaaocean on Twitter. Please join us for our next episode in two weeks.


Coastal Storms

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/mar13/dd031413.mp3

Thu, 14 Mar 2013 13:19:41 -0400

Diving Deeper: Coastal Storms
Episode 44 (March 14, 2013)

HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we explore important ocean topics with National Ocean Service experts. I’m your host Kate Nielsen.

Today we’ll talk about the impacts of storms to our coastal communities and what NOAA is doing to help folks prepare and reduce any negative impacts of these events.

To help us explore this topic, today we will be joined by Audra Luscher. Audra is a coastal management specialist with the NOAA Coastal Services Center. Hi Audra, welcome to our show.

AUDRA LUSCHER: Hi Kate, thanks for inviting me here to talk about coastal storms with your listeners.

HOST: Audra, first let’s just set the stage a little bit more for folks. What kinds of threats do coastal communities face?

AUDRA LUSCHER: Sure. Coastal communities face many threats that are natural in nature. These can range from anything from coastal storms, landslides, hurricanes, tsunamis – these are very short-term extreme events. But we can also have more long-term events that are associated with climate that cause changes in rainfall patterns that lead to drought. We also have decadal changes in our sea level and lake levels. And what happens with that change is that it increases our erosion rates along our coastlines, which often endangers a lot of our property and critical infrastructure we have placed on our coastlines.
The impacts to life and property can be extensive and why they pose such a threat to our coastal communities. Take for instance the 2005 hurricane season. In that season, we had Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast. Just that season cost over $200 billion in damage and was the most costliest hurricane season that we’ve had in the United States.

HOST: OK, wow. So there’s definitely quite a few threats to our coastal communities, especially depending just geographically where folks are located.

AUDRA LUSCHER: Yeah, that’s correct.

HOST: And just to get us all on the same page, when you say coastal storms, what fits in that category?

AUDRA LUSCHER: When we talk about coastal storms, those tend to be weather events that are just focused on our ocean and coastal areas. And you’ve probably heard of most of them, things like Nor’easters, hurricanes, and tropical storms. When it comes to tropical storms and hurricanes, these tend to be systems that start in the equatorial areas of the United States where it’s warm, they tend to gain strength and move up with the Gulf Stream along the Atlantic and the Gulf Coast system and tend to have significant impacts on the communities due to torrential rain as well as high winds. However, most people don’t understand that the most costly part and deadly part of a storm is from storm surge. As opposed to the tropical side we also have what I mentioned is Nor’easters. These are events that actually occur in our mid-latitudes and also occur within our winter season. Most of the impacts from those events tend to be focused on cold weather impacts to ice as well as impacts on human life and property.

HOST: So Audra, is it safe to say then that these storms are predicted to increase in magnitude in the future?

AUDRA LUSCHER: I would agree that we can expect these storms to increase especially related to the economic impact. This is because we are placing more and more infrastructure and high value real estate along our coastlines. Hurricanes can occur at a category 3 and higher all the time within an individual storm season. However, they only become a catastrophe once they actually hit a developed piece of land. So as we develop our coastal areas more and more, we are going to run into these impacts more often.

Take for instance what we learned from the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau studies, we now see that we had an increase of 52 percent of the nation's total population living within coastal watersheds. If you want to put that in individual numbers, that’s over 50 million people moved into our coastal watersheds between the period of 1970 to 2010, so you’re talking almost 50 percent increase in our U.S. populations along our coast in just a mere 40 years. So we’ve really changed the demography of the way we use our country and where we’re living. Coastlines seem to be where we want to live right now.

HOST: So given that there is that movement to the coast and that there is so much infrastructure and there’s so many people there. What kinds of things can communities do to become more resilient and more prepared before a coastal storm hits their shores?

AUDRA LUSCHER: There are a lot of things that coastal communities can do to prepare for coastal storms. It can range from anything from developing a plan that helps them become more prepared and think about what their evacuation routes are or where their shelters are placed. It can be as small as cutting back your trees or making sure that your storm drains are clear. Those are all activities to become prepared, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that your community will be resilient when a storm hits and that is because those efforts really don’t address the processes and relationships that affect how you recover from an event.

Coastal resilience tends to focus on the degree to which a community can bounce back and learn lessons from past events. Recovery is often dependent on the strength and capacity of individuals, families, hospitals, schools all working together to organize themselves and respond to those events. The nature in which we build these relationships can really have a strong impact on how quickly we can recover. Past decisions tend to really dictate how an event will affect us. And although they can have devastating effects and we may lose a lot of infrastructure, those are also windows of opportunity in which we can make new decisions and start new paths forward in order to make ourselves more resilient after each storm.

So communities actually need to be more proactive with their planning and understand that it’s a continual process in order to enhance resilience. It’s important to recognize that planning is not a single event, but rather an ongoing process that communities need to continually participate in in order to enhance resilience.

HOST: Thanks Audra for explaining that process to us. I think sometimes when I think of resilience it’s more that immediate impact to a short event, you know cleaning those storm drains, so thanks for just helping us see that it is this full process and that there’s so many players and people that are involved. I appreciate that. What is NOAA prepared to do?

AUDRA LUSCHER: NOAA is very active in the process of addressing resilience in coastal storms. We have numerous programs across the agency that address various aspects. Take for instance, the NOAA Coastal Storms Program, which I’m here to talk about today. It is one of the mechanisms NOAA has in order to address other resilience aspects at the local community level.

Coastal Storms Program is a cross-NOAA effort to bring together a suite of capabilities within NOAA and apply it into a regional context. Coastal Storms tends to provide increased focus and manpower in a region for five years and this increased focus includes additional manpower, technical assistance, funding, like a small grants program, towards very specific strategic areas where a community wants to enhance their resilience.

HOST: What is the main goal of this program, of NOAA’s Coastal Storms Program?

AUDRA LUSCHER: Simply put. I think Coastal Storms is here to address how to help communities better prepare and become more resilient and to recover from these events.

HOST: Audra, what makes this program work? How is it unique or different from other things that might be out there?

AUDRA LUSCHER: Coastal Storms Program may sound a bit like other programs by the mission, but I think what makes it more unique is the model for how it implements within a region. We are, like I said a cross-cutting program that pulls together a wealth of knowledge across NOAA with the sole purpose of making researchers, modelers, and training staff work more coordinated towards a very specific aspect of resilience.

I also think that one of the unique aspects is, although we’re a national program, we always hire a coordinator when we’re working in the region and this is really so essential because it helps us understand the needs up at the national level that are being acknowledged and discussed, but we also are able to get into the networks through this person and make sure that we have a community touch with a person that’s local and engaged with the stakeholders as well as the right partners to make sure that we really are meeting the needs that the community is discussing.

HOST: I imagine that having that person on the ground definitely is so helpful. You mentioned that the Coastal Storms Program funds projects in certain regions of the country. Can you tell us more about how that works?

AUDRA LUSCHER: Coastal Storms started 10 years ago when we were trying to find solutions to how to be more targeted in our regional work. So this model has been pretty successful in being able to produce new models and tools within states and organizations that help predict and prepare and respond to coastal events, but the program shifts focus across different areas within the United States and we’ve been in six different regions now with the first being Northeast Florida, we transitioned into the Pacific Northwest and Southern California. After Katrina, we came into the Gulf of Mexico and focused on the Northern Gulf and later expanded more broadly to the entire Gulf and now we’re currently working on the Pacific Islands and Great Lakes.

So each region tends to have a core focus that is specific to that region’s need. For instance in the Pacific Northwest, we were more focused on the ecological resilience of that region and how stormwater impacts salmon. Whereas in the Gulf of Mexico, we came in right after Katrina intended to focus more on the aspects of resilience – where people were at that moment – in regards to how they could respond to the next event and what they could do to build themselves up and make themselves more resilient in the event of another hurricane.

HOST: So Audra, how do you select new regions for future projects?

AUDRA LUSCHER: Coastal Storms tends to select regions based on a mix of factors. Often it’s driven by just the regional needs and opportunities. For example, the recent devastation that happened in the Northeast may provide us an opportunity to come in and help with resilience after Superstorm Sandy. But there really are kind of a set of things we look at or characteristics when we come to selecting an area to focus on and one is just strong political support. Is our Administration in support that we move in the area? Congressional. Local. That’s very important to us. Also, are communities ready to engage? Are they ready to actually actively work on resilience? So the stakeholders are very important to this process in deciding who we work with and where.

HOST: So, along those same lines, are there any success stories that you can share with us on how the Coastal Storms Program has benefited some of these communities that you’ve worked in?

AUDRA LUSCHER: In the Pacific Northwest, let me highlight one that tended to focus on an ecological resilience that I talked about earlier. We funded and supported the Northwest Fisheries Science Center to do some studies on the impacts of stormwater to resources. Stormwater is a phenomenon that happens when you have significant amounts of rain that can carry high levels of pollutants and this can happen anywhere in our country, it doesn’t happen just in our coastal areas. So, when the stormwater is moved into sensitive bodies of water, it can actually have significant impacts on the health of the ecosystem as well as the natural resources that live within that ecosystem. When we funded the Northwest Fisheries Science Center to do work, they were looking specifically at the impacts of heavy metals that come off of brake pads in our cars. Every time we brake we put a little bit of these heavy metals onto the road and when the rain comes, it sweeps them into our waterways. They found out that even though they were restoring large parts of sensitive habitat, the salmon weren’t coming back, but through this work they identified that it was actually these heavy metals that were stopping olfactory sensory systems from allowing them to come back and migrate into the areas. This became such an important finding that actually the legislators brought together specific meetings to talk about this within the states of California, Oregon, and Washington, and it resulted in legislation that actually requested that manufacturers had to stop utilizing these heavy metals within their brake pads and phase them out over a ten-year period. So this was a huge accomplishment for research to application for this type of program.

HOST: Wow, what an incredible story. That definitely is a nice success story. Audra, what kinds of products then are developed by NOAA and your partners during these projects?

AUDRA LUSCHER: The products that are developed by Coastal Storms are probably as varied as the communities in which we work in. So you can have a product suite that touches on community risk and vulnerability assessments, they can look at weather forecasting and observations, or they can just simply look at integrating processes better and doing better outreach and making sure that people are being trained.

But I think I’d like to highlight just one specific project that I think is a good example of that. We put on a small grants competition within every regional project area. And we put a million dollars worth of funding to just do very specific local projects. One of the projects that was funded was to an organization called Grassroots, Inc. This group was awarded a grant to develop a video series on flooding and stormwater in the Northern Gulf. This was very successful and it still continues to be broadcast every hurricane season and as well as it’s been incorporated into some real estate training and certification courses for people living in the local area.

HOST: That’s wonderful. Not a product that I would have envisioned coming out of it, but it’s fantastic to have such a broad reach and be applicable to so many folks. How do you make people aware of the data and the information that you do produce and create during a project? I guess my question is really, how do you get this information into the hands of the decision-makers especially before a coastal storm happens?

AUDRA LUSCHER: Sure, once a product or project is completed, we really do take a concerted effort in ensuring that we’ve done good outreach. It could be a publication, it could be a website that allows you to access a tool or the information or forecast, or it could be very specialized training that we may give to emergency managers or community officials that make decisions.

One effort that helps to supply some of the data and the tools I’d like to highlight is Digital Coast. This tool allows communities to come in and access information on mapping, data, visualizations, training – all the things that you would need to access in order for a community to address some of their resilience activities. This comes out of the Coastal Services Center, I actually work for that Center even though I coordinate the Coastal Storms Program, and they also have a lot of unique partnerships with programs like the Association of State Floodplain Managers or the American Planning Association that helps it be a more robust effort than just a website.

HOST: Can the tools and products then that come out of these regional projects can they ever be applied more nationally so that that benefit goes beyond just the initial area that something was developed for?

AUDRA LUSCHER: That’s a great question and I think that’s some of the intent of this program. Take for instance in the California project area, we supported a model called SWAN, that’s Simulating Waves Nearshore and that was a huge gap for local mariner and weather forecasters, trying to understand the physics of nearshore waves, there just was no model that addressed that. And it was so successful that it actually started being picked up by different Weather Forecasting Offices just on their own, through the East Coast and Honolulu and what happened is Coastal Storms saw that it just really needed to be shepherded into not just an individual product that was used at each Weather Service, but into an operational framework. And so we helped it get into what’s called our nearshore prediction system.

HOST: So Audra, my last question for you today, is do you have any final, closing words for our listeners?

AUDRA LUSCHER: Definitely. While communities can’t change the weather, they can definitely improve their resilience to coastal storms through choices that they make and how they develop along the coast. They also can work on strengthening their community capital, and that’s improving the relationships and social networks between crucial organizations within their communities.

Individuals can also take a concerted effort in order to prepare for an event. They can have a plan within their family, they can understand what hazards are going to impact their area and get more knowledge, and they can gather supplies and be prepared for when those events happen and protect their families.

HOST: Great, thanks Audra. Thank you for joining us today on Diving Deeper and talking more about coastal storms and just giving us some great tips not only for ourselves individually, but things that we can do in our communities to make us all stronger. To learn more about NOAA’s efforts to help communities be more resilient, please visit www.coastalstorms.noaa.gov.

That’s all for today’s show. Remember, if you have questions on this episode or the National Ocean Service in general, you can contact us at nos.info@noaa.gov. And if you’re on social media, don’t forget you can find us, it’s usoceangov, on Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube; and that’s noaaocean on Twitter. Please join us again for our next episode in two weeks.


[Shorts] Value of Coral Reefs

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/feb13/dds022813.mp3

Wed, 27 Feb 2013 16:04:48 -0500

Diving Deeper Shorts: Value of Coral Reefs
Episode 23 (February 28, 2013)

HOST: Today's Diving Deeper Shorts is all about corals! Did you know that even though coral reefs only cover about one-tenth of one percent of the ocean floor, they provide habitat for more than 25 percent of marine species. For more fun facts on corals, let's revisit a past episode where we talked about the importance of coral reefs with the former director of NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program.

Let's listen in.

HOST: Kacky, first can you give us a little more background on coral reefs. Can you tell us where coral reefs are found?

KACKY ANDREWS: So coral reefs are primarily found in tropical waters, they're found throughout the United States and the Atlantic and the Caribbean. The biodiversity hotspot for coral reefs is in Southeast Asia near Indonesia and the Philippines.

HOST: Are corals plants or animals?

KACKY ANDREWS: If I had to choose one, I would say animals, even though they might sometimes resemble plants and are often mistaken for rocks. Many of the reef-building corals that people are most familiar with from the tropical vacations or the photographs are colonial organisms which means they're made up of hundreds to thousands of individual animals called polyps.

Like other animals, polyps need to eat and each polyp has a stomach that opens at one end and is surrounded by tentacles to help catch the food. The food enters the stomach through the mouth and after eating, waste products are expelled through the same opening.

These coral animals are heavily dependent on a symbiotic algae called zooxanthellae that actually live in the corals and help them feed and get nutrients. So even though corals are animals, there's also kind of a component of plants that help them maintain their health.

HOST: Kacky, are there actions that our listeners can take to preserve and protect coral reefs?

KACKY ANDREWS: Yes, there are many actions that we can all take to help protect coral reefs in our own way. Whether you live along the coast or not, we all benefit from coral reefs and we all stand a chance to interact with corals either during vacation or other travel. It is important that we all play a hand in their protection. Let me just give a few specific examples so the listeners know how they may be able to help.

One is get educated, learn about coral reefs. These are amazing resources.

Two, support organizations that protect coral reefs. There are many really wonderful organizations both at a national scale and in the international arena that work to help protect these resources.

Three, you can volunteer for a reef cleanup. As you know there's a lot of marine debris out on reefs and there's many organizations that ask folks to come out and help clean up the reefs.

Four, if you dive, don't touch the reefs as these are really remarkable resources and sometimes people like to break off a branch to take home as a souvenir, but if everyone out there diving and snorkeling did that, which number in the millions, that has a really big impact.

And lastly, is everyone can do their bit to reduce their carbon footprint. Climate change is the greatest threat to reefs and so anything you can do to help reduce the climate change will hopefully improve coral reef condition over the long term.

HOST: That's all for today's Diving Deeper Shorts. Want to learn more? Go to oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast.php and click on the February 2010 podcast archive to listen to the full episode or visit coralreef.noaa.gov.


Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/jan13/dd013113.mp3

Thu, 31 Jan 2013 10:29:36 -0500

Diving Deeper: Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System (PORTS®)
Episode 43 (January 31, 2013)

HOST: Hi everyone, Diving Deeper is back! Thanks so much for tuning in again for more interviews with National Ocean Service experts on a variety of ocean topics that we have for you this year. I'm your host Kate Nielsen.

Today we will talk about the Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System, this is also known as PORTS®. As maritime commerce has tripled in the last 50 years and continues to grow, there is great demand for real-time oceanographic data and products to promote safe and efficient navigation. NOAA's Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System helps to meet just this need.

To help us explore this further, today we will be joined by Darren Wright. Darren is the program manager for the NOAA PORTS® system. Hi Darren, welcome to our show.

DARREN WRIGHT: Hi Kate, thanks for having me on your show today.

HOST: So Darren, you were interviewed about three years ago for the Making Waves podcast and you talked a little bit about NOAA's PORTS® system. Just to get everybody on the same page, can you remind us what this program's all about?

DARREN WRIGHT: Sure. PORTS® is a network of physical oceanographic sensors and meteorological sensors that provide mariners with up-to-date information about what's going on in the environment. The navigation community, the folks who bring those large vessels in and out of ports, use it for safe and efficient navigation, but this system can also be used by anybody for recreational boating, parasailing, whatever you want to use it for. It is available to everybody.

HOST: And about how many sites or stations do you have around the country? And actually are they around the country, maybe I'm jumping the gun.

DARREN WRIGHT: Yes it is a nationwide program. We have currently 21 PORTS® systems around the country in harbors around the U.S. and we actually have two more that are in construction.

HOST: That's quite impressive. How do you select new locations?

DARREN WRIGHT: That's a great question. PORTS® is a partnership program where NOAA is funded for the program management, the data collection and dissemination infrastructure. We have 24 by 7 quality control and we develop new products and we're also responsible for the national standards. What we're not funded for is the local equipment and installation. So we look to a local partner to provide that.

So to start a PORTS® program, we need to identify a local partner who's willing to fund the equipment and then we sit down with a group of mariners that have an interest in that area and we get their requirements and where they need either oceanographic or meteorological information.

HOST: OK, so Darren you mentioned that you meet with these partners in their local regions when you're getting ready to set up a new station and talk about the information that they need. What kind of information do they need or what sort of equipment do you need to set up to get this to them?

DARREN WRIGHT: Well, the type of information that we provide in PORTS® is water level, currents, we have meteorological information such as air temperature, barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, we offer water temperature. Another type of sensor that is somewhat new and is becoming more and more popular as vessels get larger is an air gap system where we install a sensor on the bottom of a bridge and it measures the distance between the bottom of the bridge and the surface of the water. That way mariners who are bringing large vessels in will know if they have enough room to clear the bridge.

Two of our newest sensors that we've included in PORTS® is a visibility sensor which measures fog and waves because we have many folks, both recreational and in the navigation community that are very interested in waves.

HOST: These sound great including the air gap, I imagine that's very helpful information for somebody to have when they're coming into a new area. So you mentioned a lot of different kinds of sensors and a lot of different types of information that these sensors collect. Does each PORTS® station have the same set of sensors?

DARREN WRIGHT: That's another great question. As I mentioned before, this is a partnership program so we look to our local partner and other maritime folks to help us determine where they need information. So we will sit down with them and determine what areas they need information and this is an a la carte system where we will install sensors only in locations where they need information.

So, one of our PORTS® is a single water level station up in New Haven, Connecticut, and the Chesapeake Bay has hundreds of sensors, so it really varies depending on the needs of the local community.

HOST: That's great, so things are definitely tailored then to the needs of a particular group and to the needs of a certain community. Once a local partner has contacted you to help them set up a PORTS® system and all these sensors have been selected, how do you build a station and ultimately make it operational out in the water?

DARREN WRIGHT: Well, first we set up an agreement with our local partner and they provide us the funding for the equipment, NOAA will go out and purchase the equipment. We will bring the equipment back and test it, assemble these stations and then we typically contract out the installation work to preapproved contractors who do this sort of work and we oversee that whole installation.

HOST: When is a station considered to be fully functional? When can it be out there producing the data that communities need?

DARREN WRIGHT: Well, once the sensor's installed we start to collect the data and we'll process that data and review the data and make sure that it's very good quality and very accurate. And once it passes the quality control checks then we start to develop the products that we'll provide to the general public and test those. Finally, once all the data's considered good, it's been checked and rechecked, and we're sure that the data's good, and the products are all developed, then we release the information to the public.

HOST: And how do you do that? How is that information released, how does that get out to somebody? Is it through your website?

DARREN WRIGHT: Yes, we have a couple different ways. Our primary dissemination of the data is through our website where anyone who's got internet access can get access to the information. We have what we call a text screen which gives you a snapshot of what's going on at all the sensors all at one time and that information is also available via your cell phone. But we also have a voice system that you can use if you're within cell range, you can dial into a system and it will give you an audible read-back of what's going on at each of the locations.

HOST: Oh wow, that's great, really helpful. What is maintenance like for these stations? I imagine things will break over time, especially just after storms and different weather events. Are there scheduled maintenance updates or how do you just make sure that everything's working throughout time?

DARREN WRIGHT: There are. One of the primary functions of the PORTS® system is safe and efficient navigation. So it's very important that we keep the stations up as much of the time as we can. So we have scheduled maintenance where we visit the stations at various times, typically every couple of months and make sure that all the sensors are cleaned off, the solar panels are cleaned off, the power to the stations, that the sensors themselves are clean, and that there's no damage either from a vessel or weather events.

HOST: OK, so really NOAA's involved throughout this whole process of setting up a PORTS® system - everything from meeting with the partner, getting that equipment, setting up and building the station, and just sort of that routine maintenance and maybe even emergency maintenance that you need to undergo.

DARREN WRIGHT: Absolutely and yes, in addition to our scheduled maintenance every couple of months as I mentioned before we monitor this data 24/7 so if we do see a problem with the data, we have crews that we go out, and you mentioned it, emergency maintenance, that we'll try to get out there the next day and make repairs on whatever's wrong.

HOST: OK, so we talked about safe navigation, efficiency of ports and harbors as some of the key benefits from the PORTS® system, but I'm wondering if there are other benefits you can speak to from the PORTS® system?

DARREN WRIGHT: Yes, the PORTS® system can be used for a number of other applications other than navigation. It can be used during groundings. If there's an oil spill from a grounding, there's current meter information and wind information that can be used to track oil spills. It can be used in search and rescue efforts, if you know what direction the currents and the wind is blowing, it will give you a much better idea where a stranded vessel may be located. It can also be used for recreational uses such as fishing, windsurfing, just recreational boating. It can also be used for education. One of my favorite emails I've received in the past is from a secondary school teacher who said they used the PORTS® system to help teach their oceanography class. I just thought that was really cool.

HOST: So endless possibilities, endless benefits. Well, you just shared maybe one little success story there for us, that's kind of what I was hoping to touch on next is what some of the success stories from the regions that currently have a PORTS® station, what you could share with us on just how valuable these are for those local communities?

DARREN WRIGHT: Well, there's a couple I'd like to share with you. One is down in Mobile Bay, it's a PORTS® we installed a couple of years ago and within the first three weeks of having the system installed, I received a letter from a shipping company who said on two occasions they used the system. One, to avoid a grounding, in a situation where they typically, just using tide predictions would have brought a vessel in, but because of meteorological events they actually had less water than they were expecting because of the tide conditions and they held the vessel up and avoided a grounding.

And then in another situation, they had a situation where a vessel, they would have held it in dock for awhile until they got enough water, but they had in this case a high water event so they were able to take a vessel out of port quicker, and as you know, these vessels cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a day to operate, so if you can save two or three hours, getting a vessel underway, you can do the math, it saves a lot of money. So that's one letter that I thought was a real good highlight.

And then a recent example was bringing large, new cranes to the Port of Baltimore. We assisted ship pilots by providing them air gap information and water level information to assure they would get under the bridge safely. We were able to, using a regional model, help them determine the exact time they needed to traverse under the bridge by providing them a forecast of what the water level was going to be, and we provided them the air gap information that gave them that gap between the bottom of the bridge and the surface of the water to assure that they would be able to get the cranes under that bridge safely.

HOST: Wow, that's great. So definitely helping to avoid groundings and helping to avoid collisions with bridges, everybody needs one of these. So Darren, would you say that these benefits then from the PORTS®, you've given us great examples so far, would you say that these benefits stretch beyond just the city that a PORTS® station might be located in or a region?

DARREN WRIGHT: Yes, because the majority of the goods that we see in stores are from ships and if there's any kind of groundings or interruption in that chain, it's going to mean higher prices. One example which I actually gave in the last podcast was in Lake Charles, they had a grounding that shut down that waterway to the refineries in Lake Charles and the price of gas went up $0.20 and this was just in one port, so you can see that any interruption in that chain can mean higher prices to the consumer, so avoiding groundings is very important.

HOST: Definitely then, there's benefits from the PORTS® system for everybody - whether you live in a port city or region or anywhere along the coast or not. What are some of the challenges that you typically see associated with some of your stations and their physical location in the water?

DARREN WRIGHT: Well the marine environment is a harsh environment. Our biggest challenge is to keep our stations operating. Yes we have a rigorous maintenance schedule, but as we saw with Hurricane Sandy most recently, you have big storms and weather that can come through and do damage to stations. Also since we're in a marine environment, boats can hit our stations and often do and we need to be able to get out there quickly and repair stations from incidents like that.

Also biofouling which just means marine growth on our instruments, we have to get out there and clean these things off on a regular basis just so that growth does not affect the data.

HOST: Darren, what do you see for the future of the PORTS® system?

DARREN WRIGHT: Well, most recently we added visibility and wave sensors and that kind of completed the suite of sensors that had been the major requirements from the majority of our users, so what I see for the future of PORTS® is definitely advances in technologies, making stations more efficient so they require less maintenance.

Another product that I see us developing down the road is an under keel clearance product and where that is useful is when these big container vessels that we bring into port a lot of times do not have a lot of clearance between the bottom of the ship and the sea bottom so this product will help determine what that measurement is so that vessels, again, will have a good idea whether they're going to ground or not.

And finally, what I think would be most useful to mariners is system integration. Like right now they have charting software and they have PORTS® information, a lot of times they have to have two or three different things to look at to get the information they need. Well, down the road we would like to integrate that all into one system so that they can look in one location and get all the information they need.

HOST: Thanks Darren, my last question for you today is just if you had any parting thoughts to leave our listeners with?

DARREN WRIGHT: Well, I think NOAA's here to provide information and services to inform the public to keep them safe. Now PORTS® is a program that accomplishes this goal for the maritime community, so just stay safe out there.

HOST: Thanks Darren for joining us on Diving Deeper and talking more about NOAA's PORTS® system. To learn more, please visit tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/ports.

That's all for today's show. Remember, if you have questions on this episode or the National Ocean Service in general, you can contact us at nos.info@noaa.gov. And if you're on social media, don't forget you can find us out there, it's usoceangov, on Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube; and noaaocean on Twitter. Please join us for our next episode in two weeks.


Recreation in our Nation's Estuaries

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/sep12/dd092612.mp3

Wed, 26 Sep 2012 10:03:57 -0400

Diving Deeper: Recreation in our Nation's Estuaries
Episode 42 (September 26, 2012)

HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I'm your host Kate Nielsen.

Today we will talk about some of the many recreation activities available in America's Great Outdoors, specifically our National Estuarine Research Reserves. From kayaking to boating to swimming and fishing, our nation's coastal waters are a great source of recreational opportunities.

To help us explore this topic, today we will be joined by Laurie McGilvray. Laurie is the Chief for the Estuarine Reserves Division with the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. Hi Laurie, welcome to our show.

LAURIE MCGILVRAY: Thank you, it's great to be here.

HOST: Laurie to start our little chat today, can you remind everyone what an estuary is and why it's important?

LAURIE MCGILVRAY: Well, we like to say, estuaries are where rivers meet the sea. And I guess if you're in the Great Lakes, it where rivers meet the large water bodies of the Great Lakes. But it's really where there's mixing between that freshwater system that comes from the land and the salty ocean water from the sea or those big Great Lakes waters. But that's kind of how you think about it technically.

Another way to think about it is, probably many of your listeners have been to the coast, they've been to the beach, Ocean City Maryland or Atlantic City, New Jersey. And when you're going to the beach, often times, you're driving over a long bridge and there's this kind of marshy area as you look out both sides of the car and that's an estuary! Where that sort of marshy area where the rivers come in and meet the sea, but that's not how all estuaries look. Some have mangroves in them, some look a lot different, almost like the ocean. And it really just depends on where you are around the country.

HOST: Great, thank you. So, can you tell us, I mentioned this in my introduction, about the National Estuarine Research Reserve System and the role of your office, the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, with that system?

LAURIE MCGILVRAY: Well, the Estuarine Reserve System is a network of 28 coastal, protected areas around the country that are set aside for long-term research and education. And it's under what we call the Coastal Zone Management Act that has a way of comprehensively managing coastal places. And it's a partnership between our agency and office NOAA and coastal states to really help with the protection and management of coastal areas.

HOST: So you mentioned that there's 28 of these reserve sites and you said that they're kind of all throughout the country. Can you tell us a little bit about, are they different, are they all the same?

LAURIE MCGILVRAY: Every one is wonderful and different. Absolutely. They're setting aside about 1.3 million acres of coastal lands and waters, but they can range in size from just over 500 acres in Ohio to 365,000 acres in Alaska. And so the range is not just in size. Each one is completely different in terms of size, the way it looks, and even the partners that we work with there.

HOST: So Laurie, what is the purpose then of the reserves? You talked a little bit about some of the land that these encompass, is it more that these sites are designated for conservation and preservation of coastal lands and coastal areas or is it used more for research?

LAURIE MCGILVRAY: So certainly, Estuarine Research Reserves conserve and set aside and protect really important habitat on the coast, but they are so much more than that. They are what we call living laboratories places that reserve staff and other scientists can learn about these really important coastal systems.

But we don't just stop there at learning about them, we have other really great ways of sharing that information with all kinds of different people whether students and teachers or the public and also what we call coastal decision makers, those are the sorts of folks that may work at the county or city level or with state agencies that make decisions that affect coastal resources. Even a landscaper or a farmer can be a coastal decision maker in the way that they do things that affect coastal resources.

HOST: So Laurie, from what we've talked about so far today and about the reserves, would you say, are reserves like national or state parks that we might visit?

LAURIE MCGILVRAY: Well, it's funny you should ask that because some look a lot like parks, they may even seem in many ways like parks where the public can go and visit them and learn about them, but they really are so much more than that. Because they're set aside for long-term research and education, it isn't just about conservation or the kind of recreational experience that people can get there, it's really about that deeper understanding of why these places are important and then sharing what we've learned with all kinds of different people.

HOST: Thanks so much for everything you've done to kind of explain to us what the Reserve System is like how many reserves there are, where they're located, but let's go back to our topic today which is recreation and just talk a little bit about that. Can folks visit the reserves?

LAURIE MCGILVRAY: Absolutely. That's one of the important aspects of it is the public has to be able to access these. These are a public resource. So most reserves actually have a visitor's center or interpretive center where the public can go and you can actually go to our nerrs.noaa.gov website and find out about where they're located and how to get there.

HOST: Laurie, you just mentioned to us about visitor centers at some of the reserve sites. Do all of the reserve sites have visitor centers or can you just tell us a little bit about what these are like?

LAURIE MCGILVRAY: Well, almost every reserve has some kind of visitor education/interpretive center that's a way to introduce the public to the reserve. But the other cool thing about their facilities is they actually use them as a way to teach about different subject matter so they may have exhibits in them that are very interactive, they may have trails and interpretive displays and then some of them increasingly have used the way they design and build their buildings to teach about the things that are important for protecting estuaries. So they may have rain gardens or native plant gardens or other kinds of ways of building their buildings in a sustainable way with solar power, geo-thermal energy that's really teaching the community about how to build and live sustainably.

HOST: And when you say teaching the community, I imagine there's a lot of good educational activities that go on at these visitor centers. Are they more activities that are geared towards a K-12 classroom and a teacher going in there with a student or do the staff really interact with everybody and just families that might come through on a weekend? What kind of activities do they do?

LAURIE MCGILVRAY: Well, it varies from reserve to reserve, but in really all cases, they are interacting with a formal education audience, so that's students, that's teachers, some do a lot with students and have programs almost throughout the year. Others may spend more of their time training teachers and then they can bring that information back in the classroom.

But then as I said, they interact with the general public. And I was just looking through different reserve's websites and seeing the amazing things that they offer in the summer and it's everything from guided hikes to seining/pulling a dip net to learn what's in the water, or bird walks early in the morning, or lectures from some of the scientists on what they're doing. So, lots of really cool stuff to do at reserves.

HOST: Great, I'm ready to get out there myself. Sounds wonderful, thank you. So Laurie, can you tell us a little bit about the staff that are at the reserves that are working out there for us every day?

LAURIE MCGILVRAY: Well Kate, I have to say that the people that we work with in reserves are some of the most enthusiastic and dedicated people I've ever met. They actually don't work for NOAA, they're state or university employees, but we have a great working relationship. And so they range from the kind of people who are doing the science themselves to being educators to stewardship coordinators who are actually managing the land or removing invasive species.

And then there's a whole other group of folks that we don't necessarily think of as staff at reserves, but they're a really important part and that's the volunteers. It's amazing at how much time people will give to working in the gift shop or leading tours and being docents of the program. And their level of dedication is amazing, I've actually met volunteers that worked in New Hampshire at the Great Bay Reserve, but they winter in Florida, there they were at one of our reserves near Jacksonville. So, they're enthusiastic partners in the system as well.

HOST: Very good. It's good you have that strong network of people that are out there helping to keep things going day to day. I'm sure that this also varies quite a bit by site, but what are some of the recreational activities that folks might be able to engage in at some of the reserves?

LAURIE MCGILVRAY: Well, interestingly, I think all reserves have birds, so if you're a birder, reserves can just be amazing places to go experience and watch birds. But then a lot of them too because they're estuaries and water, you can get on the water and experience kayaking, canoeing, being out in small boats, some reserves actually do tours on the water, and when you're on the water you can also do fishing or other kinds of activities.

HOST: And Laurie because these are protected areas, as we've talked a little bit about, are there some things that people shouldn't expect to be able to do when they're visiting the reserves?

LAURIE MCGILVRAY: Well, probably like other protected areas or parks, removing plants or animals that are restricted, probably each of the reserves have some kind of restriction on that. But then there may be unique things to the sites that they may cordon off an area during a bird nesting season or a turtle nesting. So there may be some restrictions and really the best thing to do is contact the reserve directly and find out what things that they do encourage folks to do and things that they might have more restrictions on.

HOST: Do you know approximately how many people visit the 28 reserve sites each year?

LAURIE MCGILVRAY: For the visitor centers we think around 600,000 people visit the visitor centers, but that's really only a fraction of the folks who experience the reserve. We think there's well in excess of one million people who enjoy and experience the reserve, whether it's on land or on water.

HOST: That's wonderful, that is quite a number. So far you've taken us through a lot of the different recreational activities that folks might be enjoying when they come and visit the reserves. My next question for you is more on the impact that the reserves have to the local economy, to that local business community. How does the local economy and businesses in the community, how do they benefit from having the reserves there?

LAURIE MCGILVRAY: Well, that's a great question and I'd say probably in two ways the business community in and around reserves benefit from having a reserve in their community. The first way is really very directly in those businesses that enable the public to get on the water. So lots of reserves have eco-tour operators that may rent kayaks or boats or actually take people out to experience the resources of the reserve and they're great partners with the reserve and they work really closely.

But then the second way is kind of an interesting one where by bringing science to different businesses in the community they're actually fostering best practices that may have an economic benefit to the business. One example that comes to mind is landscapers around Rookery Bay in Naples, Florida. They were trained and had their staff trained and certified in application of fertilizers and how to have best practices in lawn care and it actually ending up saving the company money so really in two ways they're benefiting the community.

HOST: That's wonderful, thank you. I imagine that your answer to my next question has a lot to do with location and accessibility, but I'm curious out of your 28 sites what is the most frequently visited reserve site?

LAURIE MCGILVRAY: Frequently visited. Well, it does vary probably by proximity to urban areas and how accessible reserves are, so I would probably guess that the most visited reserves are, or among them are the, Guana Tolomato Matanzas Reserve that's near St. Augustine, Florida, or the Kachemak Bay Reserve in Homer, Alaska, which just has an amazing facility, or perhaps the Tijuana River Reserve in San Diego, California.

HOST: And Laurie, since we have listeners from all over the country who tune into our podcast, and some of our listeners today might not be able to travel to a reserve site, is there a way that they can experience the reserves?

LAURIE MCGILVRAY: Well, one great way I might suggest is our more educational website, estuaries.noaa.gov, has a fantastic video collection. So they're both videos that kind of tell the reserve story in total, but a lot of also little different snipets and clips and that'll give you images and a sense of what reserves look like and what kinds of things happen there and what's important to the reserves.

HOST: Laurie, on a more personal note and given your role, what is your favorite recreational activity at one of the reserves?

LAURIE MCGILVRAY: Well, it's like asking me what my favorite ice cream is or which one of my daughters is my favorite daughter those are really hard questions to answer! So I'd probably talk about two that I've spent the most time or really had the most personal experience with. One would be canoeing at the Maryland Reserve on the Chesapeake Bay, Jug Bay. It's only about 20 miles from where we work in Silver Spring, so it feels like it's the reserve in our backyard. It's a beautiful system with wild rice and freshwater wetland plants and a great place to canoe.

But then the other one that I have a real soft spot for is the ACE Basin Reserve in South Carolina because I had the opportunity to spend some time there and going out and seeing the wood storks flying across the reserve in the early morning and getting to look at birds is something really special.

HOST: Great, thank you. And Laurie, my last question for you today, do you have any final, closing words to leave our listeners with?

LAURIE MCGILVRAY: Kate, you know I might actually end where I started and that's to hope that listeners really take the time, that we piqued their interest, and that they'll learn something about estuaries. They're really special places and I think often people think about the beach, but they don't necessarily think about those really wonderful places that are behind or near the beach. So I'm hoping folks will take the time to learn a little bit more and then just get out there and visit them if you have a chance. They're incredible places, they're wonderful opportunities for learning and you and your children can get really excited about science and the outdoors and research reserves are just a wonderful place to do that.

HOST: Great. Well, thanks Laurie for joining us today on Diving Deeper and talking about recreation and our National Estuarine Research Reserves. To learn more, please visit the site that Laurie mentioned, nerrs.noaa.gov.

That's all for today's show. Remember, if you have questions on this episode or the National Ocean Service in general, you can contact us at nos.info@noaa.gov. And if you're on social media, don't forget you can find us, it's usoceangov, on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube. We will be taking a short break from Diving Deeper for the remainder of 2012. Please join us again in 2013 for more interviews on the ocean topics and information that are important to you.


[Shorts] Mapping Sea Floor Habitats

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/sep12/dds091312.mp3

Thu, 13 Sep 2012 08:22:33 -0400

Diving Deeper Shorts: Mapping Sea Floor Habitats
Episode 22 (September 13, 2012)

HOST: Are you longing for a little deep sea adventure? Today on Diving Deeper Shorts, we revisit our interview on mapping sea floor habitats - just a few minutes on how scientists collect the data needed for sea floor maps and what a day is like for scientists on a research mission. For this episode, let's go back to our interview from July 2010 with Tim Battista from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science.

Let's listen in.

HOST: So, it's probably quite a challenge to collect data on the sea floor at all these different depths. How do you collect this data?

TIM BATTISTA: So, in making a sea floor map, we use a variety of technologies and those technologies have limitations. Some of them are actually fairly available to anyone. We're all familiar with Google Earth and Google Maps, which allow us to see imagery, mostly of the land environment, we can bring up a satellite image of your house or something like that or street map. We use the same imagery to do habitat mapping and these are actually commercial satellites that fly in space, overhead, and we're able to task those to take pictures of locations that we want to map.

Beyond that we have to switch to other technologies and there's a reason for that. Commercial satellites take pictures and light only penetrates so far to the sea floor and so we can only see things to the depth that the light penetrates. So once we get to that threshold where light doesn't see the sea bottom any more we have to switch to something else. And typically what we use is what's known as acoustic technologies. Acoustic being to use the sound to penetrate the water and get down to the bottom of the sea floor.

HOST: Tim, can you tell us a little bit about what a day is like or what a mission is like when you go out to collect this data?

TIM BATTISTA: So typically my role is principal scientist, my job is to not only bring the scientists on board to do various tasks with their expertise, but also to come up with a design for the research mission, so all the bits and pieces that we want to fulfill during our research mission.

In any given day as a principal scientist, I have to articulate to my scientists what exactly we're going to be doing during the course of a day, and that changes generally based on the time of day it is. So we know during daylight hours we can do scuba diving, we can work on small boats doing collection there, so that's typically what we do during the day.

I should also mention we also use a remotely operated vehicle, which is a robot, it has a tether that comes to the surface, to the boat, which allows us to control it and manipulate the robot and take pictures and samples. Those are all daytime activities.

And then at nighttime we switch over to what we call mapping I guess, taking our acoustics, the term is called 'mowing the lawn.' You literally draw, on the computer, lines that the ship is to follow, and those lines are parallel to each other and we mow the lawn at night collecting data and data. And we use that data the next day to figure out where we're going to go with the ROV or the small boats or the diver. It kind of makes sense - you collect data at night to help you determine what you're going to do the next day.

That's all for today's show. Want to learn more? Go to oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast.php and select the July 2010 podcast archive to listen to the full interview on mapping sea floor habitats.

If you have questions on this episode or the National Ocean Service in general, you can contact us at nos.info@noaa.gov. And if you're on social media, don't forget you can find us, its usoceangov, on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube. You can catch our next episode in two weeks.


Accurate Positions: Know Your Location

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/aug12/dd082312.mp3

Thu, 23 Aug 2012 09:48:09 -0400

Diving Deeper: Accurate Positions: Know Your Location
Episode 41 (August 23, 2012)

HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I'm your host Kate Nielsen.

Today's question is...How do we get accurate, consistent positions?

If you want to know where you are, you need a starting, or reference, point. Take a bunch of these points, and you have a spatial reference system. NOAA's National Geodetic Survey maintains a reference system to ensure that all U.S. positioning information, including every map made by any government agency, fits together. Accurate, consistent positioning data is fundamental to navigation, infrastructure, transportation, communication systems, and so much more.

Today we will talk with Joe Evjen on positioning. Joe is a geodesist with NOAA's National Geodetic Survey. Hi Joe, welcome to our show.

JOE EVJEN: Hi Kate, thanks for having me.

HOST: Can you tell us a little bit about how we get accurate positions?

JOE EVJEN: Sure. You get positions by measuring them from other positions of course. In this office building, we're on the fourth floor, we're 40 feet above ground and if you wanted to meet your friends for lunch you could tell them you were six and a half miles north of the Zero Milestone, a famous monument in downtown DC.

To make positions relevant to a lot of people across the country, we use more famous monuments, we use the Earth. We measure latitudes up from the equator and longitudes east from the Greenwich Meridian in England. Those are rather inconvenient to measure from of course so we seeded the country with about a million small concrete monuments, brass disks you may see on mountaintops, or in sidewalks, and we have determined the official latitude, longitude, and elevation of those points.

HOST: Great and so, we talked a little bit about this in the introduction, but can you expand on some of the applications of positioning data—maybe who uses this information and this data?

JOE EVJEN: Most famously, map makers use data to make their maps. And now map users, if you have a GPS instrument in your car, you are actually drawing yourself into a map in real time. More specifically, our customers tend to be surveyors and engineers. They need to figure out where things are, and how they might need to be moved or worked around in order to build bridges and roads through mountains and over rivers. And also for ship drivers if they're trying to fit a large ship under a bridge or over a shoal to get into a port, they need to know the size and location of things.

I like that reference, if you're using a GPS in your car, you're pulling yourself into a map—that's a really good way to think about that. So, this data's important for everybody all across the country and my next question for you Joe is, what does the National Ocean Service then have to do with positioning?

JOE EVJEN: We get that question asked all the time because we worked mostly in mountaintops for the last 100 years and we have National Ocean Service written on the side of our truck. In a word, we're here because of shipwrecks. Two hundred years ago when the nation started, we were a seaboard nation, clinging to the edge of a vast wilderness and we used the ocean as our roads. And we had lots of crashes. Lots of shipwrecks would cause turmoil in commerce—you never knew if you'd have to have a large profit in order to get a ship to move up the coast because you might lose everything along the way. Thomas Jefferson figured that out 200 years ago and he formed the nation's oldest scientific service, what became the Coast and Geodetic Survey.

We needed good maps or charts of the ocean so that ships could drive around shoals and find the deep water to get into ports. We must have done a good job because as the nation moved westward into the wilderness, we led the way with geodetic surveys to help build the roads and interstates.

HOST: So Joe, you've mentioned these brass disks a few times so far today during our episode. When someone finds a disk, what does that mean?

JOE EVJEN: When you see a disk, it's a placeholder for an earlier survey observation. If you find a brass disk on a mountaintop from 1957, you can touch the same location that the surveyor in 1957 touched when he determined the precise latitude, longitude, and height, and you can work from there to find your latitude, longitude, and height of a thing that you're interested in or track to see if the mountain has changed height.

Because we have these 200 years of historical descriptions of these marks, it's become a hobby for geo-cachers to go out and locate bench marks and read a description from 80 years ago and compare that with the site as they find it today. It's very refreshing to have a job that other people consider a hobby.

HOST: So what services then does your office, NOAA's National Geodetic Survey, what services do you provide to professionals requesting this survey information?

JOE EVJEN: Where is one of the five fundamental questions - who, what, when, where, and why. And we answer the where question about 50 million times per year through our various products, many of which are now maintained by state and local engineers. It took a large Coast and Geodetic Survey for the first 100 years to put in these million marks across the country. We use a lot of satellite techniques and a lot of borrowed data from around the world to produce our products now.

One of our main products is a datasheet which is just a text description of the official location of each of those one million brass disks that we've put in sidewalks and mountaintops around the country. We now give out raw GPS data files and we process GPS solutions for almost 2,000 active control stations which are just a GPS receiver glued on top of a bench mark.

We've now installed GPS receivers that 24 hours a day collect GPS data. A surveyor doesn't need to send a crew member out to the known location to start his survey that data can be downloaded from our CORS network automatically or we also have a product called OPUS, where you can submit your raw data and we'll do the processing for you.

HOST: Joe, how does the online positioning user service that you just mentioned, how does it work?

JOE EVJEN: Well, when you're using a GPS receiver, you're listening to GPS satellites and you can position yourself fairly accurately to within 10 or 15 meters. A lot of people need positions better than that if you're trying to position a house above a floodplain or make two ends of a bridge meet in the middle over a river, you want centimeters or millimeters instead. In order to get that you need to ground your GPS satellite data with some known positions. Helps us eliminate a lot of the errors that a GPS signal incorporates as it goes through the atmosphere and because it's based on a GPS satellite position which may or may not be perfect.

OPUS is a software tool which will combine the user's GPS data file with GPS data carefully recorded from our network of about 2,000 active control stations, we call CORS—Continuously Operating Reference Stations—where we record data 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

HOST: So it's more of a computer program then that automatically generates this position for the user? How are people involved?

JOE EVJEN: The people mostly stand out of the way. We try to let the machines talk to the machines. A survey grade GPS receiver will record the actual signals coming out of the satellites. GPS satellites are essentially an atomic clock with a radio station attached to it. And they fly around the world, twice a day, at about 9,000 miles an hour. In fact, in the time it takes to say GPS satellite, a GPS satellite will move about 2.3 miles. But with computer techniques we can go super slow-mo with the satellites and we can pretend like they're standing still. We'll measure the time that it takes for a signal to go from the satellite to the GPS receiver and the time is actually different between the receiver at the known location and the receiver at the unknown location. We can tease out these tiny differences to determine the distance from the receivers to the satellite and then by basic geometry we'll figure out the difference in the locations between the known and unknown locations.

HOST: OK, so how accurate then is the data or the coordinate that the user gets back? Is the system still being refined?

JOE EVJEN: About ten years ago it was good to a decimeter and now we refine techniques where we can get positions for users usually within a centimeter or two. When we're able to collect data for 24 hours a day at our known locations, we're able to consistently produce positions good within about a millimeter.

HOST: That's pretty accurate.

JOE EVJEN: That's pretty accurate.

HOST: Can anyone use this online system or was it designed for a specific audience?

JOE EVJEN: It's open to anyone, but the price of entry is about $10,000 in GPS equipment. We're not talking about a dashboard GPS, we're talking about a dual frequency survey grade unit. They have come down in price very much from about $100,000, now they cost around $10,000. We do have techniques that are usable with cheaper receivers, but we haven't found a business case for them yet.

HOST: Joe, what do you think is the main benefit of this system?

JOE EVJEN: OPUS helps make the National Spatial Reference System real. Even though we put out a million bench marks, we never put them in exactly the same place you wanted. We put them out 70 years ahead of time and they have moved in the interceding years. With OPUS, you don't need the government to come out and set a bench mark in your area. If you have a clear view of the sky, you can establish your own bench mark and determine your own latitude, longitude, and height very precisely on the day that you need it.

HOST: So, does your office retain or archive the information in some way following upload of these approximately 30,000 monthly survey files?

JOE EVJEN: For the most part we forget. Due to privacy concerns, much of the data just get washed out at the end of the day. We do try to remember where people use it and keep usage statistics. We define our success by how often and well it's used. And it is used in just about every county and all around the country.

There are about one percent of users however, they think that the position they've got is useful for others, say it's on a tidal bench mark or engineering project for the Corps of Engineers, so they'll ask us to keep the data and they'll give the mark a name and they'll upload a description and some photographs so that other people can go out and visit the same mark later and make better use of the data that they've already collected.

HOST: And just to remind our listeners, we talked about this in an earlier podcast, but if we can touch on what is the National Spatial Reference System again?

JOE EVJEN: Sure. You can think of the National Spatial Reference System as standard time, but in four dimensions instead of one. We use standard time of course to make sure our VCRs start to record programs at the right time or to meet up with people at the same time. Standard time helps coordinate fiber optic communications and the Internet and cellular phone technologies, all based on very precise clocks. In the same way that time works in a single dimension, latitude, longitude, and height, and time now work in four dimensions to help people coordinate their activities.

HOST: And Joe, for those listeners who aren't in your immediate user community that we've talked about, what is the benefit to them that a product such as the online positioning user service even exists?

JOE EVJEN: If you need to get a survey done, it can be done more cheaply. If you need products delivered to stores from across the world, they can arrive at ports and airports more effectively, and then your dashboard GPS can get you from your house to the store.

HOST: Great! Do you have any final, closing words for our listeners today?

JOE EVJEN: I'd say commerce relies on good coordination of activities and good coordination begins with good coordinates.

HOST: Thanks Joe for joining us on Diving Deeper and talking about our accurate and consistent positions on the Earth's surface. To learn more, please visit geodesy.noaa.gov/opus.

That's all for today's show. Remember, if you have questions on this episode or the National Ocean Service in general, you can contact us at nos.info@noaa.gov. And if you're on social media, don't forget you can find us, it's usoceangov, on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube. Please join us for our next episode in two weeks.


Volunteering with our National Marine Sanctuaries Part II

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/july12/dd071912.mp3

Thu, 19 Jul 2012 09:55:21 -0400

Diving Deeper: Volunteering with our National Marine Sanctuaries
Episode 40 (July 19, 2012)

HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I'm your host Kate Nielsen.

Today we will continue our discussion on an earlier question - How can I volunteer with our national marine sanctuaries?

Today's episode will connect you with sanctuary staff from different locations to explore a few of the many volunteer opportunities.

(VOLUNTEERING ACROSS THE NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARIES)

We will start today's program again with Tracy Hajduk, the National Volunteer Coordinator for the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. Thanks Tracy for joining us once more to talk about this very important program and the volunteer opportunities that are available for folks.

TRACY HAJDUK: Thanks Kate, glad to be here.

HOST: Tracy, today we're going to talk to volunteer coordinators with the Monterey Bay and Stellwagen Bank national marine sanctuaries. What can you tell us about these sites and some of their volunteer opportunities?

TRACY HAJDUK: Well, these sites are both in pretty urban areas. They have a lot of people living nearby them and a lot of people using their sanctuaries. And in terms of their volunteer programs, they actually do have a little bit of difference. Monterey Bay has been able to have volunteer programs going for quite a long time and they have these great, solid programs that are really engaging with the community and having community members collect data on water quality, they have visitor centers that you're going to hear about later on in the episode.

And Stellwagen Bank is right by the city of Boston, which is a huge urban area with people constantly using the waterways, and their volunteer programs are at this great cusp of expansion. They've had volunteer programs in the past, but they've really been able to do a lot just in the past year or so and really start to engage the community more. So it's a really exciting time where we have these wonderful programs that have been going, but we also always have new programs. And you'll hear from both of the volunteer coordinators about new stuff that's always happening at the sanctuaries that are working to get more volunteers involved.

HOST: Great, sounds good. I'm looking forward to getting these folks on the phone. Tracy, for all the sanctuary sites, not just those that we will speak with today, do folks tend to serve or volunteer for shorter periods of time, maybe just a few days here and there, or do your volunteers tend to really dedicate time year after year to support the sanctuaries?

TRACY HAJDUK: This again does depend on the site and also the project. A lot of our sanctuaries do have one-day events and some of these are actually some of our biggest volunteer programs, for instance, in Hawaii, we have the Sanctuary Ocean Count, and they have three days over a month time period where they get 1,000 volunteers to come out and help them count whales and they're recording behavior. It's a huge event, the community's really engaged with it, but it's basically a one-day event. Olympic Coast has a beach cleanup that's similar. They partner with a lot of other organizations, but again they get over 1,000 volunteers, kind of this army of people coming out to the beach and cleaning up and have a huge impact.

Those are some of our one-day events where we have folks, but we also have programs that people come throughout the year, they might come once a month or once a week even. We have some people who volunteer, we had someone just this past year who was volunteering over 100 times, he was out on the Channel Islands. So that was just an amazing amount of time if you think about it, almost every three days he's out there volunteering for us. And we have had volunteers that have been with us for a really long time. Again, Channel Islands has a couple of volunteers who have been with us for over 20 years. So, it's really impressive. We've had some great volunteers who've stayed with us and we have ones who do one shot and we hope they'll come back sometime.

HOST: Are there volunteer opportunities at some of the sites where students can get credit for school?

TRACY HAJDUK: Yeah, we really try and work a lot with students and youth because volunteering is a great way to get experience. A lot of people if you ask got their start or figured out if they do or do not like things because they may have been volunteering. So we really try to work with both high school students and college students a lot to get them to volunteer. And we sometimes just have them come and they're volunteers and other times they actually are part of a program where they're getting credit with the school or the university. We've worked with AmeriCorps and Job Corps students before. Just again, really trying to get students the skills that they need that's 1) going to get them engaged with the sanctuary, which we love to do, 2) the students enjoy it, we enjoy working with the students and it's really a great resume builder and experience builder for them that they can use as they're starting out their career.

HOST: That's fantastic that there's so many opportunities for students too through your volunteer programs. Are your volunteers, not just students, but all volunteers, are they recognized in some way for their efforts?

TRACY HAJDUK: Absolutely. Recognition is one of the things we really focus on with our volunteers because we can't do what we do without them and we want to make sure that we show them that appreciation and have them understand how important they are to us. So, there's a lot of different levels of recognition. All of our sites have their own internal site based recognition and that varies per site. Sometimes they do a small awards ceremony or they'll even have maybe a pot luck dinner where they just get together and appreciate the work that they've done for the year.

We do also have a national recognition program where we have pins for years of service and I mentioned again we've had some volunteers that have been here for 20 years so we have pins that volunteers can actually earn as they volunteer with us to get, we have a 3, 5, a 10, and a 20 year pin. We've had wonderful feedback, the volunteers are really proud of the pins, they wear them, showing off their service.

Another really neat recognition program we have, and this is thanks to the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, is we have something called the Volunteer of the Year, which the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation hosts and each site is able to nominate one volunteer. The Foundation selects a winner. One of the main events during that week is what's called the Leadership Awards Dinner. And we actually recognize our Volunteer of the Year at this ceremony. There's a few other awards that are given out that night such as a Lifetime Achievement Award, and some past recipients have been former President Bill Clinton and U.S. Navy Lt. Don Walsh, who was one of the first men to go into the Marianas Trench back in the 60s. So, these are really big names in ocean conservation and ocean action and the fact that our volunteer is recognized beside them on stage that night is a huge deal for us. So, we're really thankful to the Foundation for being able to support them.

HOST: Very nice way to reach out and say thank you, that's for sure. So Tracy, for those listening today who don't live close to a national marine sanctuary (or maybe don't even live close to the coast), can they volunteer in some way and help out?

TRACY HAJDUK: We always stress for people to volunteer in whatever capacity they can. Again, we've talked about this a little bit in the previous episode, but a great resource that I always love to talk about is volunteer.gov. If you're not close enough to a sanctuary, just get out and get connected with your local community, it really helps people feel engaged with the community and with the environment, and it's just a win-win situation for everybody. We always encourage people to find some way that they can help out and if you look, I'm pretty sure you'll find something nearby.

(MONTEREY BAY NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY)

HOST: Thanks again Tracy for coming in today and answering some of our questions and helping us kick off this episode. So let's move out to the West Coast and interview Lisa Emanuelson by phone today. Lisa is a volunteer coordinator with the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. Hi Lisa, welcome to our show.

LISA EMANUELSON: Thanks so much Kate for having me here.

HOST: Lisa, first, can you tell us a little bit about the sanctuary site that you work at?

LISA EMANUELSON: Well I work at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, out on the west coast. We're almost 300 shoreline miles extending from the Marin Headlands down to Cambria in the south. And it's just an amazing site where we have underwater canyons and huge kelp forests. With such a large site, we just have so many different habitats that we're working to protect and so it's just an amazing, amazing place. One of the incredible spots within our sanctuary is the Davidson seamount, which is an underwater extinct volcano. And it's offshore of our sanctuary, it's sort of a little postage stamp offshore of our sanctuary's shoreline boundary. And it's just an incredible place where we can see deep sea corals and deep sponges, just an amazing, amazing place.

HOST: Sounds very cool and quite a diverse place and an important resource to preserve.

LISA EMANUELSON: Absolutely and it's one of those things where most of the residents along our shoreline don't always know what's out there. So part of our job is to help them to know what's there.

HOST: So Lisa, can you tell us about the types of activities that your volunteers are supporting?

LISA EMANUELSON: Absolutely. Our volunteers do such an incredible diversity of activities and I just feel so fortunate to work with so many folks that are so engaged in the sanctuary. Some of our volunteers are involved in our water quality monitoring programs. So they are out there testing and monitoring the quality of water that's flowing into the sanctuary - either through creeks and rivers or actually through urban areas and storm drains, which of course all of that flows into the sanctuary and can impact the quality of water within the sanctuary itself.

Other volunteers that we have are doing a program called Beach Combers where they are out there walking beaches looking for dead marine birds and marine mammals. And it might seem kind of like a gruesome job, which in some cases it can be, but it's really important information because there might be activities or different impacts that are happening out in the sanctuary that we don't see except for the fact that it's impacting the wildlife. And so, by monitoring the wildlife that's washing up on the beaches, we have an opportunity to see what might be happening out in the sanctuary.

And then our last sort of group of volunteers are actually docents. And we have different types of docent activities. One group is our BayNet shoreline naturalist program and they are along the shoreline here in Monterey, Pacific Grove, Santa Cruz, and Moss Landing, and they talk to visitors about the local wildlife. And they have binoculars set up on tripods and they just show folks some of the local wildlife and talk to them about it. Other volunteers we have are out on kayaks talking to local visitors, also on kayaks, about the local wildlife that we have and approaching that wildlife too closely, which in some cases can be very damaging for things like sea otters and harbor seals. They tend to be really shy, they tend to need their rest, and if we are always approaching them, it's hard for them because they always have to try and get away from us. So we try and educate kayakers and boaters and other folks, try and educate them about proper wildlife viewing.

Our last group of volunteers are our docents within our visitor centers. We have a visitor center down in Cambria and then we also have a brand new visitor center that's opening up in July of 2012 and that's going to be in Santa Cruz. And so we have docents that are there helping to interpret the exhibits and also to educate folks about the sanctuary through our visitor centers.

HOST: Lisa, you mentioned that your volunteers are involved in water quality monitoring. Can you tell us more about that?

LISA EMANUELSON: Sure, our water quality volunteers are some folks that go out and help us throughout the whole, entire year. During the dry weather, we monitor storm drain outfalls for common urban pollutants like detergents, ammonia, phosphates, and chlorine. And that's through a program that we have called Urban Watch. We do it in Monterey and Pacific Grove and it helps us to track what are common urban pollutants that might be reaching the ocean and trying to detect where they could be coming from. We work with our local cities to help them figure out what's the quality of water in their storm drain outfalls and also to help find elicit discharges that will impact the ocean.

We also have programs around our first rainstorm of the year, which is our First Flush program. We have incredible volunteers that go out day or night and monitor storm drain outfalls during the first rainstorm of the year, which is oftentimes at 2:00 in the morning, sometimes it's 2:00 in the afternoon, but most often 2:00 in the morning. So our volunteers will collect water samples that will be tested for metals which are copper, zinc, and lead; bacteria; nutrients; nitrate and phosphate; and also total suspended solids. And this really helps us to figure out, what's the quality of water coming off of our streets, going into the ocean during that first rainstorm of the year.

And then our last water quality program that we have is called Snapshot Day. And it's the first Saturday in May and we have volunteers throughout the sanctuary that go to watersheds and take samples of creeks and rivers and do some basic field measurements. And we test those water samples for things like bacteria and nutrients. And again, it just gives us an idea of what is the quality of water flowing into the sanctuary from our watersheds.

HOST: Lisa, my last question for you today. To give our listeners a flavor of the opportunities that are available to them if they visit the Monterey Bay sanctuary, can you tell us what your favorite recreational activity is within the sanctuary?

LISA EMANUELSON: That's such a hard question because there's so many different things to do here. My husband and I, we love to go kayaking, we go up to the Elkhorn Slough to go kayaking, we kayak along Cannery Row in Monterey. There's great surfing here which I love to do, up in Santa Cruz as well as down in Moss Landing. This is just an amazing place to see wildlife. There's plenty of whale watching boats that go out and there's just great places to view wildlife. Just walking along the coastal trails can be an incredible experience. You can see whales from the trails, you can see birds, you can see sea otters, you can see harbor seals. There's just so much here, it's hard to pick just one.

(STELLWAGEN BANK NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY)

HOST: Thanks Lisa for that overview on these great volunteer opportunities at Monterey Bay. Now, let's head back over to the east coast and talk, again by phone, to Anne-Marie Runfola about the volunteer opportunities at the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Hi Anne-Marie, welcome to our show.

ANNE-MARIE RUNFOLA: Hi, thank you, it's nice to be here.

HOST: Anne-Marie, can you tell us about the mission or the purpose of your sanctuary and where exactly you're located?

ANNE-MARIE RUNFOLA: Well, first, I'm going to start with the name. It's a really long one, but it's got some historic significance. It's the Gerry E. Studds Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and it's named after both the U.S. Navy Lt. who first mapped the bank and the U.S. Congressman who supported the designation in 1992 so we're celebrating our 20th anniversary this year, I just wanted to get that out there. And our sanctuary is 842 square miles of open ocean, about the size of Rhode Island. It's out in the open ocean, it doesn't touch land, it's between Cape Ann and Cape Cod along the coast, just three miles off of each Cape, but approximately 23 miles from Boston.

And it's a really unique place, we sometimes call it the urban sanctuary. It's a major commercial shipping hub, it's an historic fishing ground, and it's one of the best places in the world to see whales. It's also designated as an important bird area which I'll talk more about later. And our mission is to protect and conserve the sanctuary's resources - we have marine mammals and the biodiversity, so life from the sea floor to sea birds - so from the bottom all the way up to the air. And our maritime heritage, we have identified and found at least 40 shipwrecks and counting.

So all that while performing this balancing act to try and facilitate and manage compatible use. So we call it, it's like the three-legged stool - so we've got marine mammals, biodiversity, and maritime heritage and we also have all these other activities happening in the sanctuary, so trying to coordinate and manage all that while protecting the resources. And the sanctuary's a hugely productive area, I like to say it's like one of the biggest food courts in one of the biggest airports in the world, we've got fish and whales and seabirds coming in from everywhere to eat along the bank.

HOST: Thanks Anne-Marie, it sounds like quite a mission and you all are very busy. Can you briefly explain to us the kinds of volunteer opportunities available at Stellwagen Bank?

ANNE-MARIE RUNFOLA: Yeah, first just to say that because our sanctuary doesn't touch land, it has some really unique challenges as far as trying to connect people with the sanctuary and actually help them visualize it, help them understand it and feel connected with it, so the volunteer program is a really important part of that, especially since we can't get all the volunteers out in the sanctuary itself since it's so far off land.

The first program I started last year is the Stellwagen Sanctuary Ambassadors and that's our docent program. So people who will help interpret what's out there in the sanctuary, why it's so cool, and get people excited about the resource in their backyard. And then a subset of that are volunteers that are really interested in educational programming and we started a program called A Child's Sanctuary.

And then we have a seabird monitoring program using citizen scientists and we have an internship program primarily for college students and above, but we have worked with a couple high school students as well and that's growing. We're just about to start a Marine Mammal Observer Corps, which is a group of observers who will come out on our research vessel when we're doing research to make sure that we spot and avoid marine mammals while we're out there in the sanctuary.

HOST: Thanks Anne-Marie, so let's talk about a few of the programs that you just mentioned. What can you tell us about the seabird monitoring program?

ANNE-MARIE RUNFOLA: Our program, the Stellwagen Sanctuary Seabird Stewards, we call it S4 for short, has three major goals. We're working in collaboration with Mass Audubon and the idea's to expand the study of seabirds in the sanctuary and the three major goals are to systematically collect baseline data on seabirds within sanctuary boundaries using both our research vessel, the Auk, and vessels of opportunity, such as whale watch vessels, to compare populations over time. We also want to educate the public about seabirds and connect residents with their sanctuary and we want to train a group of observers to join scientists in this ground-breaking project.

HOST: And you mentioned another program called A Child's Sanctuary, can you tell us more about that?

ANNE-MARIE RUNFOLA: Yes, so when I first started at the sanctuary, we had lots of requests for educational opportunities to work with the kids and their parents. And so I went to the local library and developed a series of educational events that would be led by volunteers, first targeting pre-Kindergarten through upper elementary school students and their parents through events on weekends.

So we train our volunteers to share information about the bank and the National Marine Sanctuary Program. And we also developed a cadre of teen ambassadors to help run the program. We started by cross-training the local libraries' youth volunteers and then started working with some volunteers through the schools. And we've had more than 1,000 parents and children have participated in the six events we've run so far. We're just having our first volunteers who are going to lead these programs now without me even there, going out into their own schools and their own communities.

HOST: It sounds like a great concept and that it's really, really taking off right now. For all of these different volunteer programs, not just A Child's Sanctuary and the seabird program, do you have an estimate of how many people you've reached?

ANNE-MARIE RUNFOLA: We're up to about 60 regular volunteers, we just started in earnest last year, plus we have others who help with occasional events, etc. And those volunteers have given over 6,000 hours so far in the last year. And we've estimated that we've reached over 45,000 people directly and countless numbers indirectly through the volunteer activities. So from marching in a really popular St. Patrick's Day parade in Scituate where our headquarters is located to making blubber gloves with kids at a festival to stewards presenting on seabirds as part of a lecture series.

HOST: Very impressive numbers. So finally Anne-Marie, what is your favorite part of your job as the volunteer coordinator at the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary?

ANNE-MARIE RUNFOLA: Wow, do I get more than one answer? I'm thrilled to be part of this. It's such a great resource and I'm so impressed with what my colleagues are doing. And I'm also really impressed with the diversity and depth of talent of the volunteers and their generosity. We have a regular volunteer who ran her own software company before retiring and moving out here and she's so intellectually curious and so talented and so sharp and wants to use her skills to help the sanctuary and promote the work that we're doing. So that to me, I'm just constantly impressed by what people have to offer and I learn from them, they make me look good.

I have to say one more is being in the position to provide opportunities to both youth and adults. We just had a college student who just finished up and she was an intern with us last year and because of the work she did with us, she was able to get a job in Hawaii as a naturalist and so really helping her advance her career and figure out what she wanted to do and get some concrete experience with a great organization, that's no small thing to be able to offer. And with our retirees and our youth, being able to give them an opportunity to feel like they're involved in their own community and really make a difference.

HOST: Thanks Anne-Marie for taking a few minutes today to talk to us about the volunteer opportunities at Stellwagen Bank. And now to close out this episode, I'd like to go back to Tracy for just one final question. Tracy, we talked today, a little bit about the history of the sanctuaries, what do you see in the future for your volunteer program?

TRACY HAJDUK: Well, as I was talking about before, our programs are always expanding, always getting bigger and better. We're at a very exciting time for national marine sanctuaries, this year we're actually celebrating our 40th anniversary and we've been looking back at some of the major accomplishments we've done throughout the past 40 years and it's really amazing to see what we've done in the past and it's so exciting to think about what we're going to accomplish in the future - the impacts we'll have on the environments and the communities where these sanctuaries are.

Another big milestone that we saw for the sanctuaries this past year was we actually reached 1,000,000 hours of volunteer time. That was a huge accomplishment for our volunteers and we're so excited to reach the next milestone in that aspect. We're always growing bigger and better, we're always looking out to reach new partners and new communities and we're really excited about, we've been thinking a lot recently about how can we expand our message and how can we think outside the box. New volunteer programs and just engaging new people has really been a big push of ours right now. So, it's a very exciting time for sanctuaries.

HOST: Thanks Tracy, Lisa, and Anne-Marie for joining us on Diving Deeper and talking about the volunteer opportunities for our listeners at the national marine sanctuaries. To learn more about these and other volunteer opportunities, please visit sanctuaries.noaa.gov/involved.

That's all for today's show. Remember, if you have questions on this episode or the National Ocean Service in general, you can contact us at nos.info@noaa.gov. And if you're on social media, don't forget you can find us, it's usoceangov, on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube. Please join us for our next episode in two weeks.


[Shorts] Hydrography

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/july12/dds070512.mp3

Thu, 05 Jul 2012 12:37:52 -0400

Diving Deeper Shorts: Hydrography
Episode 21 (July 5, 2012)

HOST: During these hot summer days, are you longing to be out on the water? Today on Diving Deeper Shorts, we revisit our interview on hydrography and why this is important for commercial and recreational boaters. We go back to our interview from July 2009 with Jerry Mills from the Office of Coast Survey.

Let's listen in.

HOST: What does hydrographic data tell us?

JERRY MILLS: Kate, the most important thing we can learn from hydrographic data is the depth of the water in a particular area. In order for large commercial ships, military watercraft, and pleasure boats to safely navigate on America's oceans and coasts, mariners need to know where it is safe - or not safe - to steer their vessels.

Hydrographic data collected by my office is used to update NOAA's nautical charts. Nautical charts are like road maps for mariners. Charts are dotted with little numbers, or depth measurements, and symbols which tell a ship captain if an area is too shallow or too dangerous to operate their vessels.

HOST: Jerry, many of our listeners today do not live right along the coast. Why is hydrography important to them?

JERRY MILLS: Hydrography is important to everyone in the U.S. whether you live along the coast or in the middle of the country. Roughly 98 percent of all goods and products that are brought to our country are brought here by ship. This includes petroleum, automobiles, sports equipment, cameras, and many others. In order for ships to safely dock into port, they need to safely travel along our coasts, Great Lakes, canals, bays, and rivers. You can't navigate safely if you don't have a NOAA nautical chart. If ships can't safely dock in port, then people in the middle of the country can't get their products.

HOST: What are the economic benefits associated with hydrographic surveying?

JERRY MILLS: Well, just like our trucks on our highways, captains of commercial ships require hydrographic data on NOAA's nautical charts to safely transit marine highways. More than two billion tons of domestic and international freight travel over our marine highways annually including 3.3 billion barrels of oil to meet U.S. energy demands. Waterborne commerce is a major part of the U.S. economy contributing more than $1 trillion to our gross domestic product.

Also, U.S. ports receive more than 22,000 visits a year from ocean-going container ships. That's a lot of products coming to our store shelves from these ships. Keep in mind, if you live in the middle of the country, these products need to be transported by trucks, trains, or river-bound tugboats and barges from the ocean ports. Operating this marine transportation system requires more than 13 million jobs, another great number for our economy.

That's all for today's show. Want to learn more? Go to oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast.php and select the July 2009 podcast archive to listen to the full interview on hydrography.

If you have questions on this episode or the National Ocean Service in general, you can contact us at nos.info@noaa.gov. And if you're on social media, don't forget you can find us, its usoceangov, on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube. You can catch our next episode in two weeks.


Safe Navigation

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/june12/dd062112.mp3

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 10:37:50 -0500

Diving Deeper: Safe Navigation
Episode 39 (June 21, 2012)

HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I'm your host Kate Nielsen.

Today's question is...What resources do ship captains and boaters need to safely navigate our nation's waters?

NOAA's Office of Coast Survey is responsible for developing a suite of navigation products and providing services that ensure safe and efficient maritime commerce.

Today we will talk with Rachel Medley on safe navigation and some of these products that are out there for our boaters. Rachel is the Acting Chief for the Customer Affairs Branch within NOAA's Office of Coast Survey. Hi Rachel, welcome to our show.

RACHEL MEDLEY: Hi Kate, thank you so much for having me. This is really exciting. This is my first podcast I've ever done, so I hope it goes well.

HOST: I'm sure it will. Thanks for being here. So Rachel, let's start right off with what are some of the main tools that mariners need for safe navigation?

RACHEL MEDLEY: Well, they certainly need a chart and preferably an up-to-date chart. Now we have charts here that are both electronic and paper form, so everybody get your chart.

HOST: Can you briefly explain the difference between a chart and a map? We've heard this in some past episodes, but just to get everybody on the same page.

RACHEL MEDLEY: My family frequently asks me this question as well because I always correct them and say it's not a map, it's a chart. So, a map as many people know is just a two-dimensional representation of spatial relationships in three-dimensional space. A chart goes a little bit further than that. It's essentially a map, but it has more information and symbology for a specific purpose such as navigation.

HOST: And, why does a boater need a nautical chart then? And how does somebody get a nautical chart?

RACHEL MEDLEY: Two great questions, one that we frequently field from our office. I'll answer the first one, boaters need nautical charts to avoid grounding. They don't want to run aground somewhere. Also, a lot of times in different navigational waters there might be, particularly for small craft boats, for recreational boaters, there are restricted areas. These might be restricted for naval firing ranges or perhaps sanctuaries. Now there's hefty fines that can be incurred if you go into these areas, not to mention, some of them are potentially very dangerous, so you would want to consult your nautical chart to make sure that you're not navigating in there. But moreover, a nautical chart is mostly useful for safe navigation for yourself and for the other boaters around you.

So that's why you need a nautical chart. Now, how do you get a nautical chart? You can go to our website and we have links to where you can acquire paper charts, electronic navigational charts, we have historic charts, we pretty much have every product that you might be looking for and to suit different boater needs. You might not need all of the electronic suite, but you could be really interested in one particular product that we have to offer.

HOST: So there's no excuse for those of us that are out on the water, that we can get the chart that we need through so many different means. So, I mentioned this briefly in the introduction that I gave to folks, but can you expand on the role of your office, the Office of Coast Survey, in supporting safe navigation?

RACHEL MEDLEY: OK. So, of course we update the charts, we create all of the nautical charts that you find everywhere. We also update them with any sort of critical information. We have print-on-demand, various different products that we create. We also do all the hydrographic surveys, which means that we're collecting all of that sea floor data and then applying it onto the chart. We also coordinate with a lot of other agencies, primarily the U.S. Coast Guard, to ensure that the most up-to-date information is flowing to our customers and that it's getting applied to the chart, for critical items anyway, that they're getting applied to the chart in a very timely manner.

HOST: Rachel, I've seen several reports over the last year about NOAA's survey vessels responding to different navigation emergencies. Can you tell me a little bit about this?
RACHEL MEDLEY: Sure. We actually have survey vessels, we have both small boats and several hydrographic ships, that are strategically placed around the country that can mobilize quickly and leave off surveying temporarily to deploy to the requested emergency area.

I can give a specific example. This recently happened during the 2011 hurricane season with Hurricane Irene. If you recall this is a slightly unusual hurricane track that actually impacted the Mid-Atlantic and some regions in the Northeast, not very typical of hurricane season for us. And our survey teams were able to get to the, specifically the Norfolk and Hampton Roads area within several hours of receiving a request from the U.S. Coast Guard captain of the port and they began survey operations there. This ultimately resulted in the removal of shipping restrictions and resumed commerce in the area, which certainly was a great relief to the local maritime community and the port authority, who is in charge of everything. So we definitely do a lot of emergency response activities in addition to our regular survey activities.

HOST: So Rachel, we talked with Tom Loeper from your office back in 2009 about nautical charts, but maybe you can help remind folks who haven't heard that episode about some of the basics. First, who uses NOAA's nautical charts?

RACHEL MEDLEY: Well, definitely commercial shipping uses our nautical charts and recreational boaters frequently use all of our nautical charts.

HOST: OK, so the products then are critical in both that commercial/industrial realm and by recreational boaters?

RACHEL MEDLEY: Yes, certainly. Industrial and commercial shipping, they're required to utilize our charts when they come into port. They typically navigation using electronic navigational charts on their display boards, but they have to also possess a paper copy on board and the Coast Pilot, and this is required by the U.S. Coast Guard.

For recreational boaters that I talk to, they use both the electronic navigational charts and the paper charts. There's definitely a split and a divide between those who really love electronic and those who really love paper. But the key issue here is that you should have the updated version of either, whichever one you choose. And this will help to ensure that you're navigating safely. In terms of actually utilizing a chart beyond just safety and navigation, I've talked to a lot of fishermen as I've gone to a lot of outreach events and boat shows, and they love to use the navigational charts for clues to look for great fishing areas. These clues could be drop-off areas, bottom type, fish havens, all of these sort of symbologies are represented on our charts. So you can use them not only to safely navigate, but also to accomplish whatever you're out there to do.

HOST: So Rachel, if I have a chart, maybe especially a paper chart as we're talking about, can I keep it, and more importantly, can I use it forever?

RACHEL MEDLEY: OK, so this is a two-part answer here. You can certainly keep it forever. When I look at a chart, I think it's just such a beautifully crafted document. I actually have a chart of the Potomac, because I live in Washington, D.C., mounted on my wall at home, so I think it's beautiful. Now, I wouldn't use that chart for navigation because it's not been updated. So, just like your car GPS has maps in it that need to be updated and refreshed to make sure that you're safely driving on the roads that you're meant to be driving on, a nautical chart has the exact same stipulations. You should always check, you can check our website to see if you have the most current version of the nautical charts or if there's any critical updates that have been applied to that chart, so when you go out, you should just make sure that you have the most up-to-date nautical chart. But certainly, you can keep our charts and you can do other fun things with them, but the most up-to-date one needs to be utilized for navigation.

HOST: And I can see that there might be new roads or something like that and why folks might need to update their GPS, but why are charts updated? What kind of changes are happening out in our coastal waters that require these updates?

RACHEL MEDLEY: Right. So the sea floor is constantly changing of course. But even more than that, charted information that we have, some of it is actually of a vintage from the 1800s and those are lead line surveys. Now, we've gone back and resurveyed a lot of those areas. And we've found that those soundings that are on the charts from those lead line surveys are actually accurate. But there's still a lot of unknown information in between the soundings such as obstructions that might be harmful to boaters. As Coast Survey continues to acquire data from our hydrographic ships, we update these older vintage areas with new high resolution soundings, therefore ensuring the best possible charted information.

HOST: So Rachel, back to a few of our basic kind of questions that we were on a roll with. How many charts do we have, and do these charts cover the entire U.S.?

RACHEL MEDLEY: Well, yeah they do. Coast Survey has actually been the nation's chart maker for over the last two centuries and because of that we have over 1,000 charts in our inventory that we've made and that we maintain. They actually cover all of the U.S., the U.S. territory coastal waters, and the Great Lakes. However, we do not chart rivers and inland lakes.

Now that is not to say, you said, do these charts cover the entire U.S. Yes, they do, but that's not to say that they're all at the same level of detail. Now, scale is something that's very important to think about when you're looking at a chart. Some of our charts are very large scale. They can be 1:20,000/1:5,000 meaning that you've got a lot of detail in that one chart. But we have other scales and other charts out there that are 1:1,000,000 meaning that you're not going to get as much information on your chart. So, you just really have to look at the chart scale and understand what that represents whenever you're navigating.

HOST: Why is that some of these charts have such different scales?

RACHEL MEDLEY: So, that's a great question too. Some of the scales, where we see really small scale charts, like a 1:1,000,000, that might be something up in Alaska where it's representing a bit more offshore, we don't have that much survey data information yet, we're certainly trying to get to it, but Alaska's pretty far, and those charted soundings that we have, a lot of them were lead line soundings, if you can imagine that, up in Alaska, 1800s, mid-1700s. There was a chart that was able to be created to represent that area, but we're working hard to be able to get more survey information to build more detailed charts.

HOST: And when you say soundings, is that like the depth information on a chart?

RACHEL MEDLEY: That is the depth information, right. The soundings that are applied to the chart are taken from that vast amount of soundings that we collect through the hydrographic survey and we select soundings that are the least depth sensitive and what those soundings are based on, they're relative to the mean lower low water height at the surface down to the bottom of the sea floor. So a sounding is that depth measurement from the mean lower low water line to the sea floor and that's the number that's being represented on the chart. And a sounding could be in feet, it could be in meters, it could even be in fathoms, so when you look at a chart, also make sure that you understand what sort of units you're looking at when you see a sounding. And those will just be the numbers, it will be represented at that point by a number, and that's the depth of the sea floor at that point.

HOST: Thanks for clarifying what the sounding information was and something else that I guess we might also see on our charts is something you've mentioned a few times today which are obstructions and I've also heard of things like obstacles to navigation. What are some common obstacles to navigation?

RACHEL MEDLEY: OK, so we normally refer to them as obstructions typically, but this could be rocks, wrecks, pipelines that you might find. A particular example is in the Gulf, you might see a derelict oil platform. Certainly during Katrina in 2005, we saw a ton of changes happening on the charts with new obstructions and charted debris in the area, so really when you talk about an obstacle or an obstruction to navigation, it could be anything, it could be manmade or it could be naturally derived.

HOST: So, how about something in our water that's mobile, something such as marine life, maybe whales for example. Are they considered to be an obstacle to navigation or are there ways that we can inform or warn mariners and boaters of large marine animals?

RACHEL MEDLEY: Well, I can give an example of something that we did several years ago. We knew that the Atlantic right whale was endangered and the Office of Coast Survey through collaboration with other NOAA partners, we actually rerouted all of our shipping lanes up in the Boston area to be able to better accommodate the migration patterns of the right whale. And so that's something that Coast Survey is very sensitive to and we're aware of the impact that shipping can have on whales and we try and do our best to mitigate that impact.

HOST: Great, thank you. So Rachel, what is the greatest challenge then in producing nautical charts to help keep mariners safe?

RACHEL MEDLEY: So, I think one of the things I've recently touched on in this interview is that the vast majority of our surveys are still of a vintage that pre-dates modern sonar techniques. And, we're working very hard to get to all those areas, while also resurveying critical areas for the shipping industry. With the advent of modern sonar techniques, we've gone from what use to be just a few hundred soundings per survey to a few hundred thousand or million soundings or even more per survey, so that's a lot of data.

And, we have a really thorough quality control process and it just takes a very, very long time to sift through all of that. And, if you can imagine, not only cleaning up all the data, getting it right, but then applying all that and selecting out just a few soundings from all that data, that hundreds of thousands of soundings that make it out onto our chart. So, that's one of our biggest issues is that it takes a lot of time. And we've got very, very good, meticulous cartographers that work at the Office of Coast Survey that have to really work hard to get that done.

HOST: So Rachel, my last question for you today, do you have any final, closing words for our listeners?

RACHEL MEDLEY: Just a couple things about our products. A lot of our products are free. Many people are surprised to learn that Coast Survey collects all of the survey data that you would see, and in addition to maintaining the charts. So we collect all this data and it's utilized for the nautical charts, but it's also free and available to the public. This is really high resolution, wonderful data that the public has access to as well.

One other thing I'd like to mention is I know that we talked about a lot of these things being available on the website, well, not everybody is pro-website or they feel like their questions aren't being directly answered by navigating through the website and that's perfectly understandable. One of the nice things and services that we also provide is, we have a hotline, where you can actually talk to a real live person and they will answer your nautical questions. That number is 1-888-990-NOAA, so it's 1-888-990-6622. And, in addition to that, beyond just this hotline, we also have regional navigation managers that are strategically placed throughout the coastal U.S., Alaska, and Hawaii. So, if you want to talk to someone local, you certainly are able to. You can contact one of them and they'll be more than happy to help you because I know a lot of people have local questions that are very specific and it might be tricky to find that on the website, but these navigation managers can really help. Either they'll answer the question themselves or they will know the person that will be able to answer your question.

HOST: Great, thanks Rachel, thanks for sharing that personal connection that folks can have. That's really good to know.

RACHEL MEDLEY: Yeah, I know I certainly appreciate when I can talk to somebody face to face or on the phone.

HOST: Thanks Rachel for joining us today on Diving Deeper and talking about safe navigation. To learn more or to gain access to a nautical chart in your area, please visit nauticalcharts.noaa.gov.

That's all for today's show. Please join us for our next episode in two weeks.


[Shorts] Resilience

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/june12/dds060712.mp3

Thu, 07 Jun 2012 11:02:15 -0400

Diving Deeper Shorts: Resilience
Episode 20 (June 7, 2012)

HOST: With the start of hurricane season, what better time than now to be prepared. Individuals and communities can take steps to ensure they are resilient before a coastal storm or other hazardous event may strike their coast. Today on Diving Deeper Shorts, we revisit our interview on resilience from June 2009 with Sandy Eslinger from the NOAA Coastal Services Center.

Let's listen in.

HOST: Sandy, why is resilience important?

SANDY ESLINGER: Well Kate, resilience is important for many reasons. First, we know that all communities are going to face hazards. Resilience is the ability of communities to rebound from them. It's the extent to which we can prevent a short-term hazard event from turning into a long-term community-wide disaster. While most communities effectively prepare themselves to respond to emergency situations, many aren't adequately prepared to recover in the aftermath. There is a lot at stake, even after the storm has passed. The ability of a community to successfully recover is linked to the strengths and capacities of individuals, families and businesses, schools, hospitals, and other parts of the community. Also, there are more people moving into hazardous areas such as the coast and with these population increases come increased risk exposure to homes, businesses, and infrastructure that are all dependent on one another.

HOST: Sandy, what is the role of the National Ocean Service in resilience efforts?

SANDY ESLINGER: Well, the NOAA Coastal Services Center, which is part of the National Ocean Service, is involved with partners from all across NOAA to work together on this issue to best serve coastal communities. There is a wealth of knowledge and expertise related to resilience from all parts of NOAA. NOAA's committed to providing data, models, and tools to help communities better assess their risk and vulnerabilities as well as their resilience capacity. Land use and natural resource data developed by NOAA can help communities make decisions to minimize their exposure in high-hazard areas. They're also coastal zone management grants available to states to help in increasing their resilience.

HOST: Sandy, is there anything our listeners can do to support resilience efforts in their communities?

SANDY ESLINGER: Well, they can start by learning more about what their communities are doing to address resilience to hazards and they can get involved. If the community isn't considering resilience and decisions about long-range planning, infrastructure, and economic development; it may be time to do something. Contact us and we can put you in touch with state or local organizations that can help.

Want to learn more? Go to oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast.php and select the June 2009 podcast archive to listen to the full interview on resilience.

You can catch our next episode in two weeks.


COASTAL Tools You Can Use

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/may12/dd052412.mp3

Thu, 24 May 2012 10:48:03 -0400

Diving Deeper: COASTAL Tools You Can Use
Episode 38 (May 24, 2012)

HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I'm your host Kate Nielsen.

Today's question is...How do we translate oceanographic data into information we can use?

Oceanographic data is critical for safe navigation. There are also a number of non-navigation uses of oceanographic data including sea level assessments, storm surge monitoring, and emergency preparedness. NOAA scientists have developed a series of tools to help coastal and emergency managers turn oceanographic data into meaningful information.

Today we will talk with Allison Allen on some of these very tools. Allison is the Coastal Program Manager with the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services. Hi Allison, welcome to our show.

ALLISON ALLEN: Hi Kate, thanks for inviting me here today.

HOST: Allison, let's first talk about the benefits of oceanographic data. Can you expand on some of these non-navigational uses of the data?

ALLISON ALLEN: Sure, as you mentioned, NOAA's Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services has its roots in navigation. But we learned long ago that that same information that's important for navigation and bringing ships in safely is also critical for coastal managers and emergency managers. So, we developed the COASTAL program, which is the Coastal Oceanographic Applications and Services of Tides And Lakes.

And that really focuses on three big areas, and that's really ecosystems, so things like, when you're designing a new marsh you really need to understand how high it is and how the tidal flushing is going to happen so you can make sure that it's functional. And also, you'll hear more about harmful algal bloom forecasting today as well. It also focuses on hazards, so storm surge and tsunami and understanding what the real-time conditions are as well as planning for the future. And then also climate. The tide gauges that we'll talk about today have long-term records. We have collected over 150 years of data at some of those locations, which makes it a very important climate record. And really, you hear about satellite altimeters and they collect ocean information as well, but they've really only been in existence for a fraction of that period. So, what we know about the climate, we've learned from tide gauges.

HOST: Allison, how do we collect oceanographic data? Are tide gauges the primary source of data for the COASTAL tools that we'll talk about today?

ALLISON ALLEN: The ones that we'll talk about today are really, water levels, which we collect at the National Water Level Observation Network which is a network of 210 long-term water level stations. And CO-OPS, the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services, also collects current information, tidal current information. And we collect that on a routine basis to update tidal predictions and tidal current predictions, but then also on a real-time basis for things like safe navigation and some of the products that you'll hear about today.

HOST: So, we'll talk soon about the tools that your group is producing, but first, why do we need to turn oceanographic data into information? What format is it in originally? And can't we just get what we need right from the data itself?

ALLISON ALLEN: Well, let's face it. Data can be a little bit boring. It can be a little bit confusing. And the general public shouldn't need to know necessarily how to interpret that. And also, I mentioned hurricanes and tsunamis, those are very intense events and they require a lot of quick decision making and people shouldn't have to be trying to interpret and analyze the data when lives are at stake. So, we have a wonderful staff of oceanographers and physical scientists whose job it is to look at that information and analyze it and turn it into information that people can understand and that can translate into informed decision making in action.

HOST: And Allison, who are you targeting, who are the immediate users, of the tools that you've put together?

ALLISON ALLEN: Sure. We're going to talk today about four specific different types of tools, they each have a slightly different focus, but generally speaking we're targeting emergency managers and coastal managers.

HOST: So Allison, why is your office in NOAA, we've mentioned them a few times now, the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services, why is your office responsible for developing these sorts of tools?

ALLISON ALLEN: We have this amazing asset. We have all of these sensors and this information and we also have these physical scientists and oceanographers on staff that are able to interpret that information and analyze it. So what we provide is really a value-added end-to-end system that doesn't just end with a sensor in the water, but really ends with that value-added product suite. And so, we're going to talk today about four specific products, some of which are coming out now and some of which have been around for a little bit. One is the Storm QuickLook, one is the exceedance probability, the inundation analysis, and harmful algal bloom forecasts.

HOST: OK. So, let's take these tools then one at a time just to understand each one better. First, what does Storm QuickLook do?

ALLISON ALLEN: Storm QuickLook provides a really great integrated display of what's happening with water levels and meteorological information during a storm. So it really combines the tropical cyclone forecast from the National Weather Service with the coastal water level and meteorological observations from the National Ocean Service in one comprehensive product. So it really looks at not just the forecast and where the storm's going, but what are the very real real-time impacts at the coast.

HOST: And you mentioned an inundation tool. First, what do you mean by inundation?

ALLISON ALLEN: By inundation, I'm referring to the amount of time - both how frequently and for how long a particular surface is covered by water. So the CO-OPS inundation tool really allows a user to enter whatever reference level they're interested in. So that might be a marsh surface, it might be a seawall. It might be a road surface, like an evacuation route. And they can look at how frequently and for what period of time that surface is going to be inundated.

HOST: And, what are the benefits then of an inundation tool?

ALLISON ALLEN: The inundation tool is available at all of our tide station locations. Right now it has both immediate and long-term benefits. It was originally developed to support restoration practitioners in knowing what marsh vegetation to plant where and created and restored marshes based on the specific tolerances in order to maximize the potential for sustainability of those particular plants. But it's also being used, for instance, by the Weather Forecast Offices in the National Weather Service to quantify and understand the impacts of threshold flood events. But you can also use it for long-term planning. So the information that comes out of this tool can be paired with changes in long-term sea level for instance allowing you to predict future trends in inundation. So that would be used for things like setbacks or building codes or other coastal management and engineering decisions.

HOST: And you also mentioned an extreme water levels tool - what is the purpose of this tool?

ALLISON ALLEN: The extreme water levels tool or exceedance probability provides the likelihood that water levels will exceed a given elevation based on analysis of historic observations. It's currently available for about 110 of our stations in the U.S., each with over 30 years of water level data. So the product provides a series of elevations with probabilities associated with them. For instance, it provides a one percent exceedance probability, which is the height above which water levels have a one percent chance of rising during an extreme event in any given year. Some might refer to this one percent exceedance probability as the hundred year flood, for instance. It also provides shorter term probabilities such as the 10 percent probability or the 10 year storm. That information is very important in planning and engineering in the coastal zone.

HOST: And finally, you talked a little bit about harmful algal blooms. What kind of information does this tool deliver?

ALLISON ALLEN: Harmful algal blooms, commonly called red tides, cause problems on many U.S. coastlines. Having advanced warning of these events, increases the options we have for managing the impacts resulting from these events. We have an operational HAB forecast system which provides information to managers on the location, extent, and potential for development or movement of the blooms in the Gulf of Mexico. Conditions reports including potential impacts for the next three to four days are also posted online twice a week during an active bloom and once a week if there's no bloom.

The species Karenia brevis, that causes HABs in the Gulf of Mexico, poses a risk to human health and to marine life. The aerosol produced by these blooms causes respiratory irritation, particularly in at risk populations such as children or the elderly. HABs can cause toxicity in shellfish and fish and marine mammal kills. So knowing the potential for a bloom and bloom impacts really allows managers to take appropriate actions such as closing beaches or shellfish beds. But on the flip side, recreation and aquaculture bring revenue, so we don't want to take those actions unless it's necessary. The forecast provides the information to make those decisions.

HOST: So I can definitely see how for all four of these tools that they're so useful for coastal and emergency managers for everything from planning and development to protecting human health and saving lives and emergency preparedness, but how about for our listeners today who aren't coastal or emergency managers, what is the benefit for them?

ALLISON ALLEN: A huge percentage of the population lives and works along the coast and many of those who don't either know someone who does or go to the coast for recreation, so there's a personal connection there. But the tools we've discussed today still matter, even to someone who has never visited a U.S. coastline. Much of our economy relies on ports and it may even be that the shoes on your feet come from a cargo ship coming into port. Certainly we rely on our ports to bring in the natural resources such as oil. When the 2006 hurricane season badly impacted the Gulf coast and some of our major ports were shut down, we saw a very real impact when we filled our cars at the pump. The impacts at the coast affect us all and it's important to understand the risk to coastal environments, communities, and infrastructure.

Last year, a NOAA study using these COASTAL tools showed that the highway accessing Port Fourchon, LA-1, would be flooded up to 30 times a year in 20 years from now just from normal high tides based on the current rates of sea level change. That would cut off access not just to the residents of Grand Isle, LA, but to the port infrastructure that's used to bring offshore oil into the country.

HOST: So are these tools then, and the information that they provide, are they available to anyone who's interested that might visit your website, even if they're not an emergency manager?

ALLISON ALLEN: Absolutely. Everything that CO-OPS provides from the data to all of these specific tools is available to the public at large through the website, free of charge. And that website is www.tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov.

HOST: And Allison, you talked a little bit at the beginning about this COASTAL program that houses all four of these tools that we talked about. Is there a benefit of combining these tools and this series of tools together into one program? Do they build off of each other or relate to each other in some way?

ALLISON ALLEN: Absolutely. So, as you've heard, they have a slightly different focus, but really the power comes when you pair them together. So, you heard about the inundation analysis - that provides an important understanding of risk and vulnerability. But for a coastal engineer or a coastal planner, the power really comes when you pair that with something like the exceedance probability or the extreme water level information because that really provides the full picture of risk. So, when you're building a levee for instance, you need to understand both of those facets.

HOST: Allison, can you share with us any success stories from local communities about these tools or this information, kind of success in use?

ALLISON ALLEN: Absolutely. I'd like to share a story about a restoration project that was done at Ft. McHenry, which is near Baltimore. That was a created marsh in the 80s, but it was graded too low and so the tidal flushing wasn't functional and it was overrun by the invasive species phragmites. And so, they were recreating the marsh and they worked with us to get the oceanographic information and use some of these tools, specifically the inundation analysis information. And so they used those trends and they used the water level information to grade the new marsh. Everything from design the new sloughs to the height of the dirt itself. And years later that marsh is still functioning really well because it was designed with that information in mind. The native vegetation was able to thrive because it was given that opportunity and so the invasive species was not able to come in as quickly.

HOST: So Allison, my last question for you today, do you have any final, closing words for our listeners?

ALLISON ALLEN: NOAA is eager to provide important information in ways that coastal managers and the public can use it and we're always looking for new and exciting ways to do that. So, I just want to thank you and our listeners for the opportunity to share some of these new and exciting developments and really just highlight some of the ways that this oceanographic information is being used for non-navigational applications to really protect life and property and preserve health and some of the other benefits that we discussed today.

Thanks Allison for joining us on Diving Deeper and talking about these great information products and tools. To learn more, please visit tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/coastal.html.

That's all for today's show. Please join us for our next episode in two weeks.


[Shorts] Coastal Zone Management

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/may12/dds051012.mp3

Thu, 10 May 2012 09:18:45 -0400

Diving Deeper Shorts: Coastal Zone Management
Episode 19 (May 10, 2012)

HOST: 2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the Coastal Zone Management Act, an act which has proven to be one of America's best tools to safeguard our coastal areas. In celebration of this 40th anniversary, today on Diving Deeper Shorts, we revisit our interview on coastal zone management from February 2011 with Bill O'Beirne from the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management.

Let's listen in.

HOST: What kinds of threats do our coasts and coastal communities face?

BILL O'BEIRNE: Kate, the short answer is the coasts are being over-indulged. How many people do you know visit the coast or want to live or retire to the coast?

And as you pointed out, more than half the U.S. population lives in the coastal counties. Population density on the coast is almost four times greater than the rest of the country. I remember when you could actually drive along the North Carolina outer banks and never see a traffic jam.

And more people mean more development - more homes, more schools, more offices. And more people and more development mean more competition for space, greater pressures to develop fragile coastal resources, fewer places to get to the beach, and more pollution. More people and structures mean more lives and buildings are at risk from coastal hazards like hurricanes, tsunamis, flooding, and landslides.

Our program, the Coastal Zone Management Program, attempts to mitigate these threats while accommodating coastal development.

HOST: So Bill, on that note, can you tell us a little bit more about the Coastal Zone Management Program? How does it work?

BILL O'BEIRNE: Kate, unlike a lot of other top-down environmental programs, the Coastal Zone Management Program is a cooperative partnership between NOAA and the coastal states and territories.

The overarching goal of the national program, set out in the Coastal Zone Management Act, is to balance the protection of the coastal ecosystems with economic and human quality of life issues - like access to the beach and vibrant coastal communities.

NOAA offers financial and other incentives to coastal states and territories to participate in the national program. In turn, the states and territories develop and put into practice their own personalized management programs to advance these national as well as their own state goals.

HOST: What exactly is the coastal zone?

BILL O'BEIRNE: Simply put, the coastal zone is where the land meets the sea. More technically, it extends seaward to the limit of state waters and inland to cover an area that has direct and significant impacts on coastal waters.

While we think of the coastal zone as a narrow strip, it's actually a pretty big area. All totaled the coastal zone includes almost 100,000 miles of shoreline and encompasses roughly 425,000 square miles of coastal lands and water. That's an area about twice the size of Texas.

Want to learn more? Go to oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast.php and select the February 2011 podcast archive to listen to the full interview on coastal zone management.

You can catch our next episode in two weeks.


[Shorts] Measuring Tides

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/apr12/dds041912.mp3

Thu, 19 Apr 2012 09:17:22 -0400

Diving Deeper Shorts: Measuring Tides
Episode 18 (Apr. 19, 2012)

HOST: Today on Diving Deeper Shorts, we revisit our interview on how we measure tides and who uses tidal data from June 2010 with Tom Landon from the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services.

Let's listen in.

HOST: Tom, we interviewed your colleague Steve Gill back in April 2009 about tides. Can you remind us what the difference is between tides and currents?

TOM LANDON: Well, it's actually quite simple Kate. Tides are the alternating rise and fall of the water level. It's a vertical movement in oceans, bays, rivers, estuaries, any of the water bodies along the coast. And those vertical water level movements are caused by the gravitational forces of the sun and the moon. Tidal currents on the other hand are the horizontal movement of the water. The speed and direction of the currents in those bodies of water.

HOST: So why is it important to measure tides? Who really uses this tidal data and what do they use it for?

TOM LANDON: Well Kate, there's a wide variety of uses of tidal data. NOAA uses it specifically for hydrographic and shoreline mapping support. We produce all of the nautical charts and they have to have a shoreline reference and they also have to have a reference for the depths.

Ship captains and pilots use both real-time data and averages for real-time navigation support. They want to ensure safe navigation in and out of harbors and they also want to get the most efficient commerce. So they use tide data quite a bit in their travels and one of the things they also refer to in terms of safety is a thing we call air gap, which is the distance between the bottom of a bridge and the water level.

The Army Corps of Engineers uses tide data extensively for all their dredging projects because they have to have a reference datum on how deep to dredge the channel. Coastal engineers use it for any kind of construction project along the coast - bridges, condominiums, bulkheads, anything like that. Ecosystem managers now use tide data extensively for both long-term planning and for special projects such as marsh restoration projects. A good example right now is the oil spill in the Gulf. The people who run the Hazmat group, the hazardous materials response team, they use tide data extensively to map where oil spills are going to travel and what the tide measurements might do in terms of the effect of the oil spill along the coast.

Emergency managers during hurricanes use tide data extensively to both plan for the safety of people and protection of property. Scientists and engineers both use tide data, long-term tide data, to monitor changes in sea level, sea level changes over time and they've been watching that very closely over the last ten years probably and it will become a more and more popular topic as time goes on. And then lastly even fishermen use tide data, they want to know when the best times to go fishing are.

That's all for today's Diving Deeper Shorts, where we highlight a few minutes of your favorite Diving Deeper episodes.

Want to learn more? Go to oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast.php and select the June 2010 podcast archive to listen to the full interview on measuring tides.

You can catch our next episode in two weeks.


Invasive Lionfish - King of the Reef

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/apr12/dd040512.mp3

Thu, 05 Apr 2012 09:19:32 -0400

Diving Deeper: Invasive Lionfish - King of the Reef
Episode 37 (Apr. 5, 2012)

HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I'm your host Kate Nielsen.

Today's question is...How do we respond to invasive lionfish?

In less than a decade, lionfish have become widely established across the Southeast U.S. and Caribbean. Recent estimates of lionfish densities indicate that lionfish have surpassed some native species with the highest estimates reporting hundreds per acre in some locations.

Today we will talk with Dr. James Morris on lionfish. James is an ecologist with the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, and James, welcome to our show.

JAMES MORRIS: Thank you, it's good to be here.

(EXPLORING LIONFISH)

HOST: So James, can you tell us what an invasive species is first?

JAMES MORRIS: Yeah absolutely. There's lots of different definitions for invasive species but one that we defined by law actually is a non-native species that causes either, and most of the time it's both, economic harm or ecological harm to a new environment.

HOST: Where is the lionfish actually from?

JAMES MORRIS: Lionfish, there's actually two species of lionfish that were introduced into the Atlantic, the red lionfish or Pterois volitans and the devil firefish, Pterois miles. And the Pterois volitans, the red lionfish is from the Pacific Ocean and it's distributed as far as Australia and the Pacific Islands. The devil firefish is actually from the Red Sea and Indian Ocean region and they tend to overlap in terms of range in Indonesia. The native range is very broad and they've now become invasive.

HOST: So, how did they get then into our waters, in the Southeast U.S., Caribbean, kind of that region?

JAMES MORRIS: Well, we're not 100 percent sure because no one actually observed someone releasing lionfish into the Atlantic, but we have a few clues. One clue is that lionfish were heavily imported in the past into the U.S. They are a very popular marine ornamental species, people like to hold them in their aquarium and have them as pets. They're very beautiful, very ornate fish. They're kind of exotic because they are a scorpion fish, they are venomous, and just by virtue of their presence and their volume being imported to the U.S., we suspect that they were probably released from the aquarium trade.

HOST: And why is it then that the lionfish population just seems to be kind of exploding, just increasing so greatly in our waters?

JAMES MORRIS: Sure, well, to really look at that, let's go back for a second and talk about the timeline here. The first record that we have of lionfish being introduced goes back to 1985. That was the first time that we have records of the lionfish being caught in the Atlantic, I think it was actually caught in South Florida waters. We had a number of introductions, a number of sightings, that occurred really between 1985 and 2000, but it really wasn't until 2000 that multiple individuals were starting to be observed actually off of the coast of North Carolina and until that time we'd only had a few individuals off of the coast of South Florida.

That can be termed the lag phase of the invasion. We see this with many invasive species where you go through a period of lag, where there's not critical mass in the population for that population to become truly invading or under exponential growth rate. And so, we're at the point now where the invasion is rapidly increasing, it has been for some time, both in terms of geographical spread of the invasion, but also in terms of increasing local densities.

HOST: Is it likely that the population's going to keep growing at this kind of rate?

JAMES MORRIS: Yes and definitely in some locations. So, the geographical spread of lionfish is continuing. Lionfish have in the last 10 years completely invaded the offshore waters of the southeast U.S. They've invaded the Caribbean. They have reached as far south as the lower southeastern Caribbean islands, the West Indies, as far south as Guadalupe, Trinidad and Tobago and those areas. We expect they will continue to spread south until they are limited by the actual cooler waters of South America, probably around the coast of Argentina is when the water starts to become cool again, and lionfish of course can't live in cold water because they're a tropical fish.

It is really astounding when you look at the geographical spread, at how quickly that invasion has occurred and it just teaches us so much about the connectivity of ocean currents and the spread of an invasive species and the importance of prevention because once they are loose, there's nothing really that we can do about it to prevent their spread in such large ocean systems like this.

HOST: So let's understand a little bit more about the lionfish. They don't like the colder water temperatures like you're telling us. What do they like to eat?

JAMES MORRIS: Lionfish are largely fish eaters especially when they get older. They do eat of course crustaceans and small crabs and shrimp and things like that during their younger lives. As juveniles, many fish eat those smaller crustaceans, but as they get larger they become largely piscivorous which means that they largely are eating fish.

What they're eating in terms of the specific species depends on the habitat that they're in, the region that they're in. So we find that they're largely generalist predators, they eat mostly what is most abundant on the reef, which makes a lot of sense in terms of the energy that they have to expend to eat. Their diet really reflects the local fish community. Now that can be a problem in some places for sure because if lionfish ever recruited to a particular reef that is important habitat for economically important species like snapper, grouper, or others, they eat snapper and grouper as well.

HOST: So they can eat these other economically important species like you're naming - snapper and grouper. Do they take the food sources away from other fish as well?

JAMES MORRIS: Yes, possibly. One of the things that we have learned about lionfish over the last several years is that their impacts can vary. It can vary in terms of the health of the local fish community. It can vary in terms of the recruitment rates that lionfish are recruiting to some of these new habitats. Their local densities definitely play a very important role in the overall impact that lionfish are having on the local food web.

HOST: Are there predators for the lionfish?

JAMES MORRIS: That's a good question and a very difficult one to answer. We have to sort of go back in time a little bit and talk about lionfish in their native range. Many people have asked and we've been looking for years, what may eat lionfish because that's sort of what we're used to keeping species in check is, are their natural predators. And we really have no evidence of a consistent natural predator of lionfish in their native range. We have a few instances of incidental, one-time events of predation. What we don't have are diet studies of predators that eat lionfish that show that they're eating lionfish on any type of consistency. And that's important for predation to be an impact on the natural mortality, the predation mortality, of lionfish.

We've also been looking in the Atlantic and we haven't found a predator that is consistently feeding on lionfish to the extent that it appears to be controlling their local densities. There's lots of Atlantic predators that have eaten a lionfish, we've got documentation of a grouper species eating a lionfish or an amberjack or cobia and the list goes on, many species now, but what we don't have is any consecutive evidence that those predators are preying on lionfish.

We're looking. That is an important question and one that as our native reef fish adapt to the presence of lionfish as we're curious if some of our Atlantic reef fish predators may adapt to prey on lionfish. And it also has a lot to do with the densities of lionfish in the range and that's an important finding and one that we don't have a whole lot of information about.

HOST: So for our listeners today, it's important to note, lionfish need warmer waters which is why they've expanded into this new geographic region. They seem to have a lot of food available that they're able to keep going and we're still exploring if there is that consistent predator. Are there other factors of lionfish that contribute to this invasion?

JAMES MORRIS: Sure, well let's talk about this predator thing for just a second and place it a bit in context. First of all, lionfish is a venomous fish. It evolved a venom defense system in its native range that is very effective.

It also has this aposematic coloration that warns potential would-be predators that, "hey don't me because I'm a venomous fish." Our Atlantic reef fish recognize that coloration pattern, it's this universal coloration pattern as being a venomous fish so we've done laboratory trials and demonstrated that some of our native reef fish like black sea bass and even some groupers on a small number of trials, clearly identify lionfish as a non-palatable prey item because of that venom defense. And even when we look at the interactions between this juvenile lionfish and grouper black sea bass species, we find that they really avoid at any cause trying to interact with them because of that venomous defense.

HOST: And by venomous defense you mean, if another fish tries to eat a lionfish then that fish can die?

JAMES MORRIS: Well, that fish will get stung by the venomous spines and it makes for an unpleasant, in some cases, experience. Now you can have instances where a large predator could eat a small lionfish and not get envenomated because the small lionfish can go directly to the stomach without getting caught in the esophagus and envenomated by the spines and whatnot. But in cases where the predator is smaller, it makes for a very unpalatable prey item.

And the lionfish venom is a neurotoxin. It's a very potent neurotoxin and it can cause quite a sting in humans, we've known that, and we've been looking at that for some time, but it didn't evolve to protect lionfish from humans, it evolved to protect itself from potential would-be predators on the reef. That venomous defense has been so effective in the past that other species have evolved to mimic lionfish to keep from getting eaten.

Like the Indo-Malayan octopus, for example. One of the species that this very intelligent octopus mimics, along with sea snakes and poisonous fishes and things like that, is the lionfish because it has adapted and evolved to know that if it could look like a lionfish, it could keep from getting eaten. So to me that is such strong evidence that this venomous defense is very effective and is playing a role, in probably a big way, in how this invasion has come to be so aggressive.

HOST: So, it's kind of a perfect storm then, I guess for the expansion of this invasive species.

JAMES MORRIS: There are lots of parameters, there's lots of ways that we could talk about that lionfish have become invasive, there's reproductive biology, their growth rate, their generalist appetite, their generalist diet - there's lots of key indicators here that point to lionfish being almost, if we had to build the perfect invader, lionfish have a lot of those characteristics that we'd probably put on paper that have led to this invasion.

(WHAT CAN WE DO - THE LIONFISH INVASION)

HOST: So, what can we do, what can humans do, to help with this lionfish invasion?

JAMES MORRIS: Well, the first thing we can do is stop releasing non-native species. We've got to work harder and do a better job of informing the public about the impacts of invasive species. In terms of lionfish and what we can do specifically about this invasion is we've been working hard over the years to educate the public about the problem of lionfish and more importantly the possibility that we could control lionfish in certain locations. We don't believe, for a moment, that we can eradicate lionfish. We just don't have the technology, even if we wanted to go out and remove all the lionfish out there, we wouldn't really know where to go look for them all. We just don't have that good of habitat maps, especially in the southeast U.S. And it's just the expanse. Lionfish inhabit out to 1,000 feet and up to less than a foot of depth in some locations and so their habitat is very broad and wide.

We are looking at control plans for certain locations. We've been working with the National Park Service, National Park Service has done a wonderful job of developing a national lionfish response plan, working on control plans within National Park Service areas impacted by lionfish. We believe that we can make a difference in certain locations. Locations that are small, have boundaries, that have the infrastructure to control their local densities for conservation mandate. And we believe that we can work to control them in national marine sanctuaries in similar ways that we can in our national parks. But that requires programs and that requires that we can organize in how we can do this.

We have found that harvesting lionfish as a food fish is a potential way that you can encourage removals and provide long-term incentives for removals. Now, there's a bit of controversy around that because we don't want folks to, because of having a positive experience being able to harvest lionfish, to think that might make it a good idea to produce other non-native species because you could fish them as hard as you want to and that's a bad idea because there are unintentional consequences of those kind of things. But we do know that really harvesting them as a food fish really is the best thing that we have on the table in terms of creating a long-term incentive for removal.

HOST: And that's even given their venom defense, we're talking about harvesting as a food source. So it is safe to eat and handle lionfish?

JAMES MORRIS: It is. It's safe if you handle it properly. We need to be clear in that there's a difference between a venomous fish and a poisonous fish. Poisonous fish is a fish that essentially has a toxin or poison in its flesh, that you will get sick from eating it. A venomous fish is a fish that has a venom somewhere in its body, it's usually not in the flesh, that would be poisonous, but along the spines or in the teeth or some type of bony structures of the fish. In the case of lionfish, the venom is located only in the spines of the fish, it has dorsal, pelvic, and anal spines. The venom glands are located along grooves of the spine. There is no venomous sac at the base of the spine as is commonly said. That venom gland actually goes along the grooves of the spine. If those spines are removed before cleaning the fish, then there's no risk there. There are field guides. There are lots of instructions now that are available to help people learn how to clean the fish.

HOST: Let's talk a little bit about NOAA and NOAA's efforts and what folks are even doing at your office, things that might currently be underway to help with the lionfish problem.

JAMES MORRIS: Sure. We have a research laboratory, we're in the Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research in Beaufort, N.C., which is one of the centers within the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science in the National Ocean Service, and our laboratory has been working to understand the biology and ecology of this invasive species. We are concerned about lionfish really from a pollution standpoint.

Lionfish are a biological pollutant. We have been doing a number of biological and ecological assessments over the years, we have some great people at our laboratory that have been doing fieldwork. One of those is Paula Whitfield, she has been doing diver surveys, counting lionfish, looking at the impacts on the fish community in temperate waters, mostly off the southeast U.S. That work really provided a lot of the foundational understanding of the invasion and how the densities of lionfish are increasing and tracking the overall invasion by monitoring a few sites.

Over the years our work has progressed more to tropical systems and working with the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary for example, in developing control strategies, developing a lionfish action plan at the sanctuary. In the meantime, while we had to work along with managers to address the issues, we've had to keep doing science at the same time to inform the managers about what actions to take and about the biology of this particular invader. Those are just some examples of the kinds of things we've been working on.

HOST: And maybe you can help us understand, how do scientists monitor or do counts of the species especially in the water where they're so mobile - there's currents, there's so many things happening, what is that like, what goes into doing a species count?

JAMES MORRIS: There are a number of ways to assess fishes. You can do it from boat with things like acoustics technology. You can do it by setting gear, by fishing, by setting traps, or hooking lionfish to try to get a sense of the local population from the numbers that you have there in terms of catch per unit effort.

In the case of lionfish, most of the density assessment work that has been done have actually been done by divers or remote operated vehicles. And there are several different methods for diver surveys that we use. We actually are working on a manual now that provides guidance to scientists and field workers on how to effectively monitor lionfish densities using things like a roving diver transects and different types of methods and strategies.

HOST: So James, for our listeners out there today, is there any action they can take to help with the lionfish problem? Anything we could pass along to them?

JAMES MORRIS: Yes, there is. One of the things that we can do with this problem is use it as a poster child. It has been amazing to me how much kids like to learn about lionfish. How much they learn by talking and learning about this, not just about the problems of invasive species, but about conservation and about marine science and marine resources, even NOAA, and how we can teach them about the problem of invasive species.

On a local level, if you live in south Florida, become involved. There are derbies that happen regularly that are organized to go out and remove densities of lionfish. There are adopt a reef programs that are springing up in the waters of the southeast as well as the Caribbean and even in the Gulf of Mexico where folks are taking responsibility for their local environment and going out just like we would do a beach clean, they would go out and remove lionfish and work to conserve a little piece. If there is a silver lining in this invasion, it is really that it has educated us on the problems of invasive species and that we hopefully can use this to message about the overall problems of invasive species really as biological pollutants and things that we want to keep from happening in the future.

HOST: Thanks James for joining us on Diving Deeper and talking more about lionfish. To learn more, please visit www.ccfhr.noaa.gov/stressors/lionfish.

That's all for today's show. Please join us for our next episode in two weeks.


[Shorts] Harmful Algal Blooms

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/mar12/dds030112.mp3

Thu, 01 Mar 2012 15:10:38 -0500

Diving Deeper Shorts: Harmful Algal Blooms
Episode 17 (Mar. 1, 2012)

HOST: Today on Diving Deeper Shorts, we revisit our interview on harmful algal blooms from October 2009 with Allison Sill from NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science.

Let's listen in.

HOST: Allison, first, what is the difference between a harmful algal bloom and a red tide?

ALLISON SILL: Well, red tides are not always going to be harmful and it's a general term used to describe blooms. Many tides aren't red, many of them are actually golden brown, yellow, you can actually have green tides as well. Scientists use the term harmful algal bloom to describe an algal bloom that can have a negative impact on the environment.

HOST: What causes harmful algal blooms?

ALLISON SILL: There are a variety of factors that can cause these harmful algal blooms some of which are natural and some of which are not natural. The cause also is dependent on the species type and what that species needs in order to actually bloom. When conditions such as salinity - which is the amount of salt in the water, temperature, nutrients - when these factors are optimal, the bloom can occur. And some species are actually good indicators of coastal eutrophication, which is known as nutrient pollution.

HOST: Allison, what are some of the impacts that we see from harmful algal blooms?

ALLISON SILL: Kate, as mentioned before an impact that is very obvious to an observer is actually the discoloration of the water. It might appear red, green, brown. There's also a great number of impacts on the marine environment. You can have low dissolved oxygen or anoxic conditions which can lead to the death of fish and you might see fish floating on the surface of the water. We also have what are called unusual mortality events and this is when there are unexpected strandings of marine mammals on the beach, typically it can happen in high numbers. This type of event requires a response from certain agencies. And the research is indicating that 26 percent of all unusual mortality events are actually related to marine toxins. There are also human health syndromes, five in particular that are caused by certain species.

That's all for today's Diving Deeper Shorts, where we highlight a few minutes of your favorite Diving Deeper episodes.

Want to learn more? Go to oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast.html and select the October 2009 podcast archive to listen to the full interview on harmful algal blooms.

You can catch our next episode in two weeks.


High Frequency Radar

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/feb12/dd021612.mp3

Thu, 16 Feb 2012 10:44:31 -0500

Diving Deeper: High Frequency Radar
Episode 36 (Feb. 16, 2012)

HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I'm your host Kate Nielsen.

Today's question is...What is high frequency radar?

High frequency radar systems are installed on shore or islands. These systems bounce signals off the water to measure surface current speed and direction in near real time. By knowing what surface currents are doing, scientists can better predict how things in the water will move.

To help us dive a little deeper into this question, we will talk by phone with Jack Harlan on high frequency radar. Jack is the High Frequency Radar Project Manager with NOAA's Integrated Ocean Observing System Program. Hi Jack, welcome to our show.

JACK HARLAN: Hi, thanks for having me here.

(DEFINING HIGH FREQUENCY RADAR)

HOST: So Jack, can you tell us a little more about what exactly high frequency radar is?

JACK HARLAN: Sure, high frequency radar, which we often just call HF radar, is a small radar system that sends out radio waves across the ocean surface which then bounce back to the radar and the signal that is received at the radar is then interpreted and analyzed and it enables us to determine what the ocean surface currents are over the entire area where those radio waves bounced off which with an HF radar is quite a large area, covering hundreds of square kilometers.

HOST: And how does this work exactly? How do we get the data and information from high frequency radar?

JACK HARLAN: Well, the technology is really the same thing as the Doppler weather radars that people see on their local weather forecasts. Same type of principle works here where we determine the speed of the ocean surface by the Doppler shift that comes back to the radar system. So we can determine surface currents and knowing where the surface currents are going, helps us know where anything that's floating on the ocean surface is going.

HOST: Jack, where are the sites physically positioned?

JACK HARLAN: Well typically, they're located at the shoreline or very close to the shoreline. Ideally we want that location to be fairly close to the water's edge, just for maximizing the connection of the radar signal with the water surface.

HOST: OK, so you're saying then that they can be located close to the water's edge. I'm guessing that means that they're probably also found a lot on beaches. Is this harmful to beachgoers - the high frequency radar?

JACK HARLAN: No, it's not, although that's certainly a question that has come up and it's a valid question. But the power levels that are used for these small radars are so low that it's really less than the power emanated from just a typical incandescent light bulb, so no there's absolutely no reason for anyone to have concerns about health issues related to these radars.

HOST: Jack, what does one of the systems look like? Is it something that I would recognize if I passed by it on a beach?

JACK HARLAN: You might, but it's a good chance you wouldn't because most of them are quite small and they would just look like a small antenna that you might see for a CB radio and other small-antenna systems. So, some of them are even disguised quite ingeniously so that it doesn't obstruct the view and really isn't noticeable to the average beachgoer.

The typical antennas are only about 10-15 feet tall so they can be disguised fairly easily at times and in fact one of them is inside of a flag pole at a Florida location on a very heavily used beach, so no one is even aware of that one being there. Another one is at a very heavily used beach in Waikiki in Hawaii that I'm sure most people would never realize that there are antennas on top of the structure right there at the beachside.

HOST: So Jack, we talked a little bit about where physically these systems are located, close to the water's edge. Where are they found in the U.S. or around the world, where are they established to collect some of this data?

JACK HARLAN: In the U.S., nearly every single coastal state has HF radars at this point, including also Puerto Rico. And overseas, there are dozens of countries using HF radars, really too many to name, but nearly every developed country in the world has HF radars and even among some of the developing countries, they are starting to deploy them for their own ocean monitoring systems.

HOST: Since sites are located in almost all the coastal states of the U.S., are they durable enough to withstand the many different kinds of weather conditions that we see all across the country? By this, I mean are your sites still functional after let's say a hurricane moves through an area?

JACK HARLAN: Yes, the sites are very durable. Many of them have been out for as much as 10-15 years now. There's even a case last August, when the Hurricane Irene went up the eastern seaboard, our partners at University of North Carolina kept their radars going right through the brunt of that hurricane which passed right over them. Really did an amazing effort. Kept those radars going even though there was no power, it was by using generators. And all the way up the coast to the mid-Atlantic, nearly every radar was up and running during that hurricane, so collected some really amazing data sets that will be of interest to researchers and analysts for several years to come.

HOST: So they can operate under any weather conditions?

JACK HARLAN: Pretty much, there's not too many conditions that really would adversely affect them.

(BENEFITS/USE OF HIGH FREQUENCY RADAR DATA)

HOST: So Jack, I think the question that most of us have and we've touched on this a little bit through our questions today, what do we use high frequency radar data for?

JACK HARLAN: Well there are really a multitude of applications. One of the really high profile uses is the use by the U.S. Coast Guard for search and rescue. So, by getting the HF radar data into their forecasting system, they've actually shown that they can reduce their search area by 66 percent over 96 hours period so basically that allows them to get to people faster and ultimately helps them save lives.

The second real high-profile use is tracking and forecasting where oil spills and other pollutants will go. NOAA uses the HF radar data routinely to help them in their forecasts of where an oil spill may float to so that's certainly one of our most high profile applications as well. There was actually kind of an interesting case where a dentist threw hazardous materials into the ocean and when they washed up on shore, they were able to determine, using the HF radar data, where those hazardous waste items were thrown into the water. So it actually ended up helping to convict that particular individual.

That's kind of an unusual application, but some of the more commonly used applications include water quality monitoring which is a big issue in many parts of the U.S. particularly in southern California, they've made a great deal of use of HF radar for monitoring coastal beach water quality. Another really widespread use is harmful algal bloom monitoring which occur in several areas throughout the U.S. so the data is really used for a multitude of applications by people all over the U.S. coastal areas.

HOST: Who uses high frequency radar data?

JACK HARLAN: Well, we have our federal partners that I've mentioned, the Coast Guard of course, and NOAA organizations such as the spill response groups, so within NOAA we have quite a lot of use and in some federal partners such as the Coast Guard, but in addition we have state spill responders that use the data, we have even county and city officials that rely on the data for monitoring their water quality, we even have lifeguards in Southern California for example that use the data. So, it's really something where it's a broad spectrum of people and agencies that use the data on a regular basis.

HOST: Jack, what do you think is the greatest benefit of high frequency radar data?

JACK HARLAN: I think the greatest benefit is probably the Coast Guard search and rescue use of the data. The data's used to help them save lives and rescue people and property. It's hard to imagine something more important than that.

HOST: How does high frequency radar compare with other technologies that collect surface current data? What makes this technology better or unique in some way?

JACK HARLAN: Well, traditionally to get current measurements in the ocean, one uses an in situ, that is some device that's put in the water directly, and those are still used today all over the world including the U.S., but those devices just measure a single point in the ocean whereas the radars can measure hundreds of square kilometers of surface current velocities simultaneously. So it would be equivalent to having hundreds and hundreds of current meters in the water. Not even satellite data can obtain the current measurements that an HF radar can. They just don't have the ability to do it with the time resolution that we do, where we can do this, hour after hour, day after day in the same spot over and over.

HOST: What is the role of your office, the Integrated Ocean Observing System Program, also known as IOOS, with high frequency radar?

JACK HARLAN: Well IOOS really, brings together the data from nearly 130 of these HF radars throughout the country and makes it accessible to the people who really need it via a one-stop shop if you will and we make that data available 24 by 7 in a standardized format that can be read and used by anyone who needs it throughout the coastal areas of the United States.

HOST: So Jack, my final question for you, do you have any closing words for our listeners today?

JACK HARLAN: Yeah one thing that I think is pretty interesting is that the HF radars were actually invented in the NOAA Boulder labs in Boulder, Colorado back in the 1970s and sometimes people forget that or didn't realize that so it's kind of interesting that all these decades later that the radars are now being used on a daily basis.

HOST: Thanks Jack for joining us on Diving Deeper and talking more about high frequency radar. To learn more, please visit www.ioos.gov/hfradar.

That's all for today's show. Please join us for our next episode in two weeks.


Volunteering with our National Marine Sanctuaries

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/jan12/dd-011912.mp3

Thu, 19 Jan 2012 11:03:24 -0500

Diving Deeper: Volunteering with our National Marine Sanctuaries
Episode 35 (Jan. 19, 2012)

HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I'm your host Kate Nielsen.

Today's question is...How can I volunteer with our national marine sanctuaries?

The national marine sanctuaries have a number of programs and volunteer opportunities at their 14 sanctuary sites. Today's episode will connect you, our listeners, with several sanctuary staff to explore a few of these volunteer opportunities.

(VOLUNTEERING FOR THE NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY SYSTEM)

HOST: To help us kick off this episode, we will first talk with Tracy Hajduk. Tracy is the National Volunteer Coordinator for the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. Hi Tracy, welcome to our show.

TRACY HAJDUK: Hi Kate, thanks for having me.

HOST: So Tracy, are there really volunteer opportunities at all of the national marine sanctuaries?

TRACY HAJDUK: Yes, all of our national marine sanctuaries have ways that you can get involved. We definitely depend on our community members actually to help us reach our mission. Some sites have bigger volunteer programs than others, but we'll take somebody who's willing to help out at any site, and there's a lot of ways you can get involved.

We have volunteer programs where people are out doing community outreach events and really just spreading the message and letting people know what we're doing, what we're all about, and why the sanctuary is important. We have other programs that are working on beach cleanups or monitoring the beaches for seabirds and stranded marine mammals. We have a lot of volunteer programs that are checking out water quality in the area, which is really important, and trying to figure out how does the water look as it enters that sanctuary system. They're out there collecting this really valuable data for us. We have visitor centers where our volunteers are out there interacting with members of the public and school groups and so on, and even people just helping around the office is a really big help to us. We're actually a relatively small program and so our volunteers really help us expand what we're able to do on a daily basis.

HOST: Tracy, how much time do volunteers contribute to the sanctuaries?

TRACY HAJDUK: It does depend again on the volunteer program and the volunteer. At some sites, we do have volunteer programs that do require a set amount of time, maybe twice a month or a certain amount of hours per year, other sites though, depending on the position are much more flexible. So, there's always an opportunity for people to give as much time or as little time as they can. There's really a lot of ways to give and so we'll take as much time as they'll give us, but even just a little bit or once a year can really help us out too.

HOST: Do you need to have any specialized training to serve as a volunteer?

TRACY HAJDUK: Definitely not. We take volunteers who don't know anything about the ocean, but just want to get involved and we're happy to teach them everything they need to know. Some of our programs again do require a little bit more training, but we will provide that for you. And a lot of times it's just learning about the sanctuary and so on and all of our volunteer coordinators are wonderful educators themselves so they really are happy to teach people and help them along the way. And we also have a lot of our volunteers teaching each other, you really learn from the other volunteers and you'll kind of find these mentor volunteers will teach you and pull you along the way to teach you everything you need to know.

There are a few positions too that do require some additional certifications. Some of our more advanced volunteer positions, for instance, being a volunteer diver actually would require you to have certain certifications and so on so that one's a little more tricky, but again, we're always looking for help.

HOST: Tracy, how about for our listeners who don't live along the coast or even close to a national marine sanctuary, are there things that they can do to have an impact?

TRACY HAJDUK: Well Kate, there's a lot that anyone can do to have an impact. The main thing to remember is that everything that you do in your life can have an impact and does have an impact on the ocean. The water that rains down into our backyard ends up in the ocean eventually. And we really just want to make sure that we're living our life in a way that has the least impact on the ocean as possible because we really do depend on it for so much and the ocean really does impact our daily lives and so many things about our world.

So if you're not near a sanctuary, we always tell people, there's still so much you can do besides just thinking about the way that you live your life, but there's a lot of other opportunities and ways to get involved. We really encourage people to volunteer because it's such an amazing way to give back to your community and to the environment. Any town has either a park or maybe a national park or a museum or an aquarium or something like that where you can help out.

We've posted a lot of really good opportunities on some of the websites that we've given to you that have a lot of great stuff and people can always reach out and contact us to ask questions, but if you can some of those websites have opportunities all over the world. A really great one is volunteer.gov. It's got just really great opportunities for no matter what state you are in, you can get involved somehow. And we just encourage people to look and try and figure out what works for them and take some action.

(CHANNEL ISLANDS NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY - NATURALIST CORPS)

HOST: Thanks Tracy for that great introduction on the volunteer opportunities available to us at the national marine sanctuaries. Now I'd like to dive deeper into a few of these programs just to give you all a chance to learn a little bit more about specifically what happens at each of the sites. First, let's talk by phone with Shauna Bingham on the Channel Islands Naturalist Corps. Shauna is the Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator at the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary which is located about 20 nautical miles off Santa Barbara, California. Hi Shauna, welcome to our show.

SHAUNA BINGHAM: Hi Kate, thanks for inviting me to talk about our program.

HOST: Shauna, first, can you tell us briefly about your sanctuary. Why was the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary established and what is its mission?

SHAUNA BINGHAM: Well, the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary was established in 1980 and the sanctuary was established because it's a very special place off the coast of California. It provides important habitat for whales, sea birds, seals, sea lions, many different species of fish from warm to cold water habitats, and also maritime heritage resources. There are many undiscovered shipwrecks around the island and it's also a world-class destination for scuba diving, boating, just being out in nature on the Channel Islands and also a destination for research and science, it's a living laboratory, and it provides a place of solace where when you go out to the marine sanctuary and out to the Channel Islands, it's like the way California use to be, so it is a very special, unique place that we encourage people to enjoy.

HOST: And how does the Naturalist Corps fit into this?

SHAUNA BINGHAM: The Naturalist Corps program is really important for the marine sanctuary for our education and outreach program. Volunteers are trained to represent the sanctuary and the national park out on local whale watch trips, out on island hikes, local community outreach events. They also conduct citizen science. They do blue whale and humpback whale photo ID research to support population studies, collect general marine mammal sitings information. So not only are they our front lines to connecting with our community and the public about the special resources of the Channel Islands, they're also the citizen scientists collecting important information about managing sanctuary resources.

HOST: So Shauna, what do your volunteers do? What is a day like for them?

SHAUNA BINGHAM: Well, it depends on which activity the volunteer decides to do, but they could be out whale watching, they could be out on one of the five Channel Islands in the marine sanctuary or in the national park leading a hike for the public, they could be at an Earth Day event, a whale festival, or they could be out conducting citizen science or taking photo ID of blue and humpback whales and collecting information about the locations of whales in the sanctuary. So they have a really diverse set of skill sets.

HOST: How much time do volunteers typically contribute and why do you think they do what they do?

SHAUNA BINGHAM: Well, I think obviously, it's getting out in the field and getting out on the water is a big draw for our volunteers, but there's a common ground between all the volunteers and that is a love for the ocean, for the environment, for nature, and everybody wants to help to become stewards and protect this special place - the sanctuary, and the Channel Islands, and the park. And so that's what they have in common and that's their draw.

So, we have some volunteers that will do maybe 100 hours in a year, so they average about one day out in the field a month, and we have other volunteers that spend one or two days a week out in the field or more and equal hours of a part-time employee. So, we have a total of 140 volunteers in the program, collectively giving over 30,000 hours in a year, reaching about a half million people. So, it's a pretty effective program.

HOST: Wow, Shauna, that's great. So it sounds like your volunteers do just a wide range of different activities. If any of the folks that are listening here today are interested in volunteering and signing up, what do they need to do?

SHAUNA BINGHAM: Well, the Channel Islands Naturalist Corps volunteer program is really popular in our local community and right now, we're doing a training every two years and we have so many volunteers staying in the program that we do create a waiting list and then there is an application process and it's somewhat competitive to get into the program because of the fact that everybody loves the program and they stay involved. But we are always looking for anybody that's interested and excited about getting involved in becoming stewards and getting involved with the sanctuary to contact me, and it goes by fast and I encourage people to contact us at Channel Islands.

HOST: So Shauna, do volunteers need to have a special type of background to apply or some special kind of training that they need before they can sign up to be part of your program?

SHAUNA BINGHAM: Well, the number one prerequisite for joining really any volunteer program including the Naturalist Corps is enthusiasm and passion for becoming a steward for this special place. But we do have so many applicants that we generally will select volunteers that have some sort of marine background - either boating, diving, maybe some science background. Some sort of knowledge that will help you to apply to all the training that our Naturalist Corps volunteers receive before becoming certified naturalists.

HOST: Shauna, what are you most proud of in terms of this program?

SHAUNA BINGHAM: Well, I'm proud of the program because it accomplishes so much for the marine sanctuary and creating stewardship for the special resources we protect, and also finally after many years of courting this program, we have been recognized for our unique and successful partnership with the Park Service, for the citizen science conducted by volunteers, for our work with the tourism industry, the whale watch vessel operators, and we were recognized by the Department of Interior with the Take Pride in America award in 2011 for the best federal volunteer program. So that was really exciting for all of us including our volunteers.

HOST: And finally, Shauna, what is your favorite recreational activity in the sanctuary?

SHAUNA BINGHAM: Well, my favorite recreational activity in the marine sanctuary is boating. I love boating. I have my own boat. I take my family out whenever I get a chance. And obviously I get a chance to get out on the water working with the sanctuary, but I just can't get enough, and I love to be out there.

(FLORIDA KEYS NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY - TEAM OCEAN)

HOST: Thanks Shauna for that overview on this great volunteer opportunity. Now, let's move over to the east coast and talk, again by phone, to Todd Hitchins about another volunteer opportunity called Team OCEAN. Hi Todd, welcome to our show.

TODD HITCHINS: Hi Kate, thanks for having me on today.

HOST: So Todd, can you start us off with a little information about the sanctuary that your program is associated with, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary?

TODD HITCHINS: Of course. The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary was actually established by an act of Congress in 1990 to protect our coral reef ecosystem here in the Florida Keys. And for those who don't know, we actually have North America's only living coral reef which is also the third largest barrier bank reef in the entire world and it stretches over 200 miles. It goes from all the way south of Miami down past Key West about 60 miles, out to the Dry Tortugas and this area is one of our larger sanctuaries; it covers about 2,900 square nautical miles and offers protections to not only the coral reef, but also we have about 1,800 miles of mangrove shoreline and 2,000 square miles of sea grass bottom which is also a lot of important fish and bird habitat down here.

HOST: And how do your Team OCEAN volunteers support the sanctuary?

TODD HITCHINS: Well, as always, usually the challenge is to balance all the human uses with the need for resource protection. I think in the Florida Keys, the need for that was seen a long time ago and we've had different protections down here in south Florida and the Florida Keys for a long time. The sanctuary actually borders two national parks and a national wildlife refuge complex.

One way the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary manages the resource and the different user groups down here, we have a ton of people who come down to enjoy the environment whether it's recreational fishing, commercial fishing, diving. And so, one of the ways that Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary has done the protection is through marine zoning and so there's different zones within the sanctuary that separate user groups and one of the most popular ones for divers and snorkelers is the sanctuary preservation areas otherwise known as SPAs down here.

And what Team OCEAN does is we station teams on sanctuary boats and we go out, particularly to those heavily-used areas for diving and snorkeling, like the preservation areas, and those are areas that are closed to fishing, so those are no-take areas, and what we do is we try to kind of promote the sanctuary, promote responsible use of the resource. We have teams that will approach boaters as they pull up to the mooring balls which are there so people don't have to anchor on the reef. And we'll just tell them, hey, they're in a protected zone, we offer free charts and brochures to the people that are on boats out there.

A lot of times we get a lot of people from out of town that come down and use the resource down here especially for diving, snorkeling, and fishing. So, a lot of times we're making people aware that those zones are closed to fishing. Sometimes if they don't know better, we'll see people that are dropping lines over the side of their boat and they're in a no-take area. So we try to get compliance with the sanctuary regulations more through education as opposed to law enforcement.

We try to promote dive safety, we try to promote safe use of the reef, encourage people not to drive over reef crests where the folks are diving, snorkeling in the shallow waters, and also just enlighten people on the regulations. We contact anywhere between 1,000 and 1,500 boaters every season and we run the program from May to September, which is our busiest boating season down here, that's when we have the nicest weather for diving and snorkeling.

HOST: So Todd, as you mentioned, you're doing more of an education-based program, a little less of an enforcement approach. What kind of impact are you seeing in the sanctuary from these volunteer efforts?

TODD HITCHINS: Well, it's great. Like I said, a lot of these sanctuary preservation areas that our Team OCEAN program goes out and talks to the different users out there. We really get a lot of good feedback from a lot of the locals that enjoy using these areas, more for non-consumptive activities. So one thing you tend to see in these areas is a lot less fishing lines and the fish are bigger and more numerous and they get very friendly with the divers and snorkelers. They're kind of use to having folks around so it really promotes more of a wild, natural experience for the people that are there to do non-consumptive activities. And also, it helps maintain the integrity of those preservation areas. Having these no-take areas is a really big management strategy of the sanctuary and having these Team OCEAN volunteers out there educating the users and the boaters out there, you can really help maintain the fact that these are no-take areas. People know that you're going to be out there, people know that these areas that are set aside for diving and snorkeling and it really helps everybody, it helps the whole system out there.

HOST: If someone's interested in volunteering with Team OCEAN, do they need any specific expertise or is training provided to help them become a volunteer?

TODD HITCHINS: Specifically for the Team OCEAN volunteer program, there is a training that we hold every May, usually the first week or two of May and just educate folks on safe boating in the Keys. People can become boat operators for us, we actually do have several teams that go out on the boat without any sanctuary staff, but those are people who have been with the program a long time and usually have some kind of boat operation training. But we also teach them how to interact with folks, get them familiar with all the regulations and all the different literature that we have to pass out to the folks. We don't want to send anybody out there to answer questions if they don't have the information to pass along, so we do go through a little bit of a training session, it doesn't last too long, it's one day. And then you come out on the boat with folks who've already been out, and you come out a few times until you're comfortable.

HOST: So Todd, my last question for you, what is your favorite part of your job as the Team OCEAN coordinator?

TODD HITCHINS: If I had to be honest, I'd say getting out on the water instead of sitting behind my desk. It is very rewarding and I do notice a difference in the amount of people that are out there responsibly using the resource. People are very appreciative when you go on vacation somewhere. You want to learn about that place and people actually really appreciate having folks come up and talk to them. It's very non-confrontational as opposed to sometimes people get intimidated if one of the wildlife officers is approaching their boat, they get a little more intimidated, but when it's just a boat that says information or education on it, people are pretty receptive to having those conversations. It's very rewarding to educate people about the resource, especially people that might not live down here and they're really interested in it.

And then on top of that, just working with the volunteers. I'm pretty inspired by the amount of hours that people commit to marine conservation. We get full range from college students all the way through retirees that are down here during the winter and volunteer with some of our clean-ups. You get in the habit of looking for people doing things wrong and just working with these volunteers and seeing how many locals and visitors are really committed to marine conservation is pretty rewarding.

HOST: Thanks Todd for your insights into the Team OCEAN volunteer experience. And to close out today's episode, I'd like to go back to Tracy for one final question. Tracy, what is the greatest benefit, or the greatest impact, that your volunteers have on the National Marine Sanctuary System?

TRACY HAJDUK: You know, our volunteers are definitely one of our greatest assets. We cannot do our mission without them. They give countless hours and time and dedication and skill to us. Just last year we had over 100,000 volunteer hours which is equivalent to about 50 extra full-time employees. And so, without them, we would just have a more difficult time being at community events and getting the word out and doing beach clean ups and monitoring the waterways, doing all the really important things that they do.

So they have a drastic impact and like I said, we cannot accomplish our mission without our volunteers.

HOST: Thank you so much to Tracy, Shauna, and Todd for joining us on Diving Deeper and talking about a few of the volunteer opportunities for our listeners at our national marine sanctuaries. To learn more about these and other volunteer opportunities, please visit sanctuaries.noaa.gov/involved.

That's all for today's show. Please join us for our next episode in two weeks.


Sea Level Rise

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/dec11/dd120111.mp3

Thu, 01 Dec 2011 13:54:16 -0500

Diving Deeper: Sea Level Rise
Episode 34 (Dec. 1, 2011)

HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I'm your host Kate Nielsen.

Today's question is...Is sea level rising?

There is strong evidence that global sea level gradually rose in the 20th century and is currently rising at an increased rate. Sea level is projected to rise at an even greater rate in this century. The two major causes of global sea level rise are thermal expansion of the oceans, which means the water is expanding as it warms and the loss of land-based ice due to increased melting.

To help us dive a little deeper into this question, we will talk by phone with Billy Sweet on sea level rise. Billy is an oceanographer with NOAA's Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services. Hi Billy, welcome to our show.

BILLY SWEET: Hi Kate, glad to be here. Thank you.

(DEFINING SEA LEVEL RISE)

HOST: Billy, first I want to clarify a definition with you as I've heard of both sea level rise and coastal inundation. Do these mean the same thing?

BILLY SWEET: Well, they don't actually mean the same thing. Sea level rise, or sea level to begin with before we talk about the rise component is generally referred to in terms of a relatively longer term mean. Usually we talk on the order of about a month, so it's difficult, but when you live at the coast you see the tides going up and down each day and maybe you see the spring tides during the month where the high tides are a little bit higher, that is not really what we really want to talk about when we talk about sea level, so usually we talk about a mean level over the course of a month. So, it's something that's sort of hard to see firsthand unless you really have a measurement device that can say over the last month, here was the average height. So, in terms of sea level rise, we're talking about this sort of mean rise that the tides then play off of our storm surges, or on top of.

Coastal inundation then would be that variability that you see. You could have coastal inundation with a spring tide, you could have a storm surge that comes and inundates a certain low-lying area so it's usually sort of the wiggles, the ups and downs. In this case inundation is going to be the higher variability above the mean sea level that an observer would tend to see. And they happen over a range of frequencies. It could be something that lasts for a week, where all your high tides are just higher than normal due to external forcing or it could happen just with a strong, sudden wind storm.

HOST: Thanks Billy. So, back to our initial question...are sea levels rising?

BILLY SWEET: Yes, indeed they are rising. Of course, there are some caveats to that as well. On a global level, yes, sea level is rising and we know this from measurements of satellite where we know that on average all the world's oceans are rising. However, there is variability, spatially, so from one coast to another coast, it's not a bath tub that's just slowly rising everywhere at the same rate. There are some areas where sea level is actually dropping slightly. But those are usually very rare and it usually has to do with the land that is rising out of the water or it could be due to prolonged weather effects, which would actually make sea level appear to be dropping, but the short-term responses that when you look over 20, 30, 50 years, even in these locations, sea level is indeed rising, but you do have some year-to-year variability.

But to answer the question, yes, sea level is rising and that's generally true for the majority of the world's coastlines.

HOST: Billy, what role do tides play in sea level rise?

BILLY SWEET: Well, tides actually don't really factor in to a calculation of sea level or sea level rise. As you know, if you live at the coast, you have a high tide and then you have a low tide. And so, if you take the average of the two, you tend to get very close to where this mean sea level would be.

Tides, though, are important because as sea level begins to rise or even if we have some short-term rise, let's say over the course of a few months, you tend to have a bump up in elevation in your mean sea level due to, let's say some prevailing winds. For instance, it's been a very windy spring and the winds have been out of the northeast and so it's causing sea levels to slightly be higher, let's say along the Mid-Atlantic coast of the United States. Well, then you have a high tide, that high tide will be higher than normal, so it may come up a lot higher on your dock or it may actually start getting up to your primary dunes. And so, the tides will actually build or play upon the background sea level. So, they don't actually factor into the calculation of the change in sea level, but they make any changes in sea level become more noticeable.

HOST: Are there other types of factors, other external factors then that can cause an increase in sea level rise?

BILLY SWEET: There are other factors and they play a large part actually in many of the signals that we see. The main external factor that really drives a signal in the sea level series is vertical land motion and that varies widely across the United States. Particularly within the Gulf of Mexico and areas in the Chesapeake Bay, land is actually sinking and the sinking actually causes an apparent rise in sea level, but nonetheless it's a rise. There are parts of the country, for instance in Alaska, that land is actually rising up out of the water and this is due to the removal of ice, it could be some near glaciers that are retreating, but for the most part in the lower 48, in these areas where land is actually sinking due to compaction of sediments or it's a slow adjustment due to the removal of large ice sheets that we had 20,000 years ago at the last glacial maximum.

Another factor that's very important is circulation changes. Normally we think of sort of a mean circulation, but really nothing ever follows the mean and so if you have an increase let's say in the Gulf Stream Transport or a decrease, well this will actually reflect into a sea level response at the coast.

HOST: Billy, how is sea level rise related to climate change?

BILLY SWEET: Well, that's a great question. And I think that is really what is on the minds of many who live along the coast. When you look at sea level over the course of thousands of years, in this case, let's talk about over the last 25,000 years of so. Around 20,000 to 22,000 years ago during the last glacial maximum, sea level was down about 120 to 130 meters lower than today.

Since then, sea level has risen about 130 meters and it has actually slowed 2,000 to 3,000 years ago. And so, as the world warmed, the ocean expanded and primarily since the last glacial maximum, you had a large increase of land/ice melt, so the water went from essentially being locked in ice on the land to going to the ocean and so this can follow temperature records, and we have very good evidence showing that as it warms, you tend to get more water into the ocean, less in terms of ice on the land and you also have thermal expansion.

So, climate change, what's going to happen in the future? Well, we definitely have a very rigorous observation system right now that's measuring and it shows that temperature's been changing. As you addressed in the beginning of this conversation, that it's been shown that as temperature increases, so too will the amount of volume and mass increases within the ocean.

HOST: Billy, for folks living on the coast, what kind of impacts will they see from sea level rise?

BILLY SWEET: Well, that's really what's important to us as humans, the impacts. What can we anticipate? And it's difficult because we have sort of built our communities and built our lives to a level of the ocean that we understand and we live day to day by. So when we start talking about changes to an equilibrium per se that we have become use to, there's going to need to be some response to us, to our actions. Some of the immediate impacts, Kate, are going to be the fact that we tend to really lose our beaches because they just start backing up against structures. With that, we will start also losing our wetlands.

So, you're going to get flooding in low-lying areas, you're going to get loss of beaches, loss of wetlands, and eventually you're going to have infrastructure issues that are just going to need to be dealt with - building of seawalls or barriers, moving your underground infrastructure above ground, salt water intrusion, drinking water being affected, so there's a whole host of impacts that either are ongoing or anticipated to become much more exacerbated here in the future.

(THE NUMBERS BEHIND SEA LEVEL RISE)

HOST: What kind of data do you need to determine if the sea level is actually rising in an area?

BILLY SWEET: That is a very good question because you need data and you need sustained measurements of the rise to be able to discern really what's going on. There's a host of equipment that you can actually pull from, one of which is satellite, altimetry, that does a global assessment, but it also can focus in on a regional to local scale. However, the global measurements are about a ten day repeat cycle, so you really don't know what's happening day to day and you also cannot discern from that measurement exactly the relative changes in sea level, what is vertical land motion doing relative to the ocean's surface.

So to make the relative measurement you need a tide gauge that make a repetitive measurement and is usually stationed somewhere on a stable area like a dock or a pier and that measurement will actually incorporate both the ocean change and the land motion.

There are some other detection mechanisms that we can then determine what the land, vertical motion, is doing and those are called a Continuously Operating Reference System, or basically it's a GPS system that's there measuring over the course of a few years to let you know vertically what your land's doing. We tend to co-locate a tide gauge with a GPS system so that we can then really get a better feeling of what the ocean is doing and what the land is doing, and so with these two pieces of information, you can really then start making sense of historically what sea level has been doing and how it's been changing on the many different time periods that we've discussed.

HOST: Billy, where in the U.S. are we seeing the greatest sea level rise?

BILLY SWEET: By far the greatest sea level rise in the United States is in the Gulf of Mexico. It's on the order of seven to ten millimeters a year throughout much of Louisiana and a little less but still on the order of four to five to six millimeters a year in much of Texas. And, that's a problem. And when you actually go to these areas and talk to the residents and the commissioners and those who live around the coast and who plan for the coastal communities and the development that will pursue, they're very aware of this, and they notice that literally they have an area that is just disappearing year to year and it's exacerbated when storms come through, but it's sort of incremental changes. It's really due in part to compaction of the Mississippi River sediments or no longer actually getting the sediments that they once had to help keep the elevation where it is - we divert a lot of this in terms of our levee systems. But it's also exacerbated in terms of extraction of oil and gas in ground water can actually cause your land to sink. And so in these areas, it's almost three to four times larger than the global rate. And so this is of much concern, especially when it comes to future considerations.

HOST: So Billy, is there anything unusual we're seeing right now with the numbers and the data across the U.S.?

BILLY SWEET: Well, I guess unusual is a relative term, but that's a good question Kate. We are actually seeing some variability that has some significance let's say, so unusual yes. Along the Mid-Atlantic and the New England coasts over the last two to three years, we've actually been seeing an increase of sea level that's well above the mean rise, so when I look in terms of the last let's say 20 or 30 years, we're at levels that are a good bit higher, 20 to 25 centimeters over many months in some places, a little less in some others. This is due to changes in some circulation patterns associated with ENSO as well as the North Atlantic Oscillation, which are these pressure systems that just tend to increase or decrease your normal westerly winds that we would have in this part of the country, but nonetheless it's elevating the water levels in critical times such as the winter when you have these nor'easters or these winter storms that can impact a coastline. So when you have an elevated sea level or a bump up in sea level for many months and over a few years, you can really tend to get these storm surges that tend to reach higher elevations than they often times would. And so this has been a problem for many of these New England towns that have been seeing a lot of coastal erosion over the last few years.

Now, a flip side, on the West Coast, along California and Oregon and some of the western states, we've actually been seeing sea level over the last 15 or 20 years has actually slowed down a bit in its rise. Now this is primarily due to a circulation sort of forcing patterns that have been going on that sea level has not been rising necessarily at the global rate over this time period. So this is sort of a suppression of the signal along the coast here due to wind and ocean circulation patterns that are expected to change here in the near future, we'll say five to ten years there's some indications that some of the patterns might actually be changing currently as we speak such that the rate of sea level rise might actually tend to pick up here over the next five to ten years so this will be something that we want to closely monitor.

(RESPONDING TO SEA LEVEL RISE)

HOST: Billy, what is NOAA's role in regards to measuring and responding to sea level rise?

BILLY SWEET: Well, our role within NOAA is to make the measurements and to present the information as clearly and unbiased as possible to those agencies and user groups that really need this data. Much of this, and we haven't necessarily talked about the low water conditions, but as sea level starts to rise, it affects shipping, the amount of sand you might need to dredge to keep a certain minimum clearance for ships. It's important to let's say the Army Corps of Engineers who plan these public work projects for the United States in terms of flooding and water control. Coastal communities that really need to plan 50 years in advance in terms of certain types of infrastructure, wastewater treatment facilities, electric grid, your water and sewer.

We want to make sure that we give them the very best information based upon our continuous measurements and we will let them really make the decision as to how best to proceed in the future. We will synthesize what we know in our current state, but we want to give them the tools and the resources to at least let them know where they are now in terms of land elevations to water elevations so that they can make their very best sound judgments themselves as to what might be occurring in the future based on what we know has happened in the past.

HOST: One question that I think some of us have here is, can we forecast or predict sea level rise?

BILLY SWEET: Well, that's a very important question, Kate. That is what is sort of on the mind of a lot of managers and community planners right now. What is sea level going to be in 50 years? How much higher is it going to be? So there's a few different ways we can look at this question, one of which is how high will an event be? Let's say the 100 year event, how high will this storm event be and how high will it impact? And there are statistical ways we can approach this in terms of looking at the variability of the past and projecting that into the future.

But the key question is, is how much will the baseline elevation rise such that this variability is working on top of a mean incremental rise in sea level? And the way that we approach this question is generally through computer models. What really drives sea level is temperature and heat. It melts ice and it also makes water expand. And so, we have numerous models that sort of all agree that say in their outputs, there is some range of expectation, but in general we're definitely looking at upwards of a half meter to a meter rise of sea level, let's say by 2100. There is some uncertainty with these models due to the fact that we don't really know how the big ice shelves and ice masses on Antarctica and Greenland are going to respond with the increase in global temperature. So there is some uncertainty, but the general agreement is as the earth warms the ocean will expand due to thermal expansion and ice melt and ice flows into the ocean are going to follow suit and these models, not only do they help us understand weather and currents on a near real-time basis that we've all sort of incorporated within our daily patterns, but we also use them to make these longer term projections.

HOST: What can residents do if they live in a coastal community and they have concerns about sea level rise where they live?

BILLY SWEET: That's a great question. What can you do as a resident to better inform yourself and sort of take action in response? I think the most important thing a resident can do, or a concerned citizen, is to become more familiar with what sea level has been doing. What are the patterns? What are your tide cycles? What's your tide range? How high does your spring tides actually come?

Becoming aware of what sea level does on a week to week, month to month basis versus what has it been doing over the course of decades. So once you become aware that sea level is not static, it's dynamic and it's changing and it's not only changing from month to month, but it's continuously changing and in most cases it's slowly rising.

At that point, I think making maps is something that lends itself very well to explaining the situation to others. You can start to get a feeling of where these problems are going to keep reoccurring and how you might respond as a community. So on a community scale, this kind of planning and these kinds of maps are critical to understanding where your infrastructure is in terms of sea level today and sea level of tomorrow.

HOST: Thanks Billy these are some good steps and actions for us to think about. To help our listeners get to know you a little bit more, how did you first get started in this field?

BILLY SWEET: Well, let's just say it's in my blood. I grew up in the coast of North Carolina and had explored the coastline as a kid and realized just how the ocean was changing throughout the seasons and throughout the year and it sort of had a real fundamental question as a child, what is causing these changes? And it later resurfaced I would say Kate, as I studied physical oceanography and training and trade through my experiences. But as I came to NOAA, there was an event that was really sort of eye-opening for many of us. It was a high sea level anomaly that occurred from Georgia all the way up to New Jersey where it caught a lot of coastal communities off guard because there were no coastal storms that normally cause these kinds of events. There was low-lying flooding over a few days coincided with a high spring tide, but nonetheless it was higher than normal and a lot of people started asking why? The group that I am in, we run all these tide stations around the country and people come to us and say, what is going on? And I had the opportunity to really do some research as to what were some of the physical factors involved - the winds and the currents - that were causing this phenomena and it really just sort of propelled me into the research field of sea level.

HOST: That's great, thanks Billy. So my last question for you, do you have any final words for our listeners today?

BILLY SWEET: I do. I think we're at the tip of the iceberg right now in terms of the impacts that we will most likely be seeing in the next 100 plus years. And as the younger generation having realized that at some point there's a hand off between the younger and older generation between those that really plan and sort of control let's say the fate of our existence often times in terms of the ways that we develop and the way that we respond, I think it's important to listen, to ask questions as a citizen, and I also think it's important for organizations like NOAA to continue to put out knowledge-based information tools that really allow people to make some actionable decisions in terms of how should we best respond to the changes that we are seeing and anticipated that we will see in the future because I think it's going to be a very costly and life-changing events in the next 50 to 100 years and I think the more that we empower people now in terms of what we see and through the observations that we make, I think the better off we will be in really communicating this to the groups that really have the power to make the changes necessary to adapt to these changes that are forthcoming.

HOST: Thanks Billy for joining us on Diving Deeper and talking with us about sea level rise. To learn more, please visit tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends.

That's all for today's show. We will be taking a break over the holidays so please join us for our next episode in January.


[Shorts] Maritime Heritage

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/nov11/dds111711.mp3

Thu, 17 Nov 2011 09:52:40 -0500

Diving Deeper Shorts: Maritime Heritage
Episode 16 (Nov. 17, 2011)

HOST: Today on Diving Deeper Shorts, we revisit our interview on maritime heritage from September 2009 with Dave Alberg from NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

Let's listen in.

HOST: Dave, can you expand a bit more on what is meant by maritime heritage?

DAVE ALBERG: Maritime heritage is a way to connect the oceans back to citizens of our country and really to people all around the world - connect them back to the oceans, connect them on a personal level so that they walk away with a better understanding of the role the oceans play in their daily lives and just as importantly the role that their daily lives play in the future of our oceans. And it's a way to connect to an audience that might not normally be interested in ocean issues in a way that can sometimes be very personal and very powerful.

HOST: Why is it important to preserve and study these resources? What do we hope to gain from our research and knowledge?

DAVE ALBERG: Well, I think a couple things. One is with any historical project, at the end of the day it helps us better understand ourselves. Hopefully by looking at the past it helps us to better understand where we sit today and where we may be going in the future. But in terms of the broader picture, I think what's really significant about maritime heritage resources and certainly the role that the study and promotion of maritime heritage resources plays within NOAA is that it helps people come back to the ocean. It helps connect them to the ocean. People that may not have ever seen the ocean, people that may not ever plan on being near the ocean, people that live in the interior of the country.

HOST: Thanks Dave. I never thought about the storytelling aspect that really lies out there for maritime heritage, that's great. How do we find shipwrecks? Are they typically found while we are looking for something else on the sea floor or are there missions that go out to look for a specific shipwreck?

DAVE ALBERG: I think it's a little bit of both. And the classic example of the approach where we're looking for a particular shipwreck would be the Monitor or the Titantic, we knew roughly where these shipwrecks were and many people were involved, in some cases, for many years trying to track down and locate that particular shipwreck knowing approximately where it was, but involving generations of people trying to track it down.

So there are shipwrecks that are found that way and then there are shipwrecks that are found through accidental means I guess and that could be through surveys of ocean bottom which are conducted by NOAA or other people. In many cases we get information very informally from fishermen and from divers who are either recreating or working in areas where they come across data on hangs, where they're hitting something on the bottom with their fishing gear, or in the case of divers where they've found shipwrecks or objects on the bottom, and often times those things lead to terrific partnership opportunities where the Sanctuary Program has gone in and helped pull back the curtain so to speak by providing resources and expertise to help uncover the real mystery of what the shipwreck might be or more about its history.

That's all for today's Diving Deeper Shorts, where we highlight a few minutes of your favorite Diving Deeper episodes.

Want to learn more? Go to oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast.html and select the September 2009 podcast archive to listen to the full interview with Dave Alberg on maritime heritage.

You can catch our next episode in two weeks.


[Shorts] Benefits of Ocean Observing Systems

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/nov11/dds110311.mp3

Thu, 03 Nov 2011 10:22:56 -0400

Diving Deeper Shorts: Benefits of Ocean Observing Data
Episode 15 (Nov. 3, 2011)

HOST: Today on Diving Deeper Shorts, we revisit our interview on the benefits of ocean observing data from January 2010 with Zdenka Willis from NOAA's Integrated Ocean Observing System Program.

Let's listen in.

HOST: Zdenka, first, can you remind our listeners why we need to or why we should observe our oceans and coasts?

ZDENKA WILLIS: Certainly, Kate. We need to observe our oceans and coasts to better understand what's happening and what's changing. Once we have that initial understanding, then we can increase the nation's ability to keep our people safe, our economy secure, and our environment healthy and productive.

HOST: Well that sounds like a tall order for one system, but I can really understand the importance of having something like this. Can you maybe give us an example of how we benefit by using IOOS data?

ZDENKA WILLIS: Kate, I'd be happy to. You know, we're really looking at compatible, easy access to all kinds of data and information from multiple sources. I had a chance to talk to Jared. Jared's a lobstermen up in the New England area. He has a 42-foot boat. He counts on those buoys to take a look at the weather and the ocean conditions so that he knows whether it's safe to take his crew out to be able to catch lobster which is livelihood for them. We work with Puerto Rico's Department of Natural Resources and they rely on IOOS-derived shoreline maps to plan for and respond to storm surge, flash floods, and sea level rise.

In our southeastern region, they teamed up with NOAA's National Weather Service to put a marine portal together. So they take all the observations that are collected both at the federal level and at that regional level and they put them together. That helps the National Weather Service to do better forecasts and even more important more accurate hazards warnings like small craft. In the Great Lakes we've developed models that display real-time and forecasted waterway data in the corridors between Lake Huron and Erie in southeast Michigan. And these applications directly support decision making related to drinking water intakes and any pollution or spill problems we would have in that area.

Turning to industry. Certainly easier, better access to ocean and coastal data is important for our ability to understand those seasonal forecasts. Two examples I think of are both Home Depot and Walmart. They have to make their buying decisions based on those seasonal forecasts. So six months out do they stock hurricane supplies or do they stock beach towels.

That's all for today's Diving Deeper Shorts, where we highlight a few minutes of your favorite Diving Deeper episodes.

Want to learn more? Go to oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast.html and select the January 2010 podcast archive to listen to the full interview with Zdenka Willis on the benefits of ocean observing data.

You can catch our next episode in two weeks.


Height Modernization

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/oct11/dd102011.mp3

Thu, 20 Oct 2011 10:14:38 -0400

Diving Deeper: Height Modernization
Episode 33 (Oct. 20, 2011)

HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I'm your host Kate Nielsen.

Today's question is...What is height modernization?

Height Modernization is the establishment of accurate and reliable heights using GPS technology in conjunction with traditional leveling, gravity, and remote sensing information.

To help us dive a little deeper into this question, we will talk with Renee Shields on height modernization. Renee is a geodesist and the Height Modernization Manager with the National Geodetic Survey. Hi Renee, welcome to our show.

RENEE SHIELDS: Hi Kate, thanks for inviting me. How are you doing today?

(BASICS OF HEIGHT MODERNIZATION)

HOST: Very good. So, Renee, can you elaborate on that initial definition that I just gave for height modernization?

RENEE SHIELDS: Sure, I'll give it a try. I really like the definition because it's nice and short and sweet. The ultimate goal of height modernization is to be able to use GPS technology to get heights that are accurate to, what we're shooting for is, one to two centimeters, or about a half an inch to an inch. Traditionally heights, or elevations, have been measured by surveyors through a process called leveling. Most of us have seen surveyors by the side of the road, they have an instrument on a tripod, they're looking through the instrument and they're sighting down the road to a rod that's got marks on it. What they're doing is they're measuring height differences from where they are to where the rod is.

Level instruments are optical instruments, so you need to have line of sight from where you are to where you're siting to. And, if you need a height a couple of miles down the road, you can imagine you have to keep setting this up over and over again and it can become very time consuming and very costly.

People are looking at GPS as perhaps a faster way of doing this because with GPS instruments you're sighting between the GPS and the satellite. You don't need line of sight. The difficulty is that the heights that you get with GPS and the heights that you get from leveling are not the same kind of heights.

HOST: OK Renee, so you talked about two different kinds of heights, what's the difference between these - the difference between the heights that you get from leveling and the heights that you get from GPS?

RENEE SHIELDS: To answer this question we really need to know what a height is and what we're using it for. If you think about it, a height is really a distance above a certain surface. Most people want heights because they want to know which way water is flowing. They want to know if they're in a flood zone, or they want to know, if they're building their house, they want to make sure the water's going in the right direction in their pipes.

As you can imagine, gravity plays a big role in this. So using gravity measurements, we can actually model the surface that we're measuring the heights from. This surface we call a geoid. A leveling instrument is designed to take gravity into account, and the height differences will indicate the direction the water will flow. The heights we get from leveling we call orthometric heights.

If you go back to GPS, what GPS is doing is it's measuring the distance relative to what we know about the GPS satellite orbits, and we describe that with a mathematical figure called an ellipsoid. So you're measuring a distance from the ellipsoid to where you are on the surface of the earth. The ellipsoid is terrific for doing mathematical computations, but it really doesn't have a clue where gravity is, or what the gravity is.

So, if we could figure out the difference between that geoid surface and the ellipsoid, and then take that difference and apply it to a GPS measurement, we're getting the measurement of the height from the geoid, the height that we're really after. The problem is that the geoid is pretty bumpy, it's not an even surface, so it's pretty hard to define that surface.

HOST: OK, so measuring heights and getting elevation data, is not quite so simple.

RENEE SHIELDS: Not at all.

HOST: Renee, what types of data do you need to determine these elevations?

RENEE SHIELDS: Well, first and foremost we need gravity data. At NGS, we have gravity data that we've measured on the land, terrestrial data. We have gravity data from ships offshore. And recently there are some satellite gravity missions, so we're getting satellite gravity, and we're also using an airplane to collect gravity. Where the terrestrial is point by point data, the satellite and the aerial gravity data is more of a constant stream of data, so that's filling in the gaps.

What we have to do with all that data is reconcile it to the ground, that's where we need that gravity measurement. Now at NGS, we have a particular surface that we're trying to relate everything to, this particular version of the geoid model, so in order to get that surface, we're taking additional data where we have leveling observations and GPS observations, so we have both kinds of heights, the orthometric height and the ellipsoid height, the GPS height, and we're using that data to kind of tweak the model that we've created from the gravity. So it's a specific version of the geoid model, specific surface that we're trying to define here.

HOST: Is the process set for how you collect data or are you constantly testing and evolving your methods for collecting this information?

RENEE SHIELDS: Well, we do have a process in place, but I'd have to say it's still evolving. We have a long way to go for our goal, our two centimeter/one inch heights objective here. The model needs improving, the more data you have, the better the model. We're finding better ways to develop the model from the data we have. And the technology is changing. GPS instrumentation is getting better. There are more satellites in the sky, so you get better data from that.

And the fact is, in the early years of height modernization we were so focused on getting that specific geoid model that we were doing a lot of the leveling and GPS heights data. We've changed our approach in recent years to look more at using the gravimetric geoid, the geoid that we build out of the gravity data by itself as a way of doing this, so we're sort of changing our approach. The other part of this is no matter how accurate you make it, users are going to want more accuracy or they're going to want it faster, or they're going to find a new application for it. People especially today want it in real time or near real time, that's going to save them money. Recently I heard about a new application the automobile companies are looking at for the trucking industry, where they will include topographic maps, so maps with heights on them, in the navigation system and somehow they're able to automate the speed of the vehicle in hilly or mountainous regions and save on fuel. So, of course to do this, they need these GPS observations in real time.

HOST: I like that example with the automobile companies. That paints a good picture for us. And that actually takes us to one of the next things that I wanted to ask you about now, which is why is height modernization important? What do we use this data for?

RENEE SHIELDS: There are a lot of products and services that people use that rely on having, accurate heights. When people are concerned about whether they're in a flood zone, they want to make sure those FEMA floodplain maps have accurate heights that they're based on. The U.S. Geological Survey and NOAA's own National Weather Service both use heights to create inundation models or storm surge models, so they need accurate heights. Aircraft and ships need accurate heights for navigation, and they're using GPS more and more. And since we can measure elevations faster and cheaper with GPS, we can go into areas where we know there's movement going on and we can do re-surveys of an area over time and try and model just what's going on there as far as vertical movement. If your house is not in a flood zone now, you want to know is it not going to be in a flood zone in ten years. So, how things are moving is one of the big things that we're looking at now.

HOST: Renee, what causes the elevation in an area to change?

RENEE SHIELDS: There are a few things that can cause heights to change in an area. Earthquakes, of course, especially if you're talking a few centimeters level change, the least little earthquake can make a difference. There's something called subsidence or land sinking, that will cause heights, obviously, to change. Some folks may be familiar with the Gulf Coast and Louisiana where they've been hearing in the news about subsidence. Up in the northern part of the country where glaciers are receding, where the glaciers are melting, they have something called post glacial rebound, it's sort of the opposite of subsidence, where the land is bouncing back.

And some of these things are man-made causes, those were all tectonic or natural causes, but there's man-made causes as well if you're extracting oil and gas or water out of an area, that can lead to subsidence. And there's relative changes we're looking at. If you know of an area, along the coast especially, where you've got some kind of activity like a subsidence going on but we also think that there's sea level rise going on, how do you measure the relative differences between those two. So, that's something NOAA particularly is interested in.

(BENEFITS OF HEIGHT MODERNIZATION)

HOST: So Renee, what are some of the benefits of height modernization? We've talked a little bit about how the data can be used, but what are some of the benefits of this?

RENEE SHIELDS: Well, saving lives is a key part of this of course. I mentioned navigation. The FAA positions runways at airports using GPS and they have charts to show that and then the planes have GPS on them now, so in low-visibility conditions, the planes can land safely. Ships can also use accurate heights to navigate in and out of port. If they know the height that their ship is sitting at and they know the depth of the channel and they know the height of the bridge they're passing under, they can get through with minimal amount of clearance so that saves them money as well as lives because they can load more cargo onto the ship.

And there are farmers now, this is a new group of users that we have, the agricultural community. Farmers are using GPS on their farm equipment and they have equipment that lays down pesticides and fertilizer and they have their irrigation equipment, and they're able to more efficiently apply these things because they can minimize the amount of overlap they have, they have an idea what the slope of their land is, and this saves them not only money, but it's good for the environment because they're minimizing the amount of pesticides and fertilizer that they have to use. So that's a whole new community that we're able to reach out to.

HOST: Great, well, you've sold me. Height modernization has a lot of really good benefits. I mean, saving lives is huge, and then when you add in the saving money and good environmental benefits, it sounds wonderful. My next question is, if this is better as we've been talking about, height modernization, why isn't everyone using it?

RENEE SHIELDS: Yeah, that's a good question. Of course if we had our way, everybody would be using it. This would be the way of the future. We need to make sure that the models and the tools that are in place are the best that they can be. Some parts of the country have done a lot of work, they've got a good handle on this, other parts not so much. So, that needs to be improved.

Currently, you need good geodetic quality instruments, not all GPS are created equal so you need specific ones to get accurate vertical measurements and not everybody's willing to invest in that. There's the technology transfer issue, we're still educating people about the benefits, but also about how to do it, it takes a real specific process to be able to do this so we're building capacity in the community and we're teaching people about the importance and the value of this. And that there are still some applications where you need even better heights than an inch or half an inch, you need sub-centimeter level heights and currently leveling is still the best way to do that. So there are still people that want to use leveling. We've got a ways to go before everybody's embracing this technology.

(NOAA'S ROLE IN HEIGHT MODERNIZATION)

HOST: Renee, at the beginning we mentioned that you are with NOAA's National Geodetic Survey. Why is your office involved in this effort?

RENEE SHIELDS: There are a number of government agencies who have responsibilities for different kinds of mapping products. I mentioned FEMA, they're responsible for the flood maps. U.S. Geological Survey makes topographic maps that are used for recreation, for engineering, for resource management. The Army Corps of Engineers uses maps for their survey projects. What NGS does is provides the most accurate positions, or position data, so all these agencies can make their maps consistent with each other, so that if you're using two mapping products together, you know that they're referenced accurately together. You can combine this data. Our agency started when the country was very young and the big focus then was on coastal waterways, on coastal charting because of course commerce depended on navigation along the coast so that's how we got started and now we do it across the land as well.

HOST: Is height modernization a project or an effort that will ever be completed or do you think there will always be work to do in this field?

RENEE SHIELDS: Good question. Of course we have a goal to get the two centimeter heights using GPS. But I think the technology's always changing so maybe we won't have to go to such rigorous procedures to do it in the future if the technology's better. We'll learn to build better models so again it'll be a little easier and I think there will always be new applications, I think there will always be people who want it more accurate, who want it faster, and so we'll always be striving to meet that need, to chase down that millimeter if that's possible down the road.

HOST: Renee, during your career working on height modernization and related efforts, what project are you most proud of?

RENEE SHIELDS: I can't say there's a particular project. I've been with NGS for 30 years, I'm proud of all the work that we do and all the projects I've been involved in. I do have to say I'm really proud and honored to have had the opportunity to work with all the partners that I'm working with that are helping us do this. We work very closely with other federal mapping agencies (FEMA, Corps of Engineers, USGS, Park Service). We have a lot of partnerships with local and state agencies like Departments of Transportation, where a lot of the surveying and mapping is done on the local level, sometimes Departments of Natural Resources is where that functionality is, they're all working to improve their mapping projects through height modernization. And we have a lot of university partners that we're working with. There's a lot of folks out there doing some great work and I think that's what I'm most proud of is those partnerships.

HOST: So Renee, my last question to you is, do you have any final words for our listeners today?

RENEE SHIELDS: I appreciate you having me on your show, on Diving Deeper, it's been a real pleasure. I think height modernization's really important and there's a lot of exciting things going on, so I'm just really pleased to be able to share that with your listeners. So, thanks a lot.

HOST: And thank you Renee for joining us on Diving Deeper and talking more about height modernization. For our listeners, to learn more, please visit geodesy.noaa.gov/heightmod or visit our site for more links and details.

That's all for today's show. Please join us for our next episode in two weeks.


[Shorts] NOAA's Navigation Response Teams

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/oct11/dds100611.mp3

Thu, 06 Oct 2011 11:17:13 -0400

Diving Deeper Shorts: Navigation Response Teams
Episode 14 (Oct. 6, 2011)

HOST: Today on Diving Deeper Shorts, we revisit our interview on NOAA's navigation response teams from May 2010 with Commander Larry Krepp of the Office of Coast Survey. Navigation response teams are three-person mobile emergency response units equipped and trained to survey waterways immediately following a hurricane.

Let's listen in to the interview.

HOST: What types of emergencies do the navigation response teams support?

COMMANDER KREPP: As I mentioned before, probably our bread and butter if you will, are hurricane responses. Aside from natural disaster, hurricane-type responses, we do receive various requests from agencies for anything from ship groundings, ship sinkings. Aside from that it's mostly anything having a navigational concern. The statement that I generally make is our teams are there to respond to anything that has the potential for impacting the marine commerce transportation system that we have in the country.

HOST: Let's focus a little bit on the hurricane response that you've talked about. When do the teams typically arrive on the scene? Are they considered almost like a first responder after an event?

COMMANDER KREPP: They are. Again noting, we do make sure the area's safe. We generally mobilize within 24 hours and we're on scene within 48. We may or may not be able to begin survey at that point, but it certainly allows us to get together and meet with the Coast Guard and the port authority, actually have the people on the ground help direct us to where our services would best be used.

HOST: Commander Krepp, what is a day like for your staff responding after a hurricane?

COMMANDER KREPP: Probably the most dramatic of our hurricane responses was in response to Hurricane Katrina back in 2005. That was a little different for us in that it was a very long response. A good amount of our responses only have a duration of maybe two days to a week.

The Katrina response went on for months and we had multiple vessels in there and there were multiple government agencies. The infrastructure there was pretty well decimated, so it was a fantastic U.S. team effort to one be able to provide the pure necessities of things like fuel, water, food, and shelter for all of the responders down in that area. But we surveyed various ports in conjunction with the Corps of Engineers and were able to relatively quickly establish some of the shipping lanes to allow things to go.

That's all for today's Diving Deeper Shorts, where we highlight a few minutes of your favorite Diving Deeper episodes.

Want to learn more? Go to oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast.html and select the May 2010 podcast archive to listen to the full interview with Commander Krepp on navigation response teams.

You can catch the next episode of Diving Deeper in two weeks.


[Shorts] PCBs

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/sep11/dds092211.mp3

Thu, 22 Sep 2011 12:06:18 -0400

Diving Deeper Shorts: Episode 13 (Sep. 22, 2011) - PCBs

HOST: Today on Diving Deeper Shorts, we revisit our interview on polychlorinated biphenyls, also known as PCBs, from June 2009 with Lisa DiPinto from the Office of Response and Restoration.

Let's listen in.

HOST: Lisa, let's start off with a little more background first on PCBs. Is DDT, another chemical that I think most of us are familiar with, in the same class or category as PCBs?

LISA DIPINTO: Well Kate, DDT and PCBs are actually different chemicals. DDT is a pesticide, where PCBs were developed for a wide range of more industrially oriented applications. But they do have some similarities. They're both presently banned chemicals and they're both very persistent, so we're still finding them both in the environment. From the 1920s until their ban in 1979, there were an estimated 1.5 billion pounds of PCBs that were made for things such as microscope oils, electrical insulators, capacitors, to even electric appliances like old TV sets or refrigerators that we can still occasionally find in households today. They were even sprayed on dirt roads to keep the dust down before they really knew what some of the unintended consequences of widespread use of PCBs were.

HOST: Why do we still study PCBs today if they've been banned since 1979?

LISA DIPINTO: Like so many things in the environment, these chemicals they don't actually breakdown quickly, therefore they don't necessarily disappear once they're banned from use. A lot depends on their chemical makeup - the size and the structure and the chemical composition of the PCBs all that affects how long it takes them to breakdown in the environment. But it can take years to remove these chemicals from the environment and that's why we're still seeing them present decades later.

HOST: Lisa, can we actually see or smell PCBs?

LISA DIPINTO: No, PCBs don't have a known smell or taste. They're typically either oily liquids or sometimes solids and they're colorless or may be a very light yellow in color.

That's all for today's Diving Deeper Shorts, where we highlight a few minutes of your favorite Diving Deeper episodes.

Want to learn more? Go to oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast.html and select the June 2009 podcast archive to listen to the full interview with Lisa on PCBs.

You can catch the next episode of Diving Deeper Shorts in October.


[Shorts] Currents

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/july11/dds071411.mp3

Thu, 14 Jul 2011 08:46:24 -0400

Diving Deeper Shorts: Episode 12 (July 14, 2011) - Currents

HOST: Today on Diving Deeper Shorts, we revisit our interview on currents from August 2009 with Laura Rear-McLaughlin from the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services.  

Let’s listen in.

HOST: Laura, we touched on this question before in an earlier episode of Diving Deeper called what are tides, but can you remind us about the difference between tides and currents?

LAURA REAR-MCLAUGHLIN: Sure thing Kate. As my colleague, Steve Gill, mentioned in that episode, the word tides is a general term used to define the alternating rise and fall in sea level with respect to the land. This means that tides move up and down during the day. Currents are different from tides in that they move horizontally rather than vertically. So currents describe the horizontal motion of the water and they’re driven by several different factors.

HOST: You mentioned that there are several different factors that drive or even can cause currents. Can you elaborate on these a little bit more?

LAURA REAR-MCLAUGHLIN: Absolutely, there are several different factors that drive currents. Let me highlight a few of these different types of currents for you. There’s something that we call ocean currents, tidal currents, and coastal currents. The factors that cause these do vary.

HOST: It sounds like there are many factors and different levels to each of these factors that affects currents and their intensity. Are we able to monitor currents?

LAURA REAR-MCLAUGHLIN: We are Kate. As a matter of fact, mariners have been studying and measuring currents for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The two main components of currents are speed and direction. The easiest way to describe how measuring is done is to say that the basic tools that you need are an observer, a floating object or a drifter, and a timing device. So an observer would stand on say the bow of a ship that’s anchored, throw something into the water like something that floats – a piece of wood or a cork or a bottle even – and then they would measure the time that it takes that object to move along the side of a ship. And that’s the easiest way to understand currents.

As technology improved over time, oceanographers began using mechanical current meters. A ship would deploy a meter and usually some sort of rotor would turn and measure the currents. This is still the basic process today; however we use more accurate and sophisticated instruments.

(OUTRO)

That’s all for today’s Diving Deeper Shorts, where we highlight a few minutes of your favorite Diving Deeper episodes.

Want to learn more? Go to oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast.html and select the August 2009 podcast archive to listen to the full interview with Laura on currents.

You can catch the next episode of Diving Deeper Shorts in August.


[Shorts] Marine Protected Areas

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/june11/dds060211.mp3

Thu, 02 Jun 2011 09:30:18 -0400

Diving Deeper Shorts: Episode 11 (June 2, 2011) - Marine Protected Areas

HOST: Today on Diving Deeper Shorts, we revisit our interview on marine protected areas from February 2009 with Joe Uravitch from the National Marine Protected Areas Center.  

Let’s listen in.

HOST: Joe, first, can you start by telling us what the difference is between a marine protected area and a marine reserve?

JOE URAVITCH: Sure. People often confuse the two. Both are general terms. Marine protected areas, or MPAs, are special places in our oceans or Great Lakes that are established for the conservation of their natural or cultural resources. Marine reserves are actually a type of more restrictive MPA. Usually places called marine reserves will restrict the catching of fish, collection of shells, or other activities where there’s something removed from the area. Some places may even prohibit access for any purpose, including scientific research, without a permit.

HOST: So, because conservation is the main goal for our nation’s MPAs, are there restrictions on human activities to maintain this conservation goal?

JOE URAVITCH: Depending on what the MPA is intended to protect, yes, there can be restrictions on some or all activities within an MPA. However, most U. S. MPAs do not prohibit fishing and recreational uses throughout their boundaries. In fact, less than one percent of United States waters are no-take areas. An example of a marine protected area where uses are restricted for conservation purposes would be the National Marine Sanctuaries like the Florida Keys Sanctuary, which includes some areas that are off-limits to fishing and boating in order to protect sensitive habitats.

HOST: Joe, you mentioned that less than one percent of MPAs in the U.S. are no-take areas. What are no-take areas? Does this apply only to fishing?

JOE URAVITCH: Although they’re rare, no-take areas are MPAs or zones that allow human access, but that totally prohibit the extraction or destruction of natural or cultural resources. This applies to all activities that may cause harm. Usually fishing comes to mind as the biggest prohibited activity, but no-take areas have restrictions that are applicable to several different users.

No-take MPAs are sometimes used to protect spawning or nursery grounds, or to protect ecologically important habitats. Some are used as research and monitoring zones to serve as a baseline that allows comparisons by managers and scientists. Of the few no-take areas in U.S. waters, most are small and interspersed within larger areas that do allow consumptive uses. 

HOST: Since MPAs are established for the conservation of resources, can people interact with MPAs?

JOE URAVITCH: Yes, the majority of MPAs in the United States are open for most public uses including commercial and recreational fishing, diving, and boating. In fact, less than one percent of all U.S. waters are in closed areas.

That’s all for today’s Diving Deeper Shorts, where we highlight a few minutes of your favorite Diving Deeper episodes.

Want to learn more? Go to oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast.html and select the February 2009 podcast archive to listen to the full interview with Joe Uravitch on marine protected areas.

You can catch the next episode of Diving Deeper Shorts in June.


Oil Spill Response Revisited

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/apr11/dd041411.mp3

Thu, 14 Apr 2011 09:58:11 -0400

Diving Deeper: Episode 32 (April 14, 2011) — Oil Spill Response Revisited
Today's Diving Deeper is a rebroadcast of one of our most popular episodes from 2010 on how NOAA responds to oil spills. This episode was originally released on April 7, 2010, just a few weeks before the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Tragically, eleven people lost their lives as a result of the explosion.  Two days later, the rig sank and oil began leaking into the Gulf. Over the course of 87 days, an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil were released into the Gulf. As the nation's experts on oceanic and atmospheric science and the lead science agency for oil spills, NOAA was on the scene of the Deepwater Horizon incident since the earliest moments of the crisis. This rebroadcast of the oil spill response Diving Deeper episode highlights the impacts of oil on our natural resources and explores NOAA's role in responding to oil spills in general.
(INTRO)
HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you. I’m your host Kate Nielsen.
Today’s question is….How do we respond to oil spills?
Oil spills can happen in our rivers, bays, and the ocean. Spills are often caused by accidents involving tankers, barges, pipelines, and even refineries. These accidents usually occur when the oil is being transported to us.
To help us dive a little deeper into this question, we will talk by phone with Amy Merten on oil spills. Amy is the NOAA Co-director of the Coastal Response Research Center with NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration. Hi Amy, welcome to our show.
AMY MERTEN: Hey Kate, thanks a lot for inviting me here today to talk to you and your listeners – I’m really excited to talk to you about oil spills and how NOAA responds to these events.
(IMPACTS OF OILS SPILLS)
HOST: Amy, before we get into how we actually respond to oil spills, it would be great to talk about why oil spills happen in the first place.
AMY MERTEN: Well, they happen mainly because we are so dependent on oil in the U.S. We use about 700 million gallons of oil every single day. And how do we use oil? We’re heating our homes, we’re fueling for our cars, we use oil to make plastics for you name it – toys, radios, computers, and even medicines. Oil’s a fundamental part of our economy and our way of life.
If we continue to need oil, we’re going to continue to have spill risks. We have oil moving around the country in high volumes – in ships and barges and pipelines and trucks – so that oil is getting to us minute by minute. So the ships have the potential to cause these larger spills that we think about and we see on TV, but really the biggest source of oil to our waterways is from nonpoint source, kind of the small spills in parking lots from you and me and everyone else is actually contributing to more oil pollution in the water than a big ship would.  
HOST: Thanks Amy, I didn’t know that the amount of oil that runs off of land from our daily activities is actually a bigger source of oil in our waterways than the oil that we typically think of after ship collisions with some of these larger oil spills. What does oil do once it is released into the environment?
AMY MERTEN: Well Kate, most of the time oil is going to be less dense than water, so it’s going to float on top of the water.
Oil, once it hits the water and because it’s lighter it’s going to spread out on top of the water, and if you did this in a laboratory it would spread out uniformly, but since we have wind and currents in the environment, it’s going to spread out in a patchy way.
As it continues to spread out, it’s going to get thinner and thinner and thinner and so when you look at it, it will look like almost a rainbowy sheen, and so you might be familiar with seeing these things after a heavy rainstorm on a parking lot or on the roads. So it looks like that on the water too when you’re looking at it from a helicopter for example.
HOST: Amy, that’s interesting that these same sheens that we see in our parking lots from oil is how oil on the water looks if you’re up in the air in a helicopter looking down. How does oil impact plants and animals?
AMY MERTEN: Well, oil spills can be really harmful to plants and animals particularly birds, not necessarily just marine birds, but if we have a spill inland, birds and mammals are very vulnerable. And I’ll talk a little bit about that in a minute.
Fish and shellfish may not be exposed right away, but again might be exposed if that oil becomes entrained in the water column or somehow interacts at depth versus just staying on the surface, that’ll happen from a wind situation or a stormy situation, or depending on what the oil type is it might be light enough that it’ll disperse into the water column.
I’m sure your listeners have seen dramatic photos of oiled birds and oiled otters and things of that nature. And what happens is the oil, it’s not really a chemical response that happens, the oil gets on the feathers and fur and it makes it so the animal can no longer insulate itself from the cold in the water, so it loses all of its ability to repel water so it basically ends up dying from hypothermia. It will try to get the oil off its feathers or its fur and it will start preening and then it will start ingesting oil and then there is a toxic component to it and basically they end up dying from dehydration. So feathers and fur do not do well with oil.
HOST: Thanks Amy, I think so many of us have seen these horrible images, on the news following a spill, of birds and wildlife covered in oil, but we don’t often think about what happens, we just feel so bad when we see these poor little guys covered in oil like that.
AMY MERTEN: Yeah, it’s really dramatic. And you know one thing I do want to mention is, as part of our response community, we actually have specialists that are trained to deal with oiled wildlife so only professionals go out and capture oiled birds and oiled seals and otters. And they know exactly how they’re going to clean them, where they’re going to take them to to try to clean them up. Sometimes they are able to totally rehabilitate them and put them back out in the environment. I just wanted to make the point that, we have those veterinarians and trained volunteers and specialists that work with us side by side.  
HOST: It’s wonderful that there’s a team out there just to handle the impacts of oil to wildlife and to really be able to respond and clean them up and maybe even return them then back in the wild and just save them. Amy, what is the biggest oil spill in U.S. history?
AMY MERTEN: Kate, the biggest oil spill in U.S. history is the Exxon Valdez that occurred 21 years ago just last week. So, if you remember the spill, it happened in Prince William Sound, Alaska when an oil tanker ran aground and lost almost 11 million gallons of crude oil.  
While this sounds like a lot, it is only a small fraction – less than two percent – of the total amount of oil that we use in one day, so pretty amazing. Just to try to give you guys an idea of what 11 million gallons would look like, try to think about, 11 million gallons would fill up nine school gyms or approximately 430 classrooms. So again, we’re talking about a large volume that’s really hard to imagine in the environment.
After the hurricanes of 2005 – Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and I think probably everyone’s familiar with those – Louisiana experienced over eight million gallons of oil, so fairly large amounts of oil were lost to the coastal marsh environment.
But I would like to make the point that smaller spills also have impacts too. So, if you have a small spill next to an area where birds are nesting or migrating to, you can have a really large impact. Or you can have a smaller spill on a really nice day in a city environment and have large impacts to how tourists are seeing that place and impacting people’s ability to get to the water. So large spills have dramatic impacts, but small spills also can have some dramatic effects as well.
HOST: Thanks Amy for your point that no matter how big a spill is, there are still dramatic impacts. When these huge volumes of oil enter the environment, how does this affect our economy?
AMY MERTEN: We definitely do know how it impacts us economically, I’ll just give you a few examples. There was a barge spill on the Mississippi River and it closed the major thoroughfare of the Mississippi River for several days, so you can imagine that was costing millions and millions of dollars as a lot of our energy supply, our food supply goes through the Mississippi corridor. There was also a spill on the Delaware River, Delaware Bay area, several years ago and they had to close down a nuclear power plant and could not produce power for millions of people in Delaware and Pennsylvania and New Jersey so you can see how that would also cause significant loss in economic revenues, so again that was several millions of dollars lost.
I would also like to point out that anyone that’s working on the water, so fishermen are always severely impacted by spills and their ability to go out and fish and even the perception of should they go out and fish is always a really big issue. So spills affect lots of components of the economy.
(RESPONDING TO OIL SPILLS)
HOST: Thanks Amy. These are really startling numbers, really startling statistics that you’re sharing with us today – both on the incredible volume of oil that can spill after a ship collision, but also these huge impacts to our economy. How do we clean up after oil spills occur?
AMY MERTEN: Well we have a couple of tools that we can use to start cleaning up a spill after they occur. It really depends on what type of oil gets spilled, as I mentioned, all oil’s different and it’s made up of lots of different other chemicals so it behaves differently sometimes than what you might expect. The weather really impacts what we can do, so if it’s a stormy day, there’s not a lot we can do. It depends on how far away the spill is from bird and animal resources, how far away it is from people, on what we can actually do.
So we tend to use a few key tools that we’ve been using for a long time. So kind of our first approach is trying to use things in a mechanical capacity, so we use booms, which are floating barriers that keep the oil contained. So you can put a boom around a vessel or you can put a boom to block an inlet or a wetland area so the oil doesn’t go into that area, making it harder to clean up. And we also have these specialized boats that skim the oil off of the surface, so taking advantage of oil floating on water. Skim it into a container and then take it back and offload it and recycle it and reuse it.
So that’s kind of what we like to do if we can, but we have some other things we can do. We can burn oil in place, so right there on the water, if we can get it thick enough, we can actually burn it there. We can burn it in a marsh. We can also use things called dispersants and what dispersants are they’re chemicals that actually break the slick up into smaller droplets. It doesn’t remove the oil from the environment, it just makes it smaller, gets it off the surface. So you might use that if you’re trying to protect birds so if you have a lot of birds in the area and you’re going to trade off that resource and put the oil into the water column. So, we don’t use those very much, but we do have them available.
HOST: What are some of the benefits or disadvantages for all of these different cleanup options?
AMY MERTEN: Yes, there’s definitely pros and cons to all of those options. Once the oil’s in the water, we know we have a bad situation, so what we’re trying to do is to minimize that situation and try to use things that get it out of the environment as fast as possible, but also in an environmentally sound way.
So we sometimes don’t remove all of the oil from a shoreline, we don’t get it squeaky clean and the reason for that is if you blast a rocky shoreline, for example, with high pressure hot water, and this was actually done in the Exxon Valdez, you change the physical and chemical makeup of that substrate. So the organisms that were there, can’t recolonize because it’s now different. So it actually impacts recovery, if we get rid of the bulk oil and then leave some residual oil, nature will take care of that.
We do sometimes burn oiled marsh areas because you can’t actually put people and equipment into a marsh because you do definitely more damage then because you put the oil down into the substrate, into the mud and the sediments, and then it can’t naturally recover.
HOST: I imagine that this will vary for each spill, but approximately how long does it take to clean up after a spill? Are we talking days or weeks or even years?
AMY MERTEN: It really, really depends. It depends on how much is spilled, and it depends on what environment, how far resources are to get there, and under what conditions – what weather conditions. So, just to give you an example, there was a big spill a few months ago, 450,000 gallons, which is a relatively large spill today, in the Houston Ship Channel and the cleanup was relatively easy because most of the oil, there was response equipment very close, so people could act on it really fast, but most of the oil was contained with booms and also hardened shorelines. The weather was relatively good and calm, so it made skimming really effective.
But for an example there was a spill in Alaska in Aleutian Islands in December several years ago, and storms came in after the spill and we weren’t actually able to start cleanup until the spring. So in that situation, a lot of the oil was not recovered, basically because we couldn’t get people out there safely to clean it up until spring and then years after. 
HOST: How do we respond to spills in the Arctic when oil spills happen in ice?
AMY MERTEN: Well in the Arctic we would use the same methods that I described, it just will take us longer to get there in the Arctic, at least the way we’re structured and where people live right now. In the Arctic, it’s all predicated on being able to actually get to the spill and get to the spill safely. So if we can’t get there because it’s too foggy or stormy or icy, then the spill is going to sit there until we can get there. 
HOST: Amy, can we determine how successful we are at cleaning up an area after an oil spill?
AMY MERTEN: Sure. We definitely try to do a mass balance and what that means is that we have some ways of understanding how much got spilled, so we might know the tank size of the tank that got ruptured and how much oil entered the water from that tank or potentially entered the water from that tank.
We know how much skimmers pick up, they’re pretty good at calculating how much they’re recovering. We also have models to estimate how much of the spill was lost to things like evaporation, or dissolution – so chemicals coming off of the oil and into the water, or photooxidation – so that’s the sun breaking down chemicals in the oil.
On the shoreline, we spend a lot of time trying to figure out how much oil is on the shoreline. We estimate the bulk of oil on the shore and then we go back after cleanup and estimate how much is still there.
We also work with our injury assessment and restoration specialists to monitor how long it’s going to take for the environment to really recover after the spill.
HOST: Amy, how do we learn from past spill response and test out new cleanup techniques?
AMY MERTEN: We as NOAA really try to apply science to the cleanup methods that we’re recommending and we try to follow how those cleanup methods work in how long it takes things to recover so that we can apply that better in the next situation. So we spend a lot of our time, when we’re not on a spill, working with our colleagues in industry and the Coast Guard and academia on talking about our lessons learned from those spills and what could we have done better and what were the things that worked really well, what are the things we need to try in the future.
So we do have an R&D component where we know we want to improve our models for example or we want to improve some of our assessment techniques so we work with the academic community to help us move those forward. We also spend a lot of time holding training, so we help people understand the best science for cleaning up spills. We also participate in drills, so in that situation we spend a lot of time with the people we would be responding with, talking through some of what would we like to try if a spill happens in this marsh, what types of things are we learning from other countries that we might apply in the U.S. So those types of conversations happen a lot.  
HOST: Amy, can you talk more about an oil spill drill and why it’s important? 
AMY MERTEN: We just participated in a major exercise, it’s called the Spill of National Significance. The reason it’s called that is because the spill scenario was so large that one region couldn’t clean it up so we had to bring in equipment and people from all over the country to help deal with the scenario and so we played it like that. So we had people come to a real Command Center, we set it up the way that we would use it in a real spill so the responsible party was there, the Coast Guard, all the state agencies, local communities, NOAA, were all there working together. And what was so important about that is we were establishing a working relationship – it’s easier to go work with someone on a spill if you already know them, so that’s our huge part of the drill just making sure that you understand the other person’s point of view, you understand who they are, what they need, and then we work through the situation – it does feel like you’re on a real spill.
(ROLE OF NATIONAL OCEAN SERVICE IN OIL SPILL RESPONSE)
HOST: It’s great that time is invested to prepare before a spill, getting everybody together because this will help things run more smoothly in the event that a spill actually happens. Amy, what’s the role of the National Ocean Service in responding to oil spills?
AMY MERTEN: Well, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are actually the first federal responders for a spill. So, the Office of Response and Restoration, which sits in the National Ocean Service, along with staff from other offices in NOAA work to support the federal on-scene coordinators – the Coast Guard and EPA. So what we do, in the Office of Response and Restoration for a spill, is we first provide trajectory models, so forecasts of where the oil is going to go.
We actually get on-scene and conduct overflights to assess the extent of the spill and ground truth our models, so we have a lot of experience doing that. We spend a lot of time coordinating shoreline assessment surveys and spending a lot of time walking shorelines and calculating how much oil is there. And then we work with the Coast Guard and the responsible party to evaluate what the cleanup options are available and again we try to do this in the most practical and environmentally sound way, so we jointly develop a plan on how to actually do the cleanup.
HOST: Can you explain the trajectory models that you just mentioned?
AMY MERTEN: Sure, so trajectory models are computer models that take into account the winds and the currents during the time of the spill to help forecast where that spill is going to move. So our oceanographers actually run this model in real time and get it to the Command Center so people can start understanding what resources are at risk, what protection strategies need to get put into place.
So the models help the responders get ahead of the spill so they know where we think it might be going, they can put equipment, so they can put some boom out, and prevent it from actually hitting the shoreline in that area.
The ocean has buoys and sensors in it and we know where those are so it’s part of the Integrated Ocean Observing System and we actually can stream in that information real time – we can stream in weather information, we can stream in tide information, current information, and all of that gets pulled in to run these trajectory models to make them more accurate and predictable.
We actually have a computer program, it’s actually a Web site, called the Environmental Response Management Application, that actually gives you the picture of these different pieces being streamed in and then you can put the oil trajectory model into this picture and then you can see your shorelines that have resources at risk.
HOST: It’s great that we have the data and expertise to forecast where oil will move and even be able to do something as you mentioned like placing a boom in an area to prevent it from spreading further and causing even more damage. Sounds like there are so many roles that your office and really so many other agencies play in response and cleanup from an oil spill. Is there anything our listeners can do to help support this?
AMY MERTEN: Sure. Yeah, Kate there is. I think the main role for listeners is that we do all have a part to play maybe not so much in responding to the spills, but in helping to prevent them. We can avoid dumping oil and oily waste into the sewer or the garbage and we can also do some other things that reduce our use of oil in the first place, so we may take more walks or use our bikes more or take the bus rather than using our car, so all of those things that we can do that reduce the use of oil actually leads to less oil being transported, and therefore a reduce of the risk of a future spill. So we all have a responsibility for spills because we’re all using oil and we all can make a difference and find solutions to the problem.
HOST: Thanks Amy, these are great examples of actions that we can really all take to help us reduce our use of oil and in some cases things we could every day. Do you have any final closing words for our listeners today?
AMY MERTEN: Sure. Thanks for the opportunity. I really like talking about my job and although spills are not fun things to deal with, it is nice to be able to participate and be able to see recommendations go into action and actually help the environment. Here at NOAA we spend a lot of time and effort being prepared to respond to all different types of oil spills in all sorts of different areas including internationally. We really spend a lot of time understanding the science beyond oil spills and training people on the science behind oil spills – and that’s really what we’re trying to bring to the response community, so that when we are responding, we do it in the best way possible and we can clean up and restore our coastal communities.

HOST: Thank you Amy for joining us on today’s episode of Diving Deeper and talking more about the impacts of oil spills to our environment and the economy, how we respond to these, and even what we can all do to help. To learn more about oil spills and response efforts, please visit response.restoration.noaa.gov.   
(OUTRO)


Natural Resource Restoration

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/mar11/dd032411.mp3

Thu, 24 Mar 2011 09:32:10 -0400

Diving Deeper: Episode 31 (March 24, 2011) - Natural Resource Restoration

(INTRO)
HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I’m your host Kate Nielsen.

Today’s question is….How does NOAA protect and restore natural resources injured by oil spills and hazardous waste sites?

Restoration is defined as the process of reestablishing a self-sustaining habitat that closely resembles the natural condition both in terms of structure and function. To help us dive a little deeper into this question, we will talk with Tom Brosnan on restoration. Tom is an environmental scientist and communications manager with NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration. Hi Tom, welcome to our show.

TOM BROSNAN: Hi Kate, thanks for having me.

(DEFINING RESTORATION)
HOST: Tom, back in April of 2010, I talked with Amy Merten from your office on how NOAA responds to oil spills, so I think we’re all familiar with NOAA’s role there, but can you explain to us why NOAA is involved in the restoration efforts following an oil spill or following some type of release from a hazardous waste site?

TOM BROSNAN: NOAA is a trustee for public natural resources like marine fisheries, migratory fish like salmon, and protected species like sea turtles and dolphins. And as such, we are stewards charged with protecting and restoring those resources for present and future generations. And when those resources are injured by releases from hazardous waste sites or from oil spills, we are charged with protecting and restoring those resources, and holding those responsible for those discharges to restore them.

HOST: How can we protect natural resources from oil spills and waste sites?

TOM BROSNAN: Well generally we try to take actions that reduce the impacts from the spill or the release and that allows a more rapid recovery of those resources. So, for example, we provide scientific expertise to various cleanup agencies both during spills and waste site events. For spills, we provide information on the fate, the transport, the toxic properties of the oil, and also the resources at risk, and we also provide advice on the cleanup methods for sensitive areas like wetlands. 

For waste sites, we provide information to get a protective remedy. What that means is we try to minimize the remaining contamination and maximize the amount and quality of the habitat post remedy. And both of these activities are designed to protect the resources from ongoing and future injuries and to promote rapid recovery via clean and healthy habitat for those species to thrive.

HOST: OK. So a lot of data and information is needed for folks….

TOM BROSNAN: Yes, absolutely, it’s very data intensive and we do a very thorough assessment both before spills and waste sites happen by developing a variety of tools as well as implementing those tools once they occur.

HOST: How do we do restoration?

TOM BROSNAN: In terms of spills and waste sites, we conduct what’s known as a Natural Resource Damage Assessment. And under the Oil Pollution Act and Superfund and other laws that requires us to calculate a balance, a balance between what has been injured by the waste sites and the oil releases and on the opposite side calculating the amount of restoration and the type of restoration needed to offset those injuries.

So to start with the restoration we have to first understand the injury side, so we start by collecting data on the type and severity, the spatial extent, and also the duration of the exposure of our resources to the release as well as information about baseline conditions.

Injury studies are conducted for lethal and sublethal effects, for example, the fitness of the resource, disease impacts, reproductive effects, and laboratory toxicity studies may be done as well as field studies. We attempt then to quantify the injury in terms of, for example, the number of fish affected, the number of acres of marsh or miles of stream degraded, and then, working with our experts in NOAA’s Restoration Center, we choose the type and amount of restoration needed to offset that loss.

We then work with our attorneys in the General Counsel, to require those responsible for the releases to implement those projects or to pay us to implement for the restoration. And using this process with our federal and state cotrustees, we’ve recovered over $500 million for restoration of thousands of acres of habitat since 1990.

HOST: Wow. So natural resource restoration, we’re looking at not only organisms that live there, you mentioned fish or maybe birds, but you’re also looking at the actual environment or habitat as well that they live in and all of that fits under that realm of restoration and restoring an area after an oil spill.

TOM BROSNAN: Yes, that’s correct. We actually are charged not only with assessing the resources themselves as you had mentioned the fish or protected species, but actually the habitats that support them.

HOST: OK, great. And you also just mentioned baseline measurements. What does that mean?

TOM BROSNAN: So, baseline simply means the condition of the resource or the habitat prior to or absent the release. And so we are required to measure the impact of a spill or release against what it would be without that occurring. 

HOST: OK, you also mentioned that we have to, for restoration, assess what has been injured and what services have been lost. What do you mean by services?

TOM BROSNAN: One way to think about restoration is to think about the type and amount of ecological and human use services that the natural resources provide. So for example, coastal wetlands provide storm buffering and filtering of pollutants, they also provide fish nursery services. Oysters can provide filtering of the water column and food for people, undersea grasses and corals can provide essential fish habitat, and beaches can provide services for nesting turtles.

And all of these resources can provide services for humans to enjoy them for fishing, for boating, for natural wildlife viewing, and other recreational activities.  

(TYPES OF RESTORATION EFFORTS)
HOST: Tom, so focusing on oil spills again. What do you have to consider when restoring an area after a spill?

TOM BROSNAN: Well, it really depends on the type of resource that’s been injured, and what services they provide, and also what degree they’ve been impacted. And it also depends what feasible restoration opportunities might be out there. So for example, in 2004, the tanker Athos spilled approximately 265,000 gallons of crude oil into the Delaware River, which oiled thousands of acres of shoreline and aquatic habitats and impacted wildlife and curtailed recreation for many in the Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania region.

Restoration to offset those injuries include creating and enhancing wetland, stream, and shoreline habitats; creating oyster reefs; dam removals for fish passage; and also improving recreational amenities for improving access. In other cases, we have also done projects to improve beaches, seagrass beds, spawning habitats, and coral reefs. But there always has to be a nexus between what has been injured and the restoration that you’re providing.

HOST: How long after an event, something like an oil spill like we’ve mentioned a few times or other disasters, a hazardous waste spill, do you have to wait to begin restoring the area?

TOM BROSNAN: So ideally we like to provide restoration for spills and waste sites as quickly as possible, but that often depends on how quickly the oil or the hazardous waste can be reduced to less harmful levels that will actually allow active restoration to occur. So for example, if the site remains too contaminated, the restoration effort may fail, or it may create an attractive nuisance, that is, it may attract wildlife to contaminated habitat. And it also depends on how long it will take to assess the impacts, we want to make sure we understand the full degree of loss before we can craft the restoration for the gain.

HOST: Is the assessment of an area after an oil spill the same as after release from a hazardous waste site?

TOM BROSNAN: Actually, the principles are pretty similar in terms of understanding the extent of the exposure and injuries, but there are some differences. So, for example, oil spills, they tend to be acute events, sudden or short term, while waste sites are often chronic releases, sometimes over decades. So for a spill, there’s an initial push to ensure that we quickly capture the fate and the transport and the effect of the oil before it gets transported elsewhere – it might sink, it might evaporate, or otherwise be weathered. And so there’s an initial push to get out there quickly and document what’s going on with the oil. For a waste site, the contaminants often become bound in the sediments and in the habitats for longer periods of time, they can move through the food chain and require different strategies to understand their long-term impacts.

HOST: It’s hard to think of either process happening, fortunately, there’s ways we’re trying to go about it and make it as good as possible after something like this.

TOM BROSNAN: Yes, absolutely.

HOST: Tom, can you restore a waste site while you’re also cleaning it up at the same time and are there maybe benefits to doing something like this?

TOM BROSNAN: Yeah, absolutely. You can and you should and it’s something that NOAA promotes nationwide in the waste sites that we work on and that is including habitat restoration into the cleanup. We make recommendations for this. For example, a cleanup might require removal or dredging of sediments and habitats including submerged aquatic vegetation and wetlands. Restoration of these habitats once that contamination is removed will promote the rapid recovery of the resources, so rather than leaving the area scraped clean and denuded, we promote active restoration of habitats once they’ve been removed.

Similarly, shorelines might need to be stabilized during a remedy, and stabilizing shorelines with vegetation, also known as living shorelines versus doing a hardened shoreline, for example with rip rap or a bulkhead, is a much better choice for providing habitat that again promotes the long-term recovery of the system.  

(BENEFITS OF RESTORATION)
HOST: Tom, can scientists track how successful a restoration project is?

TOM BROSNAN: Yes and we require monitoring for the restoration projects that we do. That’s monitoring that is done before, during, and after the implementation of a project. That’s primarily to ensure that the restoration project is installed correctly and that it’s achieving its objectives. So measures for monitoring might include structural metrics such as having the right sediment grain size, the correct hydrology and water flow, the correct bathymetry or depth, habitat features such as the density of the stems of a wetland, and also in addition to structural metrics we may measure functional metrics, for example, the productivity of a wetland, is it cycling nutrients and energy properly, is it providing a service for spawning and feeding habitats. And if the restoration isn’t providing the goals that were set out for it, corrections may be implemented.

HOST: I assume that there are probably more projects out there than what we actually have the resources for at any given time, more restoration needs. How do you determine which projects to move forward with?

TOM BROSNAN: There are indeed many more cleanup and restoration projects than we can possibly tackle, the demand is very great, especially for hazardous waste sites across the country. And what we do is try to prioritize our work on those projects which will benefit most from the expertise that we are going to provide and that will also provide the most benefit to NOAA’s trust resources, those marine fisheries and protected resources that we talked about earlier.

HOST: Do we know what the economic benefit is of restoring an area?

TOM BROSNAN: Yeah, economic benefits are varied and it of course depends on the type of project that is implemented, but it could include things like green jobs during construction or jobs associated with the increased use of the resources for recreation for example, fishing and boating, wildlife viewing; things like tourism; commercial fishing; and even commerce and ports all can benefit from cleanup and restoration of natural resources. Other benefits could include protection of properties from storms, erosion, and flooding. As I said, the exact economic benefits that flow from a project will depend on a variety of factors, including the type and size and location of the project.

So for the restoration that’s being conducted for the Athos spill that I mentioned earlier, there are direct and indirect economic benefits of projects like these that might include again increased use of the resources recreationally for fishing and hunting, harvesting, boating and diving and viewing; improved capacity for storm buffers, reducing erosion and flooding, and filtering of pollutants; and frankly improving the quality of life for coastal communities, which many will say is priceless.

HOST: The economic benefit then of restoring the area is kind of the benefit of the area in the first place, just getting it back.

TOM BROSNAN: Absolutely.

HOST: Tom, you’ve given us so much great information today, but I think one thing that our listeners would like to hear about is how they can help.

TOM BROSNAN: So one way that folks can get involved is to pay more attention to the cleanup and restoration activities that are actually happening in your local neighborhoods. Waste sites in particular are ubiquitous throughout the country and public input is very important both in the waste site and the spill cleanup and restoration process. And it can make a difference in terms of the timing and the amount and the type of cleanup that’s achieved, and also for the specific restoration projects that are implemented. So I encourage everybody to make your voices heard.

HOST: Thanks Tom. Do you have any final, closing words for our listeners today?

TOM BROSNAN: Sure, so in addition to providing input on the cleanup and restoration process, I’d encourage folks to get out and improve the resources that we all love by volunteering for hands-on activities in terms of trash cleanup as well as other local restoration activities.

And one good example of that for NOAA employees, at least in the Maryland area, is to participate in Restoration Day which focuses on a variety of environmental stewardship projects in the Chesapeake Bay watershed region. I’ve been involved in several of them in the past and it really is a lot of fun and a great way to go out and show your appreciation for the resource.

HOST: Thanks Tom for joining us on Diving Deeper and talking more NOAA’s restoration efforts. To learn more, please visit oceanservice.noaa.gov/ecosystems/restoration.   


[Shorts] Eutrophication

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/mar11/dds031011.mp3

Thu, 10 Mar 2011 08:53:07 -0500

Diving Deeper Shorts: Episode 10 (March 10, 2011) - Eutrophication

HOST: Today on Diving Deeper Shorts, we revisit our first Diving Deeper interview on eutrophication from January 2009 with Dr. Suzanne Bricker from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science.  

Let’s listen in.

HOST: First, can you explain to us a little bit more about the difference between eutrophication and nutrient pollution?

SUZANNE BRICKER: Essentially, eutrophication and nutrient pollution are the same thing. Nitrogen and phosphorus are nutrients that plants need to grow. The problem occurs when an excess amount of these nutrients are delivered to a water body and that causes an excessive growth of algae that clouds the water. This may cause other more serious problems such as low levels of dissolved oxygen as the algae decomposes.

HOST: Ok, so what can cause these increased levels of nutrients and where do nutrients come from?

SUZANNE BRICKER: Nutrients come from a variety of different sources. They can occur naturally, and always have, as a result of weathering of rocks and soil in the watershed and they can also come from the ocean due to mixing of water currents.
But, we are most interested in the nutrients that are related to people living on and in the coastal zone because human-related impacts are much greater than natural inputs.

Basically, more people living in the coastal zone means more nutrients entering our coastal waters from wastewater treatment facilities, runoff from land in urban areas during rains and from farming. When fertilizers are applied to crops, the excess nutrients that aren’t taken up by the plants wash away in runoff typically during a rain storm. This also happens in urban areas where lawn fertilizers are used and, interestingly, pet and wildlife wastes can also be a nutrient source.

I should also mention here that it’s not just the coastal zone, but upstream sources that can impact water bodies. And so, it’s important not only to focus on the coastal zone, but also those upstream sources of nutrients as well.

HOST: Can eutrophication happen anywhere or only in coastal areas where there is runoff?

SUZANNE BRICKER: Actually, eutrophication can happen anywhere. It can happen in lakes, streams, or estuaries - basically any body of water where nutrients can enter. We mostly work in estuaries or bays, which is where rivers meet the sea. Estuaries are of particular interest to us because of our interest in using them, for instance, for recreational and commercial fishing. These are supported because estuaries are typically full of fish populations. And since eutrophication can cause low dissolved oxygen which kills fish, fisheries are in danger from nutrient pollution.

That’s all for today’s Diving Deeper Shorts, where we highlight a few minutes of your favorite Diving Deeper episodes.

Want to learn more? Go to oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast.html and select the January 2009 podcast archive to listen to the full interview with Suzanne on eutrophication.


Coastal Zone Management

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/feb11/dd022411.mp3

Thu, 24 Feb 2011 14:31:49 -0500

Diving Deeper: Episode 30 (February 24, 2011) - Coastal Zone Management

(INTRO)
HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I’m your host Kate Nielsen.

Today’s question is….What is coastal zone management?
 
Our nation’s coastal zone is vital to the well-being of our country. It is home to roughly half of the nation’s population and supports ecologically important habitats and natural resources. It also includes vibrant ports and harbors as well as many other important industries. According to the National Ocean Economics Program, in 2007, the coastal zone contributed $7.9 trillion to the U.S. economy. 

To help us dive a little deeper into this question, we will talk with Bill O'Beirne on coastal zone management. Bill is the Acting Team Leader for the Pacific and Islands Region in NOAA’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management Coastal Programs Division. Hi Bill, welcome to our show.

BILL O’BEIRNE: Hi Kate, thanks for inviting me.

(DEFINING COASTAL ZONE MANAGEMENT)
HOST: Bill, why are our coasts so important?

BILL O’BEIRNE: Kate, think about how many of us love to go to the beach or go fishing on the bay?  And where else can you go to see so much wildlife these days? Here’s something else you might not think about – healthy coastlines help protect lands from storm damage, they reduce flooding, and they help keep coastal waters clean.

The coastal zone is a critical economic engine for the country. Beaches, estuaries, wetlands, coastal lands, they support lots and lots of jobs – they support jobs in tourism, in fishing, in energy, commerce, and the maritime professions.

And here are some surprising numbers: 13 million Americans – farmers, manufacturers, longshoremen, truckers from across the country – rely on working commercial ports in the coastal zone. These ports ship roughly a trillion dollars worth of products every year. And Kate, did you know that 180 million people visit our beaches, our coasts, our oceans each year? This adds up to almost 12 billion dollars annually.

HOST: So it sounds like our coasts are really critical to the nation’s economy, the nation’s well-being as we’ve said based on these statistics. What kinds of threats do our coasts and coastal communities face?

BILL O’BEIRNE:  Kate, the short answer is the coasts are being over-indulged. How many people do you know visit the coast or want to live or retire to the coast? Kate, how often do you get a flyer in your mailbox advertising coastal properties for sale? I usually get one about once a week.

And as you pointed out, more than half the U.S. population lives in the coastal counties. Population density on the coast is almost four times greater than the rest of the country. I remember when you could actually drive along the North Carolina outer banks and never see a traffic jam. 

And more people mean more development – more homes, more schools, more offices. And more people and more development mean more competition for space, greater pressures to develop fragile coastal resources, fewer places to get to the beach, and more pollution. More people and structures mean more lives and buildings are at risk from coastal hazards like hurricanes, tsunamis, flooding, and landslides. 

Our program, the Coastal Zone Management Program, attempts to mitigate these threats while accommodating coastal development.

HOST: So Bill, on that note, can you tell us a little bit more about the Coastal Zone Management Program? How does it work?  

BILL O’BEIRNE: Kate, unlike a lot of other top-down environmental programs, the Coastal Zone Management Program is a cooperative partnership between NOAA and the coastal states and territories.

The overarching goal of the national program, set out in the Coastal Zone Management Act, is to balance the protection of the coastal ecosystems with economic and human quality of life issues – like access to the beach and vibrant coastal communities.  

NOAA offers financial and other incentives to coastal states and territories to participate in the national program. In turn, the states and territories develop and put into practice their own personalized management programs to advance these national as well as their own state goals.

Last year, we provided about 68 million dollars to 34 coastal states and territories to assist in running their programs.   

HOST: Bill, that’s great. So far today we’ve mentioned the coastal zone. What exactly is the coastal zone?

BILL O’BEIRNE: Simply put, the coastal zone is where the land meets the sea. More technically, it extends seaward to the limit of state waters and inland to cover an area that has direct and significant impacts on coastal waters. So practically speaking, this means that inland boundaries of state programs can vary. However, all program boundaries include things like bays, inlets, estuaries, tidal wetlands, beaches, dunes, and barrier islands.

While we think of the coastal zone as a narrow strip, it’s actually a pretty big area. All totaled the coastal zone includes almost 100,000 miles of shoreline and encompasses roughly 425,000 square miles of coastal lands and water. That’s an area about twice the size of Texas.

HOST: Bill, what are the national goals of the Coastal Zone Management Program?

BILL O’BEIRNE:Kate, in the late 1960s people began to realize that unplanned or poorly planned development along the coast was causing a number of problems. Things like loss of fragile habitats, adverse changes to ecological systems, and the loss of open space for public use.  

So in 1972, Congress enacted the Coastal Zone Management Act in response to these problems. The Act encouraged coastal states and territories to take more of a leadership role, and be more proactive in planning for and managing the coastal zone. So that the coast will become a place where fish and wildlife abound; where people can fish, swim, relax, and make a good living; and where predictable hurricanes and storms are less disruptive to local and national economies, and less devastating to coastal residents.

HOST: How can we try to meet these ambitious goals?

BILL O’BEIRNE:Well, these goals are accomplished through development of planning and management programs at the state level. It’s important to note that the Coastal Zone Management Act called for the establishment of programs and not just plans. State programs go beyond plans because the program policies need to be enforceable at the state level, and the programs need to have sufficient organization and capacity to actually implement the policies. 

The Act provides a lot of flexibility as far as the design and organization of a state’s program. The specific program structure is left up to the states to be tailored to local institutional, environmental, or other circumstances that they find. 

In return, states are provided two principal incentives to participate in the program. First, financial assistance to assist with the development and implementation and enhancement of their programs, and second, the opportunity to exercise federal consistency authority.

HOST: Great, so emphasizing programs and not plans. That sounds very good. What is federal consistency, one of the incentives that you just mentioned?

BILL O’BEIRNE: Kate, you could probably do an entire show on federal consistency – it’s a pretty complex topic. But in a nutshell, federal consistency is a tool to facilitate cooperation and coordination between states and federal agencies. Once a state’s program is approved by NOAA, activities affecting the coastal zone that are conducted by, authorized by, or funded by federal agencies, need to be consistent with the approved policies of that coastal program. This allows states to have influence on a wide range of uses and activities with significant potential impacts that they traditionally wouldn’t have.   

For example, if a state had an enforceable policy that called for avoiding or minimizing impacts to coastal wetlands, then proponents of a federal highway project that might impact wetlands would need to work with the state to ensure that the location and construction and maintenance of that project was done in a manner that avoided or minimized impacts to those wetlands.  

(PARTNERSHIPS MAKE IT HAPPEN)
HOST: OK Bill, so it sounds like there’s a lot of different people involved with coastal zone management. What is the state’s role, specifically, in this partnership?

BILL O’BEIRNE: Well generally speaking Kate, states develop policies to protect natural resources, to manage coastal development, and to streamline government processes. They also develop a mix of management tools – planning, regulatory, acquisition, education, and even restoration – to implement those policies. They also exercise federal consistency authority as we just said. But each state does it a bit differently based on their particular needs.

Some states rely heavily on coast-wide permitting or other regulatory programs to protect things like tidal wetlands, beaches, dunes or to manage waterfront development. Others programs develop plans and regulations for managing uses in specific areas. They may have plans and regulations for bays and lagoons to protect fragile resources and maintain water quality. These plans guide where, and how intensely, development can take place on land or where marinas, boat moorings, navigation channels may be located in these bays and estuaries.
 
A number of states share the implementation role with local governments. States establish standards that local governments implement through local plans and ordinances and permit programs.

Many programs include research, education, and stewardship components. For example, several of the programs conduct or support voluntary water quality monitoring, beach cleanups, or bird banding programs in the coastal zone.

Some programs use restoration, acquisition, or low-cost construction projects as a management tool. For example, some states target waterfront revitalization as a way to maintain or improve coastal economies. States support waterfront planning, the rehabilitation of dilapidated docks and piers, or the construction of boat ramps and landings. Others conduct planning to ensure that water dependent industries, such as commercial fishing fleets, still have access to the water.

HOST:  Bill, what types of expertise are needed to run these different programs?

BILL O’BEIRNE: Kate, states employ a wide range of expertise including planners, geologists, biologists, coastal engineers, lawyers as well as other specialists for things like oil and gas projects or dredging.     

HOST: Bill, how many state partners are there?

BILL O’BEIRNE: Right now, 34 of the 35 coastal states and territories are partners in the national program and we’re currently working with Illinois to develop a program.   

HOST: And what is the National Ocean Service’s or NOAA’s role in coastal zone management?

BILL O’BEIRNE: Well, Kate, I’ll steal a line from an old commercial – “We don’t manage the coasts, we make coastal management better.”

Our Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management tries to be a catalyst for strong coastal management. For example, we identify new or effective policies, procedures, or other solutions to difficult coastal issues that states or others are developing and try to share them with our partners. 

Our office oversees the federal consistency provisions. We train state and federal agency staff on the many nuances of federal consistency. We are part of the appeals process for federal consistency decisions, and we help to mediate the disagreements between the state programs and the federal agencies on consistency issues.

We also provide financial, management, and technical assistance to maintain and strengthen state coastal programs. And that technical assistance can come from our office, or other offices across NOAA like the Coastal Services Center.

Our office also plays an oversight role. We periodically evaluate programs to make sure that they’re meeting the minimum requirements needed to participate in the national program, and also that they’re spending their federal dollars wisely. 

(BENEFITS OF COASTAL ZONE MANAGEMENT)
HOST: OK Bill, so back to the national goals that we talked about earlier. How do the programs work to protect natural resources and habitat and water quality?       
 
BILL O’BEIRNE: Kate, they do this in a number of ways. To gain federal approval for their coastal programs, roughly two-thirds of the states have developed or enhanced state tidal wetlands laws that limit development in or near coastal marshes. Others have developed programs to better manage stormwater runoff or control erosion to limit these pollutants from damaging coastal habitats. And many states employ habitat restoration programs. For example, Connecticut has programs to restore tidal exchange to wetlands, to do in stream restoration, and they even do some dam removal.

Another example is managing dredging. Dredging is critical to keeping ports open and competitive in a global market. However, the new generation of tankers need really deep channels. Historically dredging was very destructive to coastal areas – dredge materials were dumped kind of willy-nilly on wetlands and other productive waters, but states have developed policies to require that those dredge materials be put in areas that are going to have far less of an impact. And in some cases where the dredged material is appropriate – they may require material to be placed in a manner that will maintain or rebuild beaches and coastal marshes.

A number of states such as Maryland, Rhode Island, and North Carolina have also developed buffer programs to protect vegetation along shorelines and coastal streams. These lands serve as filters for runoff into coastal waters – filtering out sediment and other pollutants in the runoff. Programs have developed requirements that restrict or limit development or clearing of vegetation in these areas within a certain distance of the shoreline.    

HOST: Bill, how are the state programs helping coastal communities prepare for coastal hazards?

BILL O’BEIRNE: Kate, they’re doing a number of things. Many programs have developed construction setbacks which direct development away from high hazard areas such as areas susceptible to storm surge, flooding, even chronic erosion. These setbacks try to increase the lifespan of buildings on the coast as well as to protect people and the natural defenses like beaches and dunes. 

Other states have developed policies to accommodate coastal development by making changes to their building codes. The building codes address how buildings are designed, how they’re elevated, and constructed to withstand flood waters and high winds. Other states may require real estate agents to disclose potential hazards affecting the property at the time of sale of that property.

HOST: So really they’re thinking of all kinds of hazards – wind and hurricanes and flooding. How are states involved in protecting land or purchasing land for coastal conservation?

BILL O’BEIRNE: Kate, in 2002, Congress amended the Coastal Zone Management Act to create the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program. And this program provides more substantial funding specifically for coastal land acquisition. To be eligible for the funding, state coastal programs develop conservation plans which identify priority coastal sites for acquisition. These priority sites are coastal and estuarine lands that are important for their ecological, conservation, recreational, historic, and aesthetic values.

Each year states submit projects from those plans to NOAA for competitive funding. Last year we provided roughly 25 million dollars to permanently conserve some really important coastal lands.

A project in Alaska led to the protection of over 20,000 acres in the Nushagak Bay watershed, an area that encompasses highly valuable salmon habitat. In Mississippi, funds were used to purchase a substantial portion of Deer Island, this is an island that provides key habitat and recreational opportunities for Mississipians.

HOST: So Bill, to wrap up a little bit, what are the biggest challenges to the future of our coasts? And what is the program doing to address these?

BILL O’BEIRNE: Kate, the three biggest challenges to the coasts are climate change, how we use our oceans, and cumulative and secondary impacts from development. 

Climate change is likely to magnify existing management concerns such as coastal erosion, coastal flooding, and storm surge due to accelerated sea level rise. It will also introduce new concerns such as changes to ocean water chemistry and the shifting of habitats due to changes in air and water temperatures. 

States are already experiencing some of these climate change impacts - changes in the timing and amounts of freshwater inflow to estuaries, and the increased flooding of low-lying coastal wetlands, storm drains, and coastal roads. The occasional flooding of coastal roads might be just an annoyance to vacationers, but it’s a big issue to residents especially when an ambulance or a fire truck can’t make it to their homes. States such as Maryland, Delaware, and California are using best available science to develop better regional vulnerability and risk assessments to identify potential impacts and develop strategies to adapt to these expected changes.   
 
Second, we are beginning to better understand how valuable our oceans and nearshore waters are to rapidly expanding activities in these areas. These activities include shipping, fishing, energy development, and aquaculture. These activities are degrading marine habitats and creating use conflicts. States like Oregon, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and others are leading the way in developing plans for their state waters to reduce these use conflicts, much like you would plan how to use the land in a town or county.  
 
Finally, over the last 30 years, it’s become clear that incremental development in coastal watersheds has resulted in increased runoff that is degrading coastal water quality, wetlands, coral reefs, and increasing coastal flooding. States are really struggling to develop methodologies to permit these impacts. Other states are working with local governments to conduct watershed planning, storm water management, and erosion and sediment control programs. 

Kate, addressing all these issues is going to be challenging given the current national and state budget forecasts. But, addressing them is going to be critical if we want to ensure, for the long term, that the coast remains an economic engine for the country, and a great place to visit or live. Our nearly 40 year partnership with the state coastal management programs under the Coastal Zone Management Act provides an excellent platform from which we can address these challenges.

HOST: Thanks Bill for joining us on Diving Deeper and talking more about coastal zone management and what this means to us. To learn more, please visit coastalmanagement.noaa.gov.


[Shorts] Land Cover Data

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/feb11/dds021011.mp3

Thu, 10 Feb 2011 10:30:32 -0500

Diving Deeper Shorts: Episode 9 (February 10, 2011) - Land Cover Data

(INTRO)
HOST: Today on Diving Deeper Shorts, we revisit our previous interview on land cover data with Nate Herold from the NOAA Coastal Services Center.  

Let's listen in.

HOST: Nate, what is the difference between land use and land cover?

NATE HEROLD: Well, that's a good question, Kate. The two terms are often used interchangeably, but as you stated a second ago, land cover captures what actually covers the land - forest, grassland, impervious or paved surfaces, for instance. Land use, on the other hand, documents how humans are using those landscapes - whether the areas are residential, commercial, or industrial development. The same types of cover can be managed or used very differently.

HOST: So Nate, how does land cover data work? How are we able to document how much of a region is made up of different land and water types such as forest and wetland?

NATE HEROLD: Land cover maps are most often created using remotely-sensed data and that can come from either satellites or aircraft imagery. The information within the imagery goes beyond just a pretty picture. It's like a giant spreadsheet of digital numbers where each cell in the spreadsheet represents a square area on the ground or a pixel. How red, how blue, how green features are are all contained within that spreadsheet. And the data can be used to tell us what types of land cover are present in each of those pixels.

We interpret those pixels and then it becomes a map. This can be done through human interpretation where somebody would draw a line and label a feature by hand, or with the aid of some fairly sophisticated computer software. It is often said that this type of analysis is as much an art as it is a science.

HOST: How long does it take to produce one of these data sets?

NATE HEROLD: Well, that depends on a number of things like the size of the area that you're interested in or the types of land cover categories. But from our experience, it always takes a little bit longer the first time. At the Center, we initially focused on a standard process for collecting and processing the imagery. And now that we have that process in place, the time to produce new data and maps is even faster. 

When we created our first baseline dataset we had to map everything, every pixel. Now we only remap the areas that have changed since that baseline map was produced. This keeps the unchanged areas consistent and we save time and money by not having to reinterpret areas that we don't have to. 

NOAA has a great team here at the Center that is responsible for this work. We can turn around an update for the coastal areas of Washington and Oregon, for example, in about four to six months. And we can typically complete three to four similar size regions every year. And, as I said before, we work hard to ensure that we complete the entire country within five years so that we can start the whole process again.

(OUTRO)
That's all for today's Diving Deeper Shorts, where we highlight a few minutes of your favorite Diving Deeper episodes.

Want to learn more? Go to oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast.html and select the July 2009 podcast archive to listen to the full interview with Nate Herold on land cover data.

Diving Deeper Shorts: Episode 9 (February 10, 2011) - Land Cover Data

(INTRO)
HOST: Today on Diving Deeper Shorts, we revisit our previous interview on land cover data with Nate Herold from the NOAA Coastal Services Center.  

Let's listen in.

HOST: Nate, what is the difference between land use and land cover?

NATE HEROLD: Well, that's a good question, Kate. The two terms are often used interchangeably, but as you stated a second ago, land cover captures what actually covers the land - forest, grassland, impervious or paved surfaces, for instance. Land use, on the other hand, documents how humans are using those landscapes - whether the areas are residential, commercial, or industrial development. The same types of cover can be managed or used very differently.

HOST: So Nate, how does land cover data work? How are we able to document how much of a region is made up of different land and water types such as forest and wetland?

NATE HEROLD: Land cover maps are most often created using remotely-sensed data and that can come from either satellites or aircraft imagery. The information within the imagery goes beyond just a pretty picture. It's like a giant spreadsheet of digital numbers where each cell in the spreadsheet represents a square area on the ground or a pixel. How red, how blue, how green features are are all contained within that spreadsheet. And the data can be used to tell us what types of land cover are present in each of those pixels.

We interpret those pixels and then it becomes a map. This can be done through human interpretation where somebody would draw a line and label a feature by hand, or with the aid of some fairly sophisticated computer software. It is often said that this type of analysis is as much an art as it is a science.

HOST: How long does it take to produce one of these data sets?

NATE HEROLD: Well, that depends on a number of things like the size of the area that you're interested in or the types of land cover categories. But from our experience, it always takes a little bit longer the first time. At the Center, we initially focused on a standard process for collecting and processing the imagery. And now that we have that process in place, the time to produce new data and maps is even faster. 

When we created our first baseline dataset we had to map everything, every pixel. Now we only remap the areas that have changed since that baseline map was produced. This keeps the unchanged areas consistent and we save time and money by not having to reinterpret areas that we don't have to. 

NOAA has a great team here at the Center that is responsible for this work. We can turn around an update for the coastal areas of Washington and Oregon, for example, in about four to six months. And we can typically complete three to four similar size regions every year. And, as I said before, we work hard to ensure that we complete the entire country within five years so that we can start the whole process again.

(OUTRO)
That's all for today's Diving Deeper Shorts, where we highlight a few minutes of your favorite Diving Deeper episodes.

Want to learn more? Go to oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast.html and select the July 2009 podcast archive to listen to the full interview with Nate Herold on land cover data.


[Shorts] Nautical Charts

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/jan11/dds012711.mp3

Thu, 27 Jan 2011 10:27:11 -0500

Diving Deeper Shorts: Episode 8 (January 27, 2011) - Nautical Charts

(INTRO)
HOST: Today on Diving Deeper Shorts, we revisit our previous interview on nautical charts with Tom Loeper from NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey.  

Let’s listen in.

HOST: First can you explain to us the difference between a map and a nautical chart?

TOM LOEPER: Kate, that’s a good question. There are many differences between a map and a nautical chart. A map is focused more on what is on the land where a nautical chart shows what is under, in, on, and around the water. Nautical charts help mariners travel safely on the water where maps are focused more on helping people travel from place to place on land. Other differences are that nautical charts are working documents. Mariners add course lines, they add turning points and way points. They are legal documents that can be used in a court.

HOST: I think what most of us are familiar with are the little numbers we see on nautical charts. What do these numbers mean?

TOM LOEPER: The numbers you see on a nautical chart represent soundings. Soundings are water depth measurements and they tell the user how deep the water is in that particular area in either feet or fathoms. A fathom is a nautical unit of measurement. There are six feet to a fathom. On a chart, sounding data with the same values are usually connected with a line known as a depth curve, similar to the topographic lines or surface features that you see on a map.

HOST: How long does it take to develop a nautical chart?

TOM LOEPER: Well, Kate, the time it takes to develop a new nautical chart varies greatly and it depends on the priority of the job and the intensity of the activity in the area. For instance, if there is a need for a new nautical chart in an area that has good current survey data, it may be done in as little as six to 12 months. If you have a very remote area say the north slope of Alaska, it may take several years because of the amount of survey work that needs to be done. Another consideration is the length of the survey season. The survey season in Alaska is only a few months each year so it may take several years to collect the necessary data while the Gulf of Mexico can pretty much be surveyed any time of year.

(OUTRO)
That’s all for today’s Diving Deeper Shorts, where we highlight a few minutes of your favorite Diving Deeper episodes.

Want to learn more? Go to oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast.html and select the March 2009 podcast archive to listen to the full interview with Tom Loeper on nautical charts.


[Shorts] Geodesy

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/jan11/dds011311.mp3

Thu, 13 Jan 2011 08:44:16 -0500

Diving Deeper Shorts: Episode 7 (January 13, 2011) - Geodesy

(INTRO)
HOST: Today on Diving Deeper Shorts, we revisit our previous interview on geodesy with Dru Smith from NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey.  

Let’s listen in.

HOST: Dru, I have to tell you that geodesy wasn’t a word I was very familiar with before preparing for this interview. Will you tell us what inspired you to study geodesy in the first place?

DRU SMITH:  Sure, Kate. I was actually studying Land Surveying in college and during my senior year, I took a course called Elements of Geodesy. That was also the first time I’d heard that word. That course basically took the flat Earth world of surveying that I’d been studying and put it on a curved Earth. It opened my eyes to a whole new way of measuring the world. I absolutely loved the course and I decided to stay on and study geodesy through my Ph.D. After I finished, I joined the National Geodetic Survey and I’ve been here ever since.

HOST: Dru, how do we measure points on the Earth’s surface?

DRU SMITH: Well, geodesists, that’s what scientists are called who study geodesy, basically assign coordinates, which is kind of like a unique address, to points all over the Earth. If you were to stick pins in a model of the Earth and then give each of those pins a coordinate, you’d be doing what geodesists do. Before the space age, geodesists used to determine the coordinates of points by using Earth-based surveying tools, measuring angles, distances between points. Now most of our work is done using space-based tools like the Global Positioning System or more commonly known as GPS. But no matter what the tool is, geodesists still do the same work, which is very accurately defining the coordinates of points on the surface of the Earth in a consistent manner. This set of accurately measured points then becomes what we call a spatial reference system, which is basically a system that allows different kinds of maps to be consistent with one another.

HOST: Dru, what are some of the other benefits of geodesy?

DRU SMITH: That’s a good question Kate. Some of the other benefits of geodesy are, for example, to the transportation industry. So here’s a great example, I really love this one. By providing charts that are accurate to centimeters and using GPS technology on a ship which also can position the ship to centimeters, if those two locations are done consistently, say in the National Spatial Reference System., then you have the ability to know where the bottom of that ship is relative to the bottom of the ocean to a couple of centimeters and this means that a ship could put on extra cargo, sink deeper into the water, and still know that they’re safely navigating through a channel. And the beauty of that is more cargo directly relates to an economic benefit to the shipping industries. So, extra accuracy due to geodetic tools allows the shipping industry to have a pretty significant economic benefit.

(OUTRO)
That’s all for today’s Diving Deeper Shorts, where we highlight a few minutes of your favorite Diving Deeper episodes.

Want to learn more? Go to oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast.html and select the May 2009 podcast archive to listen to the full interview with Dru Smith on geodesy.

You can catch the next episode of Diving Deeper on January 27.


Historical Charts and Maps

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/dec10/dd121610.mp3

Thu, 16 Dec 2010 08:46:16 -0500

Diving Deeper: Episode 29 (December 16, 2010) - Historical Charts and Maps
(INTRO)
HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I’m your host Kate Nielsen.
Today’s question is….Why do we archive nautical charts and maps?
NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey maintains an online collection of digital scans of historical maps and nautical charts. Historical maps and charts are used by many different people for a variety of purposes.
To help us dive a little deeper into this question, we will talk with Meredith Westington on historical charts and maps. Meredith is NOAA’s Chief Geographer at the Office of Coast Survey. Hi Meredith, welcome to our show.
MEREDITH WESTINGTON: Hi Kate, thanks for inviting me. I’m excited to share some of the details about the Historical Map and Chart Collection with our listeners.
(BACKGROUND ON HISTORICAL MAPS AND CHARTS)
HOST: Meredith, what exactly is a historical map or chart?
MEREDITH WESTINGTON: Well Kate, in the context of NOAA’s Historical Collection, a historical map or chart is any map or chart that’s not used today because it’s out of date. The product may not list the most current navigation obstacles, water depths, or shoreline—just to name a few items that are frequently updated on NOAA’s nautical charts which are produced by NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey. Other maps may depict historical events against the geographic landscape at that time. Our collection of maps depicting the Civil War battle sites are good examples.
HOST: Meredith, we talked about this in an earlier episode of Diving Deeper, back in March 2009 with your colleague Tom Loeper, but can you remind everyone about the difference between a map and a nautical chart?
MEREDITH WESTINGTON: Sure, Kate.There’s actually many differences between a map and a nautical chart. In terms of nautical charts, they have a very specific purpose and that is to provide mariners with the information that they need to safely move along the water. Information will include water depths, shoreline, tide predictions, obstructions to navigation such as rocks and shipwrecks, and even navigational aids such as buoys. Because of its critical importance in promoting safe navigation, the nautical chart also has a certain level of legal standing and authority.
To me, the term “map” is more all-encompassing of various geographic and cartographic products. Maps can convey information similar to nautical charts, but I believe the audience is much broader. Some examples of maps might be road maps or atlases, city plans. Another example, which is contained in our online collection, is bathymetric maps. Those are maps that depict just the water bottom without any navigational aids that you would actually see on a nautical chart.    
HOST: How far back do our maps and charts go?
MEREDITH WESTINGTON: Well, that’s an interesting question. Our collection of historical maps and charts dates to the 1700s, but the Office of Coast Survey, which formed in 1807 as the first federal scientific agency, produced its first charts in the early 1840s. That was after several decades of fundamental land-based and offshore survey work.
Some interesting things that you might find in the collection are from 1803 we have the King Plats of the City of Washington, which are public streets rights-of-way in Washington, DC. We have sketches of Anacapa Island in California which is from 1854, it was created by James McNeill Whistler, who some may remember for his great works of art, but he was actually employed briefly at the Office of Coast Survey as an engraver. And we also have a Chattanooga battlefield map from 1863 which is considered one of the best Civil War maps at that time. It’s a far ranging collection.
HOST: Meredith, what do NOAA’s historical charts and maps cover? Is it just our coastal waters?
MEREDITH WESTINGTON: More or less that’s true. When the Survey of the Coast was formed in 1807, the agency was responsible for surveying and charting only the Atlantic Coast of the U.S., which was at that time approximately 15,000 statute miles of shoreline.   Today’s nautical charts cover 95,000 miles of shoreline, cover the Great Lakes, and include 3.4 millionsquare nautical miles of U.S. jurisdiction within the Exclusive Economic Zone, which is an area that extends 200 nautical miles from shore. Our historic charts also cover areas of historic U.S. interest, which include the Philippines. 
HOST: Why do we need to archive historical maps and charts?
MEREDITH WESTINGTON: Well, the historical maps and charts, I think they give us all a reference to the past from which we learn and we make decisions. Based on our experience from listening to other customer stories, it’s hard to put a value on the collection with such a diverse interest and use. It’s safe to say that the collection is largely sentimental in value, but it shouldn’t go unnoticed that people, including my office, use the collection to resolve legal disputes to often involve some monetary settlement. 
(PRESENT USE OF HISTORICAL MAPS AND CHARTS)
HOST: Meredith, you've touched on this some already, but who uses historical charts and maps?

MEREDITH WESTINGTON: Well, the short answer is – lots of people. Since we posted a link on our website last year and we sort of passively prompted people to tell us their stories about how they’re using the collection, I’ve been amazed at the variety of applications for our products. What I’ve learned is historians are not the only ones who are using the collection. 

We’ve heard stories that the historical images are used for coastline or land change analysis, for transportation route analysis, for what I refer to as anthropological research – a lot of
Civil War and pre-Civil War era work studying how people lived at that time. Ecological studies, geologic studies of ocean bottom features, and even as I said before, legal cases involving public and private land ownership rights. Even beyond legal and scientific purposes, we’ve also had people use the charts for book illustrations and home remodeling and decorating and movie set design.

HOST: Wow, so really a little of bit of everything – that’s great. What is the most unique or interesting way that you’ve heard of that someone has used one of our historical charts or maps?

MEREDITH WESTINGTON: Wow, that’s a tough one to answer. I think for me, I was sort of taken aback when I had heard that a romance novelist was actually using our collection. I was not anticipating that, but I thought it was pretty cool.
HOST: How do we use historical maps and charts to assess environmental changes over time?
MEREDITH WESTINGTON: The charts contain data such as shoreline, water depths, and sea bottom characterizations. All this data is compiled using high scientific standards. It’s because of that very standard approach to data collection that people can and do track changes over time.
HOST: Meredith, you mentioned several times that maps and charts can be used in legal cases, can you expand on that?
MEREDITH WESTINGTON: Yes. Since mariners rely on NOAA charts to plan out the best and safest routes, NOAA charts are often used in legal cases involving disasters at sea when uncharted hazards to navigation are suspected to have played a role. One example would probably be, there was a highly visible case dealing with the Queen Elizabeth II, which was a large ocean liner, grounding in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts in 1992.
And in that particular case, we were instructed to basically monitor one particular chart and follow our processes for applying new hydrographic surveys over a four-year period following that grounding. We’ve also had instances where charts were referenced in cases involving land ownership rights along the coast because the shoreline that we show on our charts has a reference to specific tidal levels that often align with legal public and private rights and jurisdictions on the land and on the adjacent seabed, those shorelines are very important to a large number of our users. 
(NATIONAL OCEAN SERVICE’S PRESERVATION ROLE)
HOST: It’s great to hear about a product that initially has such a specific use for safe marine transportation, to hear about all the different ways that it’s used historically, not just as a pretty framed picture up on somebody’s office wall, but how it’s being used for everything from environmental to legal cases to movie sets to romance novels. Meredith, what is the role of the National Ocean Service in preserving the nation’s historical charts and maps?
MEREDITH WESTINGTON: Well, that’s a good question Kate. My office, the Office of Coast Survey, which is a part of the National Ocean Service, has published thousands of products over the last 200 years. In forming the Historical Map and Chart Collection, our primary interest has been about making the historical assets accessible. I suppose anyone could have scanned our maps and charts, but we were the first to recognize the need-- not only for own purposes, but to support other’s needs as well. We’re pretty proud of our heritage as the first federal scientific agency. By hosting the collection, we have the opportunity and the knowledge base to support our customers on questions about the collection. 
HOST: What’s involved in preserving these maps and charts, especially some that you’re saying are over 100 years old?
MEREDITH WESTINGTON: Well, we began our project in 1995. At that time we had a printing facility in an old warehouse in Maryland, that was shutting its doors and planning to throw away thousands of old maps and charts that were tucked away in map drawers. We were asked if we wanted to do anything with those maps and charts before they moved them to the trash. We actually stepped in and said yes, we’re going to scan them. 
So, that was the beginning of the scanning effort and there was one person in our office who actually recognized this need to preserve our assets and make them accessible. So he actually got together some grant money and a couple of scanners and some contractor services. We set out the standards for the file type, the image resolution, the file naming convention, and the chart information that we wanted to record – it was pretty critical that we set out those standards up front because then the massive scanning effort began.
We concluded scanning the documents in the warehouse probably around 2003. And since then we’ve located some other assets within the National Archives and also with the Library of Congress that have not been scanned. Currently, we have 35,000 images in the collection and it’s one of the most comprehensive collections of historical maps and charts, I would say in the world. Even still, I can say that it’s not complete with respect to everything that NOAA and its predecessor agencies have produced. That’s 200 years of history to account for, and it’s a big task.
HOST: Meredith, how long will it take to archive all of these charts and maps?
MEREDITH WESTINGTON: Well, right now, we’re in the midst of a major effort to obtain a full catalog of all the charts produced by NOAA and its predecessor agencies. This effort includes identifying what our agency produced—a surprisingly difficult task because there isn’t an all-encompassing catalog out there. The NOAA Library started to identify some NOAA assets at the National Archives and scanned those around 2008 timeframe. In addition, we have a partnership with the Library of Congress to support them in creating an inventory of their collection and scan all of their documents. That collection is actually about 28,000 charts and they all reside in map drawers and they are not inventoried. So, it’s a very similar setup to what we had in the warehouse, except we know that they’re all Coast and Geodetic Survey products. The warehouse was a little bit different in that respect. But our hope is that we will acquire digital scans of all NOAA produced charts and be able to provide the best copies to the public.
And after this major effort to sort of retrace history, NOAA actually publishes between 100 to 200 new chart editions every year. So, our goal is to place every retired edition chart within the Historical Map and Chart Collection. As soon as a new chart edition comes out the old one goes in the historical collection. So, I think it’s safe to say that the archiving process will be continual. 
HOST: So Meredith, what all is in this collection? How diverse is it?

MEREDITH WESTINGTON: Well, it’s probably not surprising that with over 200 years of scientific leadership in surveying and mapping, that the collection is quite large. To name a few items, it includes nautical charts of U.S. waters – that’s what you would probably expect it to definitely have in it – and that includes current and former territories and possessions, there’s also Civil War maps, sketches which includes instrument diagrams because we have scientific leadership there’s actually instrument diagrams in there, there’s isogonic maps and gravity maps, bathymetric maps, aeronautical charts, and city plans. The core collection contains whatever NOAA and its predecessor agencies produced, which also includes the U.S. Lake Survey charts. The U.S. Lake Survey became a part of NOAA in 1970. The Coast and Geodetic Survey charts, the beginning of NOAA anyway, they date back to the 1840s.
And then we’ve got loads of stuff in there that are non-NOAA produced maps. Some of them are because NOAA supported the work, either by providing the man power or the data. Other images are in the collection because quite frankly since we were scanning stuff that we did not know, it was not inventoried in the warehouse, we were just pulling map drawers and whatever was in the map drawer got scanned.   
HOST: Meredith, where are the maps now and where will they ultimately be archived?
MEREDITH WESTINGTON: Well, first off, I should make some distinction between the paper products that we send directly to the National Archives and have for some time and make sure that they are appropriately archived, and the difference between that and the digital preservation efforts that we’ve been working on.
The digital collection that we have actually contains high-resolution scans as well as two versions of some lower-resolution images. The high resolution scans are actually TIFF formatted images and they’re usually about 300 dpi, which is dots per inch, the lower-resolution images are JPG and then also a tiled JPG. The JPGs are for web download and the tiled JPGs are for the web preview function that we have through our website. All three of these images, they’re all currently on CDs and also backed up onto network storage devices.
We’re also looking at some longer-term ways of storing our, basically all of the work that we’ve done for so many years now given the amount of time and resources that have gone into this project since 1995, we’ve been talking with the National Archives and the Library of Congress to coordinate on some longer-term preservation. 
HOST: How can the public access these charts and maps?
MEREDITH WESTINGTON: Well, you can go to the Office of Coast Survey website, which is nauticalcharts.noaa.gov, and from there you can link to the Historical Map and Chart Collection or you can go directly to our website by adding “/history” to our URL. From there you can click on a link to browse the collection. You can search by a number of parameters. You can preview the images and you can download the images. All the images are available to the public for free.
Also in terms of improving accessibility, we’re looking at expanded search options. We are in the midst of upgrading our website, we’ve had the same one up since 2001, and we’re looking at opening up a website that allows people to search by geographic parameters including by place name. Some of the benefits of this particular upgrade would be, for example, if someone wanted to search for a chart of Virginia Beach in today’s current website, they would basically have the option of typing Virginia Beach into the keyword search and that would actually search for the name Virginia Beach within the chart title and your results would only be two charts.
The other option would be to search for all of the charts within the state of Virginia and that would give you over 1,000 results, at which point you could go through all of those and find the ones that actually cover Virginia Beach. Our hope is that in the new version of the website, you can actually click on, within a map, you can actually click on Virginia Beach and get the search results for that particular location.
HOST: Meredith, do you have any final closing words for our listeners today?
MEREDITH WESTINGTON: Sure. We’ve really enjoyed the user feedback we’ve received over the last year or so and I’d really like to thank those people that have reached out and shared their stories with us. I’d really encourage new users and even our existing users to keep that dialogue open because that’s the kind of stuff that really keeps us motivated and encouraged about why we do what we do. So, thank you.

HOST: Thanks Meredith for joining us on Diving Deeper and talking more about historical charts and maps and the many ways that these products are being used even today. To learn more, please visit www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/history.


[Shorts] National Marine Sanctuaries

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/dec10/dds120210.mp3

Thu, 02 Dec 2010 12:32:52 -0500

Diving Deeper Shorts: Episode 6 (December 2, 2010) - National Marine Sanctuaries
(INTRO)
HOST: Today on Diving Deeper Shorts, we will revisit our previous interview on what is a national marine sanctuary, with Dan Basta, Director of the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.  
Let’s listen in.
DAN BASTA: I think your first question that everyone wants to have answered is well, what is a national marine sanctuary exactly? The easiest way to think about it is to think about it as a national park. You could argue that they represent our nation’s parks in the sea, but they’re a little bit different in how they operate and what they do. Unlike parks, national marine sanctuaries do allow multiple use – they’re about finding that very special spot between using our precious resources, understanding and appreciating them, and protecting them at the same time.
HOST: Where are some of the national marine sanctuaries located and how many are there?
DAN BASTA: Well, there are 14 areas – they start out in American Samoa in the far Pacific in Fagatele Bay precede then to the Hawaiian Islands, five hours closer by air, and they’re in the main eight Hawaiian Islands, and we manage the national marine monument in the Northwest Pacific Islands called Papahānaumokuākea, arguably the largest totally marine protected area in the world. On the West Coast of the United States, we have sanctuaries that run from the state of Washington on the Canadian border down to Santa Barbara in Southern California. In the Gulf of Mexico, we have the Flower Garden Banks about a hundred miles off of the Texas/Louisiana border and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary that encompasses all of the Florida Keys extending out past the Dry Tortugas. Moving up along the East Coast, we have Gray’s Reef off of Georgia, we have the MONITOR Sanctuary which is the resting place of the USS MONITOR, and further north we have the great Stellwagen Bank in Massachusetts Bay. We have a sanctuary in the Great Lakes as well and that is Thunder Bay and it is a totally maritime heritage sanctuary. And in that sanctuary rests the cumulated history of shipping on the Great Lakes – over 200 shipwrecks.
HOST: Is it possible that some of our listeners have visited a sanctuary?
DAN BASTA: Oh, absolutely. Of course it depends upon the site if you will. They are a focal point for a large degree of marine recreation and viewing. The Florida Keys is the number one dive location on Planet Earth. There are, depending upon the year, between two and a half and three and a half million people who visit the Keys. There’s a lot of on-water operation required to ensure that American citizens get an opportunity to experience, appreciate, and resolve to protect these places but at the same time not love them to death.
(OUTRO)
That’s all for today’s Diving Deeper Shorts, where we highlight a few minutes of your favorite Diving Deeper episodes.
Want to learn more? Go to oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast.html and select the May 2009 podcast archive to listen to the full interview with Dan Basta on national marine sanctuaries.

You can catch the next episode of Diving Deeper on December 16.


[Shorts] Estuaries

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/nov10/dds111810.mp3

Thu, 18 Nov 2010 10:28:56 -0500

Diving Deeper Shorts: Episode 5 (November 18, 2010) - Estuaries

(INTRO)
HOST: Today on Diving Deeper Shorts, we will revisit our previous interview with Bart Merrick and Sarah McGuire on estuaries.

Let’s listen in.

HOST: Sarah, first, where are estuaries located?

SARAH MCGUIRE: Well, estuaries can be found all over the world. As you said, estuaries are typically where freshwater and saltwater mix together such as a bay or a lagoon. In the United States they’re found all across the board. And, usually you find larger cities are located near estuaries. For example, New York City is located on an estuary and that’s just because historically major cities were built where the mouth of a river would be. The largest estuary in North America is actually right here in the Chesapeake Bay. 

HOST: Bart, can you tell us why are estuaries important?

BART MERRICK: They’re important for all kinds of reasons. Some of the biggest reasons why estuaries are important is that, most of the population of the world actually lives right on the edge of an estuary. And so, whether you’re getting your food from estuaries or you’re getting recreational benefit from estuaries, it’s all there. Some of the things particularly for me that I’m concerned about and why I think estuaries are important are that they provide very vital nesting and feeding habitats for tons of aquatic plants and animals.

So, estuaries also, and this is particularly important, they actually help maintain a pretty healthy ocean. They’re like the pre-treatment for our oceans. And so, as the water flows out of the watersheds around estuaries, it flows through wetlands through the actual estuary itself and a lot of times that will filter out a lot of the pollutants or contaminants that might be within the water and it filters it all out before it gets to the ocean.

HOST: Bart, what is the role of the National Ocean Service in studying and protecting our nation’s estuaries?

BART MERRICK: The National Ocean Service is home to the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management and they basically oversee the National Estuarine Research Reserve System that Sarah and I both work with. The key thing here is that it’s also the NOAA group and the state partners that manage the estuarine reserves. So, the Reserve System was created by the Coastal Zone Management Act in 1972 and the Reserve System is a national network of coastal reserves established as living laboratories for long-term research and education. These reserves monitor the health of estuaries, educate the public about these ecosystems, and help communities manage their coastal resources better.

(OUTRO)
That’s all for today’s Diving Deeper Shorts, where we highlight a few minutes of your favorite Diving Deeper episodes.

Want to learn more? Go to oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast.html and select the April 2009 podcast archive to listen to the full interview with Bart Merrick and Sarah McGuire on estuaries.


Preparing for Climate-Related Impacts

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/nov10/dd110410.mp3

Thu, 04 Nov 2010 09:52:56 -0400

Diving Deeper: Episode 28 (November 4, 2010) - Preparing for Climate-Related Impacts

(INTRO)
HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I’m your host Kate Nielsen.

Today’s question is….How can we prepare for climate-related impacts?

The NOAA Coastal Services Center is one office in NOAA that produces a variety of tools to help communities prepare for and respond to the impacts of climate variability and climate change.

To help us dive a little deeper into this question, we will talk with Stephanie Fauver by phone on how best to prepare for climate impacts. Stephanie is a meteorologist with the NOAA Coastal Services Center. Hi Stephanie, welcome to our show.

STEPHANIE FAUVER: Hi Kate, thank you for inviting to talk to your listeners today.  

(BACKGROUND ON CLIMATE)
HOST: Stephanie, first, can you explain to us what the difference is between climate and weather?
STEPHANIE FAUVER: Sure Kate. There is still a lot of confusion between climate and weather. Often, you’ll hear people say “climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.” What that really means is the weather is what you see outside on any particular day. It may be 85 degrees and sunny or it could be 30 degrees and snowing. That’s the weather.

Climate is the average weather for a certain period of time at a certain location. An example might be that you can expect snow in the Northeast in January and that’s their climate. Also, it’s hot and humid in the Southeast in July. That’s their climate. The climate record also includes extreme values such as record high temperatures or record amounts of rainfall. You may hear the local TV meteorologists or the National Weather Service meteorologists talk about “today we hit a record high for this day.” Those are climate records.

Climate can vary over time, and these extreme values are the climate variability part of the equation. 

HOST: Thanks Stephanie, I like that. Climate is what you expect and weather is what you get. That sort of sums it all up right there. You just mentioned climate variability. What is that and how is it different from climate change?

STEPHANIE FAUVER: We know now that climate is average weather, but we’re not always average. Sometimes we’re higher, sometimes we’re lower than average. These shorter term changes in climate are climate variability. We could see a period of drought or a period of flooding. These are climate variability. Generally, climate variability is on the order of weeks to months to even years.

This is in contrast to climate change. Climate change is a long-term trend on the order of decades to centuries. You can’t just look out your window and see sea level rise, sea level rise happens for tens to hundreds of years. Climate change is a longer term trend.

(IMPACTS OF CLIMATE VARIABILITY AND CLIMATE CHANGE)
HOST: OK, so when we’re talking long-term trends, that’s climate change, and then short periods of time that’s climate variability. Stephanie, do you have any examples of where we’re seeing impacts from a changing climate already?
STEPHANIE FAUVER: Kate, we are seeing impacts already. Shorter ice seasons in the Great Lakes and in the Arctic Ocean are already being seen. In North Carolina, we’re seeing damage from rising water levels causing problems to coastal lowlands. We’re also seeing changes in the ranges of tree and animals species due to climate change. For example, we have seen butterflies further north and in higher elevations than in the past and they’re also becoming extinct in southern and warmer locations. In addition, spring now arrives an average of 10 to 14 days earlier than it did 20 years ago.

HOST: What other impacts are expected from climate change and climate variability?
STEPHANIE FAUVER: We can expect to see a lot of impacts from climate change and climate variability. We may see increased flooding, heavier downpours in storms, and along with that comes increased property damage and the potential for loss of life. Heat waves are expected to become more frequent. And with those heat waves comes declining air quality and the potential for loss of life. Increased drought is a possibility, and the potential for crop damage and increased forest fires as a result of drought. In some coastal regions, public infrastructure like roads and water and sewer treatment plants and port facilities are found in low lying areas. They can expect to see increased impacts from future flooding.

Some economic impacts as a result of climate change and climate variability are also expected. Damage from coastal ecosystems and fisheries can result in loss of revenue for folks that rely on those resources for their livelihood. Also a loss of revenue from tourism dollars if the beaches are damaged from sea level rise and erosion from strong storms.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. There is potential for us to see a few benefits from climate change. There will be increased opportunities for tourism in some of the colder climates if they have a longer tourism season. And also the potential for longer growing seasons in cold climates.

HOST: Stephanie, are there ways that communities and individuals can prepare for these impacts of climate change that you’ve talked about so far today?
STEPHANIE FAUVER: There are a lot of ways that communities and people in those communities can start to prepare. It won’t happen overnight. It is an ongoing process and it will take time, but it’s definitely worth doing.

I would encourage people to take a look at the planning activities in their community and see where they might be able to consider climate variability and climate change and the impacts that we’re going to see. If they look at comprehensive plans or development plans that many communities are working on, they can think about the future growth of their community and do it smartly. We don’t want to put ourselves in the situation where we’re building infrastructure and putting people in harm’s way.

We also need to think about water resources and where we’ll get our fresh water as more people move into coastal areas. We don’t want to wait for a drought situation or a water scarcity situation. We want to make sure we’re planning ahead for those water resources. Some communities also have hazards plans where they look at how they will prepare and respond to hurricanes. These may need to be a little more robust, if we think about the potential for stronger storms, and consider how climate will impact these storms in the future.   

HOST: How can communities, and the people in those communities, prepare for climate-related impacts? What’s the best first step to take?
STEPHANIE FAUVER: I recommend to start those conversations now. Identify people in your community that have a stake in this issue since it affects many aspects of the community. Find a champion, find someone that is onboard with climate change, is already working the issue or already talking about the issue and is ready to start to take action.

Another initial step is to find the climate experts in your area – you have a state climatologist that you can call on, some folks in universities would be helpful as well, your local Sea Grant extension agents – find the people in your area that can help you understand what the impacts are going to be. Start to talk about those impacts and start to identify who and what will be impacted. Maybe it’s certain neighborhoods, maybe it’s infrastructure, critical facilities, the hospitals that are in low lying areas, so start to look at who and what will be impacted.

In one community where we’re working, the city officials are having conversations and the mayor has been involved and they’re starting to talk about what impacts they will see. 

(RESOURCES TO SUPPORT COMMUNITY PREPARATION AND RESPONSE)
HOST: Thanks Stephanie for the information you’ve given us today, so far, to help us understand more about climate change and ways we can start to prepare for impacts. What is the National Ocean Service’s role in helping communities prepare for climate change impacts?
STEPHANIE FAUVER: Well Kate, NOAA and the National Ocean Service provide a host of resources to help communities – everything from data and research to climate modeling and tools and techniques to identify their impacts and help them develop strategies to prepare for climate change. The National Ocean Service is responsible for keeping track of water levels and calculating trends and changes in water level.

We also monitor changes to the natural environment to help us identify where climate variability and climate change are having an effect on say marsh grass and other habitats, which are critical areas for our ocean and for ocean life.

The National Ocean Service also works directly with state decision makers and planners to help them identify what risks and vulnerabilities exist in their community, and how they can start to take action to address these risks. The National Ocean Service also works with coastal decision makers to bring them together to talk about the issues and help them build their own capacity to address the problems.

HOST: Stephanie, can you highlight a few of the products or tools that you have to help folks get started?
STEPHANIE FAUVER: Sure Kate. The Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management just issued a guidebook, “Adapting to Climate Change: A Planning Guide for State Coastal Managers,” and this takes state managers through the process to identify the impacts that they can expect from climate change, they look at pulling together their team to develop a plan, identifying strategies to deal with climate change, and then implementing their plan and evaluating their progress. All of the states are at different levels in terms of planning, but they all can find helpful information in this guide, no matter what level of the process they’re at.

We also have a coastal climate adaptation website. This website provides access to adaptation plans and strategies and lessons learned from the states and the communities around the country that have already started in this process. We always hear from people that they want to know what others are doing, “give me an example, give me something I can look at to see how other people are taking action.” So this site provides access to a lot of those examples. It also allows users to post questions and share lessons learned about their experiences, so they can learn from their peers.

We also have a training that has been developed by the National Estuarine Research Reserve. It’s a one-day workshop and it brings folks together in their community to start to talk about the issues. They learn from their local experts about climate impacts, what they can expect, and then they get into groups and talk about the issues that are relevant to them, what’s most important, and then identify some actions they can take when they leave that room, how they can work together, and what they can do to start to address the problems.

HOST: Do we have any data or first-hand experiences on the success of these resources?
STEPHANIE FAUVER: Some of these resources are still quite new and we are still evaluating how people are using the information and the resources that we have, but we continually hear from people at the end of these workshops, that tell us how they’re really glad they got together and started talking about the issues, and they’re motivated, and they’re ready to go back to their staff members or to talk to their council members or to go back to their wastewater management folks and say, “we need to consider climate change, we need to start to think about this issue, and how it will impact what we already do.”

We recently worked with a group in South Florida. They were trying to figure out what their impacts were and where they were going to see problems from sea level rise. We gathered them together and had them talk about their methods for mapping sea level rise. They decided what process they were going to use, so they were all on the same page, and they were delivering a consistent message to their residents, and now they’re starting to show those maps and use those for outreach to their communities to say what impacts they could see and where the problem areas are. One of their big issues is salt water intrusion into their freshwater resources. They’re worried about potential issues with increased development and with additional folks moving into that area. They already have stress on their water resources and they need to make sure that they can accommodate additional sea level rise.

HOST: Thanks Stephanie, so sometimes it’s just about getting the conversation started. Because many of our listeners don’t live along the coast, how is what you’ve talked about today with climate variability and the resources out there to help us prepare, how is that important to them?
STEPHANIE FAUVER: Kate, that’s a great question. Many of the impacts from climate change and climate variability will impact inland areas as well. Some of the listeners may recall the drought in Georgia in 2008. Water levels in the lakes, which is their fresh water resource, became dangerously low. They were already implementing water conservation measures and they were looking to enter into agreements with surrounding states to find alternative sources for fresh water. So this isn’t just a coastal problem – drought and flooding impact inland areas as well.

With climate variability, we also see extreme heat conditions, particularly cities around the country are vulnerable to these impacts. So that’s something that is not just going to affect the coast.

HOST: Stephanie, do you have any final closing words for our listeners today?
STEPHANIE FAUVER: I think a resident of coastal Georgia said it best at a workshop recently. She was still kind of on the fence about climate change, but she said that in Savannah, the anticipation every year is for a hurricane. Thankfully they haven’t had one, but they still plan for a hurricane. She said that’s how this needs to be done. It has to be that they’re doing this planning in the event that sea level rises.

So if your community is not quite ready to talk about climate change, you can still find a message that would work with your residents and with your decision makers. Whether it’s about human health or safety or hazards such as hurricanes or strong storms, find the approach that works and begin to have those conversations.

HOST: Thanks Stephanie for joining us on Diving Deeper and talking more about climate change impacts and how best to prepare for these in our communities. To learn more, visit collaborate.csc.noaa.gov/climateadaptation.  


What is remote sensing?

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/oct10/dd100710.mp3

Thu, 07 Oct 2010 10:02:07 -0400

Diving Deeper: Episode 17 (October 7, 2009) —
What is a harmful algal bloom?

(INTRO)
HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I’m your host Kate Nielsen.

Today’s question is….What is a harmful algal bloom?

Harmful algal blooms, also known as HABs, are blooms of species of algae that can have negative impacts on humans, marine and freshwater environments, and coastal economies. These blooms occur when phytoplankton, which are tiny microscopic plants, grow quickly in large quantities while producing toxic or harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals, and birds.

To help us dive a little deeper into this question, we will talk with Allison Sill on harmful algal blooms – what they are, what causes them, and the impacts of harmful algal blooms. Allison is the former coordinator for the Phytoplankton Monitoring Network with the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science. Hi, Allison, welcome to our show.

ALLISON SILL: Hi Kate, thanks, it’s good to be here.

(DEFINING HARMFUL ALGAL BLOOMS)
HOST: Allison, first, what is the difference between a harmful algal bloom and a red tide?

ALLISON SILL: Well, red tides are not always going to be harmful and it’s a general term used to describe blooms. Many tides aren’t red, many of them are actually golden brown, yellow, you can actually have green tides as well. Scientists use the term harmful algal bloom to describe an algal bloom that can have a negative impact on the environment.

HOST: Are all algal blooms harmful?

ALLISON SILL: No, not all algal blooms are actually harmful. And actually less than one percent produce toxins. Blooms can be beneficial. You have to remember that phytoplankton are producers so they’re found at the bottom of the marine food chain and all other life in the ocean relies on this phytoplankton. Blooms can also be a good indicator of environmental change not only in the water, but also on land.

HOST: OK, so not all algal blooms are harmful. Is a bloom only harmful if it produces toxins?

ALLISON SILL: No, a bloom does not have to produce toxins in order to be harmful to the environment. It can also be harmful by causing anoxic conditions where oxygen is depleted from the water. It can block light to organisms lower in the water column or it can clog or harm fish gills. All of these effects can harm or kill plants or fish in the environment.

HOST: Where do harmful algal blooms occur?

ALLISON SILL: Harmful algal blooms can occur along every coast. For example, blooms can occur along the Florida coast and they can occur during any month, but usually they’re more frequent in the summer months. Blooms can also occur along the California coast. Many of the toxic blooms that we see impacting marine mammals and birds occur along the Pacific coast.

HOST: Allison, earlier you mentioned that blooms occur in coastal waters. Do harmful algal blooms only occur in salty, marine waters or can they also occur in freshwater?

ALLISON SILL: Kate, harmful algal blooms can occur in freshwater too and a great example of this would be the Great Lakes where they have reoccurring green blooms and these green blooms can produce toxins. These toxins can be harmful to humans so they are monitored carefully and toxins are removed by the suppliers of public drinking water in that area.

(CAUSE OF HARMFUL ALGAL BLOOMS)
HOST: What causes harmful algal blooms?

ALLISON SILL: There are a variety of factors that can cause these harmful algal blooms some of which are natural and some of which are not natural. The cause also is dependent on the species type and what that species needs in order to actually bloom. When conditions such as salinity – which is the amount of salt in the water, temperature, nutrients - when these factors are optimal, the bloom can occur. And some species are actually good indicators of coastal eutrophication, which is known as nutrient pollution.

HOST: I think we can all understand that in different geographies and at different times of the year, the water conditions such as temperature, light, and salinity that you mentioned, can change in a given area. What causes these excess nutrients to be present in the water?

ALLISON SILL: There are actually both natural and unnatural sources of nutrients in the ocean. Upwelling is a natural occurrence which can be caused by winds and currents, it’s seasonal, and it’s when nutrients are pulled up from the sea floor and suspended near the surface of the water. Nutrient runoff from land is also another cause for these blooms to occur. And we’re finding that this nutrient inflow from land is happening more frequently because more people are moving to the coastline, therefore there’s more human activity along the coast. And the nutrients that are causing problems include things such as fertilizers, pesticides, and detergents which have high levels of phosphorus in them.
 
(IMPACTS FROM HARMFUL ALGAL BLOOMS)

HOST: Allison, what are some of the impacts that we see from harmful algal blooms?

ALLISON SILL: Kate, as mentioned before an impact that is very obvious to an observer is actually the discoloration of the water. It might appear red, green, brown. There’s also a great number of impacts on the marine environment. You can have low dissolved oxygen or anoxic conditions which can lead to the death of fish and you might see fish floating on the surface of the water. We also have what are called unusual mortality events and this is when there are unexpected strandings of marine mammals on the beach, typically it can happen in high numbers. This type of event requires a response from certain agencies. And the research is indicating that 26 percent of all unusual mortality events are actually related to marine toxins. There are also human health syndromes, five in particular that are caused by certain species.

HOST: Allison, how do people become sick from these algal toxins?

ALLISON SILL: As mentioned in the previous answer, there are five human health syndromes, four of which can be caused by eating toxic shellfish, one of which can be caused by eating toxic fish. If you were to eat toxic shellfish, this could potentially lead to severe poisoning, possibly even death, but this is very rare because there’s very careful monitoring of algae and shellfish by state agencies. If a toxin is found around shellfish beds, then those shellfish beds are closed to harvesting.

Airborne toxins can be found especially on the beaches of the west coast of Florida and these airborne toxins can cause temporary asthma symptoms in beach goers. This can also have a more long-term effect on residents with respiratory ailments. If these toxins are found on beaches in Florida, then those beaches are closed. But please, do not give up seafood folks because remember less than one percent of all phytoplankton can be toxic, so these syndromes are very rare.

HOST: I know you mentioned earlier how decaying blooms can deplete or remove oxygen in the water killing marine life and that some species can damage or clog fish gills. Are there other impacts of harmful algal blooms on fish and other marine life?

ALLISON SILL: Kate, harmful algal blooms can kill fish and other marine life. And one of the ways in which this can happen is through a process called biomagnification. Biomagnification is when toxins are accumulated within the tissue of animals as you travel up the food chain. So you have very small phytoplankton that have the toxin in them and as those larger animals eat smaller animals that toxin is then increased within the tissue of the animal, therefore harming animals at the top of the food chain. 

In addition to fish and marine life, some blooms can be so thick that it’s hard for light to actually penetrate down below and this can really hurt seagrasses and other aquatic vegetation that rely on light.

HOST: Allison, so it sounds like the impacts from the algal toxins from some blooms can not only present possible threats to human health and the health of marine life, but could also cause economic impacts to our coastal fisheries.

ALLISON SILL: That’s right Kate. Harmful algal blooms can harm tourism. They can cause beach closures, they can also cause a lot of trouble for commercial and recreational fishing industries, and can even harm restaurants that depend on these fisheries in order to stay open. Approximately $82 million each year is lost to harmful algal blooms and this is actually thought to be a conservative estimate.

HOST: Allison, how are non-coastal residents impacted by harmful algal blooms?

ALLISON SILL: Kate, I think it’s interesting a lot of people forget that people that aren’t along the coast can actually be affected by these blooms as well. And non-coastal residents can be affected by having their vacations disrupted. If the beaches in Florida are closed and that’s where they intend to vacation, then their vacation plans are going to change. Also if they eat seafood and the seafood potentially could be contaminated with some of these toxins, that could cause it to be unavailable to them. Also remember, we’re all connected by our watersheds so those inland areas could also be contributing to the nutrient runoff found in our coastal waters.

HOST: Allison, what is the role of the National Ocean Service in studying harmful algal blooms?

ALLISON SILL: Well Kate, research conducted by NOAA’s National Ocean Service is just one piece or one component to increase understanding of harmful algal blooms and their impacts. There are actually many different offices within NOAA working on harmful algal bloom issues. One of which is the Phytoplankton Monitoring Network, who I’m involved with, and that is where citizen and student volunteers are trained on how to collect and identify phytoplankton in their coastal waters. This data is reported to NOAA scientists so it’s great to get these people involved in real-world research.

NOAA supports an Analytical Response Team and this team confirms the presence of specific algae and toxins during the blooms and in marine mammal poisonings. Remember the unusual mortality events that I was talking about earlier where 26 percent are actually caused by marine toxins, this is the team that works with those events. NOAA oversees a Harmful Algal Bloom Forecasting System which is extremely beneficial and it uses satellite data and imagery which can provides regular bulletins to coastal managers and even the general public. And it forecasts the location, extent, and potential development of blooms. This in turn can help scientists and researchers see where these blooms might be going and how it might impact the coastline.

HOST: Allison, it’s great to hear that all of these resources are dedicated to improving the understanding and possibly even being able to forecast these blooms to further minimize human health impacts and economic losses. Do you have any final, closing words for our listeners today?

ALLISON SILL: Well, I want to thank you for inviting me here today Kate because I think this is an important topic for people to learn more about. And NOAA research on harmful algal blooms is placing a very important emphasis on understanding the relationship between oceans and human health. How can you help? The Phytoplankton Monitoring Network is a great way to volunteer to monitor your coastal waters for harmful algal blooms. This can increase the number of eyes on our coastal waters and help us to understand better what is happening with harmful algal blooms.

HOST: Thanks Allison for joining us on today’s episode of Diving Deeper and exploring what harmful algal blooms are and what causes them. To learn more about harmful algal blooms, please visit the Phytoplankton Monitoring Network Web site at www.chbr.noaa.gov/pmn.

(OUTRO)


[Shorts] Integrated Ocean Observing System

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/sep10/dds092310.mp3

Thu, 23 Sep 2010 10:45:35 -0400

Diving Deeper Shorts: Episode 4 (September 23, 2010) - Integrated Ocean Observing System

(INTRO)
HOST: Today on Diving Deeper Shorts, we will revisit our previous interview with Jennie Lyons on the Integrated Ocean Observing System, also known as IOOS.

Let's listen in.

HOST: Jennie, why do we observe our oceans and coasts?

JENNIE LYONS: Well, if you think about how people learn, we really do it by watching and taking in information. It's the same thing with our oceans and coasts. We really need to observe them to understand what's happening there. Once we understand, then we can increase the nation's ability to keep our people safe, our economy secure, and our environment healthy and productive.

HOST: Can you give us an example of how IOOS data are used?

JENNIE LYONS: I can. There are so many, it's hard to pick a few, but there certainly are some. So, one way responders can use IOOS data is to track oil slicks after a spill, for example, because our real-time data shows the movement of water and therefore the movement of the spill.

Along the same lines, IOOS data is also useful in tracking and predicting harmful algal blooms. And for those who might not be familiar with that term, basically, not all algae is harmful. But, they're just simple plants that live in the sea and form the base of the food web. But harmful algal blooms happen when certain types of algae multiply and produce harmful effects on people, animals, and birds. Data on ocean currents help forecasters predict both movement and size of these blooms, so they can act to decrease health risks to people who might have been affected otherwise.

Yet another example – and one of my favorites – of how our data can help happened after the recent emergency landing of that airplane in the Hudson River in January 2009. That jet crashed near sensors within New York Harbor's Observing Prediction System, which is part of our Mid-Atlantic region. Within minutes, our partners at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey had compiled a detailed report of water conditions around the site and a forecast of conditions for the next 48 hours. They sent the reports to emergency crews. You may recall that all of the plane's crew and passengers were rescued safely.  And also, in the days after the crash, Stevens provided around the clock assistance to various emergency agencies to help with salvage operations including lifting the plane out of the water.

(OUTRO)
That's all for today's Diving Deeper Shorts, where we highlight a few minutes of your favorite Diving Deeper episodes.

Want to learn more? Go to oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast.html and select the March 2009 podcast archive to listen to the full interview with Jennie Lyons on the Integrated Ocean Observing System.


What research happens in our national marine sanctuaries, and why?

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/sep10/dd090910.mp3

Thu, 09 Sep 2010 14:57:42 -0400

Diving Deeper: Episode 26 (September 9, 2010) - Research in the National Marine Sanctuaries

(INTRO)
HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I’m your host Kate Nielsen.

Today’s question is….What research happens in our national marine sanctuaries, and why?
 
As we learned in a previous podcast, national marine sanctuaries are protected waters that include habitats such as rocky reefs, kelp forests, deep-sea canyons, and underwater archaeological sites. Research and exploration is a key component of our national marine sanctuaries.

To help us dive a little deeper into this question, we will talk with Steve Gittings on research and exploration in the sanctuaries. Steve is the Science Coordinator for NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. Hi Steve, welcome to our show.

STEVE GITTINGS: Hi Kate, thanks for inviting me.

(OUTLINING RESEARCH NEEDS)
HOST: Steve, can you remind our listeners where our national marine sanctuaries are located?

STEVE GITTINGS: Sure, well there are 14 different operating units within the National Marine Sanctuary System. Their locations range from the northeast coast of the United States all the way down to Florida on the East Coast and then from Washington to California on the West Coast, the Hawaiian Islands, and even as far away as American Samoa in the Western Pacific.

HOST: Is there a science program for our sanctuaries, something that ties all of the aspects together?

STEVE GITTINGS: There is a science program. It’s a very diverse one and it’s diverse because the needs for all the marine sanctuaries are so different. As we said, they range in habitats from kelp forests to coral reefs and ledge communities off Georgia, Humpback Whale Marine Sanctuary in Hawaii, and then American Samoa is an example of a Western Pacific reef. So because the resources themselves vary so much, so does the science.

We have a program we call the Conservation Science Program in the Marine Sanctuary System and these are the types of science programs that link the science itself to management activities that go on in the sanctuaries. There’s also what we call a Maritime Heritage Program, which deals with the archaeological investigations and resource management needs of the program.

HOST: How does this program, the Conservation Science Program, structure science activities at our sanctuary sites?

STEVE GITTINGS: All the sanctuaries have programs in their science activities that involve characterization of the resources that exist in the sanctuary, that might mean mapping or it might mean inventories of species or counts of individuals or cover of coral. There’s also activities related to monitoring, of course, this is one of our big activities. And monitoring is really more about identifying the status of things as they are today and the directions in which those resources are going – whether things are getting more out of whack or more like they should be, more natural.

And then there’s also a number of science activities that happen in sanctuaries that are not directly monitoring or directly characterization, things like trying to understand processes that affect the health of animals or plants, understanding how temperature is affecting coral health or bleaching, one of things that happens to corals when they get too warm is they lose algae that are essential to the growth and survival of the species, so trying to understand processes like that are critically important to our research programs. Understanding the natural conditions that affect levels of biodiversity and abundance, those are all process-related research programs that supplement the characterization and monitoring activities that happen in the sanctuaries.

HOST: What are the key focus areas for science and research in the sanctuaries?

STEVE GITTINGS: Well, it sort of follows that those are diverse as well. We do an assessment of our science needs across the program and in fact we just finished the most recent one and it ’s posted up on our website at sanctuaries.noaa.gov under our research tab. But there is a science needs assessment that was just completed that identifies many of those diverse science needs that the program has from sanctuary to sanctuary and the relationships between those science needs and the management issues that they help us address. So the science needs assessment is a really important document to know about if you’re at all interested in working in marine sanctuaries on research, monitoring, or characterization activities.

HOST: Steve, can you highlight a few examples of some of these research activities?

STEVE GITTINGS: Some of the examples of the more interesting work that happens in our program, and this will give you a flavor of the nature and diversity of the science. We do quite a bit of mapping or we have done quite a bit of mapping of the sea floor to look for areas of high probability for sensitive coral communities in deep water, you can’t identify those communities unless you map and look for characteristics that might suggest that they’re actually down there and that the development of those communities is substantial.

Whales get a lot of attention in the Marine Sanctuary Program, not because they’re charismatic as much as they’re protected species and the Sanctuary Program helps support the research related to restoring species that are endangered or threatened, so whales fit into that category. In the northeast, one of the research projects had to do with identifying the locations of high densities of certain species of whales, particularly right whales which are so endangered, and following that, identifying the locations of shipping lanes that were nearby and it just so happened that the shipping lanes cut through one of the areas of highest abundance for right whales and other species in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. We were able to eventually get a change in the shipping lane locations off Boston so that they were shifted only a few miles to the north, but they reduced the risk of collisions with whales by something between 60 and 80 percent, depending on the species of whales that you were talking about. So that was a very good management application of one of our research activities.

In some places sanctuaries are overfished, like a lot of places in the ocean are, so we’ve resorted to closing certain areas, certain small areas within the sanctuaries. There’s a monitoring program that goes along with that, that tries to help understand how much that closure affected the abundance and diversity of species that it was intended to protect.

We’re also mapping sensitive areas within marine sanctuaries so that we know more about areas that need special protection in the event of spills for example. Collecting data and monitoring and mapping within those sensitive areas is critical so that we can have a baseline against which to measure any effects that might happen and targets for restoration of those areas after the insult is gone.

In the future, research will evolve the way research always does, we’ll look for needs and we’ll identify them by putting people to the task.

HOST: You’ve touched on this a little bit with the science needs assessment, but how do you decide which projects move forward?

STEVE GITTINGS: Well, the science needs themselves are laid out in a framework that first describes what the priority management issues are. So we ask each of the marine sanctuaries to pick their five or ten top problems, usually whale strikes by ships or something of that nature, some management issue that we know we can address if we have more information. So, once we have their top management issues laid out, the science needs underneath those things can be laid out as well. So the management issues drive the science priorities.

HOST: So back to the science program that you explained to us earlier. How does the characterization that you mentioned, the mapping and the monitoring, and the research, how does that help us protect our marine resources?

STEVE GITTINGS: Well, a lot of information is put together in something we call condition reports, on a periodic basis. That started about five years ago or so, we set a framework aside to develop what we call these condition reports and those are intended to track the status and trends of particularly important resources within each marine sanctuary and give us a feeling as to whether they’re improving towards the direction we want or declining in a direction we don’t want and we can respond accordingly.

HOST: What kind of information is included in these reports for each of the sites?

STEVE GITTINGS: The condition reports themselves are focused on trying to identify what changes are occurring in living and non-living resources in the sanctuaries. We have three major categories within which we monitor the resources of the sanctuaries themselves and these are related to the compartments that any marine ecosystem has – water, habitat, and living resources. We also happen to focus on archaeological resources as well and I shouldn’t neglect those because for some marine sanctuaries, that’s what they’re really built on is archaeological value, but even in the ‘natural resource sites,’ archaeological sites exist and those are important to those sanctuaries as well.

The way we get this information together is by asking for the services of experts within the region of each marine sanctuary to come together and discuss a series of questions that we’ve laid out at the national level, 17 standardized questions that we’ve asked every marine sanctuary to answer. How they answer those questions is more or less up to them. They’ll have certain priority resources that they might measure within say the water quality category and focus on those and determine is the answer they’re getting better or is it getting worse, but they’ll do so with the help of experts in water quality from that particular region in the country.

So, the data sources for this information, could include, we try to focus as much as we can on published information in the scientific literature, but we have to rely on other people’s data as well as our own. And the marine sanctuaries do collect some of their own data, but by and large, we depend on our partners for not just volunteering their expert services and coming up with answers to our questions, but in providing data to help do so. And we invite particular people because we know they have information to bring to the table.  

HOST: Are condition reports complete for all sanctuaries?

STEVE GITTINGS: Twelve of the 14 management units have completed their condition reports to date. Once those two are complete, we’ll go back to the beginning and start again with Stellwagen Bank which did the first one. So on a five-year cycle we try to repeat these condition reports, but the 12 out of the 14 are up on the web and available for anybody to look at.

But each one of them is written in a fashion that starts with a description of the pressures on the sanctuary – that is the type of human activities occurring that influence or could affect ecosystem condition. And then the questions themselves are answered in the middle of the report. And then the reports all end with a section on management responses to the pressures that were described at the beginning of the report.

The reason these reports are really written is not just for us to get a feel for whether our management effectiveness is good or not, but that is one reason, but they’re also written for the general public who’s interested in participating in the public process that we use to help us decide what management activities are going to be priorities for the next five to ten years. We call it a management plan review process. So these reports really are written to inform the public as much as they are written to inform us.

(FURTHER EXPLORATION)
HOST: Steve, how is research organized or coordinated at a sanctuary to avoid overuse of this resource that we’re ultimately trying to protect?

STEVE GITTNGS: Well, within our program, we have a permitting system and that’s basically the way we control access or extraction from marine sanctuaries. So, for much of the research that’s conducted, if it’s going to violate a sanctuary regulation that would otherwise be an illegal activity, a permit is required. So breaking off corals or in some cases taking shells, sand, or whatever it might be, if those are part of a research activity, we want to know about it and some of those would require permits. Sometimes research activities don’t obviously, but we still would like to know about it so we can track what research happens in the sanctuary.

HOST: How is the data collected for the condition reports?

STEVE GITTINGS: Well, that very much depends on the question and the particular metric that we’re trying to get at. So, if we’re talking about the natural resource side of things – water quality, habitat quality, or living resource qualities – it could involve instrumented gadgets on the bottom, it could involve buoys that are collecting air or water quality information directly, it could involve sampling from ships, boats, divers, there are all sorts of ways that data are collected. A lot of living resource data in coral reef environments is from photographic evidence on the bottom, so photographic data can be translated to numerical information.

A lot of remotely collected information, either by satellite or sonar systems, there are people out there with plankton tows collecting information on krill abundance or something related to that. We tag whales by approaching them with rubber boats with long poles on them and slap suction tags on them and the whales swim off and gather data for us. So there’s a whole variety of ways in which data are collected. And, like I said before, a lot of the data itself is not collected by marine sanctuary people, but by instruments or by other people who happen to be working in the marine sanctuaries and are willing to let their data be used for our purposes.

HOST: How does your monitoring plan change after an event like a hurricane or an oil spill?

STEVE GITTINGS: Well the event itself will dictate whether or not the frequency of the monitoring or the type of monitoring should change. And in most cases, it will. We have events like algal blooms that are just massive abundances of certain planktonic algae that happen to change the color of the water and can cause fish kills and can cause noxious odors that affect humans. So when those kinds of events occur, of course you have to track where these things are going, the levels of abundance and so forth, and when the threat is gone.

Coral bleaching is another process that happens not every summer, but quite frequently in the summer, in the coral reef sites. We track coral bleaching as best we can throughout the summer to find out whether mortality follows or recovery follows. And to do that you have to monitor pretty regularly.

Ship groundings need immediate attention when it comes to tracking the damage caused by the ship when it grounded and then starting to investigate the recovery process and the nature of the recovery as it occurs, because that’s not only a matter of management and science interest, but a legal one too, it becomes part of a court case that is eventually made against the responsible party, so frequency has to increase there. And the same goes for spills, whether it’s oil or something else, you can imagine, you want to be out every day or so to track the progress or the movement of those spills so that you can see what resources are at risk as a result.

I should also say that right now there’s a massive effort to respond with scientific studies and monitoring related to the spill going on in the Gulf of Mexico. There’s a whole phase that we’re moving into on that called the Natural Resource Damage Assessment phase. Where as after we’re done responding to the spill or even while we’re still responding to the spill, we start to assess the damage caused by any oil that might have damaged resources. So there are Natural Resource Damage Assessments being conducted in the marshlands, offshore, for birds, for turtles, you name it, there’s studies going on related to that BP spill related to that the resource damages.

(SCIENCE TO MANAGEMENT)
HOST: So now that we’ve looked a lot at the data collection process – how data’s collected, how often, understanding a little bit more about condition reports. What happens when one of these condition reports is completed? How is it used at a sanctuary site?

STEVE GITTINGS: Well, one of the primary reasons we do the condition reports is to help us understand whether our management approaches are working. We have certain goals for each marine sanctuary with regard to protecting biodiversity or improving the status or trends of certain resources so we use these reports to help us determine whether or not that’s in fact occurring. They also help us identify gaps or areas that need more attention than we’ve been giving them in the past.

Now the sanctuaries use most of this information, along with input from the public, to help develop what they call a management plan or revise a management plan. We have management plan revisions that occur every five to ten years or so and the information from those condition reports helps us revise those plans. And those become action plans for the next five to ten years. So you can imagine the information in the condition reports becomes a critical component of five to ten years worth of work in the future.

They also identify human activities that are particularly threatening to natural resources or archaeological resources, which are also in our purview. So, we can make determinations about whether certain human activities need to be controlled in the future and make proposals along those lines if we feel they do. They also determine whether or not marine sanctuaries should be expanded or the shape should change.

Now some of the other ways, I’ll give you a few examples, of ways in which the different marine sanctuaries have used information coming from the condition reports.

At Gray’s Reef, a marine sanctuary off Georgia, about 20 square miles I believe, there were problems there with the abundance of certain species of fish that were being targeted by spearfishermen solely and other species of course weren’t, these were the large carnivorous species on the bottom, and the managers at Gray’s Reef used some of the information from their condition report to support a decision to ban spearfishing in that sanctuary.

At the Monitor, they determined in their condition report that they were severely lacking in water quality monitoring and that eventually led to a partnership with the North Carolina Aquarium for the aquarium to pick up the duties along the lines of monitoring water quality. So it expanded the nature of what that marine sanctuary had been doing, it’s an archaeological site solely, but water quality information is important even to a site like that because you need to understand corrosion potential of the water and things like that.

In the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, one of the volunteer programs that they conduct, uses the condition report as part of their training curriculum.

HOST: For our listeners today, if someone’s interested in volunteering, how would they find more information?

STEVE GITTINGS: Some of the sanctuaries have actual volunteer coordinators, some of the sanctuaries coordinate volunteers through their research program directly. So, contacting any individual marine sanctuary is by far the best way to get involved as a volunteer. Recognizing that there’s some training involved, in most marine sanctuaries at least, to get the volunteers started and to keep them on track. So there is a bit of a commitment on the training time as well as on the field time. The easiest way to get involved is to directly contact the marine sanctuary and they’ll direct you to the right place, to the right person who would coordinate those volunteer activities.

HOST: Steve, because we have listeners that don’t necessarily live along the coast or in areas close to our national marine sanctuaries, how is all of the research and exploration you’ve talked about today, how is it important to them? And actually, really, how is it important to all of us?

STEVE GITTINGS: Well, most of the research that we conduct in the sanctuaries is all focused on understanding the ocean itself and the ecosystems supported in the ocean and whether or not those ecosystems are maintaining their integrity.

A healthy ocean in general is critical to all of us. We all depend on the ocean every day for so many things including fresh water through rain; we depend on it for absorbing our greenhouse gases we produce in our manufacturing processes, in our power generation, in our transportation systems; food; medicine directly comes from the ocean; the ocean controls our weather; keeps the Earth from overheating.

And it’s only through research and exploration, some of which is conducted in our marine sanctuaries, that we’ll ever understand the full measure of services that are provided by the ocean to us and be able to use the resources of the ocean in a sustainable way.

So all of us either on the coast or inland, I believe we need to think in new ways about the ocean, and the Earth for that matter. Ways that promote lifestyles that sustain our planet, not using the planet to sustain our lifestyles.

HOST: Thanks Steve for joining us on Diving Deeper and talking more about the kinds of research happening in our national marine sanctuaries. To learn more, please visit sanctuaries.noaa.gov/science.


[Shorts] Marine Debris

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/aug10/dds082610.mp3

Thu, 26 Aug 2010 10:36:30 -0400

Diving Deeper Shorts: Episode 3 (August 26, 2010) - Marine Debris

(INTRO)
HOST: Today on Diving Deeper Shorts, we will revisit our previous interview on marine debris with Megan Forbes from NOAA’s Marine Debris Program.

Let’s listen in.

HOST: What are some of the most common types of marine debris?

MEGAN FORBES: That really depends on where you look. There’s no one type of marine debris. It can be anything from trash or litter that people don’t dispose of correctly to a large conglomerate of nets or traps that have become abandoned in the marine environment. There’s a lot of different types of marine debris out there.

HOST: Where does marine debris come from?

MEGAN FORBES: It comes from everywhere, all over the globe. It’s a direct product of human use. The important thing to know is that you don’t have to live near the ocean to have an effect on marine debris. A lot of people think, “well, I live in the middle of the country, I don’t have an effect on the ocean,” but that’s not really true. Many times the trash is not disposed of properly and it ends up in storm drains or rivers or creeks that eventually make their way out to the ocean.

Water currents and wind action move this debris across our planet and sometimes it ends up back on our beaches and other times it ends up in countries across the globe.  You can see that marine debris moves quite efficiently, unfortunately.  Sometimes it’ll come directly from a ship whether it’s dumped or accidentally goes overboard if there is a shipwreck or something like that. So, as I said, there’s a lot of ways that marine debris enters the water, but there is only one source and that’s human beings.

HOST: We know that marine debris can injure and kill marine life, but how does this happen?

MEGAN FORBES: There are a number of ways that animals can be injured by marine debris. It can be ingested or eaten by marine animals because they mistake it for the food that they commonly see in the water. Animals don’t know what trash is – they don’t produce it, they don’t see anything like that in their environment. So, therefore, it’s the case of something like a floating plastic bag, for example, it looks just like a jellyfish, which is very common food for animals like sea turtles and sharks.

Trash and especially abandoned fishing gear can trap marine animals as they’re swimming along and that’s called becoming entangled. They get wrapped up or entangled in these different substances in either nets or crab traps sometimes different types of trash. And this can be especially a problem for marine mammals and sea turtles because they need to breathe air as we all know. And being entangled in something it makes it difficult for them to rise up to the surface and breathe, so a lot of times they’ll drown. Even animals that don’t breathe air, when they become entangled, it’s a difficulty for them because it reduces their movement through the water and they can become easier prey for predators. So, there’s many different ways that these animals can be injured.

(OUTRO)
That’s all for today’s Diving Deeper Shorts, where we highlight a few minutes of your favorite Diving Deeper episodes.

Want to learn more? Go to https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast.html and select the February 2009 podcast archive to listen to the full interview with Megan Forbes on marine debris.

You can catch the next episode of Diving Deeper on September 9.


[Shorts] Tides

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/aug10/dds081210.mp3

Thu, 12 Aug 2010 12:47:50 -0400

Diving Deeper Shorts: Episode 2 (August 12, 2010) - Tides

(INTRO)
HOST: Today on Diving Deeper Shorts, we will revisit our previous interview on tides with Steve Gill from NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services.

Let’s listen in.

HOST: Steve, what is the difference between a tide and a current?

STEVE GILL: Well, that’s a good question and typically the first thing I cover in many of my talks with students. The word “tides” is a general term used to define the alternating rise and fall in sea level with respect to the land. So, tides are characterized by water moving up and down during the day. Currents on the other hand move horizontally rather than vertically. Currents describe the horizontal motion of the water and are driven by several factors, one of those is tides; another is the wind. The horizontal movement of water that accompanies the rising and falling of the daily tides is called the tidal current.

HOST: So basically tides move up and down and currents move back and forth. What causes tides?

STEVE GILL: Gravity is one of the major forces that causes tides. Tides are caused by the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun. The gravitational forces are counterbalanced by the outward force of inertia from the moon revolving around the Earth and Earth revolving around the sun in their orbital paths. The combination of these two forces results in the tide-producing forces. So, ocean tides are a combination of lunar tides (lunar meaning the moon) and solar tides (solar meaning the sun).

HOST: Why do we study tides?

STEVE GILL: Well, we study tides for a variety of reasons. If we know the times, heights, and extents of both the inflow and outflow of the tidal waters we can better navigate through the intracoastal waterways and within the estuaries, bays, harbors; and we can work on harbor engineering projects such as the construction of bridges and docks; and we can collect data critical to fishing, boating, surfing, and many other water-related sports. We put in tide stations to measure the tides and analyze the data so that we can predict the tides and publish tide tables. And this is just to name a few of the ways that we use tidal data to help us in our daily lives.

(OUTRO)
That’s all for today’s Diving Deeper Shorts, where we highlight a few minutes of your favorite Diving Deeper episodes.

Want to learn more? Go to https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast.html and select the April 2009 podcast archive to listen to the full interview with Steve Gill on tides.


[Diving Deeper Shorts] Dead Zone

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/july10/dds072910.mp3

Thu, 29 Jul 2010 16:41:27 -0400

Diving Deeper Shorts: Episode 1 (July 29, 2010) - Dead Zone
Dead Zone

(INTRO)
HOST: Welcome to the first episode of Diving Deeper Shorts, where we highlight a few minutes of your favorite Diving Deeper episodes.

Today we will revisit our previous interview on dead zones and hypoxia with Dr. Rob Magnien from NOAA’s Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research.

Let’s listen in.

HOST: Rob, what is hypoxia?

ROB MAGNIEN: Hypoxia is areas of our estuaries, coasts, or oceans with low levels or no oxygen dissolved in the water. These areas are often referred to as “dead zones” since most marine life either dies, or, if they are mobile such as fish, leave the area. Thus, habitats that would normally be teaming with life become, essentially, biological deserts.

HOST: What causes a dead zone or hypoxia to occur?

ROB MAGNIEN: Hypoxic zones can occur naturally, but the ones we are most concerned about are those created or enhanced by human activity. There are many physical, chemical, and biological factors that conspire to create dead zones, but nutrient pollution is the primary cause of those created by humans. Excess nutrients that run off land or are piped as wastewater into our rivers and coasts can stimulate an overgrowth of algae, which then sinks and decomposes in the water. The decomposition process consumes oxygen and depletes the supply available to healthy marine life.

HOST: Where do dead zones occur in the U.S.?

ROB MAGNIEN: Kate, dead zones occur in many areas of the country, particularly along the East Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Great Lakes, but there is no part of the country, or the world for that matter, that is immune. The second largest dead zone in the world is located right here in the U.S. in the northern Gulf of Mexico and the ones in the Chesapeake Bay and Lake Erie are not far behind in size.

(OUTRO)
That’s all for today’s Diving Deeper Shorts.

Want to learn more? Go to https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast.html and select the July 2009 podcast archive to listen to the full interview with Dr. Magnien on dead zones.

You can catch the next episode of Diving Deeper in August.


Why do we map habitats on the sea floor?

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/july10/dd071510.mp3

Thu, 15 Jul 2010 11:41:17 -0400

Diving Deeper: Episode 25 (July 15, 2010) —
Why do we map habitats on the sea floor?

(INTRO)
HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I’m your host Kate Nielsen.

Today’s question is….Why do we map habitats on the sea floor?
 
NOAA scientists use a variety of state-of-the-art tools and technologies to both visualize and map deep habitats on the sea floor.

To help us dive a little deeper into this question, we will talk with Tim Battista on habitat mapping. Tim is an oceanographer with NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science’s Biogeography Branch. Hi Tim, welcome to our show.

TIM BATTISTA: Hi Kate, thanks for having me here today.

(DEFINING SEA FLOOR MAPPING)
HOST: Tim, so you’re part of the biogeography branch. What does biogeography mean?

TIM BATTISTA: Well, biogeography is the study of how animals and organisms, marine life, distribute themselves in the sea environment - how they associate with different habitats on the sea floor. And so we study how fish and whales and turtles and so forth how they explore and utilize the sea floor.

HOST: Tim, why is it important to do this kind of work?

TIM BATTISTA: We know so much about the world above the oceans – that is what’s going on on land, what types of environments are on land, just for example the state of our forests, the seagrasses, the wetlands, but we know so little about what goes on below the ocean surface. And that’s really where my role comes into play because there’s so much to understand and to just describe at a bare minimum. My role within NOAA is to help us better understand what is going on on our sea floor, what are the state of the habitats, the organisms, and the features on the sea bottom, and what are their distributions. For example, coral reef ecosystems, how much is there, what condition is it in, and where is it. So some very basic, fundamental questions that we really are just trying to address right now.

HOST: Who uses these maps and what do they use them for?

TIM BATTISTA: Right. So, a habitat map is basically a map – it could be a hard copy map or it could be a digital map – and there are a variety of different habitats on the sea floor, everything from something as simple as sand or mud to actually something that’s growing and living and breathing and providing a home for other organisms like fish or birds or so forth. And so we need to figure out what those are first and that’s very important information for a local community or a manager who is trying to conserve those resources. So providing the manager in a location that habitat map provides a critical piece of information for them to do their job. Once they have that roadmap of the bottom, then they can start determining what are the best rules or regulations or practices to preserve and conserve those features that all of us want to enjoy and make sure that those habitats continue into the future for everyone to enjoy.

HOST: Great, so helping to conserve the ocean resources for many generations down the road.

TIM BATTISTA: That’s correct, so we’re trying to come up with a map for the present state of things and from that we can evaluate how those habitats change over time and we know they change just in the normal course of action – things grow or expand or reduce – but there’s also impacts to those environments. Some of those are natural, we can think of hurricanes as being a natural event. Some of them are unnatural, that are human induced, it could be an oil spill, it could be a development of property on land which has an impact in the coastal environment, it could be fishing. So all those things are important to understand and make the connection with how they are impacting the habitats on the sea floor so that we can better understand how to protect them and maintain them.

(DATA COLLECTION)
HOST: So, it’s probably quite a challenge to collect data on the sea floor at all these different depths throughout the world as you’re saying you travel. How do you collect this data?

TIM BATTISTA: So, in making a sea floor map, we use a variety of technologies and those technologies have limitations. So I kind of envision it as a Swiss Army knife. A Swiss Army knife has a whole bunch of tools in it and we pick the right tool for the particular situation. So if you’re working in very shallow waters, say something like 0 to 30 feet (0 to 9.14 meters) which is pretty shallow, we can use one set of technologies, but as we work deeper, it gets much more challenging, and so we have to switch to other technologies that allow us to do that.

So again, in this Swiss Army knife approach, we end up using a variety of techniques to try and map the sea floor from generally we map from about water depths of 0 which is the shoreline out to 1,000 meters (3,281 feet) which is very deep, certainly well beyond scuba diving or humans typically visit. Again, the deeper you go, the greater stresses are, but the deeper you go, there are still important habitats out there that we need to know about and understand how they’re operating. And I can speak to some of the technologies that we use.

HOST: That would be great.

TIM BATTISTA: Some of them are actually fairly available to anyone. We’re all familiar with Google Earth and Google Maps, which allow us to see imagery, mostly of the land environment, we can bring up a satellite image of your house or something like that or street map. We use the same imagery to do habitat mapping and these are actually commercial satellites that fly in space, overhead, and we’re able to task those to take pictures of locations that we want to map. So those satellites are flying overhead, they revisit an area quite frequently and they can actually take pictures of the coastal/marine environment, and they’re quite effective to a depth of about 30 meters (9.14 meters).  

Beyond that we have to switch to other technologies and there’s a reason for that. Commercial satellites take pictures and light only penetrates so far to the sea floor and so we can only see things to the depth that the light penetrates. So once we get to that threshold where light doesn’t see the sea bottom any more we have to switch to something else. And typically what we use is what’s known as acoustic technologies. Acoustic being to use the sound to penetrate the water and get down to the bottom of the sea floor. And we’re also entering into using some of the latest technologies which are what they call autonomous vehicles, which are almost like a torpedo that operate on their own. So the acoustic and the commercial satellites are really pretty much what we’re using these days for mapping purposes.

HOST: Tim, can you talk to us a little bit more about these acoustic or the sound technologies that you’ve just mentioned?

TIM BATTISTA: We use acoustic technologies to help us map the features on the sea floor. And the acoustic technologies basically are equipment that broadcasts sound, it emits a sound pulse. And that pulse of sound, travels through the water to the bottom and is reflected back to the sensor, to the ship, and then we record that when it returns. And I like to think of it as, if you were standing say at the Grand Canyon, and you are a sound producing machine, you have a voice, so you say something really loud, and your voice goes out and then the echo returns back to you.

And that’s essentially what we’re doing with an acoustic system. It is broadcasting a voice and we’re measuring the amount of time for that echo to return. So as we’re sitting there at the Grand Canyon, if we hear a voice come back really quickly, then we know that property or the object that it’s bouncing off of is relatively close. If it takes a long time for your voice to return, then that feature that the sound is reflecting off of is pretty far away and that’s the same idea with an acoustic system. In this case, we’re just measuring how deep the sea floor is.

The other thing that we’re actually trying to record from the acoustic system is something about the feature that the sound is reflected off of because not only do we want to know how deep it is, we want to know what it is because we know the sea floor could be mud or sand or coral. I like to think of it as singing in the shower. We all like to sing in the shower because it makes our voice sound really great, right. We have very hard tile or something hard in the shower, your voice reflects off of it very strongly, it sounds great. But if you were to sing, let’s just say, in the closet where it’s full of clothes, the sound comes back sort of muffled, doesn’t it? And the reason is because a lot of that sound is being absorbed by the clothes.

So it’s the same idea when we use an acoustic system. The sound goes down to the sea floor. If there’s mud on the bottom, a lot of it’s going to be absorbed by the mud and not much of it’s going to return back up. But if it’s a hard bottom like a coral habitat, a lot of that sound is going to be reflected back to the sensor and we can detect those changes. So that’s what’s so great about these acoustic systems because not only can they tell us how deep it is, but they can also tell us something that’s on the sea floor.

HOST: Tim, can you tell us a little bit about what a day is like or what a mission is like when you go out to collect this data?

TIM BATTISTA: So typically my role is principal scientist, my job is to not only bring the scientists on board to do various tasks with their expertise, but also to come up with a design for the research mission, so all the bits and pieces that we want fulfilled during our research mission.

In any given day as a principal scientist, I have to articulate to my scientists what exactly we’re going to be doing within the course of a day, and that changes generally based on the time of day it is. So we know during daylight hours we can do scuba diving, we can work on small boats doing collection there, so that’s typically what we do during the day. I should also mention we also use a remotely operated vehicle, which is a robot, it has a tether that comes to the surface, to the boat, which allows us to control it and manipulate the robot and take pictures and samples. Those are all daytime activities.

And then at nighttime we switch over to what we call mapping I guess, taking our acoustics, the term is called ‘mowing the lawn.’ You literally draw, on the computer, lines that the ship is to follow, and those lines are parallel to each other and we mow the lawn at night collecting data and data. And we use that data the next day to figure out where we’re going to go with the ROV or the small boats or the diver. It kind of makes sense – you collect data at night to help you determine what you’re going to do the next day. So all this goes on 24 hours a day, every day for two and a half to three weeks. 

HOST: So Tim, when you’re out and you’re doing one of these missions, what might be some of the challenges that you run into to?

TIM BATTISTA: Right, we’re very fortunate that some of our work, we’re able to use NOAA ships – large oceanographic vessels. One of the ones in particular that we tend to use repeatedly is the NOAA ship Nancy Foster. That vessel’s about 180 feet long and 40 feet wide and that ship is able to go out for about two and a half weeks that we can go and conduct our research. So it’s great to be able to have that platform to use and have a station that we can conduct research.

We’re operating 24 hours a day in these locations, but being on a ship has its own challenges as well. We work a lot in the Caribbean, which as nice as it may sound also has its fair share of weather conditions. We have been in situations where there have been hurricanes that have come through. You just can’t operate in those kind of sea states. Even on a day-to-day basis, trying to get work done on a floating houseboat that’s moving up and down and sideways can be challenging for some people. And we’re down in these rooms down below, darkened rooms, looking at computer screens, trying to get the work done. So, working at sea conditions has been probably the most challenging thing.

HOST: Tim, what would you say is your most memorable mission?

TIM BATTISTA: A couple things come to mind. We’ve been working a lot in the Caribbean recently trying to better understand the coral habitats that are there. What we’ve been trying to study and learn more about are the habitats that are important for fish distribution. There’s an important fishing community down there catching fish that we all love to eat – grouper, snapper – and there’s not a lot known about where those fish are living at night or during the daytime, how many there are.

So last year, we were very fortunate, we were able to bring on board the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster a new technology and it is a scientific grade fish finder. And what it does is use again sound and it transmits sound into the water, but what’s different than a bottom mapping system where we’re trying to detect what’s on the sea floor. This particular system actually maps what’s in the water column – so what’s above the bottom to the surface. And it’s very useful for finding fish.

So we’ve been using this equipment to try to figure out where those spawning events are occurring, what types of fish are spawning, and how many there are. So we were fortunate that last year when we were working on the eastern side of Puerto Rico in an island known as Vieques, not a largely inhabited island, and we were actually able to detect a large spawning event of some grouper, a large school of them, it was just phenomenal to see this happening, and then once we detected it on the acoustic instrument, we put the ROV in the water, our robot, and we were able to take pictures of it simultaneously to see the behaviors of the fish, how they were interacting with each other. So we gathered a whole host of information just right in that one event that really nobody knew much about before. I think information like that will be really useful, both now and in the long term as we try to better protect fish populations.

(NOAA’S ROLE)
HOST: Great. You have probably the dream job that so many people are interested in. Tim, can we talk a little bit about what is NOAA’s role? Why is NOAA doing these kinds of sea floor habitat maps?

TIM BATTISTA: So NOAA’s involvement, particularly in what I’m working with, and that is mapping coral environments, was started under President Bill Clinton. He signed an executive order and that was really the stimulus for NOAA to be engaged both in providing scientific expertise, platforms like the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster, but also funding dollars that went along with that. And that really has been the springboard for developing a huge program and it’s been critical. We know, or knew, so little about the state, the distribution, and the health of coral reef ecosystems. So we have been focusing on that since NOAA got engaged in 1999.

We’re studying not only Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, but anywhere within the U.S. that there are coral reef environments, so that includes states such as Florida, Georgia, any of the coastal states that have coral systems as well as Hawaii; territories like the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, Guam; and also the Republic of Palau, the Marshall Islands. So NOAA’s involvement extends geographically to all those and we’re trying to support them in collecting at least in our case the mapping data, the fundamental information on the distribution of coral habitats in these locations. That provides a critical piece of information that ultimately will give the local managers, the people who are charged with protecting those resources in those locations, the information content that they can do their jobs better. So we, NOAA, are able to bring to bear expertise, we’re able to bring NOAA ships, platforms, and technologies. We work with them, very closely, to produce the products that they need to do their jobs better and that is an ongoing relationship and one that we hope to continue to serve.

HOST: Sounds like a very important relationship. I’m sure there’s a lot of other economic benefits as well for these local communities that you’re supporting. How do these maps tie to that?

TIM BATTISTA: Sure, I mean, when we think about the local economy of places where there are coral reef ecosystems, tourism is a huge part of their economy. People come to visit, to experience that, to enjoy it, and they want to go scuba diving on coral reefs and so it is in the best interest of these locations obviously to preserve and protect those to make sure that people keep coming back. Fishing of course is a big part of their economy as well. And maintaining a healthy balance of the fish that they take, but also maintaining those fish for the future as well. And then these locations also deal with the extreme events that we talked about, they deal with hurricanes, they deal with extreme events that change those environments, so we can provide information to help them better mitigate those risks.

HOST: Tim, when a habitat map is completed for an area, are you finished? Does it ever need to be remapped or other research that’s needed for that area?

TIM BATTISTA: What we are trying to do when we produce a habitat map, it’s a static snapshot of what’s on the sea floor at that given time when we collected the data. But those are living, breathing environments down there. So ultimately what we want to do is detect changes over time to assess the condition of those coral habitats and so that’s where we have to have repeat mapping. So if we are able to remap a location five to ten years after the initial mapping, then we can look for patterns of changes and then we can make those connections with how the humans are impacting, are utilizing those coastal environments. So mapping, yes, it’s not a static event, it’s something that we have to do repeatedly to monitor change and assess change and management practices over time.

HOST: Tim, do you have any final closing words for our listeners today?

TIM BATTISTA: My final closing words, I’d like to really encourage young folks that are out there that are considering oceanography, mapping, who are interested in state-of-the-art technologies – this is a really exciting profession and one that frankly needs a whole new generation of folks to take what we’re doing and push it even further. So I really encourage folks who are interested in this and hearing this to contact us or learn more about it. I think there’s tremendous opportunities and it is one of the most exciting professions that I know of.

HOST: Thanks Tim for joining us on Diving Deeper and talking more about sea floor mapping and coral habitats. To learn more, please visit ccma.nos.noaa.gov/about/biogeography.   


How do we measure tides?

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/jun10/dd061610.mp3

Wed, 16 Jun 2010 09:52:36 -0400

Diving Deeper: Episode 24 (June 16, 2010) —
How do we measure tides?

(INTRO)
HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I’m your host Kate Nielsen.

Today’s question is….How do we measure tides?

Tides are basically very long-period waves that move through the oceans in response to the forces exerted by the moon and the sun. Tides begin in the oceans and then move towards the coast where they appear as the regular rise and fall of the sea surface.

To help us dive a little deeper into this question, we will talk with Tom Landon on measuring tides – both how we do this and then what the data is actually used for. Tom is an oceanographer with NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services. Hi Tom, welcome to our show.

TOM LANDON: Hi Kate, thanks for having me.

(IMPORTANCE OF MEASURING TIDES)
HOST: Tom, we interviewed your colleague Steve Gill back in April 2009 about tides. Can you remind us what the difference is between tides and currents?

TOM LANDON: Well, it’s actually quite simple Kate. Tides are the alternating rise and fall of the water level. It’s a vertical movement in oceans, bays, rivers, estuaries, any of the water bodies along the coast. And those vertical water level movements are caused by the gravitational forces of the sun and the moon. Tidal currents on the other hand are the horizontal movement of the water. The speed and direction of the currents in those bodies of water.

HOST: What kind of data do scientists, yourself and your colleagues, what do you typically collect for tides? What is tidal data?

TOM LANDON: Tidal data is basically the time and the height of the water level relative to a datum, which is a reference plane, a height that you use as your reference plane. And for example, what we call mean lower low water which is the average of all of the lower low waters over a 19-year period, that’s used as the reference plane for nautical charting so all the depths are referred to mean lower low water. And then all the bridge clearances and things like that, overhead cables, they’re all referred to the average of all the high waters.

HOST: So why is it important to measure tides? Who really uses this tidal data and what do they use it for?

TOM LANDON: Well Kate, there’s a wide variety of uses of tidal data. NOAA uses it specifically for hydrographic and shoreline mapping support. We produce all of the nautical charts and they have to have a shoreline reference and they also have to have a reference for the depths.

Ship captains and pilots use both real-time data and averages for real-time navigation support. They want to ensure safe navigation in and out of harbors and they also want to get the most efficient commerce. So they use tide data quite a bit in their travels and one of the things they also refer to in terms of safety is a thing we call air gap, which is the distance between the bottom of a bridge and the water level.

The Army Corps of Engineers uses tide data extensively for all their dredging projects because they have to have a reference datum on how deep to dredge the channel. Coastal engineers use it for any kind of construction project along the coast – bridges, condominiums, bulkheads, anything like that. Ecosystem managers now use tide data extensively for both long-term planning and for special projects such as marsh restoration projects. A good example right now is the oil spill in the Gulf. The people who run the Hazmat group, the hazardous materials response team, they use tide data extensively to map where oil spills are going to travel and what the tide measurements might do in terms of the effect of the oil spill along the coast.

Emergency managers during hurricanes use tide data extensively to both plan for the safety of people and protection of property. Scientists and engineers both use tide data, long-term tide data, to monitor changes in sea level, sea level changes over time and they’ve been watching that very closely over the last ten years probably and it will become a more and more popular topic as time goes on. And then lastly even fishermen use tide data, they want to know when the best times to go fishing are.

HOST: You mentioned air gap in your last response. What exactly is air gap and why is this important?

TOM LANDON: Air gap is that distance between the bottom of a bridge and the water level. And as tide changes, that distance also changes. And if you could picture a tide curve with a high and a low tide, an air gap measurement would actually be the reverse of that. So when the tide was high the air gap would be the least and when the tide was low the air gap would be the greatest.

Now, a really dramatic example of that is a recent article in the news about the USS New York, which is a billion-dollar Navy ship that was built on the Mississippi River upstream of New Orleans and when it came time to go to sea trials, they had to get it down the Mississippi River under at least two different bridges and out to sea. Well, the water level was such that the air gap, the clearance that they had to work with was very, very tight, and using our information with recently installed air gap sensors, we gave them the proper water level measurements and the air gap height so that they safely navigated under the Huey P. Long bridge, they cleared it by about two and a half feet. So less than a yard stick between the top of the ship and the bottom of the bridge. So that’s how critical that air gap measurement is.

HOST: Thank you, great example there. Tom, what types of tools are used to measure tides? Do we use things like buoys?

TOM LANDON: The primary method of measuring tides is a tide station, Kate. Nowadays, they actually use buoys that have GPS receivers attached to them and as the buoy rises up and down with the changes in water level, the actual measurement, the height measurement, can be tracked through the GPS satellite. So that’s pretty cool.

But, when you get right down to the very simplest tool, it would be equivalent to putting a yard stick in the water and measuring how far up and down the yard stick the water rises and falls and you can measure that. And if you were to sit there hour after hour after hour for days and days, you could actually get measurements and draw a tide curve. That’s how we started, way back when Thomas Jefferson started the Coast Survey, it was a simple thing as a tide staff.

Then as time went on, we migrated to recording-type gauges that had a float that rose and fell inside a protective pipe and they used that rise and fall of the float to record the actual heights on a gauge. Well, that continued to develop and where we are now is that we use things like acoustic sensors, microwave sensors, we still use float gauges, but it’s more modern technology now and we transmit all that data through the GOES satellite. It can collect data every six minutes now rather than once every hour or once every day when looking at the tide staff. It’s very, very real-time now.

(MEASURING TIDES - TIDE STATIONS)
HOST: That’s great, so there’s a lot of different sensors that collect different tidal information for your needs. Are they housed together in some way?

TOM LANDON: Yes, basically a tide station is a collection of instruments within some kind of protective enclosure. It could be a little house, it could just be an enclosure like you would see at an intersection, a traffic light enclosure. It’s slightly bigger than that, but that’s the look of the more modern tide stations and the tide station also would include permanent reference marks on the land in the vicinity of the tide station to which the tidal heights could be referred to through standard surveying techniques.

But anyway, within these enclosures we have a data collection platform which is basically the electronics box which gathers all the measurements and then processes them and sends them out through the GOES transmitter through the satellite and back down to the ground station. So there’s the data collection platform and then you have the various water level sensors, it could be an acoustic sensor, it could be a sensor that measures the difference in water pressure above a certain point as the water rises and falls the pressure changes.

There’s also a more modern microwave sensor and a microwave sensor basically sends microwaves from the sensor down to the water and measures that distance using microwave technology. The acoustic sensor basically sends a sound pulse down a tube, bounces it off the water, and measures the height from the sensor to the water level from the time that it takes the acoustic sound to go down and back again. The last thing that a typical tide station would include would be a very little GPS antenna that basically gets the timing signal from the GPS satellites and it keeps exact time, never varies by more than a couple microseconds. It’s a very accurate timing system and keeps all the measurements exactly on time continuously.

HOST: How is a tide station set up out in the water? How do you get all this equipment out there and set up one of these stations?

TOM LANDON: It can either be a very simple process or it can be quite involved. We do have short-term tide stations that are used for hydrographic projects or Army Corps of Engineers projects. And they may be installed and only operate for three to six months. The permanent stations that we install are rather involved and like I said the components would be all the sensors that I previously mentioned and the enclosure and if you were to go to any coastal area, no two tide stations are going to look the same. Some of them might be similar, but each and every one is kind of like your fingerprint, it’s distinct. The one in Baltimore is an old wood frame house that looks old, it’s been there a long time, the one at say Clearwater Beach is one of these more modern, white aluminum boxes and it has a NOAA symbol on the outside so you know that it’s related to NOAA.

One of the things I forgot to mention at the beginning, in addition to measuring tides, we’re also responsible for measuring all of the water levels in the Great Lakes. And in the Great Lakes a typical water level station looks like a small brick building. They build it out of brick and block and it’s meant to last 50 to 100 years. And some of the more recently installed houses actually have some artwork on the outside. We have a connection up in the Great Lakes where this lady paints the door and the front of the house in a coastal scene with the NOAA symbol on it so it’s very unique and that just pops right out at you when you see it.

HOST: What kind of equipment is part of a station?

TOM LANDON: A lot of the more recent, say in the last five years, tide stations that we’ve installed include a standard set of meteorological sensors and that would include a set of anemometers, wind sensors, we always use two now so in case the first one breaks, the second one hopefully would be still recording the data and the wind measurements are really critical during hurricanes of course. We usually have an air temperature sensor, and then we also have a barometric pressure sensor.

HOST: You just talked a little bit about hurricanes and some of the strong winds that can come with these. How are tide stations able to hold up or withstand, what is their track record during that time?

TOM LANDON: Sometimes the storms get the better of us. We have lost tide stations in the past on some of the stronger hurricanes. Ivan, back in 2004, destroyed a couple different stations down on the Gulf coast. And of course Katrina, Katrina got a number of them. So they are vulnerable, depending on where they’re located and there’s been a very planned effort in the last six to seven years probably to build stronger and better tide stations, better able to withstand the strength of at least a category three to a category five hurricane.

Now there are some places where the tide station is located on a very strong pier and really that’s about all you can do, you don’t need anything better than that. The tide stations are located on a variety of different types of piers and when they’re vulnerable to hurricanes, we have made an attempt to what we call ‘harden’ them. And hardening would involve putting them at a level, a height level, which would pretty much keep them out of harm’s way for any major hurricane and most recently we’ve designed these upgrades to withstand a category 4 hurricane storm surge levels as well as winds and waves. And this was all done through a very extensive engineering review process and the granddaddy of all this work was what we call the NOAA Sentinels.

And the NOAA Sentinels are a single pile, single pipe, elevated platform, well the four that we installed were in very remote places. Tthey’re typically 25 to 30 feet above the water, and the pipe is three feet in diameter when it goes from the water level up to the top platform, and then below ground its four feet in diameter. So it’s this huge pipe, and the pipe is driven anywhere from 60 to 120 feet into the bottom. So these were designed to be the ultimate answer to the hurricanes and I think it’s going to take one heck of a hurricane to damage these things. And there’s four of them down in Mississippi and Louisiana.

HOST: Great, so strategically placed then in areas that are known to be prone to those kind of coastal storms.

TOM LANDON: They were basically designed and constructed in a direct response to the damage that Katrina did. We wanted to be able to record water level and meteorological information throughout the storm and not lose the tide station. So that was our answer.

(NOS'S ROLE IN MEASURING TIDES)
HOST: Tom, what is the role of the National Ocean Service in measuring tides?

TOM LANDON: We’re authorized by Congress as the nation’s experts in tidal datums and measuring water levels. Our information is used in any kind of litigation so we’re the legal experts. We go to court with tidal information when requested. Any kind of engineering firm, Army Corps of Engineers, any of the basic users of the data also rely on the fact that we’re the nation’s experts, they all come to us for information. We’re also authorized through the Hydrographic Services Improvement Act to install and operate real-time navigation systems in major ports. So, Congressional authorization as well as the Hydrographic Services Improvement Act basically give us our orders to do this type of work.

HOST: Where does your office collect tidal data? How far off of the coast?

TOM LANDON: With the exception of say a GPS buoy and a rare offshore drilling platform, we do not go any further than the coastline. We do all our measurements from piers and docks near the coastline and the Sentinels are all within probably 60 meters of a shoreline. So they’re just offshore too. We do really no work out in the open ocean. And the areas that we cover are every place in the United States from Maine to Texas. We measure water levels in the Caribbean, also all along the West Coast, all of Alaska, and the Pacific Islands.

HOST: How many stations are in all of those areas?

TOM LANDON: We have a total of 210 permanent stations right now and then there’s probably another 100 short-term water level stations that come and go. And those are all for special projects and the real-time navigation support and things like that.

HOST: How long do stations typically last for? Is there some kind of standard maintenance that’s required as well as upgrading to new technology over the years?

TOM LANDON: Yes, there is a standard maintenance schedule and that’s annually. We try to visit each and every station at least annually to do all the basic preventative maintenance, repairs, and the surveying from the sensors to the reference markers on land, called bench marks. We also do what we call emergency maintenance, when something breaks or fails, then we send a crew out, and do emergency maintenance to restore it to operation.

Now, a standard tide station might last 30 years before you have to replace the actual enclosure. The equipment basically is just refurbished as necessary and a single data collection platform might last 20 years before you have to replace it. The equipment is pretty reliable. The sensors occasionally fail and you just replace the sensor, so it’s just swapping parts as you need to.

HOST: You’ve talked a lot about all of this data that’s out there, the many different kinds of people that use it. How can the public access this data?

TOM LANDON: Well, all our data is available on the internet. The address is www.tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov. That will take you to our Web site, from which you can get any number of different types of information regarding tides and all the different projects that we are involved with.

One of the more useful and popular places on the Web site is a page called Tides Online, its Web address is tidesonline.nos.noaa.gov. And that is an application that you can pull up any given tide station, you can search by it by state, you can search by it by region – East Coast, Gulf Coast – and it pulls up a list of all of the different tide stations and when you select a particular tide station it will show you a graphic of the actual water level, both predicted and observed.

HOST: Thanks Tom, do you have any final closing words for our listeners today?

TOM LANDON: Yes, I do Kate. NOAA does a lot of great things for the people of the United States. Our products and services are used extensively and I’ve been privileged to work here a long time and it’s always been fun, it’s always been exciting and challenging and I just encourage people to find out more about what we do and how it affects their lives.

HOST: Thanks Tom for joining us on Diving Deeper and talking more about how and why we measure tides. To learn more, please visit tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov.   


What are NOAA's navigation response teams?

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/may10/dd051910.mp3

Wed, 19 May 2010 09:46:40 -0400

Diving Deeper: Episode 23 (May 19, 2010) —
What are NOAA's navigation response teams?

(INTRO)
HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I’m your host Kate Nielsen.

Today’s question is….What are NOAA’s navigation response teams?

Navigation response teams are three-person mobile emergency response units equipped and trained to survey waterways immediately following a hurricane.

To help us dive a little deeper into this question, we will talk with Commander Larry Krepp on NOAA’s navigation response teams. Commander Krepp is the Chief for the Navigation Response Branch with NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey. Hi Commander Krepp, welcome to our show.

COMMANDER KREPP: Hi Kate, thanks for inviting me. I welcome the opportunity to let everybody know a little bit more about our navigation teams.

(BACKGROUND ON NAVIGATION RESPONSE TEAMS)
HOST: Commander Krepp, why did the National Ocean Service first establish navigation response teams?

COMMANDER KREPP: The teams were started as a system of customer response for emergency response surveys. We actually fall under a division called the Navigation Services Division and that division houses the Customer Affairs Branch where we have navigation managers stationed throughout the country, the Coast Pilot Branch falls there, as does my group, the Navigation Response Branch, consisting of our teams regionally spaced.

HOST: How many teams do we have and where are they located?

COMMANDER KREPP: We have seven teams right now. Six of them are small, trailable boat teams. The seventh team is actually the Office of Coast Survey’s research and development vessel. We keep those regionally spaced throughout the U.S. – one in the Northeast, one in the Southeast, one’s there in the Gulf of Mexico and then we have a Southwest and Northwest team, and then the research and development platform is in Lexington Park, Md.

HOST: How many people make up each team?

COMMANDER KREPP: Generally we have three people per team that allows, both for a measure of safety, we have one operator and then we generally have one of the other folks capable of running the boat and then the others do the survey processing and the data acquisition for our work. A lot of our folks are home grown. The type of work that we do is very specialized so we do take folks directly out of college and train them in NOAA hydrographic science and then have them work on the teams.

HOST: Commander Krepp, what equipment do these teams have available to use?

COMMANDER KREPP: Most all of the teams have a core of three pieces of equipment that allow us to do a wide variety of work. The first being side scan sonar. The second being a multibeam sonar and the third being a single beam echo sounder.

HOST: Can you talk a little bit about how each one works and maybe what it’s used for?

COMMANDER KREPP: I’ll start with one of the easier ones to understand and folks that watch educational programming have probably seen anything on shipwrecks, you would probably see somebody talking about side scan sonar. The sonar itself is housed in about a three-foot long towfish we call it and that’s towed behind the boat in most cases. There are two transducers, one per side, and each one of those sends out a beam of sound.

The way that it works, if you can picture yourself holding a flashlight and maybe a pencil on the table, when the light hits that pencil it creates a shadow. The same thing can happen with sound, so as the fish is being towed through the water, our technicians are getting a display on the screen that allows them to see both the objects on the sea floor and because there is a shadow cast we can measure how high an item might come off the sea floor. So that’s the side scan sonar.

The multibeam sonar has multiple beams, that’s where the multibeam comes from. So some of our units have 240 beams, each one when it hits the sea floor and comes back up or an object on the bottom, gives us a depth return so we can in essence code that depth into a color so it can provide us a three-dimensional framework to look at an object.

The difference there is that’s actually measuring depth, that’s not providing imagery per say. And then the final one is the single beam echo sounder and it measures a singular depth below the vessel.

HOST: Alright, so side scan gives you an image of maybe what’s down there based off of the sound waves bouncing back and multibeam would be used for?

COMMANDER KREPP: It provides us the bathymetry, the actual physical measurement of the depth. The other advantage to side scan is that, in most cases, you have what’s called a wider swath so you can actually cover more bottom with it. So even though you’re not getting discrete depth measurements, we can scan an area, a relatively large area much more quickly with side scan and then go back with multibeam and actually provide a detailed height profile on whatever we find on the bottom.

HOST: Very technical it sounds like and I can understand why you really have to train these teams before they’re able to go out and do this response. Obviously there are probably events that require you then to deploy a team to a location since there’s seven teams located throughout the country. What do you need to consider before you deploy a team?

COMMANDER KREPP:The main consideration that we have before we send a team is we need to know exactly what happened in the area. I’m very interested to know if there’s hazardous material, if the area’s safe to put both my technicians and our equipment there. If you folks remember, back in April there was the oil rig explosion and that remained burning for a number of days. For an instance like that, I would certainly be in contact with the Coast Guard and our folks over at NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration to see what kinds of hazardous materials there are in the area before I sent anybody in.

Secondly, I need to have an idea of what exactly our customer needs. Are we looking for a particular item? Was there a shoal somewhere that we need to better identify and provide more detail on the NOAA chart or to a user?

For emergency response, if we’re talking about hurricanes, need to know the impact of the traffic. If we need the whole channel open or if we’re just looking for a certain area that’s acting as a choke point for any vessels moving in and out of the U.S. port.

HOST: How would someone go about requesting these services?

COMMANDER KREPP: Well generally following an incident, most of our responses are made at the request of either a federal or a state entity, we’re talking about on the national level, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. On the local levels, we have state port authorities and state pilot associations. Generally those requests let me know what happened – what kind of data they need to have collected, what kind of a timeframe, is it a true emergency, is it something that can wait a couple of weeks or a month. I evaluate, one, if we have a team available in the area and just try to work it into our standard workload.

(DISASTER RESPONSE)
HOST: What types of emergencies do the navigation response teams support?

COMMANDER KREPP: As I mentioned before, probably our bread and butter if you will, are hurricane responses. That’s kind of the base of how the Navigation Response Branch and Navigation Services Division was founded. Aside from natural disaster, hurricane-type responses, we do receive various requests from agencies for anything from ship groundings, ship sinkings, we’ve had as a result of Katrina, I believe it was the Interstate 45 bridge that had collapsed, we went and did some surveying for that to identify where some of those pieces are so that they could be removed. Aside from that it’s mostly anything having a navigational concern. The statement that I generally make is our teams are there to respond to anything that has the potential for impacting the marine commerce transportation system that we have in the country.

HOST: Let’s focus a little bit on the hurricane response that you’ve talked about. When do the teams typically arrive on the scene? Are they considered almost like a first responder after an event?

COMMANDER KREPP: They are. Again noting, we do make sure the area’s safe. There is a lot of ground work that we do on this end, up on the headquarters side, to make sure that the folks that I’m sending into that kind of an area, we need to make sure that there’s fuel available, we need to make sure that there’s some type of lodging for them.

We generally mobilize within 24 hours and we’re on scene within 48. We may or may not be able to begin survey at that point, but it certainly allows us to get together and meet with the Coast Guard and the port authority, actually have the people on the ground help direct us to where our services would best be used.

Depending on the track of the storm, there are occasions where we’re able to begin moving a team into an area and in certain instances, when the Hurricane Center’s able to provide me a very detailed track, I can actually move the folks just to the outer range of the damaging winds. We can be somewhat pre-staged to enter an area.

HOST: We talked a little earlier about some of the equipment – side scan sonar, multibeam – what are some of the other tools that your team uses?

COMMANDER KREPP: Yes, there’s kind of two facets to that answer. First off, I did not mention all of the equipment that we use on these boats are tied together via GPS so everything that we find we are able to accurately position. Just getting the imagery doesn’t do any good if we don’t know exactly where what we’re seeing is on the bottom.

We have in the past been able to borrow an autonomous underwater vehicle. It’s an unmanned programmable sonar which we are able to deploy and it can on its own, after we’ve programmed the mission, we call it flying a mission, it actually goes underwater and flies a grid unattended and then that can come back to the surface and then we download it.

The final piece of gear that I use with great success is our Mobile Integrated Survey Team. Rather than having a vessel that we have to trailer, if it’s a truly remote area, we can reach out to the community and request of them a vessel to install gear on. So I have a package, in essence a portable survey equipment package, that I can send out there along with a couple of operators. We can use somebody else’s boat – whether it be a Coast Guard vessel or a Corps of Engineers vessel – and install our gear and survey in a remote area.

HOST: Commander Krepp, what is a day like for your staff responding after a hurricane? Maybe there’s an example, a hurricane from the past, that you could tell us about.

COMMANDER KREPP: Yes, certainly. Probably the most dramatic of our hurricane responses was in response to Hurricane Katrina back in 2005. I’m sure everybody remembers the massive amount of devastation to the Gulf coastal areas. That was a little different for us in that it was a very long response. A good amount of our responses only have a duration of maybe two days to a week.

The Katrina response went on for months and we had multiple vessels in there and there were multiple government agencies. The infrastructure there was pretty well decimated, so it was a fantastic U.S. team effort to one be able to provide the pure necessities of things like fuel, water, food, and shelter for all of the responders down in that area. But we surveyed various ports in conjunction with the Corps of Engineers and were able to relatively quickly establish shipping lanes to allow things to go.

HOST: How do the navigation response teams work with local communities and some of these other agencies following a disaster? What is NOAA’s role?

COMMANDER KREPP: Sure. The scope of NOAA is quite broad. I’d like to narrow it down to the Office of Coast Survey interaction with the local community. Again, within our Navigation Services Division, a branch contemporary with mine is the Customer Affairs Branch and as I mentioned they have actual personnel, regional representatives/navigation managers in each of the geographic areas where we have the navigation response teams. So these folks have a day-to-day interaction with the professionals in the area in the shipping industry and with government officials both on the environmental side and the commerce side of any given port community.

(IMPACT OF NAVIGATION RESPONSE TEAMS)
HOST: Commander Krepp, is there a way to measure how successful these teams are?

COMMANDER KREPP: Sure, I think maybe we should divide this into a couple of different categories. One would be the hurricane response and then secondly how we fit into the Office of Coast Survey general nautical charting effort. There are a couple of different measures that I use to indicate our success. In the general survey realm, thankfully we don’t have emergencies happening 24 hours a day, so there is a significant part of our year where I interface very closely with the Hydrographic Surveys Division and what those folks do is they do the planning for all of the routine surveys across the United States. And so for smaller inshore areas, I can actually provide data to them to meet that critical survey need.

And then as we’re talking emergency responses, of course as I mentioned, the whole reason that we’re there is to help reestablish the flow of commerce in and out of a port. And some of those numbers are actually pretty staggering. For some of the major ports, use L.A./Long Beach as one prime example. The average daily value of goods coming in and out of that port is somewhere in the vicinity of $750 billion, so that boils down to about $500,000 a minute moving in and out of the port, so you can imagine that as these ports get shut down, if there was something blocking that waterway keeping these ships from coming in and out, the importance of being able to provide the data to allow somebody to remedy the situation, to allow the ships to continue moving, for every minute that’s clicking by, it’s $500,000 lost to the U.S. economy.

So we can measure the amount of time that it takes the federal effort to get a port open and then estimate from there what the dollar value we were able to save was and of course by us being there, we’re able to opening ports more quickly than could the port open without us. 

HOST: Commander Krepp, in an affected area, who really has the authority to re-open a shipping channel?

COMMANDER KREPP: Sure. In the vast majority of cases, the authority to open a port or close a port lies with the U.S. Coast Guard and the Captain of the Port that has authority over that area or supervises that area. So whenever there is a request for a response, it is a true full-government effort. The Captain of the Port has the authority to open or close the port for shipping, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers generally has authority within the federally maintained channels, but as we talked about before, the massive amounts of commerce that flows, both in dollar value and volume that comes through these ports, the desire to open channels more quickly becomes very important.

It’s usually those two agencies that call me to add another resource to help open those channels. And so what we actually do is serve the U.S. Coast Guard Captain of Port for the area to provide him data to allow him to make the appropriate decision on whether or not that port is safe, that the waterway is safe for commerce to resume its flow.  

HOST: What is the most unique mission, or maybe the most memorable mission, that a team has responded to?

COMMANDER KREPP: Oh I think, my memory is generally pretty short. All of these, especially hurricane responses tend to blend together, we’ve done numerous hurricane responses and each one of those is rewarding in their own way, just in to know that one, we got in and out of there and were able to help shipping resume in the area.

But in recent history, the small community up in northeast Maine, Cobscook Bay, and when they were having a substantial percentage of their population in this merchant fishing fleet dying. It’s bad enough that these vessels are going down and there are being lives lost, but they also weren’t recovering bodies. So it was very rewarding to me to be able to do a response one not only to help locate the wreckage and assist in providing data for the salvage folks to bring these boats back up, but also help to identify the root cause of what was causing some of these sinkings and hopefully avoid any ones in the future. 

HOST: What would you say is the value of NOAA’s navigation response teams to our non-coastal listeners?

COMMANDER KREPP: An interesting statistic is that for all of the United States whether your coastal or live in the middle of the country, roughly 70 percent of all of the items that you see around you – the earphones that you’re using right now or the speakers that you’re using right now to listen to this podcast, the clothes on your back, the tires on your car all at some point came through one of the United States ports. And especially if we’re talking exports, the middle of the country in the grain belt is very reliant upon timely shipping, getting those goods out of the country, and out to other folks that are consumers of what we export.

So just because we service a coastal locale, there is a massive impact to the U.S. population in the middle of the country.

HOST: Do you have any final words for our listeners today?

COMMANDER KREPP: I would just like to close out this interview letting everybody know and having a chance on behalf of all of the Navigation Response Branch to say thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve the nation. We feel our mission is very important and I hope I was able to demonstrate today the value of the commerce coming in and out of U.S. ports and how we play a role in keeping that commerce flowing. 

HOST: Thanks Commander Krepp for joining us on Diving Deeper and talking about NOAA’s navigation response teams. To learn more, please visit nauticalcharts.noaa.gov.   


What is a tsunami?

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/apr10/dd042110.mp3

Wed, 21 Apr 2010 09:43:26 -0400

Diving Deeper: Episode 22 (April 21, 2010) —
What is a tsunami ?

(INTRO)
HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I’m your host Kate Nielsen.

Today’s question is….What is a tsunami?

A tsunami is a series of ocean waves caused by the displacement of a large volume of water.

To help us dive a little deeper into this question, we will talk by phone with Russell Jackson on tsunamis. Russell is a coastal hazards specialist with NOAA’s Coastal Services Center. Hi Russell, welcome to our show.

RUSSELL JACKSON: Hi Kate, thanks for inviting me here today to talk to your listeners about tsunamis.

(BACKGROUND ON TSUNAMIS)
HOST: Russell, so what causes tsunamis?

RUSSELL JACKSON: Well Kate, tsunamis are commonly generated by earthquakes in coastal and marine regions. And most tsunamis are produced by large, usually greater than a seven on the Richter scale, earthquakes that are associated with movement along the oceanic and continental plates. They frequently occur in the Pacific Ocean, Pacific Basin, where there’s dense oceanic plates that slide under the lighter continental plates. And when these plates fracture and move, the vertical movement of the plate actually transfers a lot of energy from the sea floor to the ocean and actually causes the wave to be created.

HOST: Is this how the catastrophic Indian Ocean Tsunami back in 2004 was generated?

RUSSELL JACKSON: Yes, it was a very powerful earthquake, a magnitude 9.0, and it was actually one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded, struck the coastal region of Indonesia. And the movement of the sea floor actually produced a tsunami in excess of 30 meters, or about 100 feet, along the adjacent coastline which actually killed over 240,000 people in Indonesia. And then, from this source, the tsunami radiated outward and within a few hours had claimed over 60,000 lives in Thailand, Sri Lanka, and India.

HOST: Such a tragic event. Are there other ways to generate tsunamis?

RUSSELL JACKSON: Yeah, there are a few other ways. One in particular that there’s been a lot of experiences happened in the past are from underwater landslides associated with smaller earthquakes, they’re also capable of generating destructive tsunamis. In Papua New Guinea in 1998, there was a tsunami that devastated that area. It was generated by an earthquake that registered about a 7.0, which usually would not generate a huge tsunami, but that earthquake apparently caused an underwater landslide that created waves over seven meters high that struck the coastline, devastated over three coastal villages, completely wiped it clean to where there was nothing but sand located on those islands, and killed over 2,200 people.

Other large-scale disturbances of the sea floor can also generate tsunamis such as explosive volcanoes and even potentially asteroids making impact. Fortunately we don’t have a whole lot of asteroids making impact here, but there was an eruption of a volcano in Indonesia called Krakatoa in 1883 that produced a 30-meter tsunami and it killed over 36,000 people.

HOST: Do tsunamis occur around the world?

RUSSELL JACKSON: Yeah, actually tsunamis have been recorded in all of the major oceans of the world. However, I do most of my tsunami-related work in Hawaii and the U.S. Pacific Island territories. And these areas are especially vulnerable to tsunamis because they’re in an area that’s been nicknamed the "ring of fire," and this area is the most geologically active area on the planet. In fact, 90 percent of the world’s earthquakes and 81 percent of the world’s largest earthquakes occur along the ring of fire. And tsunamis are actually Hawaii’s number-one natural disaster killer. And Hawaii, in particular, faces threats from these distant tsunamis created along the ring of fire as well as local tsunamis because there’s a lot of seismic activity in Hawaii related to volcanic activity there.

HOST: How long after a disruption, such as maybe an earthquake, occurs is a tsunami felt?

RUSSELL JACKSON: Well Kate, there’s kind of two different types of tsunamis. If a disturbance in the ocean floor is felt close to the coastline, this is called a local tsunami and the impact can be felt by local communities within minutes. However, a very large disturbance can not only cause local devastation, but also cause destruction thousands of miles away. Tsunamis that originate from a distant source are often referred to as a teletsunami, and this is kind of like the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004 that I mentioned earlier.

HOST: If a tsunami wave is relatively small out in the deep ocean, what creates these larger coastal waves that we often hear about?

RUSSELL JACKSON: Well, the height of the wave when generated, especially in the deep ocean, is very small, usually less than a few feet. And as these waves approach the coast, their speed starts to decrease and the amplitude, or height, increases. When the waves of a tsunami approach land, their appearance and behavior become dependent on several factors. Two of the most important factors are topography of the sea floor, or what we refer to as bathymetry, and the actual slope of the shoreline.

So as a tsunami encounters shallow waters surrounding the shoreline, its height can increase from less than a meter to rapidly over 15 meters. So depending on the depth of the water in which the tsunami is traveling, it can actually attain speeds of 500 miles an hour.
HOST: Thanks for the great background on tsunamis and helping to show us that there’s not only these local destructions from tsunamis, but even these teletsunamis. It’s amazing how far away these impacts can be felt. Back to the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami we talked about earlier, was this the largest tsunami on record?

RUSSELL JACKSON:Well Kate, there’s kind of different ways of defining the “largest” tsunami. In terms of devastation and loss of life, the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004 was definitely the worst tsunami. And just for background, the worst tsunami to actually strike the United States actually occurred in 1946, the 1946 Alaska tsunami that killed 165 people, almost all of those deaths were in Alaska and Hawaii.

(TSUNAMI IMPACTS)
HOST: What is the greatest impact of tsunamis?

RUSSELL JACKSON: The greatest impact has to be the potential for loss of life. Since tsunamis are fairly rare events and can occur at any time of day, many of the folks that live and visit coastal areas are for the most part unaware of the risks of tsunamis and therefore, don’t really know what to do if one’s threatening the area.

Sure tsunamis can also have a huge impact on our infrastructure, and our built environment, our natural resources, and our economies, but most of that can always be replaced or there are ways to actually mitigate or lessen the impacts on those. But loss of life is something that would be the most devastating impact from tsunamis.

HOST: Besides obviously the traumatic loss of life that you just mentioned, do we have enough data to assess the impact of tsunamis to our economy?

RUSSELL JACKSON: In some areas we do, but some areas we are still lacking data. Back in 1995, the U.S. government created a program called the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program to help us lessen the impacts from tsunamis. The program’s led by NOAA, and includes partners from other federal agencies like the U.S. Geological Survey and the Federal Emergency Management Agency and it also includes each of the coastal states and territories.

And during the initial stages of this program, most of the efforts really focused on modeling and mapping efforts to help communities create evacuation plans – with the main goal of lessening the loss of life. And more recently though, efforts have expanded to look at mitigating, or lessening, the impacts of tsunamis on our community as a whole, so also looking at how do we lessen the impacts to infrastructure, housing, business, economies.

HOST: Russell, can we predict a tsunami before it reaches the land?

RUSSELL JACKSON: Well Kate, predicting when and where the next tsunami will strike is currently impossible. But, once an earthquake has occurred and a tsunami is generated, we can forecast the tsunami arrival time and roughly what we think the impact will be through modeling and measurement technologies, but only a small window of time say 10 to 30 minutes can really be given to communities for local tsunamis. We have better capability for these long-distance teletsunamis to provide good information.

There are a few warning signs though that you may experience if you’re in an area just prior to a tsunami that can help you if you’re not aware of the warnings coming from government or through the radio or something. These things to keep in mind are if you see the water receding from the shoreline or if you see or hear approaching water, many tsunami survivors that I’ve talked to described the sound as a tsunami’s approaching similar to a freight train approaching, very loud, also if you feel a strong earthquake. These are all good indicators that there could be a tsunami coming so you should right away just move to high ground.

HOST: That is so frightening to think of that sound you just mentioned, the freight train before a tsunami. I’m sure we’ll all remember this if we’re ever in an area before a tsunami occurs. Can you talk a little more about how we forecast tsunamis?

RUSSELL JACKSON: As I mentioned, we can’t really forecast when a tsunami will be generated, but once it has been generated and we have some methods out there to detect whether or not a tsunami’s been generated, we do have the capability to forecast approximately when the tsunami will arrive.

NOAA has several Tsunami Warning Centers – there’s one in Alaska and one in Hawaii – that have been working with the research arm of NOAA to create models that can take inputs from our detection devises (so some of these devices for example we have devices that detect the earthquake itself like seismometers, we have tsunami detection devices, these  Deep Ocean Tsunami Detection Buoys that we kind of refer to them as DART buoys, and we also have water level gages), all this information we can take and feed into the models that will help us forecast where and how fast the tsunami is traveling.

And the forecast system is still in development, but we hope for it to be fully operational in the near future. There’s a few areas where it is operational, but we’re still working on expanding it for the entire U.S.

(COMMUNITY PREPAREDNESS)
HOST: Russell, what is the role of the National Ocean Service in preparing for and then assessing the aftermath of tsunamis?

RUSSELL JACKSON: Well Kate, there’s really a wealth of expertise across all of NOAA, not just the National Ocean Service, involved in tsunami preparedness, education, and hazard assessment. These NOAA offices all work together to provide reliable tsunami forecasts and warnings and to promote community resilience. As I mentioned earlier, NOAA leads the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program. As part of that program, the National Ocean Service works with the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and others to provide data on ocean bathymetry, shoreline, and elevation or topography data, which better helps scientists understand how and where a tsunami wave will come ashore. The National Ocean Service also operates our National Water Level Network. The gages in this network help us detect tsunamis and the info from them can be used after an event to help identify the actual heights of the tsunamis, we use this information to validate models afterwards.

NOAA Research then also develops models that forecast tsunamis and these same models are used to create inundation maps that help emergency responders both issue warnings to communities at risk as well as responding to the actual disasters. The National Weather Service provides tsunami warnings and they actually don’t do this just for the U.S., they actually provide warning capability for the Indian Ocean region that’s sort of an agreement after the Indian Ocean Tsunami. One of the things that could have saved a lot of lives there would have been having a warning system in place and now the Pacific Tsunami Warning System serves that role for the Indian Ocean region.

Specifically at my office, the NOAA Coastal Services Center, we work with states, territories, and local communities to enhance their resilience to tsunamis. We do this by providing better access to tsunami information such as maps, awareness materials, and even videos of survivor interviews, so they can know what people actually experienced first hand and learn from their experiences. We also provide guidance and assistance when conducting tsunami risk and vulnerability assessments, create decision support tools, assist with modeling for U.S. Pacific Island Territories, and provide assistance with developing tsunami hazard mitigation plans.

HOST: Russell, we spoke to Sandy Eslinger from your office, the NOAA Coastal Services Center, back in June 2009 on resilience. Can you remind everyone what resilience is?

RUSSELL JACKSON: Sure. Resilience is the ability of a community to absorb the shock and bounce back after a hazardous event like a tsunami or a hurricane. The more informed and prepared that a community is, the more quickly they can rebound from this type of event. They can even reduce negative impacts to the environment and most importantly, they can reduce the loss of lives.

HOST: Can you expand more on how we can all prepare for tsunamis? Are there any tools we can use to help us get started?

RUSSELL JACKSON: Well Kate, there’s a growing wealth of information out there to help your audience learn more and become prepared – much of this information is available from NOAA on the NOAA Tsunami Web site. There’s other resources such as the Pacific Tsunami Museum that has gathered a lot of information throughout time of how people have responded to tsunamis. Actually a good friend of mine, a colleague in Hawaii, she was actually a survivor from the 1960 event that impacted Hilo. And she, as a result, created the Pacific Tsunami Museum to help educate others and to try to lessen the loss of life.

But one tool in particular I’d like to highlight is called the Hawaii Tsunami Hazard Awareness tool. This tool has been developed so far for Hawaii and then expanded to Oregon. And what it does is allow you to enter your address and then the tool will return an interactive map that allows you to see whether or not that address is in a tsunami zone or not. Hawaii uses this to educate people about tsunami risk. The tool has, besides these interactive evacuation maps, they also have important information that helps you understand what to do if you’re under a warning and you hear the siren go off.

HOST: Russell, that is great and sounds like such simple tool to use and it also gives really critical information to help prepare. Are you planning to expand this tool to other areas besides Hawaii and Oregon?

RUSSELL JACKSON: We’re looking at ways right now and we’re looking to expand it to Guam, we’ve been doing a lot of work there and as soon as they create their evacuation zones based on our more recent modeling that we’ve just finished, we’re hoping to expand it there. We’ve been in talks with the state of Washington to expand it there.

But, we’re also looking to expand the tool in other locations not just for tsunamis. The same tool can be used for hurricane evacuation zones and other things, flood zones, so we’ve been looking to expand throughout the U.S. for other hazards as well. 

HOST: What impacts, if any, do non-coastal residents feel from tsunamis?

RUSSELL JACKSON: Well, there’s definitely the impact from tourism and recreation, people that don’t necessarily live in coastal areas may actually be on vacation at the time when there is a tsunami impact or threat. Tsunamis can be such a devastating event, it can impact an entire national economy. In a lot of cases, the Indian Ocean Tsunami had such a huge effect on the economies of those countries impacted the most.

Everything from impacting the ability to continue shipping, importing and exporting goods into a country based on damages to ports, it could also have a devastating impact on your natural resources that can then impact other parts of your economy like fisheries, or in some cases it could even lead to rising insurance rates.

HOST: Russell, do you have any final words for our listeners today?

RUSSELL JACKSON: Yeah, thanks for allowing me to give this talk today. One thing I definitely want to remind people is that we cannot prevent a tsunami, but we can be prepared for one. So hopefully you can reference a lot of the resources from the Web site here and learn more about tsunamis.

And one thing I would also like to mention is that April is Tsunami Awareness Month in Hawaii. And this event is held each year to commemorate the loss of 159 lives from the April 1, 1946 tsunami that was the most devastating, destructive tsunami in Hawaii’s history. So you can go to a lot of resources in Hawaii right now, a lot of their local newspapers and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and the Pacific Tsunami Museum Web sites and learn a lot about tsunamis this month. But you don’t really have to wait until a tsunami awareness month to learn about it, so hopefully you will listen to this podcast and go find out more about tsunamis on your own.

HOST: Thanks Russell for joining us on Diving Deeper and talking more about tsunamis and the importance of community preparation to help minimize these disasters. To learn more, please visit tsunami.noaa.gov.   


How do we respond to oil spills?

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/apr10/dd040710.mp3

Wed, 07 Apr 2010 12:22:21 -0400

Diving Deeper: Episode 21 (April 7, 2010) —
How do we respond to oil spills?

(INTRO)
HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you. I’m your host Kate Nielsen.

Today’s question is….How do we respond to oil spills?

Oil spills can happen in our rivers, bays, and the ocean. Spills are often caused by accidents involving tankers, barges, pipelines, and even refineries. These accidents usually occur when the oil is being transported to us.

To help us dive a little deeper into this question, we will talk by phone with Amy Merten on oil spills. Amy is the NOAA Co-director of the Coastal Response Research Center with NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration. Hi Amy, welcome to our show.

AMY MERTEN: Hey Kate, thanks a lot for inviting me here today to talk to you and your listeners – I’m really excited to talk to you about oil spills and how NOAA responds to these events.

(IMPACTS OF OILS SPILLS)
HOST: Amy, before we get into how we actually respond to oil spills, it would be great to talk about why oil spills happen in the first place.

AMY MERTEN: Well, they happen mainly because we are so dependent on oil in the U.S. We use about 700 million gallons of oil every single day. And how do we use oil? We’re heating our homes, we’re fueling for our cars, we use oil to make plastics for you name it – toys, radios, computers, and even medicines. Oil’s a fundamental part of our economy and our way of life.

If we continue to need oil, we’re going to continue to have spill risks. We have oil moving around the country in high volumes – in ships and barges and pipelines and trucks – so that oil is getting to us minute by minute. So the ships have the potential to cause these larger spills that we think about and we see on TV, but really the biggest source of oil to our waterways is from nonpoint source, kind of the small spills in parking lots from you and me and everyone else is actually contributing to more oil pollution in the water than a big ship would.  

HOST: Thanks Amy, I didn’t know that the amount of oil that runs off of land from our daily activities is actually a bigger source of oil in our waterways than the oil that we typically think of after ship collisions with some of these larger oil spills. What does oil do once it is released into the environment?

AMY MERTEN: Well Kate, most of the time oil is going to be less dense than water, so it’s going to float on top of the water.

Oil, once it hits the water and because it’s lighter it’s going to spread out on top of the water, and if you did this in a laboratory it would spread out uniformly, but since we have wind and currents in the environment, it’s going to spread out in a patchy way.

As it continues to spread out, it’s going to get thinner and thinner and thinner and so when you look at it, it will look like almost a rainbowy sheen, and so you might be familiar with seeing these things after a heavy rainstorm on a parking lot or on the roads. So it looks like that on the water too when you’re looking at it from a helicopter for example.

HOST: Amy, that’s interesting that these same sheens that we see in our parking lots from oil is how oil on the water looks if you’re up in the air in a helicopter looking down. How does oil impact plants and animals?

AMY MERTEN: Well, oil spills can be really harmful to plants and animals particularly birds, not necessarily just marine birds, but if we have a spill inland, birds and mammals are very vulnerable. And I’ll talk a little bit about that in a minute.

Fish and shellfish may not be exposed right away, but again might be exposed if that oil becomes entrained in the water column or somehow interacts at depth versus just staying on the surface, that’ll happen from a wind situation or a stormy situation, or depending on what the oil type is it might be light enough that it’ll disperse into the water column.

I’m sure your listeners have seen dramatic photos of oiled birds and oiled otters and things of that nature. And what happens is the oil, it’s not really a chemical response that happens, the oil gets on the feathers and fur and it makes it so the animal can no longer insulate itself from the cold in the water, so it loses all of its ability to repel water so it basically ends up dying from hypothermia. It will try to get the oil off its feathers or its fur and it will start preening and then it will start ingesting oil and then there is a toxic component to it and basically they end up dying from dehydration. So feathers and fur do not do well with oil.

HOST: Thanks Amy, I think so many of us have seen these horrible images, on the news following a spill, of birds and wildlife covered in oil, but we don’t often think about what happens, we just feel so bad when we see these poor little guys covered in oil like that.

AMY MERTEN: Yeah, it’s really dramatic. And you know one thing I do want to mention is, as part of our response community, we actually have specialists that are trained to deal with oiled wildlife so only professionals go out and capture oiled birds and oiled seals and otters. And they know exactly how they’re going to clean them, where they’re going to take them to to try to clean them up. Sometimes they are able to totally rehabilitate them and put them back out in the environment. I just wanted to make the point that, we have those veterinarians and trained volunteers and specialists that work with us side by side.  

HOST: It’s wonderful that there’s a team out there just to handle the impacts of oil to wildlife and to really be able to respond and clean them up and maybe even return them then back in the wild and just save them. Amy, what is the biggest oil spill in U.S. history?

AMY MERTEN: Kate, the biggest oil spill in U.S. history is the Exxon Valdez that occurred 21 years ago just last week. So, if you remember the spill, it happened in Prince William Sound, Alaska when an oil tanker ran aground and lost almost 11 million gallons of crude oil.  

While this sounds like a lot, it is only a small fraction – less than two percent – of the total amount of oil that we use in one day, so pretty amazing. Just to try to give you guys an idea of what 11 million gallons would look like, try to think about, 11 million gallons would fill up nine school gyms or approximately 430 classrooms. So again, we’re talking about a large volume that’s really hard to imagine in the environment.

After the hurricanes of 2005 – Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and I think probably everyone’s familiar with those – Louisiana experienced over eight million gallons of oil, so fairly large amounts of oil were lost to the coastal marsh environment.

But I would like to make the point that smaller spills also have impacts too. So, if you have a small spill next to an area where birds are nesting or migrating to, you can have a really large impact. Or you can have a smaller spill on a really nice day in a city environment and have large impacts to how tourists are seeing that place and impacting people’s ability to get to the water. So large spills have dramatic impacts, but small spills also can have some dramatic effects as well.

HOST: Thanks Amy for your point that no matter how big a spill is, there are still dramatic impacts. When these huge volumes of oil enter the environment, how does this affect our economy?

AMY MERTEN: We definitely do know how it impacts us economically, I’ll just give you a few examples. There was a barge spill on the Mississippi River and it closed the major thoroughfare of the Mississippi River for several days, so you can imagine that was costing millions and millions of dollars as a lot of our energy supply, our food supply goes through the Mississippi corridor. There was also a spill on the Delaware River, Delaware Bay area, several years ago and they had to close down a nuclear power plant and could not produce power for millions of people in Delaware and Pennsylvania and New Jersey so you can see how that would also cause significant loss in economic revenues, so again that was several millions of dollars lost.

I would also like to point out that anyone that’s working on the water, so fishermen are always severely impacted by spills and their ability to go out and fish and even the perception of should they go out and fish is always a really big issue. So spills affect lots of components of the economy.

(RESPONDING TO OIL SPILLS)
HOST: Thanks Amy. These are really startling numbers, really startling statistics that you’re sharing with us today – both on the incredible volume of oil that can spill after a ship collision, but also these huge impacts to our economy. How do we clean up after oil spills occur?

AMY MERTEN: Well we have a couple of tools that we can use to start cleaning up a spill after they occur. It really depends on what type of oil gets spilled, as I mentioned, all oil’s different and it’s made up of lots of different other chemicals so it behaves differently sometimes than what you might expect. The weather really impacts what we can do, so if it’s a stormy day, there’s not a lot we can do. It depends on how far away the spill is from bird and animal resources, how far away it is from people, on what we can actually do.

So we tend to use a few key tools that we’ve been using for a long time. So kind of our first approach is trying to use things in a mechanical capacity, so we use booms, which are floating barriers that keep the oil contained. So you can put a boom around a vessel or you can put a boom to block an inlet or a wetland area so the oil doesn’t go into that area, making it harder to clean up. And we also have these specialized boats that skim the oil off of the surface, so taking advantage of oil floating on water. Skim it into a container and then take it back and offload it and recycle it and reuse it.

So that’s kind of what we like to do if we can, but we have some other things we can do. We can burn oil in place, so right there on the water, if we can get it thick enough, we can actually burn it there. We can burn it in a marsh. We can also use things called dispersants and what dispersants are they’re chemicals that actually break the slick up into smaller droplets. It doesn’t remove the oil from the environment, it just makes it smaller, gets it off the surface. So you might use that if you’re trying to protect birds so if you have a lot of birds in the area and you’re going to trade off that resource and put the oil into the water column. So, we don’t use those very much, but we do have them available.

HOST: What are some of the benefits or disadvantages for all of these different cleanup options?

AMY MERTEN: Yes, there’s definitely pros and cons to all of those options. Once the oil’s in the water, we know we have a bad situation, so what we’re trying to do is to minimize that situation and try to use things that get it out of the environment as fast as possible, but also in an environmentally sound way.

So we sometimes don’t remove all of the oil from a shoreline, we don’t get it squeaky clean and the reason for that is if you blast a rocky shoreline, for example, with high pressure hot water, and this was actually done in the Exxon Valdez, you change the physical and chemical makeup of that substrate. So the organisms that were there, can’t recolonize because it’s now different. So it actually impacts recovery, if we get rid of the bulk oil and then leave some residual oil, nature will take care of that.

We do sometimes burn oiled marsh areas because you can’t actually put people and equipment into a marsh because you do definitely more damage then because you put the oil down into the substrate, into the mud and the sediments, and then it can’t naturally recover.

HOST: I imagine that this will vary for each spill, but approximately how long does it take to clean up after a spill? Are we talking days or weeks or even years?

AMY MERTEN: It really, really depends. It depends on how much is spilled, and it depends on what environment, how far resources are to get there, and under what conditions – what weather conditions. So, just to give you an example, there was a big spill a few months ago, 450,000 gallons, which is a relatively large spill today, in the Houston Ship Channel and the cleanup was relatively easy because most of the oil, there was response equipment very close, so people could act on it really fast, but most of the oil was contained with booms and also hardened shorelines. The weather was relatively good and calm, so it made skimming really effective.

But for an example there was a spill in Alaska in Aleutian Islands in December several years ago, and storms came in after the spill and we weren’t actually able to start cleanup until the spring. So in that situation, a lot of the oil was not recovered, basically because we couldn’t get people out there safely to clean it up until spring and then years after. 

HOST: How do we respond to spills in the Arctic when oil spills happen in ice?

AMY MERTEN: Well in the Arctic we would use the same methods that I described, it just will take us longer to get there in the Arctic, at least the way we’re structured and where people live right now. In the Arctic, it’s all predicated on being able to actually get to the spill and get to the spill safely. So if we can’t get there because it’s too foggy or stormy or icy, then the spill is going to sit there until we can get there. 

HOST: Amy, can we determine how successful we are at cleaning up an area after an oil spill?

AMY MERTEN: Sure. We definitely try to do a mass balance and what that means is that we have some ways of understanding how much got spilled, so we might know the tank size of the tank that got ruptured and how much oil entered the water from that tank or potentially entered the water from that tank.

We know how much skimmers pick up, they’re pretty good at calculating how much they’re recovering. We also have models to estimate how much of the spill was lost to things like evaporation, or dissolution – so chemicals coming off of the oil and into the water, or photooxidation – so that’s the sun breaking down chemicals in the oil.

On the shoreline, we spend a lot of time trying to figure out how much oil is on the shoreline. We estimate the bulk of oil on the shore and then we go back after cleanup and estimate how much is still there.

We also work with our injury assessment and restoration specialists to monitor how long it’s going to take for the environment to really recover after the spill.

HOST: Amy, how do we learn from past spill response and test out new cleanup techniques?

AMY MERTEN: We as NOAA really try to apply science to the cleanup methods that we’re recommending and we try to follow how those cleanup methods work in how long it takes things to recover so that we can apply that better in the next situation. So we spend a lot of our time, when we’re not on a spill, working with our colleagues in industry and the Coast Guard and academia on talking about our lessons learned from those spills and what could we have done better and what were the things that worked really well, what are the things we need to try in the future.

So we do have an R&D component where we know we want to improve our models for example or we want to improve some of our assessment techniques so we work with the academic community to help us move those forward. We also spend a lot of time holding training, so we help people understand the best science for cleaning up spills. We also participate in drills, so in that situation we spend a lot of time with the people we would be responding with, talking through some of what would we like to try if a spill happens in this marsh, what types of things are we learning from other countries that we might apply in the U.S. So those types of conversations happen a lot.  

HOST: Amy, can you talk more about an oil spill drill and why it’s important? 

AMY MERTEN: We just participated in a major exercise, it’s called the Spill of National Significance. The reason it’s called that is because the spill scenario was so large that one region couldn’t clean it up so we had to bring in equipment and people from all over the country to help deal with the scenario and so we played it like that. So we had people come to a real Command Center, we set it up the way that we would use it in a real spill so the responsible party was there, the Coast Guard, all the state agencies, local communities, NOAA, were all there working together. And what was so important about that is we were establishing a working relationship – it’s easier to go work with someone on a spill if you already know them, so that’s our huge part of the drill just making sure that you understand the other person’s point of view, you understand who they are, what they need, and then we work through the situation – it does feel like you’re on a real spill.

(ROLE OF NATIONAL OCEAN SERVICE IN OIL SPILL RESPONSE)
HOST: It’s great that time is invested to prepare before a spill, getting everybody together because this will help things run more smoothly in the event that a spill actually happens. Amy, what’s the role of the National Ocean Service in responding to oil spills?

AMY MERTEN: Well, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are actually the first federal responders for a spill. So, the Office of Response and Restoration, which sits in the National Ocean Service, along with staff from other offices in NOAA work to support the federal on-scene coordinators – the Coast Guard and EPA. So what we do, in the Office of Response and Restoration for a spill, is we first provide trajectory models, so forecasts of where the oil is going to go.

We actually get on-scene and conduct overflights to assess the extent of the spill and ground truth our models, so we have a lot of experience doing that. We spend a lot of time coordinating shoreline assessment surveys and spending a lot of time walking shorelines and calculating how much oil is there. And then we work with the Coast Guard and the responsible party to evaluate what the cleanup options are available and again we try to do this in the most practical and environmentally sound way, so we jointly develop a plan on how to actually do the cleanup.

HOST: Can you explain the trajectory models that you just mentioned?

AMY MERTEN: Sure, so trajectory models are computer models that take into account the winds and the currents during the time of the spill to help forecast where that spill is going to move. So our oceanographers actually run this model in real time and get it to the Command Center so people can start understanding what resources are at risk, what protection strategies need to get put into place.

So the models help the responders get ahead of the spill so they know where we think it might be going, they can put equipment, so they can put some boom out, and prevent it from actually hitting the shoreline in that area.

The ocean has buoys and sensors in it and we know where those are so it’s part of the Integrated Ocean Observing System and we actually can stream in that information real time – we can stream in weather information, we can stream in tide information, current information, and all of that gets pulled in to run these trajectory models to make them more accurate and predictable.

We actually have a computer program, it’s actually a Web site, called the Environmental Response Management Application, that actually gives you the picture of these different pieces being streamed in and then you can put the oil trajectory model into this picture and then you can see your shorelines that have resources at risk.

HOST: It’s great that we have the data and expertise to forecast where oil will move and even be able to do something as you mentioned like placing a boom in an area to prevent it from spreading further and causing even more damage. Sounds like there are so many roles that your office and really so many other agencies play in response and cleanup from an oil spill. Is there anything our listeners can do to help support this?

AMY MERTEN: Sure. Yeah, Kate there is. I think the main role for listeners is that we do all have a part to play maybe not so much in responding to the spills, but in helping to prevent them. We can avoid dumping oil and oily waste into the sewer or the garbage and we can also do some other things that reduce our use of oil in the first place, so we may take more walks or use our bikes more or take the bus rather than using our car, so all of those things that we can do that reduce the use of oil actually leads to less oil being transported, and therefore a reduce of the risk of a future spill. So we all have a responsibility for spills because we’re all using oil and we all can make a difference and find solutions to the problem.

HOST: Thanks Amy, these are great examples of actions that we can really all take to help us reduce our use of oil and in some cases things we could every day. Do you have any final closing words for our listeners today?

AMY MERTEN: Sure. Thanks for the opportunity. I really like talking about my job and although spills are not fun things to deal with, it is nice to be able to participate and be able to see recommendations go into action and actually help the environment. Here at NOAA we spend a lot of time and effort being prepared to respond to all different types of oil spills in all sorts of different areas including internationally. We really spend a lot of time understanding the science beyond oil spills and training people on the science behind oil spills – and that’s really what we’re trying to bring to the response community, so that when we are responding, we do it in the best way possible and we can clean up and restore our coastal communities.

HOST: Thank you Amy for joining us on today’s episode of Diving Deeper and talking more about the impacts of oil spills to our environment and the economy, how we respond to these, and even what we can all do to help. To learn more about oil spills and response efforts, please visit response.restoration.noaa.gov.   


Why are coral reefs valuable?

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/feb10/dd022410.mp3

Wed, 24 Feb 2010 00:39:25 -0500

Diving Deeper: Episode 20 (February 24, 2010) —
Why are coral reefs valuable?

(INTRO)
HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I’m your host Kate Nielsen.

Today’s question is….Why are coral reefs valuable?

Coral reefs are some of the most biologically rich and economically valuable ecosystems on Earth. They provide food, jobs, income, protection, and many other important services to billions of people worldwide. Unfortunately, coral reefs are threatened by an increasing array of impacts including pollution, habitat loss, diseases, and global climate change.

To help us dive a little deeper into this question, we will talk with Kacky Andrews on the value of coral reefs – why they are so important, what the current threats are, and what we can all do to help. Kacky is the director of NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program. Hi Kacky, welcome to our show.

KACKY ANDREWS: Hi Kate, thanks for inviting me here today. Always happy to talk about coral reefs, one of my favorite subjects.

(IMPORTANCE OF CORAL REEFS)
HOST: Kacky, first can you give us a little more background on coral reefs. I know we are all familiar with the many beautiful underwater images that we see of reefs, but can you tell us where coral reefs are found?

KACKY ANDREWS: Yes. We could probably spend all of our entire time today just talking about general coral reef information, but let me start off with my favorite fact concerning coral reefs. Even though coral reefs only cover about one-tenth of one percent of the ocean floor, they provide habitat for over 25 percent of marine species. This is astounding biodiversity that rivals the rainforests. This gives you somewhat of a sense of the rich and concentrated biodiversity out there, but it also means that focusing on coral reefs as indicators can give us a good sense of overall ocean health.

So coral reefs are primarily found in tropical waters, they’re found throughout the United States and the Atlantic and the Caribbean. The biodiversity hotspot for coral reefs is in Southeast Asia near Indonesia and the Philippines.

HOST: Are corals plants or animals?

KACKY ANDREWS: If I had to choose one, I would say animals, even though they might sometimes resemble plants and are often mistaken for rocks. Many of the reef-building corals that people are most familiar with from the tropical vacations or the photographs are colonial organisms which means that they are made up of hundreds to thousands of individual animals called polyps.

Like other animals, polyps need to eat and each polyp has a stomach that opens at one end and is surrounded by tentacles to help catch the food. The food enters the stomach through the mouth and after eating, waste products are expelled through the same opening.

These coral animals are heavily dependent on a symbiotic algae called zooxanthellae that actually live in the corals and help them feed and get nutrients. So even though corals are animals, there’s also a component of plants that help them maintain their health. 

HOST: It’s amazing that while corals make up such a small percentage of the ocean floor like you just mentioned, that they provide habitat for so many different species.  Can you expand more on some of these environmental or ecosystem benefits of corals?

KACKY ANDREWS: Certainly Kate. The environmental benefits from coral reefs is really enormous. Coral reefs provide spawning, nursery, breeding, and feeding grounds for more than one million species – like fish, lobsters, sharks, seahorses, sponges, sea turtles – just to name a few. Healthy coral reefs also have rough surfaces and complex structures that dampen much of the force of incoming waves, buffering shorelines from currents, waves, storms, and even tsunamis to help prevent erosion.

After the tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2005, some modelers at Princeton University did a study which showed that the healthy coral reefs were able to absorb twice as much wave energy as areas where the coral reefs were not so healthy because of the roughness of the structure. So, it’s not just about the fish, it’s also about real, live, direct benefits to humans that live near these areas.

HOST: Kacky, is it possible to assign a number, something that helps us better understand the significance and just what the economic benefits are of coral reefs to us all?

KACKY ANDREWS: Yeah, that’s a great question and one that I’m not sure everyone really is aware of the full value of coral reefs. Healthy coral reefs support commercial fisheries as well as jobs and businesses through tourism and recreation. Approximately half, half of all federally managed fisheries depend on coral reefs and related habitats for some portion of their life cycle. The NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service estimates the commercial value of U.S. fisheries from coral reefs is over $100 million.

And I know that an economic study was done of the value of the coral reefs in the state of Florida and it was literally over $1 billion of value to the state of Florida. So these are resources that have direct, positive economic benefits to the communities that live near them.

HOST: Kacky, what are some of the benefits for maybe our non-coastal listeners today from coral reefs?

KACKY ANDREWS: I think we really need to be aware of the fact that these benefits do extend past the folks who live right next to coral reefs. So if folks like to eat seafood or fish, chances are the fish you’re eating is dependent on coral reefs to make it to your dinner plate.

And the aesthetic value of coral reefs should also not be underestimated as millions of people travel, in the U.S. alone, travel down to coral reef ecosystems to just take a look through snorkeling or scuba diving. And if the listeners out there have not done this, I highly encourage it, because a healthy coral reef ecosystem will absolutely knock your socks off if you can actually see it in the water.

HOST: Thanks Kacky for touching on the fact of why corals are important to all of us, even those of us not living along the coast. Why is it important for us to study coral reefs? It seems that we have a lot of information. Is it to get a better understanding of some of the threats they’re facing that we mentioned or is it for science exploration?

KACKY ANDREWS: Well, it’s a little bit of all of that. Through research we are improving our understanding of how corals are reacting to some of the current threats in the environment. We are continuing to explore, through sustainable research and discovery, medicinal treatments from coral reefs for heart disease, cancer, arthritis, viruses, and other diseases.

Much more knowledge is needed in this area, and we need it fast to fuel science-based conservation efforts. As I mentioned earlier these ecosystems have remarkable biodiversity which means they’re very complex, and so understanding these complex ecosystems takes a lot of science, so we know exactly how best to manage these areas.

(THREATS TO CORAL REEFS)
HOST: Kacky, during our initial definition we mentioned a list of threats that coral reefs face. What is the greatest threat to coral reefs today?

KACKY ANDREWS: Unfortunately Kate there is a lot of threats to coral reefs. I do think that the scientists are in general agreement that the three greatest threats are climate change, adverse impacts of fishing, and pollution from land-based sources. For the adverse impacts of fishing, fish play a very important role in the ecosystem, particularly the herbivores. The herbivores essentially act like the lawnmowers for coral reefs cleaning them from the algae that can accrue on them. And this helps keep them clean and lets the coral polyps grow. And so if we take too many herbivores off the reef, they cannot play the function in the ecosystem of the lawnmower for the coral reefs.

With land-based sources of pollution particularly in the island environments where coral reefs tend to be, is you can get a lot of deforestation and with a big rain event you can get huge loads of sediment coming off these high island topographies washing massive amounts of sediments into the ocean and burying essentially the coral reefs.

But I think everyone would agree that the greatest threat, the single greatest threat, to coral reefs is climate change. There’s just no doubt about it. The impacts from climate change take primarily, I think, two different avenues. One is warmer water temperatures which can result in massive coral bleaching. What this means is, particularly during the summers when the waters get too warm and the seas get too hot, the corals will expel that symbiotic algae I talked about earlier, the zooxanthellae, and they will turn absolutely white. And so this is why it’s called coral bleaching. When a coral bleaches, it does not necessarily mean that it’s dead, it can survive a bleaching event, but it does mean that it’s under a great deal more stress and is subject to mortality.

So, for example, in 2005, just about four and a half years ago, in the Caribbean, the U.S. lost half of its coral reefs in one year due to a massive bleaching event. That is a stunning and startling statistic.

The second avenue of impact from climate change is ocean acidification, essentially, the early results seem to indicate that corals will not be able to grow as fast with ocean acidification. Ocean acidification means corals calcify kind of like seashells and with ocean acidification we’re changing the chemistry of the ocean water which means corals are not able to grow as fast as they use to be able to do.

So, given these two massive impacts from climate change, I think it’s fair to say that climate change is the greatest threat to coral reefs.

HOST: So corals really have a lot stacked up against them it sounds like.

KACKY ANDREWS: Unfortunately yes.

HOST: I know that there’s a lot of ongoing research and evidence on the current state of coral reefs in the U.S. today and around the world. What can you tell us about how our reefs are doing either here in the U.S. or globally?

KACKY ANDREWS: Well Kate, I wish I had better news to report on this front. An ongoing NOAA effort to assess the condition of the nation's coral reef ecosystems is a report called The State of Coral Reef Ecosystems of the United States. The most recent report in 2008 found that approximately half of the coral reef ecosystems under U.S. jurisdiction are considered by scientists to be in only 'poor' or 'fair' condition and they have declined over time due to several natural and anthropogenic threats that I spoke of earlier.

Also, reef habitats adjacent to populated areas are subject to more intense threats from coastal development and recreational overuse, but even remote reefs far from human settlements are still at risk from illegal fishing, marine debris, and the climate-related impacts that I spoke of just a few minutes ago.

(CORAL REEF PROTECTION)

HOST: Kacky, what is the role of NOAA in protecting our coral reefs?

KACKY ANDREWS: Well Kate, there are many offices and agencies across NOAA that work to make up the Coral Reef Conservation Program. This includes the National Ocean Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, and then NESDIS the satellite arm of NOAA.

The Program came about after a series of high-profile events. In 1995, there was major worldwide bleaching and coral die-off on a global scale; in 1997, the world celebrated the first International Year of the Reef; in 1998, President Clinton issued an Executive Order on coral reef protection; and then in 2000, Congress passed the Coral Reef Conservation Act, supplying funding and expanding the mandate for NOAA to help protect these resources.
So essentially the Coral Reef Conservation Program now exists to help implement the Coral Reef Conservation Act as mandated by Congress.

HOST: I know that these things can take a long time, but are we able to measure or state how successful the NOAA efforts have been so far?

KACKY ANDREWS: Well, we have made really measurable progress, but much more needs to be done. Much of what the program has focused on to this point has been assessing coral reef ecosystems, and we know vastly more than ever before about the extent and locations of corals and the states of their health. And we are using that information in conservation and restoration activities.

But like I mentioned before, in the face of such severe threats to corals, we are shifting emphasis more towards action that fend off threats and bring corals back because we want to ensure that we’re doing more than just documenting the demise of corals, but we’re doing all we can to ensure that we’re conserving these resources for future generations.

HOST: Kacky, are there actions that our listeners can take to preserve and protect coral reefs?

KACKY ANDREWS: Yes, there are many actions that we can all take to help protect coral reefs in our own way. Whether you live along the coast or not, we all benefit from coral reefs and we all stand a chance to interact with corals either during vacation or other travel. It is important that we all play a hand in their protection. Let me just give a few specific examples so the listeners know how they may be able to help.

One is get educated, learn about coral reefs. These are amazing resources.

Two, support organizations that protect coral reefs. There are many really wonderful organizations both at a national scale and in the international arena that work to help protect these resources.

Three, you can volunteer for a reef cleanup. As you know there is a lot of marine debris out on reefs and there’s many organizations that ask folks to come out and help clean up the reefs.

Four, if you dive, don’t touch the reefs as these are really remarkable resources and sometimes people like to break off a branch to take home as a souvenir, but if everyone out there diving and snorkeling did that, which number in the millions, that has a really big impact.

And lastly, is everyone can do their bit to reduce their carbon footprint. Climate change is the greatest threat to reefs and so anything you can do to help reduce the climate change will hopefully improve coral reef condition over the long term. 

HOST: Thanks Kacky. Do you have any final closing words for our listeners today?

KACKY ANDREWS: I think the last point I would like to make is that with the increasing threat of climate change, we all need to rethink the management of our coral reef ecosystems. What has worked in the past will simply not be sufficient in the future. So we are going to have to change to help protect these resources and that can be difficult because these are resources that millions of people are dependent on for their livelihoods. So, I’m not saying that this will be easy to change the way that human beings interact with these resources, but if we want to help protect these resources in the face of climate change over the long term, then we need to really up our game in the management of these resources in really new and novel ways.

HOST: Thank you Kacky for joining us on today’s episode of Diving Deeper and talking more about coral reefs, their importance, and what we can do to protect these valuable ecosystems. To learn more about coral reefs, please visit coralreef.noaa.gov.  


What are the benefits of ocean observing data?

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/jan10/dd012710.mp3

Wed, 27 Jan 2010 02:21:28 -0500

Diving Deeper: Episode 19 (January 27, 2010) —
What are the benefits of ocean observing data?

HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper, where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you!  I’m your host, Kate Nielsen.

Today’s question is…What are the benefits of ocean observing data?

Ocean observing data is critical for many different uses that benefit us every single day. This includes understanding the effects of climate change, getting goods in and out of our ports safely and efficiently; protecting our oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes so that we can work, live, and play in these areas, which are also important and critical to the economic well being of the United States. The information is compiled into the Integrated Ocean Observing System, or IOOS®, and serves as tools for tracking, predicting, managing, and adapting to changes in our marine environment.  

To help us dive a little deeper into this question, we will talk with Zdenka Willis about the benefits of ocean observing data both for managers and for the public. Zdenka is the Director of NOAA’s Integrated Ocean Observing System Program. Hi, Zdenka, welcome to our show.

ZDENKA WILLIS: Thank you Kate. Thanks for having me here.

(INITIAL DISCUSSION ON BENEFITS OF OCEAN OBSERVING DATA)
HOST: Zdenka, first, can you remind our listeners from the earlier Diving Deeper podcast that we did last March, why we need to or why we should observe our oceans and coasts?

ZDENKA WILLIS: Certainly, Kate. We need to observe our oceans and coasts to better understand what’s happening and what’s changing. Once we have that initial understanding, then we can increase the nation’s ability to keep our people safe, our economy secure, and our environment healthy and productive.

HOST: Well that sounds like a tall order for one system, but I can really understand the importance of having something like this. Can you maybe give us an example of how we benefit by using IOOS data?

ZDENKA WILLIS: Kate, I’d be happy to. You know, we’re really looking at compatible, easy access to all kinds of data and information from multiple sources. I had a chance to talk to Jared. Jared’s a lobstermen up in the New England area. He has a 42-foot boat. He counts on those buoys to take a look at the weather and the ocean conditions so that he knows whether it’s safe to take his crew out to be able to catch lobster which is livelihood for them. We work with Puerto Rico’s Department of Natural Resources and they rely on IOOS-derived shoreline maps to plan for and respond to storm surge, flash floods, and sea level rise.

In our southeastern region, they teamed up with NOAA’s National Weather Service to put a marine portal together. So they take all the observations that are collected both at the federal level and at that regional level and they put them together. That helps the National Weather Service to do better forecasts and even more important more accurate hazards warnings like small craft. In the Great Lakes we’ve developed models that display real-time and forecasted waterway data in the corridors between Lake Huron and Erie in southeast Michigan. And these applications directly support decision making related to drinking water intakes and any pollution or spill problems we would have in that area.

Turning to industry. Certainly easier, better access to ocean and coastal data is important for our ability to understand those seasonal forecasts. Two examples I think of are both Home Depot and Walmart. They have to make their buying decisions based on those seasonal forecasts. So six months out do they stock hurricane supplies or do they stock beach towels.

HOST: Thanks Zdenka, I think you’ve related IOOS data to every one of our listeners right now. And it’s really great just to show us how it supports our economy so directly. Is ocean observing data also used to support things like emergency response maybe search and rescue operations?

ZDENKA WILLIS: It is. IOOS introduced a state-of-the-art technology called high frequency radar. And this allows us to understand the ocean currents. This means rescuers can get to distressed people more quickly, so that means it’s about saving lives. 

And we just put this effort in action in the Mid-Atlantic region. This was in conjunction with the United States Coast Guard. It was put into their operational Search and Rescue System, and the Coast Guard estimates it can double or triple its success rate in finding victims.

HOST: Thanks, Zdenka. The ability for us to track these ocean currents sounds very critical to be able to improve and have fast search and rescue operations. Do we also use IOOS and ocean observing data for response for natural events maybe such as hurricanes?

ZDENKA WILLIS: We do. We really want to understand total water level. Is your backyard going to get flooded, is the school where your children are going to be affected by this storm? And how can we preposition our resources so that when we have a hurricane or a tropical storm, we can quickly restore the capabilities to the community.

And I’ve got two examples. Scientists are developing The Chesapeake Bay Inundation Prediction System. And this system will allow us to better forecast the amount of water that residents will see by combining the observing systems put out by NOAA, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Army Corps of Engineers. They’ll put this data together with higher resolution models and they’ll provide these forecasts in easy-to-use images by both the state managers and for the public to understand.

A second example is that IOOS just completed an effort inside of NOAA. We improved the display to our own forecast called the Sea, Lake, and Overland Surges from Hurricane or SLOSH. And what we did is we worked with our NOAA partners to integrate real-time water level and wind observations from the National Ocean Service and wind observations from the National Weather Service buoys to provide forecasters the ability to overlay these real-time observations and predications on the same map. It was used during this past hurricane season to improve communications to the public on where this water will or will not be in advance of a hurricane.

HOST: Wow Zdenka, that’s really great. From what we’ve talked about so far today, I would imagine that ocean observing data also can help safeguard our national security. Is that correct?

ZDENKA WILLIS: That is correct, Kate. Ocean observing is being used to track ships to improve our security in our own ports and harbors. Additionally, something that I find very exciting is that IOOS-sponsored technology from across the federal agencies such as NOAA, the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research led to an innovation in the area of unmanned, underwater robots called gliders. And very recently the United States Navy actually awarded a contract worth $6.2 million to a subsidiary of Teledyne Technologies (Webb Research Inc) to design, engineer, build, and test, and deliver these battlespace gliders, which will help our national security by understanding the conditions of the water where our naval assets need to perform.

HOST: Zdenka, you mentioned a little bit earlier that we observe our oceans and coasts to get a better understanding of our marine environment. What are some of the things that scientists are learning about our oceans and coasts just from using IOOS?

ZDENKA WILLIS: A really interesting discovery recently happened in central California. All of a sudden hundreds of birds were coated in a yellow-green substance and they began to strand themselves in the Monterey Bay. Now more than 500 of these birds did this and an additional 200 plus died. So this was kind of a mystery substance that ate away from the coating and the oil on the bird’s feathers and without this protection, the birds became vulnerable. They began starving and suffering from hypothermia. 

So at the same time, we noticed that there was a bloom of a kind of algae that was turning the water in the area red. But red tide is considered harmless to marine life. So scientists began studying the satellite imagery, overlaid that with IOOS data on the coastal currents to see where the red tide was traveling. They realized they were able to predict the strandings that would occur 48 hours ahead of time. Scientists then noticed kind of a byproduct of this red tide was this kind of sea foam that no one really been paying much attention to. They tested the sea foam and, sure enough, found it was harming the bird’s feathers and allowing cold seawater to reach their skin. They were literally freezing to death. This was the first such finding of its kind and IOOS data was there to help figure it out.

(ECONOMIC BENEFITS)
HOST: Wow, that’s really great. You’ve started by telling us how IOOS is important to us every day, how we use IOOS data for search and rescue, safeguards our national security, and even here just what scientists and researchers are learning a little bit about our oceans and coasts. I think any time that we talk about and we’ve really proven just how beneficial this is, it’s helpful to tie a number to it – it helps us relate and assign that significance when we know what the value is behind something. Is there an example that maybe highlights that economic benefit to local communities and local areas from the U.S. IOOS Program?

ZDENKA WILLIS: So Kate, I’ll talk about one example how ocean forecasting can really support at the local economy level and that’s in the area of harmful algal blooms. While the numbers vary, harmful algal blooms are estimated to cause about $82 million in economic impacts each year to seafood, restaurants, and tourism industries. Eight of the 11 IOOS regions actively work with national and local officials on effective forecasting.  Specifically, in the Northeast Regional Association they’re working with harmful algal bloom researchers and state managers to monitor efforts in the northeast and Canada. Investigators at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution use buoy data to guide harmful algal bloom paths while conducting both research and red tide alert cruises in the Gulf of Maine. This data proved critical in developing community response and state and federal shellfish closures during the historic 2005 and 2009 shellfish poisoning events.

Also, IOOS is a program that really is providing stimulus for the marine industry. Whether we’re talking about industries that are building sensors, are working with us to integrate that data, or the value added industries that are popping up to tailor these forecasts, so that is also providing jobs into those local communities. Additionally with our academic partners, it provides a practical application of their oceanographic theory to work on these IOOS projects and thereby being ready to come into the market. So in all of these ways we are tied into that local economy.

HOST: Because we’re talking about ocean observing data and especially with your last example here on harmful algal blooms, it sounds like there are a lot of direct benefits for coastal residents of the U.S. from IOOS. Is this true?

ZDENKA WILLIS: It is. According to the National Ocean Economics Program, the 30 coastal U.S. states account for 82 percent of the total U.S. population and 81 percent of the jobs based on 2006 data. In 2004, the coastal leisure and hospitality sector alone generated $340 billion of revenue and 10 million jobs. The coastal trade, transportation, and utilities sector generated another $950 billion. In 2005, Hurricanes Wilma, Rita, and Katrina accounted for approximately $157 billion in damages and 1,987 deaths within the coastal communities.

The benefit of having the ocean observing data and a national system such as IOOS will help better secure these local economies. For example, data integration will provide earlier and better information to decision makers needing to enhance zoning, coastal construction, and offshore gas and oil operations in order to minimize impacts of weather, sea level, and flooding.

Specifically, IOOS funded an effort to develop and disseminate near real-time customized Web site for the Long Beach/Los Angeles Harbor. We were able to combine wave data, sea surface temperature data, surface currents, and winds over NOAA’s nautical charting to allow the harbor pilots to better bring in the large ships that are coming into Long Beach.

And so why is that important? For shipping, time is money. And therefore, being able to plan their routes efficiently and effectively means additional dollars for them and lower cost to us.

HOST: And how about for our non-coastal listeners today. What are the economic benefits of IOOS for them?

ZDENKA WILLIS: You know that really is an important issue. Folks in the middle of the country might not think that this is important, but when you think about 95 percent of our goods and services come into our ports, being able to do that safely and efficiently and in an economic way will result in lower prices for all of us.

Also, this oceanographic information is important to our farming community. By taking the oceanographic information combining it with the atmospheric information, we can all provide better seasonal forecasts that allow the farmers to understand what to plant, when to plant, and in some cases when to actually harvest.

HOST: These have really been great examples of how integrating all of this ocean observing data together can help our economy. Are there any other benefits that we haven’t yet discussed today?

ZDENKA WILLIS: I think that there is one that ties this to ocean and human health that I’d like to go over because I don’t know that people have a chance to think of this. So ocean observations are improving scientific ability to detect and mitigate the outbreak of disease and other harmful conditions.

For example, research done under Dr. Rita Caldwell, recently developed a system for predicting cholera outbreaks using satellite monitoring of marine environments. The data shows that the epidemics actually follow seasonal increase in temperature of the ocean and phytoplankton levels. So the tiny organisms increase in the number as the water temperatures rise and bring the cholera pathogen to drinking water supplies. This finding could lead to early warnings for similar ocean health threats.

HOST: Thanks, Zdenka. I really appreciate all of these wonderful examples that you’ve provided for us. I feel like you really showed and highlighted how IOOS impacts us and is important to us every single day. Do you have any final closing words for our listeners today?

ZDENKA WILLIS: I’d like to close on another theme of IOOS and that’s partnership. We cannot, any of us, deliver the capacity that I just talked about singularly. IOOS is a partnership at the federal level with more than 17 federal agencies and institutions participating at that regional to local level that bring together that state, local, tribal government, academia, industry.

And then finally, while U.S. IOOS is certainly our national effort it is part of a larger international framework and we have tremendous cooperation with our international partners because it really is about understanding the ocean, its environment, and the living marine resources, and that’s why I get so passionate when I talk about this thing called the Integrated Ocean Observing System.

(OUTRO)
HOST: Thanks so much Zdenka for your time and joining us on today’s episode of Diving Deeper and helping us learn more about the many benefits of ocean observing systems. To learn more about ocean observing data, you can visit ioos.gov.
That’s all for this week’s show, please tune in in February for our next episode.


What is marine spatial planning?

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/nov09/dd110409.mp3

Wed, 04 Nov 2009 12:16:31 -0500

Diving Deeper: Episode 18 (November 04, 2009) —
What is marine spatial planning?

HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I’m your host Kate Nielsen.

Today’s question is….What is marine spatial planning?

Marine spatial planning is a relatively new concept that is similar to land use planning. Marine spatial planning is the process used to make smart ocean-related decisions and policies. The identification of marine managed areas and the ability to determine their boundaries are main components of marine spatial planning.

To help us dive a little deeper into this question, we will talk with Brian Smith on marine spatial planning – what it is and why it is important. Brian is a marine spatial planner with the NOAA Coastal Services Center. Hi Brian, welcome to our show.

BRIAN SMITH: Hi Kate, it’s great to be here today.

(DEFINING MARINE SPATIAL PLANNING)
HOST: Brian, marine spatial planning is a fairly new concept for me. Can you define this for us a little bit further?

BRIAN SMITH: Sure. Marine spatial planning at its most simple is the allocation of marine space. So if you’ve got a big, open ocean out there, how is it that you divide that up into different pieces so that you can figure out who’s going to use one piece versus another. You can also kind of think about it in managing ocean space. You are looking at things like the ecology of that area, social issues that you have, economic issues that you have, and you want to take all of those into account. So this is sometimes described as an integrated process, a multi-objective process, and an area or place-based process.

HOST: So is marine spatial planning used just for conservation planning purposes?

BRIAN SMITH: Well, to a degree that depends on how you define conservation. Many people would look at conservation itself just as wise use of resources. So, good marine spatial planning is providing a foundation for sustainability of services that you have in the ocean and people are looking for the ocean to provide them with certain things whether it’s fish or commerce. In order to sustain that and conserve it, you need to plan. And in that way, many people would broadly consider it conservation, but I think a lot of people immediately when they hear conservation would think of marine protected areas for biodiversity and although that’s one thing that certainly marine spatial planning has been used for and still is used for, it’s a broader definition, I think, than just ecology or biodiversity protection. It’s things like energy, where do you put offshore energy sites, where would you put maybe a commercial aquaculture facility, so it includes many things.

HOST: Great. It sounds like marine spatial planning is a rather complex topic. What might be some of the issues with this?

BRIAN SMITH: It is a complex topic Kate. You’ve got a couple of issues that you need to consider here. One is conflicting uses. You’ve got multiple stakeholders and jurisdictions that are competing for ocean space. You’ve also got to realize that the ocean is a finite resource – it’s vast, but not endless. There’s many things that we’re taking from the ocean and many things that we depend on it for and we kind of expect those resources to continue to flow. But at the levels that we demand, they may not exactly do that. We need them to be sustainable and that’s the other issue that we would want to consider in marine spatial planning is sustainability. So you’ve got many generations to come and your good planning now means that you’ll have these resources continue in the future.

HOST: So it sounds like planning will be critical to sustaining our ocean resources for future generations. Who all is involved in marine spatial planning?

BRIAN SMITH: Kate, there are many people involved in marine spatial planning – too many to name just in a short answer. To try and be brief, we do have things like federal governments, state governments, tribal can be included in this list. You also have to consider that there are many other regular folks that need to be consulted when you’re making decisions here. So you’ve got non-profits that are at the table, citizens that are at the table, all playing a big role. It’s not just a government thing, it’s not just a conservation organization thing, or just people on the street…it’s everybody.

HOST: Brian, you mentioned marine managed areas. What does this mean?

BRIAN SMITH: It can mean several things. Generally when someone talks about a marine managed area, it’s an area that you’ve designated for one reason or another to protect or manage. Protection can come in many forms and you’ve got several different examples out there of types of marine managed areas that we have in the United States. We’ve got things like national marine sanctuaries, you’ve got national seashores, national monuments, national parks, fishery management zones, etc., I can go on, there’s a large list, many different types of marine protected areas and marine managed areas and those are just a few.

HOST: Who creates these marine managed areas?

BRIAN SMITH: Well, good question and we sort of touched on it a little bit earlier in one of the other answers and it really boils down to who has jurisdiction or who has authority in an area. It could be a state government, the federal government, part of a territorial sea, a tribal government, or a local government – any of those could potentially have authority in an area and create a marine protected area.

HOST: What are some of the benefits of marine spatial planning?

BRIAN SMITH: Well, there’s many and if we’re talking again about future generations and we’re looking forward, we need to protect what we have now to make sure that future generations are able to reap the same benefits that we have the ability to right now. So they fall into three general categories usually and that would be – your economic and social benefits, your environmental benefits, and the simple benefit of an integrated planning process where you’ve got a bunch of people on board.

So an example of maybe your economic or social benefit is that you’re making an efficient use of space and that you’re minimizing conflicts. So if you can think about efficient use of space like a small city apartment versus one that you find in the suburbs. There’s often very interesting ways that people make use of small spaces.

From the environmental standpoint, you’re identifying areas of particular importance or sensitivity for protection, and that’s a benefit that you’ve thought about. These areas that are very sensitive, you’ve tried to set them aside so that you protect them for the future and you can also assess and reduce your cumulative impacts over time. So it may not be a problem to permit a certain use one time, but by the time you’ve permitted it ten times, you start to have an influence, a negative influence. So you can take care of that with proper planning and foresight.

And the integrated planning process part of it, it does clarify for the public that everybody has bought into a vision. And that moving forward, we all have signed off on what we’re going to do, and it alleviates some conflicts in the future if you move forward with a plan that people had a chance to talk about.

HOST: Brian, who ultimately makes the decision regarding how we use or designate an area of the ocean?

BRIAN SMITH: Well, we’ve raised a number of complexities in and around managing natural resources in general, and then for marine spatial planning specifically. This is another one of those challenging questions and the slippery answer is that no one and everyone at the same time. To explain what I mean by that, it ultimately again boils down to who’s been given jurisdiction by law – who is it that has authority in that area and that’s where the decision will be made.

You’ve got multiple groups that are there representing multiple different agencies and interest groups whether they’re divers or commercial fishermen or surfers or recreational fishermen, whether they’re people representing the energy industry – there’s many different people who can be at the table. For example, the conservation community may push for an area to be protected, but NOAA or National Park Service or Fish and Wildlife Service may ultimately have the authority to designate that area with a certain sort of protection. So, who ultimately makes the decision varies depending on the area that you’re talking about and what type of management you’re doing and what type of protection you’re doing.

HOST: Thanks for that example. What is the role of the National Ocean Service in marine spatial planning?

BRIAN SMITH: Well, as we have talked about there’s many different entities and National Ocean Service plays one part. One of the things that we do here at the NOAA Coastal Services Center as part of the National Ocean Service is play a supporting role to provide people with information. So that information can take the form of helping people determine where marine boundaries are so you can figure out on one side of this boundary is state waters and on the other side of that boundary is federal waters, and provide that information in a standardized and easily accessible way. You can also provide access to many other forms of data that people are going to need in order to make decisions whether its data and information on what type of bottom is in an area or what type of fish are in that area, what type of shipping lanes might run through it.

This is not a role that NOAA can play by itself, obviously there are many partners, some that I mentioned earlier that work closely on the data access and marine boundaries and that can be people like the Minerals Management Service, who has control of assigning leases for oil and gas or offshore renewable energy exploration; Fish and Wildlife Service; National Park Service; as well as local and state, even tribal governments have a role that is played in marine spatial planning and National Ocean Service is there to support and work with the rest of these partners to get things done.

(IMPORTANCE OF MARINE BOUNDARIES)
HOST: Brian, we’ve talked a little bit so far today about marine boundaries. Why do we need these areas? Why do we need these boundaries?

BRIAN SMITH: Well, there’s multiple levels of offshore rights that could include international, national, state, regional, and private, and it’s critical to know who has ownership or jurisdiction over a particular area. If you don’t know that, there are many issues that can arise.

One example is emergency response. So, say you or I has an accident this weekend and we’re off the coast of South Carolina. Somebody calls 911. They need to know if your accident occurred in state waters, in federal waters, if it’s the state of South Carolina versus the state of Georgia – who is it that’s going to respond to that. And in order to make those decisions, one of the things that’s central is making sure that the people that are looking at it, know where a boundary is and can make that determination quickly and easily. Before we can place any restriction or conservation or protection and begin new management efforts, we need to know where the boundaries are and who’s responsible for what.

HOST: So it sounds like knowing who has ownership or jurisdiction over a particular area is really important for understanding our need for marine boundaries. How are marine boundaries represented or shown visually?

BRIAN SMITH: Well, it’s not as easy as it would be on land obviously to go out and draw a line. You’re in the water. So what do you do? You can’t plant a flag there, you don’t have a road, there are no ways to put signs anywhere, and therefore, most of what you have in the ocean world is electronic. You’ve got digital boundaries and people have them on their GPS units or on whatever other electronics they might have on a boat or so that you can look at them on maps. And you’ve got them represented in that way which obviously is slightly different than what you’ve got on land, but just as effective if you know where to go and look.

HOST: So, we have boundaries to help outline marine managed areas, which you talked about and defined those areas for us a little bit earlier. How do we visualize all of the issues that you’ve mentioned so far today to really do the planning that is so critically needed?

BRIAN SMITH: Well visualizing the issues, we can do that today on the Web. So, we’ve created a Web-mapping tool here at the Coastal Services Center called Legislative Atlas. And what Legislative Atlas is built to do was essentially show you where boundaries are. So you can look and see where state waters start and stop and where federal waters start and stop. You can look at a specific point on the map and figure out what laws apply at that spot.

So if I’m a manager in a state and I want to know – looking at a permit application that I have in front of me – who needs to be consulted, I will have all of those laws at my fingertips using Legislative Atlas.

(CRITICAL MARINE DATA)
HOST: Thanks Brian for this background on marine boundaries. In addition to marine boundaries, you mentioned marine data and information as another key for ocean-related decision making. Can you expand more on this marine data need?

BRIAN SMITH: Sure. There is a tremendous need for data as we’ve discussed. It’s a complicated issue and process when you’re going through marine spatial planning. You’ve got a lot of different people at the table, a lot of different interests. And one of the ways that we’re trying to address that is we’ve put out a tool called the Multipurpose Marine Cadastre. All a cadastre is it’s like a survey map or a public record, what you would have for taxes to figure out who owns what part of a piece of property.

The tool that we’ve developed, the Multipurpose Marine Cadastre, has a bunch of different information in it – anything from the marine boundaries that we’ve discussed to the marine managed areas are in there, types of marine infrastructure like pipelines and platforms, wrecks and shipping lanes, we’ve got habitat and biodiversity information in there, types of marine geology are in there, and all sorts of human uses that you can think of. So this Multipurpose Marine Cadastre tool, it’s essentially a comprehensive map now, you’ve got a large information system that provides you all sorts of access to different data sets that you need in planning and we did this in cooperation with the Minerals Management Service. It’ll be a great tool for us to use not only in things like alternative energy siting, but commercial aquaculture sites, anything you can think of in marine planning, you’ve got a set of information now, a tool that provides you that information in an easy and accessible way.

HOST: Brian, can you provide an example or a little bit more information of how marine spatial planning supports alternative energy siting or development that you mentioned in your last answer?

BRIAN SMITH: Yes, and what I was thinking of when we were talking about the tools and specifically with the alternative energy siting is that you’ve got a lot of different things out there in the water and under water that you’ve got to take into consideration when you’re going to site something like a wind farm. You need to know how deep the water is, you need to know what’s on the bottom, you need to know if it’s a common area for shipping that’s a fairway or a shipping lane that you’re going to have commercial ships going through often. Is it something that fishermen are constantly dragging nets through or an important area for that?

So, the state of Rhode Island has done a great job being proactive at collecting a tremendous amount of information for habitats and species. They’ve got a lot of things already identified, so that when they move forward with industry, trying to plan where wind farms are going to go, they’ve got a lot of information already at their fingertips to help figure out where they can successfully put offshore energy like wind farms.

HOST: Thanks Brian for all of this great information and these helpful examples to define marine spatial planning for us. Do you have any final closing words for our listeners today?

BRIAN SMITH: Well, first of all, thank you very much for the opportunity. I think this is a very important topic and it’s an issue that going to I think be heard more and more – people talking about marine spatial planning. The ocean is, as we said before, it’s not unlimited, it’s a finite space and the more planning we can do the more wisely we’ll use that space.

HOST: Thank you Brian for joining us on today’s episode of Diving Deeper and talking more about marine spatial planning and why it is important.

(OUTRO)
That’s all for this week’s show. Please tune in for our next episode on oil spills.


What is a harmful algal bloom?

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/oct09/dd100709.mp3

Wed, 07 Oct 2009 07:48:42 -0400

Diving Deeper: Episode 17 (October 7, 2009) —
What is a harmful algal bloom?

(INTRO)
HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I’m your host Kate Nielsen.

Today’s question is….What is a harmful algal bloom?

Harmful algal blooms, also known as HABs, are blooms of species of algae that can have negative impacts on humans, marine and freshwater environments, and coastal economies. These blooms occur when phytoplankton, which are tiny microscopic plants, grow quickly in large quantities while producing toxic or harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals, and birds.

To help us dive a little deeper into this question, we will talk with Allison Sill on harmful algal blooms – what they are, what causes them, and the impacts of harmful algal blooms. Allison is the former coordinator for the Phytoplankton Monitoring Network with the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science. Hi, Allison, welcome to our show.

ALLISON SILL: Hi Kate, thanks, it’s good to be here.

(DEFINING HARMFUL ALGAL BLOOMS)
HOST: Allison, first, what is the difference between a harmful algal bloom and a red tide?

ALLISON SILL: Well, red tides are not always going to be harmful and it’s a general term used to describe blooms. Many tides aren’t red, many of them are actually golden brown, yellow, you can actually have green tides as well. Scientists use the term harmful algal bloom to describe an algal bloom that can have a negative impact on the environment.

HOST: Are all algal blooms harmful?

ALLISON SILL: No, not all algal blooms are actually harmful. And actually less than one percent produce toxins. Blooms can be beneficial. You have to remember that phytoplankton are producers so they’re found at the bottom of the marine food chain and all other life in the ocean relies on this phytoplankton. Blooms can also be a good indicator of environmental change not only in the water, but also on land.

HOST: OK, so not all algal blooms are harmful. Is a bloom only harmful if it produces toxins?

ALLISON SILL: No, a bloom does not have to produce toxins in order to be harmful to the environment. It can also be harmful by causing anoxic conditions where oxygen is depleted from the water. It can block light to organisms lower in the water column or it can clog or harm fish gills. All of these effects can harm or kill plants or fish in the environment.

HOST: Where do harmful algal blooms occur?

ALLISON SILL: Harmful algal blooms can occur along every coast. For example, blooms can occur along the Florida coast and they can occur during any month, but usually they’re more frequent in the summer months. Blooms can also occur along the California coast. Many of the toxic blooms that we see impacting marine mammals and birds occur along the Pacific coast.

HOST: Allison, earlier you mentioned that blooms occur in coastal waters. Do harmful algal blooms only occur in salty, marine waters or can they also occur in freshwater?

ALLISON SILL: Kate, harmful algal blooms can occur in freshwater too and a great example of this would be the Great Lakes where they have reoccurring green blooms and these green blooms can produce toxins. These toxins can be harmful to humans so they are monitored carefully and toxins are removed by the suppliers of public drinking water in that area.

(CAUSE OF HARMFUL ALGAL BLOOMS)
HOST: What causes harmful algal blooms?

ALLISON SILL: There are a variety of factors that can cause these harmful algal blooms some of which are natural and some of which are not natural. The cause also is dependent on the species type and what that species needs in order to actually bloom. When conditions such as salinity – which is the amount of salt in the water, temperature, nutrients - when these factors are optimal, the bloom can occur. And some species are actually good indicators of coastal eutrophication, which is known as nutrient pollution.

HOST: I think we can all understand that in different geographies and at different times of the year, the water conditions such as temperature, light, and salinity that you mentioned, can change in a given area. What causes these excess nutrients to be present in the water?

ALLISON SILL: There are actually both natural and unnatural sources of nutrients in the ocean. Upwelling is a natural occurrence which can be caused by winds and currents, it’s seasonal, and it’s when nutrients are pulled up from the sea floor and suspended near the surface of the water. Nutrient runoff from land is also another cause for these blooms to occur. And we’re finding that this nutrient inflow from land is happening more frequently because more people are moving to the coastline, therefore there’s more human activity along the coast. And the nutrients that are causing problems include things such as fertilizers, pesticides, and detergents which have high levels of phosphorus in them.
 
(IMPACTS FROM HARMFUL ALGAL BLOOMS)

HOST: Allison, what are some of the impacts that we see from harmful algal blooms?

ALLISON SILL: Kate, as mentioned before an impact that is very obvious to an observer is actually the discoloration of the water. It might appear red, green, brown. There’s also a great number of impacts on the marine environment. You can have low dissolved oxygen or anoxic conditions which can lead to the death of fish and you might see fish floating on the surface of the water. We also have what are called unusual mortality events and this is when there are unexpected strandings of marine mammals on the beach, typically it can happen in high numbers. This type of event requires a response from certain agencies. And the research is indicating that 26 percent of all unusual mortality events are actually related to marine toxins. There are also human health syndromes, five in particular that are caused by certain species.

HOST: Allison, how do people become sick from these algal toxins?

ALLISON SILL: As mentioned in the previous answer, there are five human health syndromes, four of which can be caused by eating toxic shellfish, one of which can be caused by eating toxic fish. If you were to eat toxic shellfish, this could potentially lead to severe poisoning, possibly even death, but this is very rare because there’s very careful monitoring of algae and shellfish by state agencies. If a toxin is found around shellfish beds, then those shellfish beds are closed to harvesting.

Airborne toxins can be found especially on the beaches of the west coast of Florida and these airborne toxins can cause temporary asthma symptoms in beach goers. This can also have a more long-term effect on residents with respiratory ailments. If these toxins are found on beaches in Florida, then those beaches are closed. But please, do not give up seafood folks because remember less than one percent of all phytoplankton can be toxic, so these syndromes are very rare.

HOST: I know you mentioned earlier how decaying blooms can deplete or remove oxygen in the water killing marine life and that some species can damage or clog fish gills. Are there other impacts of harmful algal blooms on fish and other marine life?

ALLISON SILL: Kate, harmful algal blooms can kill fish and other marine life. And one of the ways in which this can happen is through a process called biomagnification. Biomagnification is when toxins are accumulated within the tissue of animals as you travel up the food chain. So you have very small phytoplankton that have the toxin in them and as those larger animals eat smaller animals that toxin is then increased within the tissue of the animal, therefore harming animals at the top of the food chain. 

In addition to fish and marine life, some blooms can be so thick that it’s hard for light to actually penetrate down below and this can really hurt seagrasses and other aquatic vegetation that rely on light.

HOST: Allison, so it sounds like the impacts from the algal toxins from some blooms can not only present possible threats to human health and the health of marine life, but could also cause economic impacts to our coastal fisheries.

ALLISON SILL: That’s right Kate. Harmful algal blooms can harm tourism. They can cause beach closures, they can also cause a lot of trouble for commercial and recreational fishing industries, and can even harm restaurants that depend on these fisheries in order to stay open. Approximately $82 million each year is lost to harmful algal blooms and this is actually thought to be a conservative estimate.

HOST: Allison, how are non-coastal residents impacted by harmful algal blooms?

ALLISON SILL: Kate, I think it’s interesting a lot of people forget that people that aren’t along the coast can actually be affected by these blooms as well. And non-coastal residents can be affected by having their vacations disrupted. If the beaches in Florida are closed and that’s where they intend to vacation, then their vacation plans are going to change. Also if they eat seafood and the seafood potentially could be contaminated with some of these toxins, that could cause it to be unavailable to them. Also remember, we’re all connected by our watersheds so those inland areas could also be contributing to the nutrient runoff found in our coastal waters.

HOST: Allison, what is the role of the National Ocean Service in studying harmful algal blooms?

ALLISON SILL: Well Kate, research conducted by NOAA’s National Ocean Service is just one piece or one component to increase understanding of harmful algal blooms and their impacts. There are actually many different offices within NOAA working on harmful algal bloom issues. One of which is the Phytoplankton Monitoring Network, who I’m involved with, and that is where citizen and student volunteers are trained on how to collect and identify phytoplankton in their coastal waters. This data is reported to NOAA scientists so it’s great to get these people involved in real-world research.

NOAA supports an Analytical Response Team and this team confirms the presence of specific algae and toxins during the blooms and in marine mammal poisonings. Remember the unusual mortality events that I was talking about earlier where 26 percent are actually caused by marine toxins, this is the team that works with those events. NOAA oversees a Harmful Algal Bloom Forecasting System which is extremely beneficial and it uses satellite data and imagery which can provides regular bulletins to coastal managers and even the general public. And it forecasts the location, extent, and potential development of blooms. This in turn can help scientists and researchers see where these blooms might be going and how it might impact the coastline.

HOST: Allison, it’s great to hear that all of these resources are dedicated to improving the understanding and possibly even being able to forecast these blooms to further minimize human health impacts and economic losses. Do you have any final, closing words for our listeners today?

ALLISON SILL: Well, I want to thank you for inviting me here today Kate because I think this is an important topic for people to learn more about. And NOAA research on harmful algal blooms is placing a very important emphasis on understanding the relationship between oceans and human health. How can you help? The Phytoplankton Monitoring Network is a great way to volunteer to monitor your coastal waters for harmful algal blooms. This can increase the number of eyes on our coastal waters and help us to understand better what is happening with harmful algal blooms.

HOST: Thanks Allison for joining us on today’s episode of Diving Deeper and exploring what harmful algal blooms are and what causes them. To learn more about harmful algal blooms, please visit the Phytoplankton Monitoring Network Web site at www.chbr.noaa.gov/pmn.

(OUTRO)
That’s all for this week’s show.


What is Maritime Heritage?

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/sep09/dd090909.mp3

Wed, 09 Sep 2009 10:18:44 -0400

Diving Deeper: Episode 16 (September 9, 2009) —
What is Maritime Heritage?

(INTRO)
HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I’m your host Kate Nielsen.

Today’s question is….What is maritime heritage?

Maritime heritage is a broad legacy that includes not only physical resources such as historic shipwrecks and prehistoric archaeological sites, but also archival documents, oral histories, and traditional knowledge of indigenous cultures.

To help us dive a little deeper into this question, we will talk with Dave Alberg on maritime heritage – what it is, why NOAA is involved, and why we need to protect these historical resources. Dave is the Sanctuary Superintendent for the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. Hi Dave, welcome to our show.

DAVE ALBERG: Hi Kate, thanks for inviting me here today to talk more about maritime heritage.

(BACKGROUND ON MARITIME HERITAGE)
HOST: Dave, can you expand a bit more on what is meant by maritime heritage?

DAVE ALBERG: Maritime heritage is a way to connect the oceans back to citizens of our country and really to people all around the world – connect them back to the oceans, connect them on a personal level so that they walk away with a better understanding of the role the oceans play in their daily lives and just as importantly the role that their daily lives play in the future of our oceans. And it’s a way to connect to an audience that might not normally be interested in ocean issues in a way that can sometimes be very personal and very powerful.
 
HOST: So besides the actual shipwreck or archaeological site that I mentioned in our opening definition and the archival documents, are there other components or pieces to maritime heritage?

DAVE ALBERG: Absolutely. Maritime heritage can include the stories of indigenous cultures that have lived and used the oceans for, in many cases, thousands of years before Europeans settled the United States. It’s a way for us to learn from them about a level of understanding about the oceans and the interface between the oceans and human beings on a level that we probably can’t even appreciate today in our modern world.

It also includes the structures, things like lighthouses and wharfs, the industries that developed around those structures like the life-saving services and the history of commercial fishing, and even more historical stories such as the story of whaling in the United States, the role that whaling played in the earlier part of the 20th century and the later part of the 19th century, its impact on the global economy, its impact on U.S. history, and the outcomes, of course, to the biological communities that were so deeply impacted – the whales and the dolphins.
 
HOST: Great, so there are a lot of components it sounds like, a lot of different things involved for maritime heritage.

DAVE ALBERG: Absolutely.

HOST: Why is it important to preserve and study these resources? What do we hope to gain from our research and knowledge?

DAVE ALBERG: Well, I think a couple things. One is with any historical project, at the end of the day it helps us better understand ourselves. Hopefully by looking at the past it helps us to better understand where we sit today and where we may be going in the future. But in terms of the broader picture, I think what’s really significant about maritime heritage resources and certainly the role that the study and promotion of maritime heritage resources plays within NOAA is that it helps people come back to the ocean. It helps connect them to the ocean. People that may not have ever seen the ocean, people that may not ever plan on being near the ocean, people that live in the interior of the country.

HOST: Why is maritime heritage important for our listeners? Some of our listeners live in coastal areas and some do not. How does this impact us when a site may be located hundreds or even thousands of miles away?

DAVE ALBERG: Well, I think the reason it’s important is that certainly ocean issues are paramount and are very visible to folks that are living along the coast, the 50 percent of Americans that live within 100 miles or so of our coastlines. But it’s the other 50 percent that I think have as much to do with the future of the ocean and how the ocean will go in the next 50 years. They have as much to say in that as do people that are living right on the coastline. So, maritime heritage again is maybe a way to connect to people that may not have thought they have an interest in ocean issues on a very personal level and those folks will be as critical to the future of the oceans as those living in Norfolk or San Diego or New York that are right along the coastlines.
 
(MARITIME HERITAGE: WHAT ALL IS INVOLVED)
HOST: Dave, I imagine that there is quite a team of people involved in research expeditions for these archaeological sites. Can you tell us a little bit about the background or expertise of members of your research teams?

DAVE ALBERG: Absolutely. We’ve got, of course, folks that specialize in maritime archaeology for most of our expeditions in the last couple years they include folks from a number of different federal agencies including the Park Service, NOAA of course, and even Minerals Management Service. But we also have people that are trained in communication and journalism because at the end of the day much of what we do is about storytelling. So the folks that are involved from the communications side are just as important as the archaeologists in conveying the messages and the lessons that we’ve learned as we go about our research.

But they also include experts in GIS in helping us understand the relationships of an artifact to its archaeological site, the assemblage of artifacts and how they relate out during the sinking of a shipwreck for instance and the GIS expert can be very critical in helping to document the location of things as small as individual artifacts on a site or the relationship between a number of shipwrecks in one spot. And an example there might be, using the Battle of the Atlantic as an example, the relationship between a number of shipwrecks lost at the same time during a particular battle begins to form a battlefield landscape. And typically we think of battlefields as terrestrial concepts, but as we look at sites off North Carolina and really around the world related to maritime history, we see that there’s actually these battlefield landscapes that exist under the water as well. So the GIS professional can help us better understand the relationships of those wrecks. 
 
HOST: Thanks Dave. I never thought about the storytelling aspect that really lies out there for maritime heritage, that’s great. How do we find shipwrecks? Are they typically found while we are looking for something else on the sea floor or are there missions that go out to look for a specific shipwreck?

DAVE ALBERG: I think it’s a little bit of both. And the classic example of the approach where we’re looking for a particular shipwreck would be the Monitor or the Titantic, we knew roughly where these shipwrecks were and many people were involved, in some cases, for many years trying to track down and locate that particular shipwreck knowing approximately where it was, but involving generations of people trying to track it down.

So there are shipwrecks that are found that way and then there are shipwrecks that are found through accidental means I guess and that could be through surveys of ocean bottom which are conducted by NOAA or other people. In many cases we get information very informally from fishermen and from divers who are either recreating or working in areas where they come across data on hangs, where they’re hitting something on the bottom with their fishing gear, or in the case of divers where they’ve found shipwrecks or objects on the bottom, and often times those things lead to terrific partnership opportunities where the Sanctuary Program has gone in and helped pull back the curtain so to speak by providing resources and expertise to help uncover the real mystery of what the shipwreck might be or more about its history.

HOST: Dave, how are maritime heritage resources studied or interpreted? What do you look for when you’re first exploring a site and how do we use the information that’s collected?

DAVE ALBERG: Well I think it depends on the objectives of the expedition. In the case of the Monitor for instance, the maritime heritage resources that were associated with the wreck site, the way that they were studied was through recovery, very careful and in many cases, long-term conservation of those artifacts so that they’d be preserved forever in a public institution like the Mariners’ Museum so that future generations of Americans for hundreds of years will be able to come and study these artifacts. Scholars will be able to use these artifacts to better understand and preserve the history of the Civil War and the role that the Monitor played in that event.

But I think in other cases, where we are studying a maritime heritage site, maybe recovery is not part of the dynamic at all. In those cases, it’s trying to preserve and capture the history and the stories associated with that site or that shipwreck without having to do excavation. So for instance last summer and this summer when we’re continuing our work on the Battle of the Atlantic sites, it will include photo-documentation and archaeological site plans and a great deal of harvesting of research and information that’s been out there from a number of sources so that we’re capturing and preserving this history within the final report which will then be released to the public and hopefully that research is built on by other researchers in years to come.

HOST: Are there threats or impacts that can degrade or destroy these historical resources like you’re mentioning the Monitor or Titanic, other ships?

DAVE ALBERG: Absolutely and I think they, for the most part, fall into two categories – environmental or human impacts. The environmental impacts are obvious. Time being probably one of the most significant ones – an iron shipwreck, in the case of the Monitor, in saltwater is of course making a very slow march towards decay although much slower than many people may have thought years ago, but the environment does take its toll. Storms and hurricanes that move through areas, for instance off coastal North Carolina can certainly have an impact on a shipwreck.

But there’s also human factors. For the most part the dive community is very respectful when they go to archaeological sites or to a shipwreck site, but unfortunately it doesn’t take much impact to destroy a wreck. And that always isn’t intentional, often times it’s unintentional. Things like anchoring on a shipwreck that has been in saltwater for a long time where the metal is fragile and you have a heavy boat that’s bouncing on its anchor – that can do a tremendous amount of damage. And of course looting and disruption of the site by souvenir hunters can certainly rob future generations and our generation of the opportunity of a better understanding of the histories and the stories that these shipwrecks can tell.

HOST: Well, it’s amazing with all of the impacts and threats that there are out there, that we’re able to preserve shipwrecks at all. How actually do we preserve these shipwrecks over time to prevent even further degradation than what we just talked about?

DAVE ALBERG: Well, I think it’s a couple things and it depends on the circumstance. In the case of the Monitor, it’s done through a very complex conservation partnership with the Mariners’ Museum which will last many decades to physically preserve the artifacts from the Monitor. But I think in many cases because nobody has the resources to preserve every shipwreck that’s out there in the ocean and quite frankly I don’t think you would want to do that even if you did have the resources. I think what we try to do when we talk about preservation of the vast majority of shipwrecks, it is about changing behaviors of folks that interface with these wrecks so that the fishing community, the dive community, people that have the ability, the technical ability, to get to them, treat them with a level of respect so that those shipwrecks are preserved for their children and the next generation of divers.

But I think the other piece is also that we work very hard to preserve the histories and the stories. It’s the histories and the stories of these shipwrecks that really the team here within the Sanctuary Program and the Maritime Heritage Program are working very hard whether it’s at the Monitor or in Thunder Bay or in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. As we uncover more and more fascinating and dynamic human stories and maritime heritage stories, is to work to preserve those through photographs and through technical reports so that that history is not lost.

HOST: Dave, you mentioned the impacts that people can have on these sites during exploration. Are underwater archaeological sites open to the public in any way to visit or directly interact?

DAVE ALBERG: Absolutely, the Monitor is open. There’s a permit process to dive the Monitor, but we work, in fact in June of 2009 we had a private research trip to the Monitor, we have another one in August of 2009, and for years, really for 30 years, we’ve had a long history of private research trips to the Monitor where people can get down on the site and experience first hand the history and the tremendous value that the Monitor represents in terms of our national story.

(ROLE OF NOAA IN MARITIME HERITAGE)
HOST: Thanks Dave for what you’ve given us so far today on a little bit more background and really explaining the concept of maritime heritage to us more. Can you take a few minutes to talk to us specifically about the role of the National Ocean Service in maritime heritage?

DAVE ALBERG: Well, my office, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, which falls under NOS, has really been on the cutting edge of preserving maritime heritage not only within NOAA, but really within the federal government. There are terrific programs dedicated to interpreting and preserving maritime heritage. The Park Service and their Submerged Cultural Resource Unit has done work for many years, the Army Corps of Engineers, but I think it is fair to say that the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, NOS, and NOAA have really developed a program that is second to none in terms of helping the public better understand their maritime history and their maritime heritage.

HOST: Dave, we know from our earlier podcast on national marine sanctuaries where I interviewed Dan Basta that sanctuaries serve a variety of purposes such as conservation, education, research, maritime heritage – this is just to name a few. Do all of our national marine sanctuaries contain shipwrecks or other archaeological preserves?

DAVE ALBERG: I think I would answer that by saying that without a doubt all of our national marine sanctuaries have maritime heritage stories to tell and maritime heritage resources. They may be shipwrecks in some cases, they may be indigenous cultures in other cases, they may be communities that have existed within that sanctuary long before it was even a sanctuary and understand those waters like nobody else. So I think the answer is clearly yes, there are maritime heritage resources in all of our sanctuaries.

But with that said, we do try to be consistent with the program and the goals and objectives of the Sanctuary Program and better understand the natural environment there at the site as well, so that these sites can also not only be important to the nation in terms of capturing that maritime history, but also can serve really as sentinel sites as the nation and the world begin to struggle with complex issues such as climate change, sea level rise.
 
HOST: What was the first national marine sanctuary designated with a maritime heritage component or that as the main purpose?

DAVE ALBERG: Well, I’m glad you asked that question Kate because the first sanctuary that was created with a maritime heritage component was the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of North Carolina. And it was dedicated, or established I should say, in 1975, not only as the first site with a maritime heritage component, but as the first site in the system. And our system today contains 14 sites from the East Coast of the United States to the warm waters of the Pacific, off Hawaii and American Samoa, to the Great Lakes and the great maritime heritage resources in Thunder Bay and to the Olympic Coast. But all these sites that we see today have their origins back at the Monitor and the decision made by the people of the United States and by Congress to protect this one shipwreck which played such an important role in our nation’s history. 

HOST: Thanks Dave, I imagine many of our listeners are familiar with the Monitor just from our history lessons growing up. How was the Monitor first found?

DAVE ALBERG: The Monitor was found in 1973 by researches from Duke University who were testing out a new type of sonar. They had picked the Monitor specifically as a target because of its unique shape and its location off the coast of North Carolina. So the wreck was found in the summer of 1973, was positively identified in 1974 as the wreck site although most of the researchers had little doubt that what they’d found that summer before was in fact the Monitor, and then in 1975 was designated the first national marine sanctuary.

HOST: Dave, what have we learned from having the Monitor as our first national marine sanctuary? Has this been a successful preservation site over the last…almost 35 years now?

DAVE ALBERG: Oh I think absolutely, not only have we learned a great deal more about the history of our nation’s most famous ironclad and the role it played in the preservation of the Union, but I think we’ve learned a great deal about life in the Civil War, life in the Union Navy. We’ve also learned a great deal about the value of protecting special places and important national resources and why we need to keep doing that.

I think that the establishment of the National Park Service taught the nation a great deal about preserving terrestrial places within our country, but I think before the Monitor and the creation of the National Marine Sanctuary Program, few people thought about the underwater counterpart to the National Park Service. So I think, from my perspective, the real value of the Monitor and what it has done for the nation, not only historically, but I think the real value has been in helping our nation better understand the value of the oceans and the resources that lie beneath the waters of the sea.

HOST: What is needed to maintain a maritime archaeological site for this period of time like the Monitor? How does your staff avoid the degradation that we talked a little bit about earlier, some of this you’ve touched on? And just what goes into maintaining a site for this long?

DAVE ALBERG: Well, for the staff of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary most of our efforts in terms of maintaining the site are done through education and outreach in helping the public better understand this history and better understand the impacts that they can have on an archaeological site when they’re out diving them or fishing in these areas. And helping them understand that there is a balance that can serve everybody.

But certainly at Monitor, we also are involved with a very lengthy conservation process to preserve and protect the artifacts that have been recovered already. And I think another component to maintaining the site is, we’re out at the site every year, monitoring the site, looking at the conditions, studying it, and better understanding the natural processes of decay at a wreck site.

But I think what has really been remarkable about it is that we’ve also through the course of that come up with a much better appreciation of how stable many of these wrecks like the Monitor can be. In the case of the Monitor who’s been in saltwater for close to 140 years now or more than 140 years, what we find is that many of the artifacts that are coming up are as pristine today as they were the day they were made. That they enter a point of equilibrium with their environment and become stable and that there are stories that the Monitor wreck site and other archaeological sites that have been in water much longer than the Monitor can tell us hundreds and hundreds of years from now if properly managed and protected.

HOST: Thank you Dave for joining us on today’s episode of Diving Deeper and talking more about maritime heritage, NOAA’s role, and why this is important to us. To learn more about maritime heritage or the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, please visit sanctuaries.noaa.gov/maritime/welcome.html. 

(OUTRO)
That’s all for this week’s show.


What are Currents?

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/aug09/dd081209.mp3

Wed, 12 Aug 2009 08:51:53 -0400

Diving Deeper: Episode 15 (August 12, 2009) —
What are Currents?

(INTRO)
HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I’m your host Kate Nielsen.

Today’s question is….What are currents?

Currents describe the motion of the water. The speed and direction of currents can be measured and recorded. Currents are essential for maintaining the balance of life on Earth, but they can also cause many problems.

To help us dive a little deeper into this question, we will talk with Laura Rear on currents – what they are, what causes them, and how we measure them. Laura is an oceanographer with the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services where she manages the National Current Observation Program. Hi Laura, welcome to our show.

LAURA REAR: Hi Kate, thanks for inviting me here today to talk about currents. I’ve been studying and measuring currents for the past ten years and I’m glad to have the opportunity to speak to your listeners.

(TYPES AND CAUSES OF CURRENTS)
HOST: Laura, we touched on this question before in an earlier episode of Diving Deeper called what are tides, but can you remind us about the difference between tides and currents?

LAURA REAR: Sure thing Kate. As my colleague, Steve Gill, mentioned in that episode, the word tides is a general term used to define the alternating rise and fall in sea level with respect to the land. This means that tides move up and down during the day. Currents are different from tides in that they move horizontally rather than vertically. So currents describe the horizontal motion of the water and they’re driven by several different factors.

HOST: You mentioned that there are several different factors that drive or even can cause currents. Can you elaborate on these a little bit more?

LAURA REAR: Absolutely, there are several different factors that drive currents. Let me highlight a few of these different types of currents for you. There’s something that we call ocean currents, tidal currents, and coastal currents. The factors that cause these do vary.

HOST: OK, well Laura, can you first explain tidal currents to us and what causes these?

LAURA REAR: Tidal currents are a type of current that’s associated with the rise and fall of the tides. As you may remember from that earlier tides podcast, the rise and fall of tides is driven by the gravitational attraction of the sun and the moon on our oceans. The vertical motion of the tides near the shore causes the water to move horizontally, creating currents. When a tidal current moves towards the land and away from the sea, it’s something that we call flooding. When it moves toward the sea away from the land, it’s what we call ebbing. These tidal currents that ebb and flood in opposite directions are called rectilinear or reversing currents.

So tidal currents, just like tides, are affected by the different phases of the moon. So, if the moon is at a full or new phase, the tidal current speeds are strong and are called spring currents. When the moon is at another phase such as first or third quarter, the speed is weaker and the tidal current is referred to as a neap current.

HOST: Thanks Laura. What are coastal currents?

LAURA REAR: Kate, coastal currents are driven by winds, waves, and the shape of the land, so they’re not affected by the sun and the moon at all. First, let me give you a little bit more background on how winds and waves operate. So, wave height is affected by water depth, wind speed, how long the wind blows, and the distance over the water the wind is blowing, or something that we call fetch. So, if wind speed is slow and fetch is a small distance, then only small waves are built. Think about your bathtub. The fetch is only a few feet from one side of the tub to the other. The fetch in the ocean on the other hand is thousands of miles. If you were to blow a fan across the bathtub, only small ripples would form, however if you blow wind across the ocean, large waves would form. 

HOST: Thanks Laura for that great example, that really helps us visualize coastal currents a little bit better. Are there different types of coastal currents depending on the speed of the wind or the shape of the land, some of the factors that you talked about here earlier?

LAURA REAR: Yeah Kate, there really are. Let me just highlight a few here so that your listeners can get a better idea of what we’re talking about.

First, there’s often strong surface river currents at the upper ends of tidal estuaries where rivers meet the sea. River currents sometimes dominate all other currents during high river flow seasons.

There’s also something that we call longshore currents. Waves move towards the shore at different speeds depending on the shoreline shape and what the wave encounters before reaching the shoreline. Because of this, waves can bend to match the general shape of the coastline and waves typically arrive at a slight angle rather than perfectly parallel to the shoreline, so the wave bends as it reaches the shoreline. When a wave reaches the beach or the coastline, it releases a burst of energy that creates a current and that’s what we call the longshore current, and this current runs parallel to the shoreline.

Sometimes the longshore current moves on and off the beach, rip currents can form around breaks in sandbars or structures like piers. A rip current is a local current that flows away from the shoreline toward the ocean and this can happen at an angle or even perpendicular to the shoreline. Rip currents are something that many people are familiar with and you need to be careful because even the strongest swimmers can be pulled away from the shore very quickly. If you are caught in a rip current, remember not to panic, try to keep your head above the water, don’t exhaust yourself fighting against the current. Did you know that the best way to escape a rip current is by swimming parallel to the shore instead of towards it?

HOST: Thanks Laura. As you mentioned rip currents are something that many of us are aware of and this is really helpful advice to remember during our summer vacations and trips to the beach. Finally, can you explain open ocean currents to us?

LAURA REAR: Absolutely Kate, open ocean currents are similar to coastal currents in that they’re driven by the wind. Coastal currents are affected by winds near the coast, so they have more of a local impact. Surface ocean currents happen out in the large open ocean and are driven by a complex global wind system.

HOST: Laura, have we covered the most common types of currents with these three that you’ve outlined so far and what causes them?

LAURA REAR: For the most part we have, but there’s one more important type of motion to talk about and that’s what we call the global ocean conveyor belt. The ocean is not a still body of water as we have already talked about with the rise and fall of tides and the back and forth motion of currents. The global ocean conveyor belt is a generalized way of describing the constantly moving system of deep-ocean circulation that is driven by temperature and salinity differences throughout the ocean. We also call this global ocean conveyor belt, thermohaline circulation.  The word thermohaline can be broken down into two parts – first, thermo which means temperature and then haline which means salinity or the saltiness of the water. Temperature and salinity determine the density or how heavy the water is.

The process is very slow. Water moves around the deep ocean at only a few centimeters per second. It takes approximately 1,000 years for the conveyor belt to complete its cycle. Although the conveyor belts are very slow, they move massive amounts of ocean water. Scientists also believe that the conveyor belt system is affected by changes in global climate.

HOST: Thanks. That’s very interesting and I didn’t actually know about that or that it would take so much time for this conveyor belt to complete through one cycle.

LAURA REAR: It’s amazing, isn’t it?

(MONITORING CURRENTS)
HOST: It sounds like there are many factors and different levels to each of these factors that affects currents and their intensity. Are we able to monitor currents?

LAURA REAR: We are Kate. As a matter of fact, mariners have been studying and measuring currents for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The two main components of currents are speed and direction. The easiest way to describe how measuring is done is to say that the basic tools that you need are an observer, a floating object or a drifter, and a timing device. So an observer would stand on say the bow of a ship that’s anchored, throw something into the water like something that floats – a piece of wood or a cork or a bottle even – and then they would measure the time that it takes that object to move along the side of a ship. And that’s the easiest way to understand currents.

As technology improved over time, oceanographers began using mechanical current meters. A ship would deploy a meter and usually some sort of rotor would turn and measure the currents. This is still the basic process today; however we use more accurate and sophisticated instruments.

HOST: Thanks, it’s really interesting to hear how we use to do it, but still how that basic concept is behind what we’re using today. What tools and technology do we use today to measure and predict currents?

LAURA REAR: Today, in the open ocean a drifter as I mentioned earlier, would be more like a buoy in the water that may be equipped with global positioning system technology or satellite communications that would relay data and information. It’s also possible that a drifter of some sort would submerge for long periods of time to measure ocean currents at a particular depth. The drifter would then resurface occasionally to send a signal with its data and position to observers on the land.

HOST: Is a buoy the only tool we use to measure and monitor currents?

LAURA REAR: Absolutely not. There’s many other tools that we can use. Let me provide you with another example or two. The Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler has been around for about the last 20 years or so and is commonly used in the oceanographic community to measure currents. The meter is normally deployed on the sea floor or attached to the bottom of a boat. It sends an acoustic signal into the water column and that sound bounces off particles in the water. The signal is then returned to the instrument and using the Doppler shift theory – and knowing the frequency of the return signal, the distance it traveled, and the time it took for the signal to travel – the instrument can calculate the speed and direction of the current. It’s very similar to what we were talking about earlier with knowing the speed of the floating particle that came by. You track the distance and the time and you can calculate the speed.

It’s normally assumed that the speed of that particle in the water, that that acoustic signal it’s bouncing off of, is the same speed that the water is moving. So we can determine the speed of the water that way.

Many oceanographers also use radio antennas and high frequency Radio Detecting and Ranging systems, known as radar, to measure surface ocean currents. Similar to the Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler, these shore-based instruments also use the Doppler effect to determine when currents are moving toward or away from the shore. Scientists also use these measurements to determine the velocity of the current. When two or more radar antennas are used, a scientist can calculate surface current velocities for a large area at thousands of points. Using this data, a scientist can then produce a map of surface currents for that large coastal area.

HOST: That sounds like rather sophisticated technology actually to provide us with good data on currents that we need. What are the measurement units or how do we measure for currents?

LAURA REAR: Well Kate, currents are normally reported as distance over time as we’ve talked about. At NOAA we use knots to measure current speed. The term knot is defined as one nautical mile per hour. One nautical mile is equal to 1.15 standard miles. One knot is also 51.44 centimeters per second or 3.281 feet per minute.

HOST: Laura, what types of problems or complications can you run into when you’re collecting current data?

LAURA REAR: This is a really great question, Kate. There’s so many issues with collecting current data. In the coastal areas when we are collecting data, we always run the risk of our equipment being hit by ships with large drafts, meaning how much of that ship is underneath the water. For example, some ships have a draft of 30 feet. Our equipment might be deployed at say 35 to 40 feet. So we have to make sure that we let mariners know that our equipment is out there. We do this by issuing something called a Notice to Mariners through the United States Coast Guard.

Other problems that we may run into are when oceanographers deploy a current meter and sometimes it never comes back. Perhaps it was buried in the sand, or maybe it broke loose and might be floating around the ocean. It’s happened before. Sometimes we actually deal with vandalized and stolen equipment.

There’s also problems with the instruments themselves if they happen to malfunction in the harsh environment. There are many parts to the electronics and sometimes something can go wrong while they’re deployed.

One last thing that we run into is weather problems. When deploying our instruments, oceanographers hope for light wind and calm seas, however, even near shore this is not always the case. We’ve had many delays in deploying instruments due to high winds and rough seas anywhere from the Alaskan waters to even the Hudson River in New York.

HOST: Thanks Laura, it does sound like there are a lot of things that oceanographers can face and have to take into consideration with each time you’re out there collecting this data. Why is it so important to measure, monitor, and predict currents?

LAURA REAR: Kate, I’m really glad that you’re asking this question. There’s so many reasons why it’s important for us to measure currents. These measurements support safe and efficient shipping and marine transportation. In addition, current measurements are important for commercial fishing, recreational boating and safety, swimming, and even search and rescue operations. With predicted, real-time, and forecasted currents, people can safely dock and undock ships, maneuver them in confined waterways, and safely navigate through coastal waters. This all helps to avoid ship collisions or actually delayed arrival of goods.

When supporting search and rescue operations, understanding the speed and direction of the currents in an area helps to narrow down the rescue and recovery effort. Current prediction information can even help scientists clean up after a hazardous oil spill by helping them understand the direction and movement of the oil. Engineers also use currents information to help build marine structures such as bridges or docks and piers. Current observations are also used to develop and evaluate coastal nowcast or forecast model products that are now being provided online.

As you can see, there are really so many ways that the ability to track, measure, and predict currents is important to all of us in our everyday lives, whether you live along the coast or in the non-coastal areas of the United States.

(IMPORTANCE OF STUDYING CURRENTS)
HOST: Thanks for these examples, what is the role of the National Ocean Service in studying currents?

LAURA REAR: Kate, the office that I work for, the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services is part of the National Ocean Service. Our office is responsible for managing a program called the National Current Observation Program which collects, analyzes, and distributes observations and predictions of currents. We support many of the efforts that I mentioned earlier including safe marine transportation and response efforts for hazardous events such as an oil spill. 

HOST: Are these observations and predictions available for the public as well?

LAURA REAR: They are indeed. It’s all available on the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services Web site. We also produce annual tidal current tables which have the predictions in them.

HOST: Thanks Laura. Do you have any final closing words for our listeners today?

LAURA REAR: First Kate, I’d like to say thank you again for inviting me here today to talk about currents with your listeners. I’d like to make sure that your listeners today understand that predicting and measuring currents is important not only for getting cargo ships safely into and out of ports and harbors, but for determining the extent of an oil spill, building bridges and piers, and even determining the best fishing spots. I hope I have helped to clarify some of your listeners’ questions about currents and why they are important.

HOST: Thank you Laura for joining us on today’s episode of Diving Deeper and talking more about currents and why they are important to us. To learn more about currents or access some of the products that Laura talked about today, please visit tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov.

(OUTRO)
That’s all for this week’s show. Please tune in on August 26th for our next episode on maritime heritage.  


What is Land Cover Data?

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/july09/dd072909.mp3

Wed, 29 Jul 2009 10:30:39 -0400

Diving Deeper: Episode 14 (July 29, 2009) —
What is Land Cover Data?

(INTRO)
HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I’m your host Kate Nielsen.

Today’s question is….What is Land Cover Data?

Land cover data documents how much of a region is covered by forests, wetlands, impervious surfaces, agriculture, and other land and water types. By comparing land cover data and maps over a period of time, users can also document land use trends and changes.

To help us dive a little deeper into this question, we will talk with Nate Herold on land cover data – what it is, why it is important, and how we collect it. Nate is a Physical Scientist with the NOAA Coastal Services Center where he leads up the Coastal Change Analysis Program and NOAA’s land cover mapping activities. Hi Nate, welcome to our show.

NATE HEROLD: Thanks Kate, it’s great to be here.

(DEFINING LAND COVER DATA)
HOST: Nate, what is the difference between land use and land cover?

NATE HEROLD: Well, that’s a good question, Kate. The two terms are often used interchangeably, but as you stated a second ago, land cover captures what actually covers the land – forest, grassland, impervious or paved surfaces, for instance. Land use, on the other hand, documents how humans are using those landscapes – whether the areas are residential, commercial, or industrial development. The same types of cover can be managed or used very differently.  

HOST: So Nate, how does land cover data work? How are we able to document how much of a region is made up of different land and water types such as forest and wetland?

NATE HEROLD: Land cover maps are most often created using remotely-sensed data and that can come from either satellites or aircraft imagery. The information within the imagery goes beyond just a pretty picture. It’s like a giant spreadsheet of digital numbers where each cell in the spreadsheet represents a square area on the ground or a pixel. How red, how blue, how green features are are all contained within that spreadsheet. And the data can be used to tell us what types of land cover are present in each of those pixels.

We interpret those pixels and then it becomes a map. This can be done through human interpretation where somebody would draw a line and label a feature by hand, or with the aid of some fairly sophisticated computer software. It is often said that this type of analysis is as much an art as it is a science.

HOST: Why is it important to have this kind of information on land cover?

NATE HEROLD: Well, it’s difficult to make a management decision related to the natural landscape when you don’t have a very good picture of what that landscape looks like. Land cover maps provide that information. And, more importantly, multiple dates of land cover allow one to see how the landscape has or is changing. This allows for an evaluation of past management decisions, and also gives users the ability to gain insight into the possible effects of their current decisions before they implement them. Either way, the result is a more informed, hopefully better, decision in the present. And that is a must if we want to keep our coasts healthy as the U.S. population in these areas continues to grow.

HOST: Who typically uses or requests land cover data?

NATE HEROLD: Kate, we get a wide range of requests and interest in land cover information. It ranges from very technical folks who are interested in using it their own specific studies to very non-technical users who simply want to know what the lay of the land is for their area of interest; what’s there or what used to be there that isn’t anymore. 

In fact, we’ve been increasingly surprised and thrilled with the amount of non-technical users that are thinking about land cover data and how it can be used to help them in their decision making.

HOST: Nate, how do coastal officials use land cover data and maps?

NATE HEROLD: There are so many ways that officials can and are using land cover data and maps. We actually have a hard time keeping up with it all.

These maps are used to assess urban growth and model water quality issues, predicting and assessing impacts from floods and storm surges, tracking wetland losses and potential impacts from sea level rise, prioritizing areas for conservation efforts or purchases, and in general comparing land cover changes with effects in the environment or to connections in socioeconomic changes such as increasing population. It’s quite a long list and by no means exhaustive.

(COLLECTING LAND COVER DATA)
HOST: How long does it take to produce one of these data sets?

NATE HEROLD: Well, that depends on a number of things like the size of the area that you’re interested in or the types of land cover categories. But from our experience, it always takes a little bit longer the first time. At the Center, we initially focused on a standard process for collecting and processing the imagery. And now that we have that process in place, the time to produce new data and maps is even faster. 

When we created our first baseline dataset we had to map everything, every pixel. Now we only remap the areas that have changed since that baseline map was produced. This keeps the unchanged areas consistent and we save time and money by not having to reinterpret areas that we don’t have to. 

NOAA has a great team here at the Center that is responsible for this work. We can turn around an update for the coastal areas of Washington and Oregon, for example, in about four to six months. And we can typically complete three to four similar size regions every year. And, as I said before, we work hard to ensure that we complete the entire country within five years so that we can start the whole process again.

HOST: Nate, that’s great that this data can be turned around so quickly even for large areas, coastal areas, like you’re saying for Washington and Oregon. Is it expensive to produce?

NATE HEROLD: It can be. There is a cost associated with both the imagery that might be used as well as taking that imagery, interpreting it, and producing the actual map. The interpretation is typically the more expensive piece, and there can be a pretty steep learning curve for folks who’ve not been involved in that type of development before. Cost sharing and partner opportunities are always something that we’re looking for and something I would encourage anyone interested in developing land cover data to explore. It’s almost always easier and cheaper to change something about a standard data set to suit your specific needs than to start something from scratch on your own. 

It’s important to note that such partnering and the use of standardized data leads to more consistent data. Data that can be used outside of one individual application and that can be used to compare one area to another – the coasts of New England to the Gulf of Mexico for example. Something that cannot be done if everyone’s data is produced differently. We’ve found that it saves a lot of money when people can work together to produce one data set instead of producing two or three.

(COASTAL CHANGE ANALYSIS PROGRAM)
HOST: Well, that definitely makes sense and it sounds like partnerships would be a good thing to be able to work and collect this data. What is the role of the National Ocean Service in collecting land cover data?

NATE HEROLD: NOAA’s land cover work is housed under the Coastal Change Analysis Program or C-CAP. This program has been in existence with NOAA since 1995, and currently resides at the NOAA’s Coastal Services Center, which is part of the National Ocean Service.

The program is focused on creating a consistent product that can be compared through time and between different locations, and that can serve a wide range of applications and uses. I know I mentioned this before, but this is really a distinction between our program and many other land cover datasets. With a standard format and our accuracy specifications, we can really compare different areas or the same area through time, and have it be a real ‘apples to apples’ comparison.

NOAA works closely with the U.S. Geological Survey and several other federal and state programs as well as the private sector to collect this information. All of the data that we produce is incorporated into the National Land Cover Database. We consider the Coastal Change Analysis Program the coastal expression of these national products. This saves the U.S. Geological Survey money because they don’t have to develop data in our coastal areas, and it provides the nation with one comprehensive land cover.

HOST: Nate, as the name, Coastal Change Analysis Program, implies, it sounds like the program focuses mainly on the coastal zone or coastal area? What exactly does this cover?

NATE HEROLD: That’s correct Kate, though our definition of coastal is typically a bit more inclusive than most folks would think. We cover the areas that are defined as coastal through the coastal zone management act, all coastal counties, and the watersheds that drain directly into coastal waters, so the immediate coasts. 

But we typically go a bit further inland than that. We’re trying to capture not only the coastal features and their changes, but all of the areas and changes upstream or uphill that are likely to affect the quality of those coastal areas or the downstream habitats. In many areas of the country, the area that we cover can be up to 100 miles inland. We cover a little bit more than half of the state of South Carolina and we map all of New England for example.  

HOST: Great, so it does sound like the coastal area still covers a lot. Nate, what percentage of our coastal areas in the U.S. currently have land cover data?

NATE HEROLD: Kate, most coastal areas of the U.S. are currently covered. And we’re working to make that true for all areas by filling in some of the gaps that we currently have in the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Pacific Territories of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa. This is the first time that these territories will be covered as part of a national effort and that’s something that NOAA is proud of.

That work is slated to be complete by the end of 2009, and once it is, every coastal area will have at least one date of consistent land cover available. That includes Alaska which, while isn’t currently covered by NOAA, was mapped through our partners at the U.S. Geological Survey.

HOST: How often are the land cover maps updated?

NATE HEROLD: NOAA’s vision is that these maps would be updated every five years. We haven’t quite hit that vision for every coastal area. For example, Alaska, the Caribbean, and portions of the Pacific Islands only have one date, or they’re being updated on a 10-year cycle. 

But in the lower 48 every area currently has at least two dates – a 1996 and a 2001. And we’re about 60 percent complete on our 2006 update cycle. That work will be done in 2010 and then the plan is to start the whole cycle over again. And then do the same thing in 2015. 

Also, there are a few areas where we’ve worked with regional or state partners to start looking backwards in time, creating land cover for dates in the early 90s or mid 80s. We’d like to do more of that type of work. It’s very interesting to have that longer view.

HOST: What trends, if any, did we find from the initial release of the national maps?

NATE HEROLD: Well, we’ve seen a couple of interesting things. One is the sheer amount of change that is occurring in coastal areas. We documented that an area roughly the size of the state of Maine changed in some way between 1996 and 2001. That’s just five years and Maine is not a small state. Most of the change was associated with silviculture activities, or the cycle of forest management where trees are harvested and the area goes through the regeneration of grass, scrub land, and eventually back to forest. This trend is most obvious in the Southeast and the Pacific Northwest.

We also noticed a significant amount of development. We documented an increase in developed area that was roughly equivalent to 7.5 New York cities. Again, pretty significant for just a five-year time period. This was primarily lower-density development. The development most commonly associated with residential neighborhoods in suburbs and urban fringes. For the most part, this growth has been fairly focused in the Southeast and Gulf coasts, and around the outside of major urban centers such as the Chicago suburbs. In fact, we saw that 10 percent of the coastal counties actually accounted for more than half of all of this new development. That’s 85 counties out of 850 that account for half of all this growth.

HOST: Nate, this is great data and sounds like a comprehensive review of our nation’s coastal areas. Land cover data is extremely valuable when you consider all of the information we are able to get by comparing and assessing trends from these maps. Why is this type of trend analysis important?

NATE HEROLD: Kate, trend data identify if the area’s covered by a particular land type and whether it’s increasing, decreasing, or remaining unchanged. Comparing trends may help us determine cause and effect relationships such as an increase in urban area causing a reduction in forest area, or that the two of these cause decreases in downstream water quality, or that the decrease in downstream water quality impacts essential fish habitat.

This information can also be used to predict future changes in the landscape and with that information coastal managers can better plan how to manage their coastal resources.

HOST: Nate, have there been any economic benefits of this kind of land cover data to state programs?

NATE HEROLD: Sure, the state of Maine is a really good example. They needed a way to map their land cover. And they needed some modifications that the Coastal Change Analysis Program did not supply. They were interested in determining water quality criteria and to calculate health risks for long-term management. They’d been using data that was over 14 years old and understandably out of date. 

They partnered up with NOAA and some of our private industry partners, they leveraged our efforts, and were able to simply make some tweaks to our data as opposed to doing all of the work themselves from scratch. In the end, this saved the state approximately $300,000, that’s almost a 50 percent savings on their part, and they were able to get the data that they needed – something they couldn’t have afforded to do on their own.  

We’ve also had some very good partners with other states and regional programs such as the State of Washington’s Department of Ecology and the Chesapeake Bay Program, where we’ve supplied technical assistance to their effort in order to ensure that the data they were producing would meet national standards as well as their own needs. In that way, everyone ends up working towards the same goal, everyone saves time and money, and we all have a consistent product.

HOST: That’s a great case study – a great example – of really good benefits to a state program. Thank you Nate for all of this helpful information and examples to define land cover data better for us today. Do you have any final closing words for our listeners?

NATE HEROLD: Just that I appreciated the opportunity to talk to you and the listeners about coastal land cover and change. Thank you.

HOST: Thanks Nate for joining us on today’s episode of Diving Deeper and talking more about land cover, why it is important, and how we collect it. To learn more about land cover maps or to access land cover data, please visit www.csc.noaa.gov/landcover.

(OUTRO)
That’s all for this week’s show. Please tune in on August 12th for our next episode on currents.


What is Hydrography?

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/july09/dd071509.mp3

Wed, 15 Jul 2009 09:28:21 -0400

Diving Deeper: Episode 13 (July 15, 2009) —
What is Hydrography?

(INTRO)
HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I’m your host Kate Nielsen.

Today’s question is….What is hydrography?

Hydrography, also known as hydrographic surveying, deals with the measurement and description of the physical features on the bottom of the sea floor for the primary purpose of safety of navigation.

To help us dive a little deeper into this question, we will talk with Jerry Mills on hydrography – what it is and why it is important to us. Jerry is a Technical Advisor with the Office of Coast Survey. Hi Jerry, welcome to our show.

JERRY MILLS: Thanks Kate, it’s great to be here and talk about hydrography and how it impacts us every day.

(DEFINING HYDROGRAPHY)
HOST: Jerry, can you explain hydrography to us a little bit more?

JERRY MILLS: Sure thing. The word hydrography broadly means water mapping and because of that there are three different definitions. Oceanographers use the term to describe and map the physical characteristics of water such as temperature, salinity, and chemical content. Geographers and geologists use hydrography to define the water surface in the U.S. and the direction and volume of water flow between water bodies. Hydrography, as used by my office, is really focused on identifying any hazards to safe navigation which includes shallow depths, shipwrecks, rocks, or any other dangerous objects. 

HOST: What does hydrographic data tell us?

JERRY MILLS: Kate, the most important thing we can learn from hydrographic data is the depth of the water in a particular area. In order for large commercial ships, military watercraft, and pleasure boats to safely navigate on America’s oceans and coasts, mariners need to know where it is safe – or not safe – to steer their vessels.

Hydrographic data collected by my office is used to update NOAA’s nautical charts. Nautical charts are like road maps for mariners. Charts are dotted with little numbers, or depth measurements, and symbols which tell a ship captain if an area is too shallow or too dangerous to operate their vessels.

Detailed depth information is also useful in determining fisheries habitat, understanding marine geologic processes, and assisting coastal engineers.

HOST: Jerry, many of our listeners today do not live right along the coast. Why is hydrography important to them?

JERRY MILLS: Hydrography is important to everyone in the U.S. whether you live along the coast or in the middle of the country. Roughly 98 percent of all goods and products that are brought to our country are brought here by ship. This includes petroleum, automobiles, sports equipment, cameras, and many others. In order for ships to safely dock into port, they need to safely travel along our coasts, Great Lakes, canals, bays, and rivers.  You can’t navigate safely if you don’t have a NOAA nautical chart. If ships can’t safely dock in port, then people in the middle of the country can’t get their products.

(COLLECTING HYDROGRAPHIC DATA)
HOST: Jerry, what type of equipment is needed to map the bottom of the sea floor?

JERRY MILLS: To better understand the equipment we currently use it might be a good idea to talk about how measurements were made in the past. The first evidence that man was measuring the depth of water is found in tomb paintings of ancient Egypt dating from 1800 B.C. One showed a man using a long slender pole on the bow of a large vessel under oar and sail. Another showed a man measuring depths by means of a weight attached to a line, called a lead line, which had distinct markings. Believe it or not, lead lines were the main way to determine water depths until approximately 1940 and over half the depths on today’s nautical charts of the U.S. were determined from lead lines.

HOST: That’s pretty amazing and seems like it could be a somewhat inaccurate way to collect water depth measurements. What technology replaced lead lines for measuring depth today?

JERRY MILLS: In the 1920s and 1930s my office developed instruments that used SONAR, which stands for SOund NAvigation and Ranging, to determine water depth. These new echo sounders would send out a sound signal and measure the time for it to travel to the sea floor and back to the ship. It would be like dribbling a basketball and measuring the time between when the ball left your hand, bounced off the floor, and returned to your hand. By knowing the speed of sound in water the time could be converted to depth. These devices, also called depth finders or single beam sonars, gained popularity in the 1940s and are still in use today.

HOST:  Has any new sonar technology been developed that improves our ability to measure water depth and find objects underwater?

JERRY MILLS: Actually Kate, two new types of sonar have been developed over the past 45 years and they are called multibeam sonar and side scan sonar. The name multibeam really describes what this device does. Essentially it is like having hundreds of single-beam echo sounders pointing in different directions down from the ship in a fan shape. This creates a line of depths or a swath across the sea floor so as the ship moves forward through the water it covers an area on the sea floor, sort of like mowing your lawn. This is a big improvement over the old single-beam sonars because objects could exist between single-beam lines but not be detected.

HOST: So is it correct to say that multibeam sonar gives us a more complete picture of what is on the sea floor?

JERRY MILLS: That’s right and with modern computers, this data can be displayed so it looks like the water has been removed and we are looking directly at the sea floor.

HOST: Wow, that’s really amazing. You mentioned side scan sonar too a little bit earlier. What is the difference between this and the multibeam sonar?

JERRY MILLS: Side scan sonars were developed before multibeam sonars and can actually find smaller objects on the sea floor than multibeam. A side scan sonar is typically towed behind the ship in what is called a towfish. This allows the instrument to get closer to the sea floor, but the operator has to be careful not to let it run into a rock or shipwreck or the sea bottom. It operates in a slightly different manner than multibeam in that it measures the strength of the returning sound wave and converts that into a black and white image. It almost looks like a black and white photograph. However, it does not provide accurate depth information so that is why multibeam and side scan are often used together on a survey.

HOST: Does any of this sonar technology harm or disturb marine life, like maybe whales for example?

JERRY MILLS: Kate, that’s a common misconception about the sonar technologies that are used for hydrographic purposes. The sonars that appear to be harmful to marine mammals such as whales are very powerful, low frequency devices that transmit sound over hundreds of miles. Our sonars operate at a much lower power and higher frequency so the sound waves travel much shorter distances, such as a few hundred meters, and do not harm marine life. We’ve even seen porpoises swimming alongside our side scan towfish and rubbing against it, presumably trying to get it to play.

HOST: Jerry, you touched on this a little bit earlier with some of the different uses of hydrographic data, but what are the economic benefits associated with hydrographic surveying? Do you have an example maybe that you can share with us?

JERRY MILLS: Well, just like our trucks on our highways, captains of commercial ships require hydrographic data on NOAA’s nautical charts to safely transit marine highways. More than two billion tons of domestic and international freight travel over our marine highways annually including 3.3 billion barrels of oil to meet U.S. energy demands. Waterborne commerce is a major part of the U.S. economy contributing more than $1 trillion to our gross domestic product.

Also, U.S. ports receive more than 22,000 visits a year from ocean-going container ships. That’s a lot of products coming to our store shelves from these ships. Keep in mind, if you live in the middle of the country, these products need to be transported by trucks, trains, or river-bound tugboats and barges from the ocean ports. Operating this marine transportation system requires more than 13 million jobs, another great number for our economy.

(ROLE OF NATIONAL OCEAN SERVICE IN HYDROGRAPHIC SURVEYING)
HOST: Thanks Jerry. Those are some really amazing statistics and I think so far today you’ve highlighted for us a few of the roles of your office in hydrographic surveying, but can you expand a little bit more on the role of the National Ocean Service in this effort?

JERRY MILLS: Certainly Kate. My office, the Office of Coast Survey is part of the National Ocean Service and is responsible for producing and maintaining a suite of more than 1,000 nautical charts that cover the coastal waters of the U.S. To do this, we conduct hydrographic surveying with the support of other offices within the National Ocean Service. The Remote Sensing Division of the National Geodetic Survey provides shoreline information for our surveys and the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services provides critical tide and water level data.

HOST: Jerry, I think that most of us are familiar with some of the environmental issues that NOAA tackles or things like weather, fisheries, and the oceans. How is hydrography and nautical charting connected to the other parts of NOAA?

JERRY MILLS: This is a great question Kate. Everyone is aware, particularly after the Exxon Valdez accident in Alaska in 1989 that the most damaging substance to marine life is oil and other petroleum products. All ships and boats carry some amount, usually in the form of diesel fuel, but large tankers may be loaded with as much as 3 million barrels of oil. The results of any vessel hitting an object on the sea floor that is hard enough to penetrate the hull is likely to spill oil, in some cases catastrophically.

As an example, back in November 2004, the oil tanker Athos I struck an object on the sea floor of the Delaware River puncturing its hull and resulting in an oil spill of 473,000 gallons of heavy crude oil. The damage to the environment was rather extensive, not only in the direct loss of life to fish and marine birds, but the general damage of the area for many years after the accident. Modern hydrographic surveys would almost certainly have found the objects preventing the resulting ecological disasters and saving millions of dollars in damages. This is really the connection between hydrographic surveys and the environment.

HOST: Thanks Jerry for making that connection for us. That really helps out a lot. How far off of the coast, does your office collect this hydrographic data?

JERRY MILLS: The Office of Coast Survey is responsible for surveying the entire U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone. This area is essentially all waters adjacent to the U.S. and its territories out to a distance of 200 nautical miles offshore for a total of 3.4 million square nautical miles, and this is more than 20 percent larger than the land area of the U.S. However, most of our hydrographic surveys are conducted within a few miles of shore.

HOST: Thanks Jerry. That is quite an extensive area to map and keep updated on nautical charts. How often do we need to resurvey an area? 

JERRY MILLS: Well, Kate, as with many questions, the answer is it depends. Some areas, particularly those close to the mouths of rivers, are constantly having mud and sand deposited. At the mouth of the Mississippi River for example, hydrographic surveys need to be done every day because of the constantly changing conditions and water depths. Other areas, like much of New England, do not change much at all over time and do not normally need to be resurveyed very frequently, perhaps every 50 years or so, unless there is a large advance in technology.

Earlier I mentioned that over half of the depths on nautical charts are from lead line measurements and most of the others are from single-beam echo sounders. That means that most areas have not been surveyed with modern side scan sonars and multibeam so there may be undiscovered wrecks or rocks on the sea floor. Those areas need to be resurveyed to ensure they are safe for navigation. In addition, with global climate change, many glaciers in Alaska have been receding, some as much as ten miles in ten years. Since previous charts showed no water depths, only ice, they need to be resurveyed, especially since cruise ships are traveling in those uncharted waters.

HOST: Do we need to survey more frequently after major natural events such as hurricanes?

JERRY MILLS: Yes, we actually do. When there’s a major event of nature such as a hurricane or an earthquake, we need to conduct surveys rapidly to determine whether there’s been any changes in water depth or new obstructions. Hurricane Katrina created a lot of destruction not only on land, but also in navigation channels where vessels, land vehicles, and building debris were found by our hydrographic surveys. The Office of Coast Survey has six navigation response teams that are first on the ground to start recording this information after a hazardous natural event.

HOST: These navigation response teams sound like they are critical to collecting the information right after a hazardous event. Do these teams support response and data collection for only natural hazardous events?

JERRY MILLS: With hurricanes, our navigation response teams and our fleet of NOAA ships have some lead time to prepare and plan for emergency hydrographic surveying. However, sometimes, we have no notice when a man-made disaster, such as an oil spill or airline accident, happens. 

A recent example is in the U.S. Airways emergency plane landing on New York’s Hudson River. Within minutes, our New England-based Navigation Response Team became aware of the situation, and began work immediately. Unfortunately, at the time, their boat was unavailable, but the team used their close connections with the New York and New Jersey police and fire boats, and also the FBI and Army Corps of Engineers, to provide surveying expertise in finding debris from the emergency landing including the missing engines.

Other notable incidents that your listeners may not know about NOAA is that our hydrographic survey vessels discovered the site of John F. Kennedy, Jr.’s, plane crash off Martha’s Vineyard in 1999 as well as the wreckage of TWA flight 800 off New York’s Long Island in 1996.
 
HOST: Thanks Jerry. These are definitely great examples and a lot of things I wasn’t aware that NOAA and your office was involved with. Do you have any final closing words for our listeners today?

JERRY MILLS: The one thought I would like to leave with your listeners is that we know more about the surface of the Moon and even Venus, which is constantly shrouded by dense clouds, than we do about the shape of the ocean floor. It seems rather remarkable but with modern technology we are slowly making progress. Hydrographic surveys are the key to better understanding what lies beneath the ocean’s surface.

HOST: Thank you Jerry for joining us on today’s episode of Diving Deeper and talking about hydrography, how we collect the data, and why this is so important to us. To learn more about hydrography, please visit www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/hsd/hydrog.

(OUTRO)
That’s all for this week’s show. Please tune in on July 29th for our next episode on land cover. 


What is a Dead Zone?

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/july09/dd070109.mp3

Wed, 01 Jul 2009 14:26:37 -0400

Diving Deeper: Episode 12 (July 1, 2009) —
What is a Dead Zone?

(INTRO)
HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I’m your host Kate Nielsen.

Today’s question is….What is a Dead Zone?

Dead zone is a more common term for hypoxia. Hypoxia, in this context, refers to a reduced level of oxygen in the water. Less oxygen dissolved in the water can cause problems for fish and other aquatic organisms.

To help us dive a little deeper into this question, we will talk with Dr. Rob Magnien on dead zones – what they are, where they are located, and why they matter to us. Rob is the director of the Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research. Hi Rob, welcome to our show.

ROB MAGNIEN: Thanks Kate, it’s great to be here and talk about a topic that I’ve been researching and helping to manage for almost 30 years.

(DEFINING DEAD ZONES)
HOST: Rob, can you expand a little bit more on hypoxia from our initial definition?

ROB MAGNIEN: Sure Kate. Hypoxia is just as you described it – areas of our estuaries, coasts, or oceans with low levels or no oxygen dissolved in the water. These areas are often referred to as “dead zones” since most marine life either dies, or, if they are mobile such as fish, leave the area. Thus, habitats that would normally be teaming with life become, essentially, biological deserts.

HOST: What causes a dead zone or hypoxia to occur?

ROB MAGNIEN: Hypoxic zones can occur naturally, but the ones we are most concerned about are those created or enhanced by human activity. There are many physical, chemical, and biological factors that conspire to create dead zones, but nutrient pollution is the primary cause of those created by humans. Excess nutrients that run off land or are piped as wastewater into our rivers and coasts can stimulate an overgrowth of algae, which then sinks and decomposes in the water. The decomposition process consumes oxygen and depletes the supply available to healthy marine life.

HOST: Where do dead zones occur in the U.S.?

ROB MAGNIEN: Kate, dead zones occur in many areas of the country, particularly along the East Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Great Lakes, but there is no part of the country, or the world for that matter, that is immune. The second largest dead zone in the world is located right here in the U.S. in the northern Gulf of Mexico and the ones in the Chesapeake Bay and Lake Erie are not far behind in size.

HOST: Rob, how large is the Gulf of Mexico dead zone that you just mentioned?

ROB MAGNIEN: Well, the size of the Gulf of Mexico dead zone actually varies from year to year, but the average size is about the size of the state of New Jersey or the states of Rhode Island and Connecticut combined, and that’s an average from the years of 1993 to 2001.

HOST: How long do dead zone events last and also what is their frequency, are they seen several times per year?

ROB MAGNIEN: Well, the frequency and length of dead zones varies from place to place and year to year. Most dead zones start to form in the spring, most are severe in the summer, and then they break up in the fall. If spring rainfall is high, more nutrients can be washed into coastal waters and that leads to larger dead zones in that particular year. On the other hand, in an area like the Gulf of Mexico, hurricanes can stir up the water sufficiently to re-oxygenate the bottom water, even in summer, but even then the dead zone usually reforms in about a week or two.

HOST: Rob, can we visually see dead zones?

ROB MAGNIEN: Not really. Unless you dive into an area experiencing hypoxia, lower a remote camera, dead zones and the devastation that they create are not normally visible. Sometimes we can observe the factors leading to the formation of a dead zone such as a large surface algal bloom or the consequences such as a fish kill.

(IMPACTS OF DEAD ZONES)
HOST: Since it doesn’t sound like there’s much of a visual or aesthetic disruption from dead zones, what are some of the economic impacts?

ROB MAGNIEN: Kate, although we know that there are clear impacts to important habitat for fish and shellfish, there actually have been very few studies that quantify those economic impacts. One of the keys to calculating an economic impact, as you might imagine, is the ability to precisely measure or predict the impacts in a large regional fishery that is subject to many pressures and includes various life stages of the fish and migratory patterns that can bring them in and out of a dead zone.

That said, there is obvious cause for concern in an area such as the Gulf of Mexico where fisheries generate about $2.8 billion annually for the economy. This is one of the major outstanding questions that we are pursuing with our research portfolio on hypoxia. As is typical of my Center’s research, it requires a large-scale multidisciplinary approach with state-of-the-art computer modeling to fully understand and quantify the various factors at work.

HOST: I understand that this may vary and be different in each area that experiences a dead zone, but in general, are dead zones increasing or decreasing in their size and frequency in the U.S.?

ROB MAGNIEN: Well, the number of dead zones has actually greatly increased worldwide since the 1960s, according to a new research study funded, in part, by my Center here at NOAA. Four hundred systems, including 166 in the U.S. waters, now have documented dead zones.

(DEAD ZONE RESEARCH)
HOST: What is the role of the National Ocean Service in dead zone research?

ROB MAGNIEN: Kate, there are a number of laboratories in NOAA, across the federal government, and in academic institutions working on dead zone research projects. My office, the Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research in the National Ocean Service administers the only national-level hypoxia programs and provides competitive funding for the brightest minds to attack the most urgent gaps in knowledge required to manage this problem. Hypoxia is really emblematic of some of our most difficult coastal problems that require large-scale sustained research to achieve the understanding needed to drive management actions. For example, over approximately 15 years, my office has invested over $27 million for research into the Gulf of Mexico dead zone. Fortunately, that investment has paid off by providing the fundamental science underpinning for a management action plan first issued in 2001 and then revised in 2008.

HOST: Thanks Rob. It’s great to hear that such a program exists to help managers protect coastal communities and economies. How are you able to predict a dead zone event before it happens?

ROB MAGNIEN: Kate, to be able to predict something like a dead zone, one must first construct and validate a mathematical model that simulates the key processes of the ecosystem. These vary in complexity and must be tailored to each system based on its physics, chemistry, and biology. These models also require large amounts of monitoring data for development and validation.

Currently, we are working with researchers to issue seasonal predictions of the dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico and Chesapeake Bay. These are some of the same models that are guiding long-term management by quantifying the amounts of nutrient pollution that must be reduced to shrink dead zones in a number of areas.

HOST: Hypoxia and dead zones sound like rather complicated topics from our discussions today. We touched a little bit on this so far, but what is NOAA doing to address this problem?

ROB MAGNIEN: Kate, essentially what we’re trying to do is support the research required to understand a complex phenomena such as hypoxia, and then work to synthesize this information, typically in a computer-based mathematical model of great complexity these days and requiring a lot of computer power, which then, in turn provides straightforward and reliable advice for managers on alternative courses of action that can be taken. And it also, I believe, helps the public understand this issue, so everyone involved, including those who must support often very difficult decisions, have the best information to make those decisions.

HOST: And to add to that question, is there anything our listeners can do?

ROB MAGNIEN: Absolutely. Since, as we discussed earlier, the primary human influence that makes dead zones worse is nutrient pollution. Anything that one can do to prevent nutrient runoff will help. This can include minimizing fertilizer use right at home on your lawn or supporting local governments in their efforts to upgrade wastewater treatment plants which can at times be costly, but are necessary to protect our waterways.

HOST: Thanks Rob. I think you gave us a few great examples of things we can do in our everyday lives to help with this problem. Do you have any final closing words for our listeners today?

ROB MAGNIEN: Perhaps one Kate and that would be that in studying these problems and learning more about their origin and their consequences, I think it teaches us that these difficult coastal problems are often connected to things far away, up in the watersheds; and therefore the actions of farmers – maybe a hundred, two hundred, or three hundred miles away – or homeowners and how they treat their land has consequences downstream. And this is very important to understanding how we can reverse some of the degradation we’ve seen and in turn protect these valuable resources along the coast for the enjoyment of us and our children and also for protection of the coastal economies that are just so important for this country.

HOST: Thank you Rob for joining us on today’s episode of Diving Deeper and talking more about dead zones and the impacts they can have on us. To learn more about dead zones, please visit www.cop.noaa.gov/stressors/pollution/overview.

(OUTRO)
That’s all for this week’s show. Please tune in on July 15th for our next episode on hydrography.


What are PCBs?

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/jun09/dd061709.mp3

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 08:48:44 -0500

Diving Deeper: Episode 11 (June 17, 2009) —
What are PCBs?
(INTRO)
HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I’m your host Kate Nielsen.
Today’s question is….What are PCBs?
PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are industrial products or chemicals that were in use since the 1920s. These chemicals were banned in the U.S. in 1979 amid suggestions that PCBs could have unintended impacts on human and environmental health.
To help us dive a little deeper into this question, we will talk with Lisa DiPinto on PCBs – what they are and why they matter to us. Lisa is the Southeast Region Branch Chief at the Office of Response and Restoration in the Assessment and Restoration Division. Hi Lisa, welcome to our show.
LISA DIPINTO: Hi Kate, it’s great to be here to talk a little more about a topic that really impacts so many and that it’s definitely near and dear to my heart. I’ve been looking at PCBs and evaluating their effects on the environment since way back in grad school in the 1980s.   
(EXPLAINING PCBS)
HOST: Lisa, let’s start off with a little more background first on PCBs. Is DDT, another chemical that I think most of us are familiar with, in the same class or category as PCBs?
LISA DIPINTO: Well Kate, DDT and PCBs are actually different chemicals. DDT is a pesticide, where PCBs were developed for a wide range of more industrially oriented applications. But they do have some similarities. They’re both presently banned chemicals and they’re both very persistent, so we’re still finding them both in the environment. From the 1920s until their ban in 1979, there were an estimated 1.5 billion pounds of PCBs that were made for things such as microscope oils, electrical insulators, capacitors, to even electric appliances like old TV sets or refrigerators that we can still occasionally find in households today. They were even sprayed on dirt roads to keep the dust down before they really knew what some of the unintended consequences of widespread use of PCBs were. 
HOST: Wow. Thanks Lisa. I had no idea that these were some of the many uses for PCBs in the past. Are PCBs only found close to city centers or other populated or industrial areas since it sounds like they were commonly developed for industrial applications?
LISA DIPINTO: Actually no, PCBs aren’t just located near the more populated areas or just near places where they were manufactured and used. Back in the 60s when some of the first research was coming out, traces of PCBs could be detected in people and in animals around the world and not only in heavily populated areas such as New York City, but they were also finding them in remote areas as far out as the Arctic. And these findings of such widespread and persistent contamination contributed to the banning of the chemical in 1979.
HOST: Why do we still study PCBs today if they have been banned since 1979?
LISA DIPINTO: Like so many things in the environment, these chemicals they don’t actually breakdown quickly, therefore they don’t necessarily disappear once they’re banned from use. A lot depends on their chemical makeup – the size, the structure, and the chemical composition of the PCBs all that affects how long it takes them to breakdown in the environment. But it can take years to remove these chemicals from the environment and that’s why we’re still seeing them present decades later.
For an example that people might be familiar with, we’re still finding PCBs in the sediments in contaminated areas such as the Hudson River, long after their industrial use has stopped. These findings have caused many disputes and legal discussions between industry, community groups, and regulatory agencies about what the dangers from these chemicals are and what are the best ways to remove them from the environment.
HOST: Lisa, can we actually see or smell PCBs?
LISA DIPINTO: No, PCBs don’t have a known smell or taste. They’re typically either oily liquids or sometimes solids and they’re colorless or may be a very light yellow in color.
(RESEARCH ON PCBS)
HOST: How do PCBs degrade or breakdown in the environment?
LISA DIPINTO: Well, for the process of degrading, a lot depends on the chemical makeup of the PCBs. Because PCBs are actually used as mixtures of individual PCBs, and there are over 200 different configurations with different shapes and sizes to the different, they’re called congeners. The degrading process depends on also where the PCBs are in the environment. Typically, they’re either broken down in the environment by sunlight or by microorganisms. Sunlight plays an important role in the breakdown of PCBs when they’re in the air, in shallow water, and in surface soils. And microorganisms such as bacteria, algae, or fungi biodegrade the PCBs mainly when they’re found in soil or sediments.
Now, how fast this happens, this biodegradation, depends on the number and type of the microorganisms that are present in the environment, the concentration of the PCBs because it has to be just the right amount – it can’t be too high or else it will be toxic to the organisms, whether there are enough nutrients in the environment to feed the microorganisms, and the temperature. So, typically the process of degradation is rather slow and the bottom line is that degradation is limited and their long-term persistence is the key reason that they’re still problematic in the environment today. 
HOST: How did PCBs get into the environment in the first place?
LISA DIPINTO: Well, there are lots of different ways that PCBs entered our environment. Back before the ban of the chemicals, PCBs entered the air and the water and the soil during their manufacture and during their use. Typically wastes that contained PCBs from the manufacturing process were placed in dump sites or landfills. There were often some accidental spills and leaks from facilities or transformer fires that could result in PCBs entering the environment.
Today, we’re still seeing PCBs released into the environment from things like poorly maintained hazardous waste sites that contain PCBs. The dump sites that I just mentioned weren’t always designed to contain these hazardous materials, especially over such long timeframes. They’re also released through illegal or improper dumping of wastes such as transformer fluids and disposal of PCB-containing consumer products, things that were produced back when PCB use was legal like some of our household electrical appliances that are now not used anymore, and then put in landfills that were not designed to handle the wastes.
HOST: OK, so there are still some PCBs getting into the environment even today, 30 years after the initial ban. How is it that these chemicals affect humans and animals? Is it just if you come in direct contact with it somehow?
LISA DIPINTO: Well, there’s a lot of chemistry here, but to provide some of the basics. There are certain characteristics of the molecules that affect the way that they’re going to behave in the environment and then therefore how they can affect humans and animals. First of all, PCBs are what we call hydrophobic and that that means that they don’t dissolve readily in water. So, because of this, when PCBs enter the waterways, they want to attach themselves to sediment particles or other particles floating in the water column and then they can drop out and get stored in sediments.
PCBs are also lipophilic and that means they’re attracted to and dissolve in fats and oils, so we also find them in the fat tissue of animals. These features allow PCBs to persist and remain in the environment and in the tissues of animals for really long periods of time and cause more unintended consequences. 
People and animals then can become exposed to PCBs through exposure to these chronically contaminated sediments, or from eating contaminated prey, which for humans could be contaminated seafood as an example. And as we know, there’s a number of PCB fish advisories throughout waterways in the United States.
HOST: Lisa, what are some of the health impacts associated with PCBs?
LISA DIPINTO: Well, one of the things that we have noticed about PCBs over time is their ability to bioaccumulate or biomagnify in organisms, which can intensify health impacts associated with these chemicals. As the word implies, bioaccumulation is essentially an accumulation of PCBs over time. So an organism, over its lifespan, is going to be exposed to PCBs through sources such as food or sediments and, let me give you an example to explain.
Because PCBs are hydrophobic, in aquatic environments they’re going to be stored in the sediments because they want to attach themselves to particles. Then, the bottom-feeding critters such as little sediment-dwelling crustaceans - copepods or amphipods they’re called – ingest and accumulate PCBs while feeding. The amount of PCBs that’s ingested every time these small animal feeds is small, but over time, because the PCBs are stored in fat and they degrade very slowly, the PCB levels in the organisms increases. So, when the larger animals or the higher predators eat these smaller animals lower in the food chain, the PCBs similarly will accumulate and increase in concentration, resulting in higher concentrations over time than in the smaller prey species. So essentially as you’re moving up the food chain, the PCB concentrations increase. So by the time you get to the top of the food chain, and like for example something like dolphins or top predator fish that prey on smaller fish, they have the potential for higher PCB concentrations.
In many parts of the United States, there’s advisories and restrictions on the amount of fish that people should eat from contaminated waterways. And this is really an effort to keep us safe as PCBs have been determined to be probable carcinogenic contaminants to humans. You should know that it’s still safe to have fish as part of your diet, but it’s good to be mindful of the recommendations.
HOST: And to build on this more, what are some of the impacts to fish and marine life from this chemical?
LISA DIPINTO: Well, there’ve been many laboratory and field studies that have shown potentially harmful effects from PCBs on things like fish and birds and mammals and other wildlife. Some of these effects include impaired reproductive, endocrine and immune system functions, we’re finding increased lesions and tumors on fish, and sometimes death or mortality.
For example, some of the research I’ve done in the past has looked at the reproductive effects of PCBs on little sediment-dwelling crustaceans or little shrimp-like guys that live in the mud that are called copepods. They’re really cute. Our studies indicate that sediments contaminated with PCBs affect the reproductive capacity of these little guys and they weren’t able to produce as many offspring as those that were living in uncontaminated sediments. So what, people say – who cares about whether or not copepods can reproduce, but really it has implications up the food chain, as they’re a really important source of food for the juvenile fish that come into the marshes to feed. And further these little copepods can be indicators of potential effects on other guys that are living in the mud that are exposed to PCBs and other contaminants that also serve as important prey species. 
Similarly, there’ve been studies with various species of fish across the country both endangered and non-endangered that indicate that PCBs can affect things like their immune systems and when they’re exposed to PCBs it makes them more susceptible to diseases that fish that live in uncontaminated areas would be able to fight off so putting them at greater risk. 
HOST: Lisa, earlier you mentioned that these chemicals can be found all over the world. Why is it that PCBs can be found in such remote areas if they were developed more for industrial applications?
LISA DIPINTO: Well Kate, that’s a good question and the persistence and the transport of PCBs, is a big part of the issue. The modes of transport of PCBs are complicated, and they can be moved by air, by water, and by sediments. As I mentioned, PCBs don’t dissolve in water and they don’t degrade easily so they’re going to be persistent. PCBs can get vaporized from water or off of tiny particles and then attach themselves to particulates in the air for example like dust. And depending on the particle size they can get transported varying distances, sometimes great distances, by the prevailing winds and then re-deposited on land or in water by particle sedimentation out of the air from rainfall or snowfall that washes these particles out.
PCBs that get into the waterways can also, because they’re hydrophobic, like to attach themselves to the fine particles in the water and then they get transported varying distances from the tides or the currents, or maybe they’ll settle out to the bottom where they may persist a long time in the sediments, they can get buried by other sediments, or they can even get carried around with the movement of bottom sediments through the features of bottom sediment currents. So all these transport mechanisms contribute to PCBs greater distribution all over the world. 
HOST: Has the level or amount of PCBs in the environment increased, decreased, or remained the same in the last 30 years?
LISA DIPINTO: Given the complicated transport mechanisms I described earlier, it’s kind of difficult to say across the USA as a whole. But overall, as we address more and more of these PCB-contaminated waste sites and work with the Environmental Protection Agency and our trustee partners at the state, federal, and tribal levels to remove PCBs from the environment, we’ve been successful in reducing the overall amount of PCBs that are posing a threat to the resources at the sites we’re involved with. 
HOST: Lisa, with all of these impacts and this consistent transport of PCBs almost 30 years again after its ban, I imagine cleanup is something that many are still focused on. What is involved in cleanup efforts to remove PCBs from the environment?
LISA DIPINTO: Well, there’s a lot of issues with removal of PCBs from the environment. For the areas where we know that PCBs exist in the sediments, some of the main issues are whether it would be better to dredge and remove these contaminated sediments from the waterways and dispose of them in a properly designed and maintained hazardous waste storage facility that would prevent the PCBs from re-entering the environment and affecting animals and humans. Or is it safer to allow the sediments just to remain in place and you can cover them up with clean sediments and allow them to naturally biodegrade by bacteria over time. Or perhaps you could consider placing a cap or a barrier over the contaminated sediments in the environment in place to prevent them from re-entering the environment and exposing organisms. Obviously there are environmental, human health, and financial concerns from all sides.
HOST: OK, so there are many options for cleanup and it’s probably decided on a case-by-case basis.
LISA DIPINTO: Exactly.
(ROLE OF THE NATIONAL OCEAN SERVICE IN PCB RESEARCH)
HOST: Lisa, what is the role of the National Ocean Service in PCB research?
LISA DIPINTO: There are many offices in the National Ocean Service, and really NOAA for that fact, that are involved in the research of chemical contaminants. In my office, the Office of Response and Restoration which is part of the National Ocean Service, we focus on PCB research that can be applied to specific site assessments on both the cleanup side and the damage assessment side. However we’ve found that much of our research has broader applications, and we’ve developed some projects and products that are used more widely. For example, our watershed-based projects provide a comprehensive evaluation of PCB contamination on a watershed level along with a suite of other contaminants. And they’re these cool mapping projects that resource managers can access online or the public can access online to get a sense of where the particular contaminants are in a particular watershed.
We’ve also developed and published sediment guidelines that help determine whether a certain amount of toxic chemical, such as PCB in the environment, is likely to harm the ecosystem. We’ve also as part of our work conducted a number of site-specific toxicity studies that contribute to the overall understanding of how PCBs affect things like sediment-dwelling organisms and fish
HOST: Lisa, what is the role of NOAA, and specifically your office, in cleanup efforts of PCBs?
LISA DIPINTO: Our Office of Response and Restoration works to protect and restore coastal resources that have been injured by contaminants associated with things like hazardous waste sites and oil spills. The waste site work is of particular relevance to our discussions today as many of these waste sites have PCB-contamination problems. NOAA is a trustee for coastal resources on behalf of the public. So things like marine and estuarine fish, marine mammals like whales and dolphins, and the habitats that support these kinds of resources such as marshes, wetlands, coastal streams, tidally-influenced rivers; are all considered to be NOAA’s trust resources. And then we work with other trustee agencies which include federal and state agencies and tribes to mitigate and restore for adverse effects of contaminants in the environment to these kinds of resources.
On the cleanup side, through our work with the Environmental Protection Agency, we help to ensure that the site cleanups are as protective to NOAA’s trust resources as possible. By ensuring good cleanups on the front end, we feel like we can minimize the residual injuries that might persist longer term as a result of any contamination that’s left behind as a result of the cleanup.   
We also are involved in Natural Resource Damage Assessments, where we work in partnership with our federal, state, and tribal co-trustees to conduct environmental assessments and these are designed to determine the magnitude, the type, and the extent of environmental injuries to our resources that have been impacted by contamination such as PCBs. We then, as part of this Natural Resource Damage Assessment process determine what type of and how much restoration is needed to compensate the public for their loss of resources that’s due to the contamination. So our overall goal through this damage assessment process is to get restoration projects implemented that are going to compensate the public for their lost resources. 
HOST:  These damage assessments and restoration claims sound like they can get pretty complicated and rather expensive. Does the public pay for these? 
LISA DIPINTO:  Well Kate, that’s one of the neat things about our program. We have statutory authority to pursue these natural resource damage claims under a number of environmental laws. So we are seeking compensation, usually cooperatively but sometimes through litigation, from the companies that are responsible for releasing the contaminants into the environment. And part of the compensation to the public, in addition to paying for or implementing the restoration projects, is paying the trustees, like NOAA, for the costs that are associated with developing the claim. So the public’s really getting a good deal through our damage assessment work. 
HOST: Lisa, are there any examples that you can share with us today on the impacts of these efforts to date? How has this cleanup helped local communities?
LISA DIPINTO: Well, we have been and are currently involved with a number of PCB-contaminated waste sites on all coasts including the Great Lakes and all the regions of the U.S. One example I can give to illustrate what we do and to highlight how we help the communities is our Housatonic River site, which originated in Pittsfield, Massachusetts from a General Electric facility. There are PCBs contaminating the Housatonic River from Massachusetts down into Connecticut and at this site there are fishing advisories all along the river that are due to the presence of PCB contamination in the rivers, sediments, soils, and in the groundwater.
And NOAA has been working with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection who are our co-trustee agencies to develop a comprehensive settlement with General Electric that includes river remediation that’s under way now – that’s cleaning up the river from the PCB contamination – and we’ve developed plans that are out for public review for restoration projects that will compensate the public for their natural resource losses. General Electric has paid over $15 million in natural resource damages that will be available for restoration projects in both Massachusetts and Connecticut. And that’s just an example; we’ve got other sites across the United States where we’ve worked to ensure the cleanup gets conducted to the maximum extent possible and that restoration will be conducted to bring back clean fish, clean habitats, and environmental restoration that’s going to compensate the public for their losses.
HOST: Thanks Lisa. Do you have any final closing words for our listeners today?
LISA DIPINTO: Well, first I wanted to just thank you for providing me the opportunity to talk about PCBs and what we’re doing to address some of the environmental issues associated with them. I feel really proud of what our program does and I’m glad to have the opportunity to share it with a larger audience than just the world I work in.
Some of the things I think are worth remembering about PCBs is that even after 30 years of being banned, they remain an environmental concern for humans and wildlife – we’re still finding them in the environment, they’re persistent, and we’re still seeing fish advisories that result from high PCB levels in the fish in many of our waterways.
And I hope that we’ll be able to continue our work with our partner agencies and with industry to cleanup or contain these PCB-contaminated sediments in our waterways in order to reduce the PCB levels in fish and other animals and thereby reduce risks to humans and wildlife, and to restore the public’s resources. 
HOST: Thank you Lisa for joining us on today’s episode of Diving Deeper and talking more about PCBs and what these mean in our everyday lives. To learn more about PCBs and similar restoration projects and cleanup efforts by the Office of Response and Restoration, please visit www.darrp.noaa.gov/.

(OUTRO)
That’s all for this week’s show. Please tune in on July 1st for our next episode on the dead zone.


What is resilience?

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/jun09/dd060309.mp3

Wed, 03 Jun 2009 09:41:14 -0400

Diving Deeper: Episode 10 (June 3, 2009) —
What is resilience?

(INTRO)
HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I’m your host Kate Nielsen.

Today’s question is….What is resilience?

Resilience means building the ability of a community to "bounce back" after hazardous events such as hurricanes, coastal storms, and flooding – rather than simply reacting to their impacts. A community that is more informed and prepared will have a greater opportunity to rebound quickly from weather and climate-related events, including adapting to sea level rise. The ability to rebound more quickly can reduce negative human health, environmental, and economic impacts.

To help us dive a little deeper into this question, we will talk with Sandy Eslinger on resilience – why this is important, what resilient communities look like, and the people involved in this process. Sandy is a Coastal Hazard Specialist with the NOAA Coastal Services Center. Hi Sandy, welcome to our show.

SANDY ESLINGER: Thanks Kate, it’s great to be here today and explain more on the concept of resilience to your listeners.

(IMPORTANCE OF RESILIENCE)
HOST: Sandy, why is resilience important?

SANDY ESLINGER: Well Kate, resilience is important for many reasons. First, we know that all communities are going to face hazards. Resilience is the ability of communities to rebound from them. It’s the extent to which we can prevent a short-term hazard event from turning into a long-term community-wide disaster. While most communities effectively prepare themselves to respond to emergency situations, many aren’t adequately prepared to recover in the aftermath. There is a lot at stake, even after the storm has passed. The ability of a community to successfully recover is linked to the strengths and capacities of individuals, families and businesses, schools, hospitals, and other parts of the community. Also, there are more people moving into hazardous areas such as the coast and with these population increases come increased risk exposure to homes, businesses, and infrastructure that are all dependent on one another. 

HOST: Can you expand more on the threats to our nation’s coasts that make resilience so critical?

SANDY ESLINGER: Sure Kate. The threats to coastal communities include extreme natural events, like you mentioned earlier, such as hurricanes and coastal storms. There are also other threats from events such as tsunamis and landslides as well as longer-term risks of coastal erosion and sea level rise. Losses from catastrophic events such as hurricanes can be staggering. The economic losses from the 2005 hurricane season alone, which included Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, were $200 billion, the costliest season ever.

What many people may not realize is how significant the economic losses from other events, such as sea level rise, are projected to be. As one example, we know that the vast majority of our nation’s commercial and recreational fisheries are dependent on coastal marshes. Approximately two-thirds of those fisheries spend some stage of their lives in tidal marshes. As sea levels rise, the built-up areas behind them will provide no opportunities for wetlands to migrate. The net result will be billions of dollars in economic impacts affecting the livelihoods and sustainability of many coastal communities.

HOST: Sandy, are there different threats depending on where you are in the United States?

SANDY ESLINGER: The threats are different throughout the different geographic regions of the U.S. For example in the Pacific Islands, we see more potentially catastrophic coastal hazards such as tsunamis, flooding, and even droughts whereas in the North Atlantic, we see more severe storms, population and development pressures, and regional scale impacts such as climate change.

HOST: What is the tie between resilience and the threats that you mentioned to our coastal communities?

SANDY ESLINGER: It’s crucial that we develop hazard resilient communities to prepare for these threats and enhance the ability of our communities to absorb impacts and bounce back. This will reduce the lives lost in disasters, secure the economic stability of these communities, and support the health of our coastal ecosystems including wetlands which are essential for reducing storm impacts on our coastal communities.

HOST: Sandy, resilience seems to be a term tied closely to coastal communities following severe storms and similar coastal events. Is resilience specific only to coastal areas?

SANDY ESLINGER: Resilience is important everywhere. All communities face hazard threats. Some of the largest disaster losses experienced in this country are due to droughts and flooding which occur throughout the country. Coastal areas, however, have additional hazard risk and increased population pressures making resilience particularly important in those locations.

(RESILIENT COMMUNITIES AND RISK ASSESSMENT)
HOST: Sandy, can you give us an example or two of coastal communities striving to become resilient and what they are doing?

SANDY ESLINGER: Sure Kate. There are many examples of how coastal communities are working to become more resilient. Your listeners can see a full suite of stories collected from our Coastal Services magazine in our recent publication called “Local Strategies for Addressing Climate Change.” I’ll highlight a couple of examples from this report for you.

First, in Florida, state money’s helping homeowners reduce their future hurricane losses by providing free wind inspections to identify vulnerabilities. They’re also providing some grants for replacing vulnerable windows and doors.

In Massachusetts, coastal resource managers are working with local communities to provide better access to information about hurricanes and coastal storms. In addition to providing a one-stop shop Web site, the state held workshops to design the site in a way that makes it easy and useful to local planners and building officials.

HOST: How do we assess resilience for coastal communities and gauge if it is working or improving in an area?

SANDY ESLINGER: Well Kate, there are a number of different ways we can assess resilience in a community. Part of it is understanding the various factors that make up resilience. Being able to look at things in your community like social networks, economic conditions, also being able to look at your infrastructure, facilities – both identifying how vulnerable those things are as well as identifying where you have strengths, and community social networks are a good example, to be able to offset those weaknesses.

HOST: Once a community becomes resilient, how do they sustain that successfully over time?

SANDY ESLINGER: There are many different ways that communities can maintain their resilience over time. They can develop and implement needed action plans, they can develop specific programs, or dedicate specific resources to staying on top of their resilience success. They can conduct public education and outreach to increase awareness in the community. Finally, they can evaluate and share their resilience best practices with other communities.

(ROLE OF NOAA AND THE NATIONAL OCEAN SERVICE)
HOST: Sandy, what is the role of the National Ocean Service in resilience efforts?

SANDY ESLINGER: Well, the NOAA Coastal Services Center, which is part of the National Ocean Service, is involved with partners from all across NOAA to work together on this issue to best serve coastal communities. There is a wealth of knowledge and expertise related to resilience from all parts of NOAA.

NOAA’s committed to providing data, models, and tools to help communities better assess their risk and vulnerabilities as well as their resilience capacity. Land use and natural resource data developed by NOAA can help communities make decisions to minimize their exposure in high-hazard areas. They’re also coastal zone management grants available to states to help in increasing their resilience.

HOST: Sandy, so what is needed to operate one of these resilience tools that you just mentioned?

SANDY ESLINGER: Well Kate, all tools are different, so let me provide an example here. One of the tools is called CanVis, which is a visual simulation tool. The tool provides computer-generated visualizations that are helpful to see potential impacts of issues like climate change or development alternatives. This is a free software tool and the only thing the user needs to add are digital photographs, maps, or scans as inputs.

HOST: What type of information does a manager receive when they use a tool and how does this help them prepare?

SANDY ESLINGER: Well Kate, to use the CanVis example again, one of our local communities used this tool in conjunction with a mapping tool. And the idea was that the CanVis tool provided visualizations that were more meaningful to the entire audience. Many people don’t respond as well by looking at a map that shows flooding areas whereas combining that with this simple visualization tool really does provide a meaningful product for the community to use in their planning process.

HOST: It sounds like these tools are important to be used throughout the year, not just preceding a major event, like a hurricane. When do you recommend that managers use these tools?

SANDY ESLINGER: Well, there are various tools and resources that managers can use at various stages of resilience assessment and planning. The key is to be able to match the right tools with the specific needs of a community. That’s where the NOAA Coastal Services Center can help. It can be difficult for communities to know exactly where to start or what tools are available to help. We can provide services that help communities with those decisions.

HOST: Sandy, is there anything our listeners can do to support resilience efforts in their communities?

SANDY ESLINGER: Well, they can start by learning more about what their communities are doing to address resilience to hazards and they can get involved. If the community isn’t considering resilience and decisions about long-range planning, infrastructure, and economic development; it may be time to do something. Contact us and we can put you in touch with state or local organizations that can help.

HOST: Thank you Sandy for joining us on today’s episode of Diving Deeper and talking more about resilience and what this means for our listeners.

(OUTRO)
That’s all for this week’s show. Please tune in on June 17th for our next episode on PCBs.


What is geodesy?

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/may09/dd052009.mp3

Wed, 20 May 2009 10:17:13 -0400

Diving Deeper: Episode 9 (May 20, 2009) —
What is geodesy?

(INTRO)
HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I’m your host Kate Nielsen.

Today’s question is….What is geodesy?

Geodesy is the science of measuring and monitoring the size and shape of the Earth including its gravity field and determining the location of points on the Earth’s surface. Many organizations use geodesy to map the U.S. shoreline, determine land boundaries, and improve transportation and navigation safety.

To help us dive a little deeper into this question, we will talk with Dr. Dru Smith on geodesy – what it is and why it is important. Dru is the chief geodesist at the National Geodetic Survey. Hi Dru, welcome to our show.

DRU SMITH: Thanks Kate, it’s great to be here.

HOST: Dru, before we begin, I have to tell you that geodesy wasn’t a word I was very familiar with before preparing for this interview. Will you tell us what inspired you to study geodesy in the first place?

DRU SMITH:  Sure, Kate. I was actually studying Land Surveying in college and during my senior year, I took a course called Elements of Geodesy. That was also the first time I’d heard that word. That course basically took the flat Earth world of surveying that I’d been studying and put it on a curved Earth. It opened my eyes to a whole new way of measuring the world. I absolutely loved the course and I decided to stay on and study geodesy through my Ph.D. After I finished, I joined the National Geodetic Survey and I’ve been here ever since.

(DEFINING GEODESY)
HOST: That’s great. Dru, how do we measure points on the Earth’s surface?

DRU SMITH: Well, geodesists, that’s what scientists are called who study geodesy, basically assign coordinates, which is kind of like a unique address, to points all over the Earth. If you were to stick pins in a model of the Earth and then give each of those pins a coordinate, you’d be doing what geodesists do. Before the space age, geodesists used to determine the coordinates of points by using Earth-based surveying tools, measuring angles, distances between points. Now most of our work is done using space-based tools like the Global Positioning System or more commonly known as GPS. But no matter what the tool is, geodesists still do the same work, which is very accurately defining the coordinates of points on the surface of the Earth in a consistent manner. This set of accurately measured points then becomes what we call a spatial reference system, which is basically a system that allows different kinds of maps to be consistent with one another.

HOST: Do geodesists need to re-measure or continuously monitor sites after they collect these spatial points?

DRU SMITH: That’s a great question, Kate, and yes we definitely do, but it’s not always been done in a very efficient manner. In the past, most of geodesy was done using what we call passive control. This is a mark in the ground that needs to be surveyed or re-surveyed if we’re going to actually monitor how it’s moving. But with space-based techniques, especially say GPS, we’re able to actually monitor a site’s movement 24/7.

HOST: Well, why is that so important? Are there different kinds of motion on the Earth?

DRU SMITH: Absolutely. There’s a few different types of motion that we’re especially concerned with. First of all, the Earth’s surface changes for a lot of different reasons. For instance, you may not notice it, but the surface of the Earth itself rises and falls about 30 centimeters, that’s about a foot, every day just due to the gravitational pull of the sun and the moon on the Earth’s crust. Because this repeats itself day in and day out on a well-known schedule, this motion is called periodic and we can usually compute or model this effect and remove its effects from the coordinates themselves.

A second kind of motion is secular, which is where things are moving at a certain pace such as the slow grind of tectonic plates, the uplift of Hudson Bay caused by the withdrawal of the last ice sheet, or the slow sinking or subsidence of land in areas such as the Louisiana and Texas Gulf Coasts. This kind of motion can be the most annoying to surveyors and mapmakers because it means that coordinates are constantly moving away from their previously computed values.

So, finally there’s also something we call episodic motion, and this is sort of one-time shifts and they’re usually caused by Earthquakes or say volcanic eruption.

Basically, geodesists have come to realize that when you’re trying to determine the coordinate of a point to a centimeter or so – which is really the sort of level of accuracy we’re working with today – that there’s a lot of motion that we have to take into account out there.

HOST: So Dru, how do we actually measure the Earth?

DRU SMITH: To measure the Earth, we, geodesists, look at it as a whole. Obviously the surface is very irregular with many mountains and valleys it makes it impossible to measure every single thing because you would need an infinite amount of data to actually model what the true Earth looks like. Knowing this, geodesists prefer to build simple mathematical models of the Earth which capture the largest, most obvious features, and then build residual models from that, to sort of describe variations from the simple model.

I’ll give you an example, as a first, sort of crude approximation, the Earth’s shape could be considered an ellipsoid. An ellipsoid is just, it’s sort of a flattened sphere. If you take a basketball and push it from the top to the bottom, you’d get an ellipsoidal shape.

Anyway, geodesists have adopted the ellipsoid as the most basic model of the Earth with which we work. Because the ellipsoid is a very simple, mathematical model, it can be completely smooth and doesn’t include any mountains or valleys.

Now, that’s useful in a number of cases, but we sometimes need a more accurate model of how the Earth actually looks. So, to account for additional detail of the Earth’s shape, geodesists have adopted the geoid, which is a shape very similar to global mean sea level, but this exists over the whole globe, not just over the oceans.

This is where we get into the gravity field, because the geoid is a surface of equal gravity potential energy. Now that’s a mouth full, but basically the geoid is not a smooth, regular shape like the ellipsoid, it rises and falls due to minor variations in the pull of gravity that’s caused by mass variations of the Earth itself. Basically the Earth’s mass is unevenly distributed, you have mountains, you have valleys, you have the ocean, you have heavy rocks in one location, lighter rocks in another – and it means that certain areas of the Earth will experience more gravitational pull than others, and as such, the shape of the geoid in different parts will vary by as much as plus or minus one hundred meters when we look at it relative to this really simple surface which we call the ellipsoid.

If you want to picture what the geoid looks like, you could imagine what the ocean would look like if there were no tides, no currents, no waves – if the ocean were to just settle down and become smooth as glass, then all that would remain to give the ocean any shape would be these minor fluctuations in gravity, causing these slight bulges and dips in the ocean and so the ocean at rest would then be the geoid. 

HOST: OK, so there is a shape to resemble the Earth with water, which is the geoid that you just described. How does this all fit into the spatial reference system that you mentioned a little earlier?

DRU SMITH: That’s a great question. It all ties in through one other topic that we really haven’t brought up, and that is datums. Historically, geodesists worked in two primary datums, which have come to be known as the horizontal datum and the vertical datum. These separations were made because the horizontal datum (which is the thing that helps us know where latitude and longitude are) and the vertical datum (which helps us know where heights are) these were each measured in very different ways. However, that isn’t as true today, now that we have GPS.

HOST: Dru, can you explain these datums to us a little bit more?

DRU SMITH:  Sure. First, datums are the basis for all geodetic survey work. They sort of act as reference points in the same way that starting points do when you give someone directions. Geodesists and surveyors use datums as starting points when they create maps, mark off property boundaries, when they build roads, bridges, other structures.

While there’s a lot more to it than this, basically when people think of the datums they think of geodetic marks in the ground. These markers, which we call geodetic control points served as known starting points for surveyors. In the case of the horizontal datum, we would provide a latitude and longitude on a mark. For the vertical datum, we would provide a height. Today, with GPS a lot of that has changed. You can get latitude, longitude, and heights out of GPS and you don’t need to start at a passive mark in the ground.

So, today the horizontal and vertical datums make up the greater part of what we call the National Spatial Reference System, which is the spatial reference system that for the United States itself. Geodesists, surveyors, anybody interested in precise positioning – uses the National Spatial Reference System as their foundation of reference in the United States.

HOST: Dru, a little earlier you mentioned gravity also as one of the elements needed to measure the Earth.

DRU SMITH: Gravity plays such a major role in geodesy, but it’s really so hidden from the public eye that it seems almost obscure. For example, knowing the gravity field of the Earth is required to model the orbits of all satellites which includes GPS. That means we need to know the gravity field to know where the satellites are. And you need to know where the satellites are to use them to position yourself. So, in that application, the gravity field’s really important.

Closer to home, knowing the gravity field is required to know the true height differences between any two points. Gravity’s pull changes from point to point. We don’t feel it, but water definitely feels it. And so, if you take an area that’s extremely flat such as New Orleans and you have very minor fluctuations in how gravity is pulling at different locations, those fluctuations are going to determine where areas will flood relative to one another.

(IMPORTANCE OF GEODESY)
HOST: It sounds like there are four main elements of geodesy based on what we have talked about so far today. And these include the size and shape of the Earth, the gravity field of the Earth, how all of these things change, and then how we position everything on a changing Earth. And these elements make up the National Spatial Reference System. Why is this system so important?

DRU SMITH: Kate, you’re absolutely right. All of the elements of geodesy are joined together in the National Spatial Reference System. A lot of maps are now digital and we build them on our computers. So to do this, we take data from a number of different places. Let’s say I want to start with the contours from a map from the U.S. Geological Survey and then I tell my computer to add a few more pieces of information such as floodplains from a map from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and I say add the levee heights from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maps, and say the population statistics from a U.S. Census map. If there isn’t one consistent coordinate system tying all these maps together, then the result would be useless – each of these would not lay on top of each other properly and I couldn’t compare the data. The National Spatial Reference System is that system which gets all of these maps together on the same grid.

HOST: Dru, what are some of the other benefits of geodesy?

DRU SMITH: That’s a good question Kate. Some of the other benefits of geodesy are, for example, to the transportation industry. So here’s a great example, I really love this one. By providing charts that are accurate to centimeters and using GPS technology on a ship which also can position the ship to centimeters, if those two locations are done consistently, say in the National Spatial Reference System., then you have the ability to know where the bottom of that ship is relative to the bottom of the ocean to a couple of centimeters and this means that a ship could put on extra cargo, sink deeper into the water, and still know that they’re safely navigating through a channel. And the beauty of that is more cargo directly relates to an economic benefit to the shipping industries. So, extra accuracy due to geodetic tools allows the shipping industry to have a pretty significant economic benefit.

(ROLE OF THE NATIONAL OCEAN SERVICE IN GEODESY)
HOST: So, it sounds like there could be many benefits from geodesy that impact our everyday lives. Dru, what is the role of the National Ocean Service in geodesy?

DRU SMITH: Well, the National Geodetic Survey is just one office in the National Ocean Service. And so, while we’re responsible for the development and maintenance of the National Spatial Reference System at the National Geodetic Survey, there are related components within the National Ocean Service. For example, the National Ocean Service has offices responsible for tide gages and navigational charts. Both of these functions are directly tied to the National Spatial Reference System.

HOST: What are the tools that NOAA geodesists use to measure the Earth?

DRU SMITH: Well, historically geodesists from the National Geodetic Survey used manual instruments such as theodolites or distance-measuring tools to determine vertical and horizontal positions. If you’re not sure what a theodolite is, I’ll bet you’ve seen one without realizing it. Most of us have, for example, driven down the highway and seen someone standing there with a reflective jersey on looking through something that looked like a small telescope sitting on top of a yellow tripod. That instrument was likely a theodolite, a level, or a total station – these are all the manual instruments that I mentioned before that were used by geodesists for so long. Starting around the 1960s, the National Geodetic Survey started using satellites for global positioning. Around 1984, the first launches of GPS itself occurred and so GPS continues to this day to really be the primary operational tool of geodetic surveying.

HOST: What are some of the applications or how does NOAA use spatial reference data?

DRU SMITH: Global positioning data supports a lot of different applications – safe development, efficient transportation and navigation, emergency response efforts – for both coastal areas as well as the middle of the country. What’s especially critical are our abilities to monitor the changes to coordinates. For example, this gives the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the ability to know changing heights of their levees, which is really important. It allows surveyors in southern California to track the movements of points or state departments of transportation to know if their evacuation routes are prone to flooding. More importantly it really allows us to predict when a currently safe evacuation route might become unsafe due to subsidence.

One of the programs that the National Geodetic Survey is focused on is called the National Height Modernization Program. This is where we combine GPS technology with existing surveying techniques to determine elevations for positioning and navigation.

HOST: Dru, can you highlight a little more on height modernization? Maybe a little bit about why this is important or what is the need for this kind of information?

DRU SMITH: Absolutely, those are great questions Kate. Like many of us, geodesists are also looking for ways to do things quickly and accurately. So, height modernization is about getting heights quickly and accurately, but the only way to get accurate heights used to be through a really tedious surveying process called leveling. But when GPS came along, surveying efficiency shot through the roof. The only problem was that GPS couldn’t tell you the right information about heights above sea level. But it turns out that if you have a GPS receiver and a good map of the gravity field, or the geoid more specifically, then you can get good accurate heights quickly from GPS.

So this is the basis of the National Height Modernization Program, which we’ve come to call Height Mod over the years. Height Mod has been a partnership program since its very beginning, where NOAA works with state partners to improve their ability to get these heights from GPS. More recently, as part of Height Mod, NOAA has implemented a project which we call GRAV-D that stands for Gravity for the Redefinition of the American Vertical Datum. It’s a nationwide effort to make sure everyone, no matter what state or territory they live in, can get accurate heights from GPS.

HOST: Thanks Dru. Do you have any final closing words for our listeners today?

DRU SMITH: Well first, thanks for the invitation. We don’t often get to talk about geodesy and, so, it’s nice to be able to get the word out. It’s especially nice for me to not just talk about the science which I love, but about some of the applications that geodesy has. I really am glad for the chance to tell your listeners why geodesy is important whether you live at the coast, whether you live inland, you rely on geodesy in ways that you don’t realize. It’s especially useful for us to make sure that people are aware of the benefits of geodesy – that you rely on it for transportation, for safety of your bridges and roads, to keep your office building, your school, or your home out of floodplains, to be able to tie all that together through the science that I enjoy so much, this really has been a nice opportunity to talk about those benefits as well to your listeners.

HOST: Thanks Dru for joining us on today’s episode of Diving Deeper and talking more about geodesy and how we rely on this every day in more ways than probably most of us realized. To learn more about geodesy, please visit geodesy.noaa.gov.

(OUTRO)
That’s all for this week’s show. Please tune in on June 3rd for our next episode on resilience.


What is a national marine sanctuary?

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/may09/dd050609.mp3

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 07:21:39 -0500

Diving Deeper: Episode 8 (May 6, 2009) —
What is a national marine sanctuary?
(INTRO)
HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper, where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I’m your host Kate Nielsen.
Today’s question is….What is a national marine sanctuary?
National marine sanctuaries are protected waters that include habitats such as rocky reefs, kelp forests, deep-sea canyons, and underwater archaeological sites. Similar to national parks on the land, these underwater preserves can provide a safe habitat for species close to extinction or protect historically significant shipwrecks. One of the main inhabitants of marine sanctuaries is the humpback whale who uses this resource to breed and calve their young.
To help us dive a little deeper into this question, we will talk with Dan Basta on national marine sanctuaries – what they are, where they are located, and why they are important to us. Dan is the Director of the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. Hi, Dan, welcome to our show.
DAN BASTA: Thanks Kate, it’s great to be here and to be able to tell your audience about national marine sanctuaries. I think your first question that everyone wants to have answered is well, what is a national marine sanctuary exactly? The easiest way to think about it is to think about it as a national park. You could argue that they represent our nation’s parks in the sea, but they’re a little bit different in how they operate and what they do. Unlike parks, national marine sanctuaries do allow multiple use – they’re about finding that very special spot between using our precious resources, understanding and appreciating them, and protecting them at the same time.
HOST: Dan, what is the difference between a marine protected area and a marine sanctuary, if there is any at all?
DAN BASTA: Well, the term marine protected area is a generic term – it means many, many things. There are a large number of special ocean places that have a title called marine protected area – very difficult term actually. A marine sanctuary is a specific marine protected area. It actually is our nation’s legislated, special marine places. They are the system for the United States that represents its special marine places. The Organic Act, a law, created the Sanctuary Program back in 72. It’s the most environmentally, marine conservation act in the country and one of the most in the world. It authorizes a whole set of activities from world-class science to comprehensive education to enforcement and to ensure that the public is involved in its management.
HOST: Where are some of the national marine sanctuaries located and how many are there?
DAN BASTA: Well, there are 14 areas – they start out in American Samoa in the far Pacific in Fagatele Bay precede then to the Hawaiian Islands, five hours closer by air, and they’re in the main eight Hawaiian Islands, and we manage the national marine monument in the Northwest Pacific Islands called Papahānaumokuākea, arguably the largest totally marine protected area in the world. On the West Coast of the United States, we have sanctuaries that run from the state of Washington on the Canadian border down to Santa Barbara in Southern California. In the Gulf of Mexico, we have the Flower Garden Banks about a hundred miles off of the Texas/Louisiana border and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary that encompasses all of the Florida Keys extending out past the Dry Tortugas. Moving up along the East Coast, we have Gray’s Reef off of Georgia, we have the MONITOR Sanctuary which is the resting place of the USS MONITOR, and further north we have the great Stellwagen Bank in Massachusetts Bay. We have a sanctuary in the Great Lakes as well and that is Thunder Bay and it is a totally maritime heritage sanctuary. And in that sanctuary rests the cumulated history of shipping on the Great Lakes – over 200 shipwrecks.
HOST: Great. It sounds like these probably cover quite a bit of area. Is there an approximation of how much area the sanctuaries covers?
DAN BASTA: Well, it’s more than a 150,000 square miles – which is a big number, but there’s a point here that I think your audience would like to know about. All of these places are underwater – you can’t see them. It’s not like going to Yosemite and walking on the road. So, they’re kind of out of sight, out of mind a little bit. What lies beneath them requires special efforts to bring to the American public, particularly when they’re far offshore or far away from a populated center. So, it’s a huge challenge for us to make them meaningful to all American citizens.
HOST: Maybe to build on that just a little bit, is it possible that some of our listeners have visited a sanctuary?
DAN BASTA: Oh, absolutely. Of course it depends upon the site if you will. They are a focal point for a large degree of marine recreation and viewing. Two simple, little statistics that I think reveal this – Monterey Bay, California is a national marine sanctuary and we have a couple of volunteer programs there. One program is an on-water kayak, docent program called Team OCEAN. And over the past 24 months, they have interacted with and interpreted the site for 45,000 people. The Florida Keys is the number one dive location on Planet Earth. There are, depending upon the year, between two and a half and three and a half million people who visit the Keys. It’s a huge effort on our part to ensure that this place is not overrun and loved to death. We maintain in the Florida Keys alone, over 700 buoys, which prevents anchoring and marks channels. So, there’s a lot of on-water operation required to ensure that American citizens get an opportunity to experience, appreciate, and resolve to protect these places but at the same time not love them to death.
HOST: What was the first sanctuary to be designated?
DAN BASTA: The first national marine sanctuary was the USS MONITOR, which is the quintessential Civil War warship. This is a one-of-a-kind in the world vessel, it is famous in American annals for its battle with the MERRIMACK – every school child in America learns about that. But it actually was a fundamental turning point in technology in the sea and it is a vessel that is important worldwide, not just in American Civil War history. It’s about 20 odd miles off the coast; it sits in 241 feet of water. And when it was finally located after many years of searching, something had to be done to ensure its protection and interpretation. That really was the first opportunity to use this newly created Act, that it was a form of law now that could be used to officially protect the place and manage it in the ocean. It has been a phenomenal site which you may now go and view in Newport News, Virginia at the Maritime Heritage Museum.
HOST: Dan, I think you’ve touched on this a little bit so far, but I was hoping to expand a little bit on the kind of work that happens at our national marine sanctuaries?
DAN BASTA: Well, it’s a multi-varied body of work that occurs in these places. As I think I said earlier, they are major research sites. Every one of our sites has a major research program and in fact there is a research program that connects all the sites. Because they’re special places that have special attributes, a good deal of the scientific community of the U.S. and elsewhere comes to our sanctuaries to do research that fit our requirements and our needs. We probably have, and it varies year to year, but on the order of eight to ten times our own efforts done by others in basic research and that is with ships, with ROVs, with divers – with all the tools and methods you use to do research in the sea.
Education is a huge part of what we do at these sites and similarly every site has an education program. Now this program, and the educators around the system, I always argue are one of the largest concentrations of marine educators in the country, if not the world. And these programs that are conducted reach tens of millions of people. We do this through innovative use of technology – webcasts, telepresence, podcasts. I think last year our programming touched about 300 million people in the print market and most of that programming is education programming.
We conduct a lot of expeditions of exploration. We do that as much for the education effort as we do it for the science. It’s about communicating. One of the biggest things that occurs at sites is its management planning and the conduct of its management activities. And every site has a Citizens Advisory Council. Actually, we have about 400 members of these councils around the system. Great citizens and they all swear an oath and they all sit in a prescribed period and they help us manage. They’re not just an advisory body to give us advice – they’re an active participant. Public participation is a lot of what happens at a national marine sanctuary.
HOST: It’s wonderful that public participation is such a huge factor and so important in how the sanctuaries are operating. Why are our national marine sanctuaries so important to the future of our ocean?
DAN BASTA: That’s a good question and that’s a question that I’ve been answering a certain way of late. They’re important to the ocean, but they’re also important to the problems of our time. All Americans are worried about a lot of things today. They’re worried about climate, they’re worried about energy, they’re worried about economy, they’re worried about the changing demographics and culture of the country. National marine sanctuaries are unique and special places and because of their uniqueness, they speak in a way that ordinary places don’t speak. For us to understand and reflect on things, we do it in a sense about place. So these special places have a role to play in how they communicate things that relate to economy, sustainable economies, that relate to changing climate impacts. They are a wonderful tool that can reflect back on the nation in how it should do what it does and what special places tell them about that. And when they’re a network of these places around the country with such large constituencies and a significant way of connecting to people through outreach – its education programs, its science programs – that touch everyone in America, they can take on a far more important role than just be a cute place to visit.
Our problem with getting the ocean to a sustainable level is that oceans are not really important to most Americans. It’s just a fact. It’s not that they shouldn’t be important, it’s out of sight, out of mind and there are other more pressing things that concern them. They don’t appreciate how directly their very survival is tied to the ocean. Because of these special places and all the iconic features they have and how they may relate to the problems affecting most Americans in their homes, it allows other Americans who don’t live on the coast to look seaward because that’s where those examples are given, that’s where those solutions are experimented with, and it ties it back together. So, if we think the ocean has a future, it’s about how we are going to make the rest of the country and others around the world and ourselves, the few that already understand this, come to that point. We understand things in context of place that’s how we are. Our neighborhood, our town, our city – we compare things in that way. The ocean is such a large, vacuous subject matter, it’s hard for people to understand, get their minds around. Discrete places, sanctuaries, sentinel sites in understanding change in our planet are key if you really want to affect that larger community that is necessary in ensuring that the ocean can do what it does for us.
HOST: Dan, how does a sanctuary protect marine life?
DAN BASTA: So, we do a lot of things. First, we do our science and that science allows us to better understand what are the touch points of things that are going to make a bigger difference than others – a simple idea. You’ve got to know how the system works. If you don’t know how it works, it’s hard for you to have a sensible way of protecting it. Secondly, is we direct our education programs to that point. It’s about an educated public in understanding how it works and what are those activities or how you conduct activities that don’t, in fact, injure any of these resources.
A third is that we have on-water enforcement – actual officers that patrol, etc. And we have what we call our Team OCEAN program, I mentioned earlier the kayak program in Monterey Bay, but we have Team OCEAN programs around the system. The Team OCEAN program is where we arm citizens to perform what we call an interpretive enforcement function. It does more to protect marine life than ten times the number of officers that you can put on the water to keep track. So it’s a multi-faceted approach and it has to come together actually to really do protection.
HOST: Dan, it’s great that sanctuaries are able to help protect marine life in so many numerous ways that you’ve just explained. What is the role of the National Ocean Service in managing or maintaining our National Marine Sanctuary System?
DAN BASTA: Well, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries sits in the National Ocean Service. Marine sanctuaries are marine bodies; these are water bodies that are in federal and state waters that have to do with marine animals, marine weather, oceanographic processes, physical characteristics of the bottom, and all those features. The National Ocean Service is the quintessential expert on all of those matters. Being in the National Ocean Service is a place that allows these special ocean places to be part of the ocean community – to have access to the information, the expertise, the knowledge that is all of what the U.S. does in oceans. So, the National Ocean Service is sort of a nurturing place that fits perfectly with what is a national marine sanctuary.
HOST: Thanks Dan, you’ve given us a lot of good explanation and background to help us understand and I think appreciate even more our national marine sanctuaries. I just wanted to ask if you had any final closing words for our listeners today?
DAN BASTA: Well, I do as a matter of fact. Your National Marine Sanctuary System, your oceans and coasts are not high on the order of importance in how our country currently does its business. These parts of our heritage and our ability to sustain ourselves are the most under-funded part of the United States government. It is amazing to me that we get done what we do with the resources we have.
It’s important for us to see on our sense of priorities that pound for pound, penny for penny, the greatest value for a nickel of investment in stewardship – today – is in these places because they’re so far behind the power curve. And only in the past 30 years or so have we come to realize that the ocean is not an exhaustible place. And now we’ve come to realize, oh by the way, a lot of what controls processes on land, in weather for example, and other things are driven by the ocean. So my pitch to viewers would be, or listeners rather, would be to learn more about this nature of the problem confronting us. That a good part of our ability to sustain a way of life that we have come to want in the next century, it really begins in the ocean.
HOST: Thanks Dan for joining us on today’s episode of Diving Deeper and exploring what marine sanctuaries are and why they are so critically important to us. To learn more about our national marine sanctuaries, please visit the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries Web site at sanctuaries.noaa.gov.

(OUTRO)
That’s all for this week’s show. Please tune in on May 20th for our next episode on geodesy.


What is an estuary?

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/apr09/dd042209.mp3

Wed, 22 Apr 2009 07:32:56 -0400

Diving Deeper: Episode 7 (Apr. 22, 2009) —
What is an Estuary?
(INTRO)
HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I’m your host Kate Nielsen.
Today’s question is….What is an estuary?
An estuary is a partially enclosed body of water such as bays, lagoons, or sounds, where rivers meet the sea. An estuary begins where fresh river water flows into coastal bays and inlets. These areas of transition between the land and the sea are driven by tides, but sheltered from the full force of ocean wind and waves. When freshwater meets salty seawater the result is a brackish mixture.
To help us dive a little deeper into this question, we will talk with Sarah McGuire and Bart Merrick on estuaries – what they are, why we study them, and why they are important to us. Sarah is the Education Coordinator with the Chesapeake Bay Virginia National Estuarine Research Reserve and Bart is the Education Coordinator with the Chesapeake Bay Maryland National Estuarine Research Reserve. Hi, Sarah and Bart, welcome to our show.
SARAH MCGUIRE: Hi Kate, thanks for having us.
BART MERRICK: Hi Kate, thank you as well and I’m looking forward to talking to you a little bit more about estuaries.
(DEFINING ESTUARIES)
HOST: Great. Sarah, first, where are estuaries located?
SARAH MCGUIRE: Well, estuaries can be found all over the world. As you said, estuaries are typically where freshwater and saltwater mix together such as a bay or a lagoon. In the United States they’re found all across the board. And, usually you find larger cities are located near estuaries. For example, New York City is located on an estuary and that’s just because historically major cities were built where the mouth of a river would be. The largest estuary in North America is actually right here in the Chesapeake Bay. 
HOST: Sarah, what type of plants and animals live in estuary?
SARAH MCGUIRE: Well that’s a good question because estuaries are one of the most productive ecosystems in the world, so there’s a great diversity of animals that live there and plants. Estuaries can have many different types of habitats. Some of the examples would be oyster reefs, coral reefs, rocky shores, submerged aquatic vegetation, marshes, mangroves, and many other types. So in an estuary, there are different animals that live in each habitat. Some of those animals and plants could include fish, shellfish, and migratory birds. For example in the Chesapeake Bay, we have different habitats such as oyster reefs and in oyster reefs we might see oysters and mud crabs and small fish that live in between the shells. We have submerged aquatic vegetation where we find seahorses and blue crabs and lots of other fish. And then we also have open water and we might even see sea turtles or rays in that water. And different animals live in the estuary during different times of the year. One of the reasons for this variability is because the systems are tidally driven.
HOST: Bart, Sarah mentioned a little bit about change or variability in estuaries. Can you expand on this for us?
BART MERRICK: The fact that they’re tidally driven is really important as a physical parameter that the water levels are going up and down a couple times a day. In addition to that though, there’s also a lot of other chemical and physical parameters that change a lot within estuaries. We talk about it in terms of variability, which just means that things are going all over the map. And when I say things, I’m actually talking about different properties of the water like water chemistry, the temperature, the pH, salinity, things along those lines. And when you think about it, all the things that live in an estuary, they need to be able to deal with that variability. So, if you’re an oyster, you need to be able to handle oxygen levels that are pretty high and ones that get pretty low because you can’t move. If you’re a fish, you could get out of there if you wanted to.
(IMPORTANCE OF ESTUARIES)
HOST: Bart, can you tell us why are estuaries important?
BART MERRICK: They’re important for all kinds of reasons. Some of the biggest reasons why estuaries are important is that, like Sarah mentioned, most of the population of the world actually lives right on the edge of an estuary. And so, whether you’re getting your food from estuaries or you’re getting recreational benefit from estuaries, it’s all there. Some of the things particularly for me that I’m concerned about and why I think estuaries are important are that they provide very vital nesting and feeding habitats for tons of aquatic plants and animals. Some of the animals, like I mentioned earlier oysters, make estuaries their permanent home. And others like rockfish or horseshoe crabs or really birds will migrate through and they’ll stop over for either spawning reasons or feeding reasons.
So, estuaries also, and this is particularly important, they actually help maintain a pretty healthy ocean. They’re like the pre-treatment for our oceans. And so, as the water flows out of the watersheds around estuaries, it flows through wetlands through the actual estuary itself and a lot of times that will filter out a lot of the pollutants or contaminants that might be within the water and it filters it all out before it gets to the ocean.
HOST: Sounds like there’s a lot of environmental benefits to estuaries. Bart, can we assess the importance of estuaries economically as well?
BART MERRICK: Estuaries are often economic centers of coastal communities because they provide for almost 75 percent of U.S. commercial fish catch and even a greater percentage of the recreational fish catch. The total fish catch in estuaries contributes about $4.3 billion a year to the U.S. economy. And, estuaries are also important recreational areas. Millions of people visit estuaries each year to boat, to swim, to watch birds, canoe, kayak, and in fact, nature-based tourism is actually one of the fastest growing segments of the tourism industry.
Additionally, estuaries are also important centers for transportation. So that iPod you might be listening to this on, was probably on a boat that came into an estuary. And that’s a big part of the estuarine equation is the fact that they’re centers of transportation – they’re great places to move cargo.
HOST: Sarah, I was going to ask why we study estuaries, but with all of these examples of benefits that estuaries provide – both environmentally and economically, I guess it’s pretty clear why we study these.
SARAH MCGUIRE: Right. We study estuaries for all of the reasons that Bart just mentioned. They’re important to our economy, there are many species that depend on estuaries, and we need to know the balance to protect those areas. When we study estuaries, we can figure out what impact human actions have on these ecosystems and we can help manage the land surrounding estuaries in order to protect them.
HOST: Sarah, how are estuaries important to those who don’t live along the coast?
SARAH MCGUIRE: That’s a good question. Bart actually mentioned the watershed a little bit and even if you don’t live along the coast, there are six states that flow into just the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and a lot of those areas are not right along the coast. So, no matter where you live, eventually you can impact an estuary because your water will flow into a river that will eventually flow into an estuary. That’s one reason why estuaries are important no matter where you live.
Also, estuaries are used as recreation areas as Bart mentioned and people vacation often times near estuaries. Estuaries are nurseries for many fish so they are also important to the seafood industry. So no matter where you live, you can connect to an estuary.
(NATIONAL ESTUARINE RESEARCH RESERVE SYSTEM)
HOST: Bart, what is the role of the National Ocean Service in studying and protecting our nation’s estuaries?
BART MERRICK: The National Ocean Service is home to the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management and they basically oversee the National Estuarine Research Reserve System that Sarah and I both work with. The key thing here is that it’s also the NOAA group that we just described there and the state partners that manage the estuarine reserves. So, the Reserve System was created by the Coastal Zone Management Act in 1972 and the Reserve System is a national network of coastal reserves established as living laboratories for long-term research and education. These reserves monitor the health of estuaries, educate the public about these ecosystems, and help communities manage their coastal resources better.
 
HOST: Bart, this is great that there’s such an extensive network that exists for these purposes – for research and education. How many reserves are there?
BART MERRICK: There are currently 27 reserves in 21 states and Puerto Rico. The reserves are located around the coastal United States and even one site in the Great Lakes which is actually Old Woman Creek. As I mentioned before, the reserves is a partnership between NOAA and the coastal states and the partnership protects more than 1.3 million acres of estuarine land and water.
HOST: For both of you actually, maybe Sarah first. Since reserves were established as living laboratories to conduct scientific research, can you elaborate a little bit more on the research that’s happening right now at your reserve?
SARAH MCGUIRE: One example of research happening in the Chesapeake Bay Virginia Reserve, and all of the reserves actually, is the System-wide Monitoring Program, which is a series of fixed water-quality stations that each reserve has and these stations provide long-term data sets. Each station monitors physical parameters of the water and each reserve is responsible for collecting this data. The long-term data sets are important because they can show long-term changes in the water.
BART MERRICK: One of my favorite, sort of specific, research programs that we have going on in the Chesapeake Maryland, and I think Chesapeake Virginia’s doing it too, Reserve is we have these studies set up that measure the amount of sediment that comes into a marsh. And that’s super important because one of the concerns of the Reserve System is related to climate change. One of the impacts of climate change is sea level rise and these marshes that exist within estuaries are very important for all of the reasons we’ve talked about before, but they are right there on the edge of the water. And if the water level creeps up a little bit, the marshes are going to change. So, in the marshes around the bay, we actually have these things called sediment elevation tables and they measure – very, very accurately – how much sediment is building up on the marshes. And then we can use that information to determine whether or not the marsh is keeping up with the sea level rise.
HOST: It’s great that data from so many of these local reserve research efforts are available for the public. Bart, are there examples of how research conducted at the reserves supports local decision making and local efforts?
BART MERRICK: Yeah, there’s a number of examples. One of my favorite examples to share with folks is within the Chesapeake Bay Reserve there’s a place called Jug Bay, which is one of our sites on the Patuxent River. On this river, there’s an area in Jug Bay that supports a plant, that’s actually a pretty important plant that’s called wild rice. Wild rice was disappearing for awhile and they were trying to figure out why. It’s important basically as food for migrating birds or birds that are living there. The question is why is it disappearing and then what can we do to bring the wild rice back. And through some of the research happening at the reserve we found that there’s a whole bunch of reasons – sea level rise one of them, goose predation another one, actually resident geese eating it is the big problem. So, basically, we developed then a strategy for maintaining the rice and preventing goose predation, which involved fencing off the wild rice which would prevent the geese from landing in there. And that actually has led to a pretty successful rebound in the amount of wild rice in Jug Bay. And this type of effort, just simple fencing around stands of wild rice or where we hoped wild rice was or where we planted wild rice, has done a lot to actually bring the amount of wild rice for those migrating water fowl that come from the entire Eastern seaboard through the Chesapeake Bay.
HOST: Thanks for that great example for Jug Bay and showing us a little bit more about how that research is used locally to solve different problems. Sarah, are reserves similar to marine protected areas in that they are protected areas that restrict activities to benefit local conservation efforts?
SARAH MCGUIRE: The reserves are similar to marine protected areas. They are composed of different sites that are managed by that reserve in order to protect the land and the area around it. It’s kind of hard to say for each reserve because they’re so different, but, each reserve would have their own set of guidelines and restrictions and the best thing to do would be to check with your local reserve to see what guidelines they have. Some of the activities that might be limited would be fishing and hunting or camping. It just depends on the site.
HOST: Thanks. It does sound like each reserve is different. There’s something a little special that happens at each site. Bart, how many staff are needed to run or maintain the reserve sites?
BART: That varies across the board. Some reserves have 20 people, some reserves have five people, but each reserve does have five core positions. And those are the Education Coordinator, which Sarah and I both are, in charge of working with the general public as well as students in the kindergarten up through graduate school. Then there’s the Research Coordinator who’s in charge of all the research that’s going on within the reserve. And then the Coastal Training Program Coordinator, that’s actually a great position, and that person is in charge of taking the research that we get at the reserves and communicating that research to decision makers to try to help them make more informed decisions that might impact the estuaries. The Stewardship Coordinator is responsible for a lot of the restoration efforts and acquiring land to add to the reserve or to put into an easement or something along those lines. And then there’s of course the Manager that really brings it all together. And they’re responsible for making sure the research, the education, the stewardship, the coastal training programs are all well integrated and that we’re all using each other’s resources to get the message out about estuaries as effectively as possible.
HOST: Sounds like a big team effort to be able to maintain these sites. Sarah, can you tell us what a typical day is like for you as an Education Coordinator at the Virginia Chesapeake Bay Reserve?
SARAH MCGUIRE: Sure. As Bart said, there are five core positions at each reserve. So, a typical day for me might be hosting a school group that might come in in the morning. We’ll go out in the river and sample, see what animals live in that habitat, we might go back in the lab and use the microscopes and study oyster reef animals in the afternoon. It could entail a canoe trip for a school group or hosting teachers to teach them about our curriculum. But mostly, it’s just teaching the public, especially students, about estuaries and getting them excited about estuaries.
HOST: Great, thanks to you both for all of this valuable information and really good examples to help paint a little bit of a better picture about estuaries for us. It’s wonderful to hear more about these estuarine reserves that were established to help us learn more about research locally and just about estuaries. Do you have any final closing words for our listeners on estuaries or the Reserve System as a whole?
BART MERRICK: The biggest thing I would like to say is go to an estuary. The reserves are all open to the public and you’re more than welcome, and we actually really encourage folks to come visit outside of organized groups – school groups or community programs. They’re great places to canoe or bird or really explore a lot of your other recreational opportunities. And, if people don’t go there, then they’re less connected to the reserves and so it’s really important to us to make sure that we facilitate people actually getting out in the reserves, in the estuaries.
HOST: Thanks Bart and Sarah for joining us on today’s episode of Diving Deeper and talking more about estuaries, why they are important, and the Reserve System. To learn more about estuaries, please visit www.estuaries.gov.

(OUTRO)

That’s all for this week’s show. Please tune in on May 6th for our next episode on marine sanctuaries.
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What are tides?

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/apr09/dd040809.mp3

Wed, 08 Apr 2009 08:34:49 -0400

Diving Deeper: Episode 6 (Apr. 8, 2009) —
What are Tides?

(INTRO)

HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I’m your host Kate Nielsen.

Today’s question is….What are tides?

Tides are basically very long-period waves that move through the oceans in response to the forces exerted by the moon and the sun. Tides begin in the oceans and then move towards the coast where they appear as the regular rise and fall of the sea surface.

To help us dive a little deeper into this question, we will talk with Steve Gill on tides – what they are, what causes them, and the factors that affect them. Steve is the Senior Scientist with the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services. Hi Steve, welcome to our show.

STEVE GILL: Hi Kate, thanks, it’s good to be here to talk about a topic that I have studied and worked on for over 33 years. Much of the practical application of tides is something that comes from on-the-job training and not learned in text books, so what the NOAA Tides and Currents program does is fairly unique.

(DEFINING TIDES)
HOST: Steve, first, what is the difference between a tide and a current?

STEVE GILL: Well, Kate, that’s a good question and typically the first thing I cover in many of my talks with students. The word “tides” is a general term used to define the alternating rise and fall in sea level with respect to the land. So, tides are characterized by water moving up and down during the day. Currents on the other hand move horizontally rather than vertically. Currents describe the horizontal motion of the water and are driven by several factors, one of those is tides; another is the wind.  The horizontal movement of water that accompanies the rising and falling of the daily tides is called the tidal current.

HOST: Thanks Steve, so basically tides move up and down and currents move back and forth. What causes tides?

STEVE GILL: Gravity is one of the major forces that causes tides. Tides are caused by the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun. The gravitational forces are counterbalanced by the outward force of inertia from the moon revolving around the Earth and Earth revolving around the sun in their orbital paths. The combination of these two forces results in the tide-producing forces. So, ocean tides are a combination of lunar tides (lunar meaning the moon) and solar tides (solar meaning the sun).  

HOST: So what does this mean exactly, the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun and the outward force of inertia?

STEVE GILL: Well, that can be a little confusing, but let me provide a little more background. In 1687, Sir Issac Newton first found that ocean tides can be explained by the gravitational attraction of the sun and the moon on the oceans of the Earth. In simpler terms, Newton’s law of universal gravitation states that the greater the mass of the objects and the closer they are to each other, the greater the gravitational attraction between them.   The outward inertial forces counterbalance gravity; that is why the moon doesn’t fall towards the Earth in its monthly orbit and why the Earth doesn’t fall towards the sun in its yearly orbit. Put together, these forces result in the distance between the two objects being much more critical than their masses in forming the tide-producing forces on the Earth.

HOST: Steve, can you break this down for us a little bit more?

STEVE GILL: Certainly. Our sun is about 27 million times larger than our moon. Based on its mass, the sun’s gravitational attraction to the Earth is more than 177 times greater than that of the moon to the Earth. If tidal forces were based only on these masses, the sun should have a tide-generating force that is much greater than that of the moon. However, the sun is 390 times further from the Earth than the moon is, reducing its tide-generation force. Because of this, the sun’s tide-generation force is only about half that of the moon.

HOST: OK, so mass and distance combined are needed to fully understand the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun. And the orbits of the Earth around the sun and the moon around the Earth are needed to understand inertia. Is there anything else we need to know about tide-producing forces?

STEVE GILL: Actually, yes. The tide-producing forces can be thought of in terms of a tide-generation force envelope surrounding the Earth. This tidal-force envelope has bulges; one facing the moon and one on the opposite side of the Earth from the moon. There is a similar tidal-force envelope for the sun. On the near side of the Earth, the gravitational forces are greater than the outward forces of inertia, resulting in a bulge in the envelope toward the moon and the one for the sun. On the far side of the Earth, the forces of inertia exceed the gravitational forces, resulting in an equal, but opposite facing bulge. These forces are not actually strong enough to pull the ocean away from the surface of the Earth however. The tides are caused by the oceans being moved back and forth in their basins as they rotate underneath the tide-generating force bulges. The back and forth motion results in a tide wave, not a tidal wave or tsunami that you sometimes hear about. This tide wave is set up in each of the ocean basins.

HOST: So, how is this back and forth motion of a tide wave different than a tsunami?

STEVE GILL: A tsunami is set up by underwater seismic earthquake and they’re actually much higher frequency wave. They happen with peaks and troughs every several minutes as opposed to a tide wave which is every 12 hours or every 24 hours. This is a very high speed wave in the open ocean and you really don’t see that wave until it reaches shore.

HOST: Steve, what is the difference between high tide and low tide?

STEVE GILL: When the highest part, or crest, of the tide wave reaches a particular location, high tide occurs; low tide is the lowest part of the tide wave or trough. The difference between high tide and low tide is called the tidal range. Most people experience this difference when they are walking along the beach and perhaps notice either more or less beach area for a place to stop, sit down, or rest. I know my children would have fun building a series of sand castles further and further up the beach throughout the day as the tide came in and washed them out. Tides on all coasts originate in the oceans and travel onto shore and up into the estuaries, bays, and rivers.

(FREQUENCY AND INTENSITY OF TIDES)
HOST: Thanks Steve, it sounds like there are a lot of factors that do affect tides. You just mentioned that these tidal bulges have a direct effect on tidal heights. Do these tidal bulges impact how often tides occur?

STEVE GILL: Kate, yes they do. Tidal bulges do play a role in the frequency of tides. Remember that there are lunar and solar tides because there are separate tidal-force bulges for both the moon and the sun. Most coastal areas experience two high tides and two low tides every lunar day. A lunar day is the time it takes for a specific site on Earth to rotate from an exact point under the moon to the same point under the moon the next day. Unlike a solar day which is 24 hours, a lunar day is 24 hours and 50 minutes because the moon revolves around the Earth in the same direction that the Earth rotates on its axis; so it takes the Earth an extra 50 minutes to catch up to the moon. 

Because the Earth rotates through two opposite lunar tidal bulges every lunar day, most coastal areas experience these two highs and two low tides every 24 hours and 50 minutes.  High tides occur approximately 12 hours and 25 minutes apart and it takes about six hours and 12 minutes for the water at the shore to go from a high to low, or from a low to high. The high and low tides tend to occur about 25 minutes later each calendar day because the lunar day is longer than our 24-hour clock day. However, there are a few areas at which the solar tide-producing forces dominate those of the moon. In those very few areas, the high and low tides tend to occur 12 hours apart and at around the same time each day.

HOST: Steve, why does the difference between high and low tides vary more in some places than in others?

STEVE GILL: Well, Kate, if the Earth were a perfect sphere covered by one ocean without large continents, all areas on the planet would experience two equally proportioned high and low tides every day. However, these large areas of land divide the oceans into large ocean basins, each reacting to the tide-producing forces in their own way, depending upon their size and depth. This also brings up another important point on how tides can vary over time and by location. The lunar and solar tidal bulges are not always aligned with the plane of the Earth’s equator, and their alignment tracks the moon and the sun as they change their declinations. The declination can be thought of as angle in the sky of the moon or sun above the horizon. The moon has a maximum and minimum declination each month because the plane of the moon’s orbit around the Earth is not the same as the plane of the equator.  Similarly for the sun – the sun has a minimum and maximum declination each year because the plane of the Earth’s orbit around the sun is not the same as the plane of the equator.   This solar declination is also what causes the seasons on Earth. The different responses to the tidal bulges and their declinations cause the ocean basins to have varying tidal patterns.

There are three basic tidal patterns that occur along the Earth’s major shorelines. Most areas have two high and two low tides each day. If an area has two highs and two low tides each day that are about the same height, the pattern is called a semi-daily or a semidiurnal tide. This is true for most of the East Coast of the United States. If the two high and two low tides each day differ in height, the pattern is called a mixed semidiurnal tide, like you may see along the West Coast of the United States. Some areas, such as the northern Gulf of Mexico, have only one high and one low each day. This is called a diurnal tide.

HOST: Thanks Steve for your explanations on the causes, frequency, and intensity of tides as well as the role of gravity with the position of the Earth, moon, and sun and how these cause tides. Are there other factors that affect tides?

STEVE GILL: Kate, yes there sure are. Again, remember that there are lunar tides and solar tides and the tides we observe on the coasts are a combination of the two. So each month there are full moons and new moons in which the sun and moon are aligned and their gravitational attraction on the Earth acts together to cause stronger tides than normal.  These are called spring tides. And there are two times each month when the moon and the sun are at right angles to each other with respect to the Earth to cause weaker tides than normal, these are at half moons, and these are called neap tides. The orbits of the moon around the Earth and the Earth around the sun are also not perfect circles, but they’re elliptical or oval in shape. This results in stronger lunar tides each month when the moon is closer to the Earth in its orbit and stronger solar tides occur each year when the Earth is closest to the sun, that typically occurs in early January. 

So, while the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun is the main factor, on a much smaller scale, the magnitude of local tides can be strongly influenced by the shape of the shoreline. When oceanic tides hit wide continental margins, the height of the tide can be magnified when compared to very small tides at ocean islands not near the continental margins. Also, the shapes of bays and estuaries can magnify the intensity of tides and some shallow bays, lagoons, and rivers can also lessen the intensity. The Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia in Canada is a classic example of the magnification effect and has the highest tides in the world at more than 15 meters or approximately 49 feet. Cook Inlet in Alaska is a similar example with the highest tides in the United States.

And finally, local wind and weather patterns can also affect tides. Strong offshore winds can move water away from coastline, exaggerating low-tide exposures. In many areas with very weak tides, such as the shallow Chesapeake Bay and areas of the Gulf of Mexico, the weather changes in wind and barometric pressure can affect the water levels as much or more than the tides.

(IMPORTANCE OF STUDYING TIDES)
HOST: So Steve, why do we study tides?

STEVE GILL: Well, we study tides for a variety of reasons. If we know the times, heights, and extents of both the inflow and outflow of the tidal waters we can better navigate through the intracoastal waterways and within the estuaries, bays, harbors; and we can work on harbor engineering projects such as the construction of bridges and docks; and we can collect data critical to fishing, boating, surfing, and many other water-related sports. We put in tide stations to measure the tides and analyze the data so that we can predict the tides and publish tide tables. And this is just to name a few of the ways that we use tidal data to help us in our daily lives. 

HOST: How can the public access tidal data and information to plan upcoming recreational activities?

STEVE GILL: There are a few Web sites out there that provide local and regional tidal information. You can go to tidesonline.nos.noaa.gov to see current conditions, especially during storms or go to tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov to get historical data and much more information on tides and currents and sea levels. You can go to tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/ports to see how real-time tides and currents measurements and forecast models are used by the maritime community. 

HOST: Thanks Steve. We also have listeners from many different regions of the U.S. How are some of our non-coastal listeners impacted by tides?

STEVE GILL: Well, by measuring and analyzing the tides, we can produce very accurate tide and tidal current predictions and estuarine models that are used to make sure that our ports are used in the safest and most efficient manner. This affects the whole U.S. economy, as most of the U.S. trade and commerce comes into and out of the U.S. through the major coastal ports. So that affects everyone’s lives.

HOST: Steve, what is the role of the National Ocean Service in studying tides?

STEVE GILL: Kate, the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services in the National Ocean Service is responsible for maintaining a national network of 205 long-term continuously operating water-level stations around the country, including the U.S. Great Lakes, which are non-tidal. We put in many more short-term water-level stations each year for various surveying, engineering, or habitat restoration projects. In addition, our office is also responsible for predicting and monitoring tides and tidal currents, computing tidal datums and sea level elevations, and for computing long-term relative sea level trends along our coasts.

So, the study, measurement, and analysis of tides by NOAA continue to be an important program for our nation so that all maritime users can enjoy use of our coastal resources.

HOST: Thanks Steve for joining us on today’s episode of Diving Deeper and exploring what tides are and what causes them. To learn more about tides and some of the products that Steve mentioned today, please visit the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services Web site at tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov.

(OUTRO)
That’s all for this week’s show. Please tune in on April 22nd for our next episode on estuaries.
 


What is a nautical chart?

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/mar09/dd032309.mp3

Mon, 23 Mar 2009 08:26:40 -0400

Diving Deeper : Episode 5 (Mar. 23, 2009) —
What is a Nautical Chart?
(INTRO)
HOST: Welcome to Diving Deeper where we interview National Ocean Service scientists on the ocean topics and information that are important to you! I’m your host, Kate Nielsen.
Today’s question is…What is a Nautical Chart?
Nautical charts contain information about the shape of the coast, the depths of the water and the general configuration of the bottom of the sea floor. Nautical charts also show locations of obstacles to navigation, the rise and fall of the tides, and locations of navigation aids. Nautical charts make safe and efficient marine transportation possible.
To help us dive a little deeper into this question, we will talk with Tom Loeper about nautical charts – what they are, how they are developed, and why they are so important. Tom is the Chief for the Coast Pilot Branch in the Office of Coast Survey. Hi, Tom, welcome to our show.
TOM LOEPER: Thank you Kate for inviting me here to talk more about nautical charting.
(DEFINING NAUTICAL CHARTS)
HOST: First can you explain to us the difference between a map and a nautical chart?
TOM LOEPER: Kate, that’s a good question. There are many differences between a map and a nautical chart. A map is focused more on what is on the land where a nautical chart shows what is under, in, on, and around the water. Nautical charts help mariners travel safely on the water where maps are focused more on helping people travel from place to place on land. Other differences are that nautical charts are working documents. Mariners add course lines, they add turning points and way points. They are legal documents that can be used in a court. Maps can be many sizes and formats like a road atlas for example. The paper charts used on many ships are variable in size and they can be relatively large – some as big as three feet by four feet. Regulated vessels are required to keep charts and publications updated using weekly Local Notice to Mariners.
HOST: Tom, you mentioned the Local Notice to Mariners in your last response. Can you explain to us a little bit more about what this is?
TOM LOEPER: A Local Notice to Mariners are weekly corrections to nautical charts that are published by each Coast Guard District. Mariners apply the corrections to their charts on a regular basis to keep them up-to-date. New chart editions are also announced in the Local Notice to Mariners.
HOST: I think what most of us are familiar with are the little numbers we see on nautical charts. What do these numbers mean?
TOM LOEPER: The numbers you see on a nautical chart represent soundings. Soundings are water depth measurements and they tell the user how deep the water is in that particular area in either feet or fathoms. A fathom is a nautical unit of measurement. There are six feet to a fathom. On a chart, sounding data with the same values are usually connected with a line known as a depth curve, similar to the topographic lines or surface features that you see on a map.
HOST: Tom, besides the depth readings that help with safe navigation, what other information is available on a nautical chart? 
TOM LOEPER: Charts include locations of obstacles or dangers to navigation such as coral reefs, rocks, wrecks, and shoals. Other data on nautical charts includes when the document was developed, the edition of the chart, projection and scale of the chart, the compass rose as well as latitudes and longitudes. You may also find pipelines and submerged cables, lighthouses and buoys, and channels and tunnels.
(DEVELOPING NAUTICAL CHARTS)
HOST: Tom, it sounds like there is a lot of information available on nautical charts to show what is in, under, and around the water, again rather different than a map. How long does it take to develop a nautical chart?
TOM LOEPER: Well, Kate, the time it takes to develop a new nautical chart varies greatly and it depends on the priority of the job and the intensity of the activity in the area. For instance, if there is a need for a new nautical chart in an area that has good current survey data, it may be done in as little as six to 12 months. If you have a very remote area say the north slope of Alaska, it may take several years because of the amount of survey work that needs to be done. Another consideration is the length of the survey season. The survey season in Alaska is only a few months each year so it may take several years to collect the necessary data while the Gulf of Mexico can pretty much be surveyed any time of year.
HOST: Is it easier to update existing nautical charts?
TOM LOEPER: Kate, well yes it is, but updates to existing charts can still be time and labor intensive. A good time estimate to compile a new chart edition is three to four weeks. Ports with high shipping activity such as the Port of Long Beach or New York Harbor may be updated as frequently as two or three times per year because of the intensity of traffic and the high value of cargo while some of the charts in Alaska may only be updated once every 10-12 years.
HOST: Where does the data come from to develop nautical charts?
TOM LOEPER: Data comes from several sources to develop a nautical chart. Information on things like aids to navigations, such as light characteristics or repositioning of buoys, typically comes from local Coast Guard Districts. We may receive some updates from a Port Authority or local boating group like the Power Squadron or the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provides a huge volume of data to NOAA on dredging projects in channels and waterways. NOAA also receives update information from commercial mariners and the recreational boating community. In addition, the Office of Coast Survey does survey work with private contractors and our own fleet of survey vessels which includes the Rainier and Fairweather, which are in the Pacific, and the Thomas Jefferson and Bay Hydro II in the Atlantic.
HOST: Tom, is data collection different or how do you handle updating nautical charts after severe events such as a hurricane?
 
TOM LOEPER: Hurricane response is a little bit different because the idea is to just get into the port and get it back into operation as soon as possible. We have six Navigation Response Teams scattered around the country and a portable system that can be mounted on any vessel like a Coast Guard or Navy boat or a tugboat. For hurricane response, the response teams work to quickly survey an area and locate obstructions for removal like sunken barges, shipping containers, and other debris that could be a danger to navigation.  During the response to Hurricane Katrina, there was also a Navy SEAL Team working directly with a response team to immediately clear obstructions that were located. If the Navy SEAL could not remove the obstruction, they marked them for heavy lift units later on.
HOST: With all of these various ways to get new and updated data, why is it that nautical charts can become outdated?
TOM LOEPER:
Kate, this is a question that we are often asked. The coastal waters of the U.S. are in a constant state of natural and manmade change. Some changes may include newly dredged or re-routed channels; aids to navigation are established, they’re moved, or they’re removed altogether; new wrecks and obstructions are discovered; and new berthing facilities and other structures may be built along the shoreline and in our harbors. In order for the mariner to transit safely, it is imperative that these changes be reflected on nautical charts as soon as practical.
The Office of Coast Survey maintains charts along the East, Gulf, and West Coasts, Alaska, and the Great Lakes as well as islands in the Caribbean and Western Pacific Ocean. We chart over 95,000 miles of coastline and over 3.4 million square nautical miles of U.S. waters. We have a relatively small staff of cartographers and only four survey vessels plus some contract surveyors – it’s a really, really big job!
(IMPORTANCE OF NAUTICAL CHARTS)
HOST: Tom, besides the shipping, fishing, and boating communities, who else uses nautical charts?
TOM LOEPER: NOAA is focused on the needs of the commercial mariner to promote safe and efficient navigation.  Many recreational boaters use our products as well. In addition, coastal managers, city planners, scientists, environmentalists, developers, and others use nautical charts for a variety of purposes.
As far as I know, the United States is the only country in the world that provides electronic charting data for free. Because of this, many businesses take our data and incorporate it into their products and they sell them to the recreational or commercial market. They add value to our data to make it more useful to their customers – it’s really a win-win situation for everyone.
HOST: Tom, it’s great that this valuable data is available for people to use in so many ways and for free like you’ve said. What are some of the other uses of charting data besides the most important use for safe navigation?
TOM LOEPER: Kate, nautical charts show the limits of international boundaries and fishing limits, they are used for offshore mineral development and oil exploration, they are used to determine where to place mooring buoys and safe anchorage sites, they are used to determine where to deposit dredge materials called spoils, and they are used to plan building projects that extend into the water such as piers and marinas. In addition, nautical charts can support conservation and preservation efforts by determining the limits of several types of underwater preserves like national marine sanctuaries, national estuarine research reserves, and marine protected areas.
HOST: Are nautical charts only available in paper format?
TOM LOEPER: Nautical charts are available in two basic formats – paper and electronic.  Our two most popular paper products are the traditionally printed charts and print-on-demand product. The print-on-demand chart is a cooperative effort we have with a private printer. We keep our chart images in a state of continual maintenance - the printer downloads our images, they include some additional value-added information, and then they sell them through their sales agents. Commercial mariners like this product since they don’t have to update it before they use them – the charts have all the latest information included so mariners save time and money. Over half our charts are sold by print on demand.
On the electronic side, we offer Raster Navigational Charts, or RNCs, which are full-color digital images of our entire suite – basically, they are scans of our paper charts.  Electronic Navigation Charts, or ENCs, are the newest and most powerful electronic charting product we offer. Think of an ENC as an image generated from a database file.  These charts are available for free download from the Office of Coast Survey Web site and they are updated on a regular basis.
Regulated vessels are also required to have other supporting marine publications on board including tide tables and something near and dear to my heart, the Coast Pilot. The Co