The Making Waves Podcast Archive

This archive presents a list of National Ocean Service Making Waves podcast titles, publication dates, audio (mp3) links, and transcripts for all episodes released between 2008-2016. This podcast was retired in 2016, replaced by the NOAA Ocean Podcast.

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Listen up: What you need to know about ocean noise. (Episode 138)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/dec16/mw120816.mp3

Thu, 08 Dec 2016 09:03:23 -0500


Bringing Wetlands to Market: the Power of Blue Carbon in a Changing Climate (Episode 137)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/aug16/mw080416.mp3

Thu, 04 Aug 2016 10:40:48 -0400


Charting New Waters - Video (Episode 136)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/may16/noaa-charting.mp4

Mon, 23 May 2016 14:19:31 -0400


Connecting the Dots Between Corals and Humans (Episode 135)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/mar16/mw032416.mp3

Thu, 24 Mar 2016 08:33:36 -0400


Alaska: Marine Debris in the Wilderness (Episode 134)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/jan16/mw012816.mp3

Thu, 28 Jan 2016 14:55:09 -0500


Data Makes a Difference (Episode 133)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/nov15/mw111915.mp4

Thu, 19 Nov 2015 07:48:49 -0500


Vertical Mapping and Atomic Clocks (Episode 132)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/sep15/mw092415.mp3

Thu, 24 Sep 2015 09:29:46 -0400


World Ocean Day (Special Feature)

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

Mon, 08 Jun 2015 11:18:43 -0400


Trash Talk (Special Feature)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/june15/trashtalk-makingwaves.mp4

Mon, 08 Jun 2015 11:00:00 -0400


Mapping an Ocean Ecosystem (Episode 131)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/may15/mapping.mp4

Wed, 20 May 2015 10:57:33 -0400


Exploring the Unknown (Episode 130)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/apr15/mw040115.mp3

Wed, 01 Apr 2015 09:29:46 -0400


Shipwreck Detectives (Episode 129)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/jan15/mw011515.mp3

Thu, 15 Jan 2015 08:29:46 -0500


Measuring Water Levels with Microwaves (Episode 128)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/oct14/100114.mp4

Wed, 01 Oct 2014 10:29:48 -0400


Arctic Shield (Episode 127)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/aug14/mw081414.mp3

Wed, 01 Oct 2014 10:08:15 -0400


Great Pacific Garbage Patch (Episode 126)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/june14/mw062614.mp3

Thu, 26 Jun 2014 07:46:23 -0400


Storm Surge (Episode 125)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/may14/mw052914.mov

Thu, 29 May 2014 08:41:46 -0400


Coastal Blue Carbon (Episode 124)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/may14/mw050814.mp3

Thu, 08 May 2014 07:56:19 -0400


Motion in the Ocean (Episode 123)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/apr14/mw042414.mov

Thu, 24 Apr 2014 12:36:21 -0400


The Exxon Valdez, 25 Years Later (Episode 122)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/mar14/mw032114.mp3

Fri, 21 Mar 2014 08:07:30 -0400


SoundScapes (Episode 121)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/mar14/mw030614.mov

Thu, 06 Mar 2014 08:06:21 -0500


Underwater but Unforgotten (Episode 120)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/feb14/mw021314.mov

Mon, 10 Feb 2014 09:10:18 -0500


'Hooked on Sharks' from NOAA Fisheries (Episode 119)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/aug13/mw080813.mp3

Thu, 08 Aug 2013 07:41:18 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 119 (August 8, 2013)

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.  It's Shark Week 2013!
What's Shark Week? Since 1987, The Discovery Channel has hosted a week of shark-themed programming every summer.  It's a lot of fun ... and it's a great opportunity to focus on these fascinating animals. In this spirit,  we also like to share  a few shark-themed science and conservation stories here at NOAA during Shark Week.  And we've got a good one for you today.  It's called 'Hooked on Sharks,' and it's the latest episode of  'On the Line,' a new podcast from our colleagues at NOAA Fisheries that you really should check out.

'On the Line' features interviews with NOAA scientists who study fish, marine mammals, and other ocean life. And today,  we'll hear about a research project to see if a special type of hook—it's called a Circle hook—can help vulnerable populations of sharks to survive.  Let's listen in:

'Hooked On Sharks' podcast transcript:

Welcome to "On the Line", a NOAA Fisheries podcast.

[Music playing]

Host: It's Shark Week, and so today we have two shark experts on the line, and they each approach sharks from very different perspectives. One is a NOAA biologist, and the other is a commercial shark fisherman. But they do have the following very important trait in common: they both want shark populations to be healthy, and they're working together to help make that happen. Specifically, they're cooperating on a research project to find a way to increase the chances that a shark that's hooked inadvertently will survive.

John Carlson is a biologist working out of the NOAA Fisheries Lab in Panama City, Florida, where he does research on sharks, fins, and rays. Here, Carlson explains the situation using the dusky shark as an example. The population of dusky sharks is small and considered vulnerable, and for that reason catching them is prohibited.

John Carlson: It's prohibited. You can't land it commercially or recreationally anymore; however, it still is caught when fishermen are out there targeting other species, and the same holds with hammerheads. I mean hammerheads are not prohibited, but say, for example, the fisherman's quota has been reached. Fishermen are only allowed to land 30 – 33 coastal sharks, and say they've already gotten to a point where they're gonna land those 33 sharks and they still have gear to pull in and they have a hammerhead on the line. Well, they have to release him because they're no longer allowed to catch him. If that shark's already dead, well, what's the point?

Host: Carlson cited dusky sharks and hammerheads as examples, but sharks of any species can be caught inadvertently, so the idea is to increase the chances that a hooked shark will survive. To do, that scientists are comparing two different types of hook, a J-hook and a circle hook. To test out the hooks Carlson and his colleagues have recruited a bunch of shark fishermen to help with their research. Joe Klosterman is a commercial fisherman based out of Ft. Pierce on Florida's Atlantic coast. He fishes mainly for tilefish and for sharks, and he's one of the fishermen participating in this cooperative research project.

Joe Klosterman: A J-hook is your normal fishhook. Anybody would draw a picture of a fishhook, they would draw a J-hook. A circle hook, it curves around like you had taken, like, the bottom part of the "J" and you would bend it back to the shank. That would be a circle hook.

Host: Here's the scientist John Carlson again.

John Carlson: When a shark's hooked with a J-hook it is often gut-hooked, and if it's gut-hooked, it's gonna have some internal damage. With a circle hook, generally when they grab it and the line tenses, the hook will pull in and hook on the side of the mouth which will allow the animal to still swim around on the long line. It may still allow the animal to keep its mouth open and breathe, and it doesn't have a hook jammed down into its gullet.

Joe Klosterman: You know, mostly the hooks are hooked in the mouth and in the lip, so basically you've got a piercing, you know. Like, think about, you know, these kids that have all these piercings around their lips and stuff, so you got a shark with a hook hanging it out its mouth, which really hasn't impeded its life that much.

Host: Circle hooks have been around for a while, and they've been used mainly to protect sea turtles which also sometimes get hooked on long lines, and there's quite a bit of research to show that circle hooks do increase sea turtle survival, but there's very little data on how circle hooks affect sharks. So even though there's reason to think that circle hooks would help, there's no solid data to back that up, and even if they do help, there's still the question of how much. Before NOAA makes any circle hook regulations in the shark fishery, they've gotta do some research to figure out the costs and benefits and see how those balance out.

So, the research—here's how it works. NOAA has contracted with a bunch of commercial shark fishermen to go out fishing for sharks just like they normally do, but they use half circle hooks and half J-hooks. They also bring an observer along who collects scientific data and assesses the condition of the sharks that they catch. All the sharks that are alive on the hook, they set free.

Joe Klosterman: I'm supposed to make a set that lasts for eight hours, and I put 50 percent circle hooks and 50 percent J-hooks, one after each other. And each one of those has a timer on it, so when you get a bite on that hook, it'll trip that timer and tell you how long that fish is on there, and if the fish is still alive then you can judge its condition for the time it is on that hook.

Host: So that's the first thing they want to know: how does a circle hook affect the chances of a shark still being alive when it's brought out of the water But they also want to know if the fish is alive and gets released back into the water what are the chances of it surviving after being released.

John Carlson: We have an observer onboard, or a scientist will be onboard the vessel. He's recording all the information as the animal is brought onboard, where is it caught, and you know, where is the hook location. Is it a circle versus "J"? And what's the condition of the animal? We kind of came up with a qualitative ranking being "5" very good, and "1" it's dead.

For the animals that are in moderate to good condition, even though they're in very good condition, it may be somewhat deceiving because once they're released they may swim, you know, 100 yards and then sink to the bottom and die. We don't know that, so what we're doing with some of these animals, we're outfitting them with satellite tags which will continuously record data once they swim off and out of our view, and once we get that data back we can analyze the data to see if actually they did swim off and die later.

Host: The final thing they're looking at is the effect on catchability: are circle hooks less effective for catching sharks? That question gets at how much lost income or extra work circle hooks would mean for fishermen.

Joe Klosterman: Now myself I'd like to keep J-hooks because that's what I've always fished with, and I've always had the best results.

Host: I asked John Carlson if he had a sense yet which way the research was going. He said that he didn't know yet. It's still too early in the research. I was like, "Come on. You gotta have some sense which direction things are headed."

John Carlson: No, because I mean we're still collecting data. We really haven't gotten into that analysis mode yet, so I don't really want to make big speculations on where it's going.

Host: All right. Spoken like a true scientist. Well, we'll update you in six months or so when the results are in. In the meantime though this cooperative research is already paying off.

John Carlson: Well, it involves the fishermen with the research, so when, for example, when they do attend – some fishermen do attend our stock assessment meetings – or when they attend public hearings, if they're part of the research they have a general idea, in some cases they may have a very specific of idea, of how NMFS got the answer that we did, especially if they're involved in it. And I think in my opinion in – in some cases they may feel more comfortable with the answers or the information that we give them because they're involved in the process.

Host: I asked Klosterman why he's participating in the cooperative research, bringing scientists and fishery observers on his boat. He said he wants scientists to see what he sees, and he hopes that that will help improve the science.

Joe Klosterman: Providing good science. Providing good science and catching fish, showing them that the fish are out there it'll change the science. Of course when I first started out I felt like they were there to put me out of my job. After working with the people for a while and getting other people – I actually got, you know, some guys on there and actually some girls that were, you know, down to earth and had been on raised on farms or had been in – their parents had been shrimpers or some kinda commercial fishing, so they had knowledge that – that we weren't the worst people in the world trying to destroy the ocean. You know, I thought it'd be a good thing that if every fishery's manager had to spend like a hundred days a year on the water.

Host: A hundred days a year might not be possible for a lot of fishery managers, but that's one of the reasons we do cooperative research, to get that understanding about fish in the ocean that only someone who's been on the water for decades can provide. Joe Klosterman, he started commercial fishing in 1972, and he wants, as much as anybody, that shark populations remain healthy. With his help and the work of scientists like John Carlson, hopefully they will.

As always you can get background information and photos about this story on our website. That's www.fisheries.noaa.gov/podcasts. You'll also find links there to all of our Shark Week coverage, including a really cool and really disgusting video of what scientists call a "gut analysis". They're cutting open the stomach of a 1,300 pound Mako shark. You'll be surprised what's in there. The scientist sure was.

"On the Line" is a new podcast. This shark story was only our seventh episode so far. If you enjoyed it and you have a chance, give us a rating or a review in iTunes. That'll help get the word out and help us keep bringing you new stories about ocean life and ocean science.

Thanks for listening. I'm Rich Press, and this is "On the Line."

[Music playing]

You have been listening to the NOAA Fisheries podcast, "On the Line." Join us next time for a firsthand look at the people and the science behind managing our nation's fisheries. For more information, visit NOAA Fisheries at www.fiseries.noaa.gov.

"On the Line" is a production of the NOAA Fisheries Office of Communications.

Goodbye

That was 'Hooked On Sharks,' the latest episode of 'On the Line,' a new podcast series from NOAA Fisheries. Head to www.fisheries.noaa.gov to get more episodes and to subscribe to the podcast. We'll have that link for you in our show notes.

You can find us online at oceanservice.noaa.gov. And you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and in the iTunes education store, and we have an RSS feed available for Making Waves and for our sister podcast, Diving Deeper. I hope you know you can reach us at oceanservice.noaa.gov on the Internet. And if you are socially inclined, you can catch up with us on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Youtube.


The Social Side of Coral Reefs (Episode 118)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/aug13/mw080113.mp3

Thu, 01 Aug 2013 09:13:19 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 118 (August 1, 2012)

(sounds of a rainforest)

This is the sound of a rainforest....

(recording of a coral reef 'soundscape' by Erica Staaterman, researcher in the lab of Dr. Claire Paris, University of Miami)

And this ... is the sound of what you might call a 'rainforest of the ocean.' A coral reef.

Like rainforests on land, coral reefs are hotbeds of diversity, home to countless species of plants and animals. We rely on our reefs for many things ... for protection from coastal erosion and storm surge ... for fishing, recreation, and tourism ... and even as a source for the discovery of new bio-medicines.

But, like rainforests on land, reefs are under intense pressure from climate change, pollution, and unsustainable use. Today, about 20 percent of the world’s reefs are damaged beyond recovery. About 40 percent are under risk of collapse.

So what can we do about it? To answer that question, we need to better understand the main threat to our reefs. And that ... would be us. Humans.

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. I'm Troy Kitch. Today on the program: the social side of protecting coral reefs.

(raise music, fade out)

We're joined by Dr. Peter Edwards, a natural resource economist and social science coordinator for NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program. We began our conversation by talking about what economics and social science have to do with reefs.

[Peter Edwards] "Social and economic conditions are most often times direct indicators of how healthy coral reefs will be. So in places where there is lots of poverty, lots of population, lots of pressures like deforestation and siltation, then the reefs will more than likely be in bad shape. Particularly with respect to things like unemployment you often find heavy fishing, overfishing. But on the converse, in places where things are a little better off, or management measures like Marine Protected Areas are in place, you can definitely see a difference to the health of the reef."

Peter has a unique perspective in this area. He grew up in Jamaica, a place with many reefs that are under intense pressure. He said his current profession as a natural resource economist was a natural progression from his childhood in the Caribbean.

[Peter Edwards] "My father was a land surveyor, so I used to accompany him in summers and so I had a feel for the outdoors and nature. And I also learned to swim at an early age, we went to the beach ... being on a tropical island, spent a lot of time on the coast, so that piqued my interest in the outdoors and animals. In fact, when I was child I wanted to be a vet or work with animals."

Instead of becoming a vet, Peter channeled his love of the outdoors into studying marine science. And during his years of study, he began doing more and more work with public speaking about conserving our natural treasures.

[Peter Edwards] "And that is where my interest [grew] into figuring out how better to get the general public to understand the importance of natural resources. And one of those ways is to come up with economic values. With some people, it’s fine to say ‘save the reef,’ but for policy makers and the general public, sometime if you’re able to say, ‘listen, this thing is actually worth more than just its intrinsic value,’ then that’s when I got interested in that kind of work.”

I asked if this sort of work, called ‘socioeconomics,’ was sometimes a hard sell when working with other scientists who might think the science should just stand on its own ... that people should realize that saving a natural resource like a reef is a good thing, and that’s what scientists and researchers are trying to do. Why should you have to put an economic value on nature?

Peter said the problem is that oftentimes people and policy-makers don’t see the relevance of the science that goes into things like reef research. And, frankly, it’s worth bearing in mind that the reason the reefs are in trouble in the first place is largely because of us humans.

[Peter Edwards] "These critical pieces of the environment would not be threatened if we were not around, or if the pressures weren’t that great. So people make that difference, and that’s why we have to understand why people do the things they do and provide alternatives to them, and that’s where social science comes into play in helping natural resource management. We need to make it relevant to them: disentangle and highlight nature’s benefits and what’s in it for them, because that’s the question that drives most people, ‘What’s in it for me.’ And then transforming that into something that can work in policy.”

And that’s what Peter is doing today. He’s part of an ambitious project now underway to create a national coral reef monitoring plan — the first of its kind at NOAA.

The plan is focused on reefs in ten priority areas around the nation: in Florida and Hawaii, in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Part of the effort involves taking biological samples at sites, part involves monitoring climate conditions, and part of the plan is about people ... a multi-year effort to better understand the humans who live near and rely upon these reefs. Peter is leading the social science component of this effort.

[Peter Edwards] "So what that entails is that in all the coral reef jurisdictions, we will be rolling out a set of household surveys. This survey will collect general socioeconomic information from respondents, and then we’ll be asking questions on knowledge about reefs, how people participate with beaches and coastal features associated with coral reefs, among some other general questions. The purpose of this is to collect baseline information across all of the U.S. coral reef territories."

While researchers with NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program have been collecting physical and biological data at these reefs for a long time and while there have even been some small-scale socioeconomic studies at different locations, this long-term social research across all of the U.S. reef jurisdictions is something new.

[Peter Edwards] "So the plan is to, over the next three to four years, target at least two jurisdictions per calendar year, and at the end of that four year period, we will put out some information on people’s perceptions, general statistics on what are people doing, there feelings about different management measures, do they like MPAs, would they like to have more freedom to do things in the ocean, or do they think we should be protecting things more, and so on. So we’ll have a good idea. And then hopefully, subject to funding, we’ll be able to repeat it again so that we begin to monitor these long-term socioeconomic trends."

The surveys will provide a window into how people who live near reefs in the U.S. feel and think about these natural resources, and how they view the different management strategies that are in place to protect their local reefs. Down the road, Peter said that survey data will also help to decide on new kinds of strategies to help protect the reefs ... and how to best communicate to people who live near reefs that these resources need to be protected in the first place.

A big part of this communication piece, he said, is to help people understand that reefs have value.

[Peter Edwards] "There’s a quote that I’m paraphrasing that says if you can’t put a price on nature, then essentially you’re saying that it has no value. And an economist will tell you that if you’re not able to value a resource, it will soon get over-exploited. So, essentially, the end-goal is to demonstrate to the public how these changes in quality of ecosystems affect human well-being. And once we’re able to do that, we can better communicate to the public, make better policy, and help people better make trade-offs, because, in the end, a lot of people are making trade-offs about everything."

In terms of coral reefs, if people understand that what they’re getting from a nearby reef has real value ... then they’re more likely to invest in taking care of that reef. Peter called the different things people get from the reef ‘benefit streams.’

[Peter Edwards] "One of these benefit streams may be recreation. One of these benefit streams from coral reefs may be fishing. Another benefit stream is protection from large storm surges and waves — if you have a healthy coral reef out there, then it’s likely your beachfront property won’t be washed into the ocean because of a healthy reef that’s slowing down the wave energy. And so those are three simple examples of ecosystem services that sometimes you can put a monetary value on. We can use techniques to figure out how valuable a beach vacation or a day of traveling back and forth to the beach is to an individual. And by doing that, we can say to local governments, international governments that this resource is actually worth money and therefore it would behoove you to make sure that it’s preserved. So that’s the general underlying premise. Unfortunately, if you don’t attach a monetary value to some of these resources, then people won’t recognize their actual value and so they will exploit it and not take care of it and then when it’s gone, you realize that you’ve lost something valuable."

(Conclusion)

Later this year, the Coral Reef Conservation Program will roll out the first of their socioeconomic surveys to areas in southern Florida and American Samoa as part of NOAA’s new national coral reef monitoring plan. This plan is designed to build upon more than a decade of Coral Reef Conservation Program-supported monitoring to better equip scientists, resource managers, and decision makers with the information they need to better protect and conserve our coral reefs for future generations.

Special thanks to Dr. Peter Edwards for joining me today on the show.

By the way, if you thought that audio recording of a coral reef at the opening of the episode was pretty cool, we did do. The recording was made Erica Staaterman who is studying coral reef soundscapes in the lab of Dr. Claire Paris at the University of Miami. If you’d like to learn more about her research, check our show notes for the link.

You’ve been listening to Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service. You can reach us at oceanservice.noaa.gov.

We’ll be back with another episode in a few weeks.


Coast Guard Search and Rescue (Episode 117)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/p0713.html#mw117

Thu, 18 Jul 2013 15:14:05 -0400

In this video podcast, see how real-time ocean data is aiding Coast Guard search and rescue operations.
Episode permanent link and show notes

Hurricane Survival (Episode 116)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/p0613.html#mw116

Thu, 13 Jun 2013 08:50:16 -0400

It's hurricane season. Are you prepared? Find out with this video from NOAA's Ocean Today .
Episode permanent link and show notes

Measuring Change in an Estuary (Episode 115)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/p0513.html#mw115

Thu, 30 May 2013 09:02:25 -0400

How do we measure elevation changes in estuaries--marshy areas where land elevations are constantly shifting? How will sea level rise affect the flora and fauna that live in these places? See how National Geodetic Survey experts are laying the groundwork to help answer these challenging questions at Waquoit Bay in Mass.
Episode permanent link and show notes

Ocean Acidification (Episode 114)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/p0513.html#mw114

Thu, 02 May 2013 10:36:00 -0400

In this video podcast, learn what ocean acidification is, how it's affecting marine life, and how NOAA tools are helping people monitor and adapt to changes in ocean chemistry.
Episode permanent link and show notes

North American Marine Protected Areas (Episode 113)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/p0313.html#mw113

Wed, 20 Mar 2013 15:31:40 -0400

In this episode, watch a video about marine protected areas in North America produced by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, a partnership between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
Episode permanent link and show notes

Journey to Cordell Bank (Episode 112)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/mar13/mw030713.mp3

Thu, 07 Mar 2013 09:13:19 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 112 (March 7, 2013)

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. I'm Troy Kitch. Today, you're going to hear something that I know you're really going to like. It's the first episode of a new occasional podcast series from our National Marine Sanctuaries program. It's called 'Sanctuary Shorts.' In this episode, host Matt Dozier tells us about a pioneering effort to dive on Cordell Bank in the late 1970s and a returning mission nearly 30 years later. Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary was established in 1989. It's located off the west coast of northern California, just north of the Gulf of the Farollones. What so special about diving on Cordell Bank? It's highest point is 115 feet below the ocean surface. It's not an easy place to get. Let's listen in.

Sanctuary Shorts

MATT DOZIER: My name’s Matt Dozier, and you’re listening to Sanctuary Shorts. Our story today begins off the coast of California, around 50 miles northwest of the bustling streets of San Francisco, at a place called Cordell Bank.

Now, this isn’t the kind of “bank” where you deposit money — it’s an undersea mountain, perched at the edge of the continental shelf. It’s also a hotbed of marine life, teeming with one of the richest assortments of ocean creatures on the planet, including vast numbers of fish and seabirds, and frequent visits from migrating whales.

In short, Cordell Bank is a national treasure. But for more than a century after the bank was discovered in 1853, we didn’t know that — we didn’t really know anything about it, since no one had ever laid eyes on it.

DAN HOWARD: Probably, the reason for that is that it’s a pretty crazy place to dive. It’s 20 miles offshore, the northeast Pacific typically is a pretty rough place to dive in.

MATT DOZIER: That’s Dan Howard, superintendent of Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

DAN HOWARD: In addition to the depth and the cold water, we get really severe currents out there, which is a real challenge

MATT DOZIER: The first person to take on that challenge was actually a physicist by the name of Dr. Robert Schmieder.

ROBERT SCHMIEDER: Here we are, I’m awake and so are you.

MATT DOZIER: That’s Bob Schmieder — in the late 1970s, tired of being cooped up in the lab all day, he decided to undertake a new project involving his love of scuba diving. In 1978, Schmieder organized a team of volunteer divers to go explore the bank for the first time.

They had no idea what they would find when they got there — in fact, almost everyone Bob talked to said he was wasting his time; that getting to Cordell Bank wasn’t worth the effort. And on the first day of the expedition, Bob started to worry that they might have been right.

ROBERT SCHMIEDER: On that particular day, the fog came and went, and when the fog would come and the visibility would drop to 100 feet or 200 feet, I was very nervous. You can’t safely dive in the fog; if the visibility had really been zero, we couldn’t have done anything!

MATT DOZIER: To everyone’s relief, the fog did eventually clear up, and Bob Schmieder was the first one into the water. He dove more than 100 feet down to the top of the bank. What he found was like something out of a dream.

ROBERT SCHMIEDER: I saw below me this extraordinary colorful, exquisitely beautiful, astonishingly bright landscape.

MATT DOZIER: Now, remember — this is the 1970s, before high-tech deep-water scuba equipment was widely available, so Bob and his colleagues were forced to improvise. They used the same gear as recreational, or “sport” divers, and even cobbled together makeshift tools like an “underwater vacuum cleaner” to help with sample collection.

ROBERT SCHMIEDER: One thing that we did differently was that we decided to use twin tanks. That was available as sport diving equipment, but it was not normally used by sport divers because the normal rule for sport divers was never go below 100 feet. Of course, if we had only gone to 100 feet we never would have reached Cordell Bank.

MATT DOZIER: Even with two air tanks, their time on the bottom was severely limited — as little as 15 minutes to collect samples and take photographs before they had to leave. The trip back to the surface could take as long as an hour, with frequent stops to avoid potentially life-threatening decompression sickness, also known as “the bends.”
           
ROBERT SCHMIEDER: What we did then I think was never reckless, ever — it was never brave, but we were willing to take risks that would not be acceptable now.

MATT DOZIER: Over the next five years, the team, which called itself “Cordell Expeditions,” explored every inch of the bank and cataloged hundreds of species. Their last dive was in 1983, but their research laid the groundwork for the designation of Cordell Bank NMS in 1989.

To put things in perspective, after they packed up their gear and left Cordell Bank for the last time, nearly three decades would pass before another scientific expedition would follow in their footsteps. That was in 2010, when a team of highly trained sanctuary research divers led by Superintendent Dan Howard embarked on a mission they called “The Return to Cordell Bank.”

DAN HOWARD: My thinking was, well, one, we have the technology now to get back to some of these places; two, we can use this information to assess how the bank has changed over time, and help us do a better job of managing the sanctuary.

MATT DOZIER: Instead of breathing air, the sanctuary divers used a finely tuned mixture of gases that allowed them to stay on the bottom longer, and surface more quickly. Even just locating Cordell Bank was made easier by modern GPS technology.

DAN HOWARD: It’s just a lot easier and more accessible now than it was 30 years ago when Bob and his group dove on the bank.

MATT DOZIER: The sanctuary brought in several members of the original Cordell Expeditions team, including Bob Schmieder, to help plan this journey back to Cordell Bank — a place they knew better than anyone else on Earth.

DAN HOWARD: To me, that was one of the most fascinating elements of the whole 2010 mission was the interaction between the original Cordell Expedition divers and the newer, younger sanctuary technical divers.

MATT DOZIER: Schmieder says the experience was rewarding, and only a little bit surreal.

ROBERT SCHMIEDER: I just had this extraordinary feeling of pride… it was a bit strange to be a spectator!

MATT DOZIER: In the end, everyone agreed the mission was a resounding success. Results from the dives conducted in 2010 seem to indicate that really not much has changed on Cordell Bank since 1978. And that’s good news for the sanctuary. I asked Dan if there are any plans for follow-up dives on Cordell Bank in the coming years. He said don’t count on it.

DAN HOWARD: Certainly, we’d love to get back to some of these places and do some more in-depth sampling, but you know, it’s a big operation.

MATT DOZIER: It may be a while before the underwater residents of Cordell Bank see their next human visitor. But thanks to the intrepid men and women who have delved into its depths — whether in 1978 or in 2010 — we know more about this amazing national marine sanctuary than ever before.



Hope you enjoyed. Check our show notes for links to the Sanctuary Shorts first episode, to NOAA's National Marine Sanctuaries, and to Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

If you have any questions about this episode, about our oceans, or about the National Ocean Service, you can reach us at nos.info@noaa.gov. You can find us online at oceanservice.noaa.gov. And you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and in the iTunes education store, and we have an RSS feed available for Making Waves and for our sister podcast, Diving Deeper. I hope you know you can reach us at oceanservice.noaa.gov on the Internet. And if you are socially inclined, you can catch up with us on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Youtube.

You’ve been listening to Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. We’ll be back in two weeks.


Ocean Today Video: Know Your Ocean (Episode 109)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/p0113.html#mw109

Thu, 24 Jan 2013 08:22:50 -0500

Think you know the ocean? In this episode, we showcase an Ocean Today video that answers many commons questions about the body of what that covers 70 percent of our Earth. (3:45 minutes)
Episode permanent link and show notes

Santa and the NGS (Episode 108)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/dec12/mw122012.mp3

Thu, 20 Dec 2012 08:46:32 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 108 (Dec. 20, 2012)

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.

We've got an oldie but a goodie lined up for the final podcast of 2012. Did you know that the National Ocean Service helps to ensure that Santa doesn't get lost on his journey around the country on December 25th. Here's an episode that originally aired way back in 2008 about Santa and the National Geodetic Survey. Enjoy!

We'll return with to our regular schedule of podcasts in January. Happy holidays.

(Santa and the NGS)

Many of us today own hand-held GPS device or have cars that tell us where to go by using advanced positioning technology. While knowing our exact position on earth is handy for us casual users, its essential for safe and efficient transportation in the air, on the land, or on the sea; and it's critical for laying out infrastructure like utility, energy, or communication systems. It's also essential to help Santa get around.

For 200 years, NOAA's National Geodetic Survey, part of the Ocean Service, has been in the business of delivering exact position information. To do this, the NGS maintains what is known as the National Spatial Reference System.

This reference system is used for mapping, navigation, and charting. Think of it as a highly accurate web of coordinate points on land and in space. These reference stations provide extremely accurate latitude, longitude, height, scale, gravity, and orientation throughout the u.s. At anywhere, anytime. It's what mapmakers use to make maps.

It takes a bit of explaining to get at how this complicated system works. For the past 200 years the NGS and its partners placed about 850,000 permanent survey marks throughout the u.s. These survey marks were the main component of the spatial reference system until a few decades ago. Today, the reference system is undergoing a major upgrade.

The revolution started in the 1980s, with the advent of GPS technology. This made it possible to locate points with greater accuracy and speed and at lower cost than ever possible before.

Most people think that GPS eliminated the need to measure position on the ground. But it's not as simple as that.

The global positioning system is made up of a constellation of satellites that orbit about 11,000 miles above the earth and broadcast radio wave signals. By determining the time that it takes for a radio wave signal to travel from a GPS satellite to a GPS receiver on the earth, the distance between the satellite and receiver can be calculated. That provides the receiver's location on earth. It sounds easy, but it's a very complicated process. It's also not perfect.

As advanced as GPS technology is, most commercially available GPS receivers are only accurate to within several yards. Considering that the earth is almost 25,000 miles in circumference, the difference of a few yards may not seem important. But there are many scientific, military, engineering, and toy-delivery activities that require much higher levels of positioning accuracy—often to within a few inches or less.

To provide measurements at this level of accuracy NGS came up with the idea of joining ground-based reference stations with GPS technology to develop what is called the Continuously Operating Reference station network, or CORS for short.

Each station in the CORS network is a stationary, permanent GPS receiver on the ground that collects satellite signals from the global positioning system around the clock. NGS uses these data to determine precise three-dimensional positional coordinates for the CORS sites. And engineers across the country can re-use the same data to position anything else, dams, roads, runways, property corners, chimneys, to a similar accuracy. Today, NGS coordinates a network of more than 1,100 CORS stations that receive GPS radio signals 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It should be noted, by the way, that some of these stations are mounted on the chimneys of homes around the nation, and they are fine-tuned to accuracies of a few centimeters.

These survey points help make modern maps like dashboard GPS and google earth much more accurate … and could come in handy for anyone else that might need to know the precise entrance coordinates of a chimney.

And Santa will also need to avoid severe weather and electromagnetic storms on his journey. CORS data can help there too.

The CORS network is used by meteorologists to monitor the distribution of moisture in the atmosphere for forecasting severe weather ranging fro tornadoes to snow storms. CORS data are also used by atmospheric scientists to monitor the distribution of free electrons in the ionosphere. This is used to monitor solar and geomagnetic storms. These changes can affect satellites, aircraft, certain radio communications, reindeer-powered sleighs, and even power distribution grids on earth.

Last but not least, the national geodetic survey also administers the aeronautical survey program for the nation. These surveys provide accurate position, height, and orientation information needed for safe air navigation. I think that might come in handy for you know who.

(GOODBYE)

We hope you enjoyed that. Well, you don't need a handheld GPS to find us. We're at oceanservice.noaa.gov. You can get more information about the National Geodetic Survey, the National Spatial Reference System, or view current positioning data from the CORS network at www.ngs.noaa.gov.

Well, that's all for this week. If you have any questions about this podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, send us an email at nos.info@NOAA.gov.

Now let's bring in the ocean ... This is making waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. Happy holidays and see you next time.


Ocean Today Video: Whale Sense (Episode 107)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/p1112.html#mw107

Thu, 29 Nov 2012 08:22:50 -0500

NOAA's Ocean Today just launched its 100th video! In this episode, we highlight this achievement and showcase the latest video from Ocean Today about an effort to promote safe and responsible whale watching. (3:32 minutes)
Episode permanent link and show notes

Ocean Today Video: Coral Forests of the Deep (Episode 106)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/p1112.html#mw106

Thu, 15 Nov 2012 15:39:07 -0500

NOAA and independent scientists recently discovered rocky reef habitats in an area of NOAA's Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary at depths reaching 457 meters meters—places where corals and sponges had not been seen before. Did you know that corals, sponges, and countless other creatures thrive in the deep ocean—in places where sunlight doesn't reach? In this episode, learn more about the fascinating world of deep sea coral habitats in 'Coral Forests of the Deep,' a video from NOAA's Ocean Today. (3:31 minutes)

Episode permanent link and show notes

Coastal Zone Management Act 40th Anniversary (Episode 105)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/oct12/mw102512.mp3

Thu, 25 Oct 2012 07:53:26 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 105 (Oct. 25, 2012)

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service. I’m Troy Kitch.

Back in the early years of the 20th century, the eastern shore of Virginia was a popular place. This 80-mile stretch of coast along the Atlantic Ocean was a duck-hunting destination, tourists went there, and there were lots and lots of bay scallops that supported a thriving shellfish industry.

But in the 1930s, this all changed. Multiple hurricanes struck and a wasting disease killed the eelgrass in the region that many creatures – including the scallops – needed to survive.

In the decades that followed, things didn’t get much better. And this was a surprise, because the barrier islands along the eastern shore were protected – over the years, most of the islands were purchased for conservation by The Nature Conservancy and state and federal agencies. But after decades, the eelgrass beds still hadn’t returned. So the bay scallop never returned, either. Our guest today, Laura McKay, the program manager of Virginia’s Coastal Zone Management Program, picks up the story. I spoke to her recently by phone.

“It turned out that eelgrass has a very poor distribution mechanism, and so it hadn’t returned because, even over 70 or 80 years, the eelgrass seeds hadn’t drifted down there. They’re very heavy and they just sink when they’re released from the reproductive shoots.”

So humans had to provide a little help. With funding from the Coastal Zone Management Program, scientists from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science painstakingly carried over eelgrass seeds from the York River and planted them along the eastern shore.

“The 200 acres that they’ve planted with seed has now spread to about 5,000 acres. And because of that, we now have enough habitat that we can reintroduce the bay scallops that had been there, so we’re bring back these resources and then we also kept an eye on the economic end of this, this being a rural and relatively poor coastal community on the eastern shore.”

So the Coastal Zone Program also invested in canoe and kayak launches and created a seaside water trail to promote ecotourism. And they’re working with the aquaculture industry to boost shellfish harvesting in the region – an industry which is benefitting from the cleaner water that’s a result of the conservation and protection work that’s gone into the area.

Today we’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of what some call the most important national coastal legislation you've probably never heard of. It’s called the Coastal Zone Management Act, and it’s this act that makes projects possible like the eelgrass restoration along Virginia’s eastern shore.

“That’s one of the bright ideas that Congress and President Nixon had in 1972 when the Coastal Zone Act was formed. It’s just brilliant that in one piece of legislation, it charged states with looking not only at environmental protection or not only at economics, but both of them together and I think that that was perhaps an idea well before its time in 1972, but I’d like to think is coming more mainstream today – the idea that we all begin to understand that you can’t have a healthy economy without a healthy environment, and you can’t really have a healthy environment without a healthy economy. So they really do go hand in hand and this CZMA is, as far as I know, the only piece of legislation that recognizes that and promotes that.”

The CZMA, as it’s know in short, is run by NOAA's Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. And it provides for management of the nation's coastal resources, including the Great Lakes. The CZMA set up two big programs, the National Coastal Zone Management Program and the National Estuarine Research Reserve System. Estuarine reserves serve as field laboratories to provide a greater understanding of estuaries and how humans impact them. And today, there are 34 coastal management programs around the nation that aim to balance competing land and water issues in the coastal zone. Now you may wonder why we have this special legislation for our coastal areas. What’s so special about the coasts and Great Lakes? I put that question to Laura.

“Well the coast is where more than half the population lives and where a huge proportion of our gross national product is created. And so it’s a very special place that needs a lot of careful management in order that we can sustain these places where we live and produce food from the ocean, recreational areas … you look at the population distribution across the country, especially those images of lights that are on at night, you can see how the density of people is really along our coasts. So that’s really where it’s happening, and that’s where we really need to be taking really good care of where we live.”

What makes this challenging is that there are so many different people in so many different groups -- state, federal, local, nonprofit, business – who, in each state, play a big role in how coastal areas are developed or protected or otherwise managed. Laura said that the Coastal Zone Management Programs set up by the CZMA bring all of these parties together to find balance.

“Coastal management is a really complex topic. It involves all different sorts of coastal resources and different sorts of coastal uses and the way our federal and state governments are arranged is that we tend to have agencies for particular purposes. For instance, we have agencies that focus on energy production or we have agencies that focus just on wildlife, and so what the Coastal Zone Management Act does is provides an opportunity for states to create a comprehensive approach to coastal management and to pull together the different federal, state, and local governments.”

For the Commonwealth of Virginia, Laura said there’s a department of conservation and recreation that deals with nonpoint source pollution; there’s a department of game and fisheries that deals with inland fisheries, there’s a marine resource commission that deals with underwater lands, fisheries and marine habitats; and on and on. All these different agencies have different responsibilities related to the coast.

“In Virginia it’s been fantastic to have a coastal management program that creates a forum for those agencies and our coastal local governments that also implement coastal laws and policies – for instance, local wetlands boards in Virginia actually issue wetlands permits and dune and beach permits. So having this coastal program creates that forum to bring them all together to the table to help us ensure that issues don’t fall through the cracks and that we aren’t leaving out anything, and a place where we can resolve conflicts. One agencies policies may conflict with another’s at times and so, again, this creates that forum to let us resolve issues and having the approval from NOAA for a coastal management program makes us eligible for the federal funding that lets us operate the program.”

The eelgrass restoration project on Virginia’s eastern shore is a good example of how the coastal zone program pulls everyone together to tackle big coastal issues. Laura said that after the eelgrass was restored, it became clear that this region of shoreline, lagoons, and barrier islands needed a new management plan moving forward:

“to ensure there was adequate space for both conservation and restoration of natural habitats like oyster reefs and eelgrass beds, but also that there’s room for the shellfish aquaculture industry to grow and thrive, and for recreational activities and ecotourism activities to grow and thrive. So the key I think is really in talking with the local people and understanding what their needs and desires and goals are, and then working together to negotiate a plan that meets everyone’s needs. It’s not easy, and I’m not saying we’re done with it, but I think it’s the nature of coastal zone management programs to be able to go in and pull those different parties together to solve problems and maximize our ecological and economic benefits.”

Thanks to Laura McKay, program manager for Virginia’s Coastal Zone Management Program, for taking the time to talk with us about her program and for explaining what the Coastal Zone Management Act is all about.

Happy birthday to the Coastal Zone Management Act. Here’s to the next forty years.

That’s it for this episode. If you have questions about this podcast, about our oceans and coasts, or about NOAA’s National Ocean Service, you can reach us at nos.info@noaa.gov. You’ll find us on Facebook and Flickr at USOCEANGOV; that’s all one word. And we’re on Twitter. You can find us there at noaaocean -- that’s also all one word. And we hope you visit online at oceanservice.noaa.gov, where you’ll find shownotes and links that accompany today’s episode.

You’ve been listening to Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service. We’ll be back in two weeks with our next podcast.


Marine Sanctuaries 40th Anniversary (Episode 104)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/p1012.html#mw104

Thu, 04 Oct 2012 08:21:39 -0400

This month marks the 40th anniversary of the signing of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, which created our nation's national marine sanctuary system. What are sanctuaries? How do these special areas help to protect and conserve our ocean? We have a NOAA Ocean Today video for you in this episode to put this milestone in perspective. (4:49 minutes)

Episode permanent link and show notes

Ocean Today Video: Fuel for the Storm (Episode 103)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/p0912.html#mw103

Thu, 20 Sep 2012 08:27:05 -0400

We've all heard that hurricanes are one of the most powerful and destructive forces on Earth. But where do they get their strength? You’ll find the answer on this episode of Making Waves. Tune in to watch a brand new video from NOAA’s Ocean Today called 'Fuel for the Storm.' (3:31 minutes)

Episode permanent link and show notes

Where is Four Corners? (Episode 102)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/july12/mw072612.mp3

Thu, 26 Jul 2012 08:42:36 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 79 (July 21, 2011)

Podcast script

You're listening to Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.

It's summertime! That means it's time for trips to the beach, vacations ... and re-runs! We have a previously-aired episode for you today, but you may not have heard this one before. That's because we had a problem with our syndicated feed when this episode came out back in March, so you may have not even known it was released. And that would be a shame, because it's a really interesting episode with two scientists talking about their latest research.

Earlier this year, thousands of people descended on Washington, DC, for the 177th American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting. Today, you're going to hear about two studies funded in part by NOAA's Oceans and Human Health Initiative presented at the science gathering on Feb. 19th, 2011. Broadly speaking, this new research is related to climate change. You've probably heard of climate change studies that deal with big-picture things like drought or sea level rise ... well, these new studies look at the problem from a different angle and on a smaller scale. Let's listen in.

More Atmospheric Dust From Global Desertification Could Lead to Increases of Harmful Bacteria in Oceans, Seafood

Our first story today is about a new study that considers how global desertification -- the gradual transformation of habitable land into desert -- may help fuel the growth of harmful bacteria in the ocean.

Dr. Erin Lipp is the lead author of the study. Erin's a public health microbiologist and marine scientist at the University of Georgia's Department of Environmental Health Science. I caught up with her after she presented her research at the meeting to learn more about the study. Erin said her team focused on a group of ocean organisms that share the scientific name Vibrio. While many types of harmful bacteria in the ocean come from land-based sources like sewage, Vibrio is different because it naturally occurs in the marine environment.

For this study, her team experimented with two species of this organism that can cause gastroenteritis and infectious diseases in humans.

[Lipp] "We used Vibrio cholerae, which is the species that causes epidemic cholera. We also used the species Vibrio alginolyticus, they're similar in some ways, but quite different in others. Vibrio cholerae is of course notorious for causing a very severe disease. Vibrio alginolyticus is growing in importance, especially in tropical areas, it's one of the main species that we see on an increase, especially in area like Florida. Unlike Cholera, it primarily infects people by wound infections, or it infects their eyes and ears, so the symptoms are much less dramatic, but certainly still a cause for public health concern where people are recreating in marine waters."

Now, to put this in context...since 1996 Vibrio cases have jumped 85 percent in the U.S. based on reports that primarily track seafood-illnesses. So you can see why it'd be a good thing to better understand why we're seeing this trend. Erin said that Vibrio are complex organisms to study because scientists just don't know all the risk factors that can increase their populations. One thing we do know is that Vibrio bacteria do better in warmer marine waters -- that their populations are closely tied to water temperature ...

[Lipp] "...but it's not the only thing that affects that group of organism. It can also be affected by ocean chemistry. A major player in ocean chemistry is the availability of iron. Iron is not well soluble in marine waters, one of the ways we get soluble iron (or bioavailable iron) is through the production and transport of desert dust. And so we were interested in whether or not that desert dust can be a component in the natural population dynamics of Vibrio species."

Iron is an essential ingredient for life for Vibrio bacteria -- along with most other forms of life on the planet. But there's not a lot of iron in the ocean. So dust falling into the sea from the atmosphere is sort of like an iron delivery machine for these microscopic creatures.

[Lipp] "Vibrios, as part of their mechanism of being pathogens, are really, really good at scavenging iron, and so we suspected that with an influx of this dust that comes from desert areas around the world that carries a lot of iron in it, that when the Vibrio bacteria are exposed to that, they may be able to take advantage of it and see an increase in their growth rate."

And that's definitely what they found. Within 24 hours of mixing weathered desert dust from Morocco with seawater samples, they saw a 10-1000-fold growth in Vibrios, including the alginolyticus strain that can cause eye, ear, and open wound infections, and the cholerae strain that can lead to cholera.

With desert areas increasing in size on the planet, some climate change scenarios predict that we're going to see a lot more dust in the atmosphere. In fact, there's evidence that we're already seeing just that. Erin said this study is a small step in linking what's happening on a global scale with population changes at the local level for these types of harmful bacteria. While this study was conducted using ocean water off the coast of Florida, Erin suspects it may be a wider issue.

[Lipp] "The work that we've done has really been focused in the United States and in Florida in particular, but I really suspect this could be a global phenomenon. There are certainly areas of the world that are seeing a rapid expanse in Vibrio exposure, including the Mediterranean, The Mediterranean is an area that gets a lot of desert dust, and so I suspect that this may be something that is going on on a pretty large scale, but we just don't know anything about it yet. So I'm hoping there's going to be further study to look at it."

So it's possible that this additional input of iron through dust, along with rising sea surface temperatures from climate change, are affecting bacterial populations. And that may help to explain both current and future increases in human illnesses from exposure to contaminated seafood and seawater.

The University of Georgia hosts a graduate training consortium with NOAA's Oceans and Human Health Initiative. You can read more about this study on our website at oceanservice.noaa.gov.

Climate Change Could Prolong Toxic Algal Outbreaks by 2040 or Sooner

Next, we're going to turn our attention to a new model created by researchers in the Pacific Northwest that predicts longer seasonal outbreaks of harmful algal blooms may be in store for Washington State's Puget Sound.

To tell us all about it, we're going to hear from lead author Dr. Stephanie Moore with NOAA's West Coast Center for Oceans and Human Health in Seattle. I spoke with Stephanie a few hours after she presented her findings at the meeting ... and I began with a very basic question: what's a harmful algal bloom?

[Moore] "Well, a harmful algal bloom is a natural phenomena that is caused by the proliferation of algae, so its like an overgrowth of algae. The particular harmful algal bloom species that I've been working on is a uni-cellular algal species -- so it's a single celled organism -- and it grows in coastal environments, and it produces a toxin. Many harmful algal blooms species produce toxins that can accumulate in shellfish and also fish species, and then be passed on to humans or marine mammals."

Now the species Stephanie focused on in Puget Sound -- named Alexandrium catanella -- is particularly toxic. She said it produces a bunch of toxins, but one, called Saxitoxin, is really nasty.

[Moore] "...so what this toxin can do if we consume enough of it, is paralyze the muscles of our chest and abdomen, and then death can result in extreme cases."

Yikes. To make matters worse, there are no known antidotes to saxitoxin, and you can't destroy it by cooking your seafood.

[Moore] "Fortunately, our Departments of Health in the United States do a very good job of monitoring our seafood, so that we don't get sick. So there's not many cases in the United States these days, although in Alaska there's such a big coastline that it's very difficult to get around to monitor all the sites, and two deaths did occur in 2010. So it still poses a significant health risk, and it costs a lot of money to run these monitoring programs. The other big economic associated with these blooms is that the commercial shellfish growers, they can't sell their product during bloom events, so they suffer from huge economic losses during big blooms."

You may be wondering why deaths still occur in Alaska. Stephanie said it's because there just aren't enough resources available to agencies to conduct monitoring on the scale required to protect public health along Alaska's vast coastline. The only option in these remote areas is to close large areas of coastline often unnecessarily for much of the year. The problem with that is that people tend to lose faith in the advisories and collect and eat shellfish anyway ... and sometimes they get sick.

Of course, toxic algal blooms aren't just a problem for Washington State and Alaska. They're a problem in coastal areas around the world. So wouldn't it be good to have an advance warning system to give us a better idea of when to expect these toxic blooms? That's the idea behind Stephanie's research.

What she and her team did is look at a 15-year record of toxic bloom events, focusing on five 'hotspot' areas in the Sound where the most intense toxicity was consistently measured in shellfish. Then they looked at the weather and ocean conditions preceding the times when those most intense toxic conditions were measured -- the idea being that the conditions were ripest to produce the deadly blooms before the high toxin levels were measured. What they found is that ideal conditions to form the deadly toxins were those times when the water was warm, and there was little mixing in the water column. Stephanie calls this the 'window of opportunity.' The next step was to look into the past., back to the 1960s. While there aren't very good shellfish toxicity records spanning back to this time, there are very good records of weather and environmental conditions. This allowed her team to figure out those times -- those 'windows of opportunity' -- when conditions were ripe to form the toxic algal blooms.

[Moore] "And what we found was that the window of opportunity had been widening each year since the late 1960s. And just so that we're clear, a wider window of opportunity means that there's an increased risk of harmful algal bloom events."

So they found more days each year, as time went on, when harmful algal bloom events were likely to occur. The next step was to look to the future, using climate change models to see how those 'windows of opportunity' might change in years to come ... in the 2020s, the 2040s, and out to the 2080s. What they found was that the 'window' will likely continue to widen.

[Moore] "Not only do we see an increase in the number of days in any given month within a typical bloom period, which is from (present day) a typical bloom is from July to October. So we see an increase in the number of days each month during that typical time period from July to October that conditions are favorable for a bloom event, but we also start to see that period widen. So we're starting to see longer bloom seasons as we go out into the future. So much so that by the end of the century, we project that blooms may occur up to two months earlier in the year and persist for one month longer."

What this model can do is give public health authorities and shellfish growers in Puget Sound a much more refined and accurate projection of when they should expect toxic algal blooms.

[Moore] "So if you're a manager, and you're in charge of protecting public health from these toxic events, we want to make sure that they have the information that they need to know when in the year to start looking for a bloom. So the results of our study indicate that we're going to have to be on-guard and looking for these blooms events to be occurring a lot earlier in the year than what we're seeing now."

That's pretty powerful information to have. Not only will coastal managers better know when they should expect harmful blooms, by knowing what sea and air conditions to look for, they may be able to more efficiently open and close smaller areas to shellfish harvesting instead of just closing off a huge swath of coast.

While this study focused on a small area in the Pacific Northwest, the predictive prowess behind the new model may have a big future in helping people in similar coastal areas around the world better prepare for toxic algae outbreaks.

That was Dr. Stephanie Moore from NOAA's West Coast Center for Oceans and Human Health. Check our website at oceanservice.noaa.gov for more details about this new research.

Goodbye

Thanks to Drs. Erin Lipp and Stephanie Moore for joining us today. We only had time to cover two of the three NOAA-funded studies presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting.

Head to oceanservice.noaa.gov for a detailed look at a third study from Dr. Sandra McLellan of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukeee School of Freshwater Sciences. You should really check it out. It's about how a changing climate with more rainstorms on the horizon could increase the risk of overflows of dated sewage systems. This could cause the release of disease-causing bacteria, viruses and protozoa into drinking water and onto beaches. Do you live in a city? You may be interested in what this report has to say about urban infrastructure, climate change, and water quality.

Thank you for joining us this week. Write to us as nos.info@noaa.gov if you have any questions or comments about the podcast, the National Ocean Service, or our ocean. And visit us online. Our home on the Web is oceanservice.noaa.gov. And don't forget that you can subscribe to this podcast on our website so you'll never miss an episode … We serve up a feed for your feed reader and we're also on iTunes. You can get those links on our website.

See you in a couple of weeks.


Ocean Today Video: Marine Protected Areas (Episode 101)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/p0712.html#mw101

Thu, 12 Jul 2012 08:49:50 -0400

Take three minutes out of your day to watch a video from NOAA's Ocean Today about marine protected areas in North America. Episode permanent link and show notes

Positioning America for the Future (Episode 100)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/june12/mw062812.mp3

Wed, 19 Feb 2020 12:29:11 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 100 (June 28, 2012)

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service. I’m Troy Kitch. And this is the 100th episode of this podcast.   Yep, we’ve been doing this since Fall 2008.

Over the years, we’ve talked about most of the things we do at the ocean service … we’ve covered all kinds of topics like ocean science, geodesy, tides and currents, coastline surveys, nautical charts, coastal services, sanctuaries, marine protected areas … but we’ve rarely stepped back to get the big picture about what the ocean service is about.  Now, the problem with that is that we do a lot of different things, it’s not so easy to wrap this up in a short podcast.

We’re not going to do that today. What we’re going to do is focus in on one really large and important part of what we do … our marine navigation services.
And to help us do that, we’re joined by Dr. Holly Bamford, deputy assistant administrator of the National Ocean Service – our second in command. Holly’s job is about making sure that the Ocean Service provides the best available science and tools to support the nation’s coasts and oceans. That ranges from:

[Dr. Holly Bamford] “… Navigational services such as nautical charts and tides and currents, all the way to special places like sanctuaries and coastal management – working directly with coastal communities to support decisions that are relevant to coastal economies and the environment.”

Meet Holly. I recently spoke with her by phone while she was taking part in a Hydrographic Services Review Panel meeting in Alaska. This was really a great place to catch up with her because this review panel is in many ways at the heart of our navigation services—you’ll find out how in a minute.  And with sea ice melting in the Arctic, ocean navigation in Alaska – in this part of the world – it’s growing more important every year.

Now, there are a few things you need to know about the Hydrographic Services Review Panel.  First, it’s an advisory committee, it’s set up by law, and it meets a couple of times a year. Second, the panel is made up of:

[Dr. Holly Bamford] “our customers and the people we work with that not only help us gather navigational data, but are people that also use it, like pilots and people that are navigating our coastal waters.”

In other words, the panel isn’t made up of federal employees.  The people on the panel are in the private sector and in academia – they’re maritime and coastal experts. Their job is to represent all of those who rely on our nautical charts, our tides and currents, and our elevation data each and every day to get their job done.

[Dr. Holly Bamford] “And so they provide recommendations and guidance to NOAA on our products and how they’re doing, how they’re used, and where we can actually do better. It’s not an insular process, but it really looks to the public – you know, we are civil servants, and we look to the public to provide us with the best available recommendations to tell us how we’re doing, are we hitting the mark? And if we’re not, tell us and we will make improvements within our mandates. It’s our responsibility to take those recommendations and turn them into actions.”

This panel doesn’t always meet in Alaska. They usually meet up in different coastal areas.

[Dr. Holly Bamford] “And what that does is it helps us get a better understanding of not only the national perspective but the regional needs of and regional gaps in our data  -- and how do we go about working within regions to adapt our products to meet those gaps.”

And that’s important because NOAA’s navigation services are provided for the whole country. And it’s a big country. So we need to make sure that what we’re doing is really what people along the coasts of the nation need now and tomorrow – into the future. And that brings us back to Alaska.  Holly said at the previous panel meeting held in Norfolk, Virginia in 2011:

[Dr. Holly Bamford] “We talked a lot about issues in Norfolk, but we were talking about what’s going to be on the horizon, and the Arctic came up. And so we thought it was very timely and relevant that the panel come to Alaska and actually hear from local folks about the huge problems that they foresee as the Northwest Passage opens up and we increase commerce and, with the melting of the ice, the impacts to the environment that’s going to have on this region.”

During her trip to Alaska, Holly saw first-hand some of the issues that Alaskans are facing. She visited Homer, where daily tides can change up to 28 feet. She stopped through a NOAA research lab in Katsitsna Bay, where people were learning how to dive in icy waters with extremely strong currents. They need to do this to examine how underwater habitat is changing as ocean pH, salinity, and temperatures fluctuate because of melting sea ice.  And she saw how coastal communities in Alaska are facing unprecedented erosion and inundation from rising sea levels and ice melt. She said that getting the job done in Alaska means working together and doing things differently.

[Dr. Holly Bamford] “So, traditionally [what] NOAA brings to the table is our nautical charts, our tides and current data, and our coastline surveys – the elevations. And so all of these things together provide the baseline tools for charting coastal waters.  And so this is very important and very relevant for an area like Alaska, which is highly variable. The shorelines are changing on an annual basis; they’re seeing sea level change, inundation, coastal changes. So we provide the baseline, but what I’ve also found out being up here, is that it is a heavily collaborative region. I mean you cannot do anything alone. So NOAA would not be successful without the huge collaborative nature that Alaska brings to the table. We are meeting right now with the Army Corps, the Coast Guard, with local pilots, local communities because it’s really rallying around a centralized problem of what we’re going to do as the Northwest Passage opens, ice continues to melt, and we’re going to have to deal with the challenges that we foresee in the future. "

Focusing on challenges of the future is the key here. This recent Hydrographic Services Review Panel meeting was really a launching point for a bigger effort in the National Ocean Service that’s about refocusing efforts on meeting navigation needs for the long-term. It’s what Holly calls ‘positioning America for the future.’

[Dr. Holly Bamford] “We want to think five, ten, 15, 20 years down the road of where we’re going to be and where we want to be. People are coming more and more to the coasts; goods and services come in and out of ports every day [and that is] growing. Up here in Alaska, we heard that 80 percent of what goods and services come into Anchorage comes through the port of Anchorage. If they don’t have those ports open with four days, goods are off the shelves here. I mean, that is how critical it is to moving goods and services in and out of this country. So we know there’s going to be challenges as sea ice continues to melt and the Northwest Passage opens up, increasing commerce. So what we need to do is be prepared for the future. We don’t need to know what’s going to happen tomorrow. We need to know what’s going to happen 15 and 20 years from now, and have the tools, technology, and innovative research to develop those things so we’re ready and prepared to provide that information to this region.”

She said that part of this challenge is about thinking of better ways to do business.  Let’s take nautical charts as an example. Holly said that a new nautical chart can take up to two years to develop – and for many places in Alaska that are now seeing more ship traffic every year because of melting ice – some of these areas haven’t been surveyed in well over a hundred years and some even longer. Now, a nautical chart contains a lot of detailed information. Charts tell us about the coasts, the depths of the water, the sea bottom, dangers to navigation, tides, where the navigation aids are, and even information about the Earth’s magnetism. Now the thing is that hydrographic surveying data that’s collected when updating nautical charts – it’s really useful stuff.  It can be used by other groups of people for other purposes, like learning more about underwater habitats.
             
[Dr. Holly Bamford] "We’re resource strapped as agencies and so we have to look to each other to be very innovative on what we can bring to the table and think outside the box a little bit. If we’re going to do some mapping, we need to maintain the backscatter to look at habitat changes. I mean, this is not just utilizing data for one particular purpose – and that’s more of the non-traditional part of what NOAA brings to the table is that we’re more and more providing multiple uses for single sets of data, and so that’s the direction we need to move. We can’t just map once for one thing, we have to map once for many uses."

Holly also said that ‘positioning for the future’ is also about making sure NOS has the right tools and technologies to do the job. Now, this raises an interesting point that many people don’t realize. Because we work in tough areas in places like Alaska and in the extreme depths of the ocean, this leads to some rather unique tech and expertise. For instance, she said that in Alaska:

[Dr. Holly Bamford] “We have to develop pressurized sensors so we can measure currents underneath ice, and we have to perfect this so we can get the appropriate and most accurate measurements. And when you look at that, the information that we can gain here can really support everywhere along the nations coast.”

She also pointed out that NOAA navigational services are often tapped for tasks totally unrelated to traditional navigation services – so, in this way, NOAA ocean expertise touches those who live even far from the coast.  And she gave an example. Take our coast survey teams – these are teams we have around the country that are called out for emergency response to map out hazards to navigation after events like hurricanes. Holly said that these teams are called up at times to map debris and locate the ‘black boxes’ after aircraft crashes in the ocean.

[Dr. Holly Bamford] “The fact that we have the technology to go down there and pull up critical information from such incidents provides information on that accident that can change the way a plane is built in the future.  And so that’s something, when you look at the technology we have to have for the ocean, how that relates to everybody on land.  If there are issues with those planes, you want to know that you have the technology and understanding to change that. And the way we’re able to do that is through some of the work we’ve done at NOS.”

Let’s wrap it up by pulling back our focus a bit. Navigation services are a big part of what NOS is all about. Every year, ships move $1.4 trillion dollars worth of products in and out of U.S. ports around the nation.  And that ship traffic is going to keep increasing. The stuff on the shelves in the big box stores that you shop for? Most of those items arrived at a port in a ship. Well, NOS is integral for keeping this ship traffic moving along. Every day, emergency planners and water authorities rely on NOS global positioning data that is accurate down to the centimeter. Every hour, people rely on real-time water levels for accurate weather forecasts, storm and flood prediction, and tsunami warning. Holly said that the idea behind positioning America for the future is how the National Ocean Service is thinking about and gearing up for not what we need tomorrow, but what we need long down the road to keep meeting these needs.
    
[Dr. Holly Bamford] “We’re here to provide the best available information and do the best job we can in preparing our coastal oceans and our coastal economies and our coastal communities for the future. And that’s really what we’re in the business of doing.”

That was Dr. Holly Bamford, deputy assistant administrator for the National Ocean Service. And that is episode #100 of Making Waves. If you have any questions about this episode, about our oceans, or about the National Ocean Service, you can reach us at nos.info@noaa.gov. Don’t forget that you can subscribe to us on iTunes. We’re on iTunes, we’re in the iTunes education store, and we have an RSS feed available for Making Waves and for our sister podcast, Diving Deeper, which you don’t want to miss. I hope you know you can reach us at oceanservice.noaa.gov on the internet. And if you’re socially inclined, you can catch up with us on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Youtube. You can find us at USOCEANGOV. That’s USOCEANGOV – all one word. Hope to see you there.

You’ve been listening to Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. We’ll be back in two weeks.

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Hurricane Response (Episode 98)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/may12/mw053112.mp3

Thu, 31 May 2012 08:20:41 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 98 (May 31, 2012)

You're listening to Making Waves. I'm Troy Kitch.  

It’s the end of May … and that means it’s not only the start of the summer season, it’s the beginning of hurricane season. Most people know that NOAA’s National Weather Service plays a huge role when hurricanes threaten our coasts…but what role does NOAA’s National Ocean Service play? You’re going to find out today. And along the way, you’re going to be introduced to a lot of online tools and info that you can use before, during, and after hurricanes strike.

(HURRICANE SEASON)
Let’s start off with a quick wrap-up of this season’s hurricane predictions for the Pacific and the Atlantic, issued by NOAA just last week.

Conditions in the atmosphere and the ocean favor a near-normal hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin. For the entire six-month season, which begins June 1, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center says there’s a 70 percent chance of nine to 15 named storms, of which four to eight will strengthen to a hurricane (with top winds of 74 mph or higher) and of those one to three will become major hurricanes (with top winds of 111 mph or higher -- Category 3, 4 or 5). Based on the period between 1981 and 2010, an average season produces 12 named storms with six hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.

For the Pacific, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center says that climate conditions point to a near-normal hurricane season in the Eastern Pacific this year. Seasonal hurricane forecasters estimate a 70 percent chance of 12 to 18 named storms, which includes 5 to 9 hurricanes, of which 2 to 5 are expected to become major hurricanes. An average Eastern Pacific hurricane season produces 15 named storms, with eight becoming hurricanes and four becoming major hurricanes. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season runs from May 15 through Nov. 30, with peak activity from July through September.

And finally, NOAA’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center says that projected climate conditions point to a below-normal hurricane season in the Central Pacific Basin. The 2012 outlook calls for a 50 percent chance of a below-normal season, with 2-4 tropical cyclones in the Central Pacific this season. An average season has 4-5 tropical cyclones, which include tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes. 

So that’s the big picture for the year. It’s important to note that these predictions don’t project where and when any future storm may hit – and regardless of what the forecasts predict, the main thing to keep in mind is that if you live in an area where hurricanes happen, it’s time to start thinking about preparation and preparedness.  There’s a lot more to these seasonal outlooks…I’ve only touched on the highlights, so surf over to www.NOAA.gov to get the full picture.

(NOS ROLE: HURRICANE SEASON)
The 2012 hurricane season outlook is a good time to talk about the National Ocean Service’s part in all of this. A lot of people don’t know this, but the Ocean Service plays a major role in hurricane response before storms hit the coast, when they hit, and long after they pass. I’m not going to bog you down with a bunch of website links – just remember one … oceanservice.noaa.gov. Head there, surf to our podcast page, and there you’ll find links to all of the things we’ll talk about in this episode.

Let’s start with the National Water Level Observation Network, which provides near real-time ocean and weather observations. This network is made up over 200 stations around the country that continuously monitor water levels. One component of this network that I want to highlight are called "Sentinels of the Coast." These hardened structures are positioned out in the ocean in the Gulf of Mexico to collect and send out real-time water level and weather observations – and they are made tough. They’re designed to withstand wind and wave action from category four hurricanes so they can keep gathering water and weather data even in the harshest conditions. Why is this important? Well, as we all know, during coastal storms, water levels can rise to flood levels. So it’s of course good to know and predict how high these water levels are going to get. This kind of storm-surge information is critical for emergency preparedness to plan out evacuation routes, opening and closing of locks and dams, and when to make public warnings.

Another tool you really need to add to your online bookmark collection is called Storm QuickLook. And as the name suggests, when a tropical storm forms, QuickLook provides a real-time view of a storm’s impacts on coastal storm water levels, winds, and barometric levels. It’s mostly used as decision support tool by federal, state and local emergency managers to assist evacuation and road closing decisions, but you too can see the data to monitor and prepare for storm conditions. QuickLook reports start coming out right after the National Hurricane Center identifies a tropical system and continue to come out until well after the storm has passed.

QuickLook also provides details about the storm tide associated with the storm, which is the sum of the surge of the water because of the storm, the astronomical tides, and any pre-storm high water level conditions. And if you consider that most people in the U.S. live along the coast in places less than 10 feet above sea level, you can see why this is good to know. Storm tides are the number one cause of storm damage.

Now let’s look at what’s going on at NOS after a storm hits. First up: navigational surveys. After a hurricane strikes, our Coast Survey office helps get ports and waterways back open as fast as possible. They use sonar and divers to check for obstructions and hazards to navigation. This work is critical – not only does it help get our waterways and ports flowing again so supplies can get to the people who need them in these areas, it also helps to get commerce back up and running in the region.

Next up: aerial surveys. Many people don’t know this, but our National Geodetic Survey begins flying survey missions to take pictures of coastal areas hit by a hurricane just days after the storm strikes. These photos are posted online for everybody to see so those most affected by the hurricane can see if their homes, businesses, and properties have been damaged or destroyed.

And last up: our Response and Restoration plays a huge role after a hurricane hits by responding to hazardous material spills. Working with partners like the U.S. Coast Guard, teams survey vessels, pipelines, wells, or containers that may be leaking hazardous fuel, oil, or chemicals. And they fly on missions to locate and track offshore sources of spills. This info is combined with current weather and water conditions to develop computer models that help predict spill movement and to figure out where the greatest pollution threats are likely to occur. Added to this, Response and Restoration lends a hand with vessel salvage, shoreline cleanup, and helping to understand how spills will affect natural resources in the region. And then there’s the restoration part -- Ocean Service scientists and economists may spend years after a storm hits carefully studying injuries done to natural resources caused by hazardous spills, groundings, and debris … and laying the groundwork so that these areas can be restored back to health.

So the Ocean Service plays a big role in the immediate aftermath of a hurricane, but the work doesn’t stop there. For weeks, months, and even years after a hurricane hits the shores, NOAA men and women work to better understand the effect of the hurricane, in recovery planning, and in monitoring the effects of contaminants released from the storm on the environment.

Consider this: long after a storm strikes, there are many big questions that need answered. What is the economic impact of the storm? What’s the ecological impact, or the cost to the environment? Where is the debris concentrated? How much wetlands were lost? NOAA’s Coastal Services Center experts help answer these questions by crunching data, and generating maps and detailed reports. These products can include everything from aerial imagery of the affected region before and after the storm, digital elevation data to measure how the coastline has changed as a result of the storm, to long-term recovery plans. It’s all rolled into what the Coastal Services Center calls the ‘Digital Coast.’ And you definitely need to check this out. There’s a lot to Digital Coast, and the tools available cover much, much more than long-term hurricane response. But I want to highlight one very cool hurricane-related product produced by this office. It’s called Historical Hurricane Tracks. This free online tool helps get a quick picture of coastal areas with the greatest frequency of hurricanes and tropical storms—and that historical “snapshot” helps people develop better plans for storm preparation and recovery.

But the Coastal Services Center isn’t the only office involved with long-term recovery planning duties. Our Ocean and Coastal Resource Management office deals with decision making before storms hit -- through a program called NOAA Coastal Zone Management. The CZM program works with states to help coastal communities decide things like where to place buildings and roads to reduce loss of life and property from storms. In Texas, for example, CZM funding is helping the state map hazardous areas throughout the Texas coastal zone to identify places that are especially vulnerable to hurricanes.

(CLOSING)
Well, we’ve covered a lot of ground. Hopefully you now have a better idea of some of the many things that we do at the National Ocean Service in support of hurricane response. Our main goal is to let you know this information is out there, it’s online, and it’s freely available. Head to oceanservice.noaa.gov to get the links.

Let’s end how we began with a reminder that hurricane season starts June 1st and runs through the end of November. And regardless of what the NOAA forecasts predict for this season, the main thing to keep in mind is that it’s time to start thinking about preparation and preparedness.

And that's all for this week. If you have any questions about this episode, about our oceans, or about the National Ocean Service, send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov. And if you’re socially inclined, don’t forget that you can find us on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Youtube.

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. We’ll return in two weeks.


Ocean Today Video: Black Carbon (Episode 97)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/p0512.html#mw97

Thu, 17 May 2012 09:21:13 -0400

Making Waves Ocean Today video

Take three minutes out of your day to watch a video from NOAA's Ocean Today. In this episode, learn about the effect of black carbon -- better known as soot -- on Arctic climate. Episode permanent link and show notes

Titanic, 100 Years Later, Part II (Episode 96)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/apr12/mw042612.mp3

Thu, 12 Apr 2012 07:52:47 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 96 (April 26, 2012)

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service. I’m Troy Kitch.

In recognition of the100th year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, this podcast is the second of two episodes this month featuring an interview with Jim Delgado, director of maritime heritage with the National Ocean Service’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

Now, before we get started, you did listen to the first Titanic podcast, right? If you didn’t, hit pause and go do that now. You’ll find it on our podcast page at oceanservice.noaa.gov. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

OK, so in our last episode, Jim shared some amazing stories about the Titanic that really got to the heart of why this shipwreck has continued to capture our imagination, even now, 100 years later.

You may feel like you’ve been hearing about the Titanic non-stop this month, and that there’s nothing much new to learn. Well, I bet what you’ll hear today will be new to you. We’re going to answer some questions that aren’t really talked about much. Things like, who’s in charge of the Titanic wreck? Why is the U.S so deeply involved in preserving this shipwreck, even though it’s in international waters? What do now know about Titanic that we didn’t, say, five years ago?

Well, there’s no one better to answer these questions than Jim Delgado, ocean explorer and marine archaeologist. Jim has been on the forefront of Titanic preservation efforts since 1986, shortly after the wreck was discovered. And he’s been to Titanic twice.

His most recent trip in 2010 was a joint mission funded and organized by RMS Titanic, Incorporated, salvor-in-possession of the shipwreck. More on what a salvor-in-possession is in a moment. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the National Park Service, the Institute of Nautical Archeology, the Wait Institute, and NOAA’s Office of Marine Sanctuaries joined RMS Titanic, Inc., for this trip. And Jim served as chief scientist and lead archeological investigator.

[James Delgado] “This was a ‘look don’t touch’ mission specifically focused on doing a comprehensive map of the entire Titanic site. Not the bow or the stern, which had been looked at and carefully examined by others … but very specifically, everything that connected the two pieces of the hull … the entire field in which every piece of Titanic which had disintegrated and fallen to the ocean floor, where all that lay, as well as all of the artifacts – about several square miles of seabed down there, two and a half miles below.”

Jim said the 2010 mission was the first time that researchers were able to see the Titanic as a whole. In previous expeditions, this just wasn’t possible because of limits in technology.

[James Delgado] “This was the first time that we were literally going to be able to walk into the room and ‘turn the lights on,” if you will. We looked at Titanic as you would, say, a forensic crime scene. Imagine trying to understand that by walking into the room and with a tiny little pencil flashlight and a bunch of smoke and crawling around and just looking at it and saying, ‘we think this happened, and here’s a shell casing. Here’s a bullet hole. OK, here’s the victim.’ That’s the way decades of looking at the Titanic had happened, and that’s because technology has been evolving … and the initial technology when the ship was found was towing cameras, Sonar has come along and sonar has gotten sharper and crisper, so to has our ability with computer systems to capture digital imagery and stitch it together to create comprehensive views.”

All of this new technology came together in 2010, he said, largely through the pioneering work of the Woods Hole advanced imaging and visualization lab. So instead of walking into a dark room with the smoke:

[James Delgado] “you literally walk in and turn the lights on and everything is there before you. So what we did with high-resolution sonar, what we did with 3D, as well as 2D imagery, was create this amazing map that you can now go to and zoom in from the surface all the way down to a big piece like the bow to something as small as a teacup and know exactly where it is in the real world. So, in terms of Titanic, with regards to anything that’s lying down there on the seabed, there are no more secrets.”

Since the 2010 mission was entirely funded by a private partner, RMS Titanic, Incorporated, Jim said that a lot of the new imagery and data collected during the expedition is the intellectual property of this company. The government, though, has access to all of RMS Titanic, Inc.’s data, which is being used to develop a detailed archeological map.

[James Delgado] “We’re also working with them as we better understand the site to come away with a more comprehensive 3D look at the ship. And a lot of that they’ve taken and started to release through media outlets.

For example, the April 2012 issue of National Geographic includes an amazing spread of beautiful, never-before-seen Titanic imagery. And, as you may have heard, Titanic 3D is now playing in theaters across the nation.

[James Delgado] “In that way, the governments participation has been to do the science and learn from the science, and share the science with the public, while these other folks have paid for it, by creating a commercial product that enables anybody in time to be able to virtually walk the decks of Titanic in 3D and see the site. Essentially, Titanic will be virtually raised for the first time.“

Now, if you find this private-public partnership confusing, don’t feel bad. It’s complicated. Without going into too much legalese, as the official salvor-in-possession, the RMS Titanic, Inc., has exclusive rights to Titanic and can salvage artifacts from the wreck to exhibit. The U.S. government has an ongoing role in Titanic, too – to represent the public interest in preserving this historic wreck and its artifacts. NOAA is the lead agency in dealing with these issues, working closely with the Department of State, Park Service, and the Department of Justice. The details of this complex relationship are detailed in the Titanic Memorial Act passed by Congress in the 1980s. Since 1987, Jim said that more than 5,000 artifacts have been recovered from Titanic. Today, these artifacts tour the world and are displayed in a permanent exhibition in Las Vegas. Until recently:

[James Delgado] “Those artifacts were the property of no one – the Court controlled them – and most recently, the Court awarded title of those artifacts to RMS Titanic, but with a rather long list of covenants and conditions for the public interest. These included keeping the entire collection together, never selling or auctioning it off one piece at a time, making it available for science, and also for outreach and education. To make sure those covenants and conditions are followed, NOAA has been given the responsibility of acting on behalf of the Court to review and report back with Department of Justice, and I’m the guy that does that, along with Ole Varmer, the attorney, and Dave Alberg, the superintendent of Monitor Marine National Marine Sanctuary. Dave’s been a great partner in all of this. Like me, he comes from a museum background, and as the Monitor superintendent, Dave deals with and manages another iconic and highly symbolically important shipwreck – USS Monitor, so he was a perfect choice for Titanic. “

Ole Varmer, who Jim mentioned a moment ago, is an Attorney-Advisor with NOAA’s Office of General Counsel for International Law. Over the span of several decades, Varmer has played a key role in piecing together an international treaty to protect the Titanic and its artifacts. The key word here is ‘international.’ Remember, the Titanic is in international waters. So while the U.S. is shepherding this effort to get a treaty in place, it’s an effort that involves many nations:

[James Delgado] “The United States signed the treaty, as has the United Kingdom. Two other nations are named in it and have not yet signed it, and that is Canada and France, and we understand that efforts are underway. That will not ratify, or bring the treaty into effect, though. That takes Congressional action. A variety of bills have been introduced through the years, it’s just never elevated itself to the point to where it really got much attention … certainly it wasn’t passed, though we do hear rumblings that perhaps a new bill is coming, and that it would happen this year on the 100th anniversary of Titanic sinking.”

So we have the Titanic Memorial Act, which directed NOAA to write guidelines on how the Titanic wreck site and artifacts should be preserved for the public interest … and we have an international treaty that’s not yet in force that has evolved from the Titanic Memorial Act. So, at this point you may wonder, why is the U.S. so involved with this to begin with? It was a British ship, right? Here’s Jim:

[James Delgado] “Titanic is in international waters. It was a British vessel but owned by an American company. Titanic has strong ties to the United States, and that’s not just because Jack and Rose, and the films that were made in Hollywood, but because Titanic represented an important link between the United States and Europe, and specifically England in this case. That link was that which began 500 years ago in one of the greatest migrations of people in history, and that is people coming to the new world. Titanic is an important link in that long chain of immigration, and many on board the Titanic were either returning home to the U.S. or were coming here for the first time with the intention of becoming citizens…in terms of loss of life on that ship, the largest loss of life were British, followed only by that of people from the U.S., so in terms of those who rest in the ship or lost their lives in it, we have the second biggest stake as a country. But also those cultural ties continue. There are thousands of Americans who trace their ancestry to people who sailed on Titanic or who were lost. And there’s a large number of places dotted in the vast American cultural landscape that link us to Titanic, from the home of the unsinkable Molly Brown in Denver to the graves of people who were lost and whose remains were recovered and buried in Kentucky and Ohio, and then Connecticut, to New York. To monuments and memorials, including here in Washington, DC, where the Titanic Memorial, erected by the grateful women of the U.S. commemorates all of those men who stood by as the lifeboats were loaded for women and children.”

Now we’re almost home. As you’ve heard, the Titanic salvage rights belong to RMS Titanic, Inc., but with a lot of caveats to ensure the ship and artifacts are preserved and protected. The responsibility of ensuring the shipwreck is preserved and protected into the future? The U.S. clearly plays a major role here, but it’s a job that’s not just for the U.S. Rather, it’s a responsibility that’s shared by the global community. So where do go from here?

[James Delgado] “Well, hopefully we’ll see action taken by our own country, by other countries, to appropriately deal with Titanic in this anniversary year, because it is an anniversary year. Since it is in international waters, no one can say much about what happens. What we did, as a government, the U.S. reached out to the international community – to the International Maritime Organization – our colleagues in the U.S. Coast Guard, working with a lot of support from NOAA, from the Office of General Counsel International and those of us in sanctuaries, as well as Woods Hole, the Park Service – came up with a recommendation that the U.S. government moved forward (the Coast Guard is the official representative to the IMO), so they wrote a letter, and that letter called for a voluntary exclusion zone around Titanic where you don’t throw garbage, where you don’t discharge. And that’s important, because when we mapped the wreck, we mapped more than what came to rest in 1912, we were looking at fresh beer cans and plastic cups, we were looking at a fair amount of detritus that had been left there, were thrown into the ocean. And that’s inappropriate, even if there’s not a wreck like Titanic down there, but in particular for us, it was looking at this and saying, ‘you know, if this was Gettysburg, you would not come up to a Monument where men had fallen and see somebody’s empties lying there. Just because there’s not a garbage can, just because there’s not a mowed lawn, and the Park Service isn’t there monitoring it, doesn’t mean we should deal like a site like Titanic any differently. “

This voluntary exclusion zone is thankfully being followed by other nations, notices are going out to mariners about this special area. And even the cruise industry has agreed to follow the rules when they’re out there cruising on the site, with all of these ships going out there for the 100th anniversary. Jim said that the U.S. has also published a map for subs visiting the area, which lays out the best place to enter and the best place to leave so the ship, and more importantly, the remains of those lost in the tragedy, is not disturbed. The map even details where weights should be dropped that are left behind when subs surface from their dives to Titanic:

[James Delgado] “because right now, the site is dotted with drop weights from various expeditions, so better to have in one place, and try to leave that museum as pristine as you possibly can. So I think more of that and, in the time to come with the international cooperation and people voluntarily managing themselves, will be an appropriate thing. And I think too what also could happen, should happen, is that as time moves on, we take an anniversary like this and refocus ourselves not only on the site, but on the stories, the people’s stories in particular, and tell more of those, and to reach out even farther to connect all of us, whether its through a unique family story, or through something we’ve learned down at the bottom of the sea, with the saga of Titanic and the community that she was.”

Now, you may have noticed that Jim called the Titanic site a ‘museum.’ That’s important. It may seem strange to you to think of a shipwreck on the bottom of the ocean in international waters as a museum, but it is. And that’s the key idea behind NOAA’s mission to protect our underwater cultural heritage, which is a big part of what our National Marine Sanctuary system is all about.

[James Delgado] “One of the biggest museums that we have – in terms of American history, and even world history – rests beneath the waves. …. So if you consider the importance of manufacturing today, and then think back 150 years ago to when whaling was as big as all manufacturing in the country, I think you begin to get a sense of just how critical the maritime world was to America. The fact that our government was funded entirely with customs revenues from ships coming in to Salem, Massachusetts, in the first years of the republic. It’s vast, it’s important to us. Today, perhaps we don’t see it as much. We fly, we drive in cars, but it’s there. NOAA sees the evidence of that in the form of the maritime cultural landscape – the harbors, the lighthouses, the things we pass, but also the ships that are down there, and there are thousands of them. And many of the important ones, as they’re found, are studied, others are set aside. With the discovery of USS Monitor in 1973, it became the first National Marine Sanctuary in the U.S., one of the first ships to become a national historic landmark, and still there’s only a handful of those are national landmarks, and that’s the cream of the crop, by the way, those are the ‘Mount Vernons.’ So Monitor was pretty important, and that led ultimately to 14 units in the sanctuary system. In one case – Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary – over a hundred shipwrecks that really represent the history of 10 years of economic development and settlement in the Great Lakes – when that region was providing the backbone of the American economy through the iron ore and through the coal and the other products that were being created, those shipwrecks speak powerfully to not only that experience, but also the role that NOAA plays through the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries in not only managing them and protecting them, but making them accessible and available to the public through outreach and education. Dive tours, online exhibits, podcasts, all sorts of things, tell the story of the wrecks at Thunder Bay, but also shipwrecks elsewhere in the Marine Sanctuary system.”

That was Jim Delgado, director of maritime heritage with the National Ocean Service’s National Marine Sanctuaries office.

And that's all for this week. If you'd like to learn more, check our show notes for the links. You’ll find these on our website at oceanservice.noaa.gov.

If you have any questions about this episode, about our oceans, or about the National Ocean Service, send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.

And don't forget that you can visit us online at oceanservice.noaa.gov. And if you’re socially inclined, don’t forget that you can find us on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Youtube.

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. We’ll return in two weeks.


Titanic, 100 Years Later, Part I (Episode 95)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/apr12/mw041212.mp3

Thu, 12 Apr 2012 07:52:47 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 95 (April 12, 2012)

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. I'm Troy Kitch.
100 years ago this month, the RMS Titanic sank after striking an iceberg on her maiden voyage from the United Kingdom to New York City. Nearly ¾ of the 2,200 people on board the ship perished.

[Jim Delgado] “Titanic tugged at the heart since the beginning because of the circumstances of its loss. It’s a maiden voyage. You have all of these people on board. There’s so much promise. It was, as they say, in the movie, a ‘ship of dreams,’ particularly of those who were on it, to start a new life.

You’re listening to Jim Delgado, ocean explorer and marine archeologist.

[Jim Delgado] “The fact that that ended suddenly and dramatically that, while there was class distinction—while some of the poorer people were locked below which in itself was dramatic and tragic, the fact that death cut across all classes. That the president’s aide, the richest man on board, died … that had an impact. As well as the poignancy of the loss of the families. That played out dramatically, because in many ways Titanic was the first modern world media disaster that played out in real-time. What I mean by that is that this was in an age before regular online fast-breaking news broadcasts, but there was the wireless transmission.  The dot-dot-dot, dash-dash-dash, that told the story dramatically that she was sinking. That other ships were on their way and then, ultimately, that the Carpathia had arrived to find Titanic sunk and they picked up survivors. And then the wait of a few days until Carpathia docked. And then the story went across the wires, throughout the world, it dominated headlines. It inspired more than a thousand pieces of music, it inspired memorials, sermons, physical monuments, and a lot of quiet, private heart-broken remembrance. When you consider a man who had come from his native Finland, who had arrived with his brother-in-law to  raise money to bring his wife and four children home, to have sent the money to her for her to be on Titanic and to find that, that night, all of them had died. When he showed up at the White Star Lines office in New York, and stood in line and was told that his wife and children were gone, he collapsed. His friend ushered him to a bench and, white-faced, he somewhat came to and stumbled off and never again married, really didn’t speak much of it until he died in 1965. That played out powerfully in a lot of households. Those types of stories speak to us still after 100 years. It’s literally just around the corner in terms of human history, you can think of it as just a few generations ago. I myself have met and talked with Titanic survivors, all now gone of course, and in that connection to humanity and that connection to not only meeting these people and hearing their stories, but the connection that you have when you’re actually there, when you see that ship, I think that’s why it sticks with us. And Robert Ballard and Jean-Louis Michel’s rediscovery of the Titanic in 1985 really brought that home. With every visit since, we are compelled in many ways – Titanic is a ship that really never left us … or shall I say, Titanic is a ship that we never really left alone.”

In recognition of the 100th year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, this podcast is the first of two episodes we’re producing this month featuring an extended interview with Jim Delgado, Director of Maritime Heritage with the National Ocean Service’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

Jim has been deeply involved with an international effort to protect and preserve the Titanic wreck site and all of its artifacts for decades. And he’s had two dives down to the Titanic. 

 [Jim Delgado]  “I think the most memorable experience for me was being down there, of course. And going from spot to spot, and making that sudden leap in your mind. I mean, you sort of get it. You know, this is a ship that had a lot happen on it, powerful stories that played. But in many ways, it’s something you read about. It’s in a book. It’s in a film. And then you’re there. For me, I recall moving across the deck, as others have, and you come to a different spot and you’re making your notes about where you are and what you’re looking at, and in this case I’m looking at corrosion, and I’m looking at different aspects [such as] what’s preservable and what’s not. And we come to the davit that’s dangling there from lifeboat number 8. Eight’s a pretty important lifeboat, because this is a boat that had somebody important not survive. Isadore and Ida Strauss were rich, important people. He was owner of the Macy’s department store in New York.  They were older, they were coming back from Europe and, in that night, as the ship is sinking, with women and children first, Mrs. Strauss and the maid get in the boat, but Mr. Strauss cannot. It is women and children first. And in some cases that rule is interpreted as women and children only.  For men to get in the boats was to risk censure, if not embarrassment and outright ostracization. To be ostracized meant complete shunning, so he’s not going to get in. So Mr. Strauss is not about to get in this boat. He can’t. Mrs. Strauss is not about to let him stay there. Now, bear in mind, they know darn well what’s going to happen. This ship is going down into icy, cold water. He is not going to go easy. He is going to struggle and choke in that freezing water, and he’s going to be pulled down, and he’s going to die in pain. And if not that, then he’s going to freeze and float there with so many others. So she gets out of the boat, and the officer loading the boat tries to get her back in, as do others, and she won’t. Because as she explains, they’ve been married for a very long time, and she loves him.    And where she goes, he goes. Now that might sound like sort of an arcane concept, particularly in the 21st century, as much as, say, women and children first, but I can guarantee you as somebody who’s loved and who’s lost that I get it. And she got it. And so she locked arms with her husband and they walked and they sat down, and they died together. That’s love. That’s love, unrefined, at its most basic. And I’ll tell you, at that spot on that deck, seeing where that happened, it came across powerfully. I was there. It ceased to be a story, and I cried. Of course I cried. I think any of us that do that, and I have talked to many other people, including rough, tough old explorers like me I guess, and you do … it’s a place that confronts you with this. It is a museum. It’s a ghost town. It’s a powerful place. And it’s a reminder of why Titanic is special. But I can tell you, there’s other shipwreck as well where, if you know the stories, you get it. And a visit is a powerful one. "

It’s the history – the stories behind the artifacts – that make places like Titanic so special. Jim said that this anniversary year is a time to reflect on these stories and to reaffirm our commitment to protecting all of our special places in the sea for future generations.

[Jim Delgado] "This anniversary is a reminder that history is about people. That it’s not necessarily about the big events or the big names, but it’s about people. Ordinary people, who often times are caught up in beyond their control. And that’s life. It’s a reminder that in an event like this, as we mark its 100th anniversary, it’s an opportunity to learn. I don’t think we’ve fully learned every lesson that the Titanic had to offer. Indeed, had we, then the 20th century would have played out a lot differently. That’s also life. Finally, I think the anniversary for me is a reminder that events like this, as we commemorate them, are an opportunity for us to connect back to these places, these special places in the sea and renew our commitment to protect them for what they’re worth. Their value and importance to us as human beings, as Americans, as citizens in our own communities, and as family members. Whether it’s an important natural resource, our fisheries, whether it’s an important coral reef, or whether it’s a shipwreck that speaks powerfully to our experiences, there’s reasons why we set aside places in the ocean for conservation, protection, and to share with the public in a way that’s either renewable or non-exploitive. And for that, I look at this 100th anniversary as an opportunity to renew my commitment, not only to see Titanic protected and available for future generations to experience, but also other shipwrecks like her that are museums in the sea. "

I hope you join us for our next episode, when you’ll hear more details about Jim’s dives to the Titanic and the complicated story behind the quest to preserve and protect this famous shipwreck – a story that’s still being written. And you’ll also learn about new projects that are bringing the Titanic experience directly to you.

And that's all for this week. If you'd like to learn more, check our show notes for the links. You’ll find these on our website at oceanservice.noaa.gov.

If you have any questions about this episode, about our oceans, or about the National Ocean Service, send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.
And don't forget that you can visit us online at oceanservice.noaa.gov. There you'll find an accompanying print story about the study we discussed today, and you'll links to all of the offices and programs we've mentioned in this podcast.
This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.


Surveying on the National Mall (Episode 94)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/mar12/mw032912.mp3

Thu, 29 Mar 2012 07:52:26 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 94 (March 29, 2012)

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. I'm Troy Kitch.

Think of the Washington Monument on the National Mall ... not what it symbolizes or its history, but think of about the monument itself -- it's a really big pillar of rock. In fact, it's the tallest stone obelisk on the planet. Now, you'd think that something that weighs over 81,000 tons would stay put. But it's moving. And it's not alone ... over time, pretty much all land-based structures move to some extent because the Earth is a restless place.

No one knows this better than Dave Doyle, chief geodetic surveyor with NOAA's National Geodetic Survey. Today, we talk with Dave about an effort to measure not only the movement of the Washington Monument, but to survey a large area of land around the National Mall. Because much of the Mall was built on reclaimed land along the banks of the Potomac, many historic structures are slowly settling and shifting over time.

Now, if you live in the DC metro area, you may have heard about this survey in the news. That's because it's part of an effort to help the National Park Service repair the Washington Monument following the earthquake that unexpectedly shook the region in August 2011.

While the earthquake is a big part of what National Geodetic Survey folks are doing on the Mall, it's only part of the story.  Dave said that plans were actually in the works to survey in the Mall area even before the quake hit.

"We were in discussion with the National Park Service in looking at long-term monitoring of many of the memorials and monuments that are in the Mall area. We know that much of the Mall area -- particularly the region between the Washington Monument westward towards the Potomac River -- is built on fill, just gravel and sand. And, over time, some of those structures, because they are quite large and heavy, are settling a little bit."

Dave said that, in years past ... going all the way back to 1884 ... the National Geodetic Survey and its predecessor agency have carried out a number of high-accuracy surveys in the area, but what's different this time is the extent to which surveyors are reaching outside of the Mall area to areas that:

"we hope are a bit more stable, so that we get a big long-term picture of exactly what is going on in the Mall area in terms of settlements, subsidence, or possibly even uplift in some areas." 

So that's the big picture, but what about that earthquake?

"The earthquake just kind of happened, right in the middle of all of this. And, obviously, that got everybody's attention. There was of course some damage to the Washington Monument, and the National Park Service is obviously very concerned about that, so bringing in the Geodetic Survey as a part of their overall plan for looking at reconstruction efforts is a crucial part of their program."

As part of this plan, the National Geodetic Survey is doing what’s called a vertical control survey. The goal? To get a handle on whether there's been any significant vertical motion because of the earthquake at or near the monuments close to the Potomac ... the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and parts of the Smithsonian.

Dave said that most people would recognize a vertical control survey -- commonly called a leveling survey.

"As you drive down the road, and you see a surveyor on the side of the road holding a rod that looks like a big yardstick. It's a very common surveying procedure for determining height differences. We are doing what basically looks like the same thing, with just significantly more sophisticated equipment, so that we can now determine height differences from one place to the next at the sub-millimeter level."

What you won't see, unless you watch the surveyors doing their thing for hours on end -- something that I recently did down on the Mall -- is how painstakingly slow this process is, and how much work it is. 

A leveling survey basically goes like this:  the team starts by placing one rod with marks on it (the thing that looks like a yardstick) on a spot marked with a geodetic control disk, better known as a bench mark -- that's a place where a very accurate height has been previously measured and recorded. Another surveyor places a second rod some distance away. In between these two rods, a surveyor looks at the first rod with an instrument set up on a sturdy tripod that's a combination of a telescope and a spirit level vial.  This instrument, called a level, is used to read a height value from that first rod.

 Once that measure is taken, the surveyor pivots around and takes a measurement from the second rod in the opposite direction. Once that's done, the person holding the second rod stays put, and the person holding the first rod moves to a new location past the person holding the second rod. Then the surveyor with the level moves to a point between the two rods and takes measurements again. Then repeat, repeat, and repeat. You can think of it as a game of leapfrog ... which is exactly what the surveyors call this process of taking a survey line.  Oh, and once this survey line is completed, they go back and do it all over again to make sure their measurements are correct. These folks walk for miles and miles, shouldering all of their heavy equipment. So why is this necessary again?

"Everything is moving. Tectonically speaking, every place on the surface of the Earth is constantly moving. Now, by and large, we're pretty fortunate on most of the East Coast that we don't have too many significant events, like earthquakes that we see out in California and Western Washington, Oregon, Alaska, places like that. But nonetheless, the North American tectonic plate is moving laterally, and there are also issues of subsidence and uplift. Subsidence is caused locally in many areas by a number of different factors including sub-surface fluid withdrawal, sediment loading in rivers and bays and estuaries, and a number of other factors. So the surface is constantly changing, and many communities, particularly low-lying communities are affected by these minor but long-term changes in heights.

And when there's a rare event like an earthquake on the East Coast, well, that shakes things up.  So the leveling survey will help the Park Service understand how the ground underneath the monuments on the Mall changed as a result of the quake.

What comes after the leveling survey? Later, this year, the National Geodetic Survey will help the Park Service take a closer look at the Washington Monument in particular. Dave said that most of the damage appears to be rather high up, so Park Service experts are figuring out the best way to repair the stone obelisk, which will likely involve putting up scaffolding around the Monument.

"Once that effort is underway, we have already engaged with the Park Service, that they will allow us to place a GPS receiver back on top of the Washington Monument. We did this back in 1999 and 2000, and it was the very first time that any GPS work had been done on top of the Washington Monument, and since we have that older data and now we'll have new contemporary data, we'll be able to not only determine has their been any shift in the Monument, although we don't think it would be significant, but more importantly is there any tilt in the Monument, and that's been a more difficult process to determine. So later in the year, we will conduct observations using the Global Positioning System on the Washington Monument as well as a number of other technically and historically important monuments in the Mall area."

The leveling survey and the data collected by GPS is needed by the Park Service because they need to know as much as possible about the stability of the monuments on the Mall, mainly because it's their job to repair the monuments from any damage sustained by the earthquake. But beyond that, it's their job to ensure the monuments on the Mall always remain safe, stable, and sound. 

That's something the National Geodetic Survey can help with. Dave said that older leveling surveys conducted in the National Mall area have been high quality, but largely piecemeal ... small-scale efforts scattered around different areas and separated by many years. But he thinks that is now going to change, beginning with the larger-area survey now underway tied to the earthquake.

"The effort that we're engaged in here is to put all of these height data into what we refer to as a single epoch, that is one leveling set of observations that can be relied on in the future and, in working with the Park Service, we're in the process of creating an agreement with them where we will go down to Washington and perform this kind of a survey periodically, every two to three years depending on the needs of the Park Service."

Over time, this will give the Park Service better data to work with because the surveys will not only cover a large area, but the observations will all be made within the same time period ... during a single epoch ... that's key, remember, because the Earth is always shifting beneath our feet.

 "If we make some observations, say, between the Washington Monument to the White House and we don't make observations to the Capitol -- it's not that far away, but it does take time and it does take effort -- then what we have are discrete sets of measurements between various objects, but they're not all connected together at the same point in time. And because we know that some of these areas are undergoing vertical motions, and those vertical motions are small, maybe on the order of a few tenths of a millimeter a year or maybe as large as a millimeter or so a year, it's a small change, yet very significant when you add it up over time. And since these changes are so small, if you don't have all of your changes in the same epoch, it can be very difficult to make accurate assessments of what those changes are about.  If your data is parsed out over time, making decisions about, 'well, we think that something is moving at a particular rate,' becomes much more problematic."

So that's how more frequent, larger area leveling surveys will help the Park Service make better decisions about how to protect and repair the monuments on the Mall from the 2011 earthquake, and into the future.

"They will be able to rely on the data that we're providing as a part of their efforts to monitor. So, they're doing a wide range of investigations down there. They're doing some seismic studies and they've brought in a number of very specialized structural engineers to look at what's going on, so our observational data will be a part of that overall picture.  With this agreement that we're working on with the Park Service to go back and repeat these observations on a periodic basis, if we do that every three years for the next 20 or 30 years, now we'll certainly get a much, much better picture of exactly what's going on that the Park Service and others can rely on. The hope is -- and we're still working on this part -- the hope is that the areas around the Capitol and up around the White House where we're also be working were less impacted by the earthquake. We won't know that until the survey is complete, but we've got pretty strong evidence that nothing much happened in those areas.  So we're confident, at least right now, that we won't have to expand the range of this survey beyond that."

That was Dave Doyle, chief geodetic surveyor with NOAA's National Geodetic Survey. By the way, Dave said the agreement they’re working on with the National Park Service to survey more often and larger areas has a side benefit: it’ll also help the field staff at the National Geodetic Survey keep current on new technology and keep their leveling skills sharp. And since downtown DC is a short distance away from NOAA's campus in Silver Spring, Maryland, there won't be high travels costs involved.

And that's all for this week. If you'd like to learn more, check our show notes for the links. You’ll find these on our website at oceanservice.noaa.gov.

If you have any questions about this episode, about our oceans, or about the National Ocean Service, send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.
And don't forget that you can visit us online at oceanservice.noaa.gov. There you'll find an accompanying print story about the study we discussed today, and you'll links to all of the offices and programs we've mentioned in this podcast.
This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.


Solving a Sea Foam Mystery (Episode 93)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/mar12/mw031512.mp3

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 09:24:27 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 93 (March 15, 2012)

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. I'm Troy Kitch. We recently launched an Ocean Fact on our website about sea foam ... what is it, why does it form, and is it safe? Well, based on the feedback we received, it turns out that a lot of you were interested in this topic ... the general reaction was something like, "Yeah, what causes that foamy stuff on the beach?"

So today we thought we'd revisit an interview with Dr. Raphael Kudela, professor of ocean science at the University of California in Santa Cruz. This episode was originally broadcast back in March 2009 and it's about a study that solved a mystery. And, you guessed it, this mystery involves sea foam.

Now before we get started, let's talk briefly about what sea foam is. Seawater contains dissolved salts, proteins, fats, dead algae, and a bunch of other bits and pieces of organic matter. When the ocean is agitated by wind and waves, all of this stuff gets churned up ... and sea foam can form. Algal blooms are one common source of thick sea foams ... and these foams often result after blooms of algae die off, decay, and wash ashore where they're whipped up into a froth. Now most of the sea foam caused by algal blooms isn't harmful to humans or animals. But sometimes it can be. And sometimes, an otherwise harmless sea foam produced by algae can produce unforeseen affects. And that's where this story begins.

Back in 2007, hundreds of seabirds were found stranded or dead in California's Monterey Bay. The birds were coated with an unknown yellow-green substance that was eating away at the coating and oils on their feathers. Without this protection, the birds were vulnerable, starving, and suffering from hypothermia. When it was all over, a total of 550 birds were stranded and 207 died during this unexplained event.

What caused this? In a study partly funded by NOAA, scientists in California solved this puzzling case and published their findings in the online journal PLoS One back in 2009. Dr. Kudela, one of the authors of this study, said the cause wasn't readily apparent at the time.

DR. KUDELA: "Right about Thanksgiving of 2007 there started to be a series of bird strandings, so marine birds were coming into the bird rescue centers and they were exhibiting basically oil-spill type signs where they were coated with some material, they were having trouble cleaning themselves, and they were actually showing up on the beach dead. And they looked otherwise healthy."

Kudela is an associate professor of ocean science at the University of California in Santa Cruz. He's also an investigator funded by NOAA's Monitoring and Event Response of Harmful Algal Blooms program. A more common name for an algal bloom is a 'red tide,' and as it turned out, there was a big red tide happening in Monterey Bay at the time of the strandings. But scientists already knew that the algae turning the waters red in the Bay weren't the kind of organisms that produce toxins that could harm marine life.

So attention turned to another possible culprit: farther north, a ship named the Cosco Busan had recently struck the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco Bay, dumping 58,000 gallons of bunker oil into the ocean. Since it was the time of year when the seabirds were migrating South, they could have been exposed to oil spilled from this ship.

DR. KUDELA: "The very first thing we thought was that the birds had simply managed to get from San Francisco to Monterey, which is a little bit far, but not unreasonable."

In cases like this when there are large numbers of strandings and deaths, the California Department of Fish and Game will investigate if there is a human source--in this case, the Golden Gate spill. But after analyzing some of the Monterey birds, they found no evidence of petroleum products, fish oil, or any other sign that the yellow-green goo on the birds came from a human contaminant.

At that point, Dave Jessup, a researcher with the California Department of Fish and Game and the lead author of the new study, suggested that the researchers turn their attention back to the ongoing red tide in Monterey Bay.

DR. KUDELA: "He contacted a number of us and said 'We've got these birds coming in, we don't know why, but there's this big red tide going on. Do you think that could be part of the problem?' And we said, 'well, we've been keeping track of the red tide, but it's generally considered harmless. It's not a toxin producer, it shouldn't be causing any impact, but we'll go ahead and test'"

That test seemed to lead to another dead end. Although no toxins were identified, Jessup still had a hunch. He asked for more data about the red tide event.

DR. KUDELA: "We started sending him images of the red tide using satellite imagery, and we overlaid on that the coastal currents from high frequency radar. And we were very surprised when Dave came back and said, 'well, this is great, you're predicting where the bird strandings will occur about 48 hours in advance.'"

Part of imagery and data sent to Jessup came from a program called CalPReEMPT, the California Program for Regional Enhanced Monitoring for PhycoToxins. PhycoToxins are toxins produced by certain algae when they bloom into so-called 'red tide' events. NOAA is funding several projects like CalPReEMPT along the Pacific coast. These projects focus on making red tide monitoring and prediction better to help communities plan for and deal with environmental and health effects associated with these events.

When the red tide imagery was overlaid with the local currents, it clearly showed that the red tide and the bird strandings were somehow connected. The next step was to figure out just what that connection was. Kudela said the pivotal clue was something that they hadn't paid attention to earlier: sea foam. There was a lot of it in the Bay.

DR. KUDELA: "It looked very much like dirty cool whip, and it had that same sort of consistency. It's the normal sea foam you get during large algal blooms, but David noticed that where the birds were stranding, there was a lot of this sea foam and the foam was coming from the red tide, because there was a lot of red tide. And so they had this brilliant idea of testing it. "

Dr. Jessup's team collected some sea foam, and rubbed it on some healthy seabird feathers. Sure enough, the sea foam was causing the problem. While the algae wasn't toxic, the sea foam produced as a residue from the decaying algae had qualities similar to detergent. The foam would mat down the birds’ feathers and allow cold seawater to reach their skin. They were, in effect, freezing to death.

This is the first documented case linking foam produced by an algal bloom with the deaths and strandings of hundreds of birds.

Kudela said the conditions that produced the foam and brought the seabirds into contact with it was sort of a perfect storm. First, the number of red tides has been increasing every year ... and they've been occurring later and later into the year. In 2007, the red tide showed up in August and persisted all the way until late December. Second, surface currents were weak that year, keeping the red tide in one place. Third, seasonal swells moved into the Bay in late November, churning up the algae, and producing lots and lots of sea foam – just in time to snare flocks of migrating sea birds making their way through central California on their way to their winter feeding grounds.

DR. KUDELA: "And so those three events together ended up causing this huge bird mortality. And we went back and we looked at the number of strandings was about a factor of six to a factor ten higher than is normal if we look at the last ten years of bird stranding data. And so we had this kind of unusual event when everything came together and caused this impact that nobody has ever reported before. And so we've never seen in the literature that a foam event like this can impact marine birds, but it very clearly did."

But that doesn't necessarily mean it's the first time this has happened in Monterey Bay. There was a similar event about ten years earlier, but at the time the mystery of the deaths and strandings of seabirds went unsolved. When Kudela's team checked the records, it turned out there was a red tide in the area at the same time.

DR. KUDELA: "Ten years ago, it was a mystery still, and they said 'well, it's not a petroleum product and that's all we know, and so we're just going to chalk it up to some unknown event. And ten years later, 2007, because NOAA and other agencies have really been pushing that we need to answer these questions with all the disciplines working together, we've been able to go from saying it's an unknown mystery spill to saying this is exactly what happened and this has never been seen before, and tell the rest of the world that 'if you see an event like this, you should be looking for these things.'"

DR. KUDELA: "For the last ten or fifteen years, we've all been moving towards more interdisciplinary science. That's where the really exciting things are and that's where we're really going to solve some of these issues, and I think NOAA has done a fantastic job at taking the lead on that. If we look at something like harmful algal blooms, the biology is really important, but these organisms are in the ocean, so we can't ignore the physics, the chemistry, and the weather, and everything else, because if we do ignore that, we're never going to solve the problem because it's a complex and complicated problem."

The study of the mysterious seabird strandings not only brought researchers from many different fields together, it also brought together people and resources from state, federal, academic, and non-profit organizations. The authors of the study came from the California Department of Fish and Game, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, the Ocean Sciences Department and Institute for Marine Sciences at the University of California Santa Cruz, and Moss Landing Marine Laboratory.

(Ending)
That was Dr. Raphael Kudela helping us piece together the clues that led to his team's solving the mystery of the 2007 mass bird deaths in California. Dr. Kudela is a professor of ocean science at the University of California in Santa Cruz and an investigator funded by NOAA's Monitoring and Event Response of Harmful Algal Blooms program. The study was funded in part by NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science and the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System.

And that's all for this week.

If you have any questions about this episode, about our oceans, or about the National Ocean Service, send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.

And don't forget that you can visit us online at oceanservice.noaa.gov. There you'll find an accompanying print story about the study we discussed today, and you'll links to all of the offices and programs we've mentioned in this podcast.

Now let's bring in the ocean.

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.


Ocean Today Video (Episode 92)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/feb12/mw022312.mp4

Thu, 23 Feb 2012 09:06:32 -0500

Making Waves Ocean Today video

Join us as we kick off a new ocassional series to highlight some of the great videos available on NOAA's Ocean Today website. In this episode, we showcase a fantastic video about exploring the deep ocean.Episode permanent link and show notes

Restoring San Francisco Bay (Episode 91)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/feb12/mw020912.mp3

Thu, 09 Feb 2012 08:56:18 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 91 (Febuary 9, 2012)

You're listening to Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. I'm Troy Kitch.

When there’s a large oil spill along our coast, it’s a big deal. Plants, birds, and wildlife are injured or killed ... water and land is polluted … beaches are closed, fishing and boating is halted.

So who's in charge of cleaning up the mess in the aftermath of a spill? How do we figure out the damage caused by the spill? How do we make a claim against the party responsible for the spill? And how to do we restore the area back to health?

These are tough questions.  And it was for just these types of complex issues that the Oil Pollution Act was created in 1990 a year after the infamous Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.  There have been many, many spills since then ... and one of the bigger ones is our focus today. It happened back in 2007 when a container ship called the Cosco Busan struck a tower of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco Oakland Bay bridge and released 53,000 gallons of oil into the Bay.

After years of intensive studies to figure out the damages to plants, animals, people, and land in the Bay, last Fall a $44.4 million dollar legal settlement was reached with the companies responsible for the spill. The bulk of this -- $32.3 million -- is now going towards restoring natural resources injured by spilled oil and to improve Bay Area recreational opportunities affected by the spill.

Today, we’re going to talk about how this came to be. While we’re focusing on this one spill, you’ll get a good idea of how we deal as a nation with big spills wherever and whenever they occur along our coasts.

We're joined on the phone by Greg Baker and Natalie Cosentino-Manning. Greg is regional resource coordinator with NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration. Natalie is restoration program manager for the Southwest Region with NOAA's Fisheries Restoration Center. While they both work on the West Coast, I caught up with them at a conference they were attending in New Orleans where they were working on issues related to the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf.

Greg's up first. He began by explaining that when a spill happens, there's of course the cleanup part, but there's also the part about figuring out the damages caused by the oil. That's where natural resource trustees come in. Who are these people? They're men and women who work at protecting natural resources every day who join together as trustees at times of crisis when big spills happen – they come from states and tribes affected by the spill and from federal agencies like NOAA, the EPA, and the Department of the Interior.

[Greg Baker] "When a spill happens, there's a cleanup aspect to it, and then there's this other aspect of damages. And shouldn't the responsible party have to do more than just clean it up? Shouldn't they have to fix the losses that occurred as a result of the spill? And that's the role of the natural resource trustees -- simply to advocate for the fish and the birds and the things that, on their own, really can't file a claim against the company that caused the problem."

Trustees are charged with figuring out the damage done when big spills happen. This process – natural resource damage assessment- may take years of detailed scientific study.

But let's take a step back to the time right after the spill. The first thing that happens is that all of the people who are designated as trustees gather together as quickly as possible. Then they jump into action: first, they get a download of all the known details about the spill from the on-scene incident command -- the first responders. At this stage, trustees are trying to get a handle on the big picture: things like how much oil was spilled, has the spill stopped, where is the oil heading.

[Greg Baker] "And then we plan out what kind of data collection we need to conduct immediately. So what are the potential impacts given the size, the location, the season of the spill, what kinds of resources -- fish, birds, wildlife -- are we expecting are going to be impacted and, therefore, where should we plan to go out in the field and collect that information."

Then they head out. This initial look at damages can take weeks or a few months depending on the spill size. After this initial sweep is done, the trustees decide if the damages are big enough to warrant a long-term, full-blown damage assessment. Greg said that longer-term assessments are often needed because areas sometimes have to be studied over seasons and even over years to really understand what's going on.

That was the case with the Cosco Busan, which took two years to study. One of the things they looked at was how the spill affected different habitats in San Francisco Bay. One such habitat they looked at were rocky intertidal areas. They gathered together what they knew about the types and amounts of plants and animals that were living in these intertidal places pre-spill:

[Greg Baker] "And then we look at the condition of those areas after the spill, and take photographs, take measurements, take scientifically, statistically, rigorously-conducted studies of the before and after, and then to look also over time how quickly they recover, we can from that get a sense of what the impacts of the spill are and what kinds of actions would compensate for that."

Now, of course, an oil spill in a populated area like San Francisco Bay not only affects the environment, plants, and animals...the spill affects people, too. So natural resource trustees estimate the *human* cost from a spill, too. They do this with phone surveys, on-location interviews, statistical polling, and other sampling methods. The goal is to figure out the number of days of recreation people lost because of the spill, and the value that people place on, say, a trip the beach on a given day.

[Greg Baker] "And so those two things: the number of trips that were affected, and then the value each trip are multiplied together to come up with a dollar value for what we think the economic impact of the spill was to recreation."

So the assessment phase comes down to putting a price on what it will take to restore all the damages to fish, plants, and wildlife, to habitats, to shorelines, and to human recreation loss. For the Cosco Busan, the legal settlement came out to $44.4 million dollars, the biggest settlement to date since the Oil Protection Act came into force.   Greg said that assessment isn’t an easy process, but it works.

[Greg Baker] "While we’ve come a long way in recent years in trying to prevent spills from happening, spills will continue to happen. When a spill happens, it’s important not only to clean up the spill, and even not only to impose some fines or penalty on the party responsible for it.  But it’s important also to make the public whole and make the resources whole, so that everything is restored back to the way it was, and as it should have been had the spill not occurred. And that’s the role the damage assessment process plays, and sometimes it seems to take a long time and it may seem it’s somewhat a secretive process because it’s a legal process in addition to being an ecological study, but when all is said and done, I think it accomplishes what it sets out to do."

But, of course, reaching a settlement to restore an area damaged by an oil spill isn’t the end of the journey. We’re joined now by restoration project manager Natalie Cosentino-Manning for the rest of the story.

While Greg and his colleagues were studying the damage caused by the Cosco Busan spill, a parallel plan was evolving that used the data from the damage assessment to target restoration projects that would most effectively and quickly return the Bay to how it was before the spill.

But to get at what this really means, you have to first understand what we’re talking about when we talk about restoration. Natalie said that this can mean many things. It can mean bringing something back that was there before. It can mean rehabilitation – improving an area so a particular species you want to bring back to health can thrive. And it can mean remediation, or the removal of contaminants. So where to start? Well, a good place is to look at restoration projects that were already planned and were pretty much ready to go for San Francisco Bay before the spill happened.  She said it makes sense to build upon existing restoration projects that have already been vetted, rather than starting from scratch. Not only is this more efficient and less costly, but it’s also about getting started as soon as possible so damaged resources aren’t lost.

[Greg Baker] "There are a lot of restoration projects in San Francisco Bay that have kind of been in a holding pattern, primarily because of money, that have been built by a lot of local restoration groups, nonprofit organizations, scientists, and these are areas where historically there used to be marshes, for instance, or wetlands, and we know what the footprint of those wetlands look like, and with just a little bit of change in hydrology or adding a channel, you could bring back that wetland to what it used to look like. And so, when we have a lot of historical documentation, we know where we can actually do restoration."

And when there aren’t pre-existing projects to tap into, the public is another resource to turn to for potential restoration projects.  Natalie said that they know they want to have a project for restoring native oysters and eelgrass in the Bay, so they’re putting out public Requests for Proposals to meet goals that the trustees have laid out in the damage assessment and restoration plan.  The idea, she said, is to try and restore the mosaic of habitat types that were injured by the spill.

Many of the projects will also be aimed at improving human use and recreation in the Bay.  A lot of the time, in fact, Natalie said that the biggest chunk of the settlement for a spill is lost human use, so restoration is also about compensating the public for the inability to enjoy the resources in an area because of spilled oil. 

So for a big spill like Cosco Busan, a question that many people have – namely the people who live in the area – is this: when are the restoration projects going to get going?

[Natalie Cosentino-Manning] "So right now we’re still revising the restoration plan. We have gone out as a draft to the public. We have public comments, so we’re addressing those comments, and then once we get that final out, then we’ll be able to move the funds over and start putting money towards restoration. So we’re hoping for some of those projects that already have details about, hopefully going out this spring or early summer, and start putting some projects on the ground. Other projects that require a little bit more information or if we’re going to be going out to the public, that may be either towards the end of this year or maybe even next year, depending."

Who does the work for each restoration activity? Well, it depends. Natalie said that, for instance, one region damaged by the spill was in a National Park area, so the Park Service may have the people and the staff to do the job.  The Cosco Busan spill also affected NOAA’s Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, and staff there may do some restoration work in concert with sanctuary volunteers. In most cases, she said, requests for proposals are sent out to seek companies that specialize in restoration.

[Natalie Cosentino-Manning] “And so we’ll get an array of restoration practitioners who will apply for those funds and we would look at their credibility in doing that type of restoration, how they would do it, and if they have the permits, and those types of things.”

And, last but not least, many people who live around the Bay are also likely to get involved.

[Natalie Cosentino-Manning] “I’ve worked on a lot of restoration projects in San Francisco Bay in which the community is involved. We have a lot of community-based restoration projects. And a lot of times, those folks are still interested in working on restoration regardless of who’s implementing it, so there’ll be a volunteer source that may want to come out and assist with doing the restoration project, for getting out and feeling good about doing something for the resources.  So it really is a mix.”

So for the Cosco Busan, like other big spills around the country, the assessment phase, reaching a settlement, drawing up a restoration plan, incorporating public comments, and ultimately carrying out the projects to restore an area is a process that takes years. Natalie agreed with Greg Baker that this is one of the hardest things to convey – that serving as trustees on behalf of the environment for big oil spills is a tough job. And to do it right, well, it takes time.

[Natalie Cosentino-Manning] “It’s a process and we all need to go through it. I know a lot of people wanted to see results right away and it’s difficult to do. We at NOAA really want to do our best in documenting what was the injured resources and to what degree, and what are the appropriate restoration projects, and all of that takes a little bit of time. We’re working our hardest and trying to do our due diligence in making sure that the nation’s resources are properly accounted for and then properly restored, and sometimes that takes a little bit longer than what most people want. We’re moving forward with some great restoration projects, and we’re getting there very soon here.”

I wrapped up my talk with Natalie by asking her for her personal thoughts about the years she’s spent working on the Cosco Busan spill assessment and restoration plan for the Bay.  She said … well, let’s just listen in …

[Natalie Cosentino-Manning] “I’ve worked along the Bay in San Francisco for the last twelve years. I used to be an algae expert, where I would go out and be on my hands and knees right on the Bay shores and coastal shores, and it’s such an amazing area, and it’s so rich and diverse, that it was heartbreaking for me when the spill happened because I knew personally of many restoration projects that we had put on the ground. And I know how much effort we’ve had our volunteers and the folks that we worked with at local universities to implement those restoration projects, and the fear of losing them was heartbreaking. So coming to this point, seeing the restoration plan coming to fruition … once that first restoration project gets on the ground, it’s going to be a great day."

I’d like to thank Greg Baker and Natalie Cosentino-Manning for taking the time to talk with me for this podcast episode. Greg is regional resource coordinator with NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration. Natalie is restoration program manager for the Southwest Region with NOAA's Fisheries Restoration Center.

And that’s all for this week.

If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.  You can find us on the web at oceanservice.noaa.gov … and we’re on Facebook and Twitter. Our handle is usoceangov.
You’ve been listening to Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.  We will return in two weeks. 


Deepwater Horizon Update (Episode 90)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/jan12/mw012612.mp3

Thu, 26 Jan 2012 08:26:47 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 90 (January 26, 2012)

You're listening to Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. I'm Troy Kitch.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may be long over, but much work continues to clean up the region and to better understand the harms caused by the estimated five million barrels of oil that discharged into the Gulf. Today, we’re going to look at a new NOAA-led study that independently looked at how fast gases and oil were leaking into the Gulf before the wellhead was capped in July 2010 … and we’re going to tell you about a draft plan now out for public comment that lists initial projects to receive funding from the billion dollar Early Restoration Agreement announced by the spill Natural Resource Trustees and BP back in April 2011.

(New Study)
First, let’s take a look at the new study. NOAA scientists and academic colleagues have independently estimated how fast gases and oil were leaking during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill by combining chemical measurements in the deep ocean, in the oil slick, and in the air.
This information about the transport and fate of different components of the spilled gas and oil mixture could help resource managers and others experts who are trying to better understand environmental exposure levels.
The new chemistry-based spill rate estimate came out to an average of 11,130 tons of gas and oil compounds per day. That’s very close to the official average leak rate estimate of about 11,350 tons of gas and oil per day (that’s about 59,200 barrels of liquid oil every day during the spill). That official estimate was based on things like video flow analysis, pipe diameter, and fluid flow calculations.

Authors of the new study found that the leaking gas and oil quickly separated into three major pools: the underwater plume about 3,300-4,300 feet below the surface, the visible surface slick, and an airborne plume of evaporating chemicals. Each pool had a very different chemical composition.
The team found that the underwater plume was enhanced in gases known to dissolve readily in water. This included essentially all of the lightweight methane (better known as natural gas) and benzene (a known carcinogen) present in the spilling reservoir fluid. The surface oil slick was dominated by the heaviest and stickiest components, which neither dissolved in seawater nor evaporated into the air. And the airborne plume of chemicals contained a wide mixture of intermediate-weight components of the spilled gas and oil.  
The visible surface slick represented about 15 percent of the total leaked gas and oil; the airborne plume accounted for about another 7 percent. About 36 percent remained in a deep underwater plume, and 17 percent was recovered directly to the surface through a marine riser. The remaining 25 percent of the total leaked gas and oil was not directly accounted for by the chemical data the team analyzed. 

The new study, Chemical data quantify Deepwater Horizon hydrocarbon flow rate and environmental distribution, was published online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.
We’ll have links to that study in our show notes at oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast.php.

(Early Restoration Plan)

If you would like to contribute to official plans to restore natural resources damaged by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, here’s your chance. The Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees are now seeking public input on the Deepwater Horizon Draft Phase I Early Restoration Plan & Environmental Assessment released last month.

The plan represents a first step toward restoring resources injured by the spill. It proposes a series of initial projects to receive funding from the billion-dollar Early Restoration Agreement announced by the Natural Resource Trustees and BP back in April 2011.  Early restoration actions are meant to begin the restoration process before the natural resource damage assessment process is complete and the full extent of the harm to the Gulf ecosystem is known. 

The eight proposed projects include two each in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi.  These e arly r estoration projects include actions that help lay the groundwork for rebuilding coastal marshes, restoring wetlands and barrier islands, conserving sensitive habitats for wildlife and improving people’s use of natural resources in the Gulf of Mexico.

Your input is very important to this process. You can weigh in on the plan at one of the public meetings to be held in Gulf Coast communities and Washington, DC, this month and in February. And you can also comment online through February 14. We’ll have a link to the meeting schedule and to the place to go to comment online. As always, check our show notes.

(Closing)
And that’s it for this week.  

If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.  You can find us on the web at oceanservice.noaa.gov … and we’re on Facebook and Twitter. Our handle is usoceangov.

You’ve been listening to Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.  We will return in two weeks. 


Top Five Ocean Facts (Episode 89)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/jan12/mw011212.mp3

Thu, 12 Jan 2012 07:48:06 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 89 (January 12, 2012)

You're listening to Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. I'm Troy Kitch.

I thought I’d kick off the New Year with something a little different for this episode. Today, we’re going to highlight our Ocean Facts. What? Haven’t heard of our famous Ocean Facts? Well, I don’t know how famous they are … but they are quite popular with visitors to the National Ocean Service website. Right now we have over 180 facts about our ocean, and the list is growing every week. Now, these aren’t simple one-sentence answers to ocean questions. Each Ocean Fact provides a detailed answer to a specific question like ‘why is the ocean blue’ or ‘what’s the difference between tides and currents,’ each fact is accompanied by an image or two (a few even have movies), and each fact has links to other sites  you can get more information.

You’ll find facts about ocean life, geology, health, transportation, ocean observation, and ocean management … so if you’re interested in the ocean, studying the ocean, or have a specific question you’d like to answer about the ocean … chances are you’ll find a fact to get you started on our website at oceanservice.noaa.gov. And if you don’t find the answer you’re looking for? Send an email to nos.info@noaa.gov and we’ll add it to the list.

So … to give you a taste of what you’ll find on our site, here are the top five most-popular Ocean Facts as determined by visitors to our site.  Keep in mind that I’m only going to give you the bare-bone answers to these questions. Don’t forget that you can read the full answers to these and all of our Ocean facts at more at oceanservice.noaa.gov. And we even have a syndicated feed for you to subscribe to so you’ll always be alerted when we launch a new one. OK, here we go.

Number Five: What’s the different between a dolphin and a porpoise?

People use the terms dolphins, porpoises, and whales to describe marine mammals belonging to the order Cetacea and many often use these terms interchangeably. The orca, or killer whale, for example, is actually the largest member of the dolphin family.

Dolphins are by far more prevalent than porpoises. Most scientists agree that there are 32 dolphin species (plus five closely related species of river dolphin) and only six porpoise species.

So what’s the difference? It essentially comes down to their faces, their fins, and their figures. Dolphins tend to have prominent, elongated “beaks” and cone-shaped teeth, while porpoises have smaller mouths and spade-shaped teeth. The dolphin’s hooked or curved dorsal fin (the one in the middle of the animal’s back) also differs from the porpoise’s triangular dorsal fin. Generally speaking, dolphin bodies are leaner, and porpoises’ are portly.

Dolphins are also more talkative than porpoises. Dolphins make whistling sounds through their blowholes to communicate with one another underwater. Scientists are pretty sure that porpoises do not do this, and some think this may be due to structural differences in the porpoise’s blowhole.

Dolphins and porpoises have many similarities, one of which is their extreme intelligence. Both have large, complex brains and a structure in their foreheads, called the melon, with which they generate sonar (sound waves) to navigate their underwater world.

Number Four: What is the Bermuda triangle?

This one will take a little longer to explain.

For decades, the Atlantic Ocean’s fabled Bermuda Triangle has captured the human imagination with unexplained disappearances of ships, planes, and people.

The Bermuda Triangle is an area roughly formed between Miami, Puerto Rico, and Bermuda. Some speculate that unknown and mysterious forces account for unexplained disappearances, like extraterrestrials capturing humans for study; others say this area has something to do with the lost continent of Atlantis; still others say there are vortices in this region that suck objects into other dimensions.  Some explanations are more grounded in science, if not in evidence.  These include oceanic flatulence (yes, there is such a thing … that’s when methane gas erupts from ocean sediments) and disruptions in geomagnetic lines of flux.

Well, it turns out that environmental considerations could explain many, if not most, of the disappearances.  The majority of Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes pass through the Bermuda Triangle, and in the days prior to improved weather forecasting, these dangerous storms claimed many ships.  Also, the Gulf Stream can cause rapid, sometimes violent, changes in weather.  Added to this, the large number of islands in the Caribbean Sea creates many areas of shallow water that can be treacherous to ship navigation. And there is some evidence to suggest that the Bermuda Triangle is a place where a “magnetic” compass sometimes points towards “true” north, as opposed to “magnetic” north. 

The U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard contend that there are no supernatural explanations for disasters at sea.  Their experience suggests that the combined forces of nature and human fallibility outdo even the most incredulous science fiction. They add that no official maps exist that delineate the boundaries of the Bermuda Triangle. The U. S. Board of Geographic Names does not recognize the Bermuda Triangle as an official name and does not maintain an official file on the area.

 Number Three: What’s the difference between an ocean and a sea?

Many people use the terms "ocean" and "sea" interchangeably when speaking about the ocean, but there is a difference between the two terms when speaking of geography (that’s the study of the Earth's surface).
Seas are smaller than oceans and are usually located where the land and ocean meet. And typically, seas are partially enclosed by land.  

Number two: How many oceans are there?

This one is kind of a trick question. There’s only one global ocean, but the ocean is usually geographically divided into the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic, and Southern (or Antarctic) Oceans.

Of course, these five oceans are not separate bodies of water; they form one continuous oceanic mass.  The Pacific, the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans are known as the three major oceans.  The Southern Ocean is the 'newest' ocean. The boundaries of this ocean were set in 2000 by the International Hydrographic Organization, of which the U.S. is a member … our nation is represented by the National Ocean Service’s Office of Coast Survey.

Number one: How deep is the ocean?

The average depth of the ocean is about 4,267 meters (that’s 14,000 feet). The deepest part of the ocean is called the Challenger Deep and is located beneath the western Pacific Ocean in the southern end of the Mariana Trench, which runs several hundred kilometers southwest of the U.S. territorial island of Guam. Challenger Deep is about 11,030 meters (or 36,200 feet) deep. It’s named after the British survey ship Challenger II, which first surveyed the trench in 1951.

And it for this week. You can find many, many, many more Ocean Facts at oceanservice.noaa.gov. You can browse through them by category, search for the fact topic you’re interested in, and subscribe to our Ocean Facts feed. And don’t forget to let us know if there’s an ocean-related question you’d like to have answered.

If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.  You can find us on the web at oceanservice.noaa.gov … and on Facebook and Twitter. Our handle is usoceangov.

And that’s all for this episode of Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.  We will return in two weeks.


Japanese Tsunami Marine Debris (Episode 88)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/dec11/mw121511.mp3

Fri, 16 Dec 2011 08:30:34 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 88 (December 15, 2011)

You're listening to Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. I'm Troy Kitch.

This Spring's devastating earthquake in Japan registered in at a magnitude of 9.0, ranking it among the top five largest earthquakes in the world since modern recording-keeping began in 1900.

The quake triggered powerful tsunami waves, reaching heights of up to 24 feet high and traveling miles inland along the Japanese coast near the epicenter.

As the tsunami receded, mountains of debris were carried back into the sea. Boats, buildings, appliances, plastics, metals, wood, rubber … all shapes and sizes of debris either sank near the shore or floated away.

Today, we're going to take a look at what we know about the fate of the debris that washed into the ocean last March. How much is out there? Where is it now? When is it going to make landfall? Is it dangerous?

To help us answer these questions, we're joined on the phone by Carey Morishige, the Pacific Islands Regional Coordinator for the NOAA Marine Debris Program. I reached Carey at her office in Honolulu.

I began by asking the obvious question: where is all of this marine debris now, nine months after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami?

[Carey Morishige] "We don't know exactly where. NOAA worked with NASA to get satellite imagery very soon after the tsunami and we were in fact able to track the debris field -- some of the pictures that folks have probably seen in the media of the large patches of wood and other debris. Those existed very soon after the tsunami, but as of April 14, we were not able to track that debris anymore because of the fact that it dispersed so much, the satellite imagery we have access to right now is not able to detect a single piece of debris floating in the ocean."

Carey said that NOAA has received a few floating debris sightings from ships – things like plastic bottles, appliances, and wooden boxes – but because of the way the debris has dispersed in the ocean over time:

[Carey Morishige] "We don't have a good understanding at this point of the debris types that are still afloat out in the North Pacific, as well as the quantity of debris that might still be floating."

And because we know so little, she said it's really hard to say how dangerous this marine debris might be.

[Carey Morishige] "I could attempt to characterize how dangerous this debris is if we knew better what type of debris was coming. We're preparing for all types of debris, and for human health and safety, we will continually be monitoring things such as radioactivity, though radioactivity of this debris is highly unlikely because it was washed out prior to the Fukishima disaster. We'll also be on the look out for any debris items that contain hazardous materials, and we're working on protocols to deal with all of that. But without a good understanding of the specific types of debris that are still out there, I really can't estimate the danger of it."

If you're surprised to learn that we know so little about the tsunami debris, you have to bear in mind that the Pacific Ocean is truly massive – it covers a third of the globe.

And the ocean is a really dynamic environment. If you have a mental image of debris from the tsunami floating along in a giant patch, it's not like that at all. While there are certainly chunks of debris afloat, it's spread over a vast area … and some of it is floating below the surface, and a lot of it has likely been broken into small bits by the power of sun, sea, and weather.

Here's what we know for sure at this point: the path of the debris is largely determined by currents and wind. And is it travels along, it's fanning out into a wider and wider area.

Carey said that knowledge of ocean currents, along with other variables such as historical winds, and weather, have allowed scientists to create sophisticated computer models to predict roughly where the leading edge of this marine debris is likely to be at a given time.

"It's not real-time, it's a computer model that uses algorithms to try and predict the movement of marine debris."

Here's a rough idea how that movement works. If you look at the North Pacific Ocean, there are four major currents that form what's called the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. These currents form a giant circular flow – from Japan across the North Pacific to California … down the California coast, then back across the Pacific closer to the equator, and finally back up towards Japan. Carey said this is generally the path that the debris is following:

[Carey Morishige] "… it's going to go from Japan, across the North Pacific, skimming the top of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, down the West Coast with the California currents, and then back across the North Pacific towards the main Hawaiian islands."

How quickly will this happen? Well, Carey said the computer models predict the debris will likely reach the California coast sometime in 2013, then head back across toward the main Hawaiian islands, reaching the islands sometime around 2015. But the first landfall for the debris is imminent.

[Carey Morishige] "…the debris is quite dispersed at this time, but it is making its way across the North Pacific current and it's fairly close to the Northwest Hawaiian Islands." (c1)

How close? She said that debris is expected to reach the Northwest Hawaiian Islands as early as Winter this year – pretty much right now. So now the challenge is to detect it.

[Carey Morishige] "The best possible information we could get would be real-time information from overflights or from very high resolution satellite imagery – and then we would know for sure that what our models are predicting is actually where the debris is ending up."

This is another case where it helps to get a handle on just how big the Pacific Ocean is. When you think of Hawaii, you probably think of the chain of inhabited islands that stretch from the Big Island of Hawaii to Kauai – the main Hawaiian islands. But where the debris is expected to soon hit land is in the northern reaches of the Northwest Hawaiian islands … a chain of uninhabited islands that stretch for 1200 nautical miles to the northwest of the main islands -- that's about the distance from San Diego, California, to Vancouver in British Columbia.

It's not an area that's easy to get to.

[Carey Morishige] "It is more complicated than that. Because it's a protected area and it's so far away from the inhabited main Hawaiian islands, or the West Coast [of the U.S.] or really anywhere … the furthest archipelego from a big land mass, I think in the world. You know, logistics for debris removal, debris prevention efforts are logistically very difficult and because of the travel distance to get to the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, very expensive."

So it's complicated, but that's not to say that nothing is being done. I asked Carey if she could sum up how this problem is being addressed. She said there are several pieces to the puzzle – there's the modeling to try to figure out where the debris is going; there's the observational piece to nail down where the debris actually is; and then there's the planning effort to address what to do once debris reaches shores. Right now, efforts are of course focused on the area in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands where the marine debris is likely to hit first. The role of NOAA's Marine Debris program is to help keep everyone moving in the same direction to meet this challenge.

[Carey Morishige] "So we're working with a lot of regional partners out here, including other NOAA offices and programs, obviously the co-trustees of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, which includes U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA as well as the state of Hawaii. EPA has also been involved, various state agencies, and a lot of the academia as well as industry is interested in getting involved as well. The numbers that have gone out in the media about 20 million tons of debris – those numbers are unfounded. We don't know how much is out there. We don't have a good understanding of what types, but we are doing everything possible to build that understanding, and at the same time, not sitting on our hands and starting those planning efforts now."

Carey said that the public can help address this problem, too. If you happen to be traveling in a vessel anywhere in the North Pacific Ocean and spot floating marine debris, the Marine Debris office has an email address mdsightings@gmail.com where you can report what you saw, when you saw it, and where it's located. We'll have that address in our show notes.

And here's another way you may be able to help. For those who live anywhere along the West Coast, Hawaii, or Alaska, the Marine Debris program is looking for help to track marine debris over time along the shoreline. In a nutshell, this involves regular visits to an area to carefully catalog the marine debris you find. If you're interested in joining this effort, you can send a note to that same email address – Mdsightings@gmali.com -- to request a copy of NOAA's marine debris shoreline survey field guide.

So this is certainly a complicated problem … and one that will be with us for many years to come. What's the worst case scenario? Well, there's a possibility that boats and other heavy objects could wash ashore in sensitive areas, damage coral reefs, or interfere with navigation in Hawaii and along the West Coast. The best scenario? That most of the debris will break up, disperse and eventually degrade, sparing coastal areas.

Either way, Carey stressed that this isn't a one-time problem. Marine debris is a really big ongoing global issue. She said in the state of Hawaii:

[Carey Morishige] "We see marine debris coming ashore on all of our islands every single day. So it's just not this one-off event and we don't typically get marine debris and now we are. We always get marine debris. It has been a problem before the tsunami and likely will be a problem after all of this tsunami debris."

So marine debris is with us stay … and the debris from the Japanese tsunami won't go away completely … even in the best-case scenario. The good news is that NOAA and its partners know quite a lot about marine debris and its challenges, experts are working around the clock to meet this problem head-on more about, and continue working to protect our natural resources and coasts.

That was Carey Morishige, the Pacific Islands Regional Coordinator for the NOAA Marine Debris Program. I reached Carey at her office in Honolulu.

Visit us at marinedebris.noaa.gov for more on the Japanese tsunami marine debris program, and to learn much more about the global marine debris problem.

We also hope you'll visit us at oceanservice.noaa.gov.

If you have any questions about this week's podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.
This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.  See you in two weeks.


New Red Tide Research (Episode 87)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/nov11/mw111011.mp3

Thu, 10 Nov 2011 08:28:40 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 87 (November 10, 2011)

You’re listening to Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service. I’m Troy Kitch.

It’s hard to believe that tiny little aquatic plants can wreak human-scale economic havoc, but it’s happened again and again in recent history in the Gulf of Maine.

In 2005, harvesting closures caused by red tide resulted in $23 million dollars in lost shellfish sales in Massachusetts and Maine alone.

Again in 2008, red tide shut down shellfish beds for months in the waters off Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine.

And in 2009, red tide resulted in the closure of 97 percent of Maine’s coastal shellfish beds and 100 percent of offshore beds in the Gulf of Maine’s federal waters during peak-harvesting season.
New England red tide is caused by an algal species called Alexandrium. At times when Alexandrium blooms out of control, these tiny plants can produce toxins that lead to serious illnesses in people who eat poisoned shellfish – one of the most well-known illnesses is paralytic shellfish poisoning. Since these potent neurotoxins readily accumulate in clams, mussels, oysters, and other shellfish that filter ocean water through their gills as they gather food, red tide outbreaks routinely lead to the closure of shellfish harvesting until the algal blooms go away … and until toxin levels dissipate in the tissues of affected shellfish.

Now for some backstory. Most algae are harmless … They’re actually really important because they form the base of the entire marine food web. But at times when they bloom out of control, some types of algae discolor the water or produce powerful toxins that kill fish and make shellfish dangerous to eat.
As the name ‘red tide’ suggests, some blooms of algae turn the water a deep red color. A classic example is the Florida red tide. But blooms aren’t always red. –they come in many forms and many colors … and some have no color at all. To make it even more confusing not all blooms that discolor the water produce toxins and not all toxic algae discolor the water. That’s why scientists prefer the term harmful algal bloom, or HAB, so we focus on the harm rather than the color.

Once algae turn toxic they can wreak havoc. They threaten marine ecosystems, they’re bad for human health, and they cost local and regional economies millions of dollars every year through fishery closures, and recreation and tourism losses because vast swaths of water have to be closed off until the threat passes.

Now back to the Gulf of Maine, where one of the most damaging harmful algal bloom varieties is caused by a species called Alexandrium. The full name is Alexandrium fundyense. Over the years, scientists have made great strides in bloom prediction and monitoring in this region, but what’s clear is the red tide problem is here to stay and it seems to be growing in magnitude in recent years.
So while we can’t control these large outbreaks of toxic algae, we can try to create better early warning and detection systems.

Last week, scientists at the University of Maine were awarded a little over $200 thousand dollars from NOAA for the first year of what is expected to be a three-year project to investigate methods to provide early warning detection of red tide blooms in the Gulf of Maine.

The goal of this project is to use inexpensive monitoring devices to pinpoint areas for targeted closures of shellfish harvests, so smaller areas can be closed off to harvesting. Without a system like this in place, huge swaths – and sometimes nearly all harvesting areas – have to be closed down until the threat passes, because we don’t know exactly where those areas are where Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning is a direct threat.

This research effort is part of a larger package of NOAA grants totaling over $1.6 million dollars to create seasonal and weekly toxic algal bloom forecasts that are more accurate and provide better early warning of toxic blooms in the Gulf of Maine.

There are two additional components to this larger package of grants. The first is focused on preventing, controlling, or mitigating the effect red tides have in the Gulf. Over the next four years, the goal of this effort is to transfer to NOAA seasonal and weekly bloom forecast models, developed by scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and North Carolina State University with earlier NOAA funding. NOAA will then issue red tide forecasts for the Gulf of Maine similar to how we issue weather forecasts.

The other part of this funding package is focused on monitoring and event response for red tides. This project will deploy state of the art sensors for Alexandrium cells and toxins in the Gulf of Maine over five years to improve the accuracy of red tide predictions and provide better early warning.
These sensors will robotically sample the water, analyze those samples for red tide cells and toxins, and send these data to shore, giving the shellfish industry and public health and resource managers near real-time information to guide their decisions and actions.

The research for all of these projects will be carried out at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution with research partners at North Carolina State University, the University of Maine, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. More than 40 percent of the funding directly supports university and private sector jobs for people working to protect New England fisheries from these devastating blooms. Funding will also open new markets for ocean observing technologies manufactured in Massachusetts.

NOAA’s investment in these two projects is aimed at creating more-accurate forecasting of red tide to help better protect public health and jobs and coastal economies in New England. State and local shellfish managers and the shellfish industry use these warnings to prepare for severe seasons, to protect human health, and to lessen economic losses.

These research projects were selected for funding through national peer-reviewed competitions run by NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science. Congress provides NOAA the authority to run these programs through the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act. We’ll have links to more information in our show notes.

Now let’s wrap it up with an Ocean Fact. Why do harmful algal blooms occur?
While we know of many factors that may contribute to the formation of harmful algal blooms - commonly called red tides – how these factors come together to create a ‘toxic bloom’ of algae are not well understood which is why further research is needed.

Studies indicate that many algal species flourish when environmental conditions, such as salinity, temperature, nutrients, lack of algae-eating animals, are favorable.
In other cases, red tides may be linked to nutrient over enrichment or eutrophication. This occurs when phosphorus and nitrogen) from sources such as sewage, lawns and farmlands flow downriver to the sea and build up at a rate that ‘overfeeds’ the algae that exist normally in the environment.

Some harmful algal blooms have also been reported in the aftermath of natural phenomena like sluggish water circulation, unusually high water temperatures, and extreme weather events such as hurricanes, floods, and drought.

Rigorous state monitoring prevents people from getting sick by eating shellfish containing toxins produced by these algae, although occasionally people harvest shellfish in areas that are not monitored or are closed and get sick or die.
In the case of the Florida red tide, which is a different species than the red tide in Maine, airborne algal toxins may also cause breathing problems and, in some cases, trigger asthma attacks in some people.

Red tides also pack a huge economic punch. By some estimates, harmful algal blooms cause about $82 million dollars a year in due to commercial fisheries losses, public health costs, recreation and tourism impacts and coastal monitoring and management..

NOAA continues to provide funding and conduct research to monitor and study harmful algal blooms around the country to better detect and forecast the location of these natural phenomena to provide coastal communities advance warning.

And that’s the NOS news for this week. But before we go, I want to tell you about one more thing.
One of the challenges we face in the National Ocean Service is telling people like you what we do. And that’s because we do so many different things. It’s hard to sum up in a sentence or two. Here’s the big picture: the work that people at the National Ocean Service do is about protecting our ocean and coasts. And it’s about providing services and tools that keep commerce moving safely and efficiently around our waterways. Why devote so much time and energy to our coasts and coastal ocean areas? Because that’s where about half of us live, and it’s the area where about 57 percent of our nation’s Gross Domestic Product is generated.

So how about some specific examples. Well, as it turns out, we just released our annual round-up of all the big things we did in Fiscal Year 2011. You’ll find it a link to it at oceanservice.noaa.gov. It’s a great snapshot of the kinds of science, tools, and services that NOS delivers to the nation. I hope you check it out.

If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service. See you in two weeks.


The value of Hawaii's Coral Reefs (Episode 86)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/oct11/mw102711.mp3

Thu, 27 Oct 2011 09:13:27 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 86 (October 27, 2011)

You're listening to Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. I'm Troy Kitch.

Did you know that coral reefs rival rainforests in the amount of biodiversity they support? Thousands of different kinds of creatures rely on them for survival.

They're also among the oldest ecosystems on the planet. And even though individual coral polyps are really tiny, these little creatures build structures over hundreds and even thousands of years that can grow so large that they're visible from space.

Here are some other points to ponder. Coral ecosystems feed millions of people. They protect coastlines from storms and erosion. And the provide jobs and income to millions of people from fishing, recreation, and tourism.

So how do you place a value on this? Most of us would probably agree that corals are good to have around and beautiful to look at, but how would we quantify the economic value of coral reefs?

Well, a new NOAA study that focused on the value of coral reefs around the main Hawaiian islands did just that. How did the study arrive at a dollar value of the reefs around the main islands of our 50th state? In effect, they asked you. 

The study is based on a scientifically-developed national Internet survey of more than 3,200 households – that's a representative sample of all U.S. residents. The survey included a sampling of everyone, not just Hawaiians or coastal dwellers. 

And here's the bottom line: American people have expressed that the annual total economic value they hold for the coral reefs of the main Hawaiian Islands is $33.57 billion dollars.

Here's how the study arrived at that result. From June through October 2009, the web-based survey allowed the public to express its preferences and values for protection and restoration of the coral reef ecosystems around the main Hawaiian Islands. The study focused on total economic value. That includes passive use values -- things like the willingness to pay to protect the coral reef ecosystem for future generations. And it includes direct-use values -- things like snorkeling over a coral reef or eating fish that are supported by coral reef ecosystems.

The study team presented survey participants with two specific measures to protect and restore coral reef ecosystems. One measure aimed at reducing negative effects to coral ecosystems from fishing, and another to repair reefs damaged by ships.

A panel of independent university and private scientists, from both Hawaii and the continental US, provided facts to the survey design team about the Hawaiian coral reef ecosystems and provided estimates of how the coral reef ecosystems would change in response to the two possible management options. This background was used to develop descriptions and illustrations to give survey respondents a clear understanding of what they were being asked to value and how the ecosystems would change as a result of these two types of protection measures.

So why would we want to place a dollar value on how the American public values coral reefs around the Hawaiian islands?

Well, this is really important to know for decision makers to help weigh the benefits and costs of NOAA's investments to protect coral reef ecosystems. Knowing the total economic value for coral reefs is vital in estimating the benefits of restoring the ecosystem and in damage assessment cases where the State or Federal governments sue responsible parties for damages to the coral reef ecosystems.

Now it's important to point out that there are no plans to increase no-fishing zones around the Main Hawaiian Islands based on this study. This study valued the predicted changes in the goods and services provided by the coral reef ecosystems, not the management strategy. In other words, this study is a science product, not a policy or management product.

The main Hawaiian Islands consist of eight volcanic islands that range in age from active lava flows on the east side of the Big Island to seven million-year-old Kauai. Despite their economic significance, reefs near urbanized areas, such as Honolulu, Wailuku, and Kahului, have experienced increasing stress from ever-increasing population pressures.

The national survey was funded by NOAA and the National Science Foundation, and was part of a larger effort to address the issue of Internet bias. The survey was conducted through two Internet panels; one recruited participants using controlled random digit dialing telephone surveys and the other using standard U.S. Bureau of the Census methods of randomly selecting households and going to each household to recruit participants via face-to-face interviewing.

Check our show notes for links to the full study if you'd like to learn more. And take some time to visit our website this week at oceanservice.noaa.gov. This wasn't the only coral news coming out of the NOAA this week, so if you're a coral fan ... you won't want to miss it.

And that's all for this episode. If you have any questions about this week's podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.  See you in two weeks.


Building a Better Geoid (Episode 85)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/oct11/mw101311.mp3

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 09:13:27 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 85 (October 13, 2011)

You're listening to Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. I'm Troy Kitch.

Figuring out the exact location of a point on the Earth's surface in three dimensions is what the science of geodesy is all about. Thanks to the network of satellites in space known as the Global Positioning System, we can determine latitude and longitude with great accuracy. Heights, however, are a trickier business to nail down.

Today, we're going to hear how scientists are using measurements of the Earth's gravity to refine a complex mathematical model of the Earth's shape that's known as the geoid. When this new model is ready for business in about ten years, it's expected to revolutionize how we measure heights. Once the new geoid model is rolled out, the hope is that we'll be able to use a GPS receiver to get our current elevation in most places across the nation within an accuracy of two centimeters or less.

Now, this may seem like overkill to you, but it's critical to know elevations as accurately as possible. A difference of just a few centimeters, after all, can make all the difference in which direction water flows over land. If you live in a flood-prone place, you know how important this is.

I recently sat down with chief geodesist Dru Smith of NOAA's National Geodetic Survey to learn more about how heights are measured today and how geodesists are now creating a better geoid model to help us determine more accurate elevations in the future.

A good place to start is by understanding what the geoid is and how it's used. Dru said that a good way to think of it is as an idealized version of mean sea level.

"Back into pre-history, humans have intuitively thought of the ocean as a place of zero elevation. So we talk about height above sea level. It's a very common term to use. And so it's sort of in our nature to think of it that way."

The problem is that sea level isn't level at all.

"The sea level is unfortunately a dynamic surface. There's tides, there's currents, there's lots of things going on, and it goes up and down. Sea level is rising now. So it's not a perfect surface to choose, and sea level in one part of the world is not the same as sea level in another. So what the geoid is, if you can conceive of letting the sea surface itself settle down, not have tides, not have currents, and that the only thing giving it any sort of shape are the very small fluctuations in gravity around the world."

The Earth's gravity varies around the globe because the Earth is not a round, uniform globe. It's very lumpy and irregular and it's made up of lots of different stuff that all has different densities. The key thing to understand is that water tends to pool up in places of strong gravity and flow away from areas of low gravity. So minus the tides and currents and other things that affect the ocean, imagine what the ocean surface would look like if it was only affected by gravity. It wouldn't be flat. It would have these smooth, gradual up and down undulations around the planet.

"That's exactly what the geoid is. It's that perfect surface. And the beauty of that is, that that is a surface that doesn't have to exist only at the oceans. The shape that the ocean would take under those perfect conditions is entirely ruled by the gravity field. And that surface has a known shape underneath the continents, too. So it's not just height above sea level literally out at the sea. I could talk about the height above the geoid anywhere in the world."

This kind of height is known to geodesists as an orthometric height. It's the type of elevation readings that you find on a topographic map or a FEMA floodplain map. For about 150 years, scientists have known that the way to figure out the geoid is to take measurements of the Earth's gravity at points all over the globe. But there are two important considerations that make this a difficult thing to do. For one, gravity changes because the Earth is an incredibly dynamic place. Also, there are many different types of matter on the planet. The rocks that make up the Himalayas, for instance, are different from the rocks that make up the Rocky Mountains. So figuring out the shape of the geoid is a formidable task. It's a science that relies on how much we know about the Earth, how good our measuring equipment is, and how good our mathematical models are.

And that brings us back to what the National Geodetic Survey is all about. The mission of the agency is to provide 'geodetic control' through what's known as the National Spatial Reference System.

"We have to provide that to all the federal agencies that make maps, do surveying, do any sort of geodetic spatial positioning. To give you a practical idea, we need to make sure that FEMA floodplain maps, U.S. Geological Survey topological maps, Corps of Engineers levee surveys, that they all use the same coordinate system. They're all using the same latitude, longitudes, and heights. And you do that through providing control points. We tell people, 'here's a really well known point that you start with,' and when I say a 'point,' literally for hundreds of years it was a mark in the ground, a disk, mounted in the ground with a pinpoint right in the top of it, and a well-calculated coordinate for what that point is on the Earth. And then everybody who needed to make a map could start at those points, know what their starting coordinate is -- latitude, longitude, height -- and make their map off of that, so everybodies maps would line up because of that. "

So the National Geodetic Survey doesn't make any maps, but they make maps possible. Today, geodesists rely less and less on physical disks in the the ground and decades-old surveys and more and more on the space-based Global Positioning System and a vast network of ground receiver stations. While this provides very accurate latitude and longitude measurements, elevations calculated with GPS aren't as accurate. That's because GPS uses a rough approximation of the geiod which is basically a simpler mathematical model of mean sea level. It's called the ellipsoid. What geodesists are trying to do now is create a really good geoid model that can be added to the Global Postioning System so that a handheld GPS receiver can calculate serve up both orthometric and ellipsoid heights for any location.

"There's a hundred ways to measure height. Orthometric heights are really a very useful and commonly used type of height because they have some physical meaning about the gravity field. A high orthometric height and a low orthometric height, generally speaking, water will flow from the high to the low . Ellipsoidal heights, they don't follow that rigor. So you can get a simple ellipsoid height out of GPS, and you can get it quickly and accurately. But it doesn't tell you that useful physical information about where water will flow. But if you mix in a geoid model -- that undulating surface that sort of idealizes sea level -- if I know that, I can add that information to the ellipsoid height that GPS gives me and right away I get a brand new, very accurate orthometric height anywhere I like out of my GPS receiver. No need to go to a passive mark, no need to rely on surveys that are 50 years old. The problem is to do this, and to do it right, we really have to have nailed the geoid model that we're going to give to people, because we already know GPS is fast and accurate, we want to give them that accurate geoid model on top of it, so now they can get orthometric heights wherever they like."

And that's one of the big projects that scientists at the Survey are working on now. Part of providing the new geoid model involves getting new data. That means taking new airborne gravity surveys over the entire nation to replace gravity surveys that are decades old and out of date. They're also improving the complex theories and mathematics that underlie how the model is created. Dru said they think they're on the right path for delivering more accurate heights, but there's only one way to find out. They have to prove it.

"So even if we think we're making a very accurate geoid model, we need some independent verification that, whatever accuracy we're shooting for, we're actually achieving it."

To do that, teams from NGS just wrapped up an incredibly detailed survey along a 200-mile stretch of land between Corpus Christi and Austin, Texas. They started back in July and have braved drought conditions, smoke from nearby giant wildfires, and a multi-week heat wave during which the temperature never dipped below 105 degrees. Over the summer, the surveyors measured the shape, or slope, of the geoid along this one small section of land using three different methods that don't rely on gravity measurements.

"We'll use those three different technologies and compare them -- hopefully, they'll agree with each other, of course -- and then they will serve as a calibration against which we will check the modeled geoid values coming out of all of our gravity surveys. So it'll help us know is our theory improved, is the gravity data we're collecting good, have we driven those approximations down to some small level."

If this seems like a lot of work to you, it is. The new geoid model isn't expected to be completed until 2022, and that's if all goes well. Dru said that the expectation is that, within about ten years, both GPS technology and the model of the geoid will have greatly improved. The goal is to get a system in place that will allow anyone with a GPS receiver to get a reading for any location that's accurate to within just a few centimeters. He added that there are some places in the interior of the country where this likely won't be possible within this timeframe because of limits on what we know about the densities of some landmasses ... for example, in places like the Rocky Mountains. But he does think it's achievable along the nation's coastal areas. And this is where accurate heights are needed more than anywhere.

" It's very critical to know differences in elevation from one point to another, predominantly because it helps us deal with flooding issues. And these are pretty high profile things like with Katrina -- all the hurricane problems we've had -- the interior floodings that have occurred out in the Great Plains in the last couple of years. Our job is to make sure that FEMA has the right starting elevations to do their surveys, to build floodplain maps so homeowners have the right insurance. Are you in a floodplain? Are you not? And it all comes back to how these surveys are done."

"Well, we're playing catch-up. There is a problem with how we give out heights today and that's that it's with these passive control discs that haven't been checked in a long time. So consider if you will how flat most of the coastal regions are. You have about 50% of the nation that lives within about 50 miles of the coast. And so you've got a lot of people with a lot of real estate invested in these very flat coastal areas, and very slight errors in the heights of those flat areas could mean that you think you're in a floodplain, but you're not ... Or vice-versa. So the idea of having accurate heights is being driven by the fact that we want to make sure that people can save lives, save property, save money in the insurance industry, because accurate heights mean accurate knowledge of where water is going to flow when there's some sort of disaster."

That was Chief Geodesist Dru Smith with NOAA's National Geodetic Survey. If you like to learn more about this topic as well as the many other missions and projects of the National Geodetic Survey, check our show notes for links.

And that's all for this episode. If you have any questions about this week's podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.

Let's bring in the ocean....

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. See you in two weeks.


Cosco Busan Settlement (Episode 84)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/sep11/mw092911.mp3

Thu, 29 Sep 2011 07:37:01 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 84 (September 29, 2011)

You're listening to Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. I'm Troy Kitch.

(Cosco Busan Settlement)

Back in November 2007, a container ship named the Cosco Busan struck a tower of the San Francisco Bay Bridge, releasing 53,000 gallons of bunker fuel into the central portion of San Francisco Bay -- that’s the heavy oil that powers the ship. This spilled oil spread with the tides, moving around the Bay and out into the open ocean. It also washed up along miles of coastline to the north and south of the Golden Gate Bridge.

In the two years following the spill, scientists from NOAA, many other federal agencies, and the state of California conducted over 70 different studies to weigh the damage to the environment, to birds and fish, and to the people who use the Bay. What they found is that the fuel killed over 6,800 birds, damaged or killed 14 to 29 percent of Pacific herring eggs spawned in spill locations over the 2008 winter, oiled 3,367 acres of shoreline habitat (these are areas like sandy beaches, mudflats, marshes, seagrass beds and rocky shores), and resulted in the loss of over one million recreational user-days because of closures to the Bay and area beaches to recreation and fishing.

This assessment was carried out by 'trustees.' or stewards of the public’s natural resources. When spills like this happen, many different state and federal government agencies come together to act as trustees for the public to figure out the damage done and to make a claim to compensate the public for injuries to wildlife, habitat, and recreational uses. 

For the Cosco Busan spill, trustees included NOAA,the California Department of Fish and Game, California State Lands Commission, , the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and Bureau of Land Management. Together, these agencies have drawn up a list of proposed restoration projects to speed natural recovery of the Bay and to compensate for the impacts of the spill.  

Now, these planned restoration projects are one step closer to reality.  On Sep. 19, a $44.4 million legal settlement was reached with Regal Stone Limited and Fleet Management Limited, the companies responsible for the Cosco Busan. The bulk of this -- $32.3 million --  will go towards restoring natural resources injured by spilled oil and to improve Bay Area recreational opportunities affected by the spill. 

And that's where you come in. The trustees have released a Draft Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan that is open to public comment through Oct. 31. The plan proposes projects to address specific injuries. Here’s how it breaks down. About $5 million is proposed for bird restoration, $4 million for habitat restoration, $2.5 million for eelgrass restoration to help with fish spawning habitat, and $18.8 million for recreational use improvements. An additional $2 million from the settlement will fund restoration planning, administration, and oversight, with any unused funds to be spent toward more restoration.  

We have a link in our show notes to NOAA’s Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program website, where you can access the draft plan. You’ll also find details here about how to send in comments and, if you live in the San Francisco Bay region, when and where you can attend one of two public meetings on Oct. 19. 

Once all comments are incorporated and the final plan is completed, restoration projects will commence to benefit the fish, wildlife, and people who live and visit the San Francisco Bay region.

NOAA's Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program serves as trustee on behalf of the public to protect and restore coastal marine resources.  The program, which was formally created in 1992 following the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, is made up of experts from NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration, the Restoration Center, and General Counsel for Natural Resources.

The Cosco Busan spill is one of nine natural resource damage settlements just in the past twelve months for waste sites and oil spills nationwide that NOAA and co-trustees have completed. The tally for these nine settlements: $117 million. Over the past 20 years, the DARRP program has brought in almost $600 million from responsible parties for restoration on injured resources.

And that leads to today's Ocean Fact. Do you know what N-R-D-A stands for?

Answer:  Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA for short) is the process that federal agencies like NOAA, together with the states and Indian tribes, use to evaluate the impacts of oil spills, HAZMAT incidents and hazardous waste sites, and ship groundings on natural resources both along the nation's coast and throughout its interior. 

NOAA and these other entities, referred to collectively as natural resource trustees, work together to identify the extent of resource injuries, the best methods for restoring them, and the type and amount of restoration required.

(CLOSING)

And that's all for this week, but that's not the last word on this topic. Stay tuned for an upcoming episode in November to hear more about assessment science and natural resource restoration straight from two experts who work in NOAA's Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program office. 

And speaking of experts, you won't want to miss the next show. We have NOAA's Chief Geodesist on tap to talk about how scientists are working to create a new, high-tech model of the Earth's shape by taking measurements of gravity. The goal? To measure heights anywhere in the nation with an accuracy of two centimeters.  Why do we need to do this? Well, you'll have to tune in to find out.

 If you have any questions or comments about today's topic, the National Ocean Service, or this podcast, send us a note at nos.info@noaa.gov. And don't forget to visit us online. We're at oceanservice.noaa.gov.

 We'll return in two weeks. 


Arctic Sea Inventory; Whale of a Partnership (Episode 83)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/sep11/mw091511.mp3

Thu, 15 Sep 2011 09:02:15 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 82 (September 1, 2011)

You're listening to Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. I'm Troy Kitch.

(NOAA to Collect Baseline Environmental Data in Alaska's Chukchi Sea)

If you're a regular listener, you'll recall our interview with the commander of the NOAA Ship Fairweather two episodes ago about an expedition to map Kotzbue Sound in Alaska -- a place where ocean depths haven't been measured since the 19th century.

This survey was part of a long-term NOAA push to make navigation safer in remote regions of the Arctic Ocean. And the reason this is necessary is because the Arctic is seeing more and more ship traffic each year as sea ice continues to retreat.

Less ice doesn't only mean more ships -- it also means oil and gas development is likely on the horizon in the near future.
While NOAA and other agencies are working to make the Arctic region safer for navigation ... here's another consideration: what impact might future offshore oil and gas development have on this fragile environment?

One of the things scientists learned during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is that it's critical to know the state of a given ecosystem before something happens. After all, how can we weigh the impact of a spill if we don't know what the environment was like before the spill happened?

That's the idea behind a mission now underway in the Chukchi Sea -- that's a vast chunk of the Arctic Ocean that includes Kotzbue Sound. Researchers are capturing a snapshot of the Arctic Ocean before any development happens.

The National Status and Trends BioEffects Program -- part of NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science -- along with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, are in the midst of collecting what is known as "baseline environmental data" along a 150-mile length of the nearshore area of the Chukchi Sea. This is one area that's being eyed by oil and gas interests for development activities in the near future.

The two-week research cruise is led by Alaska's Department of Environmental Conservation in partnership with NOAA. The survey area will extend from Alaska's Point Barrow to Point Lay. It will include assessment of bottom-dwelling communities, fish that live near the sea floor, sediment chemistry, and water quality.

The study is part of a larger research effort headed up by the State of Alaska. This data will ultimately be combined with assessments from different areas off the coast of Alaska to help paint a picture of the intricate interplay of oil exploration, climate change, ocean acidification, and pollution on the ecosystem of the Chukchi Sea. Environmental managers will use this information to support water quality evaluations, permitting actions, baseline assessments, and environmental trends over time. Results of the current study will be available in about a year on NOAA's National Status and Trends website.

We'll have a link on our website for you to learn more about this unique nationwide program -- it's been up and running since 1984, and it's the only long-term coastal and estuarine contaminant monitoring effort in the country.

(NOAA, France new agreement)

NOAA and France's Protected Areas Agency have signed a "sister sanctuary" agreement to support the protection of endangered humpback whales.

Every year, humpbacks migrate more than 3,000 miles between NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary off the Massachusetts coast and Agoa Marine Mammal Sanctuary in the Caribbean's French Antilles.

Both sanctuaries provide critical support for the same population of whales, which spend spring and summer in the rich feeding grounds of Stellwagen Bank before heading south to the warmer waters of the Caribbean Sea in late fall to mate and give birth to their young. The French Antilles islands are at the Caribbean's eastern edge.

As sister sanctuaries, the two sites are exploring new avenues for collaborative education, scientific and management efforts, including joint-research and monitoring programs. NOAA leadership anticipates the relationship will be crucial to the long-term conservation of the North Atlantic humpback whale population, as well as to the development of future cooperative agreements with other countries.

This new agreement builds on an effort begun in 2006 when the world's first sister sanctuary initiative focused on trans-boundary humpback whales and their critical habitats was launched between the Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary and the Dominican Republic. Another agreement signed in July between Stellwagen Bank and the government of Bermuda also strives to help protect the species along its migration route from the Gulf of Maine to the Caribbean Sea through cooperation on scientific and educational programs.

A little bit about Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary: it encompasses 842 square miles of ocean, stretching between Cape Ann and Cape Cod. It supports a rich diversity of marine life, including 22 species of marine mammals, more than 53 species of seabirds, in excess of 80 species of fish, and hundreds of marine invertebrates. Stellwagen is a pretty big Sanctuary, but it's not the biggest.

(Ocean Fact)

And that leads us to today's Ocean Fact .... Where is the largest protected area in the National Marine Sanctuary System?

The answer (say it with me now) is Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. This monument is not only the largest conservation area in the U.S., it's one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world. It's larger than all of America's national parks combined! This vast region preserves many of Hawaii's Northwestern Islands and is made up of 139,797 square miles of reefs, atolls, shallow waters, and deep seas.

The monument contains a wide variety of critically important habitats that harbor over 7,000 marine species, several of which are only found in this region. It is also home to many rare and endangered species such as the green sea turtle and the Hawaiian monk seal. The goal of this system is to conserve, protect, and enhance the biodiversity, ecological integrity, and cultural legacy of marine areas totaling 150,000 square miles.

The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is one of fourteen marine protected areas that form NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary system.

(CLOSING)

And that's all for this episode. If you have any questions about this week's podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. See you in two weeks.


NOS Hurricane Response (Episode 82)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/sep11/mw090111.mp3

Thu, 01 Sep 2011 07:51:28 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 82 (September 1, 2011)

Podcast script

You're listening to Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. I'm Troy Kitch.

Hurricane Irene traveled up the Eastern seaboard last week. While it thankfully wasn't as powerful as we feared it might be, it still left behind a lot of damage, flooding, and destruction.

This was the sixth tropical storm of the season, joining Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Don, and Emily. And it likely won't be the last for this season.

Earlier this month, NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, part of the National Weather Service, issued an update to its Atlantic hurricane season outlook. The peak of this season runs from August to October.

The gist of the updated forecast is this: conditions are right for an above-normal hurricane season. Back in May, the Climate Prediction Center said that the probability for an above-average season was 65%. Now, it's 85%. Added to this, the expected number of named storms is now between 14-19 (that's up from the original outlook of 12-18 storms). And 7-10 of those named storms are expected to develop into hurricanes (up from the original forecast of 6-10 hurricanes). And of these 6-10 hurricanes, 3-5 could be major hurricanes with winds of at least 111mph. We'll have a link in our show notes for you to read more about the how and why behind the revised hurricane season outlook.

But for the remainder of the show, I want to revisit a 2009 episode of this podcast about the National Ocean Service's role before hurricanes hit the coast, when they hit, and long after the storms pass. Now, I'm going to be giving you a bunch of different web addresses in this report, but don't worry about writing the URLs down. You can get all the links on our website at oceanservice.noaa.gov. So let's begin.

One critical service the NOS provides is near real-time ocean and weather observations at locations affected by tropical storms from the National Water Level Observation Network. This network is made up over 200 stations around the country that continuously monitor water levels. And I want to highlight one component of this network particularly relevant to the discussion about hurricanes. Last year, NOS completed constructing four "Sentinels of the Coast." These hardened structures are positioned out in the ocean in the Gulf of Mexico to collect and send out real-time water level and weather observations – and they are made tough. They're designed to withstand wind and wave action from category four hurricanes so they can keep gathering water and weather data even in the harshest conditions. Why is this important? Well, as we all know, during coastal storms, water levels can rise to flood levels. So it's of course good to know and predict how high these water levels are going to get. This kind of storm-surge information is critical for emergency preparedness. Louisiana, for example, depends on this information because the state is highly susceptible to many natural hazards like hurricanes and storm-surge flooding. Well, the St. Charles Parish Water Level Monitoring System, a NOAA observing system partner in the Gulf region, provides near real-time water data to decision makers in the parish's Emergency Operations Center during storms. Emergency managers use this to get a clearer picture of storm-surge flooding areas, and that's key in decision-making regarding evacuation routes, opening and closing of locks and dams, and when to make public warnings.

And if you're wondering if you can see the data collected from the National Water Level Observation Network, yes you can. It's all at tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov. And while you're there, you may want to check out an important product created from the data collected by the network … it's called the Storm QuickLook. And as the name suggests, when a tropical storm forms, the QuickLook provides a real-time view of a storm's impacts on coastal storm water levels, winds, and barometric levels. It's mostly used as decision support tool by Federal, State and local emergency managers to assist evacuation and road closing decisions, but you too can see the data to monitor and prepare for storm conditions. QuickLook reports start coming out after the National Hurricane Center identifies a tropical system. The first of the reports arrive about 24-48 hours before a storm is projected to make landfall, and they continue to come out until the coastal impacts of the storm have receded, sometimes well after the storm has passed.

The report also provides details about the storm tide associated with the storm, which is the sum of the surge of the water because of the storm, the astronomical tides, and any pre-storm high water level conditions. And if you consider that most people in the U.S. live along the coast in places less than 10 feet above sea level, you can see why this is good info to know. Storm tides are the number one cause of storm damage. The National Water Level Observation Network and everything we just talked about is from NOS's Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services. And you can find out more at tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov.

Now let's look at what's going on after a storm hits. In addition the continuing monitoring of water level and weather observations we just talked about, the NOS also plays a lead role in navigational surveys, aerial photography surveys, and hazardous spill response.

Let's take a look at navigational surveys first. After a hurricane strikes, the Office of Coast Survey dispatches emergency Navigation Response Teams to the site to help get ports and waterways back open as fast as possible. They use sonar and divers to check for obstructions and hazards to navigation. This work is critical – not only does it help get our waterways and ports flowing again so supplies can get to the people who need them in these areas, it also helps to get commerce back up and running in the region. And while these teams are out doing their work, they're also collecting data that they'll use to update navigational charts for the area that mariners rely on. And you can get nautical charts online, for free at www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov.

Next up, let's talk about aerial surveys. Many people don't know this, but the ocean service begins flying survey missions to take pictures of coastal areas hit by a hurricane just days after the storm strikes. This service is provided by the National Geodetic Survey. To give you an idea how it works, let's look back at a hurricane we all know about, Katrina. The day after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, NOAA's National Geodetic Survey began flying photo survey missions to assess damage. The NGS then made the photographs available on the internet to help those most affected by the hurricane determine if their homes, businesses, and properties had been damaged or destroyed. Nearly five million photos were downloaded daily from NOAA Web sites in a one-week period after Katrina. Companies like Google Earth, GlobeXplorer, and Telascience integrated the imagery into their Web service. Insurance companies also began using the photos to help resolve claims. The oil and gas industry used the images to speed rebuilding its facilities. In total, over 8,300 images were taken during these missions. And as with most of the products and services we're talking about today, you can see the photos taken after Katrina and following major storms up through the end of last year's hurricane season online at ngs.woc.noaa.gov/eri_page/.

And finally, the NOS Office of Response and Restoration plays a major role after a hurricane hits by responding to hazardous material spills. Staff from this office work with partners – the main partner is the U.S. Coast Guard -- to survey vessels, pipelines, wells, or containers that may be leaking hazardous fuel, oil, or chemicals. And they fly on missions to locate and track offshore sources of spills. This data is combined with current weather and water conditions to develop computer models to help predict spill movement and to figure out where the greatest pollution threats are likely to occur. Added to this, the office lends a hand with vessel salvage, shoreline cleanup, and helping to understand how spills will affect natural resources in the region. And the office's team of scientist and economists also assess the injuries done to natural resources caused by hazardous spills, grounding and debris. Response and Restoration then works with other agencies and industry to expedite restoration … and that's good for the natural resources that were injured, and for the people that live in the area.

Last but not least, the office is responsible for mapping and surveying marine debris. If you've seen photos of the unbelievable amount of trash and debris along the coasts following a major hurricane, you know that this is a huge task. I want to highlight one area specifically, the Gulf of Mexico. As you probably know, this is one of the main areas affected by hurricanes in the U.S. and it's been a major focus of response and restoration activities for many years. If you live in the Gulf Region, be sure to check out gulfofmexico.marinedebris.noaa.gov. This will give you a good idea of the extent of marine debris in this region from the hurricanes that have hit the region over the past three years, and it points to other resources to get Gulf storm information. It's a great resource. And speaking of the Gulf, Response and Restoration is also leading the development of a new 15,000 square foot hurricane-hardened Disaster Response Center in Mobile, Alabama, that is slated to open in 2011. Given how vulnerable this region is to hurricanes, the new center is going to be a huge step forward in coordinated emergency management when future storms hit. We'll have more on that in the future once construction is completed. If you're looking for more information on the many tasks handled by the Office of Response and Restoration, you can start your journey at response.restoration.noaa.gov.

So the Ocean Service plays a big role in the immediate aftermath of a hurricane, but the work doesn't stop there. For weeks, months, and even years after a hurricane hits the shores, the work continues to better understand the effect of the hurricane, in recovery planning, and in monitoring the effects of contaminants released from the storm on the environment.

Let's start by looking at activities of the NOAA Coastal Services Center. Long after a storm strikes, there are many big questions that need answered. What is the economic impact of the storm? What's the ecological impact, or the cost to the environment? Where is the debris concentrated? How much wetlands were lost? Coastal Services Center experts help answer these questions by crunching data, and generating maps and detailed reports. These products can include everything from aerial imagery of the affected region before and after the storm, digital elevation data to measure how the coastline has changed as a result of the storm, to long-term recovery plans. It's all rolled into what the Coastal Services Center calls the 'Digital Coast,' and you can learn more at www.csc.noaa.gov/digitalcoast. There's a lot to Digital Coast, and the tools available cover much, much more than long-term hurricane response. But I want to highlight one very cool hurricane-related product produced by this office. It's called the online Historical Hurricane Tracks. This tool helps get a quick picture of coastal areas with the greatest frequency of hurricanes and tropical storms—and that historical "snapshot" can help community members and local emergency managers develop better plans for storm preparation and recovery.

But the Coastal Services Center isn't the only office with long-term recovery planning duties. The NOS Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management is also involved in the effort. And this office is also especially involved with decision making before storms hit -- through a program called NOAA Coastal Zone Management. The CZM program works with states to help coastal communities decide things like where to place buildings and roads to reduce loss of life and property from storms. In Texas, for example, CZM funding is helping the state map hazardous areas throughout the Texas coastal zone to identify places that are especially vulnerable to hurricanes. You can find out more about Coastal Zone Management at coastalmanagement.noaa.gov.

The final office we're going to talk about today is NOAA's National Status and Trends program, part of the NOS National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science. We've talked about the impact to the environment, to commerce, and to our coastlines…but what about the long-term effect of the contaminants released during a hurricane on our coastal waters and estuaries? Or what about human health risks from eating fish and shellfish in the area? That's the main concern of this program. Even after the big fuel, oil, and other chemical spills are cleaned up after a hurricane, contamination can still be a big problem for many years. National Status and Trends experts are key to figuring out how big the problem is, not only in hurricane-ravaged areas, but in coastal waters and estuaries around the country. They do the job by monitoring sediments, tissues of shellfish like oysters, and by sampling the water…and they've been doing this for decades. In fact, it's the only long-term coastal and estuary contaminant monitoring effort in the US. Because they have so many years of data from sites around the country, they have a window over time to the contaminant levels in many, many areas. As you can imagine, this comes in handy when trying to figure out the impact of contaminants following a hurricane.

CLOSING

And there you have it. The Ocean Service's roles in hurricane response … ranging from ocean and weather observations to sampling shellfish for contaminants. We have an accompanying story about our hurricane response activities at oceanservice.noaa.gov, where you can get this link…and all the links we've referenced today. And you can also check out some specific stats and details related to Hurricane Irene.

Well, we've covered a lot of ground. Hopefully you now have a better idea of some of the many products and services offered by the National Ocean Service in support of hurricane response. Our main goal is to let you know this information is out there, it's online, and it's freely available.

Let's end how we began with a reminder that hurricane season runs through the end of November. And regardless of what the NOAA forecasts predict for this season, the main thing to keep in mind is that it's time to start thinking about preparation and preparedness.

And that's all for this episode. If you have any questions about this week's podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. See you in two weeks.


Surveying the Arctic (Episode 81)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/aug11/mw081811.mp3

Thu, 18 Aug 2011 08:03:56 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 81 (August 18, 2011)

Podcast script

You're listening to Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. I'm your host, Troy Kitch.

We're heading North to Alaska today. In early July, the NOAA Ship Fairweather headed out of Kodiak to begin a couple months of hydrographic surveying in remote areas of the Arctic in places where ocean depths haven't been measured since 1867 … that's the year that the U.S. agreed to purchase Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million dollars.

Now, you might not think that remote areas of the Arctic Ocean up in Northern Alaska see a lot of ship traffic. But they're seeing more and more every year … traffic from the offshore oil and gas industry, cruise liners, military craft, tugs and barges and fishing vessels. Seagoing traffic is growing by leaps and bounds as sea ice continues to retreat and the greater Arctic Ocean becomes more and more accessible for vessels of every kind.

Earlier this year, NOAA released a new Arctic charting plan that lays out an ambitious agenda to survey critical Arctic areas, those places where marine transportation dynamics are changing rapidly. And at the heart of this new effort is the NOAA Ship Fairweather, a 231-foot survey vessel, command by NOAA Corps Capt. Dave Neander.

We reached Capt. Neander by phone to learn more about the Fairweather's Arctic mapping expedition going on right now in an area of Alaska called Kotzebue Sound.

"Due to increased commerce in northern and northwest Alaska there's an urgent need to establish new larger-scale charts of the area with modern hydrographic data. The area in Kotzbue Sound where we're working for example, the largest scale chart in that area is 1:700;000 which is an extremely small-scale chart as chart standards go. Usually when you navigate on charts with a ship you're in the 1:40, 1:80;000 scale or larger, down to the1:20 or 1:10,000 scale harbor charts. The Kotzbue Sound survey area that we've been working in this summer is just one Arctic priority area listen in NOAA's Arctic Charting Plan."

Let's take a moment to talk about chart scales. This can be a little confusing. The scale is the ratio of a distance on the map to the corresponding distance on the ground. So a map with a scale of 1:700;000 means that one unit on the map equals 700,000 units of the Earth. 1 inch on the map, then, would be 9.6 nautical miles for a 1:700,000 scale chart. You just can't squeeze that much detail in such a small-scale nautical chart. Added to this, the chart in use today for Kotzbue Sound is based on really old information.

"The existing data on the 1:700;000 chart is from the early 1800s when an expedition went up there well before Alaska became a U.S. state, back when it was it was in the Russian hands, so the data is over 150 years old, and we just want to make sure that we get up there and update it and make sure we can create these larger scale charts from hydrographic data and that the depth contours and any potential obstructions are adequately depicted on the new charts."

Capt. Neander said that the area the Fairweather is tasked with mapping this summer is about 240 square nautical miles.

"We just finished a 22-day leg and got back into Dutch Harbor on the 28th of July. We completed two surveys during that 22-day leg, about 105 square nautical miles and about 1,500 linear nautical miles of hydrography. We have two additional project legs, and we should be finishing up around the 1st of September and heading back to Kodiak."

You can think of a hydrographic survey as sort of like 'mowing a lawn.' The Fairweather -- along with smaller launches from the Fairweather for shallower areas that the big ship can't get into -- are spending the summer traveling back and forth and back and forth to take depth soundings over much of Kotzbue Sound. If you think about the metaphor of mowing a lawn, linear miles is what would appear on your lawnmower's mileage gauge, while the area's square nautical miles is the size of the entire patch of lawn. The equipment the Fairweather is using for this task is a far cry from the primitive tools mariners used in the 1800s to measure depths.

"We have three launches on board right now. They're equipped with a shallow-water multi beam system and two of the launches also have a hull-mounted side-scan system, so the multi beam gives us the depth information, while the sidescan covers a broader swaths, so to say, and gives imagery only, so the imagery will give me an indication of any potential targets, or contacts, or obstructions that protrude off the bottom. The ship itself is equipped with a multi beam system and we're also set up to tow a sidescan sonar so, same with the launches, the multi beam gives us the depth information, while the sidescan gives us imagery over a much broader area."

Capt. Neander said that this data will be sent back to NOAA's Coast Survey to create an updated nautical chart. While it typically takes a year or two to produce a new chart because there's also a need to acquire shoreline data to make an accurate larger scale map, he said that any critical hazards to navigation that the Fairweather finds during this summer's survey are immediately sent in to be added to NOAA's current charts to keep mariners safe. I asked Capt. Neander why NOAA is prioritizing areas like Kotzbue Sound for hydrographic surveys. He said one big reason is that many remote coastal towns in Northern Alaska get all of their supplies during the summer months by sea.

"For example, the town of Kotzbue gets its yearly supply of heating oil, diesel, and gasoline by barge during the months of June and July, and one of the things they do, is they bring the barges in, they anchor the barges offshore and then they lighter to smaller barges because it's too shallow to get the bigger barges in there, so they bring the smaller barges with a smaller amount of product and then they offload it to their tanks, and that's what lasts them through the whole winter into the next year."

And, as I mentioned at the top of the show, this traffic is only growing year over year as ships and barges carrying supplies are increasingly sharing the Arctic ocean with research ships, Coast Guard vessels, fishing ships, and cruise liners. Now, at this point, you may be wondering … why haven't the charts for these areas been updated sooner?

"Alaska is big. It's a huge area, and survey efforts in recent years, back to the 1920s and 1930s, have focused priorities on other areas of Alaska that were surveyed with very crude technology -- lead line technology and in some areas not at all -- so there's quite a few areas in and around other areas of Alaska that need to have critical updates as well, and we're just starting to push towards the Arctic region with the increased interest in marine transportation in that area."

So the Fairweather has her work cut out for her. It will take many years to map the Arctic areas of Alaska because of limited resources -- only two NOAA ships are conducting hydrographic surveys in these areas. And you have to consider that surveys can only be tackled during a very short summer season. For the rest of the year, the weather is just too bad. Actually, the weather can pretty bad in the summer, too. And that's not all. Capt. Neander said that what makes surveying in these remote regions particularly challenging and time-consuming is that there are just so many unknowns.

"When you enter a new project area in a very remote environment which is covered by a 1:700,000 scale chart, with sparse soundings of unreliable origin or unknown origin, you have to be extremely cautious and vigilant -- not only in the nature and complexity of the sea floor, but the unknown weather patterns, and currents, and physical properties of the water, which can have a serious effect on operations and data quality. You know, you can plan, plan, plan before you head up there, but you're never going to know until you get up there what it's going to be like. You know, weather forecasting in these areas is very crude at best, you know we get a good idea from some of the forecast maps and satellite imagery, but until you've actually spent time in the area and get familiar with the weather patterns, the currents, the winds … you know, I think that's my biggest concern, and that's one of the unique things about working up there is that we don't know, because we don't have the experience up there."

The Fairweather is scheduled to complete the mapping of Kotzbue Sound by early September. Next year, they're heading even further North in Alaska to map approaches to the Delong Mountain Terminal, the offloading port for the largest zinc mine operation in the world.

(Conclusion)
We'd like to thank Capt. Dave Neander, commander of the NOAA Ship Fairweather, for taking the time to speak with us today. You can find links to learn more about the Fairweather, about NOAA nautical charts and the technology that goes into making the charts, and the new Arctic Charting Plan in our show notes. You'll find the show notes at oceanservice.noaa.gov.

If you have any questions about this week's podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean -- or if you have an ocean fact you'd like answered -- send us a note at nos.info@noaa.gov.

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.


NOS Assists with Oil Spill; New El Nino Study; Ocean Fact (Episode 80)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/aug11/mw080411.mp3

Thu, 04 Aug 2011 08:01:54 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 80 (August 04, 2011)

Podcast script

You're listening to Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. I'm your host, Troy Kitch.

(NOS Responds to Yellowstone River Oil Spill)
You may have heard about the oil spill on the Yellowstone River out West last month.

Back on July 1, a 12-inch crude oil pipeline breached near or under the Yellowstone River close to the town of Laurel, Montana. This led to the spill of about 31,500 to 42,000 gallons of crude oil into the river.

For inland spills, the Environmental Protection Agency is the lead for coordinating spill response. But at the EPA's request, NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration is also playing a key role.

Last week, the Emergency Response Division of the Response and Restoration office deployed a Scientific Support Coordinator and a deputy to assist with estimating the fate and transport of the spilled oil on the river. Based on available information, these experts generated a report which is being used by the Unified Command overseeing clean-up operations. The Scientific Support Coordinator is also assisting with field observation, sample collection, and preliminary testing of a variety of natural sorbents to help mitigate the risks to wildlife due to contact with oiled debris. And lastly, the coordinator is providing technical support to Montana officials.

In addition to these activities, NOAA was also asked by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to lead the initial phase of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment on behalf of the Department of the Interior. Response and Restoration's Assessment and Restoration Division staff started the assessment process, which involved coordinating with the responsible party and state trustees, and collecting pre-assessment information. NOAA is now phasing out of the resource damage assessment and transferring duties back to the Interior Department, but they'll be continuing to advise as needed.

You can learn more about NOAA's role in the spill response effort and about oil spill clean-up and the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process at response.restoration.noaa.gov.

(NOAA Study May Help East Coast Prepare for El Niño Years)

Coastal communities along the U.S. East Coast may be at risk of higher sea levels accompanied by more destructive storm surges during future El Niño years. That's according to a new NOAA study published in the Monthly Weather Review, a journal of the American Meteorological Society.

Principal investigator Bill Sweet, an oceanographer at NOAA's Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services, says that El Niños have important consequences for global weather patterns, often causing wetter than average conditions and cooler than normal temperatures across much of the central and southern U.S.

El Niño is a weather phenomenon that most people associate with the West Coast. It's characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific that normally peak during the "cool season" (from October to April) in the Northern Hemisphere. These events occur every three to five years, with especially strong events occurring about once a decade.

In response to the highly active El Niño that occurred in 2009 through 2010, Sweet and his colleague Chris Zervas reviewed 50 years of data on cool-season water levels and storm surges at four East Coast sites: Boston, Massachusetts; Atlantic City, New Jersey; Norfolk, Virginia; and Charleston, South Carolina. A storm surge is defined as a rise in coastal sea level of one foot or greater.

They discovered that between 1961 and 2010, the average number of storm surges nearly tripled at the sample sites during strong El Niño years. Added to this, the sites experienced an average four-inch elevation in mean sea level above predicted conditions.

The study builds on previous ocean-atmospheric research which found that 'Nor'easters' –  storms with gale-force winds that blow in from the northeast – are more frequent along much of the East Coast during cooler El Niño months. El Niño and its impacts usually fade during warmer months, and often transition into a La Niña, during which eastern Pacific surface waters cool down and cause weather conditions generally opposite to those of El Niño.

According to Sweet, studies like this may better prepare local officials who plan for, and respond to, high-water conditions in their communities.

Check our show notes for links to learn more about El Nino and the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services — NOAA's tides and currents experts.

(Ocean Fact)
We're going to wrap up this episode with a new occasional segment highlighting one of our over 160 Ocean Facts available on the National Ocean Service website. This week, I'm going to answer the question: What does peanut butter have to do with the ocean?

When it comes to eating, the ocean provides much more than just seafood. Many of the foods and products found in your local grocery store contain ingredients from the ocean.
For example, peanut butter and toothpaste both contain carrageenan. Carrageenan is a generic term for compounds extracted from species of red algae. Boiling the algae extracts the carrageenan, which in turn is used to make peanut butter more spreadable. Carrageenan also gives toothpaste its consistency and is used in other cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and industrial products.
You can find this and all of our other Ocean Facts at oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/.

(Conclusion)
That's all for this week.

If you have any questions about this week's podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean -- or if you have an ocean fact you'd like answered -- send us a note at nos.info@noaa.gov.

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.


Human Health and Climate Change (Episode 79)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/july11/mw072111.mp3

Thu, 21 Jul 2011 09:46:38 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 79 (July 21, 2011)

Podcast script

You're listening to Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.

It's summertime! That means it's time for trips to the beach, vacations ... and re-runs! We have a previously-aired episode for you today, but you may not have heard this one before. That's because we had a problem with our syndicated feed when this episode came out back in March, so you may have not even known it was released. And that would be a shame, because it's a really interesting episode with two scientists talking about their latest research.

Earlier this year, thousands of people descended on Washington, DC, for the 177th American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting. Today, you're going to hear about two studies funded in part by NOAA's Oceans and Human Health Initiative presented at the science gathering on Feb. 19th, 2011. Broadly speaking, this new research is related to climate change. You've probably heard of climate change studies that deal with big-picture things like drought or sea level rise ... well, these new studies look at the problem from a different angle and on a smaller scale. Let's listen in.

More Atmospheric Dust From Global Desertification Could Lead to Increases of Harmful Bacteria in Oceans, Seafood

Our first story today is about a new study that considers how global desertification -- the gradual transformation of habitable land into desert -- may help fuel the growth of harmful bacteria in the ocean.

Dr. Erin Lipp is the lead author of the study. Erin's a public health microbiologist and marine scientist at the University of Georgia's Department of Environmental Health Science. I caught up with her after she presented her research at the meeting to learn more about the study. Erin said her team focused on a group of ocean organisms that share the scientific name Vibrio. While many types of harmful bacteria in the ocean come from land-based sources like sewage, Vibrio is different because it naturally occurs in the marine environment.

For this study, her team experimented with two species of this organism that can cause gastroenteritis and infectious diseases in humans.

[Lipp] "We used Vibrio cholerae, which is the species that causes epidemic cholera. We also used the species Vibrio alginolyticus, they're similar in some ways, but quite different in others. Vibrio cholerae is of course notorious for causing a very severe disease. Vibrio alginolyticus is growing in importance, especially in tropical areas, it's one of the main species that we see on an increase, especially in area like Florida. Unlike Cholera, it primarily infects people by wound infections, or it infects their eyes and ears, so the symptoms are much less dramatic, but certainly still a cause for public health concern where people are recreating in marine waters."

Now, to put this in context...since 1996 Vibrio cases have jumped 85 percent in the U.S. based on reports that primarily track seafood-illnesses. So you can see why it'd be a good thing to better understand why we're seeing this trend. Erin said that Vibrio are complex organisms to study because scientists just don't know all the risk factors that can increase their populations. One thing we do know is that Vibrio bacteria do better in warmer marine waters -- that their populations are closely tied to water temperature ...

[Lipp] "...but it's not the only thing that affects that group of organism. It can also be affected by ocean chemistry. A major player in ocean chemistry is the availability of iron. Iron is not well soluble in marine waters, one of the ways we get soluble iron (or bioavailable iron) is through the production and transport of desert dust. And so we were interested in whether or not that desert dust can be a component in the natural population dynamics of Vibrio species."

Iron is an essential ingredient for life for Vibrio bacteria -- along with most other forms of life on the planet. But there's not a lot of iron in the ocean. So dust falling into the sea from the atmosphere is sort of like an iron delivery machine for these microscopic creatures.

[Lipp] "Vibrios, as part of their mechanism of being pathogens, are really, really good at scavenging iron, and so we suspected that with an influx of this dust that comes from desert areas around the world that carries a lot of iron in it, that when the Vibrio bacteria are exposed to that, they may be able to take advantage of it and see an increase in their growth rate."

And that's definitely what they found. Within 24 hours of mixing weathered desert dust from Morocco with seawater samples, they saw a 10-1000-fold growth in Vibrios, including the alginolyticus strain that can cause eye, ear, and open wound infections, and the cholerae strain that can lead to cholera.

With desert areas increasing in size on the planet, some climate change scenarios predict that we're going to see a lot more dust in the atmosphere. In fact, there's evidence that we're already seeing just that. Erin said this study is a small step in linking what's happening on a global scale with population changes at the local level for these types of harmful bacteria. While this study was conducted using ocean water off the coast of Florida, Erin suspects it may be a wider issue.

[Lipp] "The work that we've done has really been focused in the United States and in Florida in particular, but I really suspect this could be a global phenomenon. There are certainly areas of the world that are seeing a rapid expanse in Vibrio exposure, including the Mediterranean, The Mediterranean is an area that gets a lot of desert dust, and so I suspect that this may be something that is going on on a pretty large scale, but we just don't know anything about it yet. So I'm hoping there's going to be further study to look at it."

So it's possible that this additional input of iron through dust, along with rising sea surface temperatures from climate change, are affecting bacterial populations. And that may help to explain both current and future increases in human illnesses from exposure to contaminated seafood and seawater.

The University of Georgia hosts a graduate training consortium with NOAA's Oceans and Human Health Initiative. You can read more about this study on our website at oceanservice.noaa.gov.

Climate Change Could Prolong Toxic Algal Outbreaks by 2040 or Sooner

Next, we're going to turn our attention to a new model created by researchers in the Pacific Northwest that predicts longer seasonal outbreaks of harmful algal blooms may be in store for Washington State's Puget Sound.

To tell us all about it, we're going to hear from lead author Dr. Stephanie Moore with NOAA's West Coast Center for Oceans and Human Health in Seattle. I spoke with Stephanie a few hours after she presented her findings at the meeting ... and I began with a very basic question: what's a harmful algal bloom?

[Moore] "Well, a harmful algal bloom is a natural phenomena that is caused by the proliferation of algae, so its like an overgrowth of algae. The particular harmful algal bloom species that I've been working on is a uni-cellular algal species -- so it's a single celled organism -- and it grows in coastal environments, and it produces a toxin. Many harmful algal blooms species produce toxins that can accumulate in shellfish and also fish species, and then be passed on to humans or marine mammals."

Now the species Stephanie focused on in Puget Sound -- named Alexandrium catanella -- is particularly toxic. She said it produces a bunch of toxins, but one, called Saxitoxin, is really nasty.

[Moore] "...so what this toxin can do if we consume enough of it, is paralyze the muscles of our chest and abdomen, and then death can result in extreme cases."

Yikes. To make matters worse, there are no known antidotes to saxitoxin, and you can't destroy it by cooking your seafood.

[Moore] "Fortunately, our Departments of Health in the United States do a very good job of monitoring our seafood, so that we don't get sick. So there's not many cases in the United States these days, although in Alaska there's such a big coastline that it's very difficult to get around to monitor all the sites, and two deaths did occur in 2010. So it still poses a significant health risk, and it costs a lot of money to run these monitoring programs. The other big economic associated with these blooms is that the commercial shellfish growers, they can't sell their product during bloom events, so they suffer from huge economic losses during big blooms."

You may be wondering why deaths still occur in Alaska. Stephanie said it's because there just aren't enough resources available to agencies to conduct monitoring on the scale required to protect public health along Alaska's vast coastline. The only option in these remote areas is to close large areas of coastline often unnecessarily for much of the year. The problem with that is that people tend to lose faith in the advisories and collect and eat shellfish anyway ... and sometimes they get sick.

Of course, toxic algal blooms aren't just a problem for Washington State and Alaska. They're a problem in coastal areas around the world. So wouldn't it be good to have an advance warning system to give us a better idea of when to expect these toxic blooms? That's the idea behind Stephanie's research.

What she and her team did is look at a 15-year record of toxic bloom events, focusing on five 'hotspot' areas in the Sound where the most intense toxicity was consistently measured in shellfish. Then they looked at the weather and ocean conditions preceding the times when those most intense toxic conditions were measured -- the idea being that the conditions were ripest to produce the deadly blooms before the high toxin levels were measured. What they found is that ideal conditions to form the deadly toxins were those times when the water was warm, and there was little mixing in the water column. Stephanie calls this the 'window of opportunity.' The next step was to look into the past., back to the 1960s. While there aren't very good shellfish toxicity records spanning back to this time, there are very good records of weather and environmental conditions. This allowed her team to figure out those times -- those 'windows of opportunity' -- when conditions were ripe to form the toxic algal blooms.

[Moore] "And what we found was that the window of opportunity had been widening each year since the late 1960s. And just so that we're clear, a wider window of opportunity means that there's an increased risk of harmful algal bloom events."

So they found more days each year, as time went on, when harmful algal bloom events were likely to occur. The next step was to look to the future, using climate change models to see how those 'windows of opportunity' might change in years to come ... in the 2020s, the 2040s, and out to the 2080s. What they found was that the 'window' will likely continue to widen.

[Moore] "Not only do we see an increase in the number of days in any given month within a typical bloom period, which is from (present day) a typical bloom is from July to October. So we see an increase in the number of days each month during that typical time period from July to October that conditions are favorable for a bloom event, but we also start to see that period widen. So we're starting to see longer bloom seasons as we go out into the future. So much so that by the end of the century, we project that blooms may occur up to two months earlier in the year and persist for one month longer."

What this model can do is give public health authorities and shellfish growers in Puget Sound a much more refined and accurate projection of when they should expect toxic algal blooms.

[Moore] "So if you're a manager, and you're in charge of protecting public health from these toxic events, we want to make sure that they have the information that they need to know when in the year to start looking for a bloom. So the results of our study indicate that we're going to have to be on-guard and looking for these blooms events to be occurring a lot earlier in the year than what we're seeing now."

That's pretty powerful information to have. Not only will coastal managers better know when they should expect harmful blooms, by knowing what sea and air conditions to look for, they may be able to more efficiently open and close smaller areas to shellfish harvesting instead of just closing off a huge swath of coast.

While this study focused on a small area in the Pacific Northwest, the predictive prowess behind the new model may have a big future in helping people in similar coastal areas around the world better prepare for toxic algae outbreaks.

That was Dr. Stephanie Moore from NOAA's West Coast Center for Oceans and Human Health. Check our website at oceanservice.noaa.gov for more details about this new research.

Goodbye

Thanks to Drs. Erin Lipp and Stephanie Moore for joining us today. We only had time to cover two of the three NOAA-funded studies presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting.

Head to oceanservice.noaa.gov for a detailed look at a third study from Dr. Sandra McLellan of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukeee School of Freshwater Sciences. You should really check it out. It's about how a changing climate with more rainstorms on the horizon could increase the risk of overflows of dated sewage systems. This could cause the release of disease-causing bacteria, viruses and protozoa into drinking water and onto beaches. Do you live in a city? You may be interested in what this report has to say about urban infrastructure, climate change, and water quality.

Thank you for joining us this week. Write to us as nos.info@noaa.gov if you have any questions or comments about the podcast, the National Ocean Service, or our ocean. And visit us online. Our home on the Web is oceanservice.noaa.gov. And don't forget that you can subscribe to this podcast on our website so you'll never miss an episode … We serve up a feed for your feed reader and we're also on iTunes. You can get those links on our website.

See you in a couple of weeks.


Marine Protected Areas (Episode 78)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/supp_july11.html#mw78

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 09:37:49 -0400

In this video episode, we take a look at the National Marine Protected Areas Center and preview one of four new videos available on the MPA.gov website.

Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone and Red Tide News (Episode 77)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/june11/mw062311.mp3

Fri, 24 Jun 2011 11:16:48 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 77 (June 23, 2011)

You're listening to Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. I'm your host, Troy Kitch.

A couple of episodes ago I told you about our photo contest for World Ocean Day on June 8th. Wow, did we get a lot of submissions. We received over 400 photos from NOS fans here in the U.S. and around the world – from as far away as India and Indonesia. The response was truly amazing.  We picked a few of our favorites and posted them in a gallery on our website, but we had such a hard time picking just a few. So we decided to go ahead and post ALL of the images on our Flickr page at flickr.com/usoceangov. Trust me – it's worth your time to check this out.

Dead Zone Forecast
You know the record setting flooding along the Mississippi River this year? Besides the visible damage caused by the flooding river to towns and property and crops … there's a less-visible problem that we may see down the road as flood waters flow into the Gulf of Mexico.
 
This is one of the lesser-known side effects of the flooding: as all of that excess floodwater washes over densely populated areas and fields where crops are grown, it absorbs lots and lots of nutrients – chemicals like nitrogen and phosphorus – that come from fertilizers used to grow plants, runoff from urban areas, and wastewater.  These nutrients are carried downstream and eventually end up in the Gulf.
 
Now, you may think of nutrients as good things, right? We add nitrogen and phosphorus-rich fertilizers to our gardens to make our plants grow better, after all. Well, as is often the case in life, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.
 
Here's the problem. As the water from the Mississippi River flows into the Gulf of Mexico … it takes with it all of the nitrogen and phosphorus and other nutrients picked up along the way. Just as nutrients help plants grow in your garden, the nutrients in the Gulf of Mexico carried from inland sources help algae in the water grow in great quantities. There are two problems with this. First, algae can grow in such vast numbers that it can block out sunlight that plants like sea grass need to survive. Second, when these large blooms of algae eventually die off, the decaying process can suck up most of the oxygen in the water in that area.
 
This can lead to areas with very little oxygen left in the water. It's a condition called hypoxia, but you'll often hear these oxygen-starved areas of water called 'dead zones.' Some creatures can escape out of these zones to water with more oxygen, but many plants and animals can't get out of the area and die.
 
Hypoxia is a continuing problem in the Gulf of Mexico. Each year, the size of the 'dead zones' in the Gulf vary, which has a lot to do with the quantities of nutrients that are picked up from inland sources, carried down the river, and dumped into the body of water.  Even when there's not a flood, there
are still large quantities of nutrients picked up by the river as it flows through urban areas and farmland.
But as you might imagine, flooding leads to more nutrients in the water.
 
And so it goes with this year's unprecedented flood season. A new forecast released last week predicts, in fact, that this year's Gulf of Mexico's hypoxic zone may be the largest ever recorded.
 
Scientists are predicting the area could measure between 8,500 and 9,421 square miles, or an area roughly the size of New Hampshire. If it does reach those levels it will be the largest since mapping of the Gulf "dead zone" began in 1985. The largest hypoxic zone measured to date occurred in 2002 and encompassed more than 8,400 square miles.
 
The actual size of the 2011 hypoxic zone will be released following a NOAA-supported monitoring survey led by the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium between July 25 and August 6. This annual forecast is delivered by a team of NOAA-supported scientists from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, Louisiana State University and the University of Michigan. It's based on Mississippi River nutrient inputs compiled annually by the U.S. Geological Survey.
  
Check our show notes for more details.

Red Tide
Now we're going to shift from talking about algal blooms that lead to 'dead zones' to algal blooms that produce toxins. You probably know these better as 'red tides.'

Now, algae are usually harmless and very important because they're food for many animals…but at times when they bloom out of control, some types of algae start to produce powerful toxins that kill fish and make shellfish dangerous to eat. These toxins threaten marine ecosystems, they're bad for human health, and they cost local and regional economies millions of dollars every year through fishery closures, and recreation and tourism losses because vast swaths of water have to be closed off until the threat passes.

But why do some species of algae produce toxins? It's a long-running mystery. Scientists have suggested that possible functions of the toxins include aiding prey capture, deterring grazers, or inhibiting growth of neighboring algae. Now, new NOAA-funded research points to a new possibility.

Last week, researchers at Texas A&M University published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on why so-called "red tide" algae in the Gulf of Mexico produce toxins. Graduate student Reagan Errera and oceanography professor Lisa Campbell in the College of Geosciences identified a trigger for production of brevetoxin, the potent neurotoxin found in a common type of harmful algae found in the Gulf of Mexico called Karenia brevis. The new study suggests that as red tides move onshore and mix with fresher water, the Karenia cells must adjust rapidly to the change in salinity. As they adjust, brevetoxin within the cell increases to allow cells to keep their water and salt content more in balance.

In their report, the researchers demonstrate that brevetoxin production increases dramatically when cells are shifted from higher concentrations of salt typical of the open ocean to lower salinity typical of coastal waters. In fact, the study says, the transition to lower salt environment triggered a 14-fold increase in brevetoxin.

What can this new research do for us? Quay Dortch, program manager for NOAA's Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms, said that "now that we have a plausible explanation for why Karenia brevis produces toxins, it will help coastal managers, public health officials, and others prepare for and respond to the impacts. We now understand that maximum toxicity will occur in the zone near the coast where shellfish are harvested and where people are exposed to toxic aerosols, especially when near-shore salinities are low."

And that's good news...

(Goodbye)
…And that's all for this episode.
If you have any questions about this week's podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean — or if you have an ocean fact you'd like answered — send us a note at nos.info@noaa.gov.
This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.


World Ocean Day 2011 (Episode 76)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/supp_june11.html#mw76

Wed, 08 Jun 2011 08:21:55 -0400

It's World Ocean Day! In this episode, we bring you a special video from NOAA's Ocean Today and preview a gallery of photos sent in by NOS Facebook fans and Twitter followers.

Marine Mammals Help Collect Ocean Info; New Marine Debris App (Episode 75)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/may11/mw052611.mp3

Thu, 26 May 2011 09:56:35 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 75 (May 26, 2011)

You're listening to Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. I'm Troy Kitch. We’ve got a couple of stories for you today. Stay tuned to learn how NOAA is planning to use tracking devices on marine mammals to better understand the ocean; and how a new free app for your iPhone or Android device makes it easy and fun to help researchers track marine debris while you’re visiting the beach this summer.

(World Ocean Day)

But first, a brief announcement about World Ocean Day on June 8th. Do you have some great photos of our oceans and coast you’d like to share on the National Ocean Service website?  Help us celebrate the beauty, mystery, and importance of the ocean by submitting your best ocean photos to us. Sunsets over the water, marine life, ships delivering goods, underwater shots ...we want it all!

You can either post the images on our Facebook wall at www.facebook.com/usoceangov  or send them directly to us at nos.info@noaa.gov.

When submitting a photo, include the photographer's name and a short description of when and where the photo was taken and what is shown in the photo. We also ask that photos are at least 300 pixels wide so they’re big enough for all to see.

Before you submit your photo, here are a few rules to keep in mind …

- For the photos you submit, we ask that you ensure that you are the owner of the photo and have the right to publish it.
- By submitting a photo, you are giving us permission to use the photo for other purposes -- on our website and in other NOS publications. Of course, we’ll provide credit to photographers whenever we use any of the photos.
- Photos that are submitted without information on the photographer and a brief caption will not be included.

We'll post the best of the bunch on our website at oceanservice.noaa.gov on June 8, in honor of World Ocean Day.  The deadline for submission is Friday, June 3rd. 

(IOOS)

Our first story today is about NOAA’s Integrated Ocean Observing System, called ‘IOOS’ for short. This is a NOAA-led national partnership that ties together all of the different measurements and observations about our ocean collected by NOAA, other federal agencies, states, universities, and a legion of other partners. The ocean’s a big place, so it takes a big collective effort to get information about what’s going on there … and it’s no small task to weave together data from satellites, buoys, tide gauges, radar stations, underwater robots, and other tools. But even with all of these tools, there are still many gaps in what we know about our oceans and coasts. What if we could get a little help from some of the animals that live there?

That’s the idea behind a clever new effort  to make the most of collected ocean data from electronic tags attached to marine mammals like seals and sea lions.  In March, scientists from IOOS and other federal, state, and academic institutions met in Santa Cruz, Calif., to establish a plan for integrating biological observations to the ocean observing system.

The idea is simple – as the marine mammals swim around, their electronic tags will send back detailed information about the water they’re swimming through. This will give researchers a better picture of what’s going on in the ocean to improve things like weather predictions and tide and current models … and it could also help lead to a better understanding of how climate change is affecting our ocean and coasts.

Scientists began widely using marine animal tagging technology in the 1990s on tuna, sharks, sea turtles, seals, whales, salmon, squid, and crustaceans, among others. Sensors track the animals over long distances for time periods ranging from a few days to more than a decade, collecting valuable data below the surface from remote places where conventional ocean sensing techniques won’t work or from areas of the ocean  that are hard to get to.

One of the big challenges with incorporating this new source of ocean data for IOOS is going to be better synchronizing many of the different tagging programs around the nation – and to improve data sharing among all of the ocean-observing partners. IOOS is looking to standardize the recording of these data so that scientists can apply the information more broadly.

In the long run, the addition of biological data into a national system will mean easier access to this information for all scientists. And over time, more scientists using more of this ocean information will help to improve our ocean models and forecasts. Specifically, the addition of this data to IOOS will improve short-term marine and weather forecasts, as well as long-term climate predictions. This data will also help scientists better understand how marine animals move with the flow of tides and currents and how climate change is altering their migration patterns.

Collection of biological data is expected to begin this fall. Check our show notes for links.

(Marine Debris)

Here’s something that will come as no surprise to you: our waterways are littered with trash. Plastic bags, cigarette butts, fishing nets, bottles, abandoned crab traps … the list is seemingly endless. This debris is bad for the environment, harms wildlife, and threatens human health and navigation.  Want to help clean this trash up?

Now there’s an app for that.

NOAA’s Marine Debris Program and the University of Georgia have teamed up to create a new tool for your iPhone or Android phone that allows you to help combat the marine debris problem.  It’s called the Marine Debris Tracker, and it’s free and ready for download in the iTunes and Android mobile app stores. A version for the Blackberry platform is in the works.

The Marine Debris Tracker allows users to report and record the type and location of debris through GPS features pre-installed on smartphones. The data submitted is posted on a website that allows data to be viewed and downloaded for users to design plans to prevent marine debris. We'll have a link to that site in our show notes.

The developers of the application hope that the Marine Debris Tracker tool will help officials make more-informed decisions about how to reduce marine debris, from supplying more waste management options like trash cans in key areas, to providing recycling and disposal opportunities for fishing gear.  They also hope that this tool will help reach more people to raise awareness of the marine debris problem.

The new app is the first product of new partnership called the Southeast Atlantic Marine Debris Initiative. Members of the initiative include the NOAA Marine Debris Program and a consortium of organizations in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. The initiative aims to create collaborative regional strategies that address marine debris prevention, reduction and mitigation.

Again, check our show notes for links for more information about the new Marine Debris Tracker app.

(Goodbye)

And that's all for this episode.

If you have any questions about this week's podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean — or if you have an ocean fact you'd like answered — send us a note at nos.info@noaa.gov.

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.


Centroid of the U.S. Population (Episode 74)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/may11/mw050511.mp3

Thu, 05 May 2011 08:31:44 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 74 (May 5, 2011)

You're listening to Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. I'm your host, Troy Kitch.

Do you remember filling out the 2010 Census form from the U.S. Census Bureau? Well, today, we're going to tell you about one small — but very interesting — piece of information gleaned from combining together all the census data from our nation's population.

Every ten years, when we do the census, the numbers are crunched to figure out exactly where the center of the U.S. population falls. It's a point called the Centroid. Well, the Centroid for the 2010 U.S. population has been calculated ... and you'll have to stay tuned to find out where it is.

We're joined today by telephone with Dave Doyle, chief Geodetic Surveyor with NOAA's National Geodetic Survey — the office that's responsible for placing a geodetic survey disk at the precise point called the Centroid. And there is perhaps no better person to tell us about this, because Dave has been involved with placing a survey marker at the center point of the U.S. population every ten years since 1980.

I first asked Dave to explain how the Census calculates the centroid for population. He said to think of a nice rectangular-shaped state like Colorado. If you imagine Colorado as a perfectly flat plain — without all the mountains and valleys — and you put it on a map, that place where this rectangular shape balances perfectly on a point is the centroid. The process that the Census Bureau uses to figure out the centroid for the U.S. population is more complicated than this, but it's the same idea...

[Dave Doyle] "But to sort of encapsulate the whole process — if you thought of the United States — and this includes Alaska and the territories — if you thought of it as a flat plain, you put it on a map, and had it on a nice hard piece of cardboard, and if all of the population weighted exactly the same — which of course we don't — but if we did, where would the country balance the population at one specific point in time? Because obviously the population is changing day to day — but based on the data collection that the Census has made relative to the 2010 cycle, where would that center of population be? Where would the country kind of balance."

To get at why this is so useful, you have to consider that the centroid is something the Census Bureau has been tracking for a long, long time. Every ten years, we get another point to plot on a U.S. map. Connect the dots, and you get a snapshot of how our population is shifting over time.

[Dave Doyle] "What you notice is that there's this very distinct trend, as the country built, the people moved to the West and the line of the center — the various centers from, oh, roughly 1790 when it was in Kent County, MD, to about 1920 or so when it's in Indiana, is almost a straight line to the West. Beginning around 1930, the trend now starts to go to the Southwest, so we see the influx of people moving to places like Texas, and New Mexico, and California, so that Southwestern trend is quite apparent, just looking at where the centers of population are."

Dave said the National Geodetic Survey has been involved with this effort since 1960, when the Census Bureau asked the predecessor to the Survey to place a geodetic survey monument at or very near the exact coordinates of the centroid.

[Dave Doyle] "That is, to put a very accurate longitude and latitude on that marker as part of the national reference framework that we've been responsible for since 1807. And so since 1960, every ten years, following the computation of the center of population, they provide us with those values and then we would send a field team out to that location and find where that coordinate is on the ground, and then actually place a geodetic control marker there and position it very accurately and then integrate that data into the network of other survey control points that we refer to as the National Spatial Reference System."

The National Spatial Reference System is a huge network of about 1.5 million monuments, or bench marks, around the nation. The latitude, longitude, and height of each of these reference points form the foundation for all of our geographic mapping needs — for things like nautical charting, aeronautical charting, and topographic mapping. The National Geodetic Survey tracks all of these reference points, and the agency and its predecessors have been doing this since Thomas Jefferson founded the Survey of the Coast over 200 years ago. Dave said that since the beginning, the Survey has used the most advance technology available to form this geographic reference system. But he said there's been an incredible transformation over the last 20 to 30 years that makes this reference system more relevant to more people than ever before — the advent of the Global Positioning System.

[Dave Doyle] "Certainly we see the impact of that today in just the most rudimentary forms. Almost everybody has some sort of positioning capacity in smart phones, or iPads, or iPhones, what have you in their cars and trucks and on their bicycles and on their wristwatch. So the ability for the average individual to position themselves has become an important part of our national infrastructure — the ability to get somewhere very quickly and very accurately. And at the heart of that, the capacity to do that accurately, is this rather invisible piece of our infrastructure that we refer to as the National Spatial Reference System."

Now for the big moment you've all been waiting for ... drumroll please ... where is the 2010 Centroid of the U.S. population going to be placed?

[Dave Doyle] "The Centroid is in a little town called Plato, MO. It's about an hour and a half, and hour and twenty minutes, sort of Southwest of Rolla, MO."

Dave led a team out to the site for reconnaissance in April so they could pin down the exact location. It's a pretty small place.

[Dave Doyle] "As we were driving into the town, there's a nice little sign that has the name of the town, and I believe it said the population was like 78 or 79, and almost immediately, a couple of folks in the car from Census said 'Oh, we've got to change that,' It's now like 110 or 112, I forget the exact number, but it's a pretty small community, and they're pretty excited about this. And that's a great part of it. It brings home these rather large and somewhat vague concepts, brings it to these communities where it makes them understand how important everybody is in the context of the whole country, and I think it's wonderful to be a part of that."

A formal dedication ceremony sponsored by the Census Bureau is scheduled for ... or was on (depending on when you're listening to this podcast) ... May 9th at 1p.m. in Plato, Missouri. Dave will be there, along with the Director of the National Geodetic Survey, and the Director of the Census Bureau. And so will probably a good portion of the population of Plato, Missouri.

For Dave, it'll be a very special event. He participated in his first centroid of the U.S. population event in 1980, and he's been in charge of the event for the National Geodetic Survey since 1990. The 2010 event will be his last as a NOAA employee.

[Dave Doyle] "I like to think about this as a great opportunity to highlight the relationship between Census and NOAA as part of the Department of Commerce, and the legacy that we've created there. I think it's a wonderful cooperative effort. It's been a real pleasure for me over the last roughly 35 years to be a part of this effort."

That was Dave Doyle, chief Geodetic Surveyor with NOAA's National Geodetic Survey

And that's all for this episode.

If you have any questions about this week's podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean — or if you have an ocean fact you'd like answered — send us a note at nos.info@noaa.gov.

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.


Deepwater Horizon, one year later (Episode 73)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/apr11/mw042111.mp3

Thu, 21 Apr 2011 08:40:16 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 73 (April 21, 2011)

You're listening to Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. I'm your host, Troy Kitch.

Last year, on April 20, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon MC252 drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico killed eleven people and caused the rig to sink. Then, as you surely know, oil began leaking into the Gulf. Before the wellhead was finally capped in mid-July, almost 5 million barrels of oil were released.

Today, we're going to look back at NOAA's role in the Deepwater Horizon spill response -- the months when oil was spilling into the Gulf -- through the eyes of one of the first NOAA responders to the spill.

We're joined by Debbie Payton, chief of the Office of Response and Restoration's Emergency Response Division. The Emergency Response Division is a group of scientists located around the country with a Headquarters office in Seattle who provide science support to the U.S. Coast Guard or the Unified Command when there's a spill of oil or chemicals anywhere in the country. We'll talk more about what 'science support' entails in a minute.

I began by asking Debbie about her role during the Deepwater Horizon spill response.

[Debbie Payton] "I was not the chief of the Division at that time. I have worked for over 30 years on spill response, so I did a fair amount of overflights, trajectory information; I was in charge of the group that was putting together the trajectory forecasting to try to determine where the oil would go so the cleanup crews could get there ahead of it, and I worked with the submerged oil crew trying to look for where there could be submerged oil."

Debbie said that forecasting the trajectory of oil, along with looking for oil on the surface, shores, and underwater, is only one small portion of the total package of scientific support that NOAA provides for spills. Scientific support also encompasses understanding the chemistry of the spilled oil or chemicals as well as the biological threats the pollutants may cause ... think seafood safety, public health, and the welfare of marine mammals. And NOAA delivers weather forecasts, satellite imagery, and nautical chart updates.

[Debbie Payton]  "Those are all pieces of what NOAA does. The science support is gathering all that information, all the information coming from not only federal scientists, but other scientists as well, and trying to put that into a cohesive information that the Coast Guard, who's helping to direct the response, can use to answer specific questions: where is the oil going, what's it going to look like when it gets there, what's the threat to birds or turtles, or other resources, and how can we best clean it up."

For Deepwater Horizon -- the largest spill in U.S. history -- the level of scientific support required was unprecedented. More than 2,000 NOAA people responded. Eight NOAA ships and seven NOAA aircraft joined more 5,640 unified response vessels and 116 aircraft to look for subsurface oil, deploy equipment, survey marine life, and collect samples for seafood safety.

But science support is routinely requested for smaller spills. Debbie said that a spill is defined as anything that creates a sheen on the water, and:  

[Debbie Payton]  "There are thousands and thousands of those every year. At a certain level, it bumps up to where the Coast Guard is concerned enough that they call in scientific support. Scientific Support Coordinators from NOAA get called in to 150 to 200 spills each year just in U.S. waters. About 65 percent of that is oil. The rest of it is mostly chemical."

So on any given week, NOAA is called to support a couple of spills. To handle these requests, there are nine of the Scientific Support Coordinators that Debbie just mentioned stationed around the country, working in Coast Guard offices. She said these people are the pointy end of the spear -- the first to be tapped when the Coast Guard needs NOAA science support. Day to day, these experts work closely with the local communities where they live ... and with other scientists at the state and local level ... along with those from other federal agencies. And when they're called upon, they reach back to the Emergency Response Division to get the NOAA support they need in areas like chemistry, biology, toxicology, modeling, or oceanography.

That's a broad snapshot of how the process works. But, of course, what made Deepwater Horizon different was the size of the spill and the huge response that was necessary. Debbie said that Deepwater Horizon was the first-ever spill in the nation designated a Spill or National Significance. This special designation came from the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, which was created in response to another major incident -- the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.

[Debbie Payton]  "So this was very enlightening on just how the organizational structure works, how all the parties play together. I think there was a lot to be learned just as far as organizationally how you respond to something of this magnitude. The Coast Guard did a fabulous job of putting together an enormous -- we're talking tens of thousands of people -- that have to pull together to try and solve a common problem. That's something that the military does, typically. Environmental groups, you don't do that so often. I just think that the whole scale and scope of responding to a spill like this is interesting, and I expect over the next couple of years that we're still going to be taking some of the things that we've learned from Deepwater Horizon and trying to figure out how to apply those to your more normal-type spill."

 

So where are we now, one year later? Debbie said, for her, it's still too early to draw a conclusion.

[Debbie Payton]  "I think very early in the spill, there was this dichotomy of people that thought the Gulf of Mexico was dead, it was over. And people on the other hand were saying 'Everything's going to be OK. It's gonna be fine." And I think the real answer was definitely more in the middle. Certainly the Gulf of Mexico, it's a thriving ecosystem. Ecosystems tend to be very resilient, and we've seen that, spill after spill. It certainly doesn't mean everything's OK. When an incident happens that's so massive, it's really good to kind of step back and not put too much credibility in either side that's way one way or way the other. Don't draw judgments too quickly. And I think actually for me, it's still too early to draw judgments. There's more work to be done.

That was Debbie Payton, chief of the Office of Response and Restoration's Emergency Response Division.

Today, NOAA and many partners are involved in a long-term process called Natural Resource Damage Assessment -- a complex job of figuring out just what was damaged by the oil spill, how to best repair that damage, and then ... restoring damaged areas.

As of the beginning of this month, over 4,250 miles of shoreline have been surveyed to collect data on the degree and extent of damage to habitats caused by the spilled oil. Nearly 30,000 samples have been collected along the Gulf Coast to help figure out the extent of the damage ... these range from samples of animal and fish tissue to sediment to tar balls to soil. And more than half of those samples have been analyzed in the lab. And there's a restoration project now underway to restore sea grass along shorelines in the region. There's more activities going on in the Gulf now than I can capture here, so I hope you'll head to Gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov to see what's being done right now.

That’s all for this week.

If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean -- or if you have an ocean fact you’d like answered -- send us a note at nos.info@noaa.gov.

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.


Harmful Algal Bloom discovery; U.S. Caribbean News (Episode 72)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/mar11/mw033111.mp3

Thu, 31 Mar 2011 10:09:25 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 72 (March 31, 2011)

You're listening to Making Waves. I'm Troy Kitch.

Today we’re going to talk about new algal bloom research and NOAA news from the U.S. Caribbean. Let’s do  it.

(UT Researchers Link Algae to Harmful Estrogen-like Compound in Water)

You may have heard stories in the news over the years about researchers discovering evidence that links manmade substances in our waterways to health and reproductive problems in animals … possibly including humans.

These compounds -– things like manmade hormones and pesticides -- are called endocrine disruptors, because there’s evidence that they mimic hormones, like estrogen, produced by the endocrine system -– a system of glands that produce hormones that regulate an organism’s bodily functions, such as reproduction.

While scientists have always thought that these kinds of damaging compounds only came from manmade sources, new NOAA-funded research shows that this may not be the case.

In a paper published in the American Chemical Society’s journal, Environmental Science & Technology, researchers at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville found that naturally occurring blue-green algae may be responsible for producing an estrogen-like compound. This natural compound appears to affect larval fish in a similar way as many manmade compounds.  

The study was led by researcher Theodore Henry, an adjunct professor for UT Knoxville’s Center for Environmental Biotechnology and faculty at the University of Plymouth in England.

He and his colleagues looked into the effects of a type of blue-green algae called Microcystis on zebrafish in their larval stage.  Microcystis algae frequently form what are known as harmful algal blooms. You may have heard of ‘red tides?’ Well, that’s one type of harmful algal bloom. These type of events happen when different types of algae in the water bloom out of control, producing  toxic substances as they do so. HABs are found in waters throughout the world and they’re a growing health and environmental concern.

During blooms of the particular blue-green algae known as Microcystis, a well-known and well-studied toxic substance is produced. What the researchers did was compare the affect this toxic substance alone had on the larval fish, and compare that to the effect of exposing the larvae directly to the algae that makes the toxin.

What they found was surprising. Only the fish in contact with the algae tested positive for exposure to estrogen from the environment. This led the researchers to conclude that the algae is producing a previously unknown substance -- an estrogen-like compound that acts as an endocrine disruptor, just like many manmade compounds.

While estrogen-like compounds released from algae in the environment haven’t conclusively been shown to affect reproduction in animals and plants, it’s an area of intense study. In a press release published by the University of Tennessee about the new study, Henry said that it’s possible that environmental estrogen-like compounds may lead to problems like physical feminization of male fish and behavioral changes. This is in addition to the possible human health effects of the toxins already known to be produced by these algae which may include skin rashes, fever, and liver damage.  Human activities may still play a role  because blue-green algal blooms are increasing due to enhanced nutrient pollution from human activities.

 

While more research is needed to better understand this phenomenon, the new study points out that researchers may have new harmful elements to consider as they investigate the effects of algal blooms on animal and public health. 

(U.S Caribbean News)

Next up, I want to tell you about two NOAA-related events that kicked off this week in the U.S. Caribbean. First, NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program and Fisheries Service released an ocean etiquette video to educate visitors to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on how to be good stewards of the marine environment. One of the main goals of the new video is to get people to stop collecting corals and marine life as souvenirs.  

The six-minute Caribbean Marine Etiquette video and corresponding 30-second public service announcement are available in English and Spanish. They educate viewers on the impacts of throwing litter on the beach, kicking or standing on live corals, anchoring boats on corals and sea grass, and collecting corals and other animals as souvenirs.

The new video will air in hotels, dive shops and on television throughout the U.S. Caribbean to promote responsible tourism.

Corals are the slow-growing colonies of animals that form the foundation of the reef ecosystem. Collecting corals, sea fans and other invertebrates destroys the habitat such important marine species as spiny lobster, groupers and snappers need, and can do long-term damage to the larger reef community.

Regulations prohibit the taking without a permit of both living and dead coral and shells from beaches and reefs of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Despite these local laws, U.S. Customs Agents confiscate hundreds of pounds of such material every month from all major airports in the U.S Caribbean. Since 2007, NOAA has been working with local enforcement officers in partnership with the Caribbean Fishery Management Council to identify violations, and hopes the marine etiquette video and educational posters at airports and cruise ship terminals will reach visitors even before a violation occurs at the beach.

We'll have a link for more details on the new video in our show notes.

Also this week, NOAA researchers kicked off the eighth year of a mission to explore and map underwater realms of the U.S. Caribbean aboard the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster. For many of the areas visited during this expedition, it'll be the first time they've ever been studied or mapped.

During a cruise from March 28 through April 16, researchers from NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science will be taking a close look at high-priority sea floor habitats between three and 30 kilometers off the southern coasts of St. Thomas and St. John. These areas were selected because of their ecological significance to commercially important fisheries and the need to update nautical charts in the region.

The data collected during the expedition will be used to paint a clearer picture of the U.S. Virgin Islands underwater habitats and the marine life they support. This info is critical for the resource managers charged with protecting these fragile ecosystems.

NOAA is undertaking this ongoing, multi-year mapping effort at the request of the Caribbean Fisheries Management Council, the National Park Service, and the University of the Virgin Islands. Check our show notes for a link to a site where you can get daily updates from the scientists during their Caribbean cruise.

(Closing)
And that’s all for this week.
If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean -- or if you have an ocean fact you’d like answered -- send us a note at nos.info@noaa.gov.
Now let’s bring in the ocean …
This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.


Seamounts Revisited (Episode 71)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/mar11/mw031711.mp3

Thu, 17 Mar 2011 10:38:25 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 71 (March 17, 2011)

You're listening to Making Waves. I'm Troy Kitch.

I happened to come across a study last week about seamounts from researchers at the Zoological Society of London and New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research.

The scientists who penned this new paper combined high-resolution maps created from ship soundings with lower-resolution satellite-gravity data to generate what may be the best estimate yet of how many of these huge underwater mountains are hidden beneath the waves.

Why should we care? Well, in the past, these geologic structures were seen as little more than navigation hazards. Today, seamounts are hotbeds of research because we now know that these mysterious places are biological hotspots that host an amazing amount of sea life. But because these underwater mountains are hidden under the sea and can be hard to detect, we only have a rough idea of how many there are.

This new research gives us a better idea. The team behind the new study found that there are around 33,000 seamounts covering the ocean floor. They estimate that these underwater mountains cover about 17. 2 million square kilometers.

What does this have to do with NOAA? Well, last May, Peter Etnoyer, a marine biologist with NOAA’s Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research, led a study that also estimated the area of seamount habitat using a different technique. And his research led to a similar estimate of around 18 million square kilometers of ocean floor for 33,000 seamounts. That’s very close to the findings of the newest study … and it offers independent confirmation that the NOAA research was close to the mark.

Let’s revisit that interview today. 

Last May, Peter Etnoyer and several colleagues published a report in the journal Oceanography that takes a fresh look at just how many seamounts might be hidden underneath the waves. In their report, they tallied up and compared the areas of all the major marine and terrestrial biomes on Earth, which Peter said had never been pieced together before all in one place. I reached Peter by telephone at his office in South Carolina.

[Etnoyer] “Technically, biomes are defined as major life zones with similar animals and a similar physical environment no matter where you go on Earth. So coral reefs are one good example. Tropical forests are another. Seamounts are a biome because they’re all deep, and dark, and cold with steep volcanic sides populated by fishes and corals and sponges and they do occur around the world.”

[Etnoyer] “What we found when we compared the seamount biome to all the others -- terrestrial and marine -- is that seamounts are larger than any single terrestrial biome like tropical forests or deserts or tundra, and this makes sense in a way because oceans cover 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, we just never divvied it up before into its constituent habitats.”

The difference between the seamount biome and more well-known biomes like tropical forests, coral reefs, deserts, or tundra is that seamounts are invisible. They’re hard to find. While Peter said there are a lot of ways to find a seamount, one of the newer technologies that’s making it easier to find them is to search from space using what is known as satellite altimetry.

[Etnoyer] “Satellite altimetry looks for little variations in ocean height and where the satellite sees bumps on the sea surface, we can expect to find a large seamount feature below. This is partly due to gravity, because seamounts are so massive that they actually gather up sea water around them, and the slope of this little hill -- although it’s invisible to the naked eye -- satellites can detect a one centimeter deviation from the norm.”

They definition of what a seamount is has changed over time. In fact, Peter said that a new definition of what a seamount is was proposed in the same issue of Oceanography where his report appeared last month.

[Etnoyer] “It was originally defined in the geologic sense as an isolated, submerged volcanic feature with steep sides of a thousand meter vertical relief or more, but lately more and more biologists are getting involved in that definition and biologist see this 1,000 meter cut-off as somewhat arbitrary, because smaller features of 300 or 400 meters are also hotspots of abundance and productivity. So they have seamount-like characteristics. So the new definition recommends that seamounts be defined as elevated features of 100 meters relief or more, and this would distinguish those smaller seamounts from mounds or banks, or anything less than a hundred meters.”

Now, if you just take into account the big seamounts over 1,000 meters high -- that’s about .62 miles, Peter and his colleagues found that there are around 45,000 of them in the ocean. Add in the smaller-sized seamounts, and you can see how these features collectively form one of the largest biomes on the planet.

[Etnoyer] “We were surprised that when you add them all up, we’re estimating 45,000 seamounts in the world larger than a kilometer -- so that’s just the big ones -- and when you add them up, that’s 28.8 million square kilometers of seafloor. It’s about the size of Africa, so I think of it as almost a submerged continent.”

Why are there so many seamounts out there? Well, it’s because we live in a volcanically-active world.

[Etnoyer] “If you look at a map of the tectonic plates, you’ll see that they occur throughout the oceans. We have a few instances of volcanoes recently in Iceland and we had Mount St. Helens before that, but really this kind of volcanic activity is happening all the time undersea, especially along the perimeters of these tectonic plates, but also in hot spots where magma erupts through the sea floor.”

What we haven’t directly addressed yet is what make seamounts so special. Peter said it has to do with how nutrient rich waters flow from the depths of the ocean and are carried by currents up the steep slopes of the seamounts towards the sunlit surface. This flow of nutrients make these places:

[Etnoyer] “…a riot of life above in the water column and below in the benthic habitats. I think of them as Hawaii, but underwater. You know, fishes, there’s whales, dolphins, will surround the sub as you come up from an expedition from the seafloor, and then in the benthos -- in the sediment -- there’s sponges more than a meter tall, there’s corals, and the corals are covered with brittle stars and shrimp and crabs and fishes nestled in their branches. So everything you might see around Hawaii in the shallow waters is something you’d also see around a seamount in the deep, cold, dark waters.”

Many people are surprised to learn that corals, in particular, are found in such deep, dark, and cold places. Peter said that these slow-growing, fragile animals can live for extraordinary lengths of time. Some of the black corals found on the Cross Seamount in Hawaii, for example, may be up to 4,000 years old. The bad news, he added, is that the seamounts that host these corals and so many other creatures are under increasing threat.

[Etnoyer] “The primary threat that’s caused by man is bottom trawling for commercial fisheries like orange roughy. These bottom trawlers will just decimate deep coral habitat. They have been modified with truck tires to bounce and roll over rocks and corals, and sometimes they bring up these corals, and they can be more than a meter tall. You know that these fish are dependent on these kinds of habitats for their survival and reproduction, so it’s disappointing to think that in these days and times that we rely on these kinds of destructive technologies.”

On a positive note, though, he said that these types of problems are being worked on in the global community.

[Etnoyer] “There are a lot of groups who are actively trying to improve our fisheries and trying to regulate these destructive fishing gears, and now we have new laws on the books like Magnuson-Stevens that establish these corals as essential fish habitat, and let us manage these kinds of habitats and protect them from destructive fisheries.”

The important thing Peter stressed was the need for continued, coordinated study of seamount habitats. While the recent report that he co-authored in Oceanography conservatively estimates that the total number of large and small seamounts in the ocean may collectively cover about 28.8 million square kilometers, he said that only around 250 individual seamounts have been biologically sampled. And each one of these seamounts are truly massive. Peter said that once he overlaid the trajectory of a one kilometer dive he made in the Alvin submersible over a large map of one seamount. The seamount was so huge, that he couldn’t even see where he had been on the map.

[Etnoyer] “It’s like trying to describe a seamount is like trying to describe a Monet painting from three bristles of a brush. We couldn’t hope to understand its enormity if we dove on it every day for a year. We still would have sampled a very small amount. So these are truly massive features, and that’s why when you add them all up, they are larger than the continent of South America. It’s just an enormous and unknown habitat.”

(Closing)

And that’s all for this week.

If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean -- or if you have an ocean fact you’d like answered -- send us a note at nos.info@noaa.gov.

Now let’s bring in the ocean …

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.


Human Health and Climate Change (Episode 70)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/mar11/mw030311.mp3

Thu, 28 Apr 2011 11:46:38 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 73 (April 21, 2011)

You're listening to Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. I'm your host, Troy Kitch.

Last year, on April 20, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon MC252 drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico killed eleven people and caused the rig to sink. Then, as you surely know, oil began leaking into the Gulf. Before the wellhead was finally capped in mid-July, almost 5 million barrels of oil were released.

Today, we're going to look back at NOAA's role in the Deepwater Horizon spill response -- the months when oil was spilling into the Gulf -- through the eyes of one of the first NOAA responders to the spill.

We're joined by Debbie Payton, chief of the Office of Response and Restoration's Emergency Response Division. The Emergency Response Division is a group of scientists located around the country with a Headquarters office in Seattle who provide science support to the U.S. Coast Guard or the Unified Command when there's a spill of oil or chemicals anywhere in the country. We'll talk more about what 'science support' entails in a minute.

I began by asking Debbie about her role during the Deepwater Horizon spill response.

[Debbie Payton] "I was not the chief of the Division at that time. I have worked for over 30 years on spill response, so I did a fair amount of overflights, trajectory information; I was in charge of the group that was putting together the trajectory forecasting to try to determine where the oil would go so the cleanup crews could get there ahead of it, and I worked with the submerged oil crew trying to look for where there could be submerged oil."

Debbie said that forecasting the trajectory of oil, along with looking for oil on the surface, shores, and underwater, is only one small portion of the total package of scientific support that NOAA provides for spills. Scientific support also encompasses understanding the chemistry of the spilled oil or chemicals as well as the biological threats the pollutants may cause ... think seafood safety, public health, and the welfare of marine mammals. And NOAA delivers weather forecasts, satellite imagery, and nautical chart updates.

[Debbie Payton]  "Those are all pieces of what NOAA does. The science support is gathering all that information, all the information coming from not only federal scientists, but other scientists as well, and trying to put that into a cohesive information that the Coast Guard, who's helping to direct the response, can use to answer specific questions: where is the oil going, what's it going to look like when it gets there, what's the threat to birds or turtles, or other resources, and how can we best clean it up."

For Deepwater Horizon -- the largest spill in U.S. history -- the level of scientific support required was unprecedented. More than 2,000 NOAA people responded. Eight NOAA ships and seven NOAA aircraft joined more 5,640 unified response vessels and 116 aircraft to look for subsurface oil, deploy equipment, survey marine life, and collect samples for seafood safety.

But science support is routinely requested for smaller spills. Debbie said that a spill is defined as anything that creates a sheen on the water, and:  

[Debbie Payton]  "There are thousands and thousands of those every year. At a certain level, it bumps up to where the Coast Guard is concerned enough that they call in scientific support. Scientific Support Coordinators from NOAA get called in to 150 to 200 spills each year just in U.S. waters. About 65 percent of that is oil. The rest of it is mostly chemical."

So on any given week, NOAA is called to support a couple of spills. To handle these requests, there are nine of the Scientific Support Coordinators that Debbie just mentioned stationed around the country, working in Coast Guard offices. She said these people are the pointy end of the spear -- the first to be tapped when the Coast Guard needs NOAA science support. Day to day, these experts work closely with the local communities where they live ... and with other scientists at the state and local level ... along with those from other federal agencies. And when they're called upon, they reach back to the Emergency Response Division to get the NOAA support they need in areas like chemistry, biology, toxicology, modeling, or oceanography.

That's a broad snapshot of how the process works. But, of course, what made Deepwater Horizon different was the size of the spill and the huge response that was necessary. Debbie said that Deepwater Horizon was the first-ever spill in the nation designated a Spill or National Significance. This special designation came from the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, which was created in response to another major incident -- the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.

[Debbie Payton]  "So this was very enlightening on just how the organizational structure works, how all the parties play together. I think there was a lot to be learned just as far as organizationally how you respond to something of this magnitude. The Coast Guard did a fabulous job of putting together an enormous -- we're talking tens of thousands of people -- that have to pull together to try and solve a common problem. That's something that the military does, typically. Environmental groups, you don't do that so often. I just think that the whole scale and scope of responding to a spill like this is interesting, and I expect over the next couple of years that we're still going to be taking some of the things that we've learned from Deepwater Horizon and trying to figure out how to apply those to your more normal-type spill."

 

So where are we now, one year later? Debbie said, for her, it's still too early to draw a conclusion.

[Debbie Payton]  "I think very early in the spill, there was this dichotomy of people that thought the Gulf of Mexico was dead, it was over. And people on the other hand were saying 'Everything's going to be OK. It's gonna be fine." And I think the real answer was definitely more in the middle. Certainly the Gulf of Mexico, it's a thriving ecosystem. Ecosystems tend to be very resilient, and we've seen that, spill after spill. It certainly doesn't mean everything's OK. When an incident happens that's so massive, it's really good to kind of step back and not put too much credibility in either side that's way one way or way the other. Don't draw judgments too quickly. And I think actually for me, it's still too early to draw judgments. There's more work to be done.

That was Debbie Payton, chief of the Office of Response and Restoration's Emergency Response Division.

Today, NOAA and many partners are involved in a long-term process called Natural Resource Damage Assessment -- a complex job of figuring out just what was damaged by the oil spill, how to best repair that damage, and then ... restoring damaged areas.

As of the beginning of this month, over 4,250 miles of shoreline have been surveyed to collect data on the degree and extent of damage to habitats caused by the spilled oil. Nearly 30,000 samples have been collected along the Gulf Coast to help figure out the extent of the damage ... these range from samples of animal and fish tissue to sediment to tar balls to soil. And more than half of those samples have been analyzed in the lab. And there's a restoration project now underway to restore sea grass along shorelines in the region. There's more activities going on in the Gulf now than I can capture here, so I hope you'll head to Gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov to see what's being done right now.

That’s all for this week.

If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean -- or if you have an ocean fact you’d like answered -- send us a note at nos.info@noaa.gov.

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.


Marine Debris Conference; Historic 19th-Century Whaler Found; Civil War-era Map Unveiled (Episode 69)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/feb11/mw021711.mp3

Thu, 17 Feb 2011 09:00:05 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 69 (Feb. 17, 2011)

Podcast script

You're listening to Making Waves. I'm your host, Troy Kitch.

Today, we're going to talk a bit about marine debris. Then we're going to take a look at two recent NOAA stories that tie back to the 1800s. One's about a really cool shipwreck discovery and one's about the Civil War. Good stuff. Let's dive right in.

Marine Debris Conference

The Fifth International Marine Debris Conference is set to take place next month from the 20th to the 25th of March in Honolulu, Hawaii. NOAA and the United Nations Environment Programme are co-organizers of the event.


Marine debris is a big problem around the world. Most people think marine debris is the trash that washes up on the beach, but that's just the debris that you can see. It's also underwater and floating around in the ocean. And it comes in all shapes and sizes ... from microscopic ground-up plastic, to lost fishing nets and gear.


And a lot of it starts out on land. You know the litter you see around your neighborhood? Well, a lot of times this trash ends up in a stream, a storm drain, or some other waterway ... and it can be carried out to rivers and eventually makes its way to the ocean.

When debris is floating in the ocean it's often mistaken for food by marine mammals, birds, and sea turtles. Whether it's a plastic bag that looks like a jellyfish or shiny pieces of plastic that resemble fish - animals will go after this and eat it.

Albatross, for example, eat flying fish eggs, and those are often attached to floating objects. While the eggs are often attached to natural things like wood and pumice, they also attach just as easily to plastic floating in the water. So the Albatross often end up eating a lot of other materials when they eat the eggs.

When animals eat plastic and other marine debris it sometimes results in starvation, but often it contributes to a more subtle problem … these animals can face lower survival rates because they're less fit. That makes them more likely to be eaten by other animals, and because they're weaker from eating marine debris, they're often more prone to parasites or disease and can have reproductive problems.

And these are just a few of the many problems that debris in the ocean is causing.

How do we tackle this problem? Well, that's what the upcoming conference is all about. The event is bringing together international marine debris researchers, natural resource managers, policy makers, industry reps, and the nongovernmental community to look at marine debris from a global perspective. Experts are going to talk about research advances, share strategies and best practices to manage the problem, and look at ways that the international community can better work together.

How can people like you and me help? We can recycle our trash, reduce the amount stuff we use, and reuse as much as possible to generate less waste. And we can help with clean-up in our communities to keep trash out of our waterways. If you'd like to learn more about the marine debris problem and the upcoming conference, check our show notes for links.

1800s Shipwreck Found

Archeologists working with the Ocean Service's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries have found wreckage of a famous 1800's Nantucket whale ship nearly six hundred miles northwest of Honolulu, within NOAA's Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

The ship is the Two Brothers. and it's the first discovery of a wrecked whaling ship from Nantucket, Mass., the birthplace of America's whaling industry. All of America's whaling ships are now gone, broken up or sunk, except one, the National Historic Landmark Charles W. Morgan at the Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut.


Two Brothers was captained by George Pollard Jr., whose previous Nantucket whaling vessel, Essex, was rammed and sunk by a whale in the South Pacific. Sound familiar? The Essex was the inspiration for Herman Melville's Moby-Dick.

Pollard gained national notoriety after the Essex sinking, when he and a handful of his crew resorted to cannibalism in order to survive their prolonged ordeal drifting on the open ocean.

After the ill-fated Essex expedition, Capt. Pollard went to sea again as the Master of Two Brothers. Just as he did as Captain of the Essex, he headed to whaling grounds in the Pacific.

But the Two Brothers whaling expedition was once again ill-fated…

On the night of Feb. 11, 1823, the Two Brothers hit a shallow reef off French Frigate Shoals near the Hawaiian islands. Pollard didn't want to abandon ship but his crew pleaded with him and they clung to small boats for survival during a long and harrowing night. The next morning they were rescued by the crew of another Nantucket whaler.

For the past 188 years, the wreckage of Two Brothers has been lost on the ocean floor.

A 2008 NOAA-led expedition to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to study marine life, remove floating marine debris and look for cultural resources resulted in the initial clues about the resting place of the Two Brothers. Maritime archaeologists first spotted a large anchor, followed by three trypots — those are cast iron pots for melting whale blubber to make oil — another large anchor, hundreds of bricks and the remains of the ship's rigging. Those artifacts conclusively indicated the wreckage was from a whaler dating to the early 19th century.

Then, follow-up expeditions in 2009 and 2010 resulted in researchers discovering more artifacts … blubber hooks, five whaling harpoon tips, three whaling lances, four cast-iron cooking pots and ceramics and glass indicating a U.S. origin. This helped confirm the dating of the wreckage. Additional research provided first-hand accounts from Two Brothers crew members, including an approximate location of where the ship grounded, which matched the location of the wreckage. We'll have a link to more details about the shipwreck discovery in our show notes.

Civil War Map

And we're going to stay in the 1800s for our last story today to tell you about a very special map made by the U.S. Coast Survey nearly 150 years ago. The Coast Survey is NOAA's predecessor agency.

What's so special about this map? It shows the distribution of the slave population in the Southern states during the Civil War. And according to both contemporary sources and historians, President Abraham Lincoln used the map to connect military forays to his policy of emancipation.

Now you may take maps and graphs that portray data and trends for granted today, but this was a novel thing to do in the late 1800s. In fact, it was pretty revolutionary. This map was among the first to use shading to represent population. It helped kick off a new trend in statistical cartography.

And it played a role in affecting political change and directing military strategy. Here's how.

Cartographers used shading to represent the human population, with the darkest areas of the maps showing the highest density slave populations. And a list in the map corner shows the number of slaves in each state, and the proportion of slaves to the total population. To Northern audiences studying the map, it was readily apparent that the order of this list, from highest density to lowest, corresponded closely to the order of secession of Southern states. It was clear, in other words, that the first states to secede were those with the most slaves.

According to Civil War-era artist Francis Bicknell Carpenter, President Lincoln often consulted this map in considering the relationship between emancipation and military strategy. Carpenter observed that Lincoln would look at the map and chart the progress of the Union troops in liberating the slaves, a military tactic that was destabilizing the South.

Fascinating stuff. And there's a lot more for you on the web. This map is part of a much larger collection now available online from NOAA's Office of Coast Survey in recognition of this years' 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

The collection is comprised of 394 Civil War-era maps, including nautical charts used for naval campaigns and maps of troop movements and battlefields. Rarely seen items include Notes on the Coast, which the Coast Survey prepared to help Union forces plan naval blockades that ultimately helped starve the Confederacy economically ... and annual summaries from the superintendent of the Coast Survey in 1843 which detail his staff's efforts to meet the military's growing demands for Coast Survey products.

Of course, you really have to see these maps and charts to appreciate them. We'll have links in the show notes so you can take a closer look.

(Closing)


Thank you for joining us this week. Write to us as nos.info@noaa.gov if you have any questions or comments about the podcast, the National Ocean Service, or our ocean. And visit us online. Our home on the Web is oceanservice.noaa.gov. And don't forget that you can subscribe to this podcast on our website so you'll never miss an episode … We serve up a feed for your feed reader and we're also on iTunes. You can get those links on our website.


See you in a couple of weeks.


Gulf of Mexico Disaster Response Center (Episode 68)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/feb11/mw020311.mp3

Thu, 03 Feb 2011 08:06:47 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 68 (Feb. 03, 2011)

You're listening to Making Waves. I'm your host, Troy Kitch.

Today, we're going to tell about NOAA's new Gulf of Mexico Disaster Response Center, now under construction in Mobile County, Alabama. The Center is the first of its kind, and it promises to change the way people respond to … and prepare to respond to … the many hard-hitting storms, spills, and other events that too often strike this fragile region.

Charlie Henry is with us today. He's served as NOAA's scientific support coordinator for the Gulf of Mexico region for the past 13 years, and he's the acting director of the new Center. I began by asking him how the idea for the Disaster Response Center came about.

[Charlie Henry] "You have to go back a little in time, back to the 2005 hurricane season. I think that's what really identified the vulnerability of the Gulf of Mexico to certain types of threats -- hurricanes is one example. And 2005 was one of the worst hurricane seasons that we had seen."

Hurricane's Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf coastline and took thousands of lives in 2005. And in the aftermath of these giant storms, Congress decided that something more was needed to help people in this area prepare for and better respond to these types of natural disasters. So in 2008, Congress appropriated funds to build the Disaster Response Center. But while the idea for the Center came from this terrible hurricane season, it has a bigger purpose:

[Charlie Henry] "Hurricanes aren't the only threats. If you at all heard anything on the news in the last nine months, you've heard of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and the economic impact and the environmental impact that caused to the Gulf of Mexico region. This Center is also designed in concept to provide additional assistance and coordination on those types of events as well. So it's an all-hazards response Center. "

So to really get at what the Center is going to offer, we have to step back and look at how NOAA does business today. As I mentioned when I introduced Charlie, he's been the NOAA Scientific Support Coordinator for the Gulf region for over a decade. There are eight other people like Charlie around the nation that help coordinate scientific support for all of the U.S. coastal and territorial waters when manmade or natural disasters strike.

What do I mean by scientific support? Well, take the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Coast Guard led the response to this crisis, but to do this job, they needed information … things like oil spill trajectories, models that would predict what was happening underneath the waves, and real-time weather and water data. These are the kinds of things that NOAA provide … the science that helps responders, well, respond smartly and efficiently. So if we have these support coordinators in place around the country, how will the Gulf Center be different? It comes back to this: we need something more robust and permanent in place in the Gulf, because the Gulf of Mexico is a place that's especially prone to severe hazards.

"The Disaster Response Center provides an extension to a lot of the coordination work we already do. What changes is that the Disaster Response Center -- because it's a physical building and location -- it provides like a hub to coordinate a lot of these activities, and what we think will add value to the resources we can bring on-scene. It provides coordination through that hub, additional training through that hub, a staging area through that hub, as well as improving communications through that hub through the IT infrastructure in being able to provide a lot of NOAA products and services in real-time in a building that's been rated to withstand storms, up to Category Five hurricanes and force five tornadoes."

Yeah, this is going to be one tough building. And it needs to be, because when a disaster strikes is exactly when the information the Center will provide is most needed. The new building is in Mobile County, Alabama, roughly at the center of the Northern Gulf of Mexico coast. It's not located down by the waterfront in the Bay, but up on high ground near a Coast Guard air station, so it's close to a lot of Coast Guard support and it's out of harms way from storm surges. I asked Charlie what's going to be inside the new structure.

[Charlie Henry] "This building is 15,000 square feet. It will house 30 full-time staff. It has a very large room that we can use either for training or can be reconfigured to an operations command center with breakout rooms and additional conference rooms. It has a video wall."

And it's rated to withstand winds up to 150 miles per hour. And there's also a vault on the inside to protect the people working there that can withstand winds up to 200 miles per hour. Oh, and it's also green.

[Charlie Henry] "It has solar water heating to support the facility, to rain water recovery systems to support a lot of the water needs of the building and the landscaping, and it's designed to be highly energy efficient, so it's really a state-of-the-art building that's very hardened and is very flexible in how we can configure it to either provide training, or provide workshops, or to configure it for actual emergency response."

So as Charlie just said, the Center is for much more than just responding to emergencies. In fact, he said the day-to-day job of the Center will be contingency planning and training so all the players in the region -- NOAA people, other federal responders, and state and local partners -- will be ready for the next event … and to make sure that the next time, mistakes made during past crises are not repeated.

[Charlie Henry] "You know, one of the most important things you learn in an emergency response is that sometimes mistakes happen, and often those are driven by the fact that they're unique events that people really don't understand and they're happening in real-time. There's no time to study it, the events just happened. You know, there's no value to be gained by the second kick of the mule, you know you don't want to make the same mistake twice. So we really want to provide that catalyst in a physical location to host those workshops to say, OK, how can we improve what we did in the past, so that the next time we're in a similar situation, we have a better understanding."

Charlie said that in emergency response, the key thing to keep in mind is that every action taken has potential consequences on the environment, on people who live in the region, or on reducing the impact of the event. So each time we respond to a hurricane or spill, it's sort of like an experiment in a natural laboratory. Because NOAA is a science agency, he said that experts at the Center can play a critical role in using science to learn from past events.

[Charlie Henry] "We actually learn more from every event that we want to incorporate into our planning for the future. These are not events that you can simulate or reproduce in a laboratory. You may be able to do some computer modeling, but the computer modeling is really driven by what we learned from past events anyway. So what we have to do is take advantage -- not only doing our due diligence to do the best response we can during that event -- but learn from that event on how we can do better in the future. Since we are scientists, and we study events, and we try to learn from events because that's what scientists do, is to take that science perspective on helping assist the states, the local municipalities, and the other federal agencies develop a better response plan in the future. It doesn't mean the old one was bad, but we can always improve."

NOAA is slated to take ownership of the new Disaster Response Center on the 25th of April. If you'd like to see what it looks like now, we'll have a link to an image gallery in our show notes. And that gallery is also where you'll find a lot more background on the new Center, it's mission, and it's vision for the future. Let me just mention where to find that now in case you're at a computer … it's on the NOS website at oceanservice.noaa.gov/hazards/drc/ … that hazards, backslash, D-R-C.

Of course, once NOAA takes over the building from the contractors, there won't be any furniture or equipment in it. Charlie said that'll take several more months. The plan is to open the doors for work in June. While the Center will have offices to support 30 staff members, it'll originally start off with a small cadre of key personnel.

That's not stopping Charlie and his team, though. They're already virtually open for business. He said that even though they don't have the building yet, they're now working the mission of the Center with partners in the region to improve response in the Gulf of Mexico.

And they even have their first workshop planned for later this year.

[Charlie Henry] "Our first workshop that we're going to host at the Disaster Response Center -- even before the building is fully operational -- is going to be a surge model workshop related to hurricane storm surge. And this is to basically provide the latest, best information from the folks that develop those models that predict how much can inundate those coastal zones so that we can improve planning for this years hurricane season."

(Goodbye)

It sounds like they're off to a good start.

That was Charlie Henry, NOAA scientific support coordinator for the Gulf of Mexico region and the acting director of the new Disaster Response Center.

And thank you for joining us this week. Write to us as nos.info@noaa.gov if you have any questions or comments and visit us online. Our home on the Web is oceanservice.noaa.gov. And don't forget that you can subscribe to this podcast on our website so you'll never miss an episode … We serve up a feed for your feed reader and we're also on iTunes. You can get those links on our website.
See you next time.


NOAA in Mobile Bay (Episode 67)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/jan11/mw012011.mp3

Thu, 20 Jan 2011 08:28:32 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 67 (Jan. 20, 2011)

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. I'm your host Troy Kitch.

Today, we're going to talk about how NOAA's navigational services are evolving beyond navigation.

...A big part of the Ocean Service's mission is about providing 'navigation services' ... things like measuring tides and currents, providing up-to-date nautical charts, and determining exact positions on sea or land.

These services help keep the nation's maritime commerce humming along safely ... but what else could this information be used for? Aside from navigators, who else could use it? And what would you get if you focused all of NOAA's combined navigational tools and services to study one specific coastal area in intense detail, all at one time?

A group of NOAA researchers and scientists from a bunch of NOAA offices are now seeking to answer these questions in a project now underway in Mobile Bay, Alabama. To learn more about it, today we're joined by ... well, let's let him introduce himself.

"Hi, my name is Galen Scott. I work for National Geodetic Survey, and I'm the team lead for the Ecosystems and Climate Operations Team"

I sat down with Galen last week in a small office at Ocean Service headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. Galen is one of the NOAA team members managing the activities going on in Mobile Bay. I asked him to start out by giving us the big picture about what this is all about:

"What we're doing is we're bringing the capabilities of several different NOAA offices together. So we've got National Geodetic Survey, we've got CO-OPS -- the Center for Oceanographic Operational Products and Services -- and we've got the Office of Coast Survey specifically working together right now on a big project that basically pulls together the things that our different offices do and puts them together so that, hopefully, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts."

And there are a lot of parts. Teams are measuring water levels; taking hydrographic and current surveys; measuring conductivity, temperature, and density at different points in the Bay; taking continuos GPS measurements; and calculating high-accuracy elevations along the coast. This data is being collecting by ship, on-shore, by satellite, and by aircraft.

"And so we're taking all of these different observations and putting them together and we're doing several different things with them. One of the things that we're doing is the Office of Coast Survey is creating a three-dimensional circulation model to understand and predict and forecast how the water is moving through the Mobile Bay, and that's really important for a whole number of things."

For example, this can be used to figure out where sediment is going as it flows into the Bay. Or to better understand larval transport -- how larvae are moving in the Bay and into the ocean and when different fish species spawn.

"Traditionally this information was collected to support safe navigation. It was collected to tell ship captains when they're bringing their big ships into Mobile Bay how much water's there, how deep is teh water at any particular time, what's the winds, how much space do they have underneath a bridge so that they can get under the bridge without hitting it or running aground. "

So the idea is to reuse, combine, and repackage the data NOAA is already collecting to provide mapping and measuring services for navigation. If you've heard of 'mashups' on the Web ... well, this is a similar idea. It's a creative process to mix and match and combine information so it can be used for other purposes.

"People don't know, necessarily, what we do or how our data could help them. And so one of the things we've been really successful with in the recent past is putting this information out there, telling folks what we've been doing and then they can draw their own connections to what they're trying to do, and then understand how what we do could support what they're trying to do."

Mobile Bay is a good example of this. The coastal communities who live in this area are facing a lot of issues about how to best manage their ecosystems, how to respond to coastal hazards, and how to make themselves more resistant to things like hurricanes and rising sea levels. The people who make decisions about these kinds of issues -- like coastal zone managers, emergency managers, and habitat restoration experts -- are interested in using the information NOAA's collecting to help solve some of the problems they're facing.

"These people got hammered by the storm surge from Katrina, so they're very interested in what could happen next time. And they're very interested in being able to predict, based on the storm that's coming in, what kind of surge they should expect, and what sort of response they should mount. Who should be evacuated? What they should do to protect their homes and their businesses and their lives. That's one particular example. Habitat restoration is a big deal down there because these local, tidal salt marshes are the nurseries for fish -- commercial and recreational fish species. The local economies are really dependent on commercial fishing as well as tourism. So the practical application in being able to make decisions about how to live down there are huge."

But how exactly can navigation data help make these types of decisions? Let's dig a little deeper into habitat restoration as an example. Galen said the type of information they're gathering in the Bay can help local experts prioritize what's a good investment and what's not in terms of restoring or protecting ecosystem services -- things like, for instance, a marshy area's ability to serve as a home for certain types of fish, or to serve as an area to lessen the impact of flooding. Here's how:

"By providing very specific information -- very local and very accurate information -- about what the water levels are doing there, and what the land elevation is doing there, because sea level change in a particular area is a combination of water level change and land elevation change, so particularly in this area in some of these marshes, the marshes are actually subsiding because of some of the processes that are going on within the soil substrate there, and sea levels are rising. That combination of subsidence and local sea level rise can really have a dramatic impact on these coastal marshes and can reduce their ecosystem services and eventually lead to them eventually breaking up and returning to them to open water."

So if NOAA can provide very local and very accurate information to Bay managers about what water levels are doing in a particular marsh, then:

"They can prioritize which areas they can help protect, which areas they can provide mitigation actions on, and it may not be worth the investment to do it because the processes there are really trending towards a loss of the ecosystem function, and wouldn't be able to be restored without great expense."

You may have noticed that Galen mentioned sea level rise in this example. That's also something that NOAA is playing a major role in helping coastal communities prepare for in the future. Now, you may think that sea level rise is happening pretty much uniformly along our coasts, but that's really not the case. You know how complex the weather can be ... how it can change from one spot to the next, even in areas that are really close together. How our coastal waterways change over time is just as complex. And trying to figure out how sea level rise will affect one small area like Mobile Bay isn't easy. Galen explains how navigation data can help:

"On a global scale, on average, the oceans are rising. That is expressed locally by a whole bunch of different complex interactions, including local currents, and the shape of the ocean basin, the shape of the coastal basin, the inflows from freshwater sources ... that's all going to affect the water levels in a local area. And that's what's important to the people that live there. What's happening right here. And it gets very complex because that can change from one spot on the coast to the next spot on the coast, even if they're relatively close to each other. You can have differing rates of local sea level change because of these different complex factors that all add in to what the water is doing. Same thing for the land. The land elevations are changing over time. In some places like in Alaska, you've got uplift. But specifically in the Gulf Coast, in a lot of places you've got subsidence ... the land is sinking. So when you combine the sinking land with rising water levels, it's a confounding effect. So being able to tease apart how much the water level is rising in a local area and how much the land elevation is changing combined can give you that local rate of sea level rise. But it gets more complex that because the land can also be changing in elevation from one place to another. "

Wow. And that's only a taste of the complexity we're talking about here. Galen also said that where fish and other creatures live now and where they might be living in the future is dynamically changing, and one of the reasons for that is the dynamic nature of water levels changing over time in the Bay. So you can begin to see how the measurements, models, and tools used to help with safe navigation can also lend themselves to solving some of these very localized, very complicated questions that people would like to answer.

So what's the status of the Mobile Bay project now? Well, the field work started last November and is slated to continue through February. Then Galen said pretty much the rest of 2011 will be spent processing data and developing a whole bunch of different products for the local community to use beyond the traditional ones used for navigation.

The big question, of course, is if this project is going to serve as a model for the future.

"Really what we're trying to do is to demonstrate how we can work better together, we can find efficiencies in doing the work we're mandated to do, and we can package it in a way that will provide important information to a whole suite of new customers beyond our traditional navigation customers."

Galen said this project follows a NOAA concept called Integrated Ocean and Coast Mapping. That idea, simply put, is to map an area once in great detail, and use the data you collect many times.

"That's a really important concept here, where we're going out there, we're mapping these things, and we're finding many different uses for them. It's that cross-functional data that we're talking about. So, yes, if we can make it work in Mobile Bay, we are hoping that this will be the model for us to use around the country."

I'd like to thank Galen Scott, team lead for the NOAA Ecosystems and Climate Operations Team and a scientist with the Ocean Service's National Geodetic Survey. Let's hear from Galen one last time.

"I'll tell you, I've been hip-deep in mud doing the kind of work I do out in marshes, which is getting these accurate elevations in marshes, and focused on that one particular piece of the issue, but being able to see what all these other scientists are doing, to see how they collect the currents, how they do the bathymetry, how they create these models from all this information that's being collected, it's really fascinating, and to me it's an exciting project because it's a much bigger picture of the capabilities that NOAA can provide in an integrated fashion."

And thank you for joining us this week. Write to us as nos.info@noaa.gov if you have any questions or comments and visit us online. Our home on the Web is oceanservice.noaa.gov. And don't forget that you can subscribe to this podcast on our website so you'll never miss an episode ... We serve us a feed for your feed reader and we're also on iTunes. Look us up, or get a link right to the iTunes page from our website.

We'll be back in two weeks with another episode. See you then.


NOS News (Episode 66)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/jan11/mw010611.mp3

Thu, 06 Jan 2011 09:06:16 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 67 (Jan. 20, 2011)

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. I'm your host Troy Kitch.

Today, we're going to talk about how NOAA's navigational services are evolving beyond navigation.

...A big part of the Ocean Service's mission is about providing 'navigation services' ... things like measuring tides and currents, providing up-to-date nautical charts, and determining exact positions on sea or land.

These services help keep the nation's maritime commerce humming along safely ... but what else could this information be used for? Aside from navigators, who else could use it? And what would you get if you focused all of NOAA's combined navigational tools and services to study one specific coastal area in intense detail, all at one time?

A group of NOAA researchers and scientists from a bunch of NOAA offices are now seeking to answer these questions in a project now underway in Mobile Bay, Alabama. To learn more about it, today we're joined by ... well, let's let him introduce himself.

"Hi, my name is Galen Scott. I work for National Geodetic Survey, and I'm the team lead for the Ecosystems and Climate Operations Team"

I sat down with Galen last week in a small office at Ocean Service headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. Galen is one of the NOAA team members managing the activities going on in Mobile Bay. I asked him to start out by giving us the big picture about what this is all about:

"What we're doing is we're bringing the capabilities of several different NOAA offices together. So we've got National Geodetic Survey, we've got CO-OPS -- the Center for Oceanographic Operational Products and Services -- and we've got the Office of Coast Survey specifically working together right now on a big project that basically pulls together the things that our different offices do and puts them together so that, hopefully, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts."

And there are a lot of parts. Teams are measuring water levels; taking hydrographic and current surveys; measuring conductivity, temperature, and density at different points in the Bay; taking continuos GPS measurements; and calculating high-accuracy elevations along the coast. This data is being collecting by ship, on-shore, by satellite, and by aircraft.

"And so we're taking all of these different observations and putting them together and we're doing several different things with them. One of the things that we're doing is the Office of Coast Survey is creating a three-dimensional circulation model to understand and predict and forecast how the water is moving through the Mobile Bay, and that's really important for a whole number of things."

For example, this can be used to figure out where sediment is going as it flows into the Bay. Or to better understand larval transport -- how larvae are moving in the Bay and into the ocean and when different fish species spawn.

"Traditionally this information was collected to support safe navigation. It was collected to tell ship captains when they're bringing their big ships into Mobile Bay how much water's there, how deep is teh water at any particular time, what's the winds, how much space do they have underneath a bridge so that they can get under the bridge without hitting it or running aground. "

So the idea is to reuse, combine, and repackage the data NOAA is already collecting to provide mapping and measuring services for navigation. If you've heard of 'mashups' on the Web ... well, this is a similar idea. It's a creative process to mix and match and combine information so it can be used for other purposes.

"People don't know, necessarily, what we do or how our data could help them. And so one of the things we've been really successful with in the recent past is putting this information out there, telling folks what we've been doing and then they can draw their own connections to what they're trying to do, and then understand how what we do could support what they're trying to do."

Mobile Bay is a good example of this. The coastal communities who live in this area are facing a lot of issues about how to best manage their ecosystems, how to respond to coastal hazards, and how to make themselves more resistant to things like hurricanes and rising sea levels. The people who make decisions about these kinds of issues -- like coastal zone managers, emergency managers, and habitat restoration experts -- are interested in using the information NOAA's collecting to help solve some of the problems they're facing.

"These people got hammered by the storm surge from Katrina, so they're very interested in what could happen next time. And they're very interested in being able to predict, based on the storm that's coming in, what kind of surge they should expect, and what sort of response they should mount. Who should be evacuated? What they should do to protect their homes and their businesses and their lives. That's one particular example. Habitat restoration is a big deal down there because these local, tidal salt marshes are the nurseries for fish -- commercial and recreational fish species. The local economies are really dependent on commercial fishing as well as tourism. So the practical application in being able to make decisions about how to live down there are huge."

But how exactly can navigation data help make these types of decisions? Let's dig a little deeper into habitat restoration as an example. Galen said the type of information they're gathering in the Bay can help local experts prioritize what's a good investment and what's not in terms of restoring or protecting ecosystem services -- things like, for instance, a marshy area's ability to serve as a home for certain types of fish, or to serve as an area to lessen the impact of flooding. Here's how:

"By providing very specific information -- very local and very accurate information -- about what the water levels are doing there, and what the land elevation is doing there, because sea level change in a particular area is a combination of water level change and land elevation change, so particularly in this area in some of these marshes, the marshes are actually subsiding because of some of the processes that are going on within the soil substrate there, and sea levels are rising. That combination of subsidence and local sea level rise can really have a dramatic impact on these coastal marshes and can reduce their ecosystem services and eventually lead to them eventually breaking up and returning to them to open water."

So if NOAA can provide very local and very accurate information to Bay managers about what water levels are doing in a particular marsh, then:

"They can prioritize which areas they can help protect, which areas they can provide mitigation actions on, and it may not be worth the investment to do it because the processes there are really trending towards a loss of the ecosystem function, and wouldn't be able to be restored without great expense."

You may have noticed that Galen mentioned sea level rise in this example. That's also something that NOAA is playing a major role in helping coastal communities prepare for in the future. Now, you may think that sea level rise is happening pretty much uniformly along our coasts, but that's really not the case. You know how complex the weather can be ... how it can change from one spot to the next, even in areas that are really close together. How our coastal waterways change over time is just as complex. And trying to figure out how sea level rise will affect one small area like Mobile Bay isn't easy. Galen explains how navigation data can help:

"On a global scale, on average, the oceans are rising. That is expressed locally by a whole bunch of different complex interactions, including local currents, and the shape of the ocean basin, the shape of the coastal basin, the inflows from freshwater sources ... that's all going to affect the water levels in a local area. And that's what's important to the people that live there. What's happening right here. And it gets very complex because that can change from one spot on the coast to the next spot on the coast, even if they're relatively close to each other. You can have differing rates of local sea level change because of these different complex factors that all add in to what the water is doing. Same thing for the land. The land elevations are changing over time. In some places like in Alaska, you've got uplift. But specifically in the Gulf Coast, in a lot of places you've got subsidence ... the land is sinking. So when you combine the sinking land with rising water levels, it's a confounding effect. So being able to tease apart how much the water level is rising in a local area and how much the land elevation is changing combined can give you that local rate of sea level rise. But it gets more complex that because the land can also be changing in elevation from one place to another. "

Wow. And that's only a taste of the complexity we're talking about here. Galen also said that where fish and other creatures live now and where they might be living in the future is dynamically changing, and one of the reasons for that is the dynamic nature of water levels changing over time in the Bay. So you can begin to see how the measurements, models, and tools used to help with safe navigation can also lend themselves to solving some of these very localized, very complicated questions that people would like to answer.

So what's the status of the Mobile Bay project now? Well, the field work started last November and is slated to continue through February. Then Galen said pretty much the rest of 2011 will be spent processing data and developing a whole bunch of different products for the local community to use beyond the traditional ones used for navigation.

The big question, of course, is if this project is going to serve as a model for the future.

"Really what we're trying to do is to demonstrate how we can work better together, we can find efficiencies in doing the work we're mandated to do, and we can package it in a way that will provide important information to a whole suite of new customers beyond our traditional navigation customers."

Galen said this project follows a NOAA concept called Integrated Ocean and Coast Mapping. That idea, simply put, is to map an area once in great detail, and use the data you collect many times.

"That's a really important concept here, where we're going out there, we're mapping these things, and we're finding many different uses for them. It's that cross-functional data that we're talking about. So, yes, if we can make it work in Mobile Bay, we are hoping that this will be the model for us to use around the country."

I'd like to thank Galen Scott, team lead for the NOAA Ecosystems and Climate Operations Team and a scientist with the Ocean Service's National Geodetic Survey. Let's hear from Galen one last time.

"I'll tell you, I've been hip-deep in mud doing the kind of work I do out in marshes, which is getting these accurate elevations in marshes, and focused on that one particular piece of the issue, but being able to see what all these other scientists are doing, to see how they collect the currents, how they do the bathymetry, how they create these models from all this information that's being collected, it's really fascinating, and to me it's an exciting project because it's a much bigger picture of the capabilities that NOAA can provide in an integrated fashion."

And thank you for joining us this week. Write to us as nos.info@noaa.gov if you have any questions or comments and visit us online. Our home on the Web is oceanservice.noaa.gov. And don't forget that you can subscribe to this podcast on our website so you'll never miss an episode ... We serve us a feed for your feed reader and we're also on iTunes. Look us up, or get a link right to the iTunes page from our website.

We'll be back in two weeks with another episode. See you then.


NOS News (Episode 65)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/dec10/mw120910.mp3

Thu, 06 Jan 2011 09:01:58 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 66 (Jan. 6, 2011)

... A new NOAA archive is launched on the web for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill
... Texas gets a new forecast system to warn of toxic algal outbreaks along the coast
... and do you remember the stories we had last year about the Scarlet Knight, the underwater glider that made it all the way from the East Coast to Europe? Well, it's now on display at the Smithsonian.

Those stories are coming up today ... it's January 6th, 2010. Happy New Year ... this is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.

(New Deepwater Horizon Archive)
Last week, NOAA unveiled a new web archive of the maps, wildlife reports, scientific reports and other previously released public information during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The site is intended to serve as a learning tool and resource for scientists, students and historians of all backgrounds.

Here are some of the highlights of what you'll find there:

- 450 nearshore, offshore and cumulative oil trajectory forecasts
- 33 fishery closure area and 9 fishery re-opening maps
- 129 wildlife reports for animals including sea turtles and marine mammals
- 58 nautical chart updates
- 38 Gulf loop current location maps
- More than 4,000 "spot" weather forecasts requested by responders

The archive also contains image and video galleries, fact sheets and publications, press releases and transcripts, educational resources, and mission logs by crewmembers on board several of the eight NOAA ships responding to the spill and the damage assessment. NOAA will continue to update the site in the weeks and months ahead. The new archive is at noaa.gov/deepwaterhorizon.

(Texas Harmful Algal Bloom Forecasts)
Texas officials and coastal managers will now receive early notice of outbreaks of toxic algae that threaten public health and affect beach and fishing activities along the coast. Beginning last month, NOAA's Harmful Algal Bloom Operational Forecast System is issuing weekly bulletins for this region based on observations from state and local partners, coupled with models, satellite ocean color imagery and data from NOAA's powerful current and weather systems.

The most common harmful algal bloom that occurs in the Gulf of Mexico is known as "red tide" and is caused by the algal species Karenia brevis. Occurrences of red tide have historically resulted in fish and marine mammal deaths, shellfish contamination and even human health risk in the form of respiratory distress. Economic impacts of harmful algal blooms in the United States average $75 million annually including impacts on public health costs, commercial fishing closures, recreation and tourism losses and management and monitoring costs.

NOAA has had an operational forecast in the eastern Gulf of Mexico for harmful algal blooms off the Florida coast since 2004. With the expansion of this operational system to include Texas, analysts can now review conditions daily with coastal managers from all of the Gulf of Mexico states.

The NOAA Harmful Algal Bloom Operational Forecast System is operated by NOAA's CO-OPS — that's the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services — the nation's authoritative source for accurate, reliable and timely water-level and ocean current measurements. The system is also produced in close partnership with NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science. Operational forecasts are also available for most of Florida and are in various stages of development in other parts of the nation. We'll have a link to the weekly bulletins in our show notes.

(Scarlet Knight Goes to Washington)
The Scarlet Knight, the first underwater robotic vehicle to cross an ocean, is the centerpiece of a new exhibit now in the Sant Ocean Hall at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

The vehicle, called an ocean glider, is the product of a public, private, and academic partnership led by NOAA's Integrated Ocean Observing System, or IOOS®. It was operated by Rutgers University. The Scarlet Knight carried out the trans-Atlantic journey in 2009, just months before the technology was used to help in the Deepwater Horizon BP response effort.

Rutgers scientists and students launched the trans-Atlantic glider, dubbed "the Scarlet Knight" in honor of the school's mascot, off the New Jersey coast in the spring. They and their Spanish colleagues from the Spanish Port Authority recovered the glider off the Spanish coast after seven months at sea and brought it ashore in the small town of Baiona where Christopher Columbus' ship, the Pinta, landed with news of the New World more than 500 years ago. The glider reached Spain on Dec. 9, 2009 — one year to the day of the exhibit being launched within the Smithsonian's Sant Ocean Hall.

Some big benefits of gliders are that they use very little energy, are relatively cheap, and don't risk human lives. They can also travel to a lot of places it is difficult for people to get to and many can be out there at once.  This makes gliders great tools to gather information about the ocean. Gliders can also travel long, long distances underwater. How long? That was one of the things the Scarlet Knight project put to the test with the trans-Atlantic mission. In an interview with Making Waves last year, IOOS director Zdenka Willis said that, in the beginning, no one knew if the little device would make it all the way across the pond.

[Zdenka Willis] "This was an extremely challenging mission. If you would asked all of us when she started out whether we thought she could make it across we all hoped that she could but the percentages were pretty low. We had shipping to be careful of, we had a number of hurricanes that crossed the Atlantic that she had to be able to maneuver through and under, if you will. There's the biology. There are sharks, there are squid, there is the currents that we need to get her across the ocean, so it was a very, very challenging mission, and we are just pleased that we were able to accomplish this."

Zdenka said that gliders are increasingly important tools for ocean observing. While satellites are critical to give us information about wide swaths of the ocean, they can only see what's happening on the surface. Buoys in the ocean give us both surface measurements and specific real-time temperature, salinity, and waves at one location. Gliders compliment these tools by allowing us to see in three dimensions underneath the waves.

[Zdenka Willis] "So we can basically fly the gliders north to south, east to west in a three dimensional pattern, so when we take that water column with the individual buoy and marry it up with the satellite data, that allows us to assimilate all of this data into models and actually do forecasts, because it's good to know what the actual conditions are now, but it's even more critical to know for many applications, what the forecast is in six hours, 12 hours, 24 hours, and 48. Then all of this data is collected and recorded and eventually gets into a climate data record for long-term series so we can see how it changes over time."

The utility of the underwater robotic vehicles to collect ocean data was put to the test soon after the trans-Atlantic journey was completed. As part of the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill response effort, IOOS partners deployed a fleet of gliders equipped with sensors to help indicate the presence of oil. Although scientists must still confirm the oil through water sampling, the gliders narrowed the search zone for subsurface oil.

Once again, the glider is now on display at the Sant Ocean Hall in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. So if you're in the DC area, be sure to stop for a visit. We'll have links to more information about the Scarlet Knight in our show notes.

(Goodbye)

That's the news for this episode. Come and visit us online. We're at oceanservice.noaa.gov.

If you have any questions about this week's podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean — or if you have an ocean fact you'd like answered — send us a note at nos.info@noaa.gov.

Now let's bring in the ocean...

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.


Educational Games (Episode 64)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/nov10/mw112410.mp3

Wed, 24 Nov 2010 08:57:21 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 64 (November 24, 2010)

Looking for something to entertain the kids while you're cooking Thanksgiving dinner this week? How about an online educational game!

Today, we're going to tell you about what's available over at NOAA's 'planet arcade' at games.noaa.gov ... and we're going to re-visit a 2009 interview with the National Ocean Service's education director to hear about NOAA's very first educational game ... and to learn why there's a growing trend to teach kids using fun gaming experiences.

It's Wednesday, November 24, 2010, and you're listening to Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. Happy Thanksgiving.

Educational Games

Let's start off with what you'll find over at games.noaa.gov.

This online portal launched in 2009 with a game called 'WaterLife: Where the Ocean Meets the Sea' -- NOAA's first foray into the world of educational gaming. Kids who play WaterLife help restore a polluted estuary with the help of a river otter named Oscar. During the journey, young gamers learn about factors that produce healthy estuaries, about food webs, and why estuaries are essential to ocean life and to humans.

The second major educational game in the the NOAA WaterLife series came out earlier this year. It's called "Sea Turtles and the Quest to Nest." This game takes kids on a journey to help a mother sea turtle find a safe place to lay her eggs ... and along the way, players learn about the many complex issues involved in protecting endangered loggerhead sea turtle populations.

The Waterlife games are aimed at fourth through seventh grade students, but even adults will find them entertaining and packed full of interesting science education and conservation tips.

And in addition to the Waterlife series, games.noaa.gov is also a jumping off point for a bunch of other great educational games from NOAA, the EPA, the National Park Service, National Geographic and PBS.

So why is NOAA making games for kids? What's the gaming portal all about? This week, we're going to revisit a 2009 interview with Peg Steffen, education director for the National Ocean Service, to learn more.

Peg led the development of the NOAA 'Waterlife' series, which she said are the types of experiences that are more and more in demand to meet the needs of digital natives – children who have grown up surrounded by digital technology.

Here's our interview from October, 2009, shortly after the debut of 'Waterlife: Where the Ocean Meets the Sea.'

Interview with Peg Steffen

[PEG STEFFEN] "We're finding that games are becoming more and more highly thought-of in the educational world as a tool to keep digital kids interested in school. Digital students now are different than they were 15 years ago. They need different kinds of methodologies, they don't tend to want to sit and do work sheets any more. They want to be more highly engaged in collaborative activities, in group activities, in problem-solving, in meeting challenges, and especially they're very interested in meeting some environmental challenges. And games can help fill that need."

While educational games are all about keeping digital kids engaged, Peg said that it's also about ensuring that kids today are able to compete and excel in the world down the road. In other words, games like WaterLife are about teaching important concepts, but they can also be powerful tools to help develop important life skills.

[PEG STEFFEN] "Those skills include things like strategic thinking, interpretive analysis, problem-solving, collaboration, critical thinking, and educational games can develop these critical skills, and help to address that pressing need for the United States to strengthen its education system and to prepare these young people for the twenty-first century jobs. Our Web site also includes a lot of additional information about careers, links to educational activities and curricula, materials about what it's like to be a marine mammal ecologist, for example, and help students find information on the web that might lead them down the path to a science or technology career."

That Web site that Peg just mentioned is called 'Planet Arcade,' and it's at games.noaa.gov. The flagship game on this site is WaterLife, but it's not the only offering kids will find there.

[PEG STEFFEN] "Games.noaa.gov is a website that we hope that children will visit regularly to understand more environmental issues, and so we have populated it with a number of games that we've produced including our signature game, which is Water Life, Where the River Meets the Sea. But then we have also done some mini-games taken from some of our other offerings and put that on the website in addition to adding links to other games from other federal agencies and partners that have things that will help students understand environmental issues like beach clean-up, whale migration, ocean challenge puzzles, and some other things. So we've featured some things from the EPA, from National Geographic, from National Marine Sanctuaries, from Ocean Explorer. So there are a number of highlighted games, but we call it Planet Arcade because it does have an environmental twist to it. So we hope students will know that games.noaa.gov is the place to go for fun things about the environment. And it's getting a lot of traffic."

When NOAA began the foray into gaming with the WaterLife game a year and a half ago, the first challenge was to come up with a good topic. Peg said it was clear from the start that it needed to be something with a lot of rich content, and it needed to be a topic that tapped into the expertise of NOAA people. After a lot of brainstorming, the team decided to focus on estuaries.

[PEG STEFFEN] "I think because there were a lot, a lot of complex, biological content issues and things that are already found within teachers' curricula and within the science standards in quite a few coastal states, and we thought this game would be something not only fun for students but useful in the classroom too. So we thought that this had the opportunities for understanding water systems, and ecological food webs, and understanding issues of pollution, uh, looking at marine debris, looking at some really fun critters, and those kind of things, all wrapped up into a really nice package."

The next challenge was how to actually construct the game. While NOAA had the expertise for the content, Peg's group had to look outside for expertise in gaming, graphic design, and programming. That led to a first-of-its kind partnership with Computer Gaming and Simulation program at Maryland's Montgomery College, located only minutes from the NOAA campus.

[PEG STEFFEN] "It's really tough to build a game with the internal capabilities that NOAA has. We really don't have a staff large enough to produce a game, and we don't have a staff that's knowledgeable enough to produce a game like this. This is an educational game, which is a serious game with a purpose. That's different than the usual shoot-em-up games that you find commercially available. But we were, um, able to develop a partnership with Montgomery College. And they have a gaming and simulation department there, and we were able to work with the professor there who garnered the people power through her student population who worked for about a year to put the game together. And they worked on their off-hours, and sometimes they worked as part of their regular college work. And some of them worked on the simulations, and some of them were developing background coding, some were doing the artwork, some were doing the voice-overs and the music, then they put the whole package together. And the game was launched in April."

This partnership solved two problems: NOAA got the expertise they needed to build a top-notch game, and the students at the College got invaluable work experience.

[PEG STEFFEN] "One of the biggest problems in game development is the very high cost, and in order to put together a game like this, the students who develop the game need to have some experiences in their college career in order to go out afterwards and get a job. So having a game like this developed under their watch means they now have something on their resume that looks really good, and so they can go out after college and get a job and point to this as being a product that they worked on when they were in college. And so they are very, very agreeable in working with us and working very long hours in order to get the product done. So it's a win-win, you know. We get the game developed, using content that NOAA approves, they develop a product that is then used on their resume, so it's a win-win and we get a game that's done at a very low cost."

As the Montgomery College students worked on the components of the game, the NOAA group focused on developing the content, and figuring out how to present information in an interesting way. The challenge was putting all of these moving pieces together.

[PEG STEFFEN] "Developing an educational game is a lot more complex than just developing a lesson plan. Usually a lesson plan has a purpose, one purpose at the end. This particular game that we have developed has a series of objectives, in terms of understanding the food webs, and the parts of the food webs, understanding what recycling is, understanding different kinds of pollution. This is a much broader topical area than a typical lesson plan would be. We're finding that students take 30 to 50 minutes to play the game. Um and we hope that they learn a few important points along the way. It's not that they're going to be a coastal manager when they're done but they'll have a better sense about the coastal, and the coastal ecosystem and why it's important. It's been different to try to visualize what is the purpose and then what's an interesting challenge that we can develop to get students to understand what it is we're trying to teach. And it takes a lot more time, because you have to develop the graphics, and the coding and what kind of game are you playing, and then what are the people saying, what's the script, what's the music behind it and it's almost like developing a movie, you know in terms of all the different parts and pieces that have to come together for this game."

While the completed game has been out in the wild for a while now, Peg said it's still early to know exactly how well the game is working.

[PEG STEFFEN] "We know that this game has a huge potential to reach, you know, 50 million pre-K to high school student population. And we know that we're getting the word out. But it's still very early to know that very many people are using it. We're collecting web statistics. We know we've reached tens of thousands of people so far, but we don't really have the formal evaluation back yet to know what students are actually learning."

While Peg's team is now putting together a formal evaluation tool to collect data from classrooms and from individual students, she said they have received a lot of anecdotal evidence -- from kid sending in messages from the Web site, and from testing done with groups of kids as the game was developed – that show that kids like it, and they're are learning something.

[PEG STEFFEN] "One of the main points of the game, was that they understand the threats to estuaries, and some things they can do to help estuaries. And so in all the preliminary testing that we did with students, when we did very simple questioning, we said, you know, do you know what an estuary is? And before they started the game they'd say, No. After they finished the game, they knew what an estuary was. Do you know what some of the threats to estuaries are? So we're happy that they at least are picking up the main points of an estuary and the threats. From that standpoint, we're very happy with the results."

While WaterLife appears to be a success, Peg said it's only the beginning. There's another game in the works, and once again, NOAA is teaming up with the Computer Gaming and Simulation students from Montgomery College. The new game is about loggerhead turtles. By the way, you'll hear Peg mention TEDS here – TED stands for Turtle Exclusion Device – clever net designs that allow turtles to escape from fishing nets.

[PEG STEFFEN] "We haven't determined the name yet. But it's looking at all the stakeholders in preserving loggerhead turtle populations, and especially preserving and protecting nesting sites. So the game is looking at the perspective of a politician who's developing laws, it's looking at stakeholders like fishermen, tourists, beach-goers, environmentalists, and it's also looking at the turtle perspective, and the whelk, which is a food source for turtles. So it's an interesting scenario in which the player takes the position of each one of those stakeholders and then tries to manage their actions based on their options. So for the fisherman, they have to make choices in terms of what gear will they use, whether they use hooks or nets, or nets with teds which allow turtles to get out, and if they use certain kinds of nets, they won't make as much money, and so they have to make some real life decisions based on choices that are available to them, and whether they will be catching turtles, which hopefully they don't."

The new game will benefit from the experience the team gathered from WaterLife, and they've learned a lot -- not only about how to construct a complex educational game, but how to make it fun so kids will want to play it.

[PEG STEFFEN] "I think that keeping it fun, don't make a game too heavy because students won't play it. But students like a challenge, they like to solve problems, and they like to solve environmental problems. They also love cute critters. Oscar the Sea Otter is very lovable. And the next game has an adorable sea turtle, and that will keep the girls coming. We found that girls to solve challenges and problems and help animals. And so if we, if we keep going down the path that we've been doing, we're pretty positive that we'll have a nice population of students that will try out our games and like them. But there is a lot of competition for their time. There's an amazing amount of websites out there that students go back to over and over and over again. And the trick is finding that mix of, of fun challenges that students will try over and over again."

Goodbye

That was Peg Steffen, Education Director with the National Ocean Service's Communication and Education Division.

Once again, the Web site where you can find WaterLife and a bunch of other educational games is games.noaa.gov.

And surf over to oceanservice.noaa.gov for more NOS education content produced by Peg's group, ranging from tutorials and case studies for students, to lesson plans and professional development for teachers.

If you have any questions about this week's podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, send us send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.

Now let's bring in the ocean....

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.


Plankton & Plastics; New NERRS; PORTS adds Wave, Visibility Data (Episode 63)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/nov10/mw111010.mp3

Wed, 10 Nov 2010 08:03:07 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 63 (November 10, 2010)

… Scientists on a NOAA research vessel collect plankton and plastic debris across the Pacific Ocean.

… An estuary in Wisconsin is the newest addition to NOAA's National Estuarine Reserve System.

… And NOAA adds visibility and wave data to real-time oceanographic systems in five maritime regions around the nation.

Those stories are coming right up. It's Wednesday, November 10, and you're listening to episode number 63 of Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.

(Okeanos Explorer)

Scientists onboard the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer just finished up a journey at the end of October that spanned thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean. A team of NOAA researchers, led by the National Marine Fisheries Service, conducted an amazingly long sampling survey of plankton – those tiny, microscopic plants and animals that drift around in the ocean. Along the way, they also surveyed plastic debris through what's popularly known as the 'Great Pacific Garbage Patch.'

Let's talk about the plankton first. It turns out that not much is known about these microscopic organisms that live in the far reaches of the Pacific. Why do scientists want to know more? For starters, plankton forms the base of the entire marine food web. It's also the most abundant form of life in the ocean. And it's the world's number one source of oxygen responsible for 90 percent of all the photosynthesis that takes place on the planet. So plankton may be tiny, but they're critically important to life on Earth.

The plankton sampling across the Pacific began with a cruise from Guam to Hawaii with the help of an instrument called a Continuous Plankton Recorder. This device was towed behind the ship and about 10 meters below the water during the transit. It's a pretty ingenious tool. As the ship moves through the ocean, water and plankton enter the nose of the rocket-shaped recorder. Inside the device, a slowly advancing silk screen filters out the plankton. This silk mesh is then rolled up and stored so it can be brought back to a lab for later analysis. 

So the researchers collected plankton on rolls of silk screen all the way from Guam to Hawaii. Then they continued on to collect even more samples during the next leg of their journey from Hawaii to San Francisco. Taken together, these samples will reveal the types, numbers, and distribution of plankton across more than 5,100 miles of the Pacific Ocean – it's believed to be the longest sampling effort of its kind on record.

Now let's move on to the plastic part. The researchers didn't only collect plankton during the trip from Hawaii to California. During this leg, NOAA researchers teamed up with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at U.C. San Diego to study plastic marine debris as they crossed through the so-called 'Great Pacific Garbage Patch.' This is a large area in the North Pacific Ocean where marine debris -- mainly small bits of plastic -- collects within the calm center of a high-pressure zone called the North Pacific Subtropical High.

To gather up this debris, they used an instrument called a "Manta Net." This device was periodically towed on the surface of the ocean behind the ship where it filtered seawater and funneled bits of plastic and surface plankton into a sampling container. Now you might have a mental image here of visible chunks of plastic floating in the water. While there are large pieces of plastics and other debris in this region, most of the plastic debris is ground up into really small pieces – some bits are as small as pollen – so it's not detectable by satellites or airplanes. In fact, it's often not even visible from a boat. So this clever method of capturing these tiny bits of debris is one of the few ways to get a good picture of what's there.

Researchers hope these samples will help answer some basic questions … like how large is this plastic debris? How is it distributed? And how does it affect marine life?

They also want to know about the make-up of the plastics, so scientists at the NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle will be testing for toxins that might be on or in the particles. And this will help expand our understanding of the impacts the debris can have on marine ecosystems. 

Now, we know that marine debris may have harmful effects on marine life, but there are no known studies that specifically research how many marine mammals die each year directly due to marine debris like plastics and derelict fishing gear. What's even lesser known is how plastics affect plankton, the smallest organisms on which other marine life feed.

So you can see why this long cruise was so special – scientists were able to collect plankton and plastic together through a vast region that we just don't know that much about. Insights gained from this long sampling effort may help researchers detect future changes in the region ... and lead to a better understanding of how plankton communities are responding to features like the Pacific 'garbage patch.'  Ultimately, by combining the plankton and plastic sampling data, scientists may be able to begin making connections between plankton and plastic to figure out just how much of an impact the debris is having on this critical part of the marine food chain.

One last note - the work conducted during the cruise can be considered "exploration" since so little is known about these vast regions, and so it was a great fit aboard the Okeanos Explorer – the Nation's only dedicated 'exploration' vessel. The work was conducted during what's called 'at sea' time - that's the period when the ship is in transit from one area to another. In this case, the Okeanos Explorer was returning to California following a joint ocean exploration expedition with Indonesian partners in the largely unexplored Sulawesi Sea in Indonesia. The ship is "Always Exploring", acquiring data and imaging the seafloor while underway. Since the ship had to cross the entire Pacific Ocean to get back home, it was a unique chance to use that time to further explore an area where very little research has been done. That's a pretty good use of travel time.

If you want to learn more about this cruise, check our show notes for a link to the Ocean Explorer website where you can read updates from the cruise, learn more about the science behind the mission, and see some pictures… so you can see what a Continuous Plankton Recorder and Manta Net look like. And by the way, the net does kind of look like a Manta.

We'll also post a link to the Ocean Service's Marine Debris Program so you can learn more about the concentration of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean, and you can learn more about the broader problem of marine debris around the globe … and what's being done about it. 

(New NERRS)

Nearly 17,000 acres of freshwater marshes, uplands, and river on the shores of Lake Superior in Wisconsin became the 28th member of NOAA's National Estuarine Research Reserve System at the end of October.

Federal, state, and local officials welcomed the new Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve to the system on October 26th with a celebration and public gathering. The new reserve is located in Douglas County, in the northwestern corner of Wisconsin where the St. Louis River flows into Lake Superior.

Official designation of the Lake Superior Reserve culminates a six-year process beginning with site selection and continuing with development of an environmental impact study and a comprehensive management plan. This multi-year process was done in partnership with scientists, agency land managers, public officials, and citizens representing local, regional, and tribal interests.

This designation means that the unique St. Louis River freshwater estuary will serve as a site to study natural resource management techniques and apply what is learned to problems facing coastal communities, such as maintaining clean water, protecting wildlife habitat, and preventing and controlling invasive species.

Research conducted at the Reserve could improve the health of local freshwater estuaries and assist other Great Lakes communities. The Reserve's educational programs will also allow individuals to experience freshwater estuaries and their unique resources, making it a community asset and a destination for students and visitors.

(New PORTS Capabilities)

And finally today, the Ocean Service's Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services recently added wave and visibility measurements to the volumes of real-time data served up by Physical Oceanographic Real-Time Systems, or PORTS, at five of the nation's twenty heavy-traffic maritime areas.

NOAA's PORTS are kind of like air traffic control systems for shipping ports and busy waterways. What they do is provide mariners ranging from casual boaters to oil tanker captains with real-time information so ships coming into and leaving busy waterways and ports know exactly what's going on in the water and in the air.

This information helps prevent ship collisions and groundings – and it keeps ocean traffic moving as efficiently as possible.

PORTS systems provide an incredible range of observations. Real-time data on tides, currents, water and air temperatures, water levels, salinity, atmospheric pressure, windspeed, gusts and direction, and even clearance levels under bridges is freely available to mariners through an online portal or by calling a toll free number.

And now we can add two more measurements to this long list of observational data at some of our nation's busiest seaports and waterways.

Wave information is now being delivered through four PORTS® regions in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers via real-time wave observation data from buoys operated by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The new stations with wave data are in San Francisco and San Pedro, Calif.; Clatsop Spit, Ore.; and Cape Henry, Va.

Fog is also a major concern for maritime traffic. Mobile Bay, Ala. is susceptible to heavy fog throughout fall and winter months, leading NOAA and the Alabama State Port Authority to select Pinto Island and Middle Bay Port as sites for two operational visibility stations. In addition to visibility sensors giving mariners the ability to see clearly, these two stations also contain air temperature and relative humidity sensors to supplement visibility measurements. Additional visibility installations are planned for other PORTS® including Narragansett and Chesapeake Bays.

Twenty PORTS are located throughout the nation, providing over 50 major seaports with real-time ocean information. Check out tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/ports/ for more information. And check out our show notes for more links.

(Closing)

And that's all for this week.

If you have any questions about this week's podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean -- or if you have an ocean fact you'd like answered -- send us a note at nos.info@noaa.gov. And be sure to visit us online. We're at oceanservice.noaa.gov<./p>

Now let's listen to the ocean...

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.


Aquarius 2010 (Episode 62)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/oct10/mw102810.mp3

Wed, 27 Oct 2010 14:53:49 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 62 (October 28, 2010)

[Sounds of diving bubbles in background]

Imagine you’re on a diving trip. You dive down to 10, 20, 30 feet. You get to the bottom, 60 feet down ... and you’re surrounded by coral reefs, tropical fish, and strange creatures crawling along the sea floor. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could stay for a while? A couple of hours? A day. Two days. How about 10 days, or more?

Well, there’s only one place in the world where you can do that ... the Aquarius Reef Base undersea habitat, owned by NOAA and operated by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. This underwater lab is a few miles offshore of Key Largo and 60 feet down, in the heart of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

While only a few get to go to the lab in person ... thanks to modern technology, it is possible to experience it virtually, in real-time, right alongside the Aquanauts living under the sea. Tens of thousands of children and adults did just that this month, and we’re going to talk with the national educational coordinator from NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary Office today about this really cool outreach effort that’s spreading the word about the importance of protecting our oceans and reefs and the things that live there.

And just because we know you’re curious, we’re also going to hear from the director of the Aquarius to learn about some of the tech, science and logistics that make this one-of-a-kind underwater lab possible.

We’ve got a lot to cover today, so let’s dive right in. This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

(Aquarius 2010)

So today we’re going to highlight a 10-day research mission on Aquarius Reef Base that just concluded that also doubled as a powerful outreach event to help spread the word about ocean conservation and to increase ocean literacy. It’s called ‘Aquarius 2010: If Reefs Could Talk,’ and in a few minutes we’re going to hear all about it.

But since this mission took place in such an unusual environment, let’s kick things off by getting a better sense of this special place. To help us do that, we spoke with Saul Rosser, the director of Aquarius Reef Base. We reached Saul by phone in Key Largo, the home base for the onshore facilities that support the underwater habitat.

[SAUL ROSSER] “The Aquarius habitat is about a 43-foot long cylinder in which people can live under water. On the end of the cylinder there’s kind of a square box which we call our wet porch, and that wet porch has a hole in the bottom. And that hole -- kind of a rectangular opening -- is where people enter and exit from the water. Air pressure inside the habitat keeps water from entering into the habitat, and in that way people can live at a depth of 47 feet of sea water, above an ocean floor at 60 feet, and they can enter and exit through this wet porch and go out work in the water for up to nine hours every day.”

And when they come back from these long days of underwater research, they can sleep, eat, analyze their data, and -- through the wonders of modern technology -- communicate with the outside world about what they’re doing down there and why it’s important. But how is it that they can stay underwater so long?  If you’ve ever been diving, you know that you only have a short time before nitrogen levels in your bloodstream get too high. The longer you stay under, the longer you have to decompress to safely get back to the surface. If you don’t do this properly, you can get decompression sickness -- an excruciating and potentially deadly complication. The researchers in Aquarius, though, are staying for days on end. So how do they do it?

[SAUL ROSSER] “Once you’ve stayed at a depth for something like 18 to 24 hours, your body tissues become what’s called ‘saturated,’ which means that they’ve taken on as much nitrogen as they possibly can, and so staying any longer won’t add any more nitrogen and therefore the amount of decompression you have to undergo is fixed. So what that means is: one day takes 17 hours, two days takes 17 hours, and 10 days takes 17 hours to decompress, so you might as well stay for 10 days. And so we generally run our missions for 10 days. We run longer ones, because again you can stay, and there’s no more decompressions obligation.”

OK, that makes sense. But recreational    divers usually decompress by hanging out underwater at a shallow depth for a period of time to allow the nitrogen to escape their bloodstream. So how do the Aquanauts on the Aquarius decompress for a full 17 hours?

[SAUL ROSSER] ”When it comes time for decompression, what we do is the cylinder that is the Aquarius -- the tube -- is a pressure vessel, and we run a hose from this pressure vessel up to the surface and then we open a valve connected to that hose and we let the air inside the habitat go out of this hose and slowly reduce the pressure to one atmosphere. Of course, before we do that, we close the door leading to the wet floor to make sure the water doesn’t rush in, but in this way we can slowly bleed off the pressure over a 17-hour period, and by the end of that you’re back at surface pressure. And once you’re at surface pressure, you can just quickly re-pressurize the habitat, and exit through the wet porch, and swim to the surface, and we’re done.”

So that’s gives you the big picture about how researchers get down there, stay so long, and safely get back out. But that’s not the whole picture. There’s a lot more to Aquarius than the undersea habitat.

[SAUL ROSSER] “Above our habitat, we have a ten-meter diameter -- 30-foot diameter -- container discus buoy that contains compressors and generators and those compressors and generators supply power and air to the habitat via a life support umbilical. It also provides telemetry, which allows us to get our video signals and communications back from the habitat. And then onshore we have a couple of shore facilities where we maintain our gear and maintain our boats and dock our boats. And we also have accommodations for scientists who come and participate -- trying to keep the costs down for the scientists -- so they can focus their money on productive research.  And then finally at our base we have a watch desk, which is kind of a remote control station. We don’t actually control the habitat from there per se, but we sit and we monitor during a mission when people live in the habitat, we have 24 hour a day monitoring, watching video feeds, watching telemetry, pressure and oxygen content and compressor status and all that kind of thing.”

And the Aquarius team also maintains a small fleet of boats, which they use to ferry scientists back and forth from the underwater lab and their onshore facilities. So it’s a complex operation, and Saul said their main goal is to take care of all the hard operational work so the people who come to use the lab can make the most of their limited time.

[SAUL ROSSER]  “What Aquarius Reef Base is primarily is a hosting institution. We have an underwater habitat, which is an incredibly useful and productive facility, but then we draw on scientists from universities around the country to come and do science out of facility. We also support other partners such as NASA, who sends astronauts every year to come and train for the International Space Station and Space Shuttle flights, and we also support U.S. Navy divers who come and train for their specialized activities.  So we’re partnering with all sorts of people. Every month we have a new group in. This month it’s the Sanctuaries, who we love working with, but every month it’s a new group, with a new mission, and a new goal in terms of exploring and promoting our oceans.”

[Spanish language broadcast playing background]

The Sanctuaries group that Saul just alluded to is where we’re going to focus for the rest of the episode. What you’re hearing is a snippet of sound from one of 34 shows broadcast daily in English and Spanish broadcast and streamed live over the Internet during a 10-day mission at Aquarius Reef Base this month.

If you’ve been paying attention, you know that the mission we’re talking about is ‘Aquarius 2010: If Reefs Could Talk,’ an ambitious program aimed at increasing ocean literacy in English- and Spanish- speaking communities around the nation by bringing live ocean research to the web and to classrooms from coast to coast. 

So to tell us more about it, we’re now joined by Kate Thompson, National Education Coordinator for the Sanctuaries office. And just so you know, Kate and Saul were actually in the same room in Key Largo during our phone interview. We talked to both of them on the ninth day of this 10-day outreach and education mission. Here’s Kate:

[KATE THOMPSON]  “Aquarius is a great way to be able to bring the ocean to communities nationwide because it’s the only undersea laboratory in the world, and it’s very unique in that we can talk about science and technology and all the cool things that happen beneath the waves through an educational and outreach experience.”

It’s also a great location to reach out to kids around the nation for another reason.

[KATE THOMPSON] ”Aquarius Reef Base is really wired, and we have video conferencing units that actually allow us to do point-to-point conversations with the students, so we can see them and they can see us, and they can see the habitat, and the divers out on the helmet.”

[KATE THOMPSON]  “We wanted to take advantage of those point-to-point conversation happening and so we’ve been broadcasting live over the internet, but we’re also going through oceanslive.org  -- that’s our website where we have all of the information supporting the mission and the live feed. And also the archived shows. All of the shows we have done in the past days have also been archived up on oceanslive.org, so that’s how people can watch. But the students can interact live. They can ask questions to the divers -- to the Aquanauts in the habitat -- and to us topside hosting the shows. It’s really exciting because they feel like they’re part of a produced show that’s going out live on the internet for everyone to see.”

This the second time that the Sanctuaries office has hosted an outreach mission from Aquarius Reef Base. You could say that the first event back in 2007 was a pilot test for the much larger, much more ambitious program delivered this year.  During the first run a few years ago, they sent out a broadcast over the web, they produced one live show each day in English only, and they held a live point-to-point session with one school.

[KATE THOMPSON] “But this year we’ve expanded it so much so that we’ve reached ten different schools, I believe now four aquariums, a couple of science centers, as well as hundreds of thousands of viewers over the internet.”

Aquarius 2010 connects communities around the nation with real ocean research -- and real ocean researchers -- through live internet broadcasts, live video conferences, at special events, and through social media. As Kate said, this year they reached close to a thousand students at ten schools with live video teleconferences, but they also reached many more kids at select schools with the help of a partner.

[KATE THOMPSON] “We also have what we call hosted sites where are partners with the National Association of Black Scuba Divers and other groups, they actually go and host shows specifically at schools, so I think it’s probably pretty much doubled our reach through the hosted shows through our partnership with NABS, and I can honestly say we’ve probably reached close to two to three thousand students just through point-to-points and hosted shows.”

And as we heard earlier, this year’s mission also heralded in a new Spanish-language component. In addition to the live daily broadcasts in Spanish, the Sanctuaries team also linked up with a few schools that participate in a program from the Channel Islands and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries called MERITO -- which stands for ‘Multicultural Education for Resource Issues Threatening Oceans.’ The word merito also mean  ‘merit’ or ‘worth’ in Spanish.

[KATE THOMPSON] “What’s really cool about this year’s mission is about the programming in Spanish. We’ve been doing both English and Spanish language programming every day, and we’ve actually reach a couple of specific MERITO schools that speak Spanish, and also we went down to Baja Mexico to a university down there and they brought in a bunch of students to the University to also have a discussion back and forth with the Aquanauts and we actually have a habitat technician and supervisor here who also speak Spanish, so it was great to be able to do all of the Spanish programming.”

The Spanish-language segments, along with outreach efforts facilitated by NABS -- the National Association of Black Scuba Divers -- was all about bringing the ocean message to underrepresented communities in areas like Miami, Washington DC, Chicago and Tennessee, so that more students have the chance to explore the wonders of ocean science, technology, and engineering.

At the time of our talk, she said over 150,000 people had been reached so far just through the oceanslive.org online site -- and that’s not counting the thousands of kids reached directly in the classroom around the country. The goal? Kate said the mission was all about building a better understanding of how each of us impacts the ocean and how the ocean impacts us.

[KATE THOMPSON] ”Our biggest thing with education and sanctuaries is, you know, we’re trying to push out these ocean literacy principals, and the two that we’ve been really pushing are that the ocean is vastly unexplored and we have so much more to learn from it, and the Aquarius habitat really helps us to be able to study for long periods of time the ocean, and what we need to learn more about; and then also that humans and the oceans are inextricably interconnected, and it’s really important for students to understand that what they do, what their parents do, their friends do, impact the ocean every day, and in their backyard is a watershed, and that watershed leads to the ocean, whether here in Florida or California or in North Dakota, they need to know that They impact it, and what they can do to make change for the ocean.”

And what they can do to make change for coral reefs in the ocean. Kate said that the research conducted during the 10-day science mission was focused on ‘listening to what the reefs had to say.’

[KATE THOMPSON]  “We’re trying to understand how the different parts of the reef connect and how we connect to them. That’s been the big overarching science message for this mission.”

And it’s important to emphasize this point. Aquarius 2010 was a major education and outreach effort, but it was also a real scientific mission.  Kate said that key parts of the reefs like corals and brittle stars in the area around the Aquarius have been closely monitored since the early 90s to better understand the changes in this fragile habitat.

[KATE THOMPSON] “What they’re noticing this year is, gosh, there’s just not that much going on out there anymore. There’s so much missing. They’re doing diadema counts, or sea urchin counts, and they’ve found maybe one or two the entire time they’ve been out here which is really scary and sad, and the reefs themselves are degrading. They have photographs of the same places for the past 15/20 years, and it’s just showing that coral itself is degrading and becoming covered in algae, and these are some major issues that they need to address.”

In addition to this long-term reef habitat research, there were many other science inquiries going on during Aquarius 2010. For example, researchers from the University of Connecticut and California State University Monterey bay were looking at group foraging in fish to better understand how they cooperate.  And NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science also had researchers on-site. They were tracking fish at night using sensitive sonar systems because we really don’t understand much about where and why fish shuttle back and forth each day from sheltering areas to feeding grounds and how this behavior might be impacted by degraded reefs in the area.

We asked Kate what she hopes the students take away from all of these activities.

[KATE THOMPSON]  “People really need to learn about the problems facing our oceans and they really need to become part of the solutions. We’re seeing so much through our scientists and people studying the reefs, the changes over time on these reefs is really amazing. I’ve began diving down here I think probably ten, twelve years ago and just that span of time since I first dove here is amazing, and what’s happening to these reefs. you know, picking up a clump of algae and pulling it away and seeing the reef suffocate with this algae, and saying ‘OK, what the heck do I need to do in my back yard to make a difference here.”

If this has piqued your curiosity and you missed the live broadcasts, you’re in luck. You can watch all the archived shows from this mission at oceanslive.org. And also be sure to check out sanctuaries.noaa.gov for more info about this mission and all the cool things the sanctuaries office does. And last but not least, we have a short video for you on the Ocean Service YouTube channel at youtube.com/usoceangov, so you can get a visual of what Aquarius Reef Base is all about.

(Closing)

 We’d like to thank Kate Thompson, National Education Coordinator for the NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuaries, and Saul Rosser, the director of Aquarius Reef Base, for taking the time out to talk with us for this show. Aquarius 2010: “If Reefs Could Talk’ was sponsored by AT&T and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. 

Let’s wrap up the show this week with a last word from Kate.

[KATE THOMPSON] “What’s awesome for me is to being on the other end of a classroom, when the kids stand up and we ask them, ‘what can you do to help protect the ocean?’ And one of the first thing they say is, well you know what? I can recycle! Or, I can screw in a light bulb that saves more energy ... and these kids are coming up with these things on their own. They’re not necessarily hearing them us, and ‘I’m going to go back and talk to my Mom and Dad about what we can do in our backyards to not use fertilizer that’s going to impact these reefs. So it’s really cool for me to be able to see the kids light up when they see a diver do a flip off the Aquarius habitat, or when they see a scientist monitoring of fish out there, and they get so excited when they see a barracuda go in front of the camera. It’s just bringing that connection to them. Bring the oceans live to them is what really gets me excited -- to see their faces, and to see what they could potentially do.”

And that’s all for this show. If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean -- or if you have an ocean fact you’d like answered -- send us a note at nos.info@noaa.gov. And be sure to visit us online. We’re at oceanservice.noaa.gov

Now let’s listen to the ocean...  This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.


NOS News Round-up (Episode 61)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/oct10/mw101410.mp3

Thu, 14 Oct 2010 14:50:16 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 61 (October 14, 2010)

… How to track historical hurricane paths where you live
... A new commission aims to make ocean travel safer in the Arctic
… And a new radar system boosts ocean observing in Hawaii.

Those stories are coming up today. But before we begin, I want to make sure you know about an event that’s going on right now through the 19th of October. It’s called Aquarius 2010, and it’s your chance to see what it’s like to live 60 feet under the sea on the Aquarius Reef Base, the world’s only underwater research lab in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The Aquanauts in the lab are broadcasting live shows each day during this special 10-day mission in English and in Spanish. And you can chat with the underwater team, send them tweets, or just follow along with their research anytime of the day through the 19th. So head to oceanslive.org for Aquarius 2010.  And don’t miss the next Making Waves episode, we’re going to talk with an Aquanaut from this mission, so be sure to join us for that in two weeks. Now let’s talk about the ocean.

It’s Thursday, October 14, and you’re listening to episode number 61 of Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

(Hurricane Tracks)
Do you live in a place where hurricanes are a threat? Moving to a place and want to know how many hurricanes have passed through the area?  Maybe you’re a city planner, a reporter, or a coastal manager and need to research hurricane activity? Well, there’s a tool for that. It’s called Historical Hurricane Tracks, it’s online for anyone to use, it’s free, and it was just updated to include 2009 storms.

Historical Hurricane Tracks is really cool and it’s easy to use. Once you enter a few search terms, you’re served up with customized, downloadable maps based on more than 150 years of Atlantic hurricane and tropical cyclone data. That’s right. You can find out what hurricanes passed through an area all the way back to 1851.

And there are many, many ways to search. To name a few you can search by U.S. zip code, state or county, storm name or year, or latitude and longitude points.

So, for example, you can check out how many category 1-5 hurricanes have passed within 65 kilometers of Wilmington, NC, between 1851-2009 ... and by the way, you can see an image of just what that looks like on our website – check the show notes for the link to our accompanying online story). Or you can pick out one storm and track its path to see exactly where it made landfall.
One thing you’ll notice with the tool is that if you select a wide range of years, the overlapping paths of decades hurricanes can be quite overwhelming. You can reduce the clutter by choosing fewer years, hone in on different types of storms, you can zoom in and out, and you can even toggle the names of  the hurricanes on your custom map off to help you better see the distinct paths of each hurricane.

Now, these historical “snapshots” are fascinating to see, but they’re for more than entertainment. This data helps community members and local emergency managers develop better plans for storm preparation and recovery.  In other words, it helps people visualize how vulnerable an area is over time to better prepare for what may be ahead.

And in addition to the customizable mapping tool, Historical Hurricane Tracks also features a searchable database of population changes versus hurricane strikes for U.S. coastal counties from 1900 to 2000. And it includes detailed reports on the life history and effects of U.S. tropical cyclones since 1958.  Why would you want to know this? Well, knowing how many people live, work, and vacation in a given coastal community is key for planning and conducting emergency response and recovery activities.

As populations increase in hazard-prone areas, the protection of people, property, and natural resources becomes more complex. Viewing population and storm data together will help minimize uncertainties and empower communities to become better prepared to deal with meteorological hazards.

Last, but not least, the site also offers a look at tropical cyclone reports written by hurricane specialists at the National Hurricane Center.
Again, it’s called Historical Hurricane Tracks, and it’s developed by NOAA’s Coastal Services Center in partnership with the National Hurricane Center. As always, the links are in our show notes.

(Arctic Mapping)
Now let’s head to the Arctic. Hurricanes aren’t a problem here, of course, but here’s what is: increased ocean traffic combined with poor nautical chart coverage.  This is a big safety issue for mariners transiting this vast region, and it’s a growing problem as sea ice  continues to shrink.

Last week at a meeting in Ottawa, representatives from Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the U.S. established a new Arctic Regional Hydrographic Commission to meet this challenge head on. The main goal is to work together to make better nautical charts.

According to U.S. reps at the meeting, less sea ice over longer periods of time has resulted in a doubling of vessel traffic in the Arctic since 2005 from sources like cargo vessels, ecotourism, and ships engaged in resource exploration in the region.

And this increased traffic can create real dangers.  According to Capt. John Lowell, director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey and U.S. national hydrographer, charting data in much of the Arctic is woefully out of date or nonexistent. And these inadequate charts pose a significant risk for marine safety, potentially leading to loss of life or environmental disaster.

But it’s not just about safety – making ocean transport safe through and within the Arctic is important to the U.S. economy, environment and national security.  

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey headed the U.S. delegation to Ottawa last week, which also included representatives from the Naval Oceanographic Office and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

(HAWAII IOOS)
And finally today, we’re going to head to a warmer place to tell you about   U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System that’s now available to users in Hawai‘i. 
Before we go there, though, do you know what the Integrated Ocean Observing System is?  It’s a bit of a mouthful, so it’s usually called IOOS for short. Well, to put you in the right frame of mind, here’s Jennie Lyons, a communications specialist from the program explaining what  IOOS is all about from a 2009 interview on our sister podcast, Diving Deeper.


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. You would not believe the amazing amount of data collection tools out there. I know I couldn’t quite grasp it when I started here with IOOS. I mean, there are satellites, buoys, tide gauges, radar stations, underwater vehicles, and the list goes on.  Some of the tools are in the water, as you might expect with ocean observations, but some are on land, and others still are all the way up in space. Most of the data collected is streamed to a database where IOOS partners are working to make it easier to access and understand. That way, scientists and decision makers can quickly find what they need.

We’ll have a link to that full episode in the show notes so you can learn more about IOOS. It’s a good one so be sure to check it out. Now let’s get back to Hawaii. So, IOOS partners in the Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System began delivering data last month from a new high frequency radar system south of O‘ahu, and it’s the third such system installed in the region this summer.

What do these radars do? Together, the systems send surface current speed and direction in near real time to IOOS national data servers. This data helps scientists better understand where things like spilled oil, harmful algal blooms, or drifting ships might be traveling so responders can take appropriate action.

But’s that not all for IOOS news out of Hawaii. Last week, IOOS also launched a new website that serves up maps of real-time water conditions and recent alerts in the U.S. Pacific Islands. And regional partners are now delivering a nearshore water conditions map specifically for the Hawaii area. The map includes information on salinity, temperature, chlorophyll, turbidity, and oxygen along with recent warnings, advisories, and postings from weekly bacterial testing conducted by the Hawaii Department of Health’s Clean Water Branch. These data provide information that sailors, state and local agencies, and beachgoers need to make safe and informed decisions before heading out on the water and to the beach.  We’ll have a link to the site in our show notes.

(Closing)
And that’s all for this week. A brief programming note before we end: the feed to this podcast is now served up in two formats. The main format is .mp3, which most of you are likely familiar with.  That’ll work in pretty much any player you choose to play this back. The second format is for iTunes, which includes chapter markers, images, and links. And that, of course, only works if you subscribe through iTunes. If you want to do that, you can find the direct link to our iTunes page in the show notes. And while you’re there, leave a comment and tell us what you think about the podcast.

If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean -- or if you have an ocean fact you’d like answered -- send us a note at nos.info@noaa.gov. And be sure to visit us online. We’re at oceanservice.noaa.gov

Now let’s listen to the ocean...

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.


Hypoxia in U.S. Coastal Waters (Episode 60)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/sep10/mw091610.mp3

Wed, 15 Sep 2010 11:34:30 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 60 (September 16, 2010)

Earlier this month, a new interagency report was delivered to Congress that warns of the growing threat of low oxygen “dead zones” in coastal waters around the U.S. This condition is known as hypoxia -- where oxygen levels drop so low that creatures in the water are stressed or killed. 

Today, we hear from two of the scientists behind the report – Dr. Libby Jewett from NOAA, and Herb Buxton from the US Geological Survey. They’re going to help us learn more about the extent of this problem, its causes, and how this trend might be reversed.

It’s Thursday, September 16, and you’re listening to Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

(Hypoxia Report)
Hypoxia isn’t a term that many people know, so let’s begin with an overview of what we’re talking about. To help us do that, we’re joined by Libby Jewett, Hypoxia Research Program Manager for NOAA and the lead author of the new report. We began by asking Libby to explain what exactly hypoxia is.

“Hypoxia is when the level of dissolved oxygen in the water gets too low to support most life and it’s a problem in coastal waters around the U.S. and in lakes. It’s been defined as when the level of oxygen falls below two parts per thousand or two milligrams per liter…”

And the biggest factor that leads to dissolved oxygen falling below this level is what’s known as nutrient pollution. We generally think of nutrients as good things because all organisms need nutrients to grow. The problem is that we humans are generating way too many of them. And these nutrients – mainly nitrogen and phosphorus – find their way into our waterways and end up in lakes, estuaries, and coastal waters.

Libby said that in most cases these excess nutrients are the main culprit behind the hypoxia problem.  What happens is that the nutrients become food for algae in the water, and this leads to unnaturally large algal blooms. In other words, it makes the algae grow like crazy, just like fertilizer boosts the growth of the grass on your lawn.  And then …

“As that algal bloom dies or is eaten by zooplankton, the organic matter falls down to the bottom waters and because the bottom waters are actually separated by the surface waters because they’re – in the case of an estuary – higher salinity, denser waters – as the bacteria is decomposing that organic matter in the bottom waters – it actually draws the oxygen level down. And so it’s through the nutrient supply of these systems that we actually see a growth in the frequency and intensity of hypoxia in many U.S. systems.”

How big of a problem is this in the U.S. today? That leads us back to the new interagency federal report, which was mandated by Congress in the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act of 2004. We asked Libby what Congress is looking for in the report.

“So one of the requests by Congress is ‘update us,’ you know, ‘not only are we going to fund research,’ which is part of what that legislation does, but says ‘tell us how has the rate and intensity and frequency hypoxia changed in the last five years, because there was a report like this done in 2003, and what can be done? How much progress have we made and what are the next steps.”

She said that answering these questions is no easy task, mainly because the problem of hypoxia is so complex.

“In order to get at this, you really have to look at the whole watershed. And that doesn’t mean just NOAA, but NOAA plus the Department of Agriculture, plus the Environmental Protection Agency, plus the US Geological Survey, plus others as well…”

What this interagency group found by looking at the whole watershed is that there’s been a huge, 30-fold increase in hypoxia in U.S. waters since the1960s. Back then, there were only 12 documented hypoxic zones. Today, the report catalogues more than 300. 

The Oregon and Washington shelf off the West coast is now the site of the second largest seasonal hypoxic zone in the U.S. and third in the world – and the report finds that this may have more to do with climate change than nutrient pollution. The report also confirms that the northern Gulf of Mexico is home to the largest seasonal dead zone in the country and second largest in the world.

Overall, the report documents hypoxia on every coast and in around half of our estuaries.

“It wouldn’t matter if there was nothing living in those systems, but these are the most productive systems in the world along the coasts, and that’s where the fisheries are that our commercial fishermen and recreational fishermen rely on. And these are where marine mammals live that are eating the fish that are relying on the organisms that would have been living in those hypoxic zones. ”

Scientists are still trying to better understand what the long-term impacts might be to coastal ecosystems around the nation.  Some organisms – like fish -- have the capability of moving out of hypoxic areas, so Libby said it’s hard to figure out the effect on these fisheries.  But there are many other organisms like oysters and mussels that can’t move as fast, and when the hypoxia hits, they die.

“So you’re actually losing habitat substrate and nursery habitat. There are large swaths of Chesapeake Bay, for instance, and at the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico where there’s nothing living on the bottom for a good part of the year. And these were productive systems in the past. I mean, prior to the 1960s-1950s, you look at the amount of fish caught and those systems, for instance, the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico were the most productive in terms of fish caught and when they did abundance surveys where the fish lived. And now, if they do that mid-summer, there’s really nothing there.”

The northern Gulf of Mexico and the Chesapeake are two of eight in-depth case studies in the report that provide a representation of the many different types of hypoxia systems in the U.S. – those that are well-studied, those aren’t so well-studied, systems that are newer to hypoxia, and systems that have strong management interventions in place to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. Added to this:

“… one of the nice pieces to this report is the whole final appendix, which actually lists every system, no matter how small that experiences hypoxia. And that way, when we do the next report, we compare the difference over time, and whether we do have a beneficial impact through whatever nutrient reduction techniques or other control mechanisms that we put into place.”

This last point – measuring how well we’re doing at reducing the amount of nutrients running off the land into our waters – points to why so many different agencies are involved in this effort.  It’s a problem that needs to be tackled on many fronts.

NOAA’s main job is to focus on monitoring and understanding hypoxia and its impacts on coastal waters. The EPA is mainly focused on regulating nutrient inputs from sources like wastewater treatment plants. The Department of Agriculture is charged with leading strategies to reduce nutrient inputs to coastal waters from agricultural lands and urban ecosystems. And the US Geological Survey is the agency that measures and models how nutrients are delivered from freshwater systems to coastal waters throughout the nation.

To help us understand more about the complex flow of nutrients in our waterways that eventually lead to hypoxia along the coast, we’re now joined by Herb Buxton by phone from his office in New Jersey.  Herb is a co-author of the report, and chief of the US Geological Survey‘s Toxic Substances Hydrology Program. The USGS is a science agency in the Department of Interior that operates the largest federal water-monitoring program in the country. Herb said that one of the tasks of the USGS is to measure the quality and quantity of streamflow delivered to coastal ecosystems.

Streamflow is a term that simply refers to the amount of water flowing in rivers and stream. Most of this flow of freshwater ends up in the ocean. The main source for this water is from precipitation runoff. That may seem obvious to you, but what’s not so obvious is how human development impacts this flow.

“We make modification to the land surface, and we make modifications to river channels, and they all affect how the water runs over the land surface and down the rivers. Paving and development on land surfaces increases the amount of precipitation that runs off, vs. infiltrates into the ground, and that causes quicker runoff events. Also, channel modifications affect the way water flows down the streams. Channel modifications are sometimes made for navigation purposes, and this can reduce the amount of time that water spends in backwaters like in wetlands and other natural stream ecosystems and, basically combine these things, it can increase the amount of riverflow and also increase the peaks associated with storm events. ”

So in effect, the changes we make to the land often lead to water reaching the coastal ocean faster. This leaves less time for nutrients in the water to be absorbed in backwaters like wetlands. And, of course, our development of the land also means that there are less wetlands where the nutrients can be absorbed in the first place. So where are all of these nutrients in the water coming from?

“They enter the environment from the fertilizers that we apply to our agricultural lands or our commercial and residential properties; it enters the environment from agricultural lands that are used for animal production, particularly animal production that has large numbers of animals over relatively small areas. It enters the environment through the discharge of treated human waste waters. It even enters the environment through smokestack emissions that have nitrogen in it, and that ultimately retains to the land surface with atmospheric deposition and washes to rivers.  Nutrients are good in that they’re needed by living organisms to grow. The problem is when we have too much of them in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

So one of the main ways to reduce the problem of hypoxia is to reduce the amount of nutrients going into the streamflow. Herb said that improvements are being made on this front. For example, better wastewater treatment practices are decreasing nutrient loads that are put directly into streams. And new management practices are being implemented to reduce the amount of nutrient losses from fertilizer use on crop fields and from animal agriculture. Emission regulations have decreased the amount of nutrients entering our waterways from smokestacks. And wetlands are being restored.

Still, there’s lots still to be done. One of the biggest challenges in getting a handle on the nutrient pollution problem is that the U.S. is a big place and there’s a lot of streamflow that needs to be accounted for. Herb said that today the USGS monitoring of coastal delivery of nutrients is limited to about 18 major rivers. While that may not seem like much, he said that the streamflow from these rivers alone account for more than 80 percent of total nutrient delivery to our coastal waters.

“Although these are the largest 18, the National Hypoxia Report [lists] over 300 coastal ecosystems in the U.S. that are currently experiencing hypoxia, so we need to a better job in addressing many of the smaller watersheds, the smaller coastal ecosystems, and the only way to do that is to carefully increase monitoring in certain representative locations and also improving our modeling capabilities.”

“I think our ultimate goal with respect to managing our water quality and coastal hypoxia in particular is to have an adaptive management process in place that enables us to use scientific knowledge to guide the management actions we take and then to continually improve or correct those actions using continual feedback on what’s actually happening in the environment, and our improved understanding of the science related to what the cause-and-effect mechanisms are related to hypoxia.”

Well, that gives you a brief overview of what you’ll find in the new report. It’s called the ‘Scientific Assessment of Hypoxia in U.S. Coastal Waters,’ and it’s freely available online. We’ll provide a link to it in our show notes.  And it’s definitely worth a look to see what areas around the nation are affected by hypoxia, and it’ll give you a great overview of the scope of the problem, how things are changing through time, and how the Federal government is working together to tackle this serious issue.  Wondering what you can do to help? Here’s Herb with some simple steps we can all take to reduce the amount of nutrients we’re putting into our waters.

 “I think we can all do our part. Simple things like following the instructions on fertilizers that we use on our lawns or our golf courses or our gardens; taking the proper care of our septic systems to ensure that they don’t lose nutrients to our shallow groundwater systems which ultimately could get to local streams; keeping our pet wastes away from storm drains so that they don’t short-circuit into our streams; and even using household detergents that are low in phosphorus, which is a nutrient that is part of affecting nutrient enrichment, over-enrichment, and formation of hypoxia.”

(Closing)
And that’s all for this week. We’d like to thank Dr. Libby Jewett , Hypoxia Research Program Manager, with NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science … and Mr. Herb Buxton, chief of the US Geological Survey‘s Toxic Substances Hydrology Program.

Again, you’ll find a link to the ‘Scientific Assessment of Hypoxia in U.S. Coastal Waters’ in our show notes

If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean -- or if you have an ocean fact you’d like answered -- send us a note at nos.info@noaa.gov. And be sure to visit us online. We’re at oceanservice.noaa.gov

Now let’s listen to the ocean...

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.


Flame Retardants in the Coastal Environment (Episode 59)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/sep10/mw090210.mp3

Thu, 02 Sep 2010 09:38:32 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 59 (September 2, 2010)

Hi, this is your host for Making Waves. We're taking a brief summer break this week. The following is a rebroadcast of an episode originally released last year.

In April 2009, NOAA released a report that found that man-made toxic chemicals used as flame retardants in consumer products are found in all U.S. coastal waters and the Great Lakes.

The chemicals are called Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers, or PBDEs, and they've generated a lot concern around the world in recent years because they are found all over the globe and a growing number of studies are finding that these toxins are damaging to the environment and to human health.

In this episode, we talk with one of the authors of the report. We’ll have a link to the full report in our show notes.

It's Thursday, Sept. 2, and this is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. We'll be back with a new episode on September 16th.

(Interview with Dr. Gunnar Lauenstein)

Today we'll hear from Dr. Gunnar Lauenstein, one of the authors of the new report and program manager for NOAA's Mussel Watch.

What do mussels have to do with flame retardants? Well, the report is based on data from this program, which has been monitoring coastal water contaminants in mussels and oysters for over two decades at about 300 different sites around the nation.

Dr. Lauenstein said that mussels and oysters are used for monitoring not only because they are stationary creatures, but because they have several key characteristics that make them useful.

[DR. LAUENSTEIN] "Mussels and oysters have a couple of advantages when it comes to looking at contaminant concentrations in living organisms. One of the advantages is that these creatures do not metabolize things like oil-related compounds [so] we can see we what the organism was actually exposed to. Another advantage is that because mussels and oysters are found in many locations in the United States, we minimize the different kinds of organisms we have to look it."

[DR. LAUENSTEIN] "Because Mussel Watch collects around the U.S., when we see high concentrations or we see something new – for example the flame retardants, or PBDEs, local managers and regulators can then do more in-depth studies to see if this is a broad local problem or just a problem with that one mussel site in that area."

Now that we've talked a bit about what Mussel Watch is, let's get back to the report. Lauenstein and his colleagues found that flame retardants, known as PBDEs, are now found throughout all areas of the U.S.—the coastal environments, the Great Lakes, and even in Alaska. These chemicals are everywhere and they seem to be increasing.

[DR. LAUENSTEIN] "I think what we're seeing in this report is that, even though PBDEs were first looked at in the human environment, they are clearly now in the in the marine coastal environment in mussels and oysters. But mussels and oysters are, in a sense, a canary in the coalmine for environmental contaminants."

Flame retardants are used in products in the U.S to reduce the risk of fire in things like upholstery, carpet padding, casings of TV sets, computers, and office furniture. All of us at some point are exposed to flame retardants. While these chemicals help to protect against fire, the bad news is that laboratory studies indicate that PBDEs may impair liver, thyroid, and neurobehavioral development. The most sensitive populations are likely to be pregnant women, developing fetuses, and infants. Dr. Lauenstein:

[DR. LAUENSTEIN] "PBDEs can be as much as 30 percent by weight in cushions found in things like couches. So when we sit on a couch, there could be a possible invisible cloud of PBDEs that we're breathing. From what I've read in the literature, infants or young toddlers frequently have the highest PBDE concentrations in the household and that may be because they crawl on the floor, there's PBDEs in the carpet padding, and then the infants put their fingers in their mouths. And there's also literature that suggests that PBDEs, because they're fat loving, or lipophilic, they can be transferred from mother's breast milk to their infants,"

While production of PBDE flame retardants began in the 1970s and peaked in 1999, they are still found in many consumer products. Because the application of PBDEs has been so widespread—including many consumer plastics, textiles, electronics, and furniture—scientists speculate that they may present an ongoing and growing problem in coastal environments.

How do these chemicals make their way into the environment? Lauenstein said there are several ways that this happens.

[DR. LAUENSTEIN] "PBDEs can move into the environment from municipal waste; PBDEs can move into the environment from consumer goods as they're discarded; PBDEs and PCBs both can move up into the atmosphere, and this is one way that they are not only local from where their source is, but they can be broadcast throughout our world environment."

PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are a class of toxic chemicals once used in consumer products that share similar qualities to PBDEs.

According to Lauenstein, the broader implication of the report is that we as a society need to the need to rethink how we handle products laden with PBDEs.
For instance, most municipalities today discard old couches in landfills. If these landfills leak, there is a threat that PBDE chemicals will be released back into the marine environment or groundwater. Alternatively, if a couch is incinerated, PBDEs may be released via stack gases and wind up in the atmosphere.

[DR. LAUENSTEIN] "We in a sense have a cycle here: we have human consumerism and PBDEs, or flame retardants, being released in to the environment, moving into the marine environment, and from the marine environment possibly moving back into the human environment. This study gives decision makers and managers a tool to see the extent of PBDE contamination in our coastal environment and hopefully help in the decision process."

That was Dr. Gunnar Lauenstein, program manager for NOAA's mussel watch program. The report is called "An Assessment of Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) in Sediments and Bivalves of the U.S. Coastal Zone." It was produced by NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science Mussel Watch Program with support from NOAA's Ocean and Human Health Initiative.

It's important to note that the report is written for a wide audience – not for other scientists, so it's easy to understand and digest. You can find the full report online at http://ccma.nos.noaa.gov/PBDEreport. And surf over to our Web site at oceanservice.noaa.gov for more on this story, including links to direct you to key resources to learn more about this new report, and to learn more about the problem of PBDEs in our environment.

That's all for this week. If you have any questions or comments about the podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.

Now let's bring in the ocean.


This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. See you next week.


Lionfish, Dead Zones, and a New World Heritage Site (Episode 58)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/aug10/mw081910.mp3

Thu, 19 Aug 2010 09:38:32 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 58 (August 19, 2010)

…A new study about invasive lionfish in the Atlantic;
…Hypoxic ‘dead zone’ news for the Gulf of Mexico;
…And the biggest marine conservation area in the nation is designated a UN World Heritage Site.

Those stories are coming up today. It’s Thursday, August 19th, and you’re listening to Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

(Lionfish)
Lionfish news is first up today. Lionfish are native to the western and central Pacific Ocean, but they’re now established in waters from North Carolina to South America.

How’d they get there? The best guess is that since they are a popular aquarium fish that some were probably released in Florida waters in the mid-1980s.

Since then, the species has spread at an alarming rate. And this is a big problem because this fish is a hungry predator – and it could devastate reef ecosystems in the Atlantic as it outcompetes native fish for food and territory.

So how do we help curb the rapid growth of this invasive species? Well, a recent study suggests that about 27 percent of mature lionfish will have to be removed monthly for one year to reduce its population growth rate to zero.

That’s a lot of lionfish. The good news?  It turns out that lionfish are tasty. So one way to help reduce the population is to get people to catch the fish to get them out of the water and onto dinner plates. In fact, NOAA scientists say that developing a market for lionfish may be one of the only ways to substantially reduce their numbers.

To help out in this effort, NOAA kicked off an “Eat Lionfish” campaign earlier this year to help bring together fishing communities, wholesalers, and chefs to broaden U.S. consumers’ awareness that lionfish are good to eat.

So is eating invasive lionfish the answer to the problem? The short answer is that creating a market for lionfish will help, but there are no quick and easy solutions.

There are some areas off the southeast U.S. coast, for example, where lionfish are found in such expansive areas that it may not be possible to catch enough of the fish to control the spread.

Added to this, there’s still a lot more to learn about the problem. The authors of the study warn that much more work is needed to better understand the ecological effects of lionfish in different areas, to track the population, and to develop other control strategies. But now we have a target to know how many we have to catch to keep the population growth at zero.

The study was a collaborative effort between scientists from NOAA and North Carolina State University. It can be found in the June 2010 issue of Biological Invasions. And you can learn more about the invasive lionfish problem on our website. We’ll have links for you in the podcast show notes at oceanservice.noaa.gov. 

(Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone)
While all eyes have recently been on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, there’s another yearly problem that impacts the Gulf that’s know as the dead zone.

NOAA-supported scientists have found this year's Gulf of Mexico dead zone to be the fifth largest on record at 7,722 square miles. That’s an area the size of New Jersey, and it’s near the upper limit of their projections. This year, tropical storm activity in the Gulf  has  caused the zone to be a patchwork rather than a continuous band.

What’s a dead zone? Well, the scientific name is hypoxic zone. It’s an area of water that’s depleted of oxygen, and that’s fueled by nutrient runoff from farming, wastewater,   and other human activities in the Mississippi River watershed. This runoff of nutrients stimulates an overgrowth of algae. As this vast amount of algae sinks and decomposes, it consumes most of the life-giving oxygen supply in the bottom layers of water along portions of the Gulf. These dead zones occur in coastal areas around the nation and in our Great Lakes. In the Gulf of Mexico, the dead zone is of particular concern because it threatens valuable commercial and recreational fisheries that generate about $2.8 billion annually.

This year’s dead zone in the Gulf is nearly double that of 2009s, which was smaller than average. A series of storms and high wind and wave conditions in the shallower waters to the west of the Atchafalaya River delta mixed oxygen into the traditional dead zone area before last year’s survey cruise. Last year’s dead zone measured approximately 3,000 square miles.

The ship-based research that measured this year’s dead zone was led by the director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium. The survey of Gulf waters extended from the Mississippi River delta west to Galveston Bay.

In the western portion of the dead zone scientists found the largest area of low oxygen off the upper Texas coast since surveys began in 1985.

In the eastern portion of the dead zone, scientists on the cruise found that the hypoxic area overlaps with the region impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, but they concluded that it’s unlikely that the spill had a significant impact on the size of the zone.

The models used to forecast the area of the dead zone allow scientists to better understand the underlying causes of this phenomenon -- the main goal of the forecast is to provide accurate data to aid in decisions about how to manage the waters of the Gulf. The models do not currently look at short-term variability due to weather patterns, or the potential effects of the oil spill. This summer’s dead zone may have been even larger, but researchers were unable to fully document the western extent of the zone due to time constraints.

We’ll have a link to a full report on the 2010 Gulf of Mexico dead zone in our show notes.

(Papahānaumokuākea Designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site)

And finally today, the largest conservation area in the U.S. with the longest name is now a World Heritage site.

On July 30, the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO -- the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization -- voted to add Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument to its list of special, significant places around the world.

Let’s say it together now: Papahānaumokuākea.

This monument is now one of only 26 mixed (natural and cultural) World Heritage Sites on the globe. And it’s now the first and only mixed World Heritage Site in the nation.

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is larger than all of America’s national parks combined. This vast region preserves many of Hawaii’s Northwestern Islands and is made up of nearly 140,000 square miles of reefs, atolls, shallow waters, and deep seas.
The monument contains a wide variety of critically important habitats that harbor over 7,000 marine species, several of which are only found in this region. It is also home to many rare and endangered species like the green sea turtle and the Hawaiian monk seal.
The near pristine remote reefs, islands, and waters of the monument provide refuge and habitat for a wide array of threatened and endangered species. It’s one of the last predator-dominated coral reef ecosystems on the planet, and the region provides critical nesting and foraging grounds for 14 million seabirds making it the largest tropical seabird rookery in the world.

World Heritage designation does not change the Monument’s cooperative federal-state management mission, plan or structure. And it doesn’t impose, change or add regulations or restrictions. According to Monument staff, the management philosophy and regulations have always been designed to “bring the place to the people” through education, virtual exposure, and extremely limited visitation. While World Heritage designation has meant increased tourism at other World Heritage sites, for Papahānaumokuākea, the situation is quite different. All human access and activity will remain by permit only, with visitation by the public restricted to Midway Atoll under strict carrying-capacity guidelines.

You can learn more about the monument at hawaiireef.noaa.gov.
The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is one of fourteen marine protected areas that form NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary system. The goal of this system is to conserve, protect, and enhance the biodiversity, ecological integrity, and cultural legacy of marine areas totaling 150,000 square miles.

(Closing)
And that’s all for this week. If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean -- or if you have an ocean fact you’d like answered -- send us a note at nos.info@noaa.gov. And be sure to visit us online. We’re at oceanservice.noaa.gov

Now let’s listen to the ocean...

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.


Deepwater Horizon Response and Restoration (Episode 57)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/aug10/mw080510.mp3

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 09:46:40 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 57 (August 5, 2010)

If you’ve been following the ongoing Deepwater Horizon oil spill response effort in the Gulf of Mexico, you probably know that NOAA is playing a big supporting role to help contain the spreading oil and in protecting the Gulf’s marine life. 

NOAA’s involvement is pretty expansive – it ranges from providing scientific expertise to the Coast Guard and Unified Command, to identifying short- and long-term impacts on the Gulf’s ecosystems, to keeping seafood safe, to protecting wildlife and habitats.

While we can’t cover all of these activities in this short podcast, we can hone in on the activities of one NOAA office that’s critically important to this effort -- the Ocean Service’s Office of Response and Restoration.

And to help us do that, we’re going to hear from Doug Helton today, a Response and Restoration expert who has been part of the Gulf oil spill response effort from day one. Stay tuned.

It’s Thursday, August 5th, and you’re listening to Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

(Interview with NOS Office of Response & Restoration’s Doug Helton)
We’re joined in this episode by Doug Helton, Response and Restoration’s Incident Operations Coordinator. We reached Doug by telephone last week in Houma, Louisiana, where he’s currently deployed in support of the  Deepwater Horizon oil spill response effort.

What exactly does an incident operations coordinator do?  Doug said that the bulk of his job is spent at office headquarters in Seattle, where he makes sure the NOAA staff working on-scene in the Gulf -- and at other spill sites around the country -- have the resources they need to do their jobs. But he’s also spent a lot of time on-scene in the Gulf over the past few months on the frontline of the oil spill response effort. We started out by asking him what he’s now doing in Louisiana.

“It’s a little bit of a transition. I was doing shoreline assessments. NOAA helps with surveying where the oil is along shorelines and helps to prioritize how to clean up those shorelines. That’s a team effort along with representatives of the state, along with BP and the Federal government. So I was the federal rep one of the survey teams, and then today I’m transitioning to being scientific support within the Houma Louisiana command post.”

Doug said that Response and Restoration has two major roles in this spill. The first is to be a science advisor to the Coast Guard, and the second is to conduct studies and evaluations to determine what’s been harmed and what it’s going to take to restore the resources that have been injured.

For Deepwater Horizon, Response and Restoration experts can also be thought of as the glue tying together all the different parts of NOAA’s involvement. They’re part of what’s called the Unified Command -- a structure set up to link together the many organizations responding to the incident, and a forum for these agencies to reach a consensus. Their job is to represent NOAA and to ensure that the best possible science is used in the decision-making process throughout the spill response. 

“There are a lot of facets to it. The core mission for my office is to do the big picture forecasting of where’s the oil’s going to go, how long it’s going to take to get to the shore, and then what kinds of harm it might cause when it gets to the shore, or while it’s a sea. And that’s used to help guide how best to clean it up and how best to treat those shorelines, so it includes a whole bunch of subsets, including helping to provide the weather support -- we don’t obviously do that ourselves, but we help ensure this service is plugged in and provided to the unified command. We work with National Marine Fisheries Service to make sure that fisheries issues are on the table when decisions are made about how to treat the spill or how to clean up the shorelines. And we work with other parts of the agency to sort of be the conduit of science into the command post.”

Doug said that this work is engaging just about the entire staff of the Office of Response and Restoration – around 110 people nationwide, including support staff. The demand is so great that the office has recalled at least a half a dozen retirees with previous oil spill experience. And the office has brought in NOAA staff from other parts of the agency to help backfill positions because so many people are deployed to the Gulf.

“We have a very small team. You know, the Coast Guard has a very large organization, the Department of the Interior is a much larger organization, and NOAA’s got a small core team with the Office of Response and Restoration, but it’s very much augmented and strengthened by reaching into the rest of NOAA. So we have almost every line office in NOAA involved in supporting -- if not here, then doing so from their home offices. So, critical information coming in from the satellite service, critical support from fisheries, and every day the decisions that are made in the operational response are based on the weather service’s forecasts. The NOAA Corps is doing a great job of providing all the assets like aircraft and ships to help with the survey work, so pretty much every part of the agency is contributing, and it’s a pretty amazing thing to see.”

So what’s the state of the spill now? Well, now that the Deepwater Horizon well has been capped for several weeks, you might think that the response effort might begin to wind down. While Doug said the overall Unified command structure will likely downsize to some extent over the coming months, it’s important to remember that the oil only stopped gushing into the Gulf a couple of weeks ago. For most spills, he said, the job is only beginning at this point.

“In some ways this is when we typically start a spill, you know when a ship runs aground it might puncture a hold and spill oil for a few hours, and then the release period is over, and then the rest of the response is dealing with the oil as spreads, as it hits shorelines. We’re now at that point where the release is secured, but we still have floating oil out there, we still have oil on shorelines.”

But he added that there is some good news -- it appears that a lot of the oil is dispersing and degrading naturally.

“There’s been some reports in the news that the oil is dispersing or degrading more readily than anticipated. We suspected all along that this oil was going to disperse and degrade in various ways. Those would include the oil, when it’s released at the source, starts to dissolve in the water column and disperse naturally; when it reaches the surface, we have a very warm climate -- every day it’s close to 100 degrees -- that, combined with lots of sunlight, helps to degrade the oil; and the oil spreads into very thin layers once it reaches the surface, and those are very vulnerable to evaporation and to photo-oxygenization of the oil. So there are a lot of processes that will help to degrade the oil. Once that source was secured, we could see that the surface expression of the oil is degrading and dispersing very rapidly, but there’s still concern about oil that dissolved in the water column and dispersed in small droplets, so we’re continuing to study that.”

He said that lessons learned from experience with previous spills plays a big role in guiding projections about what we might expect to happen with this spill. And there’s many decades of shared experience among the scientific support staff from Response and Restoration. Doug alone has been responding to major spills for 18 years. He recalled one spill he worked on back in 1990 in Galveston, Texas. It involved a Norwegian tank vessel called the Mega Borg. An explosion in the pump room of this ship led to a spill of about 4.2 million gallons of oil.

“... that was a very light crude, there was a fire involved with that one -- a lot of oil burned off, a lot evaporated, with relatively minor shoreline effects, but it gave us an idea of how a light crude might behave in the summertime in this kind of environment. And that’s one of many spills. My office responds to a couple of hundred of spills a year, so each of those gives you some inference and some expectation about how oil’s going to behave in a different environment and different location.”

Experience with other spills also sheds light on how oil may affect shorelines along the Gulf. Consider the many sandy shores along the Gulf Coast, for instance. How might spilled oil affect these areas, and what should we expect if hurricanes roll through the region?

“We have some expectations from other spills what kinds of impacts might persist, and one of those is we still have a lot of oiled shoreline. Some of the shorelines are sandy, and when you have storm events like the passing of a hurricane or even a smaller tropical storm, you stir up that sand and deposit clean sand on top of the oiled sand.

That, he said, could result in buried oil on some of the sand beaches.  But, of course, not all Gulf coast is sandy shoreline.

“We also know that there’s oil in a lot of the marshes and that can persist for some time as well. So they’ll be continued impacts in those areas, but we’re also seeing, we’re entering into the peak of the hurricane season, and some of those shorelines will be eroded, and that oil will be mixed and degraded by more wave energy as we go through the hurricane season.”

Doug said that a big part of understanding the potential impact of the oil in different coastal areas requires careful study. The key is to  understand the unique physical and biological nature of each shoreline where oil comes ashore.

“So, is it a vegetative shoreline, a sandy shoreline, is it a below-energy shoreline like a protected bay or estuary, or is an open coastal area. Those physical and biological features will help us understand what kind of resources live there and what might be affected by the spill, and what might be affected by the clean-up operation itself.”

While  teams continue to study potential impacts of dissolved oil in the water column and the effects of oil gathered along coastal shorelines, he said that there’s also a lot of work to do in the coming months related to demobilization of equipment as operations start to scale down.

“We also have the issue, because the spill response has been going on almost 100 days now, we have 100 days of equipment that’s been mobilized, and a lot of efforts that will slowly need to be demobilized -- all the areas that were boomed with sorbent booms and hard booms along the shoreline in areas where there isn’t oil, those will now have to be removed and recovered.”

But perhaps one of the biggest challenged faced by Response and Restoration is that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is not their only responsibility -- the office provides scientific support for all major ocean and coastal spills around the nation -- and while the response effort continues in the Gulf, new spills are happening elsewhere around the country.

“Yesterday, we had three other spills that we were activated on, and one here in Louisiana, two in the Great Lakes region, and one in Alaska. So we’re busy with other incidents -- those aren’t stopping because this one’s going on. We typically respond to 180-200 incidents a year. That’s a huge challenge trying to maintain that level of service other parts of the country is a big issue, because almost all of our responders are here in Louisiana or in command posts in Mobile or Florida.”

So that gives you a taste of some of the scientific expertise brought to bear and some of the challenges faced by NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration. What’s in store for the future? Well, it’s impossible to say for sure at this point, but one thing is certain: Response and Restoration teams -- along with other NOAA offices, other federal agencies, BP, state and local partners -- are going to be involved with clean-up and restoration in the region for a long, long time to come.

“I think that the response workers still have several months of work and the clean up won’t be complete, but we’ll certainly be downsized this winter. There may be a need for spot teams to come back and work through the winter and spring and next summer as more problematic areas like cleaning up the marshes and some of these shorelines proceed. But I think that the command post will downsize quite a lot. On the assessment side, things are still wrapping up, and I would expect the assessment and restoration process will take at least several years and maybe longer.”

As we noted at the beginning of the episode, we’ve only touched on a small part of NOAA’s involvement with this massive spill response effort. If you want to learn more, head to deepwaterhorizon.noaa.gov for the latest NOAA news, information, data, and maps. The official federal portal for the oil spill response and recovery effort is at restorethegulf.gov.

(Closing)
And we’d like to thank Doug Helton, Incident Operations Coordinator with the Office of Response and Restoration, for taking the time out of his extremely busy schedule to speak with us.

And that’s all for this week. If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean -- or if you have an ocean fact you’d like answered -- send us a note at  nos.info@noaa.gov. And be sure to visit us online. We’re at oceanservice.noaa.gov

Now let’s listen to the ocean...

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.


NOS News Round-up (Episode 56)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/july10/mw072210.mp3

Thu, 22 Jul 2010 09:29:17 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 56 (July 22, 2010)

... A new NOAA game for kids about loggerhead sea turtle conservation
... have your say about NOAA’s new strategic plan
... and the next round of existing Marine Protected Areas on the list to join the national system of MPAs is up for public comment

Those stories are coming up. It’s Thursday, July 22nd, and you’re listening to Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

(New NOAA Game)
The National Ocean Service and Fisheries Service launched a new online educational game last week. This is the second educational game in the the WaterLife series (the first game, called ‘Where Rivers Meet the Sea,’ came out last year). The new game is called “Sea Turtles and the Quest to Nest,” and it encourages and explains loggerhead sea turtle conservation through a series of games and animations aimed at fourth through seventh grade students.
           
The new game is about NOAA’s educational strategy to engage students in challenges that maintain an interest in science and technology.

“Sea Turtles and the Quest to Nest” takes place in a seaside town in the southeastern part of the country. It revolves around six stakeholders critical to the protection and recovery of the loggerhead sea turtle, which is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Players navigate a series of mini-games from a beach cleanup to clear the way for nesting turtles to a food chain version of Sudoku to improve the likelihood of survival of the loggerhead turtle. To win the game, young players must understand human actions affecting loggerheads and what people can do to improve the chance for survival of the species on land and in the ocean.

“Quest to Nest” was developed through a partnership with Montgomery College’s Computer Gaming and Simulation Program based in Rockville, Md.

Check it out online at games.noaa.gov.

(NOAA Strategic Plan)
NOAA is seeking final public comments on a new plan that charts the future of the agency. You can download a copy of the draft strategic plan and submit comments online via NOAA's Next Generation Strategic Plan website. That’s at www.ppi.noaa.gov/ngsp.html -- NGSP is short for Next Generation Strategic Plan -- don’t worry, we’ll have that link in our show notes.

The plan renews NOAA’s mission and vision of the future and lays the foundation for NOAA to play a leading role in responding to the nation's most urgent challenges ... and those challenges range from climate change, severe weather, and natural or human-induced disasters to declining biodiversity and threatened or degraded ocean and coastal resources.

NOAA conducted more than 20 regional stakeholder forums, a national forum in Washington, D.C., and hosted web-based surveys to develop the plan. Through these sessions, the greatest challenges facing the nation and the highest priority mission areas for NOAA were identified.

Final public comments on NOAA’s strategy including the organization’s mission statement, vision of the future, long-term goals, and five-year objectives will be accepted through Aug. 10. The final plan is expected to be released in early September.

(MPA Nominations)
Next up, we have another opportunity for you to express your thoughts and opinions.
The National Marine Protected Areas Center has received the third round of nominations for existing marine protected areas to join the national system of MPAs. Those nominations were rounded up from March through May 2010.

Nearly 40 percent of U.S. marine waters are protected in some way. If you have ever gone fishing in central California, diving in the Florida Keys, or boating in Thunder Bay in Lake Huron, chances are you’ve visited a marine protected areas.

In the U.S., there are over 1,600 MPAs spanning a range of habitats, including the open ocean, coastal areas, inter-tidal zones, estuaries, and the Great Lakes.

The thing is, there are different federal, state, tribal and local agencies managing these 1,600 marine protected areas all over the nation. As you might imagine, it can be hard to keep track of what’s going on at each of the protected areas, and it can be easy to miss opportunities to share lessons learned or coordinate planning and management of so many different areas.

That’s exactly what the the national system of MPAs is all about. While the marine protected areas that are part of the federal system are still managed independently, the national system ties them all together to help collectively enhance conservation of the nation’s natural and cultural marine heritage. 

National system sites have the opportunity to work with other MPAs in their region and nationally on issues of common conservation concern. Now, public participation is vital to the success of this effort, so that’s why the general public is invited to provide comments on all sites nominated to join the national system.

There are currently 254 members of the national system of MPAs.

And, pending a 30-day public review period, four more nominated sites are slated to join. You can take a look at the nominated sites online at mpa.gov. Following review of public comments, NOAA will make a final decision about the nominations of these four sites this Fall.

(Outro)
Visit us online at oceanservice.noaa.gov. And while you’re there, check out some of our new pages that explore different ocean service topics ranging from marine navigation, to contaminants in the environment, to Marine Protected Areas, to coral reefs. That’s just a small sample of what you’ll find there. Just click on the ‘Explore’ tab on our home page to start your own exploration. And let us know what you think.

And that’s all for this week.

If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean -- or if you have an ocean fact you’d like answered -- send us a note at nos.info@noaa.gov.

Now let’s listen to the ocean...

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.


Meet the Cooperative Oxford Lab (Episode 55)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/july10/mw070810.mp3

Thu, 08 Jul 2010 10:38:08 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 55 (July 08, 2010)

You’re listening to the sound of four massive 2,000 gallon tanks filled with filtered water, and swimming around in circles in these tanks are about 100 striped bass from the Chesapeake Bay – some of them are over two feet long.

“Striped bass are opportunistic, so the Bay is kind of like their buffet. They’ll eat spot, menhaden, white perch, they’ll pull up blue crab, anything that’s out there…”

That’s Lonnie Gonsalves, a student from the University of Maryland who’s been studying these fish as part of his graduate work for the past two years. 

“I’m kind of the new guy here at Oxford. I’m a graduate student down at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. I came one with the graduate sciences program, it’s administered through NOAA’s Office of Education… ”

Lonnie is studying how diet affects the immune systems of the fish, and what role diet plays in the fish’s susceptibility to pathogens in the Bay. Once he finishes his work with NOAA’s graduate sciences program, he’s set to become a full-time NOAA employee at the Cooperative Oxford Lab. And that’s where we are today, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay.

Lonnie’s study is one small example of the kind of work that going on at the lab -- and the research that’s done here is about much, much more than just striped bass.

We’re joined today by Dr. Bob Wood, the director of the Cooperative Oxford Lab, to find out how this small research facility helps to keep the ecosystem of the Chesapeake Bay healthy and in balance. And as you’ll find out,  what’s learned here can help us better take care of not only the Chesapeake, but all of our estuaries and coastal areas around the nation ... and around the world.

It's Thursday, July 8, 2010, and this is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.

(Cooperative Oxford Lab)
Ok, we’re going to head inside the Cooperative Oxford Lab for the rest of the episode to sit down with Dr. Bob Wood.  Bob has served as director of the 50-member lab for the past six years. We began by asking him why it’s called a ‘cooperative’ lab.

“We’re called the Cooperative Oxford Lab because we’re a unique blend of two parts of NOAA -- the National Marine Fisheries Service and the National Ocean Service.”

But that’s not the most unique part, he said. In addition to the federal researchers from NOAA, the lab is also home to state employees from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources:

“They actually own the resources in the Chesapeake Bay because they’re state waters, and they can better help us tune what we do and how we do it to meet the needs of real managers that go out every day to try and restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay and other coastal zones across the nation.”

So you may ask yourself why studying the Chesapeake Bay watershed area is so important that it warrants this special federal-state laboratory. Bob said it’s because the Bay provides for a great learning environment and study area to understand and develop a strategy for confronting the stressors that are deteriorating our coastlines around the nation and around the globe. And it’s not just another estuary. It’s the most productive estuary in the world and it’s the largest estuary in
the United States.

“It also was one of the first colonized by Europeans, and therefore what we come to think of more modern land practices like land clearing, development, now paving land surfaces with impervious surfaces ... just more people, eating more food, providing for more waste streams into the Bay. Those ills are being felt in coastal ecosystems throughout the world. If we can understand how to best confront them through management practices, policies, and restoration activities in the Chesapeake Bay, then we can transfer those technologies and those insights through the country and indeed throughout the world.”

Today, the mission of the Cooperative Oxford Lab is quite different from when it first began operations 50 years ago. In the past, it was more about stopping the spread of specific diseases that affected oysters and shellfish and fish like the striped bass. While these activities are still important to the lab, Bob said that the research today is more about the big picture -- of providing a broader context for studying an entire environment and ecosystem, and weighing that against human uses.

“So what we try to do is take a more holistic approach.  We look at different watersheds within the Chesapeake Bay and we choose those watersheds very strategically so that we compare watersheds that have mainly agricultural usage to watersheds that have mainly urbanized uses, to those that are more mixed, or you might say more balanced. We look primarily at water quality and seafood issues. We also look at diseases that harm both humans and fish and shellfish resources. And when we do that, we go in and say well, what is the big picture? And how is it different from watershed land use to watershed land use. That provides us with the ability to help contextualize decisions that politicians, managers, and actually individual taxpayers must make.”

The idea that drives the research at the lab is that ecosystems - not just the Chesapeake, but nearly all ecosystems on Earth - are asked to provide services to humans. So to understand how to manage these complicated systems -- to keep them healthy -- we need to look at more than just one stressor at time -- more than just, say, how one fish is being affected.

“Nearly every ecosystem you can name, if it isn’t inhabited by humans, it’s visited often by humans, and we’re doing that for a purpose -- we’re asking something of that ecosystem. Whether it’s as in the export of our waste streams, or whether it’s tourism, or whether it’s fisheries resources and food, waterskiing, transportation corridors for things like natural gas in the case of Chesapeake Bay and other areas -- we’re asking something of that ecosystem. Unfortunately, we tend to ask address each environmental situation, each stressor, one a one-by-one basis.”

The Cooperative Oxford Lab is trying to change that focus as they study the Bay. Bob said that it’s one thing to provide science and advice to decision makers along the Bay about what needs protected, or where it’s OK to develop, but what’s really needed is to attach dollar values to this science and advice because that’s just how the world works.

“We could hit one by and one and say ‘that area is just too pristine. We like it for some reason. But this area can be developed. At the end of the day, though, what we really need know is: what will it cost you? What will you gain by developing in terms of tax dollars now, but what will you lose on the other hand. Will you lose a pristine crab nursery area? Will your striped bass start to have lesions in an area that was otherwise a very fertile fishery ground for both recreational and commercial fisherman. And once those stresses start to be seen, you’re also starting to lose tourism dollars. So we try to go into these watersheds, in fact into the whole Bay, studying watershed by watershed to give people ‘not in my backyard’ context. Do you want a new development there? You understand why it’s good for you. Do you also understand what you may have to sacrifice? And can we at the end of the day balance dollar by dollar and decide what is the right decision here?”

So that’s what the lab is trying to do through many channels, from the Chesapeake Eco-check program, an annual report card developed in partnership with the University of Maryland:

“to our scientific studies that look at diseases in the water like a crime lab would, to disease in fish, which uses cultures like, you know, when you go to the doctor to see if you have strep throat, to just sampling the fish -- how many are there, what’s the diversity. And we take a look at all those indicators, and we package them up in the context of the different watershed land use comparisons. And we’re working now with partners to try and get economists involved to start to put a dollar value on ‘what does it mean to be an agricultural area vs. a developed area vs. a more balanced area. We hope in that context, we can be more than scientists. We can actually help provide science as a service, that actually gets used by policy makers in a way that benefits the economy and taxpayers.”

But if the Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the nation, how do they do it? How do they know what to look at in the Bay to get that big picture of overall ecosystem health?

“We try to find things that are appropriately indicative of stresses that we’re concerned about, and of the reduction in services we’re also concerned about on the other end. So, we’re limited because the Bay has very different salinity regimes from place to place. We have to try and pick the right fish or shellfish species that tolerate those various salinities with the places we go, so we compare apples with apples. So, for example, one species that’s ubiquitous is the mummychog. It’s a small fish. A lot of people use it for bait. It’s well known in studies of disease as indicators, and it tolerates a wide range of salinities. So we use species like the mummychog, like spot, like white perch and striped bass appropriately. So striped bass would not be a good indicator species in some cases because it moves around quite a bit. But when they’re young, they stay in one place. We might pick that as an indicator at a certain life stage of the organism. And striped bass, of course, we’re all concerned about how they’re doing because we like to know our top predator in the Bay is healthy as a population, but we also like to eat our top predator in the Bay. And so, for both those reasons, it’s a good indicator and we try to squeeze it in, even if you can only use one life stage.”

Shellfish like the oyster are also commonly used as an indicator of estuary health because they’re sedentary filter feeders. That makes them sort of like living water-sampling devices for a given location over their life span. Lab researchers also test for different types of diseases in the Bay.

“The molecular tools that we use now are very precise and surgical. We can go in and look at a particular disease organism as an indicator. And we choose that because of its ramifications. Disease is thought to respond to warmer temperatures and to more nutrients, two of the concerns we have with the Bay in terms of global warming and what we call eutrophication, or over-enrichment of nutrients in the Bay. So we can pick out specific diseases -- things called vibrio. Things called mycobacteriosis. And we can actually measure them in the water. These things are natural to the environment. It’s when things come out of balance to stresses on the ecosystem that allow them to, if you will, bloom to levels that are dangerous to humans and dangerous to fish and shellfish. That’s what we want to know about. And we want to know about that before it really becomes a big problem in the Bay.”

As Bob just said, it’s when things come out of balance because of stressors on the environment that we start to see problems, things like blooms of certain diseases. But on a larger scale, the management of the entire ecosystem of the Bay can be seen as a question of balance, too: striking the right balance that keeps the Bay healthy while still allowing us humans to enjoy what Bob called ‘ecosystem services,’ everything from wastewater management, to fishing, to tourism. So how well is the Bay balanced now?

“I think you appropriately say things are out of balance when notice a change, especially for the worse, and since the 1970s, in some ways the Bay has gotten better. But in some ways it’s gotten worse, too. We’ve lost a lot of sea grasses since the 70s. Nutrients have generally gotten better or stayed the same. Some of our species like striped bass seem to be doing much, much better. They’re officially restored. And other species have actually declined. I think it’s our job to stay on top of status of the Chesapeake Bay, that’s one reason we help issue a report card here -- the Eco-Check program with the University of Maryland. We want to know what the Bay is like in ways that matter to human beings. And we want to listen to what people say in response to the grades their part of the Bay receives, and the questions they ask about what does that mean for me?”

(CLOSING)
And we’d like to thank Dr. Bob Wood, the director of the Cooperative Oxford Lab in Oxford, Maryland, for taking the time to speak with us. And we wish the Cooperative Oxford Lab a happy anniversary. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the facility. Now let’s leave Bob with the last word:

“Human change every environment they enter. Some people look at that as the natural course of things. Some people see that as an evil that we want to try and avoid. So you have to put that in some sort of context. It’s really not for us as scientists or scientists working for work as service at NOAA to make those decisions. It’s for us to try to put them into context. Where are things going? What are the roots of the stressors that people might be concerned about? Are those stressors coming from manageable human activities? If they are, you have to look at the other side of it. Are the stresses resulting from things we want to keep doing in Chesapeake Bay? Can we reduce their impact? Can we change the number or the rate at which those stressors are being felt? Those are all the kinds of questions we have to answer.”

That’s all for this episode. If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.

Let’s bring in the ocean....

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.


Interview with Commander of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson (Episode 54)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/jun10/mw062410.mp3

Thu, 24 Jun 2010 07:33:22 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 54 (June 24, 2010)

This week marked World Hydrography Day, an annual event started by the International Hydrographic Organization focused on increasing global awareness of the importance of hydrography to the safety of marine transportation and protection of the marine environment.

In recognition of the day, we have a special interview for you this week with the commander of the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson, currently in the Gulf of Mexico conducting research in support of the ongoing oil spill. Stay tuned.

It's Thursday, June 24, 2010, and this is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.

(World Hydrography Day)
Today, we’re hear from Commander Shep Smith, commanding officer of the Thomas Jefferson, a 208-foot NOAA research and survey vessel that specializes in hydrography based out of Norfolk, Virginia. Cdr. Smith is part of the NOAA Corps, the nation’s smallest uniformed service. Smith serves as master of the vessel, the head of all ship operations, and as chief scientist and hydrographer for the Thomas Jefferson.

Cdr. Smith contacted us from the ship via satellite phone. When we spoke to him, he was about 20 miles south of Port Fouchon, Lousiania. 

“Just west of the Mississippi Delta. We’re going to be working the coastal areas from here all the way to Tampa Bay, all the way along the coast. We came to the Gulf of Mexico in late April to conduct hydrographic surveys for the Office of Coast Survey in the Western Gulf of Mexico and around the Flower Gardens National Marine Sanctuary. The project we were working on was about half finished when we heard about the tragedy of the oil spill and the loss of life at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, and a few weeks later we were engaged in some of the response efforts and have been working on that ever since.”

Now, the main mission of the Thomas Jefferson is to conduct hydrographic surveys to update nautical charts to keep ships safe as they move through our waterways. The two main things hydrographic surveys deal with are water depth and mapping what’s on the seafloor. Along with nautical charting, these surveys are important for many things ... port and harbor maintenance, coastal engineering, coastal management, offshore development, and even for managing fishery habitat.

To support the spill response, though, Cdr. Smith said that some of the tools of the Thomas Jefferson had to be adapted so they could be used to look for subsurface oil. 

“We reconfigured one of our winches to be able to do water sampling at depth, spooled on around 1,400 meters of cable onto our winch that we usually use for sidescan operations. That allows us to conduct deep CTD casts with a rosette for water sampling and in situ measurements of water properties at depth.

The rosette Cdr. Smith mentioned is a round metal frame that holds bottles that can take water samples at different depths and a torpedo-shaped device called a CTD that measures conductivity, temperature, and depth. Conductivity is basically a measure of how salty the water is.

While the ship is stopped in one place, the rosette is lowered into the water with the cable from the winch. This instrument is a versatile tool that can be rigged with a variety of scientific sensors to measure different water properties.  For this special mission, it’s equipped with two unique sensors to help find patches of oil deep under the surface of the ocean -- one of them is called a flourometer.

“Essentially, it sends out a little pulse of light -- think of it like a blacklight. And if you’ve ever seen a blacklight, there are certain types of materials, notably white things, that glow really brightly, where other things don’t glow. And so there’s a particular type of frequency combination that is indicative of crude oil in the water. So we have a flourometer that measures for concentrations of crude oil directly in the water column.”

The second special sensor measures dissolved oxygen levels -- how much oxygen is dissolved in the water.

“Oil itself in little droplets is a food source for particular kinds of microbes, and so as the microbes eat the oil they consume oxygen, and one of the signals we might see is lower dissolved oxygen in the water mass as a result of the microbial action on the oil.”

The crew of the Thomas Jefferson also reconfigured some of their multibeam sonars to help find where the oil is under the water. Cdr. Smith said that these high-frequency sonar systems are usually used for making highly-detailed maps of the seafloor in shallower waters and for fisheries research, but hydrographers are learning how to use them to map what’s going on in mid-water areas. What they’re looking for on the Thomas Jefferson are anomalous water masses -- places where oil may be potentially hiding.

“We’re not quite sure what the form of those mid-water water masses -- those anamolous water masses -- might look like, but these very highly sensitive transducers and transceiver systems allow us to make fine distinctions within the water column.”

What kind of distinctions? Well, sonar works by sending sound waves into the water. Those sound waves bounce off of objects in the water and return to the ship, and this paints a picture of what’s below the water. Cdr. Smith said that mid-water sonar readings received from the finely-tuned powerful sonar systems and digital processors aboard the Thomas Jefferson pick up all the little bits and pieces within the water column. A single fish would just send back a tiny acoustic return.

“Multiply that by thousands or millions of small creatures living in a particular layer and you would see a strong return within that layer from all those small creatures. Now different biological scatterers as they’re called have different types of returns, and so we can make some distinctions about what’s in the water column from those returns.”

It’s a tricky business. Not only do all of the small biological creatures in the water send back a sonar return, but Smith said so, too, can the water itself if there’s a very cold, salty layer of water beneath a less-salty warmer layer of ocean. That difference can be strong enough that the sound bounces back of the cold layer. Natural gas seeps are also really common in the Gulf of Mexico, sending up countless bubbles of gas into the sea that also get picked up by the ultra-sensitive sonar systems.  But he added that what might be telling to help find pockets of oil under the water is what the sonar doesn’t see.

“The absence of a signal at a depth may actually be one of the more interesting things we’re looking for here. If, for instance, there’s a hypoxic layer or another layer that’s toxic for some reason -- if it has a high concentration of oil, for instance -- there may be no biological scatterers, there are no little critters living in that layer.  And so where we would see continuos back scatter from all these little critters going down through some parts and then we see nothing, that may actually be one of the more interesting hints about whether we’re seeing one of these anomalous water masses.”

So far, Smith said they’ve had some interesting results, but since this type of sonar work is new, it’s too early to say for sure how well it’s working.

“We have some early indications that there’s a subtle signal that we may be able to recognize one of these anomalous water masses using the acoustics, but it’s really too early to be too  sure of that, and we’re continuing to analyze our data and compare our findings to those of other ships to see if the types of observations we made are more widespread.”

The last tool the Thomas Jefferson is using to help locate subsurface pockets of oil is a system called a Moving Vessel Profiler that is towed behind the ship as it moves around from place to place. The Moving Vessel Profiler is a tool that’s used to measure the speed of sound underwater, which changes as water pressure, temperature, and salinity change. This data is used to correct the depth data the ship acquires. Without these corrections, maps of the seafloor wouldn’t be accurate. But it’s not the Profiler itself that’s being used for this mission, it’s another flourometer that’s been attached to it. If you recall, the flourometer seeks out frequencies of light in the water that match a profile for crude oil.  What’s special about this flourometer is that it can be used while the ship is moving.  It’s the first time this special tool has been used like this.

“That allows us to take underway casts all the way to 200 meters deep without stopping the ship. This will allow us to cover a large territory within the Gulf of Mexico looking for evidence of these anamolous water masses using the flourometer.”

This is particularly handy because the Gulf of Mexico is a vast body of water, and research ships in comparison are really tiny.

“The size of the plumes, even considering that they may contain lots and lots of oil, are still fairly small with respect to the scale of the Gulf of Mexico, and they’re very deep. And so trying to find evidence of these in water that deep is very difficult because of the size of the whole area.”

So that’s why Cdr. Smith’s team are using every tool they have -- it’s a large area, the water is deep, and the oil is hard to find. So, now that we’ve been introduced to the special tools being deployed by the Thomas Jefferson, let’s put it all together to get a big picture of the ships efforts to find subsurface oil.  The ship runs the acoustics -- the sonar -- continuously  while the ship is out, trying to find hints of where the oil may lie. At the same time, they also tow the Moving Vessel Profiler with the attached flourometer as the ship travels around to look for areas where there may be pockets of crude oil. If the flourometer that’s being towed behind the ship shows a promising reading, it’s used as a first signal  that there’s something different going on in the water column.

“We would stop and take a CTD cast, and along with those measurements and sensors that I described earlier, the CTD casts have a rosette which allows it to take water samples. So we’ll drop this down to a certain depth, and we’ll see on the screen that there’s a layer of low dissolved oxygen or high flouresescence or something like that, and we can actually capture a sample of that water in a special bottle. And then  when that comes back to the ship, we will take a sample of that water out of that bottle and send it to a laboratory for analysis. ”

And that’s where the mission stands today. The science crew of the Thomas Jefferson have taken many water samples, but they don’t have the equipment to test the samples on the ship. Smith said they are still awaiting those results.

“While I’ve talked about underwater clouds of oil and that sort of thing, the laboratory analysis for the samples we’ve taken have not come back yet, and so we cannot say for sure that what we’re seeing is oil, and we cannot say for sure that oil came from the well head until those laboratory analyses come back.”

 We hope that gives you a better idea of some of the work going on in the field with one NOAA ship, the Thomas Jefferson.  This current mission began on June 15th, and is scheduled to run for three weeks.  NOAA ships Gordon Gunter and Pisces, one of NOAA’s newest research vessels, are also under way as part of an ongoing effort to collect valuable data about marine mammals, sea turtles, sea birds, fish and other marine life in the Gulf. In addition to providing baseline data, the information gathered during the missions will help researchers and resources managers better understand the spill’s impact on marine species and their habitat. And another NOAA ship, Oregon II, will depart Pascagoula, Miss., this week to conduct an annual shrimp stock assessment survey in the Gulf. Meanwhile, specialized NOAA aircraft operating out of Alabama, Florida and Louisiana continue to support the Deepwater Horizon response. 

(CLOSING)
And a special thanks to Cdr. Shep Smith, commanding officer of the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson, for taking the time to speak with us from the Gulf of Mexico. If you’d like to see some video of what’s going on aboard the Thomas Jefferson, head to deepwaterhorizon.noaa.gov and look for the video link. And there, of course, you can also get the latest NOAA news, information, data, and maps related to the ongoing spill response effort.

That’s all for this episode. If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.

Let’s bring in the ocean....

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.


What's New at NOS (Episode 52)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/may10/mw052710.mp3

Thu, 27 May 2010 07:57:28 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 52 (May 27, 2010)

Making Waves - Episode 51

...nowCOAST is now available anywhere you happen to be
...a new NOAA ocean observing system is rolled out in Texas
...a new smart buoy is deployed in the Chesapeake Bay
...and where to go to get the latest Gulf of Maine red tide information

It’s Thursday, May 27th, and those stories are coming up today on Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

(nowCOAST)
Our first story today is about a free online service from NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey.  This office is best known as the nation’s source for nautical charts -- but what you may not know is that Coast Survey also serves up an interactive online mapping tool called nowCOAST. 

nowCOAST serves up near real-time weather forecasts and ocean surface observations for all of the United States on an interactive map that’s made up of layer upon layer of information. All you need to do is select a location in the U.S., pick out the kind of data you want to see, and select the time you want to know about, and there it is.

Want to see the latest surface winds, temperatures, and currents in the Gulf of Mexico? Or how about real-time air quality in Wisconsin near the Great Lakes? Or how about offshore marine weather in the Gulf of Maine? 

Knowing the current weather and ocean conditions along the coasts are a big concern to a lot of people … recreational boaters, commercial mariners, coastal managers, and people responding to maritime accidents or oil spills. But nowCOAST is freely available to anyone who wants to use it. The site offers “one-stop” access to all sorts of NOAA data: things like current conditions, air and water temperature, wind speed, visibility, precipitation, and wave height.

And you can view Doppler weather radar, cloud imagery, and weather warnings. 

What would make it more useful? Well, until now users could only access nowCOAST from nowcoast.noaa.gov on a desktop computer. Now, nowCOAST has been freed -- you can access the service from your smart phone, or you can take the layers of information that you’re interested in from nowCOAST and mix in background maps from other sources like Google Earth or Google Maps. 

I hope you go check out, because you really have to see this service to grasp just how much is available to you. And now, you can get nowCOAST a la carte ... and on the go. You’ll find it at nowcoast.noaa.gov. 

(New PORTS)
While nowCOAST serves up near real-time ocean and weather conditions around the country, our nation’s busy ports are places where we need instant, up-to-the-minute, real-time ocean and weather conditions in very fine-grained detail. That’s because these are places that have massive ships constantly on the move, so it’s critical to make sure that traffic flows in and out of these congested areas safely.

This is a big concern of NOAA’s Center for Operational Products and Services, or CO-OPS -- the office responsible for tide and current information around the country.  To help ensure safe passage in and out of busy ports, CO-OPS is rolling out new systems around the nation that are kind of like air traffic control systems for shipping ports. These systems, appropriately enough, are also called PORTS -- all uppercase -- it’s an acronym that stands for Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System. 

PORTS provides mariners ranging from casual boaters to oil tanker captains with real-time information so ships coming into and leaving busy waterways and ports know exactly what’s going on in the water and in the air.
 
Last week, the newest PORTS was dedicated in the Sabine-Neches Waterway of Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas.

This new NOAA ocean observing system provides observations of tides, currents, water and air temperature, barometric pressure, and wind speed, gusts and direction through an easy-to-use online portal or by calling a toll free number. 

The Sabine-Neches Waterway is a set of interlocking river channels and canals extending from the Gulf of Mexico to Port Arthur, Beaumont, and Orange, Texas. The main cargoes moving through the waterway’s ports are crude oil, petroleum products, and chemicals. 

This waterway is also home to one of the nation’s newest liquefied natural gas terminals and is the #1 crude tanker arrival port in the country.  The waterway holds 45 percent of the nation’s liquefied natural gas import capacity, and it supplies 20 percent of U.S. gasoline east of the Rockies. With PORTS now in place, this busy waterway will be better equipped to safely and efficiently move ships carrying goods and tankers carrying liquefied natural gas through its waterways.

The newly installed PORTS at Sabine-Neches has already shown its value as a decision support tool. Data from the PORTS allowed an early reopening of the waterway following an oil spill in January. More recently, during a low tide event at the waterway in March, real-time water level data alerted mariners of extremely low water levels. This information led to the decision to keep some vessels offshore until water level were higher, preventing potential groundings. 

In addition to the Sabine-Neches PORTS, 19 other PORTS are located throughout the nation, providing over 50 major seaports with real-time ocean information. Estimates of economic benefits attributed to the systems range from $7 million per year for Tampa Bay to $16 million per year for Houston-Galveston, according to studies conducted in those regions.
You can learn more about PORTS -- and take a look at the ocean and weather data these systems generate -- at tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov.

(CBIBS: New Buoy)
The NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office deployed a new “smart buoy” last week in the Potomac River, just south of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge near Washington, DC. This buoy is the newest in NOAA's Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System, a network that provides scientists, boaters, and educators with real-time data about the Bay.

This network of buoys collect weather, oceanographic and water-quality observations and transmits this data wirelessly in near-real time. The buoys in the system also mark points along the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, the first water trail in the National Park Service’s National Trail System. 

Anyone can access these measurements at any time, and also get historical information about the area, by visiting www.buoybay.org
Or, if you’re lucky enough to be out in a kayak or canoe along the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, you can pull out your cell phone and dial, toll-free, 877-BUOY-BAY to tap into the interpretive buoy closest to your location. You can get real-time weather and environmental information like wind speed, temperature, and wave height right from your phone. And as an added bonus, you can access recorded narrations of natural and cultural history for the area you're traveling through on the trail.

Sounds like a pretty good activity for the Memorial Day weekend if you live in the Chesapeake Bay region. 
This is the eighth buoy in the Chesapeake Bay system. Buoys deployed earlier are located at the mouths of the Susquehanna, Patapsco, Severn, Potomac, and Rappahannock Rivers, in the James River near Jamestown, and the Elizabeth River off Norfolk. The next buoy to hit the water will be deployed in the Bay off the mouth of the Little Choptank River at Gooses Reef in late June.
Again, you can find out more about the interpretative system or access buoy data at www.bouybay.org or by calling 877-BUOY-BAY. We’ll have this info in our online show notes, so don’t worry about writing it down.

(New Gulf of Maine Red Tide Resource)
And finally today, the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science launched a new website recently that offers updates on the location and extent of the 2010 Gulf of Maine “red tide.” The site provides updated information and links to help you understand what a red tide is, where the closed shellfish harvesting areas are, and how NOAA and its partners are responding to the situation.

Scientists prefer the to use the term ‘harmful algal bloom’ instead of the more popular ‘red tide’ because the toxic blooms of algae that cause ‘red tide’ come in many forms and many colors, and some have no color at all.

Harmful algal blooms occur when algae—simple plants that live in the sea—grow out of control while producing toxic or harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals and birds. While the human illnesses caused by these blooms can be debilitating or even fatal, states have well-established, rigorous shellfish monitoring programs to protect human health to make sure that shellfish we consume is safe to eat.
In the Gulf of Maine, one of the most damaging harmful algal bloom varieties is caused by a type of algae called Alexandrium fundyense. Although these algae pose no direct threat to humans, the toxins produced by Alexandrium can accumulate in creatures like mussels and clams that feed on these tiny plants, and this can lead to paralytic shellfish poisoning in humans who eat these shellfish.

This year's bloom of this organism could be similar to major blooms in the Gulf that occurred in 2005 and 2008. The 2005 bloom shut down shellfish beds from Maine to Martha's Vineyard for several months and caused an estimated $20 million in losses to the Massachusetts shellfish industry alone.

You can get the full link to the Gulf of Maine red tide website in the show notes for this podcast.

(Closing)

That’s all for this week.

A reminder that if you’re following the developments of the ongoing oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, you can get the latest information about NOAA’s involvement in the effort at deepwaterhorizon.noaa.gov.

If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean -- or if you have an ocean fact you’d like answered -- send us a note at  nos.info@noaa.gov.

Now let’s bring in the ocean…

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.


The Hidden World of Seamounts (Episode 51)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/may10/mw051310.mp3

Thu, 13 May 2010 10:30:01 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 51 (May 13, 2010)

Do you remember the scenes in the movie Hunt for Red October where the submarine was navigating perilously near the seafloor, trying to avoid colliding with huge underwater mountains? Well, today we’re going to talk about big underwater mountains -- they’re known as seamounts. If you’ve ever seen one, chances are it was on television or in a movie theater. That’s because they’re located in deep, dark places of the ocean that are really hard to get to. In the past, these geologic structures were seen as little more than navigation hazards for submarines. Today, seamounts are hotbeds of research because we now know that these mysterious places are biological hotspots that host an amazing amount of sea life. But because these underwater mountains are hidden under the sea and can be hard to detect, we only have a rough estimate of how many there are. Well, today we talk with a NOAA marine biologist who has seen many seamounts up close and personal -- and he was part of a team that published a new report last month that suggests that there may be more of these underwater structures than we realized. Taken as a whole, large and small seamounts around the world may occupy an area larger than South America. Stick around for an amazing talk about the hidden world of seamounts.

It’s Thursday, May 13th, and you’re listening to Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

(Seamounts)
We’re joined on the phone today by Dr. Peter Etnoyer, a marine biologist with NOAA’s Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research, in Charleston, South Carolina. Peter and several colleagues published a report last month in the journal Oceanography that takes a fresh look at just how many seamounts might be hidden underneath the waves. In their report, they tallied up and compared the areas of all the major marine and terrestrial biomes on Earth, which Peter said had never been pieced together before all in one place.
[Etnoyer] “Technically, biomes are defined as major life zones with similar animals and a similar physical environment no matter where you go on Earth. So coral reefs are one good example.  Tropical forests are another. Seamounts are a biome because they’re all deep, and dark, and cold with steep volcanic sides populated by fishes and corals and sponges and they do occur around the world.” 

[Etnoyer] “What we found when we compared the seamount biome to all the others -- terrestrial and marine -- is that seamounts are larger than any single terrestrial biome like tropical forests or deserts or tundra, and this makes sense in a way because oceans cover 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, we just never divvied it up before into its constituent habitats.”

The difference between the seamount biome and more well-known biomes like tropical forests, coral reefs, deserts, or tundra is that seamounts are invisible. They’re hard to find. While Peter said there are a lot of ways to find a seamount, one of the newer technologies that’s making it easier to find them is to search from space using what is known as satellite altimetry.

[Etnoyer] “Satellite altimetry looks for little variations in ocean height and where the satellite sees bumps on the sea surface, we can expect to find a large seamount feature below. This is partly due to gravity, because seamounts are so massive that they actually gather up sea water around them, and the slope of this little hill -- although it’s invisible to the naked eye -- satellites can detect a one centimeter deviation from the norm.”

They definition of what a seamount is has changed over time.  In fact, Peter said that a new definition of what a seamount is was proposed in the same issue of Oceanography where his report appeared last month.

[Etnoyer] “It was originally defined in the geologic sense as an isolated, submerged volcanic feature with steep sides of a thousand meter vertical relief or more, but lately more and more biologists are getting involved in that definition and biologist see this 1,000 meter cut-off as somewhat arbitrary, because smaller features  of 300 or 400 meters are also hotspots of abundance and productivity. So they have seamount-like characteristics. So the new definition recommends that seamounts be defined as elevated features of 100 meters relief or more, and this would distinguish those smaller seamounts from mounds or banks, or anything less than a hundred meters.”

Now, if you just take into account the big seamounts over 1,000 meters high -- that’s about .62 miles, Peter and his colleagues found that there are around 45,000 of them in the ocean. Add in the smaller-sized seamounts, and you can see how these features collectively form one of the largest biomes on the planet.

[Etnoyer] “We were surprised that when you add them all up, we’re estimating 45,000 seamounts in the world larger than a kilometer -- so that’s just the big ones -- and when you add them up, that’s 28.8 million square kilometers of seafloor. It’s about the size of Africa, so I think of it as almost a submerged continent.”

Why are there so many seamounts out there? Well, it’s because we live in a volcanically-active world.

[Etnoyer] “If you look at a map of the tectonic plates, you’ll see that they occur throughout the oceans. We have a few instances of volcanoes recently in Iceland and we had Mount St. Helens before that, but really this kind of volcanic activity is happening all the time undersea, especially along the perimeters of these tectonic plates, but also in hot spots where magma erupts through the sea floor.”

What we haven’t directly addressed yet is what make seamounts so special. Peter said it has to do with how nutrient rich waters flow from the depths of the ocean and are carried by currents up the steep slopes of the seamounts towards the sunlit surface.  This flow of nutrients make these places:

[Etnoyer] “…a riot of life above in the water column and below in the benthic habitats. I think of them as Hawaii, but underwater. You know, fishes, there’s whales, dolphins, will surround the sub as you come up from an expedition from the seafloor, and then in the benthos -- in the sediment -- there’s sponges more than a meter tall, there’s corals, and the corals are covered with brittle stars and shrimp and crabs and fishes nestled in their branches. So everything you might see around Hawaii in the shallow waters is something you’d also see around a seamount in the deep, cold, dark waters.”

Many people are surprised to learn that corals, in particular, are found in such deep, dark, and cold places. Peter said that these slow-growing, fragile animals can live for extraordinary lengths of time. Some of the black corals found on  the Cross Seamount in Hawaii, for example, may be up to 4,000 years old. The bad news, he added, is that the seamounts that host these corals and so many other creatures are under increasing threat.

[Etnoyer] “The primary threat that’s caused by man is bottom trawling for commercial fisheries like orange roughy. These bottom trawlers will just decimate deep coral habitat. They have been modified with truck tires to bounce and roll over rocks and corals, and sometimes they bring up these corals, and they can be more than a meter tall.  You know that these fish are dependent on these kinds of habitats for their survival and reproduction, so it’s disappointing to think that in these days and times that we rely on these kinds of destructive technologies.”

On a positive note, though, he said that these types of problems are being worked on in the global community.

[Etnoyer] “There are a lot of groups who are actively trying to improve our fisheries and trying to regulate these destructive fishing gears, and now we have new laws on the books like Magnuson-Stevens that establish these corals as essential fish habitat, and let us manage these kinds of habitats and protect them from destructive fisheries.”

The important thing Peter stressed was the need for continued, coordinated study of seamount habitats. While the recent report that he co-authored in Oceanography conservatively estimates that the total number of large and small seamounts in the ocean may collectively cover about 28.8 million square kilometers,  he said that only around 250 individual seamounts have been biologically sampled. And each one of these seamounts are truly massive. Peter said that once he overlaid the trajectory of a one kilometer  dive he made in the Alvin submersible over a large map of one seamount. The seamount was so huge, that he couldn’t even see where he had been on the map.

[Etnoyer] “It’s like trying to describe a seamount is like trying to describe a Monet painting from three bristles of a brush. We couldn’t hope to understand its enormity if we dove on it every day for a year. We still would have sampled a very small amount. So these are truly massive features, and that’s why when you add them all up, they are larger than the continent of South America. It’s just an enormous and unknown habitat.”

(Closing)
We thank Dr. Peter Etnoyer for taking the time to speak with us this week.

And that’s all for this week.  One final note: if you’re following the developments of the ongoing oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, you can get the latest information about NOAA’s involvement in the effort at deepwaterhorizon.noaa.gov.

If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean -- or if you have an ocean fact you’d like answered -- send us a note at  nos.info@noaa.gov.

Now let’s bring in the ocean …

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.


Live from Philadelphia Part II: NOAA Education Outreach (Episode 49)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/apr10/mw041410.mp3

Wed, 14 Apr 2010 08:06:15 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 49 (April 14, 2010)

In our last podcast, we took you to the exhibit floor of the annual meeting of the National Science Teachers Association held in mid-March in Philadelphia.

We focused in that episode on the NOAA Exhibit Program, and about the variety of products and tools that NOAA brings to the table for large conferences like NSTA.

This week, we continue our coverage of the annual conference with a focus on NOAA's education outreach efforts at the event.

It's Wednesday, April 14, 2010, and you're listening to Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.

NSTA Education Outreach

"My name is Ginger Redlinger. I'm a Teacher at Sea alumni, and I'm working here at the NSTA convention for NOAA in the climate booth and the oceans booth disseminating information to teachers about all the resources that NOAA has. I love sharing the wonderful experiences I've had with NOAA and their teacher programs and how I use their resources."

We begin this episode in the NSTA exhibit hall ... right where we left off on the last podcast ... to hear from Ginger Redlinger. She was one of a small contingent of former Teacher at Sea participants from around the country who came to Philly to work with NOAA to help educate teachers about the resources available to them. 'Teachers at Sea' is a program that enables a small group of teachers to board NOAA research and survey ships each year to work directly with scientists and crew for a week or two. It's an amazing experience, but of course it's something that not many of the roughly 12,000 science teachers attending this annual convention will get to do.

So that's Ginger's main mission here -- to introduce teachers to what's freely available from NOAA, and to hopefully get them as excited about it as she is:

"I'm hoping that they get the message that NOAA works very hard to ensure there are resources for every teacher in every classroom and every type of student in the country to learn about the oceans, the climate, the earth, weather, and how it impacts our lives. And I hope they get excited about it as much as I get excited about it, and go back to the classroom and get the kids just as excited as the teachers are. There are all sorts of things that kids get excited about based on things that teachers can share because NOAA has made it a mission to be sure that everyone has this information, that they use this information at the classroom level. "

Well, that's precisely the mission of NOAA education experts and scientists gathered at this conference ... together, their education outreach efforts extend well beyond the boundaries of the NOAA booth on the exhibit floor. Over a two-day period, they'll serve up a wide range of talks and demonstrations in break-out rooms throughout the Pennsylvania Convention Center to help science teachers, well, find better ways to teach science.

NOAA hosts a symposium every year at NSTA, and each year there's a new theme. This year, the focus is on climate.

[sounds of Bruce Moravchik presenting lecture]

That's Bruce Moravchik, an education specialist with the National Ocean Service. Bruce led a session during NOAA's sold-out symposium about understanding sea level change using archived and real-time NOAA data. And he was also one of the many people behind the planning effort for NOAA's participation at NSTA.

We met up with him after he completed his talk.

"The NSTA national convention is one of the premier events for NOAA educators. It is by far the largest single audience that NOAA educators have to reach face to face through our exhibit and through the numerous presentations and symposia, as well as follow-up web seminars that we do with attendees."

In addition to Bruce's presentation, there were a wide range of experts on hand to talk with teachers on subjects ranging from basic climate literacy, to climate change impacts in the U.S., to the oceans impact on corals. Even the head of NOAA, Dr. Jane Lubchenko, came to Philadelphia to present a plenary talk on building an environmentally literate workforce.

"What's done with an NSTA symposium is we get some of the best scientists as well as some of the best educators focusing around a specific theme, and we begin by offering a pretty intensive half-day symposia where we combine the scientists giving presentations with the educators giving hands-on resources that educators can then use back in their classrooms, so we're tying together the scientific facts and the theories behind them, with really the hands on aspect."

And, he added, the learning doesn't stop at the NSTA conference.

"And then, what's done in addition is that there are two follow-up web seminars, so that educators who have attended one of these can then garner additional information from the scientists, and they have other opportunities after several weeks to digest some of the information they've gotten, maybe answer some other questions, maybe try some things out in their classroom, and at the same time, NSTA also offers a LISTSERV, so that over the next month or two, individuals who have attended these can then interact with other members who have attended the symposia, and they can ask questions, they can run things back and forth with different people, so it's really not only this one face to face period. "

Before we let Bruce get back to work, we asked him why NOAA decided to focus on climate for this year's national meeting:

"I think that our organization has come to realize that the issue of climate is one of the areas that really binds many parts of the organization together, both in terms of the scientific research that's done, as well as the areas of education that we can focus on. When we look at all of the work that's done focusing on the ocean, we recognize how important the ocean is in terms of affecting the atmosphere, weather, and subsequently climate. And a lot of measurements that we do are taken by the many satellites that NOAA operates, as well as at sea, many of our buoys, recording data, and a lot of work that people do just in the field. "

[sounds of Paulo Maurin presenting lecture]

What you're listening to is a great example of what Bruce was just talking about ... of how climate ties together many aspects of scientific research that NOAA's involved with. That's Paulo Maurin, national education coordinator for NOAA's coral reef conservation program. Paulo presented a couple of talks about ocean acidification and coral bleaching that generated a lot of interest and excitement from the teachers. We caught up with him back in the exhibit hall to ask him what his presentations were about.

"This being a science conference, I assume a basic understanding of the biology, so there's not a whole lot that I talk about like 'Corals 101' that we do in other conferences, where we talk about corals are animals, how they feed and all that. Here I do a very, very brief overview. Most people are familiar with bleaching. They know that it happens, and they know the basic mechanism of how it happens, but I try to fill in the details. Ocean acidification is a new topic on the block. And it's one that most people have only heard by name, but have a lot of questions and sometimes misunderstandings, so there's a lot of interest in that topic. "

What exactly is ocean acidification? Paulo said it starts with C02 in the atmosphere -- it turns out about a third of this C02 is absorbed by the oceans :

" Some people would say 'that's great! that's C02 that is not in the atmosphere,' but it's actually having a tremendous impact in the ocean. It's changing the basic chemistry of the ocean. And what it's doing, it's lowering the Ph of the ocean, and at the same time it's taking out the main building blocks that many marine organisms need to build their skeletons. So many of them build their skeletons using calcium carbonate, and ocean acidification is making this element less available. So they're having a tougher time in creating the skeletons that they need to survive."

And one of the most well-known marine organisms that need calcium carbonate to survive are corals. Paulo said that ocean acidification and coral bleaching really strike a chord with teachers and students alike -- coral ecosystems, he said, are on the front lines of climate change -- he called them the 'canaries in the coal mine' for the 21st century.

But how do you teach this? That's something Paulo spends a lot of time thinking about. He said that NOAA has people with tremendous teaching backgrounds, and that's helping the organization to develop products that are fine-tuned and targeted for teachers to use in the classroom. His group is focusing on developing products centered on ocean acidifications affect on corals.

"For corals, we're going to be using ocean acidification as our entry point for data in the classroom. Here, they've expressed a tremendous amount of interest in exploring the topic together with the students. So we're going to be developing products that use real-time data on ocean acidification and then bleaching, so they can use it in the classroom."

What does Paulo mean when he says 'data in the classroom?' We asked him to explain.

"NOAA, as a science agency, generates a whole lot of data, and we invest millions of dollars in the infrastructure to gather and communicate the data. But we normally communicate it to scientists and resource managers. With a little bit of extra additional investment, you can create targeted educational products that use certain parameters of the data, and link to specially developed lesson plans, so when the teachers are doing the lesson plans, instead of having them use hypothetical data or hypothetical scenario, or old data, they're using the freshest data that we have. So for instance in ocean acidification, we're going to be developing five lesson plans, and these are going to be drawing in the specific parameters that the lesson plans will be talking about, and then we'll develop a special user-teacher interface on the Web so they can have access to the data without guiding the teacher to a place that's been developed for somebody else in mind. So, it's not very effective when you guide the teachers to a Web portal that has been designed with scientists in mind."

As we wrapped up our talk with Paulo, Jeff MacHarry, a 5th grade science teacher at the lab schools at the University of Chicago in Illinois, approached Paulo to thank him for his talk.

"I just learned a ton of stuff that I had never picked up anywhere else. As fifth graders, I'm not sure how much of the data we're going to be using, more of sort of the concepts behind how the corals build the reefs and how adding C02 to the atmosphere -- which is something we've already talked about -- is really affecting them on a chemical level, and tying it into what we've learned about dissolving and crystallization."

He stressed the value of having a real world problem to talk about with his students to help bring important concepts to life:

"I'm new to my job, and I'm supposed to teach an oceanography unit, and so this was great for me to sort of think about how we can ... basically the course I teach now is a physical science course, and I'm trying to tie the basic physical concepts that we've been learning to a real world problem and a real world ecosystem so the kids can see that it's not just us in the lab dissolving salt in a beaker of water, but this is applicable to real world problems that we're really trying to deal with."

And this is what the NSTA conference is all about for NOAA -- building relationships between scientists and educators and teachers like Jeff MacHarry. Perhaps Bruce Moravchik, NOAA education specialist, best sums up what NOAA's education program is working to achieve through venues like NSTA:

"There are so many areas in science that are being attacked on all sides -- be it evolution, be it climate change -- and if science educators have the ability to have direct access to scientists who are actually doing the research on a range of different subjects, through either face-to-face presentations like they have at symposium or when they're home in their jammies via a web seminar asking questions back and forth, I think it provides them with a knowledge that they need to do their jobs as best as they can do them, and provides them with the kinds of free support that is truly unavailable to them because of the difficult economic times that a lot of school districts are in these days."

(Closing)

We hoped you enjoyed our two-part special about NOAA's participation in the 2010 National Science Teachers Association conference. Head to oceanservice.noaa.gov for our accompanying Web story on the event.

And a special thanks to Ginger Redlinger, Bruce Moravchik, Paulo Marin, and Jeff MacHarry for taking the time to speak with us for this episode.

You can learn more about NOAA's education offerings at education.noaa.gov. The National Ocean Service education portal can be found at oceanservice.noaa.gov/education. You can dive in to the Coral Reef Conservation Program at coralreef.noaa.gov. If you're a teacher interested in NOAA's Teach at Sea program, head over to www.tas.noaa.gov. And last but not least, head over to www.climate.gov for global climate news, data, and information.

That's all for this week. If you have any questions about this week's podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean send us a note at nos.info@noaa.gov.

Now let's bring in the ocean.

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.


Live from Philadelphia: NOAA's Exhibit Program (Episode 48)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/mar10/mw033110.mp3

Wed, 31 Mar 2010 08:04:00 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 48 (March 31, 2010)

You're listening to the sounds of K through 12 science teachers. A couple of weeks ago, hundreds and hundreds of teachers from around the nation came together for the annual meeting of the National Science Teachers Association in Philadelphia. The meet-up was held in the cavernous Pennsylvania Convention Center -- and it was a hive of activity. From a giant exhibit hall to legions of break out rooms for sessions and speakers and symposia, the entire place was packed with science teachers.

So you're probably wondering what this has to do with NOAA? Well, we took a trip up to Philly with microphone in hand to find out.

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service ... today, we have the first half of a two-part special ... recorded live in Philadelphia.

(National Science Teachers Association Conference: NOAA Exhibits Program)

Today we're going to be spending some time at the NOAA booth in the exhibit hall at the National Science Teachers Association annual meeting. NOAA's exhibit takes up about 1,200 square feet of space and it's stocked with well over 10,000 pounds of materials that will soon end up in teachers classrooms around the nation.

The exhibit is big, bold, and eye-catching ... and it has to be. NOAA is one of well over a hundred organizations -- public, private, government, commercial -- all vying for attention.

NSTA's annual meeting is one of NOAA's larger outreach events. It's one of around only a couple of dozen major venues that NOAA takes part in each year.

Big gatherings like this are a chance for NOAA men and women from a variety of backgrounds and expertise to come together to meet face to face with thousands of people from all walks of life ... students, retirees, scientists, or, here at NSTA, science teachers. Paul Taylor exhibit manager from the National Ocean Service, is one of the people who works behind the scenes to make NOAA's presence at these shows a success. He said that while it's important to catch peoples attention with an impressive visual display, the real challenge is getting the right NOAA people for each event:

"This show is obviously for science teachers. We may go in the Fall to AARP, that's more of a general public and you're dealing with active seniors and retired personnel. We go to the American Meteorological Society, and that is more of a weather-focused event. So we try to do is match material that we have, recognize the audience that we're promoting to, and then marry those two in some shape or form, wether that be visual graphics to catch their attention, but really what we're working on is getting the right people to work the booth, because the power in the booth is who are staffing it. Interactive, one-on-one conversations. That's really the powerful information exchange. Someone can see a picture, or a poster, or an informational graphic. That's just an eye catcher. It's really the interactive conversation where the information's exchanged."

Paul works with Les Adams, NOAA's lead exhibit manager. On the first day of the conference, just as the teachers started flowing in, Les and Paul stood back to survey their work. The exhibit team spent most of the previous day unpacking and constructing the display, and their team has been preparing for this event for months. Here's Les:

"NSTA is our product heavy show. We have a lot of materials here. When I shipped all of these products, I had 14,000 pounds of product and exhibits, so it's our heaviest show, but in the end it's worth it. It gets these materials, these products, into classrooms all the way from elementary to the high school level. So we have products geared on a full range of subjects and then also on a full range of educational levels."

What kind of products is Les talking about? Enter Jeanine Montgomery, manager of NOAA's Education Outreach Center:

"Products actually range in this day of technology from actual links to Web sites. Sometimes that's just what people are interested in. NOAA produces a lot of the DVDs and CDs that are a collection these days of curricular products that also live online, or specific individual lesson plans, or individual posters for download and printing, multimedia objects … there's a potential I suppose to put podcasts on those types of products in the future. Sometimes it's connecting up a classroom with a presentation speaker. So it's a lot of different products that people are after."

By the end of the show, all of these products are going to be in the hands of teachers. But many of the teachers want more NOAA material than they can carry away with them. To manage this demand, the NOAA staff at the booth are also using bar code scanners to take orders. Back at NOAA, the Education Outreach Center collects all of these orders and mails the material out to classrooms around the country. Jeanine was on hand at the event to shepherd the education outreach effort, but she was also there to listen to teachers to find out what they're looking for.

She said that for teachers on a tight budget, these products are really popular -- not only because they're free -- but because they contain vetted, reliable, science that can be used in the classroom.

One of these teachers using NOAA materials is Michelle Painter, who teaches science in Hillsboro, New Jersey. Michelle stopped by the booth to pick up some materials and to talk about an upcoming class she's interested in taking.

"I've taken two of the data stream classes that NOAA offers. As a matter of fact, I was here inquiring about a third that they should be offering next year. Basically it's a free class, it's college credit, and it's really great. I've used a lot of the activities in the classroom. And, you know, the posters and things that they have, I always put this stuff in my classroom for the kids to look at, and now I just discovered an activity on climate that they have, which is what we're getting ready to study – we're on weather and climate right now – so there's an activity that they have that's associated with one of the posters I'm going to take back and use and share with the members of my department."

And as Paul Taylor said earlier, it's face-to-face communication between the NOAA people manning the exhibit and teachers like Michelle that's the most important part of the NOAA Exhibit program. It's those NOAA people who are answering questions, talking about NOAA programs and services, and making sure that right NOAA products get into the hands of the teachers who need them.

So let's meet some of these people. The NOAA exhibit space in divided into four different zones -- each area highlighting one aspect of what NOAA does. We'll start off in the data and research area.

[Background audio of Dan Pisut talking]

That's Dan Pisut. He's the manager of NOAA'S Environmental Visualization Lab, is over in the NOAA data and research zone. He's pointing at a large LCD screen behind him and talking excitedly about the layers upon layers of NOAA data overlaid in a rainbow of colors on a Google Map projection of the Earth.

Dan said he's always looking for new, interesting visual ways to present NOAA data - which is one of the reasons he loves his job. This is his second time at the NSTA annual conference representing NOAA.

"You know, I used to be a teacher, and that was one of the reasons I was so excited about taking on this job. I used to search for the different materials and animations and images so I didn't have to draw on the white board with five different colored markers, and the kids look at me like … I'd see the picture and the kids never did. So know, you know, myself and my staff we do that. I'm always trying to think of what would be useful for teachers in the classroom, and I welcome their input on it as well."

Now, across the area from Dan and the data and research area is the NOAA weather zone.

[Background audio of John Jensenius talking with teachers]

The first thing teachers notice at in the weather area is the NOAA guy wearing a red hat with a big yellow lightning bolt sticking out of each side. Meet Dr. Lightning, aka John Jensenius, a NOAA meteorologist based near Portland, Maine. This is the third time John has represented NOAA at the NSTA conference.

"Well, a lot of times people will just ask you about the weather they may have observed, or what they're teaching. Sometimes they're just looking for information: 'where can I find this or that.' And certainly, with my interest in lightning, I get a lot of questions about lightning. There's a lot of misunderstanding about lightning, so it's an opportunity for them to find out a little bit more and for me to talk a little bit about it. And certainly, both the combination of science and also the safety aspect of it, too, because there are a lot of unnecessary lightning deaths and injuries every year in the United States."

Now let's move on from weather and head over to NOAA's ocean and fisheries zone. Over at this station, Jonathan Shannon, an educator with NOAA's national marine sanctuaries program was enjoying his first NSTA conference.

"We'll a lot of the teachers want to teach about these activities. They just need the information and they really value the fact that the scientists are helping to develop these products, so they can make that direct link for their students, to get their students really excited about the subject matter, instead of just looking at it in a book, getting them connected to current research, like what we're doing with the Okeanos, what we're doing in the sanctuaries with preservation and research and monitoring. They just really enjoy it. They like to have stuff that's packaged for them that they can take off the shelf and use, and then adapt to how they want to use it."

Our final stop on our audio tour of the NOAA's exhibit at the NSTA conference is a zone dedicated to the topic of climate, which is of course a big subject of interest these days. Here ran in to a first year teacher from the Atlanta area near this area named Heather Tomkins who had this to say:

"Obviously being new to a classroom, I want to dress it up with as much visually stimulating and content appropriate things in the room. I just got done talking to a very informative gentleman about climate literacy and the collaboration between the 18 or 19 different agencies and the effort that's going on behalf of NOAA with gathering information across different agencies – and the collaboration is astounding. Very exciting stuff."

(Closing)

We hope this gives you a small taste of NOAA's role at this event, and about the NOAA exhibits program. Be sure to head over to oceanservice.noaa.gov to see the accompanying Web story that goes with this podcast -- we have a really cool time-lapse video for you that shows the NOAA exhibit from setup to break down. It's a lot of fun to watch. And we have links for you for some of the programs we've talked about today.

Next week we're going to talk in more depth about the education outreach component that NOAA undertakes at events like NSTA. We've got some great interviews lined up. You'll hear from a National Ocean Service education expert, NOAA's coral reef education national coordinator, and from some teachers who worked at the NOAA booth who've participated in NOAA's Teacher at Sea program in past years.

A special thanks to the NOAA exhibits program staff and all the NOAA people for taking the time to out to talk with us about what they do. Let's leave Les Adams, NOAA exhibits program manager, with the last today:

"What would be the effect if we were not here. People wouldn't get the posters, they wouldn't get the information, they wouldn't know about climate, they wouldn't know about some of the weather products that we offer. We know that there's a lack of interest in science in our schools. If we can help promote science, I think it helps."

And that's all for this week.

If you have any questions about this week's podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean -- or if you have an ocean fact you'd like answered -- send us a note at nos.info@noaa.gov.

Now let's bring in the ocean.

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.


Coasts, Corals, and Whales (Episode 47)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/mar10/mw031710.mp3

Wed, 17 Mar 2010 07:58:25 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 47 (March 17, 2010)

…Take an interactive journey to learn about the State of our Coasts
… Cold weather hits corals in Florida
… And an annual whale count is wrapping up in Hawaii

We've got three stories for you today, Wednesday, March 17 th, and you're listening to Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.

(State of the Coast)

Check this out. From 1970 to the present year, the number of people living in U.S. coastal counties rose 46 percent. Today, about 52 percent -- more than half of the nation's total population -- lives in just 673 coastal counties. By mid-century, this coastal population is expected to increase by another 7.1 million people.

Fifty-seven percent of our nation's gross domestic product is generated just within these coastal counties along our oceans and Great Lakes. Our nation's ports that drive our economy are in these areas. Our fisheries and most popular tourist destinations are here.

So how are our coasts holding up under this unprecedented human pressure? How do increasing populations and heavy economic use along our coasts relate to water quality, pollution, invasive species, and coral reef health? What effects might climate change pose to these vulnerable areas?

Last week, the ocean serviced launched a new Web site called State of the Coast to explore these questions, and you've really got to check it out. It's at stateofthecoast.noaa.gov.

The site focuses around four themes that tell the story of how much we rely on and get out of our coasts, and how this heavy human usage is degrading these fragile areas and threatening their health.

In the Communities theme, you can check out changes in U.S. coastal population, the importance of clean beaches, and the extent of U.S. marine protected areas. In the Economy theme, explore the impact that coastal areas have on the U.S. economy, the value of a sustainable fishing industry, and the economic significance of our nation's ports. The Ecology theme provides you with a chance to learn about the overall health of the coast, as well as the health of specific, critical resources like reefs, and the impacts of pollution and invasive species on coastal ecosystems. Under the Climate theme, you can explore the vulnerability of our coasts to long-term sea level rise and learn about the infrastructure and populations in our flood-prone coastal areas.

Now I want to stress that this is more than just a bunch of pages with text and pictures. It's full of interactive maps that let you drill down and take a really detailed look at data compiled by NOAA, EPA, the U.S. Geological Survey, and other agencies and institutions. There is a ton of information to explore here, and the interactivity makes it a lot of fun. You can find your county on a map of the U.S. and see how population has changed over time, and how it's projected to change in the future. You can see how the region you live in fares in terms of water quality, fish tissue contaminants, or sediment quality. You can check to see where the most vulnerable areas are in the nation in terms of predicted sea level rise due to climate change. You can see how zebra mussels - an invasive species - has spread around the nation since it was first recorded in 1988. This is just a small -- a really small -- taste of what you'll find at state of the coast.

We hope you give it a look and let us know what you think. And we hope you come away with a deeper appreciation of the need to better understand, manage, and protect our nation's coastal resources. You'll find the site at stateofthecoast.noaa.gov.

(Coral Bleaching in Florida)

If you live on the East Coast of the U.S., I'm sure you remember the cold spell we had back in January. During that period, unusually cold temperatures stretched all the way down to the tip of Florida. This cold had a particularly chilling effect on ocean temperatures down around the Florida Keys.

During the first two weeks of January, water temperatures in some parts of the Florida Keys dropped into the upper 40s and lower 50s. That's about 20 degrees Fahrenheit lower than normal. This was bad news for coral reefs. The lethal lower limit for corals is 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Because of these record low-water temperatures, NOAA and partners from 12 different organizations recently finished surveying in the Florida Keys to get a handle on the extent of coral bleaching and death in the area.

What they found is that the influx of cold water from Florida and Biscayne bays appears to be responsible for coral deaths in nearshore waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The hardest hit areas were the inshore and mid-channel reefs from Biscayne Bay in southeast Florida to Summerland Key, an island in the Florida Keys. The good news is thate offshore reefs most frequented by divers and sportfishers were buffered by warmer waters of the Florida Current and were spared severe impact by the cold.

This was a pretty rare event. A widespread cold-water coral die-off has not occurred in Florida since the late 1970s.

The data collected during this survey will help give researchers a greater understanding about coral reefs and guide efforts to protect these critical habitats. Scientists are still exploring whether this cold-stress event will make corals more susceptible to disease. Following warm-water stress events, the bacterial makeup of corals changes, and that increases the prevalence of coral disease. This winter's event allows scientists to collect data to compare and contrast coral health following both cold- and warm-water events.

You may be wondering what the difference is between coral bleaching and death. When water is too warm or too cold, corals will expel the algae living in their tissues, and this causes the coral to turn completely white. This is what is called coral bleaching. When a coral bleaches, it is not dead. Corals can survive a bleaching event, but they are under a lot of stress in this state and are at greater risk of dying.

NOAA's Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary serves as manager of most of Florida Keys coral reef resources. Staff from the sanctuary are working with the science community and limiting certain human activities in the hardest hit areas until stressful conditions subside. The Sanctuary is also asking SCUBA divers to avoid the reefs affected by January's cold weather.

(Hawaii Whale Count)

And finally today, we just thought we'd let you know what's going on in Hawaii. Each winter, from around December to May, a bunch of endangered North Pacific humpback whales migrate from their feeding grounds in Alaska all the way to the warm waters of Hawai'i to breed. The pristine waters around the remote island chain is considered to be one of the most important breeding, calving, and nursing grounds for humpback whales in the entire North Pacific.

Each year, NOAA's Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary hosts an event called the Sanctuary Ocean Count to learn more about these whale populations.

The Sanctuary Ocean Count began as a way to provide Hawai'i residents and visitors to the islands with the chance to observe humpback whales in their breeding grounds by conducting a yearly shore-based census during the peak breeding season.

Although the census does not claim to provide scientifically accurate results, it serves as a tool to supplement scientific information gathered from other research activities. The count also provides some information on how whales use in-shore waters on an average peak season day. And it's a lot of fun. By assisting in the count, volunteers can help to monitor the number of humpback whales and other marine mammals around the islands -- and that helps ensure their health and safety for generations to come.

To date, the Sanctuary Ocean Count covers 60 sites on four islands, with over 2000 volunteers. In the future, the Sanctuary hopes to expand this project to other islands.

If you live in Hawaii, if you're visiting, or if you're planning a trip in the coming weeks, there's still time to join the last count on March 27th. And if you miss this years count, maybe you can join in next year when the whales return again to breed. You can find out more about the program and about the sanctuary at hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov.

(Closing)

And that's all for this week.

If you have any questions about this week's podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean -- or if you have an ocean fact you'd like answered -- send us a note at nos.info@noaa.gov.

Now let's go out with some whale sounds...

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.


New England Red Tide Outlook; Pharmaceuticals in Our Environment (Episode 46)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/mar10/mw030310.mp3

Fri, 14 Feb 2020 10:46:54 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 46 (March 3, 2010)

... The New England Red Tide Forecast for 2010 is Out
... and pharmaceuticals in our environment ... what you need to know

Those stories are coming up today. It's Wednesday, March 3rd, and you're listening to Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.

(New England Red Tide Forecast)

Last week, scientists from the NOAA-funded Gulf of Maine Toxicity project said that we can expect a significant bloom of toxin-producing algae in this region over the coming spring and summer. These harmful algal blooms are commonly called red tides, and they're a chronic problem in the Gulf of Maine.

The term 'red tide' derives from one of the best known harmful algal blooms in the nation that crops nearly every summer along Florida's Gulf Coast. These Florida blooms, like the harmful algal blooms in the Gulf of Maine, are caused by microscopic algae that grow out of control.

These algae are usually harmless ... and they're really important because they form the base of the entire marine food web. But at times when they bloom out of control, some types of these algae start to produce powerful toxins that kill fish and make shellfish dangerous to eat.

As the name 'red tide' suggests, the bloom of algae that turns up in Florida often turns the water a deep red color. But blooms aren't always red. That's why scientists prefer the term harmful algal bloom, or HAB, because the toxic blooms of algae that occur in waters around the world -- in places like the Gulf of Maine -- come in many forms and many colors ... and some have no color at all.

The one thing they have in common is that they're universally a big problem. They threaten marine ecosystems, they're bad for human health, and they cost local and regional economies millions of dollars every year through fishery closures, and recreation and tourism losses because vast swaths of water have to be closed off until the threat passes.

In the Gulf of Maine, one of the most damaging harmful algal bloom varieties is caused by a type of algae called Alexandrium fundyense. Although these algae pose no direct threat to humans, the toxins produced by Alexandrium can accumulate in creatures like mussels and clams that feed on these tiny plants, and this can lead to paralytic shellfish poisoning in humans who eat these shellfish.

This year's bloom of this organism could be similar to major blooms in the Gulf that occurred in 2005 and 2008. The 2005 bloom shut down shellfish beds from Maine to Martha's Vineyard for several months and caused an estimated $20 million in losses to the Massachusetts shellfish industry alone.

The outlook for the Gulf is based on a seafloor survey taken last fall of the seed-like cysts of Alexandrium fundyense. These cysts are deposited by the algae in the fall, and they hatch in the spring. Last fall, the abundance of cysts in the sediment of the seafloor was 60 percent higher than observed prior to the historic bloom of 2005, so this is a good indication that a large bloom is likely in the spring.

The cyst bed also appears to have expanded to the south, so the 2010 bloom may affect areas such as Massachusetts Bay and Georges Bank sooner than has been the case in past years.

While the scientists involved in the Gulf of Maine Toxicity project can provide an approximation of the severity of the upcoming season of harmful algal blooms, it's not as easy to forecast precisely where and when the bloom will make landfall. That's because bloom transport depends on weather events that just can't be predicted months in advance. Even if there is a large bloom offshore, certain wind patterns and ocean currents in the late spring and summer are needed to transport it onshore where it can affect coastal shellfish.

Still, the cyst abundance in the fall is a good indicator of the magnitude of the bloom in the following year. What this outlook does is to help state agencies prepare for monitoring harmful algal blooms and assessing public health risks. Early warnings can give shellfish farmers and fishermen the opportunity to shift the timing of their harvest or postpone plans for expansion of aquaculture beds. Area restaurants may also benefit from advance warnings by making contingency plans for supplies of seafood during the summer.

Shellfish beds are continually monitored by state agencies to protect human health. And when toxin concentrations rise above a quarantine level, these beds are closed down for a while until the threat passes. While these closures have a big economic impact, it's important to note that there have been no illnesses from legally harvested shellfish in recent years despite some severe blooms.

Gulf of Maine Toxicity Project researchers regularly share their field observations and models with more than 80 coastal resource and fisheries managers in six states as well as federal entities like NOAA, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration. The project is funded by NOAA's Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms Program.

(Pharmaceuticals in the Ocean)

Next up, we're going to talk about a different kind of problem affecting our coastal waters.  Have you ever flushed your old, expired prescription drugs down the toilet? What's the fate of these pills? Do they just dissolve away without affecting the environment, or are these chemicals damaging plant and animal life?

Well, scientists are now studying this very problem, and they're finding low levels of pharmaceuticals in estuaries, rivers, streams, ground water, and in sediments.

These drugs get into our waters through the wastewater coming from our homes, but that's not the only source. They're also introduced into the environment from landfills and runoff from places like golf courses where sewage wastewater and sludge have been applied. And veterinary pharmaceuticals can come from aquaculture, from animal feeding operations, and from the family pet.

While the long-term impacts of these contaminants are largely unknown, the evidence is growing that some of these chemicals may effect reproduction in aquatic species or stimulate the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Wastewater, for example, typically contains any number of medications and hormones that people have either used or discarded. Many of these chemical compounds remain biologically active. And some of them, especially hormones such as estrogen, appear to significantly alter aquatic organisms.

What can we do to help? Well, we can do our part to keep unused drugs from getting into our coastal waters in the first place. That's the message in an article appearing in the latest issue of NOAA's Coastal Services Center magazine, a bimonthly publication aimed at coastal and state resource managers that's available online at www.csc.noaa.gov.

The Center is getting the word out to coastal managers around the country that even though we don't have all the answers about the long-term effects of pharmaceuticals in our waters, we need to start addressing the problem now.

Some coastal managers are already taking action. In New York, for instance, the state Sea Grant program hosted a 'Return Unwanted Medicine' event last spring. That effort drew in over 140 community participants and netted nearly 500 pounds of unwanted medicines.

And in Ohio, researchers are looking into how pharmaceutical compounds break down over time in an area called the Old Woman Creek reserve, one of NOAA's National Estuarine Research Reserves. What they've found so far is some good news ... with some important caveats. The good news is that wetlands and coastal areas are places that naturally break these compounds down over time -- this points to one of the many reasons why it's so critical to maintain and preserve our natural estuaries and wetland areas. The researchers caution, though, that we don't necessarily get the same benefits by re-creating human-made wetlands in other places -- we need to preserve our natural wetlands. There are still unanswered questions, however. While out wetlands break complex drugs down into new chemicals, little is known about the potential effects of these new by-products in our waterways.

Meanwhile, NOAA scientists are tackling the problem from different angles. Chemists are working to develop new procedures to better identify and measure a growing list of pharmaceutical compounds in marine waters and sediments -- compounds like synthetic hormones, lipid regulators, antibiotics, and antidepressants. Scientists are involved in monitoring efforts in several locations around the nation, including the Chesapeake Bay and the Southern California Bight. And researchers are performing laboratory tests to determine the potential for pharmaceuticals to cause toxicity in algae or fish.

So this problem is being addressed in many ways -- through research and preventative programs -- and we're learning more everyday.

While the problem of pharmaceuticals in our waterways isn't going to go away anytime soon, we can all do our part to help lessen the problem by disposing of our unused drugs properly.

Check for approved state and local collection alternatives in your area like community based household hazardous waste collection programs. In certain states, you may be able to take your unused medications to your community pharmacy or other location for disposal.

And check out www.csc.noaa.gov to read the full story about pharmaceuticals in our environment.

(Closing)

That's all for this week.

If you have any questions about this week's podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean -- or if you have an ocean fact you'd like answered -- send us a note at nos.info@noaa.gov.

Now let's bring in the ocean....

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.


Decoding the Secret Pathologies of Dolphins (Episode 45)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/feb10/mw021810.mp3

Thu, 18 Feb 2010 13:53:53 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 45 (February 18, 2010)

This week, we take a virtual journey to San Diego for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

At the event, NOAA’s Oceans and Human Health Initiative unveiled six new studies this week. These studies offer new insights into how diseases found in dolphins and other marine mammals are similar to humans, and the studies provide new clues into how the health of these mammals are being impacted by degraded oceans.

Today, we’re going to talk with NOAA scientists who led two of the six studies presented at the meeting to learn more about their new research. After the show, be sure to head over to oceanservice.noaa.gov. There, you’ll find a round up of all the new science presented at this NOAA symposium.

It’s Thursday, February 18th, and you’re listening to Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

(Dolphins and PCBs)
Our first story today is about polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. The term PCB covers a wide range of manmade contaminants that have been banned in the U.S. since the 1970s because they are very harmful to animals and to humans, and they have a nasty tendency to stick around in the environment for a long, long time.

Last summer, Dr. Lori Schwacke, a NOAA wildlife epidemiologist and biostatistician, co-led a study with investigators from NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service to test the levels of these chemicals in dolphins that live near an industrial site near Brunswick, Georgia. We spoke with Lori on the phone at her office at NOAA’s Hollings Marine Lab in Charleston, South Carolina, where she works as the principal scientist for NOAA's Oceans and Human Health Initiative Center of Excellence.

She said her team expected to find high levels of contaminates in the dolphins that lived in the waterways near this area, but what they found were levels of PCBs that were higher than have ever been seen in any other marine mammals:

“They were even higher than levels that we’re measuring in transient killer whales in the Pacific Coast. These are the transient pods of killer whales that feed on other marine mammals, so they’re at an even higher level of the food chain and before have been reported as having the highest levels of persistent contaminants in wildlife, but these dolphins have beat them out with even higher levels.’

After they tested the dolphins in this area, they moved 30 miles up the coast to test dolphins at the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve, where they expected the levels to be much lower.

“This is a beautifully scenic area, with very little development in the area, and we anticipated -- we originally moved up there thinking that we wanted to investigate health impacts of these contaminants that this would be a good control site. And we found that levels in that region were also around 140 parts per million, which is higher actually than what’s been seen in other coastal sites. It’s still lower than Brunswick, significantly lower than Brunswick, still higher than what we anticipated.”

After the saw such unexpectedly high levels of PCBs in the dolphins in this area, too, they decided to medically examine some of the dolphins at the Brunswick site and at the Sapelo reserve.

“So far we only have preliminary results, but we’re seeing evidence of suppressed immune function, altered level of thyroid hormones, and elevated liver enzymes.”

By tagging the dolphins, they were also able to track their movements. What they found is that a few of the male dolphins were moving up and down the coast, but mostly the dolphins didn’t range that far. This suggests that the contaminants are moving along the coast through the marine food web.

Lori said the knowledge gained by this study adds to what scientists know about cetaceans -- the group of marine mammals that includes dolphins, porpoises and whales. It turns out not much is known because these types of mammals are really hard to study in the wild.

“It’s been difficult for scientists to get a firm handle on how much of a risk these contaminants really pose to the health and sustainability of cetacean populations. Because this population along the Georgia coast has such incredibly high levels of PCBs, it’s a good opportunity for us to study and understand the impacts that PCBs can have, specifically on cetacean health.”

Now the big question is, what effects are these PCBs having on the dolphins ... and on humans?

“A number of adverse health effects have been associated with PCB exposure in both humans and animals. The primary effects include lowered immune response, which can cause increased susceptibility to disease; poor cognitive development; liver damage; and impaired reproduction. Also, some PCBs are endocrine disruptors and can alter levels of thyroid or reproductive hormones, so there are a number of reasons to be concerned about the high levels of PCBs we’re seeing in these dolphins.”

Because of the unprecedented levels of PCBs that Lori’s team found in the dolphins in this area, other studies are already underway or planned. The National Center for Environmental Health, for example -- that’s part of the Centers for Disease Control -- is looking at how seafood may contribute to what’s called the ‘body burden’ of environmental contaminants in coastal communities. They’re planning to do a pilot study with volunteers who live in the area near the Sapelo Island reserve who eat local seafood to understand whether marine mammal populations and humans in the same area who share the same seafood resources also share similar exposures to PCBs from their diet.

While there is much more to learn about the problem in this region, Lori said one thing is already very clear:

“ We have to be careful with what we’re doing on our coasts. I mean, these contimants have been banned in the U.S. since the 1970s, yet here we’re seeing incredibly high levels in dolphins, and the health of these dolphins could be impacted by them, and could be impacting the health of people who consume seafood in the same area. These contaminants don’t go away, they last for generations, so I think what we have to think about is that the pollutants we’re allowing to seep from our coasts into our waters today are going to be around for decades to come.”

(HABs and Epilepsy)
Our next story is not about manmade toxic chemicals in our coastal waters, it’s about toxins produced by algae, little microscopic plants that live in the ocean.

What we’re talking about here are harmful algal blooms, more commonly known as red tides. Well there’s a particular kind of algae that sometimes grows out of control, and when it does so, it produces a toxin called domoic acid. This is nasty stuff, and that’s something we’ve known for years. But in a new study unveiled at the symposium, Dr. James Ramsdell discovered that this toxin can produce lasting effects on mammals. It can lead to seizures that can lead to epilepsy.

We talked to John by telephone from his offices in South Carolina, we’re he works as a research physiologist and chief of the Harmful Algal Blooms and Analytical Response Branch at NOAA's Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research.

We asked him about the kind of algae that produce the toxin known as domoic acid.

“These are very common algae. In fact, as opposed to most of the harmful algal blooms which are composed of dinoflagelletes, which are thought to be more of the ‘rogue‘ type of plant cells in the marine environment, these toxins are made by diatoms, which are generally thought to be fairly benign and very productive parts of the marine ecosystem.”

But he added that not all of these types of algae always produce this type of toxin. Certain conditions have to be met. First, there have to be the right conditions to create a big bloom of algae -- this has to do with ocean currents and temperatures that help to concentrate a large number of these plants in one area. Then, all of these plants need food, right? Well, they’re fed by things like runoff of manmade nutrients coming from the land from things like fertilizers. What happens is that when these nutrients run out, this mass of algae starts to run out of food, they get stressed out, and that’s when they start producing the toxin. And when marine mammals like dolphins and sea lions eat fish that have eaten this algae, they’re poisoned. It’s a pattern that John said is well documented, but there was a mystery that was unresolved. Over the past decade, scientists at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, Calif., had documented many cases of sea lions that were showing signs of domoic acid poisoning and having epileptic seizures long after the algae had come and gone ...

“And they found that some sea lions were stranding with domoic acid symptoms at times when there were not blooms. Simultaneously, they had been following many of these animals in their clinics for extended periods, and they’d find that after the animal recovered from its acute seizures and seemed to be OK, all of the sudden they’d start to develop epilepsy again.”

So the question at hand was if domoic acid could cause epilepsy in the long term. John said that researchers had tried to prove this link before, but without success. He decided to tackle the problem again using rats as a model in the laboratory. He said that scientists knew pretty well that domoic acid could cause seizures, but ...

“...what we didn’t know was the long term consequences of this. And so, we had to be very careful with domoic acid, because it’s a toxin and it’s lethal. And I think the reason the previous work did not work well -- the previous attempts to show that domoic acid could induce epilepsy -- was that it killed the animals before it could before it could cause enough damage.”

So what they did is use a really small dose of domoic acid in the rats, just enough to induce epilepsy once, then they stopped. And they took really good care of the rats and just waited to see what would happen.

“What we found was that, over the course of six months, 92 percent of the animals became epileptic.”

John said that the important point is that the domoic acid doesn’t cause epilepsy, it’s that the toxin causes seizures that damage the brain, and this damage to the brain leads to lifelong epilepsy in almost all of the rats his team tested in the lab. It’s a similar pattern to what can happen to humans when exposed to factors like high fevers during childhood, brain trauma, or exposure to lead.

“So the real common denominator is the damage to specific areas in the brain, and there are multiple ways to cause that damage to lead to this.”

So as you listen to this, you may be asking yourself if it’s safe to eat seafood given the threat posed by these toxin-producing algae.

“In terms of domoic acid poisioning from seafood, most seafood is monitored pretty carefully. But it’s very unusual to get enough domoic acid in seafood to make a normal person sick, particularly a healthy person. Over all, domoic acid is particularly a risk to those people who have problems with their kidneys or advanced age, but generally it’s not a big hazard to healthy people.”

The knowledge gained from this new study will help guide future research and emergency response efforts for future harmful algal bloom outbreaks. John stressed that harmful algal blooms are going to continue to happen, so we need to continue to learn more about them so we can better manage them. He added that we also need to recognize that human activities may be playing a significant role in prolonging these toxin-producing phenomena:

“Harmful algal blooms are a natural phenomena, and they’re going to happen. However, it’s quite likely that human influences do prolong them. For example, pollution provides nutrients that can prolong their growth and problematic effects -- it won’t cause them, but it will prolong them. Likewise, the destruction of wetlands is a very big factor. You know, wetlands are the filters for many of the natural nutrients as well as poisonous things that come off the land, and when one lacks these filters, once again you’re going to enhance the effects. And those could well be contributing to the more intense blooms and more intense animal mortality events we’re observing.”

(Goodbye)
A special thanks to Dr. Lori Swchacke and Dr. John Ramsdell for taking the time to discuss their latest research.

Don’t forget that you can find more about these studies and the other research announced this week at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting this week. Just surf over to oceanservice.noaa.gov.

If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean -- or if you have an ocean fact you’d like answered -- send us a note at nos.info@noaa.gov.

Now let’s bring in the ocean....

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.


Haiti support; oil spill at Port Arthur, Texas; marine protected area news (Episode 44)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/feb10/mw020310.mp3

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 10:00:34 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 44 (February 3, 2010)

(INTRO)

... NOAA provides support to recovery efforts in Haiti
... clean-up is underway for an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico
...and The public comment period is open on the second round of existing Marine Protected Areas nominated to join the national system.

It’s February 3rd, 2010. Those stories are coming up today on Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

(Haiti Support)

Last week, two NOAA aircraft fitted with high-resolution digital cameras flew missions over Haiti to collect photographs to help with recovery efforts.
All together, the team collected nearly 3,300 images covering more than 690 miles. These images are being used for many purposes by agencies ranging from the U.S. Agency for International Development, to the UN, to the Department of Homeland Security.

One of the uses of the photos is to help map out transportation routes for first responders. They’re also being used to locate areas where major demolition projects may be necessary for long-term recovery and rebuilding. Added to this, the photos will help to preserve a high-resolution record of the initial post-disaster state of the Port-au-Prince area.

The aircraft are part of NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations and are equipped with high-resolution digital cameras and other sensors that specialize in collecting data to help with disaster response, scientific research, and environmental resource management efforts. That equipment is maintained and operated by the National Geodetic Survey’s Remote Sensing Division.

NOAA often rovides this type of support following events like earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis in the U.S.

In international events, NOAA works closely with the Department of Homeland Security, Defense, State, Interior, and other agencies to provide coordinated remote sensing response capabilities.

This imagery is available to responders in Haiti and to the general public through Google Earth, on the Web, and via the latest geographic information system software.
You can get more on this story on our Web site at oceanservice.noaa.gov

All of us here at NOAA offer our deepest condolences for the people of Haiti.

(Port Arthur, TX, oil spill)

Further North in the Gulf of Mexico, members of the Office of Response and Restoration are now on-scene near Port Arthur, Texas, to help respond to an oil spill that occurred on January 23.

That morning, the towing vessel Dixie Vengeance and the two barges it was pushing collided with the tank ship Eagle Otome. That ripped a 15-by-8-foot hole in the tanker’s starboard cargo tank, leading to a spill of some 10,000 barrels of crude oil into the Sabine-Neches Waterway. That waterway, if you’re not familiar with the area, runs along the border between Texas and Louisiana from Beaumont, Texas, to the Gulf of Mexico.

The Eagle Otome is a double-hulled tank ship owned by a Malaysian global shipping company. It was carrying 570,000 barrels of crude oil to the Exxon Mobil refinery in Beaumont at the time of the incident.

When the U.S. Coast Guard is the Federal On-Scene Coordinator at the site of an oil spill or other HAZMAT incident, the Office of Response and Restoration provides scientific support that includes predicting where the oil is going and what its effects may be, identifying resources at risk, providing weather forecasts, planning for shoreline cleanup, and participating in over flights to collect data and video footage.

NOAA will also coordinate with other state and federal trustees to assess injuries to natural resources and lost human uses. The trustees’ activities lay the foundation for restoration plans, and ultimately help the federal government determine whether the parties responsible for the spill should be required to pay damages toward restoring the injured resource.

The heavily traveled waterway is a vital link in the nation’s oil refining chain, representing approximately 6.5 percent of the nation’s gasoline refining capacity; thus, reopening the route and restoring commerce are top priorities.

(Second Round of MPA Nominations Almost Complete)

Finally today, we’re going to talk about the National System of Marine Protected Areas.

The effort to create this national system began back in 2000 with a Presidential Order.

At the beginning of this effort, we had marine sanctuaries, estuarine reserves, monuments, no-fishing zones, and state and national parks that include ocean resources all managed by different agencies. Some were created by the federal government, some by states, some by local and tribal governments ...and each protected area had separate requirements and different levels of protection.

So the goal of the national system is to tie all of these areas together to work towards common conservation goals. The effort is being led by NOAA’s National Marine Protected Areas Center on behalf of the Departments of Commerce and Interior.

We’ve come a long way since 2000. Here’s a recap of where we are now. In 2008, the Center reached a major milestone after years of work by releasing a new national framework that sets goals and guidance for the new system -- and this sets the stage for how these protected areas are going to work together to conserve the nation's important natural and cultural marine resources.

The first group of 225 sites around the country were brought into the national system in the Fall of 2008. Now this happened after several key steps: first the managing agencies for these existing protected areas that wanted to be included in the national system nominated their sites. Then, the public had an opportunity to comment, and finally, after this phase, the managing agencies for these protected areas made the final decision to join the new national system.

Well, now we’re nearing the end of the second round of nominations for existing sites around the country.

For this round, there are 32 new sites nominated to join the system, and this is where you come in. Those sites are now up for public review through February 22nd. So surf over to mpa.gov to take a look at the nomination package.

Once this public review period is over, this second group will be formally accepted into the national system.

While the new system doesn't put new laws and regulations in place, what it does is set the stage so all of the players who manage these areas can come together to better conserve our marine resources.

The reason we need this is because our oceans are under threat from things like offshore development, overfishing, and climate change.

We're facing declining fish populations, loss of coral reefs and other vital habitats … and a growing list of rare or endangered species need our protection. We also risk losing important cultural artifacts and resources that are part of our heritage -- and an important part of our economy.

So the national marine protected area system is a big step forward in making sure that we protect our ocean heritage.

Again, the place to go to get more information and to review the second round of nominated sites is mpa.gov.

(Goodbye)

That’s the news for this episode, but before we go, I want to mention that we have some new pages on the NOS Web site.

Did you know that, per unit area, coral reefs support more species than any other place in the ocean?

Want to learn how the Fishing for Energy program is turning old derelict nets into electricity?

Did you know that a National Ocean Service program helps aircraft know where the ground is when approaching airport runways?

These are just a few of the things you can learn about coral reefs, marine debris, and a program called height modernization. You’ll find these topics from the ‘Explore’ link on our home page. These first three pages are just the beginning. We’ll be rolling out newly designed topic pages throughout the year, so we hope you give it a look and let us know what you think.

Our Web address is oceanservice.noaa.gov.

If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean -- or if you have an ocean fact you’d like answered -- send us a note at nos.info@noaa.gov.

Now let’s bring in the ocean....

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.


News from Hawaii, California, and the Bahamas (Episode 43)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/jan10/mw012010.mp3

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 09:23:22 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 43 (January 20, 2010)

(INTRO)

... a new long-term plan to fight marine debris in Hawaii

... ground is broken for a new Ocean Science Education Building in California

... and new information about the impact of lionfish in the Bahamas

We’re going to cover a lot of ground today, so let’s dive in. It’s January 20th, 2010 and this is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

(Marine Debris)

We’re going to start off today in Hawaii. The Hawaiian islands form one of the longest island chains in the world. It extends 1,500 miles. It’s also one of the most remote island chains on earth. You might think that since these islands are so far from other landmasses and other people, the islands would be relatively free of marine trash.

But that’s not the case. Because of the ocean currents near the islands -- a region known as the North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone -- thousands of pounds of marine debris from all over the globe floats through the area and gathers in the waters, snags on reefs, and washes up on the beaches across the island chain.

This debris is a huge problem. Consider it’s impact on whale populations.

Just last month, there was a serious whale entanglement near Maui. A rescue team from NOAA's Pacific Islands Regional Office teamed up with the Coast Guard and Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources freed a juvenile humpback that was ensnared in a mess of heavy gauge polypropylene rope. It was a dramatic operation. If you haven’t seen the video from that, be sure to check it out on our Web site. It was a great success, but sadly there are many other cases around the world where the whales aren’t so lucky. By some estimates, as many as 300,000 whales die each year because they get entangled in rope and other debris.

But the effects of marine debris isn’t limited to whales. It’s threatens marine ecosystems, it can make navigation dangerous, and it hurts and kills wildlife -- not only whale, but birds, seals, fish, and many other animals.

So how do we tackle such a huge problem? Well, actually, people have been tackling the problem in Hawaii for many years. The State of Hawaii, NOAA, the EPA, private groups, non-profits, academic institutions and many others have been working for a long time to reduce marine debris in the island chain. What’s been lacking up until now is one unified plan that ties together all of the efforts of all of these partners.

Well, just such a plan was unveiled last week that points the way forward for fighting marine debris. It’s called the Hawaii Marine Debris Action Plan, and it’s the end result of two years of effort and coordination between these groups.

The goal is to tie together the many different agencies and partners involved in this huge effort to cleanup the waters around the islands and to reduce the amount of trash in the water in coming years. And that takes a lot of coordination and a good strategy. And that’s what this plan does: it builds upon work that’s ongoing and work that’s been done in the past, and it sets the stage for the future to keep the effort moving in the right direction.
The big picture, of course, is all about reducing marine debris: reducing the current backlog of marine debris, reducing the number of abandoned and derelict vessels; reducing land-based debris in waterways; and reducing fishing gear and solid waste disposal at sea. The plan lays out a strategy to help organize these debris removal efforts, and it sets a framework for emergency response to marine debris hazards, and sets the stage for future prevention and outreach campaign efforts to combat this problem.

The Hawaii Marine Debris Action Plan was supported and coordinated by NOAA’s Marine Debris Program with assistance from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
(New Ocean Education Center)
Now let’s head east across the Pacific to California. On Jan. 12th -- the day before the Marine Debris Action Plan was announced in Hawaii -- NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco and University of California, Santa Barbara, Chancellor Henry T. Yang broke ground on the new 15,000-square foot Ocean Science Education Building on the campus of UC Santa Barbara.
The Ocean Science Education Building is not only going to serve as a state-of-the-art educational facility ... it’s also going to serve as a headquarters office for NOAA’s Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.
In the first phase of the project, 7,500-square feet of administrative office and a meeting space are going to be constructed to house 24 NOAA staff members who currently work at Santa Barbara Harbor. Construction is expected to be completed on that in 2011. Not all of the sanctuary staff will be moving, however. There will still be NOAA sanctuary staff who work in the Santa Barbara Harbor offices, and the Sanctuary offices at Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard, Calif., will remain open.
The ocean outreach center will be constructed in the second phase of the project, made possible with private funds being raised by the university and sponsorships. The educational facility in this center is going to be supported by the Channel Islands sanctuary and UC Santa Barbara’s Marine Science Institute. It’s going to be an amazing place - you can see artist renderings of the building of our Web site. The education center will is going to feature hands-on, standards-based programming on ocean science topics. And it’s going to house interactive exhibits, live aquaria, a wet lab, and an immersive theater.
The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary was designated in 1980. It encompasses about 1128 nautical miles of ocean around the Channel Islands. What’s so special about this area? It’s an amazingly fertile area where warm and cold currents combine together. It’s home to giant kelp forests, and it’s a crossroads for more than 27 species of whales and dolphins, five species of seals and sea lions, more than 60 species of birds, and 23 species of shark. And it’s not only a National Marine Sanctuary, it has also been designated a U.N. World Biosphere Reserve.

(Lionfish Diet)

Finally today, we’re going to continue the journey eastward to the Bahamas to talk about lionfish.
Lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific and Red Sea, but are now established along the eastern coast of the United States, from Florida to North Carolina. They are also found throughout the northern Caribbean and the Bahamas.
How’d they get all the way over in the Atlantic? Well, since lionfish are popular in the aquarium trade, it is likely the fish were introduced to Atlantic waters by amateur aquarists no longer wishing to keep the fish.
Now scientists are racing to learn more about this invasive species. Since they are not native to Atlantic waters, they have very few predators. And they are themselves voracious predators. How exactly lionfish will affect native fish populations and commercial fishing industries has yet to be determined, but now we know a little more thanks to new research in the Bahamas that suggests the diet of these invasive fish could impact the distribution of other fish living in Bahamian coral reefs.
A few weeks ago, NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science and the Reef Environmental Education Foundation released a study that found that lionfish feed upon a wide diversity of reef-associated species. Adult lionfish feed almost exclusively on fish, while juvenile lionfish feed mainly on crustaceans.
The diverse diet of lionfish included over 40 species of fish, and that suggests that lionfish are very flexible predators ... they have the potential to reduce the abundance of a wide variety of native fish found on the reefs.
Two economically important species, Nassau grouper and yellowtail snapper, were among the fish found in the lionfish diet, although in lower frequencies compared with less economically important species. The bad news is that the less valuable fish species are food for snappers and groupers, so the more lionfish eat, the less food to go around. Added to this, the fish species that lionfish are gobbling up play an important role in preserving the reefs by cleaning off algae and plants. If these fish aren’t around to perform this reef cleaning service, the reefs could potentially be overwhelmed.
This latest study is one of many that are helping scientists better understand what role of invasive lionfish in Atlantic Ocean ecosystems.

Given their population explosion and aggressive behavior, this study adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests that lionfish have the potential to become the most disastrous marine invasion in history.

Now let’s end on a positive note. There is one thing we can do to help reduce the lionfish population in the Atlantic. We can eat them. It turns out they taste pretty good and have a nice texture.

According to a separate NOAA report that came out a while back, encouraging a market for lionfish may be one of the only viable methods for controlling the lionfish invasion.

This is the idea behind a new National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science campaign called, you guessed it: ‘Eat Lionfish.’

The campaign is set to kick off soon, and it’s going to feature top chefs in five cities hosting lionfish tasting events. It’s a great idea, and we’re going to talk about it in depth next week.

(CLOSING)

That’s the news for this week. You can read more about these stories--and see photos and videos, and get links to learn more from our Web site at oceanservice.noaa.gov.

If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, send us send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.

Now let’s bring in the ocean....

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.


Salute to the Scarlet Knight (Episode 42)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/jan10/mw010610.mp3

Wed, 06 Jan 2010 11:05:44 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 42 (January 6, 2010)

Last spring, an ocean glider named the Scarlet Knight was launched into the ocean off the East Coast of the U.S. It was the second attempt to complete the first-ever trans-Atlantic ocean crossing of an underwater, unmanned glider. Well, last month, the ocean robot completed the 7,410 kilometer trip in 221 days.

So we’re going to kick off the New Year with a salute to the Scarlet Knight, an amazing new breed of vehicle that harnesses the power of ocean currents to fly through the sea.

It’s Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010, and this is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

(Ocean Glider)

If you’re a regular listener to the podcast, you may recall that we spoke with Zdenka Willis last April when the Scarlet Knight was just about to begin its journey. Zdenka is the director of NOAA’s Integrated Ocean Observing System, one of the many partner agencies that made this historic voyage possible.

Last month, Zdenka was one of several U.S. and Spanish officials who gathered together with residents of the town of Baiona, Spain, to celebrate the arrival of the craft.

It was a fitting place to hold the ceremony because it’s the same town where Christopher Columbus’ crew returned on a ship called the Pinta after their voyage to the New World in 1492.

[Zdenka Willis] “It was a spectacular event, and a very emotional event.  The entire town of Baiona, from the mayor on down, were so supportive of being able to be the town where we recovered the Scarlet Knight. For them, it was the second coming of the Pinta who had come with word of the new world, and now this new technology arrived in Spain and arrived in Baiona, and they really rolled out the red carpet.”

We’ll return to the ceremony in just a few minutes, but first let’s back up and talk a bit about the voyage of the Scarlet Knight and the new technology it represents.

The Scarlet Knight sort of looks like a torpedo, but it doesn’t have propellors or an internal engine. Instead, it uses large moveable fins, and a large on-board battery pack to gently change its buoyancy over time.

This allows the glider to slowly move up and down through the water. And as it does so, the big fins sticking out of the sides of the craft ride the natural movement of ocean currents. It’s like how a glider in the air works, except the ocean glider can glide up as easily as it glides down.

The big benefit of the device is that takes very little energy and it’s relatively cheap. This makes it a great tool to gather information about the ocean. It can also travel long, long distances underwater. How long? That was one of the things the Scarlet Knight project put to the test. Zdenka said that, in the beginning, no one knew if the little device would make it all the way across the pond.

[Zdenka Willis] “This was an extremely challenging mission. If you would asked all of us when she started out whether we thought she could make it across  we all hoped that she could but the percentages were pretty low. We had shipping to be careful of, we had a number of hurricanes that crossed the Atlantic that she had to be able to maneuver through and under , if you will. There's the biology. There are sharks, there are squid, there is the currents that we need to get her across the ocean, so it was a very, very challenging mission, and we are just pleased that we were able to accomplish this.”

During the first try back in 2008, the glider made it to the Azores before springing a leak and sinking. This time around, the device sported upgrades based on lessons learned from that first attempt. It had better communication capabilities, a more robust battery pack, and a special kind of coating to help keep what they call ‘biofoul’ -- mostly clams and barnacles -- from making their home on the craft. This coating was a big help, but project members did need to pay one visit to the Scarlet Knight during the voyage to clean off some of the critters.

[Zdenka Willis] “The biofouling coating came into play in that it allowed us to get across about  2/3s of the way, which is where  we lost the glider the first year, and we actually did start to see a degradation in the performance. We took a boat out of the Azores and actually dove on the glider, and we were able to see how the biology had adhered to the glider itself. And interestingly enough, where the coating was, we had much less adherence of the biology then we did where we didn't actually have the coating. So it was great to see where it worked, and how it worked, and that'll allow us to improve it on future missions. ”

While the main goal of the mission was to make the voyage across the Atlantic, the Scarlet Knight was also doing important work along the way  ... collecting data from the ocean to support NOAA, U.S. Navy, and NASA projects.

[Zdenka Willis] “It collected temperature, and salinity, and density, and currents. So, it was used in a number of ways. It was used to ground truth the satellite data  the remote sense data  from the altimetry, which is the NASA mission, as well as sea surface temperature to see how was the satellite data compared to what was being measured in situ. There's also a HYCOM model, which is basically an ocean dynamic circulation model, which is a new model, which is a Navy-NOAA effort, and so we would take the results of what the Scarlet Knight was telling us and verify wether the model was actually forecasting the conditions in the ocean. Sometimes it was and sometimes it wasn't  so they've been able to take the information to make improvements in the HYCOM model. And, even just understanding the conditions in the middle of the Atlantic that we don’t often measure. So this continually recorded event for the five months that she was in the water, we now have a track of what it looks like, so that was really exciting that it was able to support not only NOAA, but Navy and NASA.”

What might surprise you about this mission is that it wasn’t just a U.S. federal effort. The project was actually run by undergraduate students from Rutgers University. Industry was also involved, through Webb-Teledyne Research, the company behind the ocean glider technology, and many other international agencies and institutions played a pivotal role.

[Zdenka Willis] “The Scarlet Knight mission didn’t just happen, that students said, ‘Oh, let’s try to fly this thing across the Atlantic. We’ll try in 2008. We didn’t make it. So we’ll do it in 2009.’ If it had not been for partners like the Office of Naval Research, the National Science Foundation, NASA, NOAA Research, people like Doug Webb of Webb-TeleDyne, other institutions like the University of Washington Applied Physics Labs, Scripps Institute, Woods Hole, who all said, ‘We want to work on this technology.’ And so partnerships have been formed to be able to bring these new technologies to bear.

[Zdenka Willis] “Then there’s the partnership at the non-Federal level. The intellectual prowess that we have in our academic institutions. The ingenuity and technology we have in U.S. industry. The work we do with state managers, and local managers, and tribal governments in, again, making sure that our oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes are healthy and resilient and places that we love to visit, work, and play. So we do that through these partnerships. Internationally, we could not have done the mission for Scarlet Knight if we didn’t have these international partners.”

So the success of the Scarlet Knight mission is the result of many different groups working together. And these kind of partnerships are crucial to help us get the data we need to address bigger problems, like understanding ocean dynamics and climate change.

[Zdenka Willis] “It is very expensive to collect this oceanographic data. It’s expensive and it’s difficult. And if we don’t have those partnerships working together, then we’re not going to help the United States and then help the world to understand what’s going on in things like climate change.”

The technology behind the ocean glider is poised to play a big role in helping us solve these bigger problems.  Zdenka said that she expects that gliders will be playing a much larger role in collecting ocean data in this decade.

[Zdenka Willis] “The U.S. Navy has actually purchased 150 of these gliders for their missions, so I forsee probably in the next 3 to 5 years we’ll start to see these fleets of gliders being able to patrol the ocean if you will, collecting this oceanographic information.”

Now that we have the big picture in mind, let’s return to the ceremony held in Baiona, Spain on Dec. 9th.

[Zdenka Willis] “The Scarlet Knight was actually going to land for the first time on land there on the 9th of December, because she had been on the ship but she actually hadn’t made landing. But they couldn’t bring her all the way in, so she’s just out on the horizon, and they’ve got two zodiacs, one that has the glider, one that’s got the press. And the zodiac comes in and makes its triumphant ring around the bay there in front of the Pinta, and comes up to the pier, and we’ve got Spanish colleagues who are actually going to bring it up to the area is, and then, we had probably close to 200 school children, and these are ages, grades third to sixth grade who were part of the ceremony.”

Back in the U.S. before the mission started, American kids had written letters, which were put on a memory stick and placed in the glider along with a few other mementos. At the ceremony, one of the letters retrieved from the glider was translated into Spanish.

[Zdenka Willis] “And a young child read that letter and of course just stole the show.”

And then afterwards, the Spanish children had put together letters and pictures and that was given to Rutgers University.  The town of Baiona, meanwhile, were presented with a replica of the ocean glider that’s going to be placed in a new maritime museum there. And the town recorded the historic landing of the glider by unveiling a new plaque that now sits alongside commemorative plaques that record the landing of the Pinta and the 500th anniversary of that landing in 1993. That’s pretty august company. Zdenka said that really brought home the historical context of the importance of this technological feat.

[Zdenka Willis] “It’s an historic mission for it’s ability to advance technology. It is the epitome of what IOOS was put together to do, meaning it is a partnership whereby the federal agencies, the state, local , and academia come together to collect oceanographic information with our international partners to be able to understand things like climate change, and so this mission is just the epitome of what we’re really trying to accomplish in IOOS.”

So what’s next? Well, the Scarlet Knight mission started out many years ago in the form of a challenge issued from the director of NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, Dr. Rick Spinrad.  He was also at the ceremony in Spain with Zdenka, where he served up a new challenge to the team behind the successful voyage.

[Zdenka Willis] “Dr. Spinrad, who started this whole thing by a challenge, could not resist and did lay down the challenge that he would like for us to recreate the HMS Challenger mission, which was the mission that was really known for it’s oceanography, an around the world mission with an international partners. Let’s see if we can’t do each leg of the mission us ing these glider vehicles, so the challenge has been issued and it’s now up to us to figure out how we’re going to do that. It’s really exciting to see where ocean observing is going. Scarlet Knight showed us that we do have that innovative spirit and I’m looking forward to see where we go next with this. ”

(Closing)

Thanks to Zdenka Willis, director of NOAA’s Integrated Ocean Observing System, for joining us today.

Glide over to oceanservice.noaa.gov for more news and information about the National Ocean Service. And you can send in your comments and suggestions about this podcast, our Web site, or about the ocean to nos.info@noaa.gov.

Now let’s cue the ocean sounds.

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service. We’ll be back in two weeks with our next episode.


Happy Holidays from NOS (Episode 41)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/dec09/mw120909.mp3

Wed, 09 Dec 2009 08:16:00 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 41 (December 9, 2009)

As we did on the last episode of Making Waves, this week we're going to replay an episode that originally ran last year just as this podcast was starting out. It's about the role of the National Ocean Service in making sure that Santa doesn't get lost on his journey around the country on December 25th. We'll return with to our regular schedule of podcasts on January 6th. Happy holidays.

(Santa and the NGS)

Many of us today own hand-held GPS device or have cars that tell us where to go by using advanced positioning technology. While knowing our exact position on earth is handy for us casual users, its essential for safe and efficient transportation in the air, on the land, or on the sea; and it's critical for laying out infrastructure like utility, energy, or communication systems. It's also essential to help Santa get around.

For 200 years, NOAA's National Geodetic Survey, part of the Ocean Service, has been in the business of delivering exact position information. To do this, the NGS maintains what is known as the National Spatial Reference System.

This reference system is used for mapping, navigation, and charting. Think of it as a highly accurate web of coordinate points on land and in space. These reference stations provide extremely accurate latitude, longitude, height, scale, gravity, and orientation throughout the u.s. At anywhere, anytime. It's what mapmakers use to make maps.

It takes a bit of explaining to get at how this complicated system works. For the past 200 years the NGS and its partners placed about 850,000 permanent survey marks throughout the u.s. These survey marks were the main component of the spatial reference system until a few decades ago. Today, the reference system is undergoing a major upgrade.

The revolution started in the 1980s, with the advent of GPS technology. This made it possible to locate points with greater accuracy and speed and at lower cost than ever possible before.

Most people think that GPS eliminated the need to measure position on the ground. But it's not as simple as that.

The global positioning system is made up of a constellation of satellites that orbit about 11,000 miles above the earth and broadcast radio wave signals. By determining the time that it takes for a radio wave signal to travel from a GPS satellite to a GPS receiver on the earth, the distance between the satellite and receiver can be calculated. That provides the receiver's location on earth. It sounds easy, but it's a very complicated process. It's also not perfect.

As advanced as GPS technology is, most commercially available GPS receivers are only accurate to within several yards. Considering that the earth is almost 25,000 miles in circumference, the difference of a few yards may not seem important. But there are many scientific, military, engineering, and toy-delivery activities that require much higher levels of positioning accuracy—often to within a few inches or less.

To provide measurements at this level of accuracy NGS came up with the idea of joining ground-based reference stations with GPS technology to develop what is called the Continuously Operating Reference station network, or CORS for short.

Each station in the CORS network is a stationary, permanent GPS receiver on the ground that collects satellite signals from the global positioning system around the clock. NGS uses these data to determine precise three-dimensional positional coordinates for the CORS sites. And engineers across the country can re-use the same data to position anything else, dams, roads, runways, property corners, chimneys, to a similar accuracy. Today, NGS coordinates a network of more than 1,100 CORS stations that receive GPS radio signals 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It should be noted, by the way, that some of these stations are mounted on the chimneys of homes around the nation, and they are fine-tuned to accuracies of a few centimeters.

These survey points help make modern maps like dashboard GPS and google earth much more accurate … and could come in handy for anyone else that might need to know the precise entrance coordinates of a chimney.

And Santa will also need to avoid severe weather and electromagnetic storms on his journey. CORS data can help there too.

The CORS network is used by meteorologists to monitor the distribution of moisture in the atmosphere for forecasting severe weather ranging fro tornadoes to snow storms. CORS data are also used by atmospheric scientists to monitor the distribution of free electrons in the ionosphere. This is used to monitor solar and geomagnetic storms. These changes can affect satellites, aircraft, certain radio communications, reindeer-powered sleighs, and even power distribution grids on earth.

Last but not least, the national geodetic survey also administers the aeronautical survey program for the nation. These surveys provide accurate position, height, and orientation information needed for safe air navigation. I think that might come in handy for you know who.

(GOODBYE)

We hope you enjoyed that. Well, you don't need a handheld GPS to find us. We're at oceanservice.noaa.gov. You can get more information about the National Geodetic Survey, the National Spatial Reference System, or view current positioning data from the CORS network at www.ngs.noaa.gov.

Well, that's all for this week. If you have any questions about this podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, send us an email at nos.info@NOAA.gov.

Now let's bring in the ocean ... This is making waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. Happy holidays and see you next time.


Happy Thanksgiving from NOS (Episode 40)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/nov09/mw112509.mp3

Wed, 25 Nov 2009 07:51:26 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 40 (November 25, 2009)

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us here at the National Ocean Service. Most of us at NOS will be off spending time with our families and loved ones over the long holiday weekend – and we hope you are too.

This week we're going to replay an episode that originally ran last Thanksgiving. It aired when the podcast was just starting out, so many of you probably didn't hear it.

It's about something so big that it adds over a trillion dollars to our Gross Domestic Product each year. It's so vast that it surrounds our nation and crisscrosses the continent. And it directly affects each and every one of us. Chances are, it played a role in delivering the turkey to your table this year.

Know what it is? I'll give you a hint: it has something to do with the ocean. It's November 25th, 2009, and this is the Thanksgiving edition of Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.

(The Maritime Transportation System)

OK, the special topic of the day is the nation's Maritime Transportation System. We're talking about all the ships and barges that carry goods and people around the nation. And we're talking about a huge, complex web of shipping lanes, rivers, canals, and dams that those ships and barges use every day.

By weight, our marine highways carry more than three-quarters of all u.s. Goods and supplies. And it's estimated that this system generates more than 13 million jobs.

So chances are that some of your thanksgiving meal, your clothes, and the fuel for your car got to you in part thanks to this vast watery network.

If you think this system is big today, it's expected to double or even triple by 2020. That's a lot of ships and barges moving around the ocean.

And those ships keep getting bigger — they've doubled in length, width, and depth over the past 50 years.

Ships today draw up to 60 feet of water — that's like having a five-story building under the waves. Sometimes these massive ships only have inches between their hulls and the channel bottoms when they come into port.

And don't forget that all of those ships and barges are sharing the waterways with over 78 million recreational boaters.

(NOS and the Maritime Transportation System)

So what's our role in the Maritime Transportation System? Well, the men and women of the national ocean service provide the tools and services to help all of these floating vessels get around safely — and NOS helps clean-up when accidents happen.

You've heard of GPS – the Global Positioning System. Well, the National Geodetic Survey, manages the National Spatial Reference System. This system makes GPS more accurate — we're talking big improvements here. It's the difference between a system that provides positioning within many meters of accuracy, to a system that is accurately pinpoints your location within centimeters.

The Ocean Service also maintains our nation's nautical charts. That's through the Office of Coast Survey. Charts today are pretty high-tech. You can get a chart printed on paper if you want it, but many mariners today use digital charts.

A mariner today can use a NOAA nautical chart to show exactly where a ship is in relation to its surroundings, to sound alarms if the ship strays to close to dangerous areas and to get information about warnings and regulations in transit areas. And of course those charts have to be constantly updated — because the ocean and the things in it never stand still. That job falls to Coast Survey, too.

And speaking of never standing still, the Ocean Service is the place to get tides and currents information thanks to the work of the Center for Operational and Oceanographic Products and Services. And one of the coolest tools developed by this office is called PORTS® – that stands for Physical Oceanographic Real-time System. What these systems do is provide real-time information about ocean water levels, currents, salinity, wind, and bridge clearances to help get ships safely get in and out of busy ports.

But of course, even with all of these tools and services, accidents still happen. About 75 percent of commercial accidents are caused by human error. And when those accidents cause spills of oil or other hazardous material, the NOS Office of Response and Restoration steps in to lend a hand to clean up and to help the environment around the spill recover.

So there you have it. Know you know what the ocean service has to do with your turkey dinner.

(Goodbye)

And that's all for this episode.

Remember to email us with questions about the ocean service, the ocean, our web site, or just drop us a line to tell us what you think of making waves – we'd love to hear from you. Our website, by the way is at oceanservice.noaa.gov. And you can email us a nos.info@noaa.gov

Now let's bring in the ocean (add ship sound) ... This is making waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. See you next time.


Harmful Algal Bloom News (Episode 39)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/nov09/mw111209.mp3

Thu, 12 Nov 2009 09:32:52 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 39 (November 12, 2009)

Hello and thanks for joining us today. The topic of the day is harmful algal blooms. They're called HABS for short. Heard of them? If you live in a coastal area or near the Great Lakes, chances are you have, but you may know them by their more popular name: 'red tide.' HABs are caused by microscopic algae -- tiny plants in the ocean -- that grow out of control. And as they grow, or bloom, out of control, they produce powerful toxins that kill fish and make shellfish dangerous to eat.We've got three stories today about harmful algal blooms, so stay tuned.

It's November 12th, 2009, and we're going to be talking about all things algae today, and this is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.

...

So let's start off today by talking about where the term 'red tide' comes from. Well, it's from one of the best known HABs in the nation that crops up nearly every summer along Florida's Gulf Coast. This bloom, like many HABs, is caused by microscopic algae -- tiny plants in the ocean -- that grow out of control. And as they grow, or bloom, out of control, they produce powerful toxins that kill fish and make shellfish dangerous to eat.

The toxins can also make the surrounding air hazardous to breathe. As the name suggests, the bloom of algae that turns up in Florida often turns the water a deep red color.

Scientists prefer the term harmful algal bloom, or HAB, because the toxic blooms of algae that occur in waters around the world come in many forms. Not all blooms are red. They come in a variety of colors...some have no color at all. And some algal blooms are harmful even though they don't produce toxins, simply because the algae grow in such vast quantities that, when they die, they suck all of the oxygen out of the water as they decompose.

So there are many varieties of harmful algal blooms. They come in many shapes and sizes, and they are universally a big problem. They threaten marine ecosystems, they're bad for human health, and they cost local and regional economies millions of dollars every year through fishery closures, and recreation and tourism losses because vast swaths of water have to be closed off until the threat passes.

These blooms happen in almost every U.S. coastal state and in the Great Lakes and they seem to be on the rise. But why do these harmful blooms of algae occur?

(BACTERIA AND HABS)

Well, a new study sheds light on this. It was carried out by NOAA and NOAA-funded university scientists, and it takes a close look at the close cooperative interactions between bacteria and marine micro-algae. This interaction, it turns out, promotes the growth of harmful algal blooms.

That the algae that forms harmful blooms and some types of bacteria are linked is not news. Scientists have known this for a long time. The mystery is why? Exactly why do these toxic blooms form, and what role does the bacteria play in this cycle? That's where this new study comes in.

The researchers found that certain species of bacteria form a mutually beneficial relationship with the algae that promotes the growth of each. The bacteria release a chemical which helps the algae absorb iron, and this is a critical nutrient for photosynthesis. The algae, in turn, release organic compounds to support the growth of the bacteria.

The new research could have huge implications. Better understanding this interaction could help researchers create more accurate models of how blooms form, but it could also help with better forecasting: predicting when and where blooms are likely to form. Added to this, the research could point the way to new strategies to prevent these harmful outbreaks. If scientists can now find a way to inhibit the bacteria from growing, then that could lead to ways to better control the problem. That's something that would help coastal communities around the world.

The study also offers new insight for climate change models. It turns out that a gas produced by the bloom-forming algae, called dimethylsulfide, plays a critical role in the process of cloud formation and the ability of clouds to reflect sunlight back into space. What does this have to do with climate change? How much light is reflected off of clouds and back into space influences solar heating of the Earth, and that affects global climate. That study, again, appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It was funded by NOAA's National Centers for Coastal and Ocean Sciences.

(GREAT LAKES HAB FORECAST)

Well, as I mentioned a few moments ago, forecasting is a big deal for HABs. Forecasts that tell us current and future locations of blooms, as well as intensity, are critical to alert scientists and managers to possible threats -- and helps to better manage or lessen the impact of the toxic blooms. When most people think of red tides, they probably think of coastal states. But the Great Lakes are also facing growing problems with toxic algal blooms.

One type of harmful bloom that is a particular problem in the Great Lakes is caused by a blue green algae Microcystis. These blooms are blooms are increasing in frequency and duration in the Great Lakes, in part due to the invasive zebra mussel that filters Great Lakes water and removes other algae competitors. Mycrocystis blooms can produce a toxin that can cause skin rashes, liver damage, fish kills, and taste and odor issues in drinking water.

Until now, there hasn't been a system in place to help predict HABS in the Great Lakes. Now there is, with the kick-off last month of a new a new experimental HAB forecast system in Lake Erie.

Here's how it works. When a harmful bloom in Lake Erie is detected by the experimental system, scientists issue a forecast bulletin to nearby scientists and community managers. The bulletin depicts the HABs' current location and future movement, as well as categorizes its intensity on a weekly basis.

With the new forecast, scientists now have a much better idea of when and where blooms are predicted to occur, and this critical information can be shared with on-the-ground local managers to reduce human health threats.

The experimental forecast incorporates data from a number of ocean-observing systems, including commercial and government satellite imagery obtained by NOAA's National Ocean Service, coastal forecast modeling and field data by NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory scientists, and reports received from resource managers in the field. The information is then put together and interpreted to help figure out the current and future location and intensity of Microcystis blooms.

The experimental forecast created for Lake Erie and the state of Ohio was based on the detection system that NOAA's National Ocean Service designed for Florida's Gulf Coast in 2004. This is only the beginning. This system will serve as a model for other areas of the U.S. impacted by HABs. The new system was jointly funded by NOAA's Oceans and Human Health Initiative and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Environmental Health.

(IPHONE APP)

In our final story today, we're going to talk about a special group of people who volunteer their time to help NOAA find and track harmful algal blooms around the country. These volunteers make up NOAA's Phytoplankton Monitoring Network. The thing about harmful algal blooms is that they come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. And the scientific names of the more than 50 types of diatoms and dinoflagelletes tracked by NOAA's Phytoplankton Monitoring Network are hard to pronounce. They can be equally hard to identify in the wild.

Training volunteers is a challenge. No one knows this better than Steve Morton, research oceanographer and program lead for the Network, part of the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS). Morton manages the nationwide group of 'citizen scientists' who help monitor harmful algal bloom and phytoplankton around the country.

While Morton and his NCCOS colleagues host a variety of instructional tools on the PMN Web site to assist people who want to help out with the monitoring effort, wouldn't it be nice to have photos of these tiny creatures, pronunciations of their names, and other reference tools on a handheld device? Monitoring phytoplankton, after all, is something people do in the field, far from an internet connection and a computer.

Well that was the inspiration of one volunteer to develop an iPhone application.

His name is Shawn Gano, and he's a volunteer with the Armand Bayou Nature Center in Pasadena, Texas.

Well, since he had experience with computer applications, he approached Morton with the idea in July 2009. Months later, the first-ever phytoplankton identification application was launched for the iPhone. It's called Phyto.

Since Shawn had experience with computer applications, he approached Morton to see if they could collaborate to produce an mobile application to help other volunteers out.

This led to a new application now available to download for free for the iPhone or iPod Touch. The new "app" includes images from an NCCOS gallery of common phytoplankton and recordings of a staff scientist's pronunciation of each species' name. The application also contains a flash card game to improve volunteers' identification skills. Morton said they are now going to work on producing other versions of this iPhone application for the other regions covered by the Phytoplankton Monitoring Network.

The Phytoplankton Monitoring Network was established as an outreach program for monitoring marine phytoplankton and harmful algal blooms (HABs). By linking the general public to laboratory scientists, the PMN helps to build a more informed public while providing useful data to scientists.

The PMN began with three volunteer groups in Charleston, South Carolina, and has since expanded throughout the coastal U.S. to now include more than 200 volunteers actively sampling over 140 sites in 17 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The data Network volunteers collect provides an important look into species composition and distribution in coastal waters -- data which can help researchers identify areas to isolate for further investigation.

(CLOSING)

That's all for this week's episode. If you want to learn more about harmful algal blooms and the ongoing NOAA research to fight this problem, start you journey at ....... And don't forget to surf over to oceanservice.noaa.gov for the latest news and information about our oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes.

If you have any questions about this week's podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, send us send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.

Now let's bring in the ocean....

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.


Educational Gaming (Episode 38)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/oct09/mw102809.mp3

Wed, 28 Oct 2009 09:22:52 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 38 (October 28, 2009)

[audio clip from WaterLife, a new educational game from NOS]

That’s a clip from WaterLife: Where the Ocean Meets the Sea, a National Ocean Service online game that launched earlier this year.

The scene is from the beginning of the game when a young girl named Valerie meets Oscar the otter.  Together, the two characters set out to restore Oscar’s home, a polluted estuary. Kids who play WaterLife journey along with these characters to learn about the factors that produce healthy estuaries, about food webs, and they learn why estuaries are essential to ocean life and to humans.

On today’s episode, we talk with one of the key people behind the WaterLife project about how and why this game was made, and why educational games are an increasingly important tool for teaching kids in the 21st century.

It’s October 28th, 2009 and this is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

(NOS Education & Gaming)        

Today we’re going to talk about Waterlife, a game that’s fun to play, but also aims to teach young people some science and conservation concepts.

Games like Waterlife are increasingly popular, mainly because kids really like to play games. That’s probably not an earth-shattering revelation to you, but just how much time kids spend playing games may surprise you.  According to the Pew Research Center study, ninety-seven percent of teens ages 12-17 play games. A Kaiser Family Foundation study found that 8-18 year-olds are spending between half an hour to an hour and a half each day playing video games. On average, students spend about as much time each day on homework – about 50 minutes – as they do playing games.

Peg Steffen gets this. Peg is the education director for the National Ocean Service, and led the development team that created NOAA’s WaterLife game. She says that games like Waterlife are increasingly important to meet the needs of digital natives – children who have grown up surrounded by digital technology.

[PEG STEFFEN] “We’re finding that games are becoming more and more highly thought-of in the educational world as a tool to keep digital kids interested in school. Digital students now are different than they were 15 years ago. They need different kinds of methodologies, they don’t tend to want to sit and do work sheets any more. They want to be more highly engaged in collaborative activities, in group activities, in problem-solving, in meeting challenges, and especially they’re very interested in meeting some environmental challenges. And games can help fill that need.”

While educational games are all about keeping digital kids engaged, Peg said that it’s also about ensuring that kids today are able to compete and excel in the world down the road. In other words, games like WaterLife are about teaching important concepts, but they can also be powerful tools to help develop important life skills.

[PEG STEFFEN] “Those skills include things like strategic thinking, interpretive analysis, problem-solving, collaboration, critical thinking, and educational games can develop these critical skills, and help to address that pressing need for the United States to strengthen its education system and to prepare these young people for the twenty-first century jobs. Our Web site also includes a lot of additional information about careers, links to educational activities and curricula, materials about what it’s like to be a marine mammal ecologist, for example, and help students find information on the web that might lead them down the path to a science or technology career.”

That Web site that Peg just mentioned is called ‘Planet Arcade,’ and it’s at games.noaa.gov.  The flagship game on this site is WaterLife, but it’s not the only offering kids will find there.

[PEG STEFFEN] “Games.noaa.gov is a website that we hope that children will visit regularly to understand more environmental issues, and so we have populated it with a number of games that we’ve produced including our signature game, which is Water Life, Where the River Meets the Sea.  But then we have also done some mini-games taken from some of our other offerings and put that on the website in addition to adding links to other games from other federal agencies and partners that have things that will help students understand environmental issues like beach clean-up, whale migration, ocean challenge puzzles, and some other things. So we’ve featured some things from the EPA, from National Geographic, from National Marine Sanctuaries, from Ocean Explorer. So there are a number of highlighted games, but we call it Planet Arcade because it does have an environmental twist to it. So we hope students will know that games.noaa.gov is the place to go for fun things about the environment.  And it’s getting a lot of traffic.”

When NOAA began the foray into gaming with the WaterLife game a year and a half ago, the first challenge was to come up with a good topic. Peg said it was clear from the start that it needed to be something with a lot of rich content, and it needed to be a topic that tapped into the expertise of NOAA people. After a lot of brainstorming, the team decided to focus on estuaries.

[PEG STEFFEN] “I think because there were a lot, a lot of complex, biological content issues and things that are already found within teachers’ curricula and within the science standards in quite a few coastal states, and we thought this game would be something not only fun for students but useful in the classroom too. So we thought that this had the opportunities for understanding water systems, and ecological food webs, and understanding issues of pollution, uh, looking at marine debris, looking at some really fun critters, and those kind of things, all wrapped up into a really nice package.”

The next challenge was how to actually construct the game. While NOAA had the expertise for the content, Peg’s group had to look outside for expertise in gaming, graphic design, and programming. That led to a first-of-its kind partnership with Computer Gaming and Simulation program at Maryland’s Montgomery College, located only minutes from the NOAA campus.

[PEG STEFFEN] “It’s really tough to build a game with the internal capabilities that NOAA has. We really don’t have a staff large enough to produce a game, and we don’t have a staff that’s knowledgeable enough to produce a game like this.  This is an educational game, which is a serious game with a purpose. That’s different than the usual shoot-em-up games that you find commercially available. But we were, um, able to develop a partnership with Montgomery College. And they have a gaming and simulation department there, and we were able to work with the professor there who garnered the people power through her student population who worked for about a year to put the game together. And they worked on their off-hours, and sometimes they worked as part of their regular college work. And  some of them worked on the simulations, and some of them were developing background coding, some were doing the artwork, some were doing the voice-overs and the music, then they put the whole package together. And the game was launched in April.”

This partnership solved two problems: NOAA got the expertise they needed to build a top-notch game, and the students at the College got invaluable work experience.

[PEG STEFFEN] “One of the biggest problems in game development is the very high cost, and  in order to put together a game like this, the students who develop the game need to have some experiences in their college career in order to go out afterwards and get a job. So having a game like this developed under their watch means they now have something on their resume that looks really good, and so they can go out after college and get a job and point to this as being a product that they worked on when they were in college. And so they are very, very agreeable in working with us and working very long hours in order to get the product done. So it’s a win-win, you know. We get the game developed, using content that NOAA approves, they develop a product that is then used on their resume, so it’s a win-win and we get a game that’s done at a very low cost.”

As the Montgomery College students worked on the components of the game, the NOAA group focused on developing the content, and figuring out how to present information in an interesting way. The challenge was putting all of these moving pieces together.

[PEG STEFFEN] “Developing an educational game is a lot more complex than just developing a lesson plan. Usually a lesson plan has a purpose, one purpose at the end. This particular game that we have developed has a series of objectives, in terms of understanding the food webs, and the parts of the food webs, understanding what recycling is, understanding different kinds of pollution.  This is a much broader topical area than a typical lesson plan would be.  We’re finding that students take 30 to 50 minutes to play the game. Um and we hope that they learn a few important points along the way. It’s not that they’re going to be a coastal manager when they’re done but they’ll have a better sense about the coastal, and the coastal ecosystem and why it’s important. It’s been different to try to visualize what is the purpose and then what’s an interesting challenge that we can develop to get students to understand what it is we’re trying to teach. And it takes a lot more time, because you have to develop the graphics, and the coding and what kind of game are you playing, and then what are the people saying, what’s the script, what’s the music behind it  and it’s almost like developing a movie, you know in terms of all the different parts and pieces that have to come together for this game."

While the completed game has been out in the wild for a while now, Peg said it’s still early to know exactly how well the game is working.

[PEG STEFFEN] “We know that this game has a huge potential to reach, you know, 50 million pre-K to high school student population.  And we know that we’re getting the word out.  But it’s still very early to know that very many people are using it. We’re collecting web statistics. We know we’ve reached tens of thousands of people so far, but we don’t really have the formal evaluation back yet to know what students are actually learning.“

While Peg’s team is now putting together a formal evaluation tool to collect data from classrooms and from individual students, she said they have received a lot of anecdotal evidence -- from kid sending in messages from the Web site, and from testing done with groups of kids as the game was developed – that show that kids like it, and they’re are learning something.

[PEG STEFFEN] “One of the main points of the game, was that they understand the threats to estuaries, and some things they can do to help estuaries.  And so in all the preliminary testing that we did with students, when we did very simple questioning, we said, you know, do you know what an estuary is? And before they started the game they’d say, No. After they finished the game, they knew what an estuary was. Do you know what some of the threats to estuaries are?   So we’re happy that they at least are picking up the main points of an estuary and the threats.  From that standpoint, we’re very happy with the results.”

While WaterLife appears to be a success, Peg said it’s only the beginning.  There’s another game in the works, and once again, NOAA is teaming up with the Computer Gaming and Simulation students from Montgomery College. The new game is about loggerhead turtles. By the way, you’ll hear Peg mention TEDS here – TED stands for Turtle Exclusion Device – clever net designs that allow turtles to escape from fishing nets.

[PEG STEFFEN] “We haven’t determined the name yet. But it’s looking at all the stakeholders in preserving loggerhead turtle populations, and especially preserving and protecting nesting sites. So the game is looking at the perspective of a politician who’s developing laws, it’s looking at stakeholders like fishermen, tourists, beach-goers, environmentalists, and it’s also looking at the turtle perspective, and the whelk, which is a food source for turtles. So it’s an interesting scenario in which the player takes the position of each one of those stakeholders and then tries to manage their actions based on their options. So for the fisherman, they have to make choices in terms of what gear will they use, whether they use hooks or nets, or nets with teds which allow turtles to get out, and if they use certain kinds of nets, they won’t make as much money, and so they have to make some real life decisions based on choices that are available to them, and whether they will be catching turtles, which hopefully they don’t.”

The new game will benefit from the experience the team gathered from WaterLife, and they’ve learned a lot -- not only about how to construct a complex educational game, but how to make it fun so kids will want to play it.

[PEG STEFFEN] “I think that keeping it fun, don’t make a game too heavy because students won’t play it. But students like a challenge, they like to solve problems, and they like to solve environmental problems. They also love cute critters. Oscar the Sea Otter is very lovable. And the next game has an adorable sea turtle, and that will keep the girls coming. We found that girls  to solve challenges and problems and help animals.  And so if we, if we keep going down the path that we’ve been doing, we’re pretty positive that we’ll have a nice population of students that will try out our games and like them. But there is a lot of competition for their time.  There’s an amazing amount of websites out there that students go back to over and over and over again. And the trick is finding that mix of, of fun challenges that students will try over and over again.”

(CLOSING)

That was Peg Steffen, Education Director with the National Ocean Service’s Communication and Education Division. Many thanks to Peg for joining us for this episode.

Once again, the Web site where you can find WaterLife and a bunch of other educational games is games.noaa.gov.

And surf over to oceanservice.noaa.gov for more NOS education content produced by Peg’s group, ranging from tutorials and case studies for students, to lesson plans and professional development for teachers.

If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, send us send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.

Now let’s bring in the ocean....

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.


World Maritime Day 2009 (Episode 37)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/oct09/mw101609.mp3

Fri, 16 Oct 2009 08:59:01 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 37 (October 16, 2009)

Today, many busy ports around the nation are marking World Maritime Day with ship tours, ceremonies, and other special events. The day is about highlighting topics that most of us don’t think about very often: ships, ship safety, navigation, and other maritime activities.

In this spirit, we’re privileged to have the director of NOAA’s Coast Survey join us. We’re going to cover a lot of water in this episode … Want to know what nautical charts have to do with Thomas Jefferson, mine sweepers, and the stuff you buy in a big box store? Just how big are some of the ships plying our waterways these days? What effect might rising sea levels have on the future of shipping? Stick around to find out.

It’s October 16th, 2009, it’s World Maritime Day, and this is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

World Maritime Day

Today we’re joined by Captain Steve Barnum. Captain Barnum has been a NOAA Corps officer for nearly three decades, he’s captained five different NOAA ships during his career, and for the past three and a half years he’s served as the director of NOAA’s Coast Survey and as the U.S. National Hydrographer. 

What exactly does he do in his current job? Well, we’ll let Captain Barnum explain in his own words:

[Captain Barnum] “I’m the belly button, if you will, for nautical charting for the United States. So I’m responsible to produce nautical charts for safe shipping for all of our waters to include the territories and the Exclusive Economic Zones. So about 3.4 square million nautical miles.”

Nautical charts are like maps, but there’s a difference. While maps show you where you can go, nautical charts show you where you can go and where you can’t go. Nautical charts show what the coastlines look like, water depths, what the sea bottom looks like, dangers to navigation, and locations of navigation aids to help a mariner get from point A to point B safely. In other words, charts help keep ships from turning into shipwrecks.
While that’s pretty straight forward, how these charts are produced is a more complicated story – and it may surprise you. The main thing to know is that the U.S. has an incredible amount of shoreline and underwater territory to chart. Over the years, the tools we’ve used have ranged from the simple –- from taking soundings, or depth readings, by dropping hunks of lead tied to a rope -- to mapping the depths with state-of-the-art sonar and satellites. . It’s not an easy job … mariners have been at it for over two centuries now, and it’s still a work in progress.

[Captain Barnum]  “There are literally about 95,000 linear nautical miles of shoreline and as I said earlier about 3.4 square million nautical miles of underwater territory. About half of that still has lead line soundings – and those are soundings that are taken with a, if you think in terms of lead with a rope on the end of it. And some of that data may extend back into the 1800s or to the days of, in the case of the Alaskan charts, shoreline that was derived from the Russian charts when we purchased it. So it’s taken us 200 years to map our coasts, and there are still many parts that are uncharted, and many parts we don’t know much about, and the information is old, but it’s the best information we have. Take this in context. It sounds pretty dire for the United States, but if you look at it in a world view, only five percent of the oceans have been mapped to modern standards, and many of those areas have never been charted – particularly areas of the Arctic and some other regions of the world are blank, meaning there’s no soundings.”  

Now it’s important to note here that critical shipping lanes, ports, and harbors are charted in fine detail using modern tools like multibeam and sidescan sonar. This level of detail is critical for safe navigation in our busiest waterways, of course, but there’s another side to it that not many people think about.

[Captain Barnum]  “National security is actually one of the prime needs for having accurate nautical charts. Military vessels have to be able to come and go freely from our ports and without accurate nautical charts, their movement would be impeded – it would subject them to unnecessary risk.”
High-detail sonar readings of the bottom of the sea floor can also play a big role during Homeland Security threats.

[Captain Barnum]  “One of the uses of the multibeam sonar and sidescan sonar is that we can get a good accurate picture of the bottom. It’s very useful to the Navy if somebody says they put something in the water, because if we have an accurate baseline of an image of all the objects on the bottom, then again, if someone puts something in the water or says they put something in the water, the mine hunters will come in and they can much more efficiently sweep a harbor to open it back up for business. And our economy operates on a just-in-time basis, meaning that in some cases, some ports only have two or three days of fuel or supplies, so it’s very important to be able to open up a port quickly in the event of a disaster or somebody saying they may have put some improvised explosive device in the water.”

So now we’ve talked about two big uses for nautical charts: safety and national security. But Captain Barnum just touched on another important aspect of why charts are critical, and that’s the economy. Well, safety, security, and commerce have been the driving forces behind the development of charts for over 200 years. And this is something else that may surprise you: this branch of NOAA traces its roots back to the early 19th century. It’s the oldest scientific agency in America.

[Captain Barnum]  “The Coast Survey, or Survey of the Coast as it was called in 1807, was established by President Thomas Jefferson and the reason he established it was because more ships were being lost at sea to shipwrecks and poor charts than to ships at war, and so he saw the value of shipping to the prosperity of the United States for trade.”

That – the value of shipping to our nation’s economy – is more critical now than it’s ever been. If you add up all the ships and barges carrying goods around the nation, you begin to see how colossal our Marine Transportation System is. By weight, our marine highways carry more than three-quarters of all U.S. goods and supplies. This cargo contributes more than $750 billion dollars to the nation’s economy and creates jobs for more than 13 million people. Captain Barnum puts it like this:

[Captain Barnum]  “Nautical charts are one piece in the larger marine transportation system, and the marine transportation system is a system that I think the general public is unaware of. Not that they may not be appreciative of it, but it’s been termed the ‘hidden highway’ or the ‘hidden transportation system.’ It’s phenomenal. Ninety-five percent of our goods by weight arrive by ship. Well over half our domestic oil consumption comes by ship. The grain that we export to countries around the world goes by ship. So our economy depends on it.”

And those ships are getting bigger and bigger. They stick up out of the water higher than ever before, and their draft – the part of the ship below the water – can extend down as far as a five-story building. This adds another layer of complexity to managing the maritime highway in the 21st century.

[Captain Barnum]  “The vessels today are bigger than ever. Some of these vessels are in excess of a thousand feet in length, in some cases over a hundred feet in width. Some ships are so large they never see land. There’s a port of the coast of Louisiana called the Louisiana Offshore Oil Platform where these ultra deep draft tankers come to discharge their product. Out of site of land, and that’s because the drafts are so deep. In many of our ports, they’re challenged by these larger ships because the infrastructure has not kept up with the pace of change with the size of these ships. And the larger ship – it’s an economy of scale issue – the larger the ship the more efficient it is to carry the product with a certain number of crew. So these larger ships as they try to navigate in the waters in our various ports in our nation are challenged in many ways. Not only from the draft in the channels, the waterways leading into the port, but also the infrastructure of the bridges that span many of these waterways. Who would have thought that the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in the approaches to New York, for those who have seen that, would have been an impediment to some of the ships today.”

The Verrazano Bridge, by the way, is the largest suspension bridge in the world.  The roadway of the bridge is 226 feet above the water.  So we know that the marine highway is huge, and that ships are getting bigger. Well, traffic on our waterways is also on the rise. By some estimates, this system is expected to double or even triple in size by 2020. Captain Barnum said that one of the main driving forces is that it’s just so much more economical to ship our goods around by ship.

[Captain Barnum]  “Up until our recent financial setback, shipping was growing at about seven percent a year. Which is pretty phenomenal growth. And there’s increased pressure on our waterways and so a lot of folks are also looking at smart transportation of how to get trucks off the roads, using these underutilized waterways. So you’d have these major ports with feeder ports – going from these larger ports to these smaller ports – again to get vehicle, truck traffic off the road. And also to be a much more efficient movement of goods and services. A barge with a tug can carry much, much more product or goods than an equivalent amount of trucks, much more efficiently.”

How much more efficiently? Picture this:

[Captain Barnum]  “Ships that used to carry two to three thousand – they’re called terra-equivalent units – think of them as containers or a box, a tractor trailer box. Some of the latest ships carry 15,000 TEU, so think of that as 15,000 tractor trailer boxes on a ship, and think about what that means, the capacity when you look at the number of trucks today on the interstate, and think ’15,000.’ This is just one ship.”

This may be the future: bigger ships, and more of them, carrying more of our goods and products around the nation’s waterways, often sliding into ports with only inches to spare from the tops of bridges or the bottoms of channels. The tricky part of this business for Coast Survey is that our waterways are ever-changing. The hazards on the bottom of the sea floor don’t stay in one place, so work continues non-stop to keep nautical charts up to date. In the future, this task could get even more challenging. Before we let Captain Barnum go, we threw out one last question. How might climate change affect the maritime transportation system?

[Captain Barnum]  “I’m not sure that we know exactly what the impacts will be. We know what the impacts could be with sea level rise. Of course, that’s going to give all the ships more draft. I talked about existing infrastructure – that’s going to make less distance between the bottoms of the bridges and the surface of the water, so they’ll have a tougher time fitting under these bridges. Certainly there are issues with the waterfronts and there’s transportation infrastructure of the rail and the highway connections. It’s not just the ships coming to the ports. They have to be able to offload their goods and product and get it onto the rail and other transportation systems, and to get it to Middle America, so much of that infrastructure is at risk with sea level rise, and it’s something that will have to be addressed as we look to the future.”


Powerful Fish-Killing Toxin May Offer Human Health Benefits (Episode 36)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/sep09/mw093009.mp3

Wed, 30 Sep 2009 09:31:05 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 36 (September 30, 2009)

In 2002, a mysterious disease began killing fish at a commercial aquaculture facility in North Carolina. Lots of fish. Over 21,000 striped bass died during the outbreak. At the time, no one knew what caused this massive fish kill. Why did it happen? Would it happen again?

We now know that the culprit behind the fish kills is a type of freshwater algae called Euglena Sanguinea, thanks to research led by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and NOAA back in 2004.

At the time this was a big surprise. Euglena is very well documented. In fact, it’s been known since 1830. It was just that everyone thought that it was harmless. Well, it turns out that, under the right conditions, Euglena can produce a potent, very deadly toxin.

Today we’re going to take a look at a new study led by the same two scientists from NOAA and the USDA from the 2004 breakthrough, and it takes what we know about this toxin one step further – and in a surprising direction.

It turns out the compound produced by Euglena – a compound that can kill fish and mammals in the wild – may not be all bad. The very fact that this compound is so deadly means that, if we can harness it, it may offer new ways to treat human problems.

Could a toxic chemical produced by Euglena, a type of algae known for well over a century – algae that you may have even seen before under a microscope in your High School biology class – someday be used to treat cancer? Stay tuned.

It’s Wednesday, September 30th, 2009, and this is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

Powerful Fish-Killing Toxin Holds Promise for Cancer Applications

Today we hear from chemist Peter Moeller from NOAA’s Center for Human Health Risk, part of the National Ocean Service’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Sciences. Peter works at the Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina, and he’s one of the lead authors of a new study about this powerful fish-killing toxin that’s slated to appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Toxicon.

Peter leads the Toxin Natural Products Chemistry program. His job is to figure out what’s going on, chemically speaking, when unexplained events happen, like when 21,000 bass mysteriously die in North Carolina. When something bad like this happens in the wild, Peter’s lab gets samples of the bad stuff, and he and his team go to work. The first step is to purify the samples to tease out the active compounds that are causing the problem. Here’s Peter:

”I always call myself to my students kind of an NCIS or CSI type of a program. Something has happened in an event: a mammal die or whatever, and somebody has made an observation that they think the causative agent is this organism or it’s the seawater or it’s the sediment, or it’s tissue of some sort, dirt – it doesn’t matter – they bring that to my lab. Now whatever they bring, this starting material we’re going to work with – this tissue, mud, water, it’s full of tens of thousands if not millions of compounds. The purification process is something that I have to do tease each chemical apart from the other so that I end up with an analytically pure compound.”

The next step is to figure out the molecular structure of a given active compound to see how it works. He said it’s a lot like trying to figure out who a person is through a fingerprint.

”In chemistry, we talk about structure of a molecule and its function. Aspirin works the way aspirin works because of its molecular structure not because it has some sort of inherent activity. That structure, once it gets into a mammalian system such as human, does its job of analgesic or reducing swelling. That structure, then, is what we want to key in on. So, to understand structure, on the one hand, we have to have a three-dimensional picture of that molecule. That in turn will tell us probably, or at least give us clues, to ask questions: how is it working in a mammalian system? Where is it working in a mammalian system? And frankly it tells us a lot about its chemistry. It’s like your fingerprint and my fingerprint. We’re different, and our finger prints are different. Once I have your fingerprint, I know who you are. So from NOAA’s point of view, when there is, say, a shellfish toxin: people eat oysters and get sick. They’ll bring me oyster tissue and ask me: what is it that made these people sick? Well, I need to find out that fingerprint of a molecule because that’s going to be the culprit. It’s looking for the bad guy. At the same time, we then use that fingerprint to develop what we would call detection or monitoring tools. I won’t get too specific, but we have special analytical techniques which will then find that material, that compound, and in matrix where we find it, and then we can alert the public.”

While he and a team of researchers discovered that Euglena algae were behind the fish killings back in 2002, that study only showed that the algae were producing toxic effects – that the algae were responsible for the dying fish. This new study takes it one step further.

”It’s one thing to show that an organism has toxic effects, but one of the things that has to be done is to demonstrate that there is a true toxic entity. That may seem trivial, but it’s not always so easy. In this case, we did find that the organism was producing a chemical that was responsible for the toxic effects.”

That chemical is called Euglenaphycin. So once Peter and his team teased out the toxin and unlocked its molecular structure, they turned their attention to a new type of investigation: looking for ways, as Peter says, to see if this deadly chemical can be turned from the dark side to do good work. What if Euglenaphycin -- this very potent toxin -- could be used to kill cancer cells? If you consider that we use toxic chemicals – better known as chemotherapy - to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells, why not test natural toxins like Euglenaphycin out to see how they work? Many of the natural toxins that Peter looks at in his lab, after all, are much more toxic than the compounds used today for chemotherapy. If they do the job effectively and kill cancer cells, it would take much less toxin to do the job than what we’re now using.

”While we do these things, the highly toxic compounds that we look at, it’s very difficult to describe how much more toxic they are than many of the compounds out there for chemotherapy and things like this. They’re just so much more toxic. But when one stops and realizes that, and I use cancer or chemotherapeutics as a model, these are toxins. And we inject them in the body to help kill cancer cells. Well, as I’ve been working through the years, and you get to see the selective activity that they have, as well as the high activity – many, many, many times more active than the current pharmaceuticals that we’re using today – why can’t we at least try to push them into, again, as an example, cancer therapy. Because if they’re so much more toxic, we don’t need as much of them conceptually to do the same job, and that in turn should help us reduce side effects if we don’t have to be putting so much into our systems for that. So that’s been a big push of ours, that as we do NOAA’s mission finding these compounds that are causing the deleterious effects that we see, and then turning around, turning them to the good side.”

How does Peter figure out if a toxin might have a use in treating cancer? Samples of mammalian cells are tested out to see how they interact with the potent toxins identified in the lab. If the mammal cells die, it’s an indication that the toxin may have at least some cancer-treating potential. In the case of Euglenaphycin, a colleague of Peter’s working on a renal cancer decided to test it out. So far, the results are promising.

But the uses of this particular toxin may not be limited to potentially treating cancer. Peter explains:

”When we discerned the structure of Euglenaphycin – good chemistry, we go into the literature and find out if it’s known – and it was a new molecule in and of itself, but it’s related in structure to fire ant venoms, the solenopsins they’re called. And a lot of people have, and are still working on, a lot of bioactivity with the solenopsin, which include they’re antibacterial, they’re antibiotics, they’re antifungals, and they actually work on oddly enough another really nasty marine organism called microcystis. Microcystis affects drinking water throughout the country, and in fact in Lake Michigan and some of these others, it can become a real big hazard. In the presence of euglena, microcystis growth is greatly retarded, and that shows some very specific activity that we would like to go in and harvest and maybe we can have a natural algacide that we can naturally go in and control or mediate another problem. And that’s the advantage of my job. I really love that part of my work. We can turn something from the dark side to the good if we can.”

While it’s fantastic news that this toxin may someday provide new tools to help humans, it’s important to remember that it is out there in the wild, where it may pose a threat to fish, animals, and humans. Peter said that the intense toxicity produced by the algae is something that we need to be very concerned about.

”One of the things that just happened recently about two weeks ago on the Euglenaphycin story is that historically, since 2004, we knew it was killing fish. As, I think it was two weeks ago in Michigan, a calf died (or maybe more than one, I’m not sure) died drinking water out of a pond, and the organism responsible that was just identified was Euglena. Now that’ll be the first case where a mammal was actually shown to die. What that means for me now is that we have to develop detection methodologies for drinking water reservoirs: lakes, ponds, rivers, things like this, to see to it that if that organism’s present we’re taking the right precautions. Now when we first started, we thought, well It’s killing fish. OK, we’ll monitor fish ponds. But now that it’s killing mammals, which isn’t a surprise, we use mammal assays all the way through, and it appears the toxicity in and of itself is now easier to detect … and some of the reports I have now in fact, including in the paper we published, it now affects close to two dozen states in the U.S. already, and my guess is it’s affecting a lot more.

Now at this point, you may be wondering how such a toxic chemical could have gone unnoticed or unreported for so long. Is Euglena producing toxins more often now, or could it be that this toxin has always been around, and we’re just unlocking this mystery now because we have better scientific tools. Peter said this is a hard question to answer, but that the answer may be somewhere in the middle.

”Our monitoring and detection tools have become so much more sophisticated and much more reliable, so one the one hand, yes, I think we’re looking for things better than we have done in the past and maybe that’s why we’re finding problems and identifying problems that have always existed, but now we can characterize them. But on the surface, it does appear that the activity of some of these microtoxins is increasing in incidence. And so whether these organisms are capable of developing toxin producing mechanisms over time could also be happening. We see that happening with a number of dinoflagelletes – these marine algae – seem to have that ability, to turn toxin production on and off depending on environmental stress. So it appears that way. I know I’m solidly on both lines of that fence, but we don’t really know, but it does appear that these toxics events are increasing in incidence.”

What is clear is that there is much more to learn about Euglenaphycin. Peter said that the main goal now is to test the toxic compound for a variety of uses. And at the same time, research will continue that will hopefully lead to ways to detect, monitor, and control the production of the toxin in nature.

”The next step is a couple of things. We did get a patent out on this ... and what that allows us to do now is we’re going to have to produce enough of this stuff to test, either through natural sources – actually mass culture euglena – which my colleague in USDA – that’s kind of what he’s doing right now. And when we have milligrams to grams of the toxin, we will submit this to the various people who would like to test it and potentially develop it for it’s uses, such as antibacterial, anticancer, or antifungal, etc. So we can actually get some commercial development out of this material for good. The research is pretty much done on our end, we’re just going to be crunching purification processes now, I won’t say that’s trivial, but the fun part of it, the difficult part of it, is over. Now my colleague has to learn what happens in nature to either enhance or turn off toxin production, that’s a real fascinating area, because if we can understand that, maybe we can mitigate, or remediate, or stop the production of toxin even in nature. That’s out of my immediate expertise, but it’s a fun area to watch these people work in.”

Closing

Many thanks to Peter Moeller from NOAA’s Center for Human Health Risk, part of the National Ocean Service’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Sciences. Peter works at the Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina, and he’s one of the lead authors of a new study about this powerful fish-killing toxin that’s slated to appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Toxicon.

Let’s leave Peter with the last word:

”Nature has the compounds out there for us. And it’s amazing, if we just go out and look for them, based on activity, I think we’re going to see a whole new generation of much more selective, much milder pharmaceuticals and antibiotics than we’ve ever seen before, and it’s because there’s a new, a rejuvenation of discovery to go out there and find them.”

If you’re looking for more news and information about our oceans and coasts, head over to the NOS Web site at oceanservice.noaa.gov.

If you have questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, don’t hesitate to send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov. We’d like to hear from you. That’s all for this week.

Let’s bring in the ocean....

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service. We’ll be back in a couple of weeks with a new episode.


Battle of the Atlantic Expedition; New Gulf Marine Sanctuary Report (Episode 35)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/sep09/mw091609.mp3

Wed, 16 Sep 2009 11:28:01 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 36 (September 30, 2009)

In 2002, a mysterious disease began killing fish at a commercial aquaculture facility in North Carolina. Lots of fish. Over 21,000 striped bass died during the outbreak. At the time, no one knew what caused this massive fish kill. Why did it happen? Would it happen again?

We now know that the culprit behind the fish kills is a type of freshwater algae called Euglena Sanguinea, thanks to research led by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and NOAA back in 2004.

At the time this was a big surprise. Euglena is very well documented. In fact, it’s been known since 1830. It was just that everyone thought that it was harmless. Well, it turns out that, under the right conditions, Euglena can produce a potent, very deadly toxin.

Today we’re going to take a look at a new study led by the same two scientists from NOAA and the USDA from the 2004 breakthrough, and it takes what we know about this toxin one step further – and in a surprising direction.

It turns out the compound produced by Euglena – a compound that can kill fish and mammals in the wild – may not be all bad. The very fact that this compound is so deadly means that, if we can harness it, it may offer new ways to treat human problems.

Could a toxic chemical produced by Euglena, a type of algae known for well over a century – algae that you may have even seen before under a microscope in your High School biology class – someday be used to treat cancer? Stay tuned.

It’s Wednesday, September 30th, 2009, and this is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

Powerful Fish-Killing Toxin Holds Promise for Cancer Applications

Today we hear from chemist Peter Moeller from NOAA’s Center for Human Health Risk, part of the National Ocean Service’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Sciences. Peter works at the Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina, and he’s one of the lead authors of a new study about this powerful fish-killing toxin that’s slated to appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Toxicon.

Peter leads the Toxin Natural Products Chemistry program. His job is to figure out what’s going on, chemically speaking, when unexplained events happen, like when 21,000 bass mysteriously die in North Carolina. When something bad like this happens in the wild, Peter’s lab gets samples of the bad stuff, and he and his team go to work. The first step is to purify the samples to tease out the active compounds that are causing the problem. Here’s Peter:

”I always call myself to my students kind of an NCIS or CSI type of a program. Something has happened in an event: a mammal die or whatever, and somebody has made an observation that they think the causative agent is this organism or it’s the seawater or it’s the sediment, or it’s tissue of some sort, dirt – it doesn’t matter – they bring that to my lab. Now whatever they bring, this starting material we’re going to work with – this tissue, mud, water, it’s full of tens of thousands if not millions of compounds. The purification process is something that I have to do tease each chemical apart from the other so that I end up with an analytically pure compound.”

The next step is to figure out the molecular structure of a given active compound to see how it works. He said it’s a lot like trying to figure out who a person is through a fingerprint.

”In chemistry, we talk about structure of a molecule and its function. Aspirin works the way aspirin works because of its molecular structure not because it has some sort of inherent activity. That structure, once it gets into a mammalian system such as human, does its job of analgesic or reducing swelling. That structure, then, is what we want to key in on. So, to understand structure, on the one hand, we have to have a three-dimensional picture of that molecule. That in turn will tell us probably, or at least give us clues, to ask questions: how is it working in a mammalian system? Where is it working in a mammalian system? And frankly it tells us a lot about its chemistry. It’s like your fingerprint and my fingerprint. We’re different, and our finger prints are different. Once I have your fingerprint, I know who you are. So from NOAA’s point of view, when there is, say, a shellfish toxin: people eat oysters and get sick. They’ll bring me oyster tissue and ask me: what is it that made these people sick? Well, I need to find out that fingerprint of a molecule because that’s going to be the culprit. It’s looking for the bad guy. At the same time, we then use that fingerprint to develop what we would call detection or monitoring tools. I won’t get too specific, but we have special analytical techniques which will then find that material, that compound, and in matrix where we find it, and then we can alert the public.”

While he and a team of researchers discovered that Euglena algae were behind the fish killings back in 2002, that study only showed that the algae were producing toxic effects – that the algae were responsible for the dying fish. This new study takes it one step further.

”It’s one thing to show that an organism has toxic effects, but one of the things that has to be done is to demonstrate that there is a true toxic entity. That may seem trivial, but it’s not always so easy. In this case, we did find that the organism was producing a chemical that was responsible for the toxic effects.”

That chemical is called Euglenaphycin. So once Peter and his team teased out the toxin and unlocked its molecular structure, they turned their attention to a new type of investigation: looking for ways, as Peter says, to see if this deadly chemical can be turned from the dark side to do good work. What if Euglenaphycin -- this very potent toxin -- could be used to kill cancer cells? If you consider that we use toxic chemicals – better known as chemotherapy - to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells, why not test natural toxins like Euglenaphycin out to see how they work? Many of the natural toxins that Peter looks at in his lab, after all, are much more toxic than the compounds used today for chemotherapy. If they do the job effectively and kill cancer cells, it would take much less toxin to do the job than what we’re now using.

”While we do these things, the highly toxic compounds that we look at, it’s very difficult to describe how much more toxic they are than many of the compounds out there for chemotherapy and things like this. They’re just so much more toxic. But when one stops and realizes that, and I use cancer or chemotherapeutics as a model, these are toxins. And we inject them in the body to help kill cancer cells. Well, as I’ve been working through the years, and you get to see the selective activity that they have, as well as the high activity – many, many, many times more active than the current pharmaceuticals that we’re using today – why can’t we at least try to push them into, again, as an example, cancer therapy. Because if they’re so much more toxic, we don’t need as much of them conceptually to do the same job, and that in turn should help us reduce side effects if we don’t have to be putting so much into our systems for that. So that’s been a big push of ours, that as we do NOAA’s mission finding these compounds that are causing the deleterious effects that we see, and then turning around, turning them to the good side.”

How does Peter figure out if a toxin might have a use in treating cancer? Samples of mammalian cells are tested out to see how they interact with the potent toxins identified in the lab. If the mammal cells die, it’s an indication that the toxin may have at least some cancer-treating potential. In the case of Euglenaphycin, a colleague of Peter’s working on a renal cancer decided to test it out. So far, the results are promising.

But the uses of this particular toxin may not be limited to potentially treating cancer. Peter explains:

”When we discerned the structure of Euglenaphycin – good chemistry, we go into the literature and find out if it’s known – and it was a new molecule in and of itself, but it’s related in structure to fire ant venoms, the solenopsins they’re called. And a lot of people have, and are still working on, a lot of bioactivity with the solenopsin, which include they’re antibacterial, they’re antibiotics, they’re antifungals, and they actually work on oddly enough another really nasty marine organism called microcystis. Microcystis affects drinking water throughout the country, and in fact in Lake Michigan and some of these others, it can become a real big hazard. In the presence of euglena, microcystis growth is greatly retarded, and that shows some very specific activity that we would like to go in and harvest and maybe we can have a natural algacide that we can naturally go in and control or mediate another problem. And that’s the advantage of my job. I really love that part of my work. We can turn something from the dark side to the good if we can.”

While it’s fantastic news that this toxin may someday provide new tools to help humans, it’s important to remember that it is out there in the wild, where it may pose a threat to fish, animals, and humans. Peter said that the intense toxicity produced by the algae is something that we need to be very concerned about.

”One of the things that just happened recently about two weeks ago on the Euglenaphycin story is that historically, since 2004, we knew it was killing fish. As, I think it was two weeks ago in Michigan, a calf died (or maybe more than one, I’m not sure) died drinking water out of a pond, and the organism responsible that was just identified was Euglena. Now that’ll be the first case where a mammal was actually shown to die. What that means for me now is that we have to develop detection methodologies for drinking water reservoirs: lakes, ponds, rivers, things like this, to see to it that if that organism’s present we’re taking the right precautions. Now when we first started, we thought, well It’s killing fish. OK, we’ll monitor fish ponds. But now that it’s killing mammals, which isn’t a surprise, we use mammal assays all the way through, and it appears the toxicity in and of itself is now easier to detect … and some of the reports I have now in fact, including in the paper we published, it now affects close to two dozen states in the U.S. already, and my guess is it’s affecting a lot more.

Now at this point, you may be wondering how such a toxic chemical could have gone unnoticed or unreported for so long. Is Euglena producing toxins more often now, or could it be that this toxin has always been around, and we’re just unlocking this mystery now because we have better scientific tools. Peter said this is a hard question to answer, but that the answer may be somewhere in the middle.

”Our monitoring and detection tools have become so much more sophisticated and much more reliable, so one the one hand, yes, I think we’re looking for things better than we have done in the past and maybe that’s why we’re finding problems and identifying problems that have always existed, but now we can characterize them. But on the surface, it does appear that the activity of some of these microtoxins is increasing in incidence. And so whether these organisms are capable of developing toxin producing mechanisms over time could also be happening. We see that happening with a number of dinoflagelletes – these marine algae – seem to have that ability, to turn toxin production on and off depending on environmental stress. So it appears that way. I know I’m solidly on both lines of that fence, but we don’t really know, but it does appear that these toxics events are increasing in incidence.”

What is clear is that there is much more to learn about Euglenaphycin. Peter said that the main goal now is to test the toxic compound for a variety of uses. And at the same time, research will continue that will hopefully lead to ways to detect, monitor, and control the production of the toxin in nature.

”The next step is a couple of things. We did get a patent out on this ... and what that allows us to do now is we’re going to have to produce enough of this stuff to test, either through natural sources – actually mass culture euglena – which my colleague in USDA – that’s kind of what he’s doing right now. And when we have milligrams to grams of the toxin, we will submit this to the various people who would like to test it and potentially develop it for it’s uses, such as antibacterial, anticancer, or antifungal, etc. So we can actually get some commercial development out of this material for good. The research is pretty much done on our end, we’re just going to be crunching purification processes now, I won’t say that’s trivial, but the fun part of it, the difficult part of it, is over. Now my colleague has to learn what happens in nature to either enhance or turn off toxin production, that’s a real fascinating area, because if we can understand that, maybe we can mitigate, or remediate, or stop the production of toxin even in nature. That’s out of my immediate expertise, but it’s a fun area to watch these people work in.”

Closing

Many thanks to Peter Moeller from NOAA’s Center for Human Health Risk, part of the National Ocean Service’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Sciences. Peter works at the Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina, and he’s one of the lead authors of a new study about this powerful fish-killing toxin that’s slated to appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Toxicon.

Let’s leave Peter with the last word:

”Nature has the compounds out there for us. And it’s amazing, if we just go out and look for them, based on activity, I think we’re going to see a whole new generation of much more selective, much milder pharmaceuticals and antibiotics than we’ve ever seen before, and it’s because there’s a new, a rejuvenation of discovery to go out there and find them.”

If you’re looking for more news and information about our oceans and coasts, head over to the NOS Web site at oceanservice.noaa.gov.

If you have questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, don’t hesitate to send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov. We’d like to hear from you. That’s all for this week.

Let’s bring in the ocean....

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service. We’ll be back in a couple of weeks with a new episode.


High-Water Mystery; nowCOAST; Wetlands Restoration (Episode 34)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/sep09/mw090209.mp3

Wed, 02 Sep 2009 11:20:12 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 34 (Sept. 2, 2009)

(INTRO)

… a high-water mystery on the Atlantic Coast.
… how you can track coastal conditions online using NOAA’s nowCOAST.
… and restoring in wetlands in Texas.

It’s Wednesday, Sep. 2nd, 2009. Those stories are coming up today on Making Waves, your source for news from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

(High Water Event)

We’re going to start today with a mystery. Back in June, the NOS Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services -- better known as NOAA’s Tides and Currents office -- started getting reports from people all along the Atlantic Coast that tide predictions were way off -– in some places by as much as two feet.

While it isn’t unusual for tide predictions to be off in small regions or estuaries along the East Coast, it’s really unusual to see higher tides along the entire coast. These elevated tides were happening from Maine all the way down to the East Coast of Florida. Not only was this tidal anomaly huge, it was also unusually intense and long lasting.

While the tidal surge is mostly over now, the search into the possible causes of the higher tides is still being investigated.

According to Mike Szabados, the director of the tides and current office, it’s still too early to know the exact causes of this event, but two main factors seem to have contributed. One of those factors was that the ocean current that flows up the east coast from Florida was weaker than usual. Since the current was weaker, less water was being carried away from the coasts. At the same time, there were steady, prolonged winds from the northeast, which would effectively push water towards the coasts.

Later this month, tides and currents will release a report with details of their initial findings, but Szabados cautioned that more study is needed before we know the exact causes of the high tides, if it was a one-time thing, part of a cycle in ocean water movement, or if it might be tied to longer-term global ocean trend.

That report will be available at tidesandcurrents – that’s all one word – .NOAA.gov.

Not sure what the difference is between tides and currents? Want to know a bit more about how currents are measured and used? Well, then you should definitely check out the August 12th episode of the NOS Diving Deeper podcast at oceanservice.noaa.gov. The episode features an interview with Lau ra Rear, an oceanographer with the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services who manages the National Current Observation Program.

(nowCOAST)

Now, since we’re talking about ocean conditions, I want to take a few minutes to let you know about a Web resource from the NOS Office of Coast Survey called nowCOAST, which you can find at nowcoast.noaa.gov.

This is something that really has to be seen to be appreciated. What it is is an online interactive map that provides a mind-blowing amount of near real-time weather forecasts and ocean surface observations for all of the U.S.

As you can imagine, knowing the current weather and ocean conditions along the coasts are a big concern to a lot of people … people like recreational boaters, commercial mariners, coastal managers, or people who respond to things like oil spills and other maritime accidents.

Well, nowCOAST is a great place to get this information. The site offers “one-stop” access to all sorts of data: things like current conditions, air and water temperature, wind speed, visibility, precipitation, and wave height. And you can view Doppler weather radar, cloud imagery, and weather warnings. And that’s just some of what you can get on this site.

If you’ve ever used Google Earth, you’ll feel at home with the application. It’s an interactive map of the U.S. that’s made up layer upon layer upon layer of information. All you need to do is select a location in the U.S., pick out the kind of data you want to see, and select the time you want to know about, and there it is.

And NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey is adding more capabilities to nowCOAST all the time. They most recently released a new version that will show you the latest forecasts for all active tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and eastern Pacific Ocean.

Again, it’s best seen to be appreciated, and it’s at nowcoast.noaa.gov.

(Texas Restoration)

And finally today, we’re going down to Texas to talk about major coastal wetlands restoration project –- over 2,500 acres of wetlands -- that was just completed around Port Arthur.

The NOS Office of Response and Restoration’s Damage Assessment, Remediation and Restoration Program served as the principal trustee for project.

This program focuses on restoring coastal natural resources, restoring habitats and communities that have been harmed by oil spills, and cleaning up hazardous substance releases and ship groundings. Through the program, NOAA works with other agencies, industry, and communities to protect and restore these coastal and marine resources.

In this case, program staff worked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and the Texas General Land Office worked with the Chevron Corporation to restore habitats that were injured by releases from refinery operations that took place decades ago.

This project was really important not only because coastal wetlands are really valuable habitats for many creatures, but the restored wetlands will improve area water quality and – importantly to this part of the U.S. – healthy wetlands help to serve as a buffer as tropical storms and hurricanes move onshore.

The wetlands were restored to compensate the public for the natural resources that were harmed by historical releases of hazardous substances like gasoline, kerosene, jet fuel, and petrochemicals from the original Clark Chevron refinery in Port Arthur.

Since its inception in 1992, Damage Assessment, Remediation and Restoration Program program has helped to protect and restore natural resources at more than 500 waste sites. As of 2008, the program had settled almost 200 natural resource damage assessment cases, generating almost $450 million for restoration projects.

And if you want to know more about NOAA’s role in these types of projects, head on over to www.darrp.noaa.gov. That’s D-A-R-R-P.

(CLOSING)

Well, that’s all for this week’s episode. Head over to oceanservice.noaa.gov for links to the stories we discussed today.

And while you’re there, check out a new feature on our site called ‘People of NOS.’

This section features 'interviews' (text-based) with folks from around NOS -- representing all of the different types of work options available around the organization. We asked questions about each person's job at NOAA, what they enjoy about the job, how they ended up at the National Ocean Service, and advice for folks aspiring to work at NOAA.

If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, send us a note. We’re at nos.info@noaa.gov.

Let’s bring in the ocean....

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.


Hydropalooza (Episode 33)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/aug09/mw081909.mp3

Fri, 14 Aug 2009 11:14:47 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 33 (August 19, 2009)

(INTRO)
Today we’re going to head north to Kachemak Bay, Alaska, for Hydropalooza 2009. No, this isn’t a rock concert on the water, and you can’t get a T-shirt, but for the people up in Alaska taking part in Hydropalooza this month, it’s like a festival – a festival of data collection in the Bay.  

Right now, scientists on two NOAA research ships are in the Bay surveying the ocean and the coast to update nautical charts for the area. But this expedition isn’t only about updating charts. It’s about taking all the vast amount of information collected by sonar and other tools that NOAA uses to update nautical charts, and seeing what else it can be used for.

So Hydropalooza is about mapping an area like Kachemak Bay once, and using all the information collected during the expedition in many, many different ways and for many different groups of people. It’s a concept called Integrated Ocean and Coastal Mapping, and many people around NOAA will tell you it’s the future…Well, today, we talk with one of the people involved with Hydropalooza to hear what’s it’s all about.

It’s Wednesday, Aug. 19th, 2009, and this is Making Waves, your source for news from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

(Hydropalooza)
Now, NOAA is the lead agency in the nation to keep our countries nautical charts up to date. These charts contain tons of detailed information … they tell us about the coasts, the depths of the water, the sea bottom, dangers to navigation, tides, where the navigation aids are, and even information about the Earth’s magnetism. This part of NOAA’s mission – hydrographic surveying - is all about ensuring safe navigation around our coasts. But the thing that people in NOAA have recognized for some time is that information collected when updating nautical charts is really useful – it could be used by other groups of people for other purposes.

Well, this is the idea behind Hydropalooza. It’s a two-year pilot project, now in the second year, and the focus is on collecting lots of information in one place about the water, coastline, and sea bottom in the Bay, and sharing it so it can be used in many different ways. Hydropalooza will result in the most detailed seafloor and coastline maps ever generated of Kachemak Bay, and all the information that’s collected is going to benefit a lot of different people.

We spoke with Kris Holderied on the phone to help explain what Hydropalooza is all about. Kris is the director of NOAA’s Kasitsna Bay Laboratory, which sits on the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska, right on Kachemak Bay. The first thing we wanted to know was where the name Hydropalooza came from. Here’s Kris:

“As all good names come, we were probably sitting, it was after a benthic habitat mapping conference in Anchorage and, when you start talking about Integrated Ocean Coastal Mapping, you start to get into names that are too long to say frequently. And there had just been one of the ‘palooza events recently and someone came up with the idea, ‘well, we could just call it Hydropalooza,’ and it was initially just an internal name, but what happened is it really works to describe that we are pulling together a whole bunch of folks both in our NOAA offices and with our local partners and stakeholders from resource management agencies, and from the local cities, as well as other federal agencies here as part of this, whether they’re actually participating in the data collection, or whether they’re going to be using the data afterwards, and so it was essentially this idea of  we’re having a party on the water in a sense by pulling us all together, so Hydropalooza stuck.”

There’s a lot of activity going on with Hydropalooza, but central to it all is a large hydrographic water survey that’s being conducted by two NOAA ships, the Fairweather and Rainier. Last year, the two ships used sonar to map the Eastern part of Kachemak Bay. This year, the ships are back to finish the job.

“What’s happening this year is we have two NOAA ships, the Fairweather and the Rainier. They’re both hydrographic survey ships and they’ll be hear from early August to early September … and they’ll be doing shipboard mapping, so running both from the ships and the survey launches that they carry,  which are simply  phenomenal, if you ever have the chance to get out on either the ships or these launches, it is absolutely phenomenal what they are able to do. So they’ll be collecting multibeam survey data, and they’ll also be installing new tide gauges to precisely measure the tides during the period of the survey – it’s one of the things that people don’t often think about that, if you’re going to have a consistent depth on a nautical chart, you have to essentially take the tides out of that – and so our Center for Operational Products and Services at NOAA, our CO-OPS office, or tides and currents office, they provide the tidal information but the ships also put in tide gauges while they’re here to get the  extra corrections for the survey. So that’s the primary field effort. “

But why choose a remote place like Kachemak Bay in Alaska? It seems kind of far away. Kris explains:

“It really came down to the variety of needs that we had here, and the partnerships that were already in place. So we have the NOAA Kasitsna Bay Lab, our laboratory which is part of the National Ocean Services Coastal Ocean Science offices. And we have the Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, also within the National Ocean Service, and a partnership with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. And with those offices already working together on how we’re using NOAA data to support, among other things, resource management, it made for a natural place to do this. The other part that, for the ships, where they were scheduled to work, it was the right place for two of them to work together, and be able to do some cross-training…

She added that Alaska is a place that we need to know much more about, and within Alaska, Kachemak Bay is a particularly dynamic place with many different kinds of habitats.

“In Alaska, we have half the coastline of the United States, so NOAA has a huge mission here. NOS, the National Ocean Service has a huge mission here. And we have big challenges in terms of being able to cover that coastline adequately, we have big challenges in that we are front and center on climate change. We are already seeing the changes in temperature and storm frequencies and coastal erosion associated with global climate change. And it’s not going to be going away anytime soon, so we’re trying to get out ahead of it to help communities and resource managers adapt.”

…The other part of Kachemak Bay that’s really interesting is that we have a great variety habitats from rocky subtidal, kelp forests, hard bottom, vertical wall type habitats to sea grass to mud flats, the shallow salt marsh areas, so you really have a diversity of habitats that you want to know how to measure better.”

The primary way that those interesting features are measured is with sonar. And it turns out that the sonar data collected during the mapping effort is chock full of interesting information. Here’s Kris:

 “Well, really, the hope is that this is how NOAA will operate. There’s been large efforts within NOAA to get more information out of multibeam sonar data in particular. The sonar gives you both the bathymetry, or the water depth, as well as something that tells you, it’s the measure of intensity of the signal, what we call the backscatter, and it tells you something about the roughness of the bottom, and one of the things we’ve been working on as an agency is to use that information to say like what is type of the bottom, what’s the habitat of the bottom, because obviously we need that for coastal resource management, fisheries management, things like that.

So there’s been a fair number of research efforts around taking out the multibeam sonar and more of a research setting where you’re focusing on really looking at the backscatter, but we collect backscatter in our operational surveys, and the operational surveys are done primarily to get the bathymetry, but there’s a lot of backscatter information that’s collected, and so one of the intents of this is how do we get better products out of that information that we’re already collecting and because it’s going to be supporting partners like the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, like the coastal science part of the National Ocean Service, we’ve got those partners here, so that’s why it makes sense to do it here. The other part of Kachemak Bay that’s really interesting is that we have a great variety habitats from rocky subtidal, kelp forests, hard bottom, vertical wall type habitats to sea grass to mud flats, the shallow salt marsh areas, so you really have a diversity of habitats that you want to know how to measure better.”

The main point of gathering up all this information, Kris said, is that it helps paint a big picture of what’s going on in the Bay. 

“This is one of those lucky opportunities to get the framework information you need to do research on a coastal system like this. There’s a lot of work that we do that, I’ll say, is point measurements, or transect measurements where you’re looking at a single site, or a line of sites, and what you really want to do to understand the system as a whole is to put it in that larger context, put it in that larger framework to understand where it fits in the bathymetry, what’s the different water depths,  where it fits within different habitats, and that’s a bit easier to do on land because you can see it.  You can see it with your eyes, but it’s harder to do underwater, and sonar is our basic tool to doing this, and so having this spatial framework for Kachemak Bay is going to be really key for us to understand the ecosystem and then provide the products that help us better manage it.“

While this information will be really useful for Kris’ research work done at the Katsitsna Lab, she said her main goal during Hydropalooza is to get the word out that this data is available to people in the community.

“Our goal is to get more of that information out beyond the navigation community that already uses it and  depends on it critically right now. NOAA’s been doing this for a long time, it’s been our primary mission for a long time. But getting those products out to, or developing products that are more useful for resource managers, for emergency response personnel, for local development. Sometimes it’s as simple as making sure they know where the data is, that it is available. Sometimes it’s changing formats a little bit so it’s something that’s a little bit more useful to someone who’s not making a nautical chart. So we’re working at that end in making the information that we collect already more useful, and it’s been absolutely fantastic working with our Office of Coast Survey and both ships and the NGS, because the work that these folks do on a daily basis is amazing and if we can help to get that word out, we’re glad to do it.”

While Hydropalooza is taking place in Alaska, the lessons learned here are going to be useful all around the nation.

“One of the things about this is that trying to do it on an operational survey means that if we develop things that work well here, say it’s a slightly better product out of the back-scatter data, that can then be applied to every operational survey that NOAA does. So the lessons that we learn from Hydropalooza will hopefully help us improve what we get out of this large investment we make into hydrographic surveys.”

“Fish and Game may or may not know that NOAA just collected survey data in a new area. They’re not sort of on the distribution list because we focus on navigation, so all the pilot associations and the cities and all the folks that are sort of right on navigation all know that. But What we realize is that many other groups: resource managers, research organizations, such as even within NOAA, like our conservation groups, and then land managers for state and national parks, folks like that in our coastal areas can all use this information, but they have to know that it’s there, and they need to have it in a format that they can use. They’re not going to be using some of this very – hydrographic survey bathymetry software that’s used. One of the major benefits out of this is how do we better communicate with some of these other stakeholders, because for them the information is gold. …. For sure, we should make sure that everybody that can use it knows that it’s available and has it in a form that they can use.”

And that’s one of the big goals of Hydropalooza. Kris said that this pilot project will help NOAA improve how the data that’s collected for nautical charts can be shared. It could help save other agencies save a lot of time and money.

“It’s a simple thing, it’s communication, but what we’re finding by doing this project is that you sort of find, Okay, where are those areas if we did that simple change and add these people to your communication list, or put it out in an XYZ format as well as these other types of formats. And then that’s a decision that NOAA gets to make: do we want to do that? What’s the cost of putting out the data in two different formats, perhaps. One of the things we’re trying to do with Hydropalooza is give good concrete information about those benefits and costs.”

(CLOSING)

And of course you can also read the stories we discussed today online and get links to more information on the NOS Web site at oceanservice.noaa.gov.

And that’s also where you head if you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean. And if you want, you can also send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.

Let’s bring in the ocean....

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.


Gulf Dead Zone Size Measured; NOAA Funding Helps Manage New England Red Tide (Episode 32)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/aug09/mw080509.mp3

Wed, 05 Aug 2009 08:15:19 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 32 (August 5, 2009)

(INTRO)

… A smaller than expected dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, but it's still going to be severe
… And New England is hit with an unprecedented red tide

It's Wednesday, August 5th, 2009, and those stories are coming up on this episode of Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.

(Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone)

We're going to kick things off today with a report that just came out last week about the size of this year’s dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

A dead zone is the common name for what scientists call 'hypoxia.' When areas of our estuaries, coasts, or oceans have low levels or no oxygen dissolved in the water, the water is said to be hypoxic. These areas are more often called "dead zones" since most marine life in hypoxic waters either die or -- if they can -- swim away from the area. So a dead zone turns areas in the water that would normally be teaming with life into biological deserts.

So what causes this? Well, dead zones can happen naturally, but the ones that scientists and researchers are most concerned about are those created by or made worse by human activity.

The main thing that fuels the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico and in many areas is nutrient runoff. These nutrients mainly come from agricultural activity: nutrients, which you know better as fertilizers, are added to crops to help plants grow, but the problem is that all of these nutrients aren’t absorbed by the crops. A lot of the nutrients wash away and are carried in waterways and piped along as wastewater all the way to the ocean.

When these nutrients flow into our rivers and coastal waters, they can stimulate an overgrowth of algae, just like they stimulate the growth of plants on land. The problem is that this often leads to the growth of way too much algae … and when this algae dies, it sinks and decomposes in the water. This decomposition process eats up oxygen … and this cycle can deplete the supply of oxygen available to healthy marine life. In other words, the decomposing algae suck all the oxygen out of the water, and that can cause a dead zone in the water.

The Gulf of Mexico dead zone is a big concern in the U.S. because it’s wreaks havoc on the habitats of species that live there, and it threatens valuable commercial and recreational Gulf fisheries that generate about $2.8 billion annually.

Dead zones occur all over the world. In the U.S. they’re most common along the East Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Great Lakes. I’ll give you one guess where the largest dead zone in the nation is found … Yep, it’s the Gulf of Mexico.

Each year, NOAA provides support for researchers to forecast and measure the dead zone in the Gulf. The forecast this year came out in June, and it predicted that the dead zone could be one of the largest on record – about the size of New Jersey. This prediction was mainly driven by US Geological Survey measurements of the amounts of nitrogen feeding into the Gulf from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers earlier in the spring. Nitrogen is one of the main sources of nutrient pollution. As I mentioned before, the main source of this pollution is from agriculture, but that's not the only source. Nitrogen also comes from things like over-use of fertilizers around homes, discharge from waste-water treatment plants, and overflow from septic systems during storms.

Well, last month, a NOAA-supported survey team led by the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium measured the actual Gulf dead zone, and it turned out to be smaller than expected, at about 3000 square miles. The researchers also found that the dead zone was quite severe this year. It’s usually limited to water just above the sea floor, but the 2009 dead zone extended closer to the water surface than in most years.

Dr. Nancy Rabelais, the researcher from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium who led the expedition to measure the dead zone, said she believed the smaller than expected dead zone is mainly due to unusual weather patterns in the Gulf that mixed up and re-oxygenated the waters.

The director of NOAA’s Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research, Dr. Robert Magnien, said that the smaller size looks good at first glance, but he cautioned that this appears to be related to short-term weather patterns, not a reduction in the underlying cause. He stressed that the smaller area measured by this one cruise doesn’t represent a trend, and it doesn’t diminish the need to find ways to reduce the nutrient runoff problem.

The average size of the dead zone over the past five years, including this cruise, is now 6,000 square miles.

The interagency Gulf of Mexico/Mississippi River Watershed Nutrient Task Force has a goal to reduce or make significant progress toward reducing this dead zone average to 2,000 square miles or less by 2015. The Task Force uses a five year average because the size of the dead zone can vary widely from year to year.

(NEW ENGLAND RED TIDE)

Now let's head up the Eastern Seaboard to New England to talk about a different kind of problem caused by algae.

Early last month, red tide caused a near-complete closure of shellfish harvesting in the state of Maine. Atlantic coastal waters of New Hampshire and much of the north coast of Massachusetts have also been hit hard by blooms of toxic algae.

To give you an idea of the effect of this on the economy, in 2005 harvesting closures caused by red tide resulted in $23 million in lost shellfish sales in Massachusetts and Maine alone.

To help tackle this problem, NOAA recently awarded $121,000 to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in partnership with the University of Maine to conduct research cruises to monitor the toxins.

The NOAA emergency funding supports sampling, mapping and forecasting of red tide location and intensity, which will help state managers focus their sampling efforts in areas that have the greatest opportunity to reopen for harvesting. The point of this is to minimize economic impacts in the region while continuing to protect human health from shellfish poisoning.

New England red tide, caused by the toxic algae Alexandrium, produces potent neurotoxins that accumulate in clams, mussels, oysters, and other shellfish. A severe and sometimes fatal illness, called paralytic shellfish poisoning, can occur in humans who eat shellfish contaminated with the toxin. This doesn’t mean, though, that you can’t get shellfish in the store. States have well-established, rigorous shellfish monitoring programs to protect human health, so it’s important to note that commercially available shellfish on the store shelf is safe to eat.

This year's red tide event was consistent with the seasonal forecast issued earlier this year by WHOI and North Carolina State University, which predicted a larger than normal Alexandrium bloom with landfall and effects on coastal resources largely dependent on wind patterns in May, June, and July. This forecast was based on runs of a predictive model, developed over the past decade with support from the NOS National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science's Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research.

NOAA's investment of over $23 million in New England red tide research since 1997 has aided management of these events through new tools for detecting and monitoring red tide, better communication among researchers and managers in the region, and seasonal and weekly forecasts of red tide location and extent.

GOODBYE

And that's all for this episode. If you have any questions about this week's podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.

Let’s bring in the ocean....

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.


Ocean for Life (Episode 31)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/july09/mw072209.mp3

Wed, 22 Jul 2009 08:32:38 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 31 (July 22, 2009)

(INTRO)

This week, we're traveling down to NOAA's Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary where high school students from the Middle East, North Africa, North America, and Europe are gathered to take part in a new program that uses the power of the ocean to bridge cultural divides. It's called Ocean for Life.

It's Wednesday, July 22nd, and you're listening to Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.

(OCEAN FOR LIFE)

From July 15th through August 9th, sixty students from Western, Middle Eastern, and North African countries are participating in Ocean for Life, a new program that aims to teach students from around the world about research, conservation, and stewardship to address issues facing ocean health.

NOAA's National Marine Sanctuaries in Florida and California are hosting the students for on-site field studies, and the students will also participate in a three-day visit to Washington, D.C.

Here's how the program is set up. The field study in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is now taking place through July 25, and it's bringing together students from Armenia, Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Lebanon, Morocco, Norway, Pakistan, and the U.S. Another field study is set to run from July 30 through August 9 at California's Cordell Bank, Gulf of the Farallones, and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries, and this will include students from Bahrain, Canada, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. And in between these field studies, all the students will meet up in Washington, D.C. from July 26 through 29 for meetings and tours of the nation's capitol.

Last Friday, we called up NOAA's Jonathan Shannon to tell us more about this ambitious program. Jonathan is an Education Liaison for the NOS Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, and he's the NOAA project coordinator for Ocean for Life.

"The purpose of the event is to bring together students from around the world to show them that they are all connected by the ocean and that they can all make an impact positively in their own communities and in the world for ocean conservation and also better cultural understanding between each of the different countries involved. So by bringing them together and using the ocean as an analogy of a diverse group of ecosystems connected together and dependent upon each other, we can raise through the different youth media projects that the students are doing awareness of the sense of place and the interconnectedness that we all share through our connection to the ocean and each other on how we can better work together to save this ocean planet and to build that sense of community that we need in this world."

When we reached Jonathan in the morning, he was in Key Largo at MarineLab, a education and adventure center for students and educators run by the non-profit Marine Resources Development Foundation. Parts of the student field studies in Florida are being held at MarineLab, and parts at Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

"Right now, we're at the Marine Lab here in Key Largo and what we do is we have small boats that the kids will go out to snorkel on the reefs, to see sea grass habitat, see coral reef restoration, and also see wrecks. In the mornings, we'll have scientific lectures about each of the different areas the kids will be going to see given by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary staff as well as the Marine Lab staff with the Marine Resource Development Foundation."

These studies are being used to raise awareness of the importance of resources in the ocean, and to spur the students to draw comparisons with their own unique local and regional environments. The kids will take what they learn to produce video and photography projects with help from staff from the National Geographic Photo Camp and graduate students from the American University's Center for Environmental Filmmaking.

"So out of these experiences for both the Florida and the California field studies, we're working to have the kids produce youth media projects. One still photo, slideshow and another video project, and the video project, there's going to be three of them focused on each of our different themes: interconnectedness, a sense of place, and ocean conservation and stewardship."

Jonathan said that the oceans – and the nation's marine sanctuaries – are natural venues to explore these themes.

"It gives people a common ground, a common basis, to start their interactions afterwards. Taking in this beautiful natural environment that some of them may be seeing for the first time, even folks that live in the U.S., and getting to know it more in-depth and realizing what sort of treasures we have here, and then being able to take that back to their home countries and to their home states so that they can realize what they really have work to protect back home, and the natural marine sanctuaries, because they're mandated to do both science and research into how we can help conserve these special places, as well as doing the education and outreach to inform people about these special places makes it a perfect venue to bring kids in and get them excited about ocean conservation and stewardship and give them a neutral environment to work together and learn together and do these collaborative projects."

One unique thing about the program is that it doesn't end with the on-scene field experience. In Florida, as in the upcoming field study in California, the high school kids are going to take what they learned back to their homes and continue the education and outreach process.

"What we're going to be doing here in Florida is they're going to have early morning classes and then they're going to put into action, hands-on, out on the reef, and see what exactly they learned about. And get that chance to experience the resource in it's environment and show through their media project how exactly they're interacting with it, how it's affecting them and the other students, and we're going to put all that together at the end of the program and use it as outreach tools for the kids once they return home and then, as part of the continuing education program, the kids are going to give lessons in their home communities about what they learned here, and also start to work on media projects in their own communities to help expose the folks that they were at camp with as well as other people around the world to their special places back home, and how their community interacts."

Before we let Jonathan go and get back to the kids, we asked him how he thought it was going so far.

"It's been tough getting them to bed, as you can tell I'm somewhat tired, but they're having a great time, they're really excited about all the different activities they're going to get to be doing. We were going over the orientation last night about all this stuff – they're going to be doing some kayaking, some snorkeling, and some of the different science lectures, as well as the work with the media projects, and the kids were really excited. Everyone's been really excited and getting along great together, so it's great to see, really. Just to get out of the way and let the kids be kids and enjoy this great environment."

"It's just been amazing to see how kids from Pakistan and Morocco and Lebanon, and kids from Wisconsin, Washington, and Florida, Hawaii, and Virginia, and many other places have been able to get together. You know, it's like they really haven't missed a beat. They're just being kids and seeing the wonder in their eyes about the different activities they're able to do, it's been fantastic for me. So I just love that aspect of it."

GOODBYE

Many thanks to NOAA's Jonathan Shannon for talking with us about this new program. Jonathan is an Education Liaison for the NOS Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, and he's the NOAA project coordinator for Ocean for Life.

If you want to learn more, you can visit oceanforlife.org. And visit our Web site at oceanservice.noaa.gov to read a feature story about Ocean for Life, complete with all the Web links you need to explore this topic further.

The Ocean for Life program is a partnership between NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment Program, and SCUBAnauts International. It is presented in collaboration with the National Geographic Society, American University's Center for Environmental Filmmaking, the Meridian International Center, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, Camp S.E.A. Lab and MarineLab. Other supporters include NASA, Headlands Institute and the Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association. Sponsors and donors include the EllMar Foundation, Able Body Labor, Pro Dive, and Aqua Lung. The U.S. Department of State provided diplomatic and consular support, and the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies provided consultation support.

Now let's leave Jonathan with the last word…

"We're trying to establish these links and these connections between the students showing them how they're all linked to the ocean and how the ocean all links them and how they're all linked together so when it comes time for making those hard decisions on environmental matters or to increase the goodwill across countries, that they know, 'I've met somebody from that country. It's a good country, and they were a good person,' and they can have that as a common ground or basis for cooperation"

'It's just really exciting to see. It doesn't have to just stop with Ocean for Life. There are all sorts of other programs that we can do to reach out to these kids and start working on tomorrow's leaders so we can help give them the planet they deserve.

Well, thanks for joining us this week. If you have any questions about the podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, visit us at oceanservice.noaa.gov or send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.

Now let's bring in the ocean....

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.


Preparing for the Arctic Future; NGS Positioning Activities Worth Billions (Episode 30)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/july09/mw070809.mp3

Wed, 08 Jul 2009 09:42:18 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 30 (July 8, 2009)

(INTRO)
…We have two stories for you this week
… Within the next two decades, the Arctic Ocean is expected to be free of ice in the summer. That means lots of ship traffic, and lots of ship traffic means the potential for lots of accidents and oil spills. We'll talk about what one NOS office is doing to prepare.
…And a new study shows that the economic value of services provided by NOS's National Geodetic Survey is in the range of billions of dollars. That's 'billions' with a 'b.' We'll take a closer look.

It's Wednesday, July 8th, 2009, and those stories are coming up on this episode of Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.

(Arctic Ocean Future)
Our first story today is about the Arctic Circle. Within the next two decades, scientists estimate that the Arctic Ocean will be free of multi-year ice in the summer. This total summer ice-out is going to mean lots of new commercial traffic from oil tankers to container ships to tourist cruises. And it's also expected to lead to a flurry of oil and gas exploration because the Arctic sea floor is going to be much easier to get to – and the
U.S. Geological Survey estimates that there's a lot of oil and natural gas below that sea floor -- billions of barrels.

But while most people may be thinking about the economic opportunities that will open up as the ice thaws, the NOS Office of Response and Restoration are thinking about something else. They aree thinking about what all this new traffic in this remote region means in terms of the risk of accidents, collisions, and oil spills.

Consider the Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill in Alaska's Prince William Sound in 1989. This one spill resulted in the loss of around 11 million gallons of oil, and that area was far south of the Arctic Circle, in an place with calm seas, ice-free conditions, and where sea- and shore-based oil response equipment was close by. Even so, clean up took three years. Even today, 20 years later, the environment and communities in the area are still recovering.

Now consider what conditions are going to be like in the Arctic Circle. Unpredictable ice conditions, moving ice floes, unsettled weather, and erratic wave patterns are going to make it a treacherous journey. And since the Arctic is much more remote and undeveloped, vessels crossing this region are going to have little or no emergency response infrastructure or support if they get into trouble.

And given that there's no nearby support services for salvage and emergency response, even a minor breakdown could lead to a large spill. And there will be no nearby search and rescue teams, of course, so ships that collide with floating ice or other vessels will likely have to wait a long time for help to arrive.

On shore, things aren't expected to be much better. Shoreline erosion and the melting of permafrost are dramatically affecting the stability and safety of communities in the Arctic region. Oil pipelines and other infrastructure located in permafrost will become less stable as the area warms, and this, too, will increase the risk of spills.

So to address all of these factors , the Office of Response and Restoration is working with the University of New Hampshire's Coastal Response Research Center, along with partners from Norway, the University of Alaska, the Prince William Sound Oil Spill Recovery Institute, and the University of Rhode Island … and the goal is to better understand and better prepare for this not-too-distant Arctic future.

And this work is part of a larger joint program with industry to improve response capabilities and contingency plans for responding to Arctic spills.

It's a work in progress and it's going to take years, but the Office of Response and Restoration has identified key areas to focus on as part of an Arctic Preparedness and Response Strategy.

One of the big ticket items will be to put in place a better response capability in the region. Right now, response assets would have come from Anchorage and the lower 48 states, and that would equate to days or even weeks to get to the scene of a spill. And since it's such a huge area and is so remotely populated, the office is also looking at alternative response measures like using dispersants to break up and sink the oil before it does more damage or burning the oil in place to prevent it from spreading and damaging a bigger area.

Another task high on the list is to understand more about the environment in the Arctic Ocean, and how this will impact spills.

The problem is that while we know some things about oil behavior in cold water, we need to know more about how oil behaves in sea ice as it freezes and thaws … so Response and Restoration is beginning the process of conducting research with many different partners to figure out what types of technologies will work best to tackle spills in the region.

And unlike in the lower 48 and Alaska, where spill responders have detailed models, maps, and guidelines to tackle spills and help restore the environment, we just don't have this information for the Arctic…so NOAA is also focusing on gathering more data about what biological resources – what plants and animals – are most at risk, and where these resources are located. And, finally, researchers are working to develop better models to predict what will happen to pollutants and oil in such an extreme, cold environment, and this will be critical information for emergency responders in the area to know when spills happen.

You'll find a companion online story with lots of helpful links about NOAA's efforts to prepare for the future arctic in the Features section of the NOS website at oceanservice.noaa.gov. And you can learn more about the activities of the Office or Response and Restoration at response.restoration.noaa.gov.

(NGS SocioEconomic Study)
For 200 years, NOAA's National Geodetic Survey has been in the business of delivering exact position information. To do this, the NGS maintains what is known as the National Spatial Reference System.

This reference system is used for mapping, navigation, and charting. Think of it as a highly accurate web of coordinate points on land and in space defining latitude, longitude, height, scale, gravity, orientation, and even the location of shorelines throughout the U.S.

If you've ever used a hand-held GPS device or a navigation system in your car to help find your way, you've benefited from the National Spatial Reference System. But you've also benefited in ways you may not realize. The NSRS's collection of over 1.5 million positioning points and 1,300 Continuously Operating Reference Stations is critical for transportation, navigation, and communication systems; land record systems; mapping and charting efforts; and defense operations. Just how critical is it?

A new study by Leveson Consulting shows just how important this System is to the U.S. economy. Researchers looked at the total economic value of all revenue generated from private surveying and mapping as well as from related services in the government and non-profit sectors. They also measured the potential cost savings from improved accuracy of position and elevation data. And when they added it all up, they calculated a potential benefit to the economy of $2.4 billion dollars a year.

The study also finds that an additional $522 million in annual economic benefits could be generated by the implementation of a new vertical reference system allowing users to determine more precise elevations using GPS. Now let's talk just a bit about what this project is all about because it's really interesting.

While the Global Positioning System revolutionized the measurement of latitude and longitude—providing pinpoint coordinates anywhere on earth—there has not been a comparative leap in technology for height measurement. The new vertical reference system is designed to bridge this gap for the U.S. The project to create this system is called the Gravity for the Redefinition of the American Vertical Datum, or "GRAV-D," initiative.

GPS height measurements today are not very accurate because the system uses an oversimplified model of sea level to calculate height. Once completed, the new NGS model will permit fast and accurate height measurements within an accuracy range of two centimeters in the U.S – that's less than an inch. And this new model will be incorporated into future GPS receivers.

Project managers expect that the project, while costly upfront, will be cheaper in the long term since it will virtually eliminate the need for people to gauge heights by hand using land-based survey technology.

Improved elevation errors will have broad benefits, including improved floodplain mapping. These improvements could guide the placement of building structures and highways, help establish public safety requirements, and help determine locations of levees and evacuation routes. Approximately $240 million in costs could be saved annually just through improved floodplain management.

Well that's just a taste of what's in the new study – there's a lot more to it, and you can read the entire document online, and get a quick one-page overview of the study, at www.ngs.noaa.gov.

(CLOSING)

And of course you can also read the stories we discussed today online and get links to more information on the NOS Web site at oceanservice.noaa.gov.

And that's also where you head if you have any questions about this week's podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean. And if you want, you can also send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.

Let's bring in the ocean....

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.


NOAA Restoration Day 2009 (Episode 29)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/jun09/mw062409.mp3

Wed, 24 Jun 2009 09:07:39 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 29 (June 24, 2009)

(INTRO)

[SOUND OF TURTLE TRACKING]
That beep you hear is a radio receiver. Allison Castellan and Christa Rabenold are trying to find an Eastern box turtle fitted with a small radio transmitter. The turtle lives in Otter Point Creek along the Chesapeake Bay north of Baltimore. Because of urbanization, road building, and pet collection in the region, there aren't too many of these small reptiles left. So the two NOAA volunteers are helping out for the day with an ongoing study to track the range and populations of the turtles.

This isn't part of Alison and Christa's normal duties in the Office of Coastal Resource Management back at NOAA Headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. It's one of many activities of the sixth annual NOAA Restoration Day.

[SOUND OF GATHERING CROWDS AT THE BEGINNING OF THE EVENT]
Despite torrential rains and powerful thunderstorms, scores of NOAA employees joined up with state and local community volunteers on June 18th at locations in Maryland and Virginia for a day-long event to help out with activities ranging from weeding to planting underwater grass to tracking box turtles.

Today, we take you on-scene to Otter Point Creek.

It's Wednesday, July 8th, 2009, and those stories are coming up on this episode of Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.

(NOAA RESTORATION DAY)
Each year in June, hundreds of NOAA employees, along with state and local partners, get away from their offices for a day of hard work along the Chesapeake Bay. The volunteers tackle projects that help restore the Bay and surrounding areas to more healthy states.

Restoration Day 2009 was in two locations this year. The main restoration activities were held near Abington, Maryland at a place called Otter Point Creek, part of the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. And farther South, a smaller group gathered at First Landing State Park near Virginia Beach.

We caught up with Alison Hammer at Otter Point Creek the morning of the event after she finished getting all of the teams off to their working areas. Alison is the chief of the coastal resources assessment branch in the National Ocean Service's special projects office,. She was part of the NOAA team that started Restoration Day six years ago, and she's been in charge of putting it together every year since.

"This event is so popular that we have a waiting list. We went from the first event, probably was 50 people, and now we're at 150 here. Another the way the event has grown is now we have a complementary event in VA in another part of the Chesapeake Bay run by the NOAA Ch. Bay office down there, and there's 50 volunteers doing other activities at First Landing State Park (near Norfolk). So that's about 250 people if you think about, including all the partners and helpers we work with, all working together on one day for NOAA Restoration."

Alison said she was very happy with how many volunteers made it to the event, because the weather wasn't very cooperative this year.

"Today we woke up with a major thunderstorms and torrential downpours, we knew the weather looked like it was going to be rainy, but never saw rain like this before, so I am so pleased to see how many people did show up, and they are doing all the activities so far, except we probably will limit the canoeing around looking for native grasses underwater, because the water is cloudy from all the rain."

While teams won't be able to see much in the cloudy water, they will be planting new native underwater grasses that were actually grown indoors in 22 different NOAA offices over the past four months. She explains:

"So here we're planting two types: one is wild celery and one is water star grass, so it's more freshwater because we're North in the Bay. We'll plant them as seeds or little sprouts, and they grow for three months in the offices themselves. So we have a big tub with water filled up… we actually use kitty litter trays with soil and sand in it, and then it's filled with water in a big black tub, and it's all throughout our office buildings at NOAA, and it has a real positive effect, it's a real water cooler kind of thing – people come by and check and say 'oh these grasses are helping the Bay, and there's a learning component, so it's really useful for people to learn about it."

As we left Alison to get back to the task of keeping the ongoing activities flowing smoothly, we ran into Shauna Jay, park manager at Otter Point Creek's Anita C. Leight Estuary Center. We ducked inside to avoid a light drizzle to talk about the Center and the activities of the day.

"We're known as the best kept secret in Hartford County, one of three sites that make up the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve of Maryland… We sit on the Northern part of the Chesapeake Bay. We're owned and operated by Hartford County, but we have more than just a Parks and Recreation mission. We do research and monitoring … but we also do all kinds of fun environmental education, so we do canoeing, pontooning, kayaking, hiking, kids programs, summer camps – you name it we do it – just to get the community out to learn about the environment and Chesapeake Bay.

She gave us a quick rundown of the activities for the day:

"Well, today is a big restoration day, and as you know, centers like mine need lots and lots of help. We have about 75 active volunteers, but there's only so much we can do. So when NOAA offered to come out and have the restoration day here, I was excited because there's and endless amount of activities we need help with."

"So today folks are helping to repair a pond, it's a working pond that helps with the water quality in the Chesapeake, they are pulling out invasive plants, they are looking for trash and planting trees and searching for turtles, so they're learning a little bit about our telemetry program, which is some research we do here. They are working in my native gardens pulling weeds – bless you – in the rain. And there are a variety of other things too, so there are some NOAA-driven initiatives. They're looking for bench marks and burying bench marks, and all kinds of cool stuff."

Before we left Shauna to get back to work, we also asked her to explain one more thing: what exactly is an estuary, anyway?

"That's the number one question: what is an estuary? An estuary is a body of water where the river meets the sea, basically. So it's a bay, but not every bay is actually an estuary. So the Chesapeake Bay is an estuary and it meets the Atlantic ocean and all of the rivers over six states all come together and meet in one area, so an estuary is a brackish water environment, which means it's a mix of salt and fresh, which produces wonderful habitat for tons of species, so it's very, very species rich, and there are species that live in estuaries that don't live in salt water or in fresh water so it's its own unique habitat. They're very important buffers for the health of all our rivers and it's an amazing, amazing place where you find lots of wetlands."

Back outside, Eric Schwab, the Deputy Secretary of Maryland's Department of Natural Resources, was also on hand to volunteer for the day with restoration efforts. Since about half of Chesapeake Bay lies within the state of Maryland, the health and productivity of this giant estuary is one of the big focuses of the state. He said that while it would be preferable to be focus on conservation -- to help prevent problems from developing in the first place – most of the challenges faced by the Bay today are restoration challenges.

"It's restoring water quality, it's restoring important biological features like submerged grasses and oysters, and it's restoring populations of fish like shad that at one time migrated in and out of the Bay in great numbers and frankly today are represented by a fraction of their former selves. So a lot of the challenges are restoration challenges and those challenges move inland too. When you look at the Bay and many of its problems, you can't help but look at the impacts that have occurred terrestrially around the watershed, so going back and retrofitting things like parking lots, going back and restoring riparian buffers, going back and restoring the integrity of freshwater systems that feed the Bay, are important parts of this challenge as well."

He also talked about the importance of the Bay to the state and the region.

"Well when you look at Maryland, you can't help but think of anything but the Chesapeake Bay – I mean it is really, not only the physiographic center, but our cultural heart and soul, as well, And I think people in Maryland relate to the Bay in ways that probably environmentally very few other people around the country have the opportunity to connect with such an important natural feature. It's important to us economically, we still have tremendous seafood resources that come from the Bay, it's important to us socially and recreationally, as people flock to the Bay on a regular basis to boat and fish and swim. And we just take great pride in the Bay, we're a little sad at the condition we've allowed it to get into but we're bound and determined to correct that."

Correcting that – bringing the Bay back to a more healthy state – is also now a higher federal priority. In May, President Obama signed an executive order for protection and restoration of the Bay that lays out a new and larger federal role and leadership in this effort. NOAA's role in this will be to work with the Department of the Interior to develop three important reports: one on climate change and adaptation, one about the relationship of habitat and living resources in the area, and one that focuses on improving monitoring to help us get a system-wide perspective on the health of the bay. Once completed, these reports will be rolled in with reports about the Bay generated by other federal agencies, and all of this will be pieced together to form one unified strategy in partnership with the states to protect the Bay.

One of the main people involved in this new initiative is Sean Corson, deputy director of the NOAA Chesapeake Bay office. We spoke with Corson at the event about how an event like Restoration Day plays into the bigger picture about protecting the Bay:

"There's a clear recognition that we need to do more to benefit the health of the bay. A lot of that starts in small tributaries like the one we're on here today on Otter Point Creek. There's nearly 17 million people that live in this watershed, and they live in and around these little nooks and crannies that all drain down into the main stem of the bay, and many of our every day activities that are in our backyards, runoff from parking lots, and agricultural practices have a dramatic impact on the Bay every day. So efforts like this help connect people to what those impacts are and what we can do to correct them."

He added that he's found that most people who come to work for NOAA do so because they want to be involved in protection and restoration efforts, and because they're interested in environmental issues and want to get engaged. Restoration Day is one of the few chances each year that most employees get to connect with the work they're doing day in and day out.

"Every day, people work in a whole range of different scenarios, but they don't often get out and have a hands on experience we're they're really working on an actual restoration project where they can see the results of their labor at the end of the day. And this helps connect people to the reason why they're going to work every day. So I think that's important, in addition, the bay restoration effort has been going on for a long time and it's going to require federal and state and county initiatives – big programmatic initiatives – to get off the ground, but it's also going to rely heavily on just individual commitment. People need to come out here and spend the time to work in their back yard. Between those two, it's ultimately how we're going to provide the appropriate amount of protection for the Bay. "

Cora Johnson is one of the NOAA employees who braved the thunder and heavy rain to come out for the day. Cora is an administrative officer for the office of habitat conservation in the restoration center of NOAA's Marine Fisheries Office. She was assigned to a team that dove into the bushes and trees of a large native garden in front of Otter Point Creek's Anita C. Leight Estuary Center to pull out weeds and invasive species to clear the way for native plants to flourish. It was her first time taking part in Restoration Day.

"We found lots of interesting animals like spiders and crawling creatures. That's been interesting, but it's been real fun. I have a wonderful group that I'm working with. My job is mostly sitting at the desk pushing numbers, papers, and calling people on the phone. I wanted to come out and see what we are representing. The restoration center, their job is to restore things back to its natural state, so this is what we're doing to this land- we're restoring this garden to what it really looked like when they first created it. "

(CLOSING)
If you want to see some pictures taken at this year's Restoration Day at Otter Point Creek and get links to some of the offices and programs we talked about today, head over to our Web site at oceanservice.noaa.gov and check out our Weekly News section.

The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States and is one of the most productive bodies of water in the world. Otter Point Creek is one part of the Chesapeake Bay national estuarine research Reserve in Maryland, and it's one of 27 reserves that protect over 1.3 million acres of estuarine land around the country. It's called the National Estuarine Research Reserve System and it's managed by NOAA in partnership with coastal states. You can learn more at nerrs.noaa.gov.

We'd like to thank the many people who spoke with us for this episode.

And that's all for this week. If you questions about this week's podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, visit us online, or send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.

Now let's bring in the ocean....

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.


Interview with Marine Life Artist Wyland on New FOCUS Campaign (Episode 28)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/jun09/mw061009.mp3

Wed, 10 Jun 2009 09:03:58 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 28 (June 10, 2009)

(INTRO)
… Today, we’re going to talk about a new campaign that launches this week that will bring together students in communities around the country to learn about our waterways, forests and oceans through hands-on art projects and interactive science exhibits.

And to talk about the campaign, about the importance of conservation, and about how art and science can work together to inspire young people to protect our environment … we’re privileged to have a very special guest. Stay tuned to hear from world-renowned environmental marine life artist Wyland.

It's Wednesday, June 10th, and this is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service

(FOCUS)
This week’s podcast falls right in between two special days. On Monday, June 8th, the U.N. marked the first official observance of World Oceans Day. And on Saturday, June 13th, it’s National Get Outdoors Day, a new annual event to encourage people to get out of the house and enjoy the great outdoors.

Well, a new five-year campaign kicks off this week that ties these two themes together – it’s a project sponsored by the nonprofit Wyland Foundation, NOAA, the National Aquarium, and the U.S. Forest Service called FOCUS -- that’s short for Forests, Oceans, Climate and Us. The kickoff for the campaign is tomorrow, June 11th, on the National Mall in Washington D.C.

We recently spoke with Wyland on the phone at the offices of the Wyland Foundation in California.

You may know the work of the artist Wyland without even realizing it. For nearly three decades, he’s been painting larger-than-life, huge murals of whales and dolphins and other sea life on the sides of buildings, on walls, and on ceilings in cities all over the U.S.

And during this time, he’s has also been on a mission to bring art and science together at events around the world to teach young people the value of protecting and preserving the world’s oceans, waterways, and marine life. Here’s Wyland on the convergence between art and science, the focus of the new FOCUS campaign:

[Wyland] “You know there’s no greater reward than to see the kids getting the message, and using art and science together is so powerful. And the feedback I’m getting is that, not only from the kids but from the teachers, is that art is such a key aspect of creating citizens that think differently, that have a wider view if you will. And then when you bring the cause related elements in – the conservation piece -- it’s magic. And when it all comes together, when these kids all come together and paint their vision of clean water and healthy oceans, and beautiful forests that we need to protect, it’s a wonder, and it’s inspirational, not only for kids and the schools, but for everyone who sees the art that will be created in this FOCUS event. ”

At the kickoff event, hundreds of students from the DC area will join Wyland to paint murals that explore our watersheds from the forests to the sea and issues tied to climate change. Wyland said the project is about showing kids how important it is to protect our oceans, our forests, our air, and our waterways – and it’s about getting kids to understand how the water on our planet is what connects it all together …

[Wyland] “Well, the greatest thing about it is, this is a very creative way to engage young people with the message of clean water and conservation, and the timing couldn’t be better. The UN has proclaimed 2005-2015 a decade for water, water for life. And this is the very first time for NOAA and the US Forest Service to work together with our other conservation partners and bring the message of art and science in a very creative way. When you engage people on this level, and you use art and science, it makes an impression, and once that conservation message is implanted in the minds and hearts of young people, you’re creating youth ambassadors for the planet.”

[Wyland] “This is going to be a nationwide campaign, challenging all the schools, all the churches, all the organizations and museums to come together and take this challenge to paint the forests to the sea as a theme, and to focus on issues regarding water—the forests, the oceans, the reefs, and what’s going to happen here is you’re going to empower these kids to think creatively outside the box.”

The idea of using art and science to inspire kids to care about the environment is something that Wyland has been working on for many decades. He said his original inspiration was Jacques Costeau, whose underwater documentaries got him thinking at an early age about what he could do to help conservation of oceans and whales and marine life. He talked with us about what he hopes to accomplish with his art:

[Wyland] “I hope to use my art to inspire people in kind of a creative way to get involved, to use their art to bring the message, and science has always been critical in everything I do. By working with scientists like Dr. Sylvia Earle and Bob Ballard and Eugenie Clark and all these great scientists, the idea is that I can take all that knowledge and share it forward with young people, and that’s what we really need to do, that’s, I think, our mission as a nation, to share what we know with young people. If you’re going to create a sea change, if you’re going to create an environmental renaissance in the 21st century, you got to get young people involved, because they’re the future and if you spend any amount of time with kids like I do, I’ve painted with over a million kids in the last 30 years, you understand their passion in protecting the environment and the water issue is going to be one of the most critical and important issues of our day, of this entire century. So we need to get in front of it and I believe art is the one element that can really engage people in a way that makes a lasting impression.”

In addition to falling between World Oceans Day and National Get Outdoors Day, the June 11th kickoff event in the Nation’s capital also happens to be the birthday of Jacques Costeau … and Wyland, said, it also marks the beginning of a special partnership:

[Wyland] “Ironically, on June 11th, that’s Jacques Costeau’s birthday, so we celebrate Capt. Costeau, and this is really historic in that these two groups, it’s the very first time. Usually NOAA focuses on oceans and water issues, and Foresty, of course, focuses on forests, but they also have always been focused on water because to have a healthy forest you’ve got to have pure water. The critical thing here is, clean water and healthy oceans are not only important to forests, fish, and animals, they’re important to us. They’re tied directly to our health.”

[Wyland] “In the last century, groups like the Costeau society and Greenpeace and other groups, you know they would go out and do their campaigns, but in this century it’s all about partnering together, it’s all about conservation partners and government, and other organizations working together for the big picture. The big picture is that we’re all connected by the environment, our environment, and water connects all the people in all the countries of the world and we need to protect every drop. So this is really exciting to see the Forest Service coming together with NOAA and our other conservation partners in an effort to creatively share the message of conservation with kids throughout the nation – I’m very excited and very honored to be part of it.”

Once again, the campaign is called FOCUS - Forests, Oceans, Climate and Us. The kickoff for the campaign is tomorrow, June 11th, at the People’s Garden on the National Mall in Washington D.C. The FOCUS program centers around bringing together kids to paint community murals with Wyland, but that’s not all. There’s also an exhibit called Water’s Extreme Journey -- a 1000 square foot interactive watershed maze -- and a mobile learning center called the Clean Water Challenge. And participants will learn about cutting edge science with experts from NOAA and the U.S. Forest Service. And if you want to bring a FOCUS event to your community, you can contact the Wyland Foundation at 858-212-9587.

(OUTRO)
Special thanks to environmental marine life artist Wyland for taking the time to speak with us. Let’s leave Wyland with the last word:

[Wyland] “You know you can’t do everything, but what you can do is focus on what will have the biggest impact. What the Wyland Foundation felt was that by kids united for conservation through art and science, that that would leave a legacy that would last for generations. And with our conservation partners, and the beautiful U.S. Forest Service who are doing a wonderful job, and NOAA, who I’ve worked with for many years, and all the aquariums and science centers – we could have a huge impact here with this FOCUS program for many years to come.”

Surf over to our Web site for links to more information about the FOCUS campaign. We’re at oceanservice.noaa.gov.

That’s all for this episode. If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.

Let’s bring in the ocean....

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service. See you next week.


National Ocean Service Hurricane Response (Episode 27)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/may09/mw052709.mp3

Wed, 27 May 2009 08:52:05 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 27 (May 27, 2009)

(INTRO)
… It’s the end of May, and for NOAA that means the hurricane season is about to begin. Most people know that NOAA’s National Weather Service plays a central role when hurricanes threaten our coasts…but what role does the National Ocean Service play? You might be surprised…

It's Wednesday, May 27th, 2009, and that’s coming up on this episode of Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.

(HURRICANE SEASON)
We’ll start off today with a synopsis of this season’s hurricane predictions for the Pacific and the Atlantic that NOAA issued last week.

For the Atlantic, the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center says that global weather patterns are imposing a greater uncertainty in the 2009 hurricane season than in recent years. Forecasters predict a fifty percent probability of a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season for the period between June and November. What about the other fifty percent? Well, there’s a 25 percent probability of an above-normal season, and a 25 percent probability of a below-normal season. And there’s a 70 percent chance of having between nine and 14 named storms, of which four to seven could become hurricanes … and of those, one to three could become big Category 3,4, or 5 hurricanes.

For the Pacific, NOAA’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center says that projected climate predictions point to an 80 percent chance of a near to below normal season in the Central Pacific Basin…and a 20 percent chance of an above-normal season. An average season has four to five tropical cyclones, which includes tropical cyclones, tropical storms, and hurricanes. Climate patterns similar to those predicted this year have historically produced a wide range of activity, and allowing for these uncertainties, three to five tropical cyclones are expected in the central Pacific during the 2009 season.

So that’s the big picture outlook for the year. It’s important to note that these predictions don’t project where and when any future storm may hit – and regardless of what the forecasts predict, the main thing to keep in mind is that if you live in an area where hurricanes happen, it’s time to start thinking about preparation and preparedness. There’s a lot more to these seasonal outlooks…I’ve only touched on the highlights, so surf over to www.NOAA.gov to get the full picture.

(NOS ROLE: HURRICANE SEASON)
The 2009 hurricane season outlook is a good time to talk about the National Ocean Service’s part in all of this. A lot of people don’t know this, but the NOS plays a major role in hurricane response before hurricanes hit the coast, when they hit, and long after the storms pass. Now, I’m going to be giving you a bunch of different web addresses in this report, but don’t worry about writing the URLs down. You can get all the links on our website at oceanservice.noaa.gov. So let’s begin.

One critical service the NOS provides is near real-time ocean and weather observations at locations affected by tropical storms from the National Water Level Observation Network. This network is made up over 200 stations around the country that continuously monitor water levels. And I want to highlight one component of this network particularly relevant to the discussion about hurricanes. Last year, NOS completed constructing four "Sentinels of the Coast." These hardened structures are positioned out in the ocean in the Gulf of Mexico to collect and send out real-time water level and weather observations – and they are made tough. They’re designed to withstand wind and wave action from category four hurricanes so they can keep gathering water and weather data even in the harshest conditions. Why is this important? Well, as we all know, during coastal storms, water levels can rise to flood levels. So it’s of course good to know and predict how high these water levels are going to get. This kind of storm-surge information is critical for emergency preparedness. Louisiana, for example, depends on this information because the state is highly susceptible to many natural hazards like hurricanes and storm-surge flooding. Well, the St. Charles Parish Water Level Monitoring System, a NOAA observing system partner in the Gulf region, provides near real-time water data to decision makers in the parish's Emergency Operations Center during storms. Emergency managers use this to get a clearer picture of storm-surge flooding areas, and that’s key in decision-making regarding evacuation routes, opening and closing of locks and dams, and when to make public warnings.

And if you’re wondering if you can see the data collected from the National Water Level Observation Network, yes you can. It’s all at tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov. And while you’re there, you may want to check out an important product created from the data collected by the network … it’s called the Storm QuickLook. And as the name suggests, when a tropical storm forms, the QuickLook provides a real-time view of a storm’s impacts on coastal storm water levels, winds, and barometric levels. It’s mostly used as decision support tool by Federal, State and local emergency managers to assist evacuation and road closing decisions, but you too can see the data to monitor and prepare for storm conditions. QuickLook reports start coming out after the National Hurricane Center identifies a tropical system. The first of the reports arrive about 24-48 hours before a storm is projected to make landfall, and they continue to come out until the coastal impacts of the storm have receded, sometimes well after the storm has passed.

The report also provides details about the storm tide associated with the storm, which is the sum of the surge of the water because of the storm, the astronomical tides, and any pre-storm high water level conditions. And if you consider that most people in the U.S. live along the coast in places less than 10 feet above sea level, you can see why this is good info to know. Storm tides are the number one cause of storm damage. The National Water Level Observation Network and everything we just talked about is from NOS’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services. And you can find out more at tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov.

Now let’s look at what’s going on after a storm hits. In addition the continuing monitoring of water level and weather observations we just talked about, the NOS also plays a lead role in navigational surveys, aerial photography surveys, and hazardous spill response.

Let’s take a look at navigational surveys first. After a hurricane strikes, the Office of Coast Survey dispatches emergency Navigation Response Teams to the site to help get ports and waterways back open as fast as possible. They use sonar and divers to check for obstructions and hazards to navigation. This work is critical – not only does it help get our waterways and ports flowing again so supplies can get to the people who need them in these areas, it also helps to get commerce back up and running in the region. And while these teams are out doing their work, they’re also collecting data that they’ll use to update navigational charts for the area that mariners rely on. And you can get nautical charts online, for free at www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov.

Next up, let’s talk about aerial surveys. Many people don’t know this, but the ocean service begins flying survey missions to take pictures of coastal areas hit by a hurricane just days after the storm strikes. This service is provided by the National Geodetic Survey. To give you an idea how it works, let’s look back at a hurricane we all know about, Katrina. The day after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey began flying photo survey missions to assess damage. The NGS then made the photographs available on the internet to help those most affected by the hurricane determine if their homes, businesses, and properties had been damaged or destroyed. Nearly five million photos were downloaded daily from NOAA Web sites in a one-week period after Katrina. Companies like Google Earth, GlobeXplorer, and Telascience integrated the imagery into their Web service. Insurance companies also began using the photos to help resolve claims. The oil and gas industry used the images to speed rebuilding its facilities. In total, over 8,300 images were taken during these missions. And as with most of the products and services we’re talking about today, you can see the photos taken after Katrina and following major storms up through the end of last year’s hurricane season online at ngs.woc.noaa.gov/eri_page/.

And finally, the NOS Office of Response and Restoration plays a major role after a hurricane hits by responding to hazardous material spills. Staff from this office work with partners – the main partner is the U.S. Coast Guard -- to survey vessels, pipelines, wells, or containers that may be leaking hazardous fuel, oil, or chemicals. And they fly on missions to locate and track offshore sources of spills. This data is combined with current weather and water conditions to develop computer models to help predict spill movement and to figure out where the greatest pollution threats are likely to occur. Added to this, the office lends a hand with vessel salvage, shoreline cleanup, and helping to understand how spills will affect natural resources in the region. And the office’s team of scientist and economists also assess the injuries done to natural resources caused by hazardous spills, grounding and debris. Response and Restoration then works with other agencies and industry to expedite restoration … and that’s good for the natural resources that were injured, and for the people that live in the area.

Last but not least, the office is responsible for mapping and surveying marine debris. If you’ve seen photos of the unbelievable amount of trash and debris along the coasts following a major hurricane, you know that this is a huge task. I want to highlight one area specifically, the Gulf of Mexico. As you probably know, this is one of the main areas affected by hurricanes in the U.S. and it’s been a major focus of response and restoration activities for many years. If you live in the Gulf Region, be sure to check out gulfofmexico.marinedebris.noaa.gov. This will give you a good idea of the extent of marine debris in this region from the hurricanes that have hit the region over the past three years, and it points to other resources to get Gulf storm information. It’s a great resource. And speaking of the Gulf, Response and Restoration is also leading the development of a new 15,000 square foot hurricane-hardened Disaster Response Center in Mobile, Alabama, that is slated to open in 2011. Given how vulnerable this region is to hurricanes, the new center is going to be a huge step forward in coordinated emergency management when future storms hit. We’ll have more on that in the future once construction is completed. If you’re looking for more information on the many tasks handled by the Office of Response and Restoration, you can start your journey at response.restoration.noaa.gov.

So the Ocean Service plays a big role in the immediate aftermath of a hurricane, but the work doesn’t stop there. For weeks, months, and even years after a hurricane hits the shores, the work continues to better understand the effect of the hurricane, in recovery planning, and in monitoring the effects of contaminants released from the storm on the environment.

Let’s start by looking at activities of the NOAA Coastal Services Center. Long after a storm strikes, there are many big questions that need answered. What is the economic impact of the storm? What’s the ecological impact, or the cost to the environment? Where is the debris concentrated? How much wetlands were lost? Coastal Services Center experts help answer these questions by crunching data, and generating maps and detailed reports. These products can include everything from aerial imagery of the affected region before and after the storm, digital elevation data to measure how the coastline has changed as a result of the storm, to long-term recovery plans. It’s all rolled into what the Coastal Services Center calls the ‘Digital Coast,’ and you can learn more atwww.csc.noaa.gov/digitalcoast. There’s a lot to Digital Coast, and the tools available cover much, much more than long-term hurricane response. But I want to highlight one very cool hurricane-related product produced by this office. It’s called the online Historical Hurricane Tracks. This tool helps get a quick picture of coastal areas with the greatest frequency of hurricanes and tropical storms—and that historical “snapshot” can help community members and local emergency managers develop better plans for storm preparation and recovery.

But the Coastal Services Center isn’t the only office with long-term recovery planning duties. The NOS Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management is also involved in the effort. And this office is also especially involved with decision making before storms hit -- through a program called NOAA Coastal Zone Management. The CZM program works with states to help coastal communities decide things like where to place buildings and roads to reduce loss of life and property from storms. In Texas, for example, CZM funding is helping the state map hazardous areas throughout the Texas coastal zone to identify places that are especially vulnerable to hurricanes.

The final office we’re going to talk about today is NOAA’s National Status and Trends program, part of the NOS National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science. We’ve talked about the impact to the environment, to commerce, and to our coastlines…but what about the long-term effect of the contaminants released during a hurricane on our coastal waters and estuaries? Or what about human health risks from eating fish and shellfish in the area? That’s the main concern of this program. Even after the big fuel, oil, and other chemical spills are cleaned up after a hurricane, contamination can still be a big problem for many years. National Status and Trends experts are key to figuring out how big the problem is, not only in hurricane-ravaged areas, but in coastal waters and estuaries around the country. They do the job by monitoring sediments, tissues of shellfish like oysters, and by sampling the water…and they’ve been doing this for decades. In fact, it’s the only long-term coastal and estuary contaminant monitoring effort in the US. Because they have so many years of data from sites around the country, they have a window over time to the contaminant levels in many, many areas. As you can imagine, this comes in handy when trying to figure out the impact of contaminants following a hurricane.

As is the case for all the NOS teams involved in dealing with the hurricane response, sometimes getting the job done isn’t easy. Let me give you an example. After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, two NOAA scientists from the NOAA’s Mussel Watch program, part of National Status and Trends, headed out to collect oysters to answer key questions about water quality. No one knew if the force and damage of the hurricanes had led to chemical or biological contamination, or if the contamination was bad enough to threaten human health. They couldn’t get to the site by car, so they ended up catching a ride on two boats in the area to reach sampling areas in devastated areas like the collapsed Biloxi Bay Bridge. At the bridge, the team waded into the space underneath collapsed concrete sections and began scraping for oyster samples. Luckily, tests on the samples they collected there and around the area showed that while contamination was elevated in some places, it was not imminently dangerous to the local population.

You might wonder why oysters and mussels are sampled. That’s because these shellfish are filter feeders, meaning they get their food by filtering water through their bodies. And this makes them ideal specimens to test for contaminants...because everything in the water around their homes – including nasty stuff like pesticides, herbicides, and other human pathogens -- collects in their tissues. I’m going to give you the link now to National Status and Trends, but I’ll warn you that it’s a long one: ccma.nos.noaa.gov/about/coast/nsandt/.


New PORTS Station Opens in Lake Charles, Louisiana (Episode 26)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/may09/mw051309.mp3

Wed, 13 May 2009 07:49:38 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 26 (May 13, 2009)

(INTRO)
… As of last week, there are now 19 Physical Oceanographic Real-Time Systems located at busy ports around the nation. The latest system is now up and running in the Port of Lake Charles, Louisiana. So what do these 19 Physical Oceanographic Real-Time Systems do? We talk with the manager of the program to find out. (Those systems are called 'PORTS' for short, by the way…)

It's Wednesday, May 13th, 2009, and this is the PORTS episode of Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.

(PORTS)
Here's something to ponder. Our marine highways carry more than three-quarters of all U.S. goods and supplies. While most of us never think of all of the ships and barges coming in and out of our busy ports every day, this activity affects all of us. When you fuel up your car, that fuel was carried at some point by a ship. Gone shopping lately? Many of your groceries and the clothes you buy…most of the items you depend on, in fact…they got to your store thanks, in part, to the vast watery network of our marine transportation system.
So how do you help keep ships safe as they flow in and out of our ports? How do you keep them from running aground or running into each other? How can you help make the shipping industry more efficient? Well, Darren Wright, the program manager for the Physical Oceanographic Real-Time Systems program, thinks about this kind of stuff all the time. To get what the PORTS program does and why it's so important, it helps to first get an idea of some of the challenges faced by mariners today. Wright explains:

[WRIGHT] "In a lot of cases, you have 40 foot channels. And a lot of times, the vessels draft is 38 feet. And then you have a channel that's maybe 125 feet wide, and you have a vessel that's 100 feet wide. So you're bringing these incredibly large vessels in these narrow channels. And on top of that, you have one of these coming in one after another. In addition to that, you have recreational boaters, and you have sail boaters. Especially if you get a nice day on the Chesapeake Bay, you see a sea of sails out there. Now try to bring a large container vessel in when you have all that traffic going on. So there really is a lot going on in these ports that people may not realize."

And while the network of ships and barges flowing in and out of our ports is huge today, it's expected to double or even triple by 2020. And ships are getting bigger and bigger. Today, some ships can draw up to 60 feet of water – that's like having a five-story building under the waves. And don't forget that all of those ships and barges are sharing our waterways and ports with over 78 million recreational boaters.
Now that you hopefully have a picture in your head of all the activity going on in our watery, let's talk PORTS. We'll start off with the basics – what is a PORTS system? Well, what's going on in a busy port is sort of like what's going on at a busy airport. Just as aircraft flying in and around an airport need current weather and ground conditions, ships coming into port need to know exactly what's going on in the water and in the air in real-time. That what ports does. With the addition of the new system at Lake Charles, Louisiana, PORTS provides this information to 50 ports around the country through the 19 PORTS systems. Wright explains:

[WRIGHT] "Basically what it is, it's a real-time system where we can provide the mariner – and it doesn't have to be just the big shipping vessels – but any mariner in the local area – with real-time water-level or tide data and weather data. We offer wind, barometric pressure, air temperature, water temperature, and that sort of thing. We provide current data – current meter data – so you know what the currents are doing as you're coming up the channel, or if you're out recreational boating and you want to know what the currents are doing in a certain area so you don't get stuck. We also offer salinity information. That can be important to the shipping companies because it helps determine what the buoyancy of the water is."

This stream of real-time data is freely available on the internet for mariners -- or for anyone at all who wants it – and by telephone so ship pilots can dial up conditions wherever and whenever they need it. The different types of information monitored by PORTS are critically important to know. Wright mentioned buoyancy. Well, you might think that the salt content of the ocean at a port would pretty much stay the same. But it actually changes all the time. And if you're piloting a cargo ship, knowing that salt level along with current patterns, weather, and channel depth will factor in to how much cargo you can load onboard while still being able to get safely out through the channel. Or imagine you're steering a giant freighter into a port and you need to know if you can fit under a bridge. PORTS can help there, too.

[WRIGHT] "We also offer a sensor called ‘air gap,' where we install a sensor at the base of a bridge. Believe it or not, there are some vessels big enough these days that they're coming close to hitting bridges. Most vessels know what their air clearance is, which is the clearance from the base of their vessel to the top of the vessel. Now if you know what the clearance is under the bridge and you know what your clearance is, you'll know if you'll be able to fit under the bridge or not."

[WRIGHT] So small sensors — like the air gap device that fits under a bridge or the device that measure salt levels mdash; are examples of the pieces that make up PORTS. Each place where this system is installed is unique. For one port, there might be hundreds of different kinds of sensors measuring conditions below, on, and above the water. Wright said that the configuration of these sensors — which kinds of sensors and where they're located — is customized. In other words, PORTS is offered up a la carte.

[WRIGHT] "PORTS vary across the country. We have 19 PORTS systems in play now. Each one of them is a different size. Basically, we go into an area, we sit down with users or mariners in that area and we have a requirements meeting. So, where do you need information? So it's kind of a piece-meal system where you pick the type of sensor you want and the information you want and the location that you want, and we'll install a sensor there and put together a system based on user requirements. Now, our smallest PORTS system is one water level sensor. And our largest one is the Chesapeake Bay which has hundreds of sensors."

While there are other systems out there that measure tides and currents and other information, Wright said that many of these systems are for research or run by universities, and their primary job is to collect data for a specific purpose … and that's usually not related to shipping and navigation. PORTS, on the other hand, is specifically designed for mariners. The sensors go exactly where the mariners need them and the types of sensors are exactly what the mariners in a given port ask for. And, Wright added, the data provided by the PORTS system is also extremely accurate and reliable.

[WRIGHT] "NOAA stands behind all the data. We have a 24-7 quality control group who is monitoring the data from all these control sensors 24-7. If they see any bad data coming in, it's flagged and dissemination is shut off so very little amount of bad data ever gets out the door. Pilots and users of this data have come to rely on that. They're using this data to make important decisions on whether to send a vessel out or not, whether or not to bring a vessel in or not."

Those decisions are important not only for safety reasons, but PORTS data can also be used to save a lot of money. Wright said that the Mobile, Alabama, PORTS system is a good example of the potential benefits of the system.

[WRIGHT] "In 2007, in December, the port of Mobile had a PORTS system installed. A brand new one just like Lake Charles yesterday. Three weeks after that system was installed, I got a nice letter from shipping company that said: in the first three weeks of this system being installed, they avoided a grounding in one situation where they would have brought a vessel in without having that real-time information. They would have definitely grounded. And then another situation: they would have held a ship up if they didn't have that real-time information for safety reasons … but since they did – there was a high-water event going on, they knew they had that extra foot, foot-and-a-half of water, they brought a vessel in and they brought it in safely. So there's one situation where you would have had a grounding, and another situation where you saved a lot of money by bringing a vessel in that you normally wouldn't have brought in."

While Wright said that it's too early to know what the economic benefits of the Lake Charles system might be, he pointed to an earlier study of two older PORTS in Houston-Galveston and Tampa Bay. That study showed that the number of groundings at both locations went down by 50 percent after the PORTS system was installed…and the economic benefit realized by both of the ports using the system was estimated to be between 7-16 million dollars each year. As for Lake Charles, Wright said that a single oil spill in 2006 that shut down the narrow channel going into the Lake Charles port for nine days shows the potential economic cost of losing this one port for just a little over a week.

[WRIGHT] "Well, just the result of that one port being closed for that nine days, the price of gas went up 20 cents; the price of natural gas went up 58 cents. And it cost consumers about one billion dollars, just having that one port, that one channel down, for nine days. Now we bring oil in at many other different places, too, but this is just one example of why it's very important to keep this particular one up and running."

While it's pretty clear that PORTS can save time and money, it's equally important to note that preventing a grounding can also mean the difference between a safe journey and a big oil spill or other environmental disaster. But when bad things do happen such as spills or accidents where the Coast Guard is called in, Wright said that the real-time data provided by PORTS can be essential.

[WRIGHT] "The PORTS data can also be used for search and rescue type stuff, like the Coast Guard. If you know what the winds are doing and what the currents are doing, and you have a distress call from a vessel that lost power…if you have that information at hand, you have a much better idea of where that vessels going to end up. Also, with hazards such as oil spills, we talked about avoiding collisions and oil spills, and that's the primary goal of PORTS. But you can also use PORTS data after the spill. Again, if you know what the currents are doing and what direction the currents are going, what direction that winds are blowing the water, you're going to have a much better idea of which way that spills going to go."

(CLOSING)
Well that's just a small sample of what PORTS is all about. If you'd like to learn more about the Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System, surf over to tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov. There, you'll find a list of all the different ports in the U.S. using the PORTS system — as we said, there are 19 ports now…and that number is sure to grow. And while you're on the site, don't forget to check out the real-time conditions around the Port of Lake Charles!

Special thanks to Darren Wright, PORTS program manager with the ocean service's Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services, for taking the time to talk about this program.

That's all for this episode. If you have any questions about this week's podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov. And don't forget that you can get the latest news and information about the NOS at oceanservice.noaa.gov.

Now let's bring in the ocean....

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. We'll be back with our next episode on May 27th.


EstuaryLive; Where exactly is Four Corners? (Episode 25)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/apr09/mw42909.mp3

Wed, 29 Apr 2009 09:53:25 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 25 (April 29, 2009)

(INTRO)
… Interested in a virtual field trip to one of four estuaries around the country next month? We'll tell you how you can participate.
… And where exactly is the point called 'Four Corners', the only place in the U.S. where four states meet up? It's exactly where it's supposed to be.

It's Wednesday, April 29th, 2009, and those stories are coming up today on Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.

(ESTUARY LIVE)
Our first story today is about a really cool program called EstuaryLive. Each year since 2001, NOAA and the National Estuarine Research Reserve System host a series of live Web casts from estuaries around the country with a different theme each year. You can think of it as a virtual field trip.

This year, thousands of elementary, middle and high school students will join scientists in the marshes and bays of four estuaries to learn about the impacts of climate change on the nation's coasts.

The dates for the broadcasts this year are May 1st and 15th, and I'll give you some more details about where to go to learn more in just a minute.

But first, what exactly is an estuary? Well, it's the place where fresh water meets the sea. Estuaries are popular places for animals, birds, and fish… these bodies of waters and surrounding wetlands are sources of food, a place to breed, and migration stopovers. And estuaries are pretty important to humans too. We rely on these areas for food as well, and for recreation, jobs, and to protect our coast from ocean storms and erosion. We humans also like to build cities on estuaries – of the 32 largest cities in the world, 22 are located on estuaries!

The estuaries featured in the EstuaryLive broadcast are part of the National Estuarine Research Reserve system, a partnership between NOAA and coastal states. These special areas form a protected network of estuaries around the country covering over one million acres of land and water.

This year's Webcast will consist of two 30-minute segments from three reserves on May 1st. Those three reserves are the Hudson River Reserve in New York, South Slough [slew] Reserve in Oregon, and Padilla Bay Reserve in Washington. And on May 15th, the Webcast will focus on Weeks Bay Reserve in Alabama.

During the broadcasts, scientists at the reserves will talk about subjects ranging from the animals and plants that live in their estuary to the physical dynamics of tides and rivers and the mingling of fresh and salt water. And as we mentioned, this year's special focus area is climate change, so they'll also discuss topics like rising sea level and warming water temperatures.

While there'll be some students actually on location at the different reserves, most students will participate over the Internet. Students can e-mail questions to the scientists, who will answer on air or by e-mail after the presentation. And all of the programs will be archived on the Web for later viewing if you miss it – and that goes for the upcoming broadcasts and all past EstuaryLive programs. The place to go to check out the archive, and to register for the EstuaryLive program is www.estuaries.gov.

And while you're at estuaries.gov, you'll notice that EstuariesLive is just one of many resources on the site for students, teachers, and for anyone interested in learning more about estuaries. In addition to videos, you'll find complete classroom curricula, quizzes, an educational game and many other resources. It's a fantastic site, so be sure to check it out. Again, the place to go is www.estuaries.gov. And if you like audio podcasts, which I'm hoping you do if you're listening to this… you can hear an extended interview with estuary experts in the May 22 edition of Diving Deeper, the sister podcast of Making Waves. And that's at oceanservice.noaa.gov.

(FOUR CORNERS)
You might have caught a story in the news this past week about the Four Corners, the only place in the U.S. where four states meet up…Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah. Well, there was some confusion over the position of a monument at Four Corners that marks the spot where the four states meet. Some reports claimed that the position of this marker was off by two and a half miles. Well, it isn't. In fact, it's exactly where it's supposed to be.

So here's the problem: there's a widely held misperception that the boundary between Colorado and Utah – the line of longitude – is 109 degrees West from Greenwich, England. As you might remember from your school days, longitude lines are the ones that stretch from the North to South poles.

Greenwich, England is where the Prime Meridian is. It's zero degrees, the reference point from which everyone today measures how far East or West they are. Note that I said 'everyone today' has adopted Greenwich as the Prime Meridian. It hasn't always been that way, as you're about to find out.

Now imagine you trek out to the desert to visit Four Corners with a handheld GPS receiver. At the site, you check your position. You expect it to read 109 degrees West. But it doesn't. It reads 109 degrees plus a little more. What gives? Well, it turns out that the boundary between Colorado and Utah – the line of longitude - wasn't measured from Greenwich when it was recorded back in the 19th century. And it's not – and never has been – at 109 degrees West.

We asked Chief Geodetic Surveyor Dave Doyle of NOAA's National Geodetic Survey to explain:

[Doyle] "The reality is that that was never the definition of the Western boundary of Colorado, [or] the Eastern boundary of Utah. It's actually defined as being 32 degrees longitude West of the Washington meridian, Washington referring to the city of Washington, DC. And the meridian referenced in that statute is now what we refer to as the Old Naval Observatory, in downtown Washington, DC. The Old Naval Observatory has a longitude that is not exactly 77 degrees West of Greenwich. It's 77 degrees, three minutes, and, depending on how you define it, four -- almost five -- seconds. So when you add 32 degrees to that, you should come up with 109 degrees, three minutes, and roughly five seconds. And that three minutes and five seconds of longitude is roughly two and a half miles. And that's where we believe the original discrepancy came from. Someone believed it should be 109 degrees longitude, when that was never how it was statutorily defined."

And this is where the misunderstanding comes from. The longitude of the position of the Four Corners monument is based on a measurement taken in 1875, and the reference point used was in Washington, DC. This was before the Prime Meridian was adopted as the standard of measurement by the whole world.

[Doyle] "It was very common at that time for countries or small groups of countries to have their own local longitude orientation. So the French had the Paris Observatory, the British used Greenwich, the Germans used Potsdam…and on and on. So we had our own national meridian."

Now, if you use today's modern tools to measure that distance from the Old Naval Observatory to the Four Corners boundary, you would find that the position of the monument is off just a bit, somewhere between 1350 and 1800 feet. That discrepancy is because the tools used in 1875 were not as accurate. And, to a lesser degree, there's also a slight variation depending on where and how you measure from the Old Naval Observatory. Doyle said that this is a common, everyday issue in the world of surveying:

[Doyle] "Many, many, many of the parcels that everybody occupies everyday are defined by descriptions, that is directions and distances, that in some cases go back several hundred years, and were measured with technologies 200 years ago that were in no way comparable to current technologies. So, it's not at all unusual to find distance, or direction or, in this case, a coordinate that is in some cases, significantly different if we had been given the luxury 200 years ago of doing this with contemporary technology such as the Global Positioning System."

So now you might be saying to yourself, 'Aha, so the monument isn't in the right spot after all.' But actually it is. And this is the last piece of the puzzle. Even though the marker is not exactly 32 degrees West of the Naval Observatory when measured with today's tools, that's now irrelevant. And that's because the four states that make up the Four Corners all agreed long ago that the monument, well, marks the spot. This is what's important to keep in mind about surveying: it's about precision and science, but it's also about history and statutory law. Doyle said that the original 1875 surveyor, a man named Chandler Robbins, got it right. The Four Corners monument is exactly where it's supposed to be:

"It's in its true location. It's exactly where the surveyor at the time placed it. Given the technology that he enjoyed, given the conditions that he had to work under, Mr. Robbins placed that monument exactly where he was directed to, which was 32 degrees West of the meridian of Washington. What he lacked was the contemporary surveying technology that we have today. So in his mind, and based upon all of his observations, and his calculations, he placed the monument exactly 32 degrees longitude West of the Naval Observatory. And that is exactly where it should be, even though its numerical difference today might differ by 1800 feet, or perhaps even if it were two and a half miles, it would become irrelevant, because the monument has subsequently been accepted by all four states as defining the legal boundary, and therefore, it is the monument of record, and in surveying monuments control."

(CLOSING)
Special thanks to Dave Doyle of the National Geodetic Survey for helping us to sort this out. If you'd like to learn more about geodetic control monuments (better known as bench marks), how geodetic surveying is done today, or about the other roles and missions of the National Geodetic Survey, head over to geodesy.noaa.gov.

And let's give Dave Doyle the last word today on this story...

[Doyle] "Certainly it's been interesting to deal with this issue. And what we're really hopeful for at the NGS - the National Geodetic Survey -- is that this will inspire others to take a little bit more interest in geography and spatial relationships, and perhaps investigate some of the work that's being done by, not only NOAA and the National Geodetic Survey, but in many other institutions around the country and around the world."

That's all for this episode. If you have any questions about this week's podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.

Let's bring in the ocean....

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. We'll be back with our next episode on May 13th.


Bay Hydro II Joins the NOAA Fleet; Tropical Fungus Range Expands into Northern Waters (Episode 24)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/apr09/mw41509.mp3

Wed, 15 Apr 2009 18:40:04 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 24 (April 15, 2009)

(Introduction)

...Meet the Bay Hydro II, the newest addition to NOAA's fleet
...And a new report documents the first cases of a tropical fungal skin infection on bottlenose dolphins in the coastal waters of North Carolina

It's Wednesday, April 15th. Those stories are coming up today on Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service...

(Bay Hydro)

If you were in Baltimore's Inner Harbor today, you might have caught a glimpse of a new state-of-the-art research vessel named Bay Hydro II, the newest addition to NOAA's fleet.

The vessel was in the harbor for a traditional dedication, sort of a nautical welcome to the fleet - complete with the traditional breaking of a champagne bottle and a cannon salute from the USS Constellation, the last all sail warship built by the U.S. Navy.

It's mission: to collect oceanographic data in the Chesapeake Bay region to help ensure safe navigation and to help protect the environment in our nation's largest estuary.

You can think of Bay Hydro II as NOAA's eyes to the seafloor of the Chesapeake Bay. Information collected by the vessel will be used to update NOAA nautical charts and help coastal managers, biologists, planners and policymakers better understand the Chesapeake Bay.

It's a pretty important mission. The Chesapeake Bay's shoreline (including its islands and tidal wetlands) is over 11,600 miles -- more shoreline than the west coast of the United States.

And it's a major transportation artery in the U.S. It's home to four of the nation's busiest commercial seaports in cargo volume...do you know what four? I'll tell you at the end of the podcast. It's a trivia question.

Bay Hydro II will also serve as a hydrographic emergency response unit in the Chesapeake, equipped to provide emergency survey assistance following an Atlantic hurricane or shipping accident that threatens the normal flow of maritime commerce. That helps to minimize delays in shipping, which costs the economy billions of dollars each year - and, of course, getting the shipping lanes open means that supplies can get to hard-hit regions.

The Bay Hydro II joins NOAA's hydrographic fleet of three large NOAA survey ships and six mobile navigation response boats. And you might be wondering what hydrography is...well I'll tell you.

Here's the textbook answer: Hydrography is the science that deals with the measurement and description of the physical features of bodies of water and the land areas that are affected by those bodies of water.

What's important to know about hydrography is what it does for us: hydrographic surveys are used to support nautical charting, port and harbor maintenance (for things like dredging), coastal engineering (for controlling beach erosion, for example), coastal zone management, and offshore resource development.

No matter what the hydrographic survey is used for, the one thing they all have in common is measuring water depth. Most surveys also look at the nature of the sea-floor material (whether it's sand, mud, rock, for instance) because this is usually important to know for anchoring, dredging, structure construction, pipeline and cable routing, and fisheries habitat. And the main use of the hydrographic survey is nautical charting.

And you can download and view nautical charts produced by the Office of Coast Survey at www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov.

(Lobomycosis)

Now we're going to travel down the eastern seaboard to North Carolina to tell you about a new NOAA study published this month about skin lesions on bottlenose dolphins. While the Office of Coast Survey is mainly concerned with hydrographic surveys in our coastal waters, this next story comes from the ocean service's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science. This office is mainly concerned with providing scientific information and tools to our nation's coastal managers. And these tools and information help us to better balance protecting our ocean and coasts with our social and economic needs.

This story starts way back in 2005 when a live bottlenose dolphin was found stranded on the shores of North Carolina. While the dolphin appeared to be in fair health, there were white and gray ulcerous growths on the skin along its back. Then jump forward to May 2008. Once again, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin with a growth of white and gray nodes over a large portion of its back was spotted swimming in the waters off the Outer Banks in North Carolina.

And most recently, in August 2008, another dolphin was found dead on the North Carolina coast, its skin cracked and ulcerated with the same type of gray and white skin infection.

Well, in a study appearing in the April issue of the journal Emerging Infectious Disease s, an interdisciplinary team of researchers from the National Ocean Service, NOAA Fisheries, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and the University of Tennessee put the pieces of the puzzle together. When analyzing the third case - the dolphin found in August - they confirmed what they suspected ... this dolphin had a chronic fungal skin infection called lobomycosis.

Reports of this type of infection in both humans and dolphins are relatively common in the warmer coastal waters of South America. Cases of lobomycosis have also turned up in waters off southern Florida and the Texas Gulf Coast. But expanding northward.

The new report is part of a larger effort by NOAA to investigate the different types and range of skin disease in dolphins along the eastern U.S. coast. Unfortunately, different types of skin disease are often seen in stranded and free-swimming marine mammals like dolphins all along the U.S. coast. And lesions are often related to bacterial, viral or even fungal infections.

So the research team is now looking into the underlying causes of the skin lesions found in North Carolina, and they're also trying to figure out how factors like water temperature, salinity and coastal land-use might be influencing the infections - are these factors making the infections more prevalent or more severe, for example.

To aid in their pursuit, the research team is now working on a new way to document various types of skin lesions in dolphins based on photographs - a visual classification system.

While it will take a while to develop this new system, it is expected to allow NOAA researchers to more quickly and accurately track and better understand the physical, chemical, and biological factors that influence skin infections in the wild.

Why is this important? Well, understanding shifts in distribution of marine pathogens like the fungus that causes lobomycosis helps scientists better understand current or future health risks that may exist for humans and marine life. It also helps coastal managers and researchers better understand what's going on in the ocean -- and forecast what some of the ecological impacts may be.

So what's learned through this long-term study will help ecosystem and public health managers develop more effective response strategies to threats posed by bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other pathogens found in the ocean.

(Closing)

That's all for this week's episode. Now for a brief programming note: Making Waves is now going to come out every other week instead of every week. This change will make it possible to bring you more interviews with NOAA experts, which take a bit more time to produce. And it's going to come out on Wednesdays - it used to come out on Fridays.

So the next episode will come out on April 29th. On the Wednesdays when there isn't a Making Waves, you can tune in to Diving Deeper, the Ocean Service podcast featuring in-depth discussions with NOS experts on a different ocean topic each episode. So now you can get your ocean fix once a week - and you can subscribe to the feeds for each podcast on our site to get them automatically delivered to your feed reader of choice. And you'll find that at oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcasts/.

Oh, and the earlier in the podcast we noted that the Chesapeake Bay is home to four of the nation's busiest commercial seaports in cargo volume... those ports are in Philadelphia, Wilmington, Delaware, Baltimore, and Hampton Roads, Virginia.

If you have any questions or comments about this podcast, about our oceans, or about the National Ocean Service, you can E-mail us at nos.info@noaa.gov. And you can always get the latest ocean news at oceanservice.noaa.gov.

Now let's listen to the ocean...

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. See you on April 28th.


Ocean Glider Set to Attempt Atlantic Crossing (Episode 23)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/apr09/mw40809.mp3

Wed, 08 Apr 2009 08:30:44 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 23 (April 8, 2009)

(Introduction)

This month, a small torpedo-shaped robot named the ‘Scarlet Knight’ will begin a six-month underwater journey, in an attempt to glide all the way from New Jersey to Spain.

If it makes it to the other side of the pond, this craft will go down in history as the first unmanned underwater vehicle to cross the Atlantic. The amazing part? It has no propeller or engine of any kind. It’s ocean-powered. And it’s run by undergraduate students from Rutgers University in New Jersey.

It’s Wednesday, April 8th, and this is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

(Ocean Glider)

So how will the Scarlet Knight glide all the way from New Jersey to Spain. Unlike a submarine, a ship, or a torpedo…this ocean robot doesn’t have a propeller. In fact it doesn’t have any means of propulsion of all. What it does have is large moveable fins, and a large on-board battery pack that allows its buoyancy to gently change over time.

This allows the glider to slowly move up and down through the water. And as it does so, its large fins ride the natural movement of ocean currents … and it moves forward. It’s the same basic way that a glider in the air works with its long wings, except the ocean glider can glide up as easily as it glides down.

Zdenka Willis, program director for NOAA’s Integrated Ocean Observing System, said the Scarlet Knight will measure ocean temperature and salt levels, but this is just the beginning of what ocean gliders will be tasked to do in coming years.

[Zdenka Willis] “The ocean glider is, some people talk about it like a torpedo. I prefer ocean robot. It’s about five to six feet long and it’s basically got fins on it, and it basically uses the currents to dive down into the ocean column, back up to the surface, and it can measure a whole host of things. Primarily, initially, it measures temperature and salinity, but as we’re working on the glider, we’re expanding the glider to put different payloads in there. So we’ve got some gliders now that are testing phytoplankton, and so we can actually see the phytoplankton in a 3-D column; so we’ve got some optical, we’ve got some acoustic sensors we’re testing on the glider. So it’s simply a vehicle that allows us to measure the ocean column from the top to the bottom in a continuous fashion at a relatively low cost.”

This is actually the second try for the Scarlet Knight -– that’s Knight as in the jousting variety. It’s the mascot of Rutgers University. Well, there’s actually a course at Rutgers called ‘Crossing the Atlantic’ where undergrads are taking what they learn in oceanography, engineering, and other disciplines and applying it in the glider mission.

Last year, the glider made it all the way to the Azores before springing a leak and sinking. It didn’t make it to Spain, but it did set the world record for distance covered by an ocean glider. The students learned a lot from the first attempt, and all of those lessons learned are in the new glider.

[Zdenka Willis] “This glider will actually dive twice as deep, to 200 meters. It includes this new surface. It’s a coating and it’s to try and prevent critters from attaching to the glider, and it’s really pretty interesting. When you touch the glider it’s kind of sticky, but as soon as you put water on it, it just smooths out, so that’s new. The other big change is that we can now measure battery power. Last year, we were flying blind, just hoping the batteries wouldn’t give out. But this year now there’s a way to measure what the battery life is, so we know and they’ve been doing testing on … if I go really fast, what kind of energy does it take? If we go backwards? If we do turns?  And then they’ve done some new software that allows us to talk to the glider more effectively and more efficiently. And most of that was started by the students last year. ”

Willis is involved in the project because the national Integrated Ocean Observing System is made up of scores of partners from all levels of government, from industry, from nongovernmental organizations … and one of those partners is the mid-Atlantic coastal ocean observing regional association. Rutgers is a part of this association.  If this sounds confusing, well it kind of is. But that’s because the ocean is really big…there’s a lot to observe … so the ocean observing system Willis heads is sort of the glue that holds together and helps steer this vast network of partners all involved with measuring and observing different aspects of the ocean. The Integrated Ocean Observing System, or IOOS for short -- keep projects like the ocean glider Atlantic crossing moving forward. 

And speaking of moving forward, Willis explained how the ocean glider is remotely controlled by Rutgers students to keep it moving toward Europe.

[Zdenka Willis] “So the ocean currents are what actually steers it, but there is software and the glider basically pops up and it kind of phones home. We use the Irridium satellite and it phones home and it emails, so we can actually do some amount of guiding and driving, and we can drive it from anywhere. You know, the guys at Rutgers joke that they support a lot of Navy exercises and they’ve actually driven gliders from McDonalds in Cleveland, Ohio, just to prove that one can do that. But really what they’re doing is giving it new way points, and they’re doing that evaluating the ocean information they have to try to ride through currents, and not get stuck in currents going the wrong way, because the whole idea, at least in the glider crossing the Atlantic, is to continue to go towards the European coast.”

While the glider is, well, gliding through the ocean, it’s also collecting data. That’s its main mission, and it’s why NOAA, the Navy, and many other agencies are very interested in glider technology. Gliders are relatively cheap, they have endurance, and they help fill holes in the ocean data we’re collecting.

We have satellites in space and buoys dotting the ocean that provide us with information like currents, waves, temperature, and pressure right now, at one point. The unmanned ocean gliders, though, can move around. This, Willis said, can provide us with better ability to forecast ocean conditions—and the extra data from the gliders will help us build better models to predict long-term changes in the ocean and the climate.

[Zdenka Willis] “When we measure the ocean, we need to do that in total. The satellites that are flying overhead are very critical to give us wide swaths of the ocean and to be able to process a lot of the ocean. But that’s on the surface. The buoys give us both surface measurements and then we put equipment below the buoy down the water column, but that gives us a very specific real-time temperature, salinity, waves, at one location.”

[Zdenka Willis] “The glider compliments that because we can go three dimensional. So we can basically fly the gliders north to south, east to west in a three dimensional pattern, so when we take that water column with the individual buoy and marry it up with the satellite data, that allows us to assimilate all of this data into models and actually do forecasts, because it’s good to know what the actual conditions are now, but it’s even more critical to know for many applications, what the forecast is in six hours, 12 hours, 24 hours, and 48. Then all of this data is collected and recorded and eventually gets into a climate data record for long-term series so we can see how it changes over time.”

So from a science perspective, what makes the Rutgers effort important is that it’s bringing us closer to the day when unmanned gliders roam the sea, collecting vital data from our vast ocean.  After all, Willis said, we don’t know much about our oceans, so every new observing asset we get out there is going to be a big help. And the ocean glider is poised to play an important role in the future.

[Zdenka Willis] “We always say, and it’s true, we know more about the surface of Mars than we do about our ocean. Probably two percent of our ocean has been surveyed. And when you look at what the ocean is, it is the birth place of our weather and climate. It is the shipping lanes for all of our commerce and transportation, It’s where many, many people live, work, and play. And what Americans really want are healthy oceans and coasts and the ability to maintain the quality of life that they have, and we just don’t know much about the ocean.”

[Zdenka Willis] “I think the day is soon when we’ll see gliders providing oceanographic information. The Navy has just done a recent purchase of a number of gliders for their operations…so I think that day is sooner rather than later.”

You can keep track of the mission by visiting Rutger University’s Web site. It’s a long link, so glide over to oceanservice.noaa.gov for that address. On the Rutger’s site, you can track where the glider is, get regular blog updates, and see the data the Scarlet Knight is collecting. For Willis, the science part – the data collection – is important, but she’s also excited about how this project is inspiring and motivating young students:

[Zdenka Willis] “I think that, particularly with the glider mission, I think that it’s certainly about the oceanography, and it’s about pushing the limits of ocean observing, and that’s very important. But equally important, it’s about the educational aspect of the students and our undergraduates. It’s inspiring them to take their book knowledge and turn it into practical knowledge, and it’s really about the next generation of our oceanographers and scientists.”

A special thanks to Zdenka Willis, director of NOAA’s national Integrated Ocean Observing System.

That’s all for this week. If you have questions about this week’s podcast, about our ocean and coasts, or about the National Ocean Service, send us a note. We’re at nos.info@noaa.gov.

And here comes the ocean …

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service. See you next time.


Flame Retardants Found in U.S. Coastal Ecosystems Nationwide (Episode 22)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/apr09/mw40109.mp3

Wed, 01 Apr 2009 08:00:33 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 22 (April 1, 2009)

(Introduction)

This week, NOAA released a report that finds that man-made toxic chemicals used as flame retardants in consumer products are found in all U.S. coastal waters and the Great Lakes.

The chemicals are called Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers, or PBDEs, and they've generated a lot concern around the world in recent years because they are found all over the globe and a growing number of studies are finding that these toxins are damaging to the environment and to human health.

Today, we'll talk with one of the authors of the report.

It's Wednesday, April 1st, and this is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.

(Interview with Dr. Gunnar Lauenstein)

Today we'll hear from Dr. Gunnar Lauenstein, one of the authors of the new report and program manager for NOAA's Mussel Watch.

What do mussels have to do with flame retardants? Well, the report is based on data from this program, which has been monitoring coastal water contaminants in mussels and oysters for over two decades at about 300 different sites around the nation.

Dr. Lauenstein said that mussels and oysters are used for monitoring not only because they are stationary creatures, but because they have several key characteristics that make them useful.

[DR. LAUENSTEIN] "Mussels and oysters have a couple of advantages when it comes to looking at contaminant concentrations in living organisms. One of the advantages is that these creatures do not metabolize things like oil-related compounds [so] we can see we what the organism was actually exposed to. Another advantage is that because mussels and oysters are found in many locations in the United States, we minimize the different kinds of organisms we have to look it."

[DR. LAUENSTEIN] "Because Mussel Watch collects around the U.S., when we see high concentrations or we see something new – for example the flame retardants, or PBDEs, local managers and regulators can then do more in-depth studies to see if this is a broad local problem or just a problem with that one mussel site in that area."

Now that we've talked a bit about what Mussel Watch is, let's get back to the report. Lauenstein and his colleagues found that flame retardants, known as PBDEs, are now found throughout all areas of the U.S.—the coastal environments, the Great Lakes, and even in Alaska. These chemicals are everywhere and they seem to be increasing.

[DR. LAUENSTEIN] "I think what we're seeing in this report is that, even though PBDEs were first looked at in the human environment, they are clearly now in the in the marine coastal environment in mussels and oysters. But mussels and oysters are, in a sense, a canary in the coalmine for environmental contaminants."

Flame retardants are used in products in the U.S to reduce the risk of fire in things like upholstery, carpet padding, casings of TV sets, computers, and office furniture. All of us at some point are exposed to flame retardants. While these chemicals help to protect against fire, the bad news is that laboratory studies indicate that PBDEs may impair liver, thyroid, and neurobehavioral development. The most sensitive populations are likely to be pregnant women, developing fetuses, and infants. Dr. Lauenstein:

[DR. LAUENSTEIN] "PBDEs can be as much as 30 percent by weight in cushions found in things like couches. So when we sit on a couch, there could be a possible invisible cloud of PBDEs that we're breathing. From what I've read in the literature, infants or young toddlers frequently have the highest PBDE concentrations in the household and that may be because they crawl on the floor, there's PBDEs in the carpet padding, and then the infants put their fingers in their mouths. And there's also literature that suggests that PBDEs, because they're fat loving, or lipophilic, they can be transferred from mother's breast milk to their infants,"

While production of PBDE flame retardants began in the 1970s and peaked in 1999, they are still found in many consumer products. Because the application of PBDEs has been so widespread—including many consumer plastics, textiles, electronics, and furniture—scientists speculate that they may present an ongoing and growing problem in coastal environments.

How do these chemicals make their way into the environment? Lauenstein said there are several ways that this happens.

[DR. LAUENSTEIN] "PBDEs can move into the environment from municipal waste; PBDEs can move into the environment from consumer goods as they're discarded; PBDEs and PCBs both can move up into the atmosphere, and this is one way that they are not only local from where their source is, but they can be broadcast throughout our world environment."

PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are a class of toxic chemicals once used in consumer products that share similar qualities to PBDEs.

According to Lauenstein, the broader implication of the report is that we as a society need to the need to rethink how we handle products laden with PBDEs.
For instance, most municipalities today discard old couches in landfills. If these landfills leak, there is a threat that PBDE chemicals will be released back into the marine environment or groundwater. Alternatively, if a couch is incinerated, PBDEs may be released via stack gases and wind up in the atmosphere.

[DR. LAUENSTEIN] "We in a sense have a cycle here: we have human consumerism and PBDEs, or flame retardants, being released in to the environment, moving into the marine environment, and from the marine environment possibly moving back into the human environment. This study gives decision makers and managers a tool to see the extent of PBDE contamination in our coastal environment and hopefully help in the decision process."

That was Dr. Gunnar Lauenstein, program manager for NOAA's mussel watch program. The report is called "An Assessment of Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) in Sediments and Bivalves of the U.S. Coastal Zone." It was produced by NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science Mussel Watch Program with support from NOAA's Ocean and Human Health Initiative.

It's important to note that the report is written for a wide audience – not for other scientists, so it's easy to understand and digest. You can find the full report online at http://ccma.nos.noaa.gov/PBDEreport. And surf over to our Web site at oceanservice.noaa.gov for more on this story, including links to direct you to key resources to learn more about this new report, and to learn more about the problem of PBDEs in our environment.

That's all for this week. If you have any questions or comments about the podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.

Now let's bring in the ocean.


This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service. See you next week.


Caribbean Research Cruise; New Online Game for Kids (Episode 21)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/mar09/mw32009.mp3

Wed, 25 Mar 2009 09:53:18 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 21 (March 23, 2009)

(INTRO)
... NOAA Scientists are about to head out on a mission to learn more about coral reef ecoystems and fish habitats in the Caribbean.
...And NOS’ Education launched a new interactive game this week or kids that you just have to check out.

Those stories are coming up today on Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

(SCIENTIST EXPLORE WATERS IN THE U.S. CARIBBEAN)
Ocean service scientists are heading out to sea on the NOAA ship Nancy Foster. They’re going to the Caribbean for a two-week mission to study coral reef ecosystems and fish habitats off the coast of Vieques, an island off the coast of Puerto Rico.

This is the sixth year that NOAA has returned to survey U.S. territorial waters near Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands at the request of commonwealth agencies and local scientists in the region.

What’s so special about this region? Well, it’s home to sensitive coral reef habitats and marine life that we need to carefully manage and protect. But in order to manage these natural resources, we need to learn more about the sea floor and the creatures that live there. We have good shallow water sea floor maps for many areas of the U.S. parts of the Caribbean, but we don’t know much about the sea floor in deeper waters.

This upcoming mission will help to change that. Researchers from the Ocean Service’s Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment Biogeography Branch, part of the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, are deploying some high-tech tools to map the deeper waters near Puerto Rico. But they aren’t just mapping the bottom – they’re also mapping the marine life that lives there.

They’re going to use multibeam sonar to collect high-resolution ocean depth information, known as bathymetry, and to gather information about the hardness and roughness of the ocean floor. Multibeam sonar works by pulsing the sea bottom with a series of sound waves and recording the reflected echoes as the sound bounces back. And they’re also going to capture under¬water video imagery of sea-floor habitats using a remotely operated vehicle.

And this is the cool part. The scientists will then plot this sonar and video data on a sea-floor map, and then add in coral ecosystem and fish census data. Taken together, this will help researchers learn more about the relationships between species in the area and their natural habitats. In other words, they’re putting together a very sophisticated, detailed map that ties together physical and biological information for the area. The result is what scientists call a “habitat utilization model.” With these accurate maps, resource managers will have the information they need so they can make better decisions about how to protect these fragile areas.

This type of mapping, called benthic or bottom habitat mapping, is a key part of what’s known as ecosystem-based coral reef management. Traditionally, benthic habitat mapping in the U.S. Caribbean has involved technologies such as aerial photography and satellite imagery.

These technologies are useful for mapping the distribution and status of shallow-water coral reef ecosystems, their use is limited to the depths at which sea-floor features are visible in the imagery, which is about 30 meters, or 98 feet. But multibeam sonar and underwater vehicle scanning allows the scientists to go much deeper to map areas that we don’t know much about.

When the researchers put the shallow and deep-water maps together, they will get a nearly seamless habitat map from coastal shores all the way down to about 1,000 meters, or 3,280 feet.

This will provide a very detailed snapshot of what’s going on down: where the corals are, what’s living there, the places that certain species prefer, water quality at different depths, and more…All of this information will tell planners and managers many things… for example, how underwater areas are doing, how well marine protected areas are working, or if certain areas need to be more protected. The maps can also help managers figure out if some areas can be more open to fishing or other human uses, how well no-fishing zones are working, and where the ‘hot spots’ are – those special places with extra rich and diverse sea life.

To call it a map really doesn’t do it justice. If you want to learn more about the project, visit our Web site at oceanservice.noaa.gov. From there, you can link to the main site for the research cruise. Here, you’ll be able to read daily activity logs from the scientists aboard the Nancy Foster, or view daily photos and videos from the research cruise. The cruise runs from March 23rd to April 3rd … and it’s sponsored by NOAA, the Caribbean Fishery Management Council, and the Coral Reef Conservation Program.

(WATERLIFE: WHERE THE RIVERS MEET THE SEA)
(Sound Clip from Waterlife)
“You can talk” (Valerie)
“My name is Oscar” (Oscar)
“I’m Valerie” (Valerie)
“I haven’t eaten since I’ve left home” (Oscar)
Left home? Why? (Valerie)
“Our home is dying. There’s no food and almost no life left at all. I need to find the oracle. She’s supposed to be very wise. Maybe she can help heal our estuary.” (Oscar)
“What’s an estuary?” (Valerie)
“And estuary is where rivers meet the sea. The fresh water from the rivers meets salt water from the ocean.” (Oscar)
“What happened to it?” (Valerie)

Well you can find out in the new ocean service education online game called Waterlife; Where the Rivers Meet the Sea. The new Flash-based game premiered this week after a year of development in a partnership with some very talented students with Montgomery College’s Computer Gaming and Simulation program in Maryland.
Waterlife provides science instruction for students at the fourth through seventh grade levels using a series of challenges and the collection of “knowledge power.”

Students join a young girl named Valerie and Oscar the sea otter – who you just heard in the clip a moment ago – and a clam named… well I’ll let him introduce himself: (Sound clip from the Claminator: “My name is Mussel von Oysterstein. But you may call me ‘The Claminator!”)

So, together, this group journeys to save an estuary on the west coast of the United States. Along the way, players learn about the factors that produce healthy estuaries and food webs and why estuaries are essential to both ocean life and to humans.
Players tackle trash clean up, remove obstructions in waterways, replant the habitat to bring back food webs, and battle pollution monsters to restore Oscar’s home. The game includes many links to resources and a comprehensive field guide that students refer to during the game to gain knowledge power.

The game also provides an opportunity to learn about our nation’s biologically rich and economically important estuaries and about NOAA’s National Estuarine Research Reserve System, a network of 27 estuarine areas established for long-term stewardship, research, and education.

WaterLife is part of a newly launched online “planet arcade” – Games @ NOAA – which is a portal to a variety of games and interactive activities that highlight the science and the activities of NOAA and NOAA’s partners. We’ll be sitting down with one of the key people behind Waterlife next month to talk more about Waterlife, and how gaming is being used more and more in education. The games portal is at games.noaa.gov

(OUTRO)

That’s all for this episode. If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, send us an email at nos.web@noaa.gov.

Let’s bring in the ocean....

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service. See you next week.


Exxon Valdez Oil Spill 20th Anniversary Special (Episode 20)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/mar09/mw31309.mp3

Fri, 13 Mar 2009 11:10:58 -0400

Making Waves: Episode 20 (March 13, 2009)

(INTRO)

Twenty years ago this month, nearly 11 million gallons of crude oil spilled into Alaska's Prince William Sound after the oil tanker Exxon Valdez grounded on a reef. It was and still is the single largest spill to ever occur along the coastal U.S.

We're going to dedicate today’s show to the Exxon Valdez spill: what we learned from it, and how spill response has changed in the last two decades.

It's Friday, March 13th, and this is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service

(EXXON VALDEZ OIL SPILL STORY)
Today, we're talking to Dr. Alan Mearns, a senior staff scientist from NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration. Mearns was involved in the initial spill response for the Exxon Valdez accident, and he spent years leading a project that continues to monitor the long-term impact of the huge oil spill.
 
Dr. Mearns career in spill response began in the summer of 1989 when was invited to join a survey to the spill site aboard a NOAA ship. 

DR. MEARNS: "My job there was to collect and process samples of marine life and sediments on shorelines and also below the tide line in deeper water. There are lots of marine animals - invertebrates, worms clams, shrimps, all kind of things -- and my job was, that summer, was to collect and process those samples and get them back to NOAA."
 
This mission was one small part of a massive effort. There were hundreds of people involved in the clean up, including groups from the Coast Guard, NOAA's Response and Restoration, NOAA's Fisheries, the Environmental Protection Agency, Exxon, and the state of Alaska.

Much of NOAA's role in this spill, and in all spills, is to assist the Coast Guard, the lead responder for spills in U.S. territorial waters. Mearns said that one of the biggest challenges the responders faced at the time was simple communication. This was long before the Internet and cell phones.

DR. MEARNS: "There were so many people involved, that I don't think we were prepared at all for the mass of information management that was necessary. But with our contractors and our staff, we got there eventually, helping the Coast Guard managing their information. A spill is much quieter today than it used to be, because 20 years ago everybody had a walkie-talkie, and if you on the beach with dozens of people or somewhere, all you'd hear were these voices shouting back and forth."

There may not be as much shouting these days, but NOAA's role in a spill remains much the same: NOAA teams predict the trajectory of the spill, provide weather forecasts, seek out the most oil-sensitive animal and plant populations that need protection, and develop response strategies to tackle spills.

We'll talk more about what is different today in a few minutes, but first let's get back to the Exxon Valdez. So you may be wondering why Mearns was collecting samples of marine life during the oil spill and what he went on to do next.

DR. MEARNS: "The primary thing I was involved in, was trying to get responders, the state, EPA, the spiller and other agencies to understand that aggressive clean up may not be the best thing. So the project I was on was designed to take a look at high pressure hot water washing which definitely removed oil, but it also removed a lot of marine life that had survived the oil spill."

This was the preface to a larger monitoring study that began in 1990. NOAA's HAZMAT division, the predecessor of today’s Emergency Response Division, initiated a long-term effort to monitor the intertidal shoreline areas affected by the oil spill. The science team also set out to test the effects of using high-pressure hot water to clean oil off of beaches and shorelines. Dr. Mearns led this effort during its first six years.

The monitoring study was carefully planned. While most of the oiled shorelines in the Sound were cleaned up -- many with high-pressure hot water -- a few small patches were purposefully not cleaned at all.  Another half a dozen or so sites that had been unaffected by the oil spill were also marked off. This allowed the NOAA scientists to track how well the area was recovering by comparing the three different treatments. What they learned was surprising.

DR. MEARNS:  "I think a lot of us have it fixed in our minds that things are supposed to return to the way they were and take years to do it, and then stay that way once they have returned. And our intertidal systems, at least in the North Pacific, don't do that. 
Had there not been an oil spill in Prince William Sound and had we done 20 years of long-term monitoring, we would have seen change. And at the end of 20 years, we would not see the diversity and abundance of marine life exactly the way it was in year one."

In other words, while the oil spill certainly had a profound effect on Prince William Sound – for example, Mearns said that oil still lingers under the gravel at some beaches – the study found that shoreline marine life in the area went through a natural ebb and flow over a cycle of four to seven years.

So did the area recover? Again, Dr. Mearns:

DR. MEARNS:  "Everything depends on how you define recovery. We were looking at the biology, the marine life, its abundance, its variety, its diversity, and that has definitely recovered. In fact, after many years we looked back through the data and findings with statistics and so on, that it had recovered within three to four years -- the conspicuous marine life in the intertidal zone. Clams and softer beach areas took a lot longer to recover: more like 10 to 12 years, and we think a lot of those were blown out by the [high] pressure washing."

Beyond what this long-term study revealed, the Exxon Valdez spill also led to sweeping institutional changes.

First, it resulted in the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. This Act improved the nation's ability to prevent and respond to spills and provided much needed money and resources. The Act also created the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which is now available to provide up to one billion dollars per spill incident. And the Act set in place new planning requirements for industry, and for local, state, and federal governments.

The Exxon Valdez spill also led to the creation of NOAA's Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program, known as DAARP for short. This program is made up of scientists, economists, and attorneys who work together with many partners around the nation to help restore natural resources damaged by the release of oil and other hazardous materials.
 
In addition to these organizational changes, Mearns noted that one very important thing has also changed since the spill...people now work together much more closely.

DR. MEARNS: "I think that one thing that's changed is that people know each other better, and that's in large part as a result of continuing training activities. We just don't sit in the office and write up manuals and send them out, we take them out to the field.  We bring in the Coast Guard, various states, we go to them and we do training on the current science of spills. Everything from computer modeling to management systems to the effects of oil on marine life... As a result, we get to know our colleagues around the country quite well."

And speaking of the current science of spills, there have been many major advances in computer-assisted tools over the past 20 years. One example is a software suite called CAMEO, developed by NOAA and the Environmental Protection Agency. CAMEO stands for 'Computer Aided Management for Emergency Operations.' Mearns said that a big use for CAMEO is to help the Coast Guard and other first responders prepare for and respond to spills, especially chemical incidents.

DR. MEARNS: "We can model the fate of oil and chemical releases and display the results on various kinds of maps, and manage planning data. In each district around the country, local government authorities are able to use this tool to inventory where their chemical inventories are, shipping routes, just use it to put all kinds of information together that's in one place that they can look up."
 
In addition to new computer-aided tools, the Emergency Response Division has also been investigating other oil clean-up technologies. Over the past decade, Mearns said his office has been closely studying the effects and usefulness of oil dispersants -- chemicals  sprayed on oil while it's at sea to disperse it in the water column so it doesn't come ashore. While this method of oil clean up is effective in many situations, there's been a reluctance to adopt its use in the U.S.

DR. MEARNS:  "We haven't had much experience with them in the U.S. We have elsewhere in the world, particularly in Norway and England, where we see that they can in fact prevent a lot of injury to birds and shorelines. So it's an ongoing, evolving process to bring to the fore a tool that's been around for a long time, but we've had a great reluctance to use it."

Mearns said that NOAA's study found that modern dispersant chemicals are less harmful and less toxic than spilled oil. Now, the Coast Guard is commissioning response agencies around the country to stockpile these chemicals. The lesson, he said, is that every available method to clean up spills must be carefully and scientifically evaluated because we need to have as many tools at our disposal as possible.

DR. MEARNS: "Yes, we've been responding to spills all of these years since the Exxon Valdez, but in between we've been culturing and trying to improve the information on some of the response methods. What our message is: don't exclude anything, keep all the tools in the tool box, and don't just ban them outright to begin with."

Despite advances in technology, better cooperation and planning, and new laws and procedures, Mearns stressed that each oil spill is unique.

DR. MEARNS: "Well, I like to quote one of our prime contractors, a very important person in this business, Dr. Jacqui Michel with the Research Planning Institute, and she says 'I've never been to the same spill twice.’ It's a process of constantly adapting. We get an announcement of a spill, we're called into action, and we start off thinking, 'Oh, this is like that other spill we had ten years ago.’ Then you get there and nope, it isn't. Things have changed. The weather's different, the oil type is different, and the response community is a different group of people. I think our mission is to try and, not so much to clean up all the oil that's spilled, but to make sure that the least amount of injury is done, so the restoration people have less to do."

(OUTRO)
Special thanks to Dr. Alan Mearns from NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration’s Emergency Response Division for taking the time to speak with us.

Surf over to our Web site for links to the offices and organizations we talked about today. We also have about 50 or so NOAA photos from the time of the Exxon Valdez oil spill for you, as well as links to learn more about the spill and its legacy. We’re at oceanservice.noaa.gov.

That’s all for this episode. If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.

Let’s bring in the ocean....

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service. See you next week.


New Study Links Sea Foam to Unexplained Seabird Deaths and Strandings (Episode 19)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/mar09/mw30609.mp3

Fri, 06 Mar 2009 19:54:52 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 19 (March 6, 2009)

(Introduction)
In 2007, hundreds of seabirds were found stranded or dead in California’s Monterey Bay. The birds were coated with an unknown yellow-green substance that was eating away at the coating and oils on their feathers. Without this protection, the birds were vulnerable, starving, and suffering from hypothermia. When it was all over, a total of 550 birds were stranded and 207 died during this unexplained event.

In a study partly funded by NOAA, scientists in California recently solved this puzzling case and published their findings last week in the online journal PloS One. Today, we hear from one of the authors of the study to learn what happened.

It's Friday, March 6th, and this is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.

...

What caused the mysterious strandings and deaths of so many seabirds? Dr. Raphael Kudela, one of the authors of the new study, said the cause wasn't readily apparent at the time.

DR. KUDELA: "Right about Thanksgiving of 2007 there started to be a series of bird strandings, so marine birds were coming into the bird rescue centers and they were exhibiting basically oil-spill type signs where they were coated with some material, they were having trouble cleaning themselves, and they were actually showing up on the beach dead. And they looked otherwise healthy."

Kudela is an associate professor of ocean science at the University of California in Santa Cruz. He's also an investigator funded by NOAA's Monitoring and Event Response of Harmful Algal Blooms program. A more common name for an algal bloom is a 'red tide,' and as it turned out, there was a big red tide happening in Monterey Bay at the time of the strandings. But scientists already knew that the algae turning the waters red in the Bay weren't the kind of organisms that produce toxins that could harm marine life.

So attention turned to another possible culprit: farther north, a ship named the Cosco Busan had recently struck the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco Bay, dumping 58,000 gallons of bunker oil into the ocean. Since it was the time of year when the seabirds were migrating South, they could have been exposed to oil spilled from this ship.

DR. KUDELA: "The very first thing we thought was that the birds had simply managed to get from San Francisco to Monterey, which is a little bit far, but not unreasonable."

In cases like this when there are large numbers of strandings and deaths, the California Department of Fish and Game will investigate if there is a human source--in this case, the Golden Gate spill. But after analyzing some of the Monterey birds, they found no evidence of petroleum products, fish oil, or any other sign that the yellow-green goo on the birds came from a human contaminant.

At that point, Dave Jessup, a researcher with the California Department of Fish and Game and the lead author of the new study, suggested that the researchers turn their attention back to the ongoing red tide in Monterey Bay.

DR. KUDELA: "He contacted a number of us and said 'We've got these birds coming in, we don't know why, but there's this big red tide going on. Do you think that could be part of the problem?' And we said, 'well, we've been keeping track of the red tide, but it's generally considered harmless. It's not a toxin producer, it shouldn't be causing any impact, but we'll go ahead and test'"

That test seemed to lead to another dead end. Although no toxins were identified, Jessup still had a hunch. He asked for more data about the red tide event.

DR. KUDELA: "We started sending him images of the red tide using satellite imagery, and we overlaid on that the coastal currents from high frequency radar. And we were very surprised when Dave came back and said, 'well, this is great, you're predicting where the bird strandings will occur about 48 hours in advance.'"

Part of imagery and data sent to Jessup came from a program called CalPReEMPT, the California Program for Regional Enhanced Monitoring for PhycoToxins. PhycoToxins are toxins produced by certain algae when they bloom into so-called 'red tide' events. NOAA is funding several projects like CalPReEMPT along the Pacific coast. These projects focus on making red tide monitoring and prediction better to help communities plan for and deal with environmental and health effects associated with these events.

When the red tide imagery was overlaid with the local currents, it clearly showed that the red tide and the bird strandings were somehow connected. The next step was to figure out just what that connection was. Kudela said the pivotal clue was something that they hadn't paid attention to earlier: sea foam. There was a lot of it in the Bay.

DR. KUDELA: "It looked very much like dirty cool whip, and it had that same sort of consistency. It's the normal sea foam you get during large algal blooms, but David noticed that where the birds were stranding, there was a lot of this sea foam and the foam was coming from the red tide, because there was a lot of red tide. And so they had this brilliant idea of testing it. "

Dr. Jessup's team collected some sea foam, and rubbed it on some healthy seabird feathers. Sure enough, the sea foam was causing the problem. While the algae wasn't toxic, the sea foam produced as a residue from the decaying algae had qualities similar to detergent. The foam would mat down the birds’ feathers and allow cold seawater to reach their skin. They were, in effect, freezing to death.

This is the first documented case linking foam produced by an algal bloom with the deaths and strandings of hundreds of birds.

Kudela said the conditions that produced the foam and brought the seabirds into contact with it was sort of a perfect storm. First, the number of red tides has been increasing every year ... and they've been occurring later and later into the year. In 2007, the red tide showed up in August and persisted all the way until late December. Second, surface currents were weak that year, keeping the red tide in one place. Third, seasonal swells moved into the Bay in late November, churning up the algae, and producing lots and lots of sea foam – just in time to snare flocks of migrating sea birds making their way through central California on their way to their winter feeding grounds.

DR. KUDELA: "And so those three events together ended up causing this huge bird mortality. And we went back and we looked at the number of strandings was about a factor of six to a factor ten higher than is normal if we look at the last ten years of bird stranding data. And so we had this kind of unusual event when everything came together and caused this impact that nobody has ever reported before. And so we've never seen in the literature that a foam event like this can impact marine birds, but it very clearly did."

But that doesn't necessarily mean it's the first time this has happened in Monterey Bay. There was a similar event about ten years earlier, but at the time the mystery of the deaths and strandings of seabirds went unsolved. When Kudela's team checked the records, it turned out there was a red tide in the area at the same time.

DR. KUDELA: "Ten years ago, it was a mystery still, and they said 'well, it's not a petroleum product and that's all we know, and so we're just going to chalk it up to some unknown event. And ten years later, 2007, because NOAA and other agencies have really been pushing that we need to answer these questions with all the disciplines working together, we've been able to go from saying it's an unknown mystery spill to saying this is exactly what happened and this has never been seen before, and tell the rest of the world that 'if you see an event like this, you should be looking for these things.'"

DR. KUDELA: "For the last ten or fifteen years, we've all been moving towards more interdisciplinary science. That's where the really exciting things are and that's where we're really going to solve some of these issues, and I think NOAA has done a fantastic job at taking the lead on that. If we look at something like harmful algal blooms, the biology is really important, but these organisms are in the ocean, so we can't ignore the physics, the chemistry, and the weather, and everything else, because if we do ignore that, we're never going to solve the problem because it's a complex and complicated problem."

The study of the mysterious seabird strandings not only brought researchers from many different fields together, it also brought together people and resources from state, federal, academic, and non-profit organizations. The authors of the study came from the California ?Department of Fish and Game, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, the Ocean Sciences Department and ?Institute for Marine Sciences at the University of ?California Santa Cruz, and Moss Landing Marine Laboratory.

(Ending)
That was Dr. Raphael Kudela helping us piece together the clues that led to his team’s solving the mystery of the 2007 mass bird deaths in California. Dr. Kudela is an associate professor of ocean science at the University of California in Santa Cruz and an investigator funded by NOAA's Monitoring and Event Response of Harmful Algal Blooms program. The study was funded in part by NOAA's Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research, as well as the Integrated Ocean Observing System.

Well, that's all for this week.

If you have any questions about this episode, about our oceans, or about the National Ocean Service, send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.

Don't miss next week's episode. In recognition of the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, we're going to talk with Dr. Alan Mearns, a marine ecologist at NOAA's Hazardous Materials Response Division in the Office of Response and Restoration. Dr. Mearns was not only on-scene during the clean up of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, but he also led a long-term monitoring survey to document the recovery of injured shoreline marine life in Prince William Sound.

And don't forget that you can visit us online at oceanservice.noaa.gov. There you'll find an accompanying print story about the study we discussed today, and you'll links to all of the offices and programs we've mentioned in this podcast.

Now let's bring in the ocean.

This is Making Waves from NOAA's National Ocean Service.


Shipwreck added to Historic Register; 15th Anniversary of Positioning Network (Episode 18)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/feb09/mw022709.mp3

Fri, 27 Feb 2009 12:36:29 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 18 (Feb. 27, 2009)

(Introduction)
…A shipwreck in a NOAA National Marine Sanctuary is added to the National Register of Historic Places.
…And the National Geodetic Survey celebrates the 15th anniversary of the Continuously Operating Reference Station program.

Those stories are coming up today on Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

(Shipwreck Added to National Register of Historic Places)
The wreck of an early 1900s fishing vessel is the latest addition to the National Register of Historic Places. The shipwreck is called the Joffre, it’s 105 feet long, and it’s resting on the ocean floor within NOAA’s Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary in Massachusetts.

The National Register is the nation’s official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation, and it’s administered by the National Park Service, part of the Department of the Interior.

The Joffre was launched in 1918 as a schooner that fished with baited hooks, and it was later converted to an eastern rig dragger in 1939. During its 29 years of service, Joffre’s crew landed over 15 million pounds of fish. An eastern rig dragger, by the way, was a style of fishing trawler common to the waters of Massachusetts Bay in the 20th century. These gasoline or diesel powered vessels were a transitional design between earlier wooden sailing schooners and modern-day steel trawlers.

According to Stellwagen Bank sanctuary superintendent Craig MacDonald, the shipwreck is a physical link to New England’s rich maritime heritage. What’s really unique about this ship is that it made the transition from sail to engine power, and was converted from hook fishing to trawling vessel during it’s lifespan. In that sense, it represents a time when both the fishing industry and America’s relationship to seafood dramatically changed.

The Joffre sank on Aug. 10, 1947, after its engine caught fire during a return trip to Gloucester, Massachusetts, following a ten-day fishing trip to Nova Scotia’s offshore banks. The fire quickly engulfed the wheel house, forcing the vessel’s ten man crew to abandoned ship and row to shore.

Decades later, scientists from NOAA and the National Undersea Research Center at the University of Connecticut confirmed the location of the Joffre in 2005. Then researchers documented the shipwreck site with a remotely operated vehicle to record the vessel’s features. The dragger’s remains include portions of its wooden hull, large diesel engine and propulsion machinery, and fishing gear such as its trawl winch. This work was used to establish the site’s remarkable connection to New England’s fishing heritage and the sea.

This is just one of more than a dozen historic shipwrecks in the sanctuary located and documented by NOAA and the National Undersea Research Center at U-Conn. The wreck of the Joffre is the fourth shipwreck site in the sanctuary to be included on the National Register.

The Joffre’s location within Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary provides protection unavailable in other federal waters off Massachusetts. Sanctuary regulations prohibit moving, removing, or injuring, or any attempt to move, remove, or injure any sanctuary historical resource, including artifacts and pieces from shipwrecks. Anyone violating this regulation is subject to civil penalties.

Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary encompasses 842 square miles of ocean, stretching between Cape Ann and Cape Cod offshore of Massachusetts. Renowned for its scenic beauty and remarkable productivity, the sanctuary is famous as a whale watching destination. The sanctuary’s position along shipping routes and fishing grounds for Massachusetts’ oldest ports also make it a repository for shipwrecks representing several hundred years of maritime transportation.

(15th Anniversary for NGS’ CORS Program)
This month, the National Geodetic Survey is celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Continuously Operating Reference Station program, known as CORS for short.

The CORS program got its humble beginning in February 1994 with the installation of a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver on the campus of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland. This CORS site has remained operational for all 15 years, with a few upgrades over time.

Today, this one site is part of a network that includes more than 1,350 independently owned, operated, and maintained CORS stations. There are more than 200 partners in the CORS network representing federal, state, and local governments, as well as academic and private organizations.

So what is CORS? The CORS program provides Global Navigation Satellite System data to support three-dimensional positioning, meteorology, space weather, and geophysical applications throughout the United States, its territories, and several foreign countries.

Each station in the CORS network is a stationary, permanent GPS receiver that collects satellite signals around the clock. NGS uses these data to determine precise three-dimensional positional coordinates for the CORS sites.

NGS makes these data publicly available via the Internet. With freely available GPS data from over a thousand CORS sites, surveyors and others need only deploy one GPS receiver to position points with accuracies to within a fraction of an inch in all three dimensions.

The CORS network is an integral part of the National Spatial Reference System, which is the foundation for latitude, longitude, and elevation measurements used by all civilian federal agencies and the public. The network is expected to continue to grow at a rate of about 200 stations per year in the next few years.

(Goodbye!)

That’s all for this episode. If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.

Let’s bring in the ocean....

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service. See you next week.


NOAA lends hand for Hudson River airplane crash; West Coast algal bloom summit (Episode 17)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/feb09/mw022009.mp3

Fri, 20 Feb 2009 07:30:41 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 17 (Feb. 20, 2009)

(Introduction)
…NOAA’s role in the recent U.S. Airways crash on the Hudson River
…And experts from NOAA, California, Oregon, and Washington State meet to tackle the growing problem of Harmful Algal Blooms on the West Coast

It’s Friday, February 20th. Those stories are coming up today on Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

(NOAA Responds to U.S. Airways Flight 1549 Crash)

On January 15, U.S. Airways Flight 1549 made an emergency water landing on the Hudson River, on the West Side of Manhattan.

As you probably know, all 155 passengers on board the flight thankfully survived.

But what you may not know is that the National Ocean Service and its partners played a big role in the aftermath of the crash. NOS aided passenger rescue, helped to measure the risk of contamination to the environment, and aided the surveying of the icy water for the wreckage of the plane.

The first part of NOAA that aided in the effort was the Integrated Ocean Observing System. And really, the credit here needs to go to our regional partners in New Jersey who make up part of this System. More on that in a moment.

But first: what’s the Integrated Ocean Observing System, you ask? Well, you can think of it as a ‘system of systems.’ It’s an effort to tie together all of the ocean, coastal water, and Great Lakes data collected by federal agencies and regional associations around the country. By tying together all of this data from all of these partners, the System is a big help in situations when up-to-date information is needed immediately.

In this case, the systems’ network sensors within the New York Harbor Observing Prediction System were critical in reducing the response time to the crash. Because temperatures were below freezing and currents were swift in the river, rescuers had to act fast to bring the passengers to safety.

Within minutes after the aircraft went down, Integrated Ocean Observing System partners at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey delivered a detailed report of near real-time water conditions surrounding the site and a forecast of conditions for the next 48 hours to first responders.

Then the NOS Office of Response and Restoration’s Emergency Response Division stepped in to help, coordinating with the National Weather Service to provide the Coast Guard with weather forecast and river current information on the Lower Hudson River. This office also prepared an analysis of the potential fate of the fuel onboard the aircraft.

And in the hours following the crash, the Office of Coast Survey’s Navigation Response Team 5 helped to locate the missing engines from the plane. Since the NRT5 boat was under repair and out of service at the time of the accident, Coast Survey personnel worked on board a police boat to locate objects of interest using side scan sonar. That’s an an echo sounding technology that captures images from the sea floor.

NOAA also supplied a portable side scan sonar that was used on an Army Corps of Engineers survey vessel by Navigation Response Team personnel in order to double search efforts. This portable side scan sonar is a dedicated NOAA tool which can be shipped quickly to anywhere in the coastal U.S. to support efforts like this during emergency marine situations.

And finally, NOS and Integrated Ocean Observing System partners provided around-the-clock, on-call assistance to emergency response agencies in order to help with salvage operations. The National Transportation Safety Board and salvage teams used this information to lift the plane out of the water.

(Summit Sets Stage for Harmful Algal Bloom Response Network, Forecasting System for West Coast)

Now we’re going to head to the other coast to talk about the first-ever West Coast Regional Harmful Algal Bloom Summit.

Last week, NOAA experts were part of a group of eighty scientists, managers, and industry representatives gathered in Portland, Oregon, for this workshop.

The big outcome of the meeting was the endorsement of a new initiative to create a regional harmful algal bloom monitoring, alert and response network and forecasting system.

That system is the vision of the West Coast Governors’ Agreement on Ocean Health, a regional collaboration to protect and manage ocean and coastal resources along the entire West Coast.

This system will provide advanced early warning of harmful algal blooms. And that will help to minimize fishery closures, protect the economy of coastal communities, lessen the impacts to marine life and better protect public health.

You probably know harmful algal blooms better as ‘red tides.’ The blooms occur when algae—simple ocean plants that live in the sea—grow out of control while producing toxic or harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals and birds. Experts who deal with these blooms usually refer to them as HABs.

At the Summit, attendees looked at the causes of HABs, and they mapped out research and management actions needed to lessen the impacts of this threat to water quality, living resources, and coastal communities.

The group also sought to reach consensus on the present state-of-knowledge and prioritized the information needed by decision makers to lessen the impacts of HAB events on humans and critical marine resources.
The meeting builds upon more than 10 years of NOAA support for HAB research and management on the West Coast.

(Taking a Closer Look: West Coast HABs)

So, now we know what the meeting was about…now let’s take a closer look at why this is such a big deal for West Coast states.

Harmful algal blooms have been having a big impact on the California, Oregon, and Washington coastal communities for decades. Blooms close beaches to recreational razor clam harvesting, make Dungeness crabs too toxic to eat, close mussel and oyster beds to recreational and commercial harvesting, and cause the death of marine mammals and pelicans. These problems are widespread and often extend beyond state boundaries.

In 2002-2003, toxic algae caused razor clam and Dungeness crab fishery closures in Washington resulting in $10-12 million in lost revenue, and a razor clam fishery closure at Clatsop Beach, Oregon, cost the local communities $4.8 million.

Toxic algae have also led to more than 14,000 sick or dead seals, sea lions, sea otters, dolphins, birds, and gray whales along the California shoreline and other parts of the West Coast over the last decade.

These effects have not only resulted in economic losses, but also in an erosion of community identity, community recreation, and a traditional way of living for native coastal cultures.

So you can see why this is so important…and it’s also important to note that this problem isn’t just on the West Coast. Last year, the Department of Commerce declared a commercial fishery failure in New England because of harmful algal blooms. HABs have been reported in almost every coastal state in the nation, and blooms may be on the rise.

(Goodbye!)

That’s all for this episode. If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov.

Let’s bring in the ocean....

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service. See you next week.


Antibiotic resistant illnesses and potential cures in the sea (Episode 16)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/feb09/mw021309.mp3

Fri, 13 Feb 2009 14:30:50 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 16 (Feb. 13, 2009)

(Intro)
Did you know that many of the antibiotics we’ve come to rely on to fight infections and disease either don’t work or don’t work very well anymore? It’s a phenomenon called ‘antibiotic resistance’…it’s also known as ‘drug resistance.’

So what does this have to do with the ocean? Stick around to find out.

It’s Friday, February 13th, and this is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

(Overview)
Let’s begin by putting this in perspective. The main cause of the drug resistance problem is that we use a lot of antibiotics … we use them to treat and prevent infections and illnesses in the animals we eat. And we use them to treat our own infections and illnesses. Because of our heavy use of antibiotics, the bacteria and other microorganisms that cause these infections are rapidly evolving ways to survive the drugs that are supposed to kill them.

Diseases and secondary infections related to antibiotic resistance are on the rise, and they’re getting harder and harder to treat. According to the Food and Drug Administration, about 70 percent of bacteria that cause infections in hospitals are resistant to at least one of the drugs most often used to treat infections.

Well, our oceans are not immune from the problem -- antibiotic resistant illnesses are present in the marine environment, too. But the good news is that our oceans may also be the source of cures to these threats. That was the message from a team of scientists gathered together by NOAA’s Oceans and Human Health Initiative. They presented the results of several new studies today at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Chicago.

We’re going to spend today’s episode recapping what the panel had to say. Let’s get started.

(Coral, Sponges Point to Personalized Medicine Potential)
We’re going to start off with some great news – new tools from the ocean to fight the antibiotic resistance war.

A research team made up of scientists from NOAA’s Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina, Medical University of South Carolina, also in Charleston, and researchers at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina, have discovered new compounds derived from a sea sponge and corals that could provide significant new approaches to medicine.

They actually discovered two different things. The first discovery: new compounds that eat away the shield that bacteria use to protect themselves from antibiotics. And the second: new antibiotics derived from corals, sponges, and marine microbes that fight even some of the worst infectious bacterial strains.

The team isolated one such drug from a sponge that seemed to be thriving even though it was located in the middle of a dying coral reef. What they found in that sponge was a unique chemical compound that breaks down the biofilm barrier that bacteria use to protect themselves from threats.

The discovery could lead to a new class of drugs that could help to break down bacterial walls, and that would pave the way for the use of antibiotics that we no longer thought effective—because it’s those protective walls that are keeping many types of antibiotics from working.

And that’s just the beginning of the potential uses for new kinds of drugs derived from the sea. Dr. Peter Moeller, a NOAA research scientist and lead for the study, sees this as the start of new kind of medicine.

Moeller envisions medicines in the near future being customized to individuals’ needs, rather than relying on broad-spectrum antibiotics that we use today. All in part due to the variety of finely-tuned chemicals naturally found in the sea.

(Staph: A Beach Going Concern)
Next up, one of the three studies presented by the NOAA-sponsored group found that swimmers using public ocean beaches increase their risk for exposure to staph organisms, and they may increase their risk for potential staph infections once they enter the water.

To be more specific, the study found that swimming in subtropical marine waters increases your chance of being exposed to staph – either your own or possibly staph from someone else in the water with you – by thirty-seven percent.

For those exposed to staph, those who have open wounds or have weakened immune systems are at greatest risk of infection.

The team also noted that M-R-S-A, a type of antibiotic resistant staph, is being found in a wide range of environments – and that includes ocean waters…but less than three percent of staph they found in the sea and at the beach where they did their study in Miami was the potentially virulent MRSA variety.

It’s important to note that the research team does not advise avoiding beaches, but they do recommend that beach-goers take precautions to reduce risk. And they way to do that is to shower thoroughly before entering the water and after getting out.

This was the first time that scientists have conducted a large-scale study of this kind of beach users in recreational areas where there’s no sewage source of pollution. The next step is to learn more about the problem. The team noted that more research is needed to understand how long staph can live in coastal waters – both the normal staph and the antibiotic resistant kind. And scientists need to learn more about the risk to humans associated with beach exposures.

This research was funded by multiple agencies and conducted by the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel’s School of Ocean Sciences and the Miller School of Medicine.

(High Antibiotic Resistance in Seafood-borne Pathogens)
And finally, scientists from the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Science in Maine presented their new research at the event. They reported that the frequency of drug resistance in a type of bacteria called vibrio was much higher than expected.

This a big public health concern, because vibrio bacteria are the leading cause of seafood-borne illness and death in the U.S. What the findings suggest is that current treatments for this type of infection need to be re-examined. And that’s because the scientists found that the antibiotic resistant vibrio bacteria was resistant to the main types of antibiotics used today to treat this type of infection in humans.

The researchers point out that this naturally occurring resistance to antibiotics in vibrio bacteria hasn’t been extensively studied, but they add that the frequency of these resistant strains may increase in contaminated coastal areas where humans are dumping antibiotics and other toxicants into the waste stream.

The good news is that team found that these resistant strains were not resistant to several types of new-generation drugs, so their research may point the way to better strategies to treat these types of seafood-borne infections.


Ocean in Google Earth; predicting cholera (Episode 15)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/feb09/mw020609.mp3

Fri, 06 Feb 2009 08:13:28 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 15 (Feb. 6, 2009)

(INTRO)
... You can now explore the depths of the ocean with Google Earth
... And scientists observe the ocean from space to predict outbreaks of cholera

Those stories are coming up today on Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

(OCEAN NOW IN GOOGLE EARTH)
Starting this week, visitors to Google Earth can explore the depths of the ocean -- and there’s lots of new NOAA information and images out there to discover. Google Earth, for those of your unfamiliar with it, is a free tool that allows you to explore through maps and satellite images of our planet, through space, and now the ocean. You can download it as a stand-alone application or as a plug-in for your web browser.

The project is officially called "Ocean in Google Earth," and it adds new layers of information to the popular Earth exploration tool. In addition to the depth of the sea floor, it also displays information such as weather patterns, currents, temperatures, shipwrecks, coral reefs, and algal blooms.

NOAA contributed a variety of data and imagery to the project and will be continually adding new information.  Google explorers can pan through expeditions from the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, including a trip to the submerged wreck of the Titanic. You can also learn about marine debris and view ocean current maps from the NOAA Marine Debris Program that show marine debris moves with the current around the ocean.

Other NOAA contributions include information on marine protected areas, including NOAA’s 13 U.S. national marine sanctuaries and one marine national monument. These are highlighted in detail via underwater video footage, high-resolution seabed maps, and photography.  Data from NOAA’s National Data Buoy Center and seabed maps of U.S. coastal waters are also part of the Ocean in Google Earth.

The tool is great for amateur oceanographers and marine enthusiasts, and it also is a place for researchers to collaborate and share information – and that will help us all better understand the many issues affecting our ocean. 

(USING OCEAN OBSERVATIONS TO PREDICT CHOLERA OUTBREAKS)
 
If you’re using Google Earth and you spin the globe over to the Bay of Bengal – that’s the triangle-shaped body of water to the west of India – you’d be looking at the location of interest for our next story.

Several researchers tied to NOAA were part of a team who recently published a study in the November 2008 Proceedings of the National Academies of Science. And this study points to a new way to use satellite sensors to predict cholera outbreaks.

Dr. Rita Colwell led the study. She’s a distinguished scholar from the NOAA Oceans and Human Health Initiative and a professor at the University of Maryland at College Park. And two other members of the team are from NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Climate Studies, also located on the College Park campus.

Colwell and her team used various ocean observation sensors to measure chlorophyll, sea surface temperature, rainfall, and ground temperature in the Bay of Bengal.

They found that cholera outbreaks typically follow increases in sea temperature. And these higher temperatures lead to increases in phytoplankton.

The phytoplankton, in turn, serve as food for copepods, which are tiny crustaceans that naturally carry the cholera pathogen. As the copepods thrive on the abundant phytoplankton, they find their way into drinking water supplies along the coasts of nations that border the Bay such as India and Bangladesh.

In addition to predicting when and where cholera is likely to occur, Colwell and her team found that filtering drinking water through four or more folds of sari cloth—a material widely available in the region—helps to remove the copepods, which can reduce cholera by 40 to 50 percent.

This new model serves as a robust early warning system for cholera in many regions of the world, and is a useful tool for public health planning and decision making to implement warnings about drinking water contamination.

The study is also proving useful to other health early warning systems for U.S. seafood-related pathogen problems now in development by Oceans and Human Health Initiative-funded scientists and partners.

The Distinguished Scholars program builds NOAA's Oceans and Human Health capacity by bringing world-renowned scientists in to work with the Initiative center on cutting-edge science and its applications.

(OUTRO)

Our next episode will also have an Oceans and Human Health focus. We’ll be dedicating the entire episode to a symposium organized by NOAA’s Oceans and Human Health Initiative at next week’s annual American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago.

The presentation is called ‘Fighting the Rising Tide of Antibiotic Resistance: Causes and Cures and the Sea.’ At the symposium, a panel of government, academic, and non-profit scientists will present the latest research on the spreading, strengthening, and evolution of antibiotic resistance in the ocean, and promising new solutions and treatments from our undersea medicine cabinets.

That’s all for this week. If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, send us an email at nos.info@noaa.gov. And don’t forget to check out the Ocean Facts section of our Web site. Have a question about the ocean that you’d like answered? Let us know.

Now let’s bring in the ocean....

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service. See you next week.


Invasive lionfish; rising sea levels (Episode 14)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/jan09/mw013009.mp3

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 12:36:01 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 14 (Jan. 30, 2009)

(INTRO)
... A new report looks at effects and solutions for sea-level rise on coastal areas.
...And the first reported invasive lionfish was captured in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Those stories are coming up today on Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

( SEA LEVEL RISE REPORT)
First off, let’s talk about sea-level. We’ve all heard the reports that sea-levels are rising. What scientists and other experts are trying to figure out now is how fast this is happening, and what effect this will have on our coasts and on our society.

Well, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in collaboration with NOAA and the U.S. Geological Survey, just released a report that sheds some new light on this. The report hones in on eight coastal states from New York to North Carolina and looks at the impacts of sea-level rise on the coast, coastal communities, and the habitats and species that depend on coastal areas.

Here’s what we know. There’s evidence that the rate of rise is accelerating.  And climate change is likely to speed up this rate during this and the next century. And this is going to mean increased flooding of low-lying areas. It’s also going to lead to greater impacts from coastal storms, eroding shorelines, and the conversion of wetlands to open water. As you can imagine, all of these things are expected to have a huge impact on coastal communities and habitats.

The report, called Coastal Sensitivity to Sea-level Rise: A Focus on the Mid-Atlantic Region, found that rising water levels are already negatively impacting coastal areas, and it should come as no surprise that these effects will increase as the rate of rise accelerates in the future. In fact, most coastal wetlands in the mid-Atlantic would be lost if sea level rises one meter in the next century.  Even a 50-centimeter rise would threaten most wetlands along the Eastern Shore of Chesapeake Bay.

Not all of the news is bad. Some governmental and nongovernmental organizations are already planning and preparing for the future.  The report cites a number of possible responses to sea-level rise that we can take: Seawalls, bulkheads, and other shoreline armoring can be constructed. Buildings and land surfaces - even beaches and wetlands - can be elevated. Or we can allow shorelines to change naturally and just move manmade structures out of the way of the rising water.

The authors of the report also look at the impacts and implications that sea-level rise will have on society. They provide some food for thought about future decision-making, and look at opportunities and barriers we may face as we work to adapt to rising water levels. They also outline current coastal policy in the mid-Atlantic region and look at implications for other regions of the U.S.  Finally, the report looks ahead at ways that natural and social science research can contribute to better understanding, adapting, ad responding to the potential impacts of sea-level rise.

Coastal Sensitivity to Sea-level Rise is one of 21 climate change-related products being developed by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program. NOAA is one of many partners involved with this effort.

You can find a link to the full report and to the Climate Change Science Program on our website at oceanservice.noaa.gov.

(INVASIVE LIONFISH)
Now let’s talk about lionfish.

On January 7, rapid responders removed the first reported invasive lionfish from the waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. They caught the fish within 24 hours of notification.

This marks the first arrival of lionfish into the Florida Keys since the species became established in U.S. waters.

The responders were staff from Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (better know as REEF), and a local dive operator.

The removal tested a new lionfish early detection and rapid response program for South Florida initiated by the NOS National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, REEF, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

If you’ve never seen a lionfish, surf over to our Web site and take a look. They’re pretty crazy looking. They’re brightly colored, with vibrant red, oranges, and whites. They have long feathery fins, and pointed venomous spines.

They’re native to the Indo-Pacific - that’s a part of the ocean made up of the tropical Indian Ocean and the western and central Pacific. At least that’s where they’re supposed to be. At home in their native waters, local ecosystems have evolved and adapted along with these fish, so they fit right in with their environment.

Unfortunately, lionfish are now established in the waters of the Atlantic ocean, and they don’t belong there.  With no natural predators in Atlantic waters, they’re thriving. And this poses a huge risk to Atlantic creatures, habitats and commercial fisheries. The truth is, no one knows exactly what will happen.

That’s why NOAA and many other federal and nonprofit agencies are carefully studying the problem, and why so many groups on the lookout for lionfish invaders. It’s also why trained rapid response teams are capturing the fish for further study and not simply killing them in the water or encouraging an "open season" for fishermen.

(TAKING A CLOSER LOOK)
Now let’s take a closer look at the lionfish problem in the Atlantic.
The invasive fish were discovered off the coast of North Carolina in 2000 by the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, and they are believed to have been present off the east coast of Florida since around the mid 1990s.

How did they get all the way to the Atlantic? The lionfish didn’t swim there. They were introduced by humans. Since lionfish are popular in the aquarium trade, it is likely the fish were introduced to Atlantic waters by people who dumped unwanted aquarium fish back into the ocean.

And they’re doing quite well in  their new Atlantic water homes. The fish are believed to spend the winter from North Carolina to the Bahamas, with juveniles found as far north as Rhode Island during summer months. They can’t survive in the cold waters north of the Carolinas over the winter. 

NOAA researchers have determined that lionfish reach sexual maturity within two years and spawn multiple times during the spawning season. Each spawn can produce up to 30,000 eggs.

Unfortunately, NOAA researchers now believe that non-native lionfish populations will continue to grow and simply can’t be eliminated using conventional methods. The truth is, marine invaders are nearly impossible to eradicate once established.

The only effective elimination method currently known to get rid of invasive lionfish is to dispatch trained divers. But the cost and effort of this makes it impractical. The main reason is that the expansive deepwater reef habitats of the Southeast coast of the U.S. and Bahamas is an area encompassing more than 62,000 square miles.

Once a lionfish is captured, it is typically dissected and studied to learn its gender, sexual maturity, and what it’s eating. This information helps researchers better understand the potential threat that lionfish could pose to key reef and commercial fish species in places like the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Learning more about the potential habitat preferences of lionfish in non-native waters may also help experts determine where to look for these invasive fish in the future.

So, with careful study, the hope is that we’ll eventually better understand the lionfish role in, and threat to, Atlantic Ocean ecosystems. And with rapid response plans in place, we can try to limit the spread of the fish in places like the Florida Keys. 

(OUTRO)
That’s all for this episode. If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, send us an email at nos.web@noaa.gov.

Let’s bring in the ocean....

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service. See you next week.


'Diving Deeper' podcast premier (Episode 13)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/jan09/mw012309.mp3

Fri, 23 Jan 2009 12:31:16 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 13 (Jan. 23, 2009)

(INTRO)
... WE’RE GOING TO DO SOMETHING A LITTLE DIFFERENT THIS WEEK. FIRST, IT’S GOING TO BE A VERY SHORT EPISODE. THAT’S BECAUSE IT’S A THREE-DAY WORKWEEK HERE IN THE WASHINGTON, D.C. METRO AREA BECAUSE OF THE MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR, FEDERAL HOLIDAY AND THE PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION. BUT THIS IS A PERFECT TIME TO INTRODUCE YOU TO A BRAND NEW NOS PODCAST THAT’S GOING TO PREMIER NEXT MONDAY, ON JANUARY 26. STAY TUNED FOR A SAMPLE OF WHAT’S TO COME.

WE’LL BE BACK WITH OUR REGULAR FORMAT NEXT WEEK. WITHOUT FURTHER ADO, THIS IS MAKING WAVES FROM NOAA’S NATIONAL OCEAN SERVICE.

( DIVING DEEPER)
SO, MAKING WAVES IS A SHORT WEEKLY PODCAST TO BRING YOU THE LATEST NEWS AND INFORMATION FROM THE NOS. BUT WOULDN’T IT BE NICE TO HAVE A LONGER-FORMAT PODCAST TO BRING YOU INTERVIEWS FROM NOS SCIENTISTS AND EXPERTS? THAT’S THE IDEA BEHIND DIVING DEEPER. IT’S GOING TO PREMIER NEXT WEEK, AND WILL BE COMING TO YOU ONCE EVERY TWO WEEKS.

EACH EPISODE OF DIVING DEEPER WILL FOCUS ON ONE TOPIC. THE FIRST EPISODE IS ABOUT NUTRIENT POLLUTION, OR EUTROPHICATION. IN LATER EPISODES, WE’LL HEAR ABOUT MARINE PROTECTED AREAS, NAUTICAL CHARTS, GEODESY, ALL ABOUT THE INTEGRATED OCEAN OBSERVING SYSTEM, AND MUCH, MUCH MORE. WE THINK IT’S GOING TO BE GREAT.
NOW LET’S HEAR A SAMPLE OF THE FIRST EPISODE ABOUT EUTROPHICATION FEATURING NOS SCIENTIST DR. SUZANNE BRICKER.

(SAMPLE OF DIVING DEEPER)
WELCOME TO DIVING DEEPER WHERE WE INTERVIEW NATIONAL OCEAN SERVICE SCIENTISTS ON THE OCEAN TOPICS AND INFORMATION THAT ARE IMPORTANT TO YOU!

TODAY’S QUESTION IS …WHAT IS EUTROPHICATION?

TO HELP US DIVE A LITTLE DEEPER INTO THIS QUESTION, WE WILL TALK WITH DR. SUZANNE BRICKER ABOUT EUTROPHICATION – WHAT IT IS, WHAT IT MEANS, AND WHAT SCIENTISTS ARE DOING ABOUT IT. SUZANNE IS A PHYSICAL SCIENTIST FROM THE NATIONAL CENTERS FOR COASTAL OCEAN SCIENCE. HI, SUZANNE, WELCOME TO OUR SHOW.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME TODAY. I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO TALKING ABOUT EUTROPHICATION AND SOME OF THE STUDIES THAT WE’VE DONE TO UNDERSTAND NUTRIENT POLLUTION IN OUR NATION’S ESTUARIES.

HOST : THANKS SUZANNE. FIRST, CAN YOU EXPLAIN TO US A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EUTROPHICATION AND NUTRIENT POLLUTION?

SUZANNE: 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: 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.

(OUTRO)
SO THAT’S JUST A SAMPLE OF DIVING DEEPER, A NEW NOS PODCAST PREMIERING NEXT MONDAY. YOU’LL FIND IT ON OUR WEB SITE AT OCEANSERVICE.NOAA.GOV.

AND IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT THE NATIONAL OCEAN SERVICE OR ABOUT OUR OCEAN, SEND US AN EMAIL AT NOS.WEB@NOAA.GOV.

NOW, IN HONOR OF DIVING DEEPER, LET’S BRING IN THE DIVING BUBBLES!

THIS IS MAKING WAVES FROM NOAA'S NATIONAL OCEAN SERVICE. SEE YOU NEXT TIME.


New NGS director; NOS Web site update (Episode 12)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/jan09/makingwaves011609.mp3

Fri, 16 Jan 2009 11:44:28 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 12 (Jan. 16, 2009)

(INTRO)
... A NEW DIRECTOR FOR THE NATIONAL GEODETIC SURVEY
...AND WHAT’S NEW ON THE NOS WEBSITE
THAT’S COMING UP TODAY ON MAKING WAVES FROM NOAA’S NATIONAL OCEAN SERVICE.

(NEW NGS DIRECTOR)
THE OLDEST FEDERAL SCIENCE AGENCY IN THE NATION HAS A NEW DIRECTOR. JULIANA BLACKWELL IS SET TO BECOME THE HEAD OF NOAA’S NATIONAL GEODETIC SURVEY, AND SHE’S MAKING HISTORY AS THE FIRST WOMAN TO HOLD THE POST.

BLACKWELL WILL NOW OVERSEE MANAGEMENT OF THE NATION’S SPATIAL REFERENCE SYSTEM. THIS SYSTEM DEFINES LATITUDE, LONGITUDE, HEIGHT, SCALE, GRAVITY, AND ORIENTATION THROUGHOUT THE UNITED STATES. IT’S THE FOUNDATION FOR TRANSPORTATION AND COMMUNICATIONS; MAPPING AND CHARTING; AND A HOST OF SCIENTIFIC AND ENGINEERING APPLICATIONS. YOU MAY NOT HEAR MUCH ABOUT THE NATIONAL SPATIAL REFERENCE SYSTEM, BUT YOU’D CERTAINLY KNOW IF IT DIDN’T EXIST. WITHOUT IT, BRIDGES AND TUNNELS MIGHT NOT MEET UP CORRECTLY IN THE MIDDLE, AIRCRAFT MIGHT LAND NEXT TO THE RUNWAY INSTEAD OF ON IT, AND TRAINS MIGHT END UP HEADING TOWARDS EACH OTHER ON THE SAME TRACK AT THE SAME TIME.

SHE’LL ALSO TAKE THE HELM OF THE NGS COASTAL MAPPING PROGRAM, WHICH MEASURES PRECISE POSITIONS OF THE SHORELINE AND OTHER FEATURES NEEDED FOR MAKING ACCURATE NAUTICAL CHARTS.

AND SHE’LL BE IN CHARGE OF AN NGS PROGRAM THAT MANY PEOPLE ARE SURPRISED TO LEARN IS PART OF THE OCEAN SERVICE. I MENTIONED AIRPLANES A MOMENT AGO. DID YOU THAT THE NGS HAS BEEN INVOLVED IN THE NATION’S AVIATION INDUSTRY SINCE THE EARLY 1900S? TODAY, NGS ADMINISTERS THE AERONAUTICAL SURVEY PROGRAM. THIS PROGRAM PROVIDES HIGHLY ACCURATE POSITION, HEIGHT, AND ORIENTATION INFORMATION THAT WE NEED FOR SAFE AIR TRAVEL. AND THE NGS HAS BEEN PERFORMING AERONAUTICAL SURVEYS SINCE THE 1920S. THESE SURVEYS PROVIDE PILOTS WITH CRITICAL DATA ABOUT AIRPORT FEATURES, OBSTRUCTIONS, AND AIDS TO AIR TRAVEL.

BLACKWELL IS NO STRANGER TO THE NGS. SHE’S BEEN A FULL-TIME MEMBER OF THE SURVEY FOR 12 YEARS. FOR THE PAST THREE YEARS, SHE SERVED AS THE CHIEF OF THE NGS OBSERVATION AND ANALYSIS DIVISION. THAT’S THE OFFICE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SPATIAL REFERENCE SYSTEM.

SHE’S ALSO MANAGED NOAA'S HEIGHT MODERNIZATION PROGRAM. THIS NGS PROGRAM PROVIDES ACCURATE HEIGHT INFORMATION BY INTEGRATING GPS TECHNOLOGY WITH EXISTING GROUND-BASED SURVEY TECHNIQUES. ACCURATE HEIGHT MEASUREMENTS ARE CRITICAL FOR DETERMINING WATER FLOW. ACCURATE WATER FLOW INFORMATION, IN TURN, IS CRITICAL FOR MONITORING AND MAPPING STORM SURGE, TSUNAMIS, FLOOD PLAINS, IRRIGATION, AND NAVIGATION. SO BY IMPROVING THE EFFICIENCY AND ACCURACY OF HEIGHT INFORMATION USED IN SURVEYING, MAPPING, AND MODELING AROUND THE COUNTRY, HEIGHT MODERNIZATION SAVES LIVES AND MONEY.

BLACKWELL JOINED NOAA IN 1990 AS AN OFFICER OF THE NOAA CORPS. DURING HER NOAA CORPS CAREER, SHE SERVED ON TWO NOAA SHIPS. SHE JOINED NGS FULL TIME IN 1996.

I MENTIONED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE PODCAST THAT NGS IS THE OLDEST SCIENCE AGENCY IN THE NATION. HOW OLD IS IT? WELL, IT JUST PASSED IT’S 200TH YEAR. NGS TRACES IT ROOTS TO A OFFICE CALLED THE SURVEY OF THE COAST, ESTABLISHED BY THOMAS JEFFERSON IN 1807.

(NEW NOS VIDEO, OCEAN FACTS, AND MORE)
NOW LET’S SHIFT GEARS AND TALK A BIT ABOUT THE NATIONAL OCEAN SERVICE WEB SITE.

HERE’S A QUESTION FOR YOU. WHAT PERCENTAGE OF LIFE ON EARTH IS IN THE OCEAN?

THE ANSWER: THE OCEAN COVERS OVER 70 PERCENT OF THE EARTH’S SURFACE, AND IS OUR PLANET’S LARGEST HABITAT. THE OCEAN HOLDS AN ASTONISHING 99 PERCENT OF THE LIVING SPACE ON THE GLOBE. THIS VAST AREA SUPPORTS THE LIFE OF NEARLY 50 PERCENT OF ALL SPECIES ON EARTH.

AND DID YOU KNOW THAT SCIENTISTS ARE CURRENTLY CONDUCTING THE FIRST EVER “CENSUS OF MARINE LIFE?” THIS PROJECT IS EXPECTED TO BE COMPLETED IN 2010. THE PROJECT WILL BE THE FIRST TIME EVER WE HUMANS HAVE DEVELOPED A COMPREHENSIVE GLOBAL LIST OF ALL FORMS OF LIFE IN THE OCEAN. BY SOME ESTIMATES, A MILLION OR MORE SPECIES REMAIN UNKNOWN, YET TO BE DISCOVERED.

THAT’S EXCITING STUFF. AND IT’S JUST ONE OF MANY OCEAN-RELATED QUESTIONS WE’VE ANSWERED IN A SECTION OF OUR SITE WE CALL OCEAN FACTS.

OCEAN FACTS HAS BEEN UP FOR A COUPLE OF MONTHS NOW, AND WE’RE ADDING TO OUR LIST OF FACTS EACH WEEK. WE THINK IT’S GOING TO GROW INTO A GREAT RESOURCE WHETHER YOU’RE LOOKING FOR A SPECIFIC ANSWER, OR YOUR JUST CURIOUS. LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK. MORE IMPORTANTLY, SEND US QUESTIONS YOU HAVE ABOUT THE OCEAN AND WE’LL ADD THEM TO THE LIST.

AND WHEN YOU VISIT, BE SURE TO CHECK OUT A NEW VIDEO PRODUCED BY NOAA’S OCEAN MEDIA CENTER. IT JUST WENT UP ON THE SITE THIS WEEK. THE VIDEO IS A LITTLE MORE THAN SIX MINUTES LONG, AND IT’S A GREAT OVERVIEW OF WHAT THE NATIONAL OCEAN SERVICE DOES. IT’S ALSO A GOOD WAY TO GET A SENSE OF WHAT CHALLENGES WE FACE ON OUR COASTS AND IN OUR OCEANS AROUND THE NATION. AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST, THE VIDEO SHOTS OF OUR OCEANS AND COASTS IS JUST BEAUTIFUL. SO BE SURE TO CHECK IT OUT.

AND FINALLY, I WANT TO MENTION AN ONGOING CUSTOMER SURVEY WE HAVE RUNNING ON THE NOS SITE. WHEN YOU VISIT OCEANSERVICE.NOAA.GOV, A SMALL WINDOW MAY POP UP ASKING IF YOU’D BE WILLING TO TAKE A SHORT SURVEY. THIS SURVEY POPS UP RANDOMLY, SO YOU MAY OR MAY NOT SEE IT. BUT IF YOU DO, WE ASK THAT YOU TAKE JUST A FEW MINUTES TO LET US KNOW HOW WELL THE SITE IS WORKING FOR YOU, AND WHAT WE COULD DO BETTER. YOUR FEEDBACK WOULD BE MUCH APPRECIATED.

(OUTRO)
THAT’S ALL FOR THIS WEEK. ONCE AGAIN, OUR SITE IS AT OCEANSERVICE.NOAA.GOV. AND YOU CAN LEARN MORE ABOUT THE NATIONAL GEODETIC SURVEY ON THE WEB AT GEODESY.NOAA.GOV. THAT’S G-E-O-D-E-S-Y. GEODESY, BY THE WAY, IS A BRANCH OF GEOLOGY. IT’S THE SCIENCE OF DETERMING THE SIZE AND SHAPE OF THE EARTH, AND OF DETERMING EXACT POSITIONS OF GEOGRAPHIC POINTS ON THE GLOBE.

NEXT WEEK’S PODCAST WILL BE A LITTLE DIFFERENT. WE’RE GOING TO INTRODUCE YOU TO A NEW PODCAST FROM NOS CALLED DIVING DEEPER. IT WILL BE COMING OUT ONCE EVERY TWO WEEKS, AND WILL FEATURE IN-DEPTH INTERVIEWS WITH OCEAN SERVICE EXPERTS ABOUT A WIDE VARIETY OF ISSUES. BUT I DON’T WANT TO GIVE IT ALL AWAY. TUNE IN NEXT WEEK TO LEARN MORE.

AS ALWAYS, IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS WEEK’S PODCAST, ABOUT THE NATIONAL OCEAN SERVICE, OR ABOUT OUR OCEAN, SEND US AN EMAIL AT NOS.WEB@NOAA.GOV.

LET’S BRING IN THE OCEAN ... THIS IS MAKING WAVES FROM NOAA'S NATIONAL OCEAN SERVICE. SEE YOU NEXT TIME.

(top)


Delaware River restoration; lobster trap debris (Episode 11)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/jan09/NOS_makingwaves_010909.mp3

Fri, 09 Jan 2009 11:40:03 -0500

Making Waves: Episode 11 (Jan. 09, 2009)

(INTRO)
... STUDYING LOBSTER TRAP DEBRIS IN FLORIDA
...AND A NEW RESTORATION PLAN IS ANNOUNCED FOR THE DELAWARE RIVER
THOSE STORIES ARE COMING UP TODAY ON MAKING WAVES FROM NOAA’S NATIONAL OCEAN SERVICE.


(LOBSTER TRAP DEBRIS STUDY)

LET’S START OFF TODAY IN SOMEPLACE WARM. HOW DOES THE FLORIDA KEYS SOUND? WELL, NOS RESEARCHERS DOWN IN THE KEYS JUST FINISHED UP A STUDY FOCUSED ON THE TRAPS USED TO CATCH SPINY LOBSTERS IN THE FLORIDA KEYS NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY.

IT TURNS OUT THAT THE BITS AND PIECES OF ABANDONED AND LOST TRAPS IN THE SANCTUARY ARE THE MOST COMMON FORM OF MARINE DEBRIS IN THE WATERS THERE. AND SURPRISINGLY, THE MOST HEAVILY FISHED AREAS WERE NOT ALWAYS THE AREAS WITH THE MOST TRAP DEBRIS.

RESEARCHERS AT NOAA’S CENTER FOR COASTAL FISHERIES AND HABITAT RESEARCH SURVEYED THE WATERS BY TOWING DIVERS BEHIND BOATS. AS THEY STREAMED ALONG THROUGH THE WATER, THEY WERE ABLE TO ESTIMATE THE ABUNDANCE AND DISTRIBUTION OF DERELICT LOBSTER TRAPS AND TRAP-RELATED DEBRIS ON THE SEA FLOOR IN DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE SANCTUARY.

FLORIDA’S COMMERCIAL SPINY LOBSTER FISHERY IS THE LARGEST COMMERCIAL FISHERY IN FLORIDA. AND TRAPS ARE THE MAIN METHOD USED TO CATCH THEM.

THERE ARE 495,000 TRAPS CURRENTLY PERMITTED TO CATCH SPINY LOBSTERS IN FLORIDA. AND EACH YEAR, TENS OF THOUSANDS ARE LOST. IT’S A REAL PROBLEM. FOR STARTERS, LOST LOBSTER TRAPS KEEP DOING THEIR JOB. THEY CAN TRAP, INJURE, OR KILL SEA LIFE RANGING FROM FISH, TO SEA BIRDS, TO MARINE MAMMALS LONG AFTER THEY’RE LOST. AND THEY ALSO DAMAGE SENSITIVE HABITATS LIKE SEA GRASS BEDS.

BUT THEY CAUSE TROUBLE TO HUMANS TOO. THEY CAN BE A HAZARD TO NAVIGATION. AND THE LOSS OF A TRAP MEANS LOST INCOME FOR LOBSTERMEN, WHOLESALERS, AND THE RESTAURANT INDUSTRY.

THE FINDINGS OF THIS STUDY WILL BE USED BY RESOURCE MANAGERS TO MORE EFFECTIVELY MANAGE THE SPINY LOBSTER FISHERY. AND THE RESEARCH IS PART OF A LARGER EFFORT TO FOSTER A WIDER DISCUSSION AMONG SCIENTISTS, ACADEMICS, AND FISHERY MANAGERS ABOUT THE SOURCES OF FISHING GEAR DEBRIS, HOW IT’S DISTRIBUTED, AND HOW ABUNDANT THIS DEBRIS IS IN THE WIDER CARIBBEAN.

THE STUDY WAS A COLLABORATIVE EFFORT BETWEEN NOS AND THE FLORIDA FISH & WILDLIFE CONSERVATION COMMISSION. YOU CAN SEE PHOTOS FROM THE STUDY ON OUR WEBSITE AT NOS.NOAA.GOV.

(DELAWARE RIVER RESTORATION PLAN)
NOW LET’S HEAD BACK NORTH TO THE COLDER WATERS OF THE DELAWARE RIVER.

BACK IN NOVEMBER OF 2004, A LARGE CARGO VESSEL CALLED THE ATHOS I STRUCK A SUBMERGED ANCHOR WHILE IT WAS GETTING READY TO DOCK IN NEW JERSEY. THE ANCHOR PUNCTURED THE HULL, AND THAT LED TO THE LOSS OF NEARLY 265,000 GALLONS OF CRUDE OIL INTO THE DELAWARE RIVER THAT EVENTUALLY SPREAD TO MORE THAN 280 MILES OF SHORELINE. IT DAMAGED HABITATS, KILLED OR INJURED AQUATIC CREATURES, BIRDS AND OTHER WILDLIFE ... AND IT SHUT DOWN A LOT OF THE RIVER TO RECREATIONAL USE BY HUMANS.
THIS WEEK, NOAA, THE U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE AND THE STATES OF PENNSYLVANIA, NEW JERSEY AND DELAWARE RELEASED A RESTORATION PLAN TO REPAIR AND IMPROVE SHORELINE AND HABITATS OF THE DELAWARE DAMAGED BY THE SPILL.

THAT PLAN IS NOW UP FOR PUBLIC COMMENT. THIS COMMENT PERIOD IS THE LAST STEP BEFORE RESTORATION PROJECTS ARE SELECTED AND FUNDING IS SOUGHT FROM AN OIL SPILL LIABILITY TRUST FUND. THE DEADLINE FOR COMMENTS IS FEB. 20 OF THIS YEAR.

UNDER THE OIL POLLUTION ACT, NOAA AND ITS STATE AND FEDERAL PARTNERS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR RESTORING THE SHORELINE AND HABITAT TO CONDITIONS THAT WOULD HAVE EXISTED BEFORE THE OIL SPILL.

THE PLAN FOR THIS LARGE, COMPLEX SPILL WAS DEVELOPED AFTER AN EQUALLY LARGE AND COMPLEX EFFORT THAT INVOLVED RESPONDING TO THE INITIAL INCIDENT, AND ASSESSING ALL OF THE NATURAL RESOURCE DAMAGE IN THE REGION.

THE DAMAGE ASSESSMENT RESTORATION PLAN RECOMMENDS NINE PREFERRED RESTORATION PROJECTS INTENDED TO ADDRESS SHORELINE AND RECREATIONAL USE INJURIES IN DELAWARE, NEW JERSEY AND PENNSYLVANIA. COSTS FOR THESE PROJECTS ARE EXPECTED TO TOTAL OVER $20 MILLION.

THESE PROJECTS WILL BENEFIT COASTAL COMMUNITIES AND ECONOMIES BY IMPROVING THE HABITAT, PROVIDE GREEN JOBS DURING CONSTRUCTION, AND CREATE NEW OPPORTUNITIES TO ENJOY THE RIVER AND ITS NATIVE WILDLIFE.

(TAKING A CLOSER LOOK)
THE DRAFT DAMAGE ASSESSMENT AND RESTORATION PLAN IS AVAILABLE ONLINE. WE’LL GIVE YOU THE ADDRESS IN A MOMENT. BUT FIRST, LET’S TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT HOW AND WHY NOAA IS INVOLVED IN THE DAMAGE ASSESSMENT AND RESTORATION BUSINESS.

EACH YEAR, OIL AND TOXIC CHEMICALS FROM SHIPS, PIPELINES, AND HAZARDOUS WASTE SITES CONTAMINATE OUR NATION’S COASTAL WATERS.

INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT ALONG THE COASTS IS A BIG SOURCE OF THE PROBLEM, ALTHOUGH THE EFFECTS ARE NOT ALWAYS OBVIOUS. POLLUTANTS LIKE TOXIC METALS, PESTICIDES, AND OTHER HARMFUL SUBSTANCES CAN PERSIST IN THE ENVIRONMENT, POSING THREATS TO FISH, WILDLIFE, AND PEOPLE FOR MANY YEARS.

SO, AFTER AN OIL SPILL OR HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCE RELEASE, GOVERNMENT AGENCIES RESPOND BY CLEANING UP AND REDUCING LONG-TERM RISKS TO HUMANS AND THE ENVIRONMENT. BUT THESE EFFORTS MAY NOT FULLY RESTORE INJURED NATURAL RESOURCES.

THAT’S WHERE NOAA’S DAMAGE ASSESSMENT, REMEDIATION, AND RESTORATION PROGRAM, OR DARRP, STEPS IN. THIS GROUP IS MADE UP OF THE NATIONAL OCEAN SERVICE’S OFFICE OF RESPONSE AND RESTORATION, NOAA’S FISHERIES’ RESTORATION CENTER, AND NOAA’S GENERAL COUNSEL FOR NATURAL RESOURCES. THE ROLE OF THE PROGRAM IS TO STUDY THE EXTENT OF THE DAMAGE TO NATURAL RESOURCES, FIND THE BEST METHODS FOR RESTORING THOSE RESOURCES, AND FIGURE OUT THE TYPE AND AMOUNT OF RESTORATION THAT’S NEEDED.

THE DARRP TEAM PARTNERS WITH INDUSTRY, GOVERNMENT, AND OTHER STAKEHOLDERS TO REVERSE THE EFFECTS OF COASTAL CONTAMINATION AND TO PROTECT AND RESTORE THE ENVIRONMENT.

TO DATE, DARRP HAS SUCCESSFULLY PROTECTED NATURAL RESOURCES AT MORE THAN 500 WASTE SITES AND GENERATED MORE THAN $440 MILLION FROM RESPONSIBLE PARTIES TO PROTECT OR RESTORE THOUSANDS OF ACRES OF HABITAT AND RETURN VALUABLE RESOURCES AND SERVICES TO THE PUBLIC.

(OUTRO)
AS PROMISED, THE LINK THAT WILL TAKE YOU TO THE FULL ATHOS I REPORT IS WWW.DARRP.NOAA.GOV. YOU CAN FIND OUT THERE HOW TO SUBMIT YOUR QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS ABOUT THE PLAN.

BUT WE HOPE YOU START YOUR ONLINE JOURNEY BY VISITING OUR SITE. WE’RE AT OCEANSERVICE.NOAA.GOV. WE’VE POSTED A