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Diving Deeper Shorts: Episode 4 (September 23, 2010) - Integrated Ocean Observing System

HOST: Today on Diving Deeper Shorts, we will revisit our previous interview with Jennie Lyons on the Integrated Ocean Observing System, also known as IOOS.

Let's listen in.

HOST: Jennie, why do we observe our oceans and coasts?

JENNIE LYONS: Well, if you think about how people learn, we really do it by watching and taking in information. It's the same thing with our oceans and coasts. We really need to observe them to understand what's happening there. Once we understand, then we can increase the nation's ability to keep our people safe, our economy secure, and our environment healthy and productive.

HOST: Can you give us an example of how IOOS data are used?

JENNIE LYONS: I can. There are so many, it's hard to pick a few, but there certainly are some. So, one way responders can use IOOS data is to track oil slicks after a spill, for example, because our real-time data shows the movement of water and therefore the movement of the spill.

Along the same lines, IOOS data is also useful in tracking and predicting harmful algal blooms. And for those who might not be familiar with that term, basically, not all algae is harmful. But, they're just simple plants that live in the sea and form the base of the food web. But harmful algal blooms happen when certain types of algae multiply and produce harmful effects on people, animals, and birds. Data on ocean currents help forecasters predict both movement and size of these blooms, so they can act to decrease health risks to people who might have been affected otherwise.

Yet another example – and one of my favorites – of how our data can help happened after the recent emergency landing of that airplane in the Hudson River in January 2009. That jet crashed near sensors within New York Harbor's Observing Prediction System, which is part of our Mid-Atlantic region. Within minutes, our partners at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey had compiled a detailed report of water conditions around the site and a forecast of conditions for the next 48 hours. They sent the reports to emergency crews. You may recall that all of the plane's crew and passengers were rescued safely.  And also, in the days after the crash, Stevens provided around the clock assistance to various emergency agencies to help with salvage operations including lifting the plane out of the water.

That's all for today's Diving Deeper Shorts, where we highlight a few minutes of your favorite Diving Deeper episodes.

Want to learn more? Go to and select the March 2009 podcast archive to listen to the full interview with Jennie Lyons on the Integrated Ocean Observing System.

You can catch the next episode of Diving Deeper in October.