Gulf of Maine Sampling Cruise Continues…..

Images and notes from the crew in the Gulf of Maine:

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The group getting trained on the Craib Corer.

We completed our three training stations a little after 10 pm Wednesday. We arrived at our first station around 3:30 Thursday morning, November 7. Our first station was 22 nautical miles southeast of Portsmith Harbor.
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To the right, Bruce Keifer setting up the Corer for deployment.
When we get to a station we deploy the Corer. Depending on the depth it takes about 10-15 minutes to reach the bottom, collect the core, and return to deck. Once we have confirmed a good sample we move on to the next station. While in transit we process the sample. Each watch is averaging about three stations per 4 hour shift.
Yesterday morning this seas were pretty calm but picked up throughout the day. In the evening we were experiencing 4-6 foot seas and winds around 20 knots. If the winds exceed 30-35 kts our sampling will have to be stopped.
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Boatswain Tyler, Dave Kidwell and  Jeff Paternoster set the Corer for deployment.
On the first station of the 8-12 watch Wednesday night the winds were just under 30 kts. When we first dropped the corer the winds were blowing the ship over the corer. It took the crew a while to position the boat so we could bring the Corer up without damaging in on the hull of the ship.
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New Research Cruise in the Gulf of Maine to Improve Red Tide Forecasting

The NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer will leave port in Rhode Island on Nov 6 and head north to the Gulf of Maine.  Forty stations will be sampled throughout the US portion of the Gulf to collect sediment samples.  The researchers be looking for the cyst form of Alexandrium fundyense, the phytoplankton species responsible for the red tide events that have been affecting the New England coast.  Information about the number of cysts in the sediment combined with environmental data in the spring will allow us to forecast what sort of year it will be for red tides along the coast.  The information will allow coastal managers to plan for impacts to the shell fishing.   The cruise concludes on Nov 12.  After that, partners at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute will be processing the samples and working with NOAA to produce the forecasts, both seasonal and weekly. The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries estimated that the total economic impact associated with lost shellfish landings due to the bloom in 2012 was close to $50 million in that state alone. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared the event a “commercial fisheries failure,” and, for the first time in the region, the governors of Maine and Massachusetts officially declared red tide to be a disaster, clearing the way for fishermen to receive federal emergency assistance.

Posted in General, Harmful Algal Blooms, Hypoxia, seafood safety | Leave a comment

Research Cruise Investigates Coral Ecosystem Connectivity in the Gulf of Mexico

by Kimberly Puglise, Program Manager
Regional Ecosystems Research Branch, Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research (CSCOR), National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS)

Visit the Ocean Explorer Website for further information on the project, its use by the National Marine Sanctuaries Program, information on Mesophotic Coral Ecosystems and  mission logs.

Beginning August 13, NCCOS-supported researchers led by the University of Miami embark on a research expedition to investigate the role that the mesophotic (mid-depth) coral ecosystems of Pulley Ridge (off southwest Florida) may play in replenishing key fish and other coral ecosystem species in the downstream reefs of the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas. This is the second field season for this 5-year study.

The expedition is split between two vessels, the R/V F.G. Walton Smith from August 13-27 and the M/V Spree from August 19-29. The R/V Walton Smith will focus on characterizing the benthic and fish communities, collecting genetic samples of larger fish species, and characterizing planktonic fish and invertebrate larvae. The M/V Spree will focus on collecting specimens for determining population connectivity.

The results of this study will provide greater understanding of the underlying physical and ecological processes that affect Pulley Ridge. This information will in turn be used to determine the type and extent of management actions necessary to sustain coral reef communities upstream and downstream of Pulley Ridge.

The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, through its Advisory Council, is currently conducting a review of sanctuary regulations, including the rules and boundaries for marine zones in the sanctuary and surrounding national wildlife refuges. As part of this review, the Sanctuary Advisory Council identified study areas that should be considered for potential inclusion within the sanctuary and where general sanctuary regulations would then apply. Pulley Ridge was identified as an area for consideration. If included as part of the sanctuary, additional management capabilities available under the authority of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act would provide further protection to Pulley Ridge from non-fishing related activities.

You can follow the scientists and their research activities by reading about the Mission and its logs posted every other day at the OER website.

Posted in Areas of Special Biological Significance, Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research, Coral, General, Mesophotic Coral Reef Ecosystems, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, NOAA Marine Protected Areas, NOAA's National Ocean Service, Science for Coastal Ecosystem Management | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Climate: First Climate Sensitivity of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System blog series, Part 3 of 3, Interview with Dr. Patrick Robinson on socioeconomic findings, University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Wisconsin-Extension

NCCOS is responsible for working with researchers from across sectors to provide internal, regional, state and local coastal and ocean resource managers with the best science tools for monitoring and mitigating existing and emerging threats to the nation’s coastal and ocean resources.  Researchers at NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, OCRM and University of Wisconsin recently published the first national climate sensitivity indicator using the NOAA’s NERRS system of research sites as the background.  In this blog series, NOAA Ocean Science Blogger sat down with key members of the research and coordination team to learn more about what they did and its role in assisting NOAA, regional and states with managing our coastal and ocean resources.

This series also includes Part 1 where Dr. Dwight Trueblood from  OCRM/NERRS who provides an overview of this project and Part 2 featuring NCCOS’s A.K. Leight on the biophysical component of this research. The NOAA press release is available online here. 

Thank you for speaking with our readers, Patrick.
My pleasure!

Can you tell me briefly about your interest in this field?
I am an environmental studies specialist with a strong interest in interdisciplinary, applied work. That interest has resulted in me pursuing interdisciplinary training and conducting research that integrates the natural and social sciences. I am very interested in helping to build vital bridges between these two sciences and other disciplines. I believe we are much smarter and effective when we work across disciplines in a collaborative manner. In this project, I was fortunate to work with the talented biophysical scientists at NCCOS and my gifted social science colleagues at the University of Wisconsin. Beyond that, I also worked on designating the newest reserve, the Lake Superior NERR, for four years, and I have a strong interest in, and fondness for, the NERRS.

How did you come to partner with NCCOS on this project?
The NOAA Estuarine Reserves Division (ERD) really deserves the credit for developing this partnership. ERD reached out to me and the NCCOS researchers in the early stages of this project. One of the unique aspects of this study is the full integration of social and biophysical concepts and approaches from the start. I think ERD deserves a lot of praise for being leaders in that regard. They have provided a valuable model for others to follow.

What needs were you hoping to fill by completing this project?
This project was really intended to meet multiple needs. Importantly, we wanted to provide an integrated social and biophysical analysis of the NERRS sensitivity to climate change. We hoped that this analysis would help guide future ERD and individual reserve decisions related to climate change investments across the system. Our work will, hopefully, dovetail with the growing NERRS Sentinel Site program, which is designed to help reserves further understand vulnerabilities to climate change. In addition, we anticipated that this work would provide a foundation from which individual reserves could embark upon developing more detailed climate vulnerability analyses and adaptation strategies at the local level; I am happy to share that some examples of that are already happening. Looking beyond NERRS, we were also intending to provide an interdisciplinary example of a large-scale assessment strategy for understanding national sensitivity to climate change in coastal systems.

What is socioeconomics and why was it the focus of your part of this project?
Socioeconomics refers to those social and economic factors that influence communities and the interaction among those factors. I had previously researched factors influencing the broader integration of social science into NERR programming at the site-level; so, even prior to this research, I was interested in looking at how a deeper understanding and integration of socioeconomics could enable more effective accomplishment of NERRS goals and objectives. I have also been doing a fair amount of work related to climate change during the past few years, so that topic was certainly an area of interest for me as well. To top it all off, I work with some incredible people at the University of Wisconsin, and we were able to assemble a talented project team with expertise in sociology, demography, social indicators, and geographic information systems. We couldn’t have completed this project without the expertise of my University of Wisconsin colleagues, Katherine Curtis, Jing Gao, Ken Genskow, Jerrett Jones, and Dan Veroff.

Can you describe additional types of thinking behind this approach as it relates to other studies done on climate sensitivity?
Our socioeconomic work on this project, as is often the case, involved understanding and adapting some great work previously done by others. The approach we used for our analysis of social sensitivity for the NERRS modified a Social Vulnerability Index methodology developed by researchers at the University of South Carolina. In addition, we drew insights from published work looking at the effects of sea level rise on community vulnerability and the built environment.

What’s next?
In a prior answer, I shared that some reserves are already looking at using the information developed through this research as the foundation for additional analyses, planning, and strategy development at the local level. That is very exciting for us and we look forward to helping to move that process along. In addition, we would like to work toward making the data and results from this research accessible online. We are hoping that we can work with NOAA partners to make that a reality.

Were can readers find this report and other climate science taking place at NOAA and University of Wisconsin?
The report is available online at NERRS Climate Sensitivity Report. In addition, the University of Wisconsin has a number of interesting things going on related to climate science. I Co-Direct the Environmental Resources Center (http://www.uwex.edu/erc/). We have ongoing work related to understanding the impacts of climate change on traditional lifeways, American Indian communities, and local cultures. We are also involved in outreach efforts related to community climate adaptation planning, and we are researching and developing climate change core competencies for community outreach professionals. The Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (http://www.wicci.wisc.edu/) is also a great source of information and several staff at the Environmental Resources Center are involved in efforts through the initiative.

 

while male with brown hair

Dr. Patrick Robinson

Guest Blogger Biography: Dr. Patrick Robinson is the Co-Director and Environmental Studies Specialist for the Environmental Resources Center, which is a center jointly administered by the University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Wisconsin-Extension. He has a doctorate degree in environment and resources and a Master of Science degree in ecosystem studies. His areas of interest include collaborative natural resource management, interdisciplinary approaches to solving environmental challenges, and ecosystem studies. Patrick worked for several years on the designation process for the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve. He has a broad range of experience that includes previously working in state agency and private sector employment.

Posted in General, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, NOAA's Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, Oxford Coopertive Laboratory, Science for Coastal Ecosystem Management | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Climate: First Climate Sensitivity of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System blog series, Part 2, Interview with A.K. Leight on biophysical study findings, NCCOS’s Oxford Cooperative Laboratory

NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science is responsible for working with researchers from across sectors to provide internal, regional, state and local coastal and ocean resource managers with the best science tools for monitoring and mitigating existing and emerging threats to the nation’s coastal and ocean resources.  Researchers at NCCOS, OCRM and the University of Wisconsin recently published the first national climate sensitivity indicator using the NOAA’s NERRS system of research sites as the background.  In this blog series, NOAA Ocean Science Blogger sat down with key members of the research and coordination team to learn more about what they did and its role in assisting NOAA, regional and states with managing our coastal and ocean resources.

This series also includes Part 1  with Dr. Dwight Trueblood from OCRM/NERRS who provides an overview of this project, and Part 3 featuring University of Wisconsin’s Patrick Robinson who speaks to the  socioeconomic component of this research. The NOAA press release is available online here. 

Thank you for speaking with our readers, AK.
Happy to do it.

Can you tell us briefly about the goal of this study?
Our goal was to provide a better understanding of how and where climate change and climate variability affects the Nation’s Estuarine Research Reserves. Because these reserves are scattered across the Nation’s coastline, information we learned in this study provides an important brick in the foundation of information and tools NOAA and other coastal managers can use to prepare and protect our Nation’s coastal zone for future climate changes.

Who were the partners in the NOAA project?
The principal partners were the University of Wisconsin, NOAA’s Climate Program Office, and OCRM’s Estuarine Reserve Division. We also engaged with the NERRS research coordinators and utilized data available from NOAA’s National Climate Data Center. We also formed an external steering committee comprised of scientists and managers from the CPO, other NOS offices, and other federal agencies.

What needs were you hoping to fill by completing this project?
NOAA is entrusted with managing the unique, protected estuarine research reserves. Changes in climate are certain to impact these reserves in a number of different ways. Therefore, we needed a better understanding of how different aspects of the reserves are likely to be impacted by climate change. Further, this work scored each of the system’s reserves according to its sensitivity to climate variations, which provides OCRM with the information it needs to strategically focus its limited resources to protect the most vulnerable reserves, and the NERRS system as a whole.

How did you develop the idea for this project? What process did you follow to plan and carry out this work?
OCRM recognized a need for climate change understanding at the reserves and were awarded funds to conduct an assessment by the CPO. We were excited when they contacted us to help devise the plan as to how to proceed.  As we mentioned, we advocated for the founding of an external steering committee and for strong interactive product development featuring the input of the Reserve Research Coordinators.  We also devised the biophysical assessment approach, which required some careful thought about how to quantitatively evaluate climate ‘sensitivity’ and how to view the system as a whole, while providing useful information for each individual reserve.

What are biophysical characteristics and why were they the focus of your part of this project?
The ERD had been thoughtful enough, more than a decade ago, to initiate a system-wide observational platform to be implemented at each Reserve.  Our study was one of the first to exercise the new data acquisition system set up to distribute this data, and one of the first to provide a system-wide assessment based upon this SWMP database.  

The SWMP observational platform monitors biological and physical variables, including, for example, water temperature, salinity, and chlorophyll).  We assessed and described the sensitivity of these variables to local historic changes in atmospheric temperature and precipitation.  Because the SWMP data set is comprised of variables that determine the health, habitat suitability, and distribution of coastal plants and animals, our analysis provides insights into which reserve might experience the strongest shifts in ecosystem conditions given projected regional climate changes.  This is important because changing ecosystem conditions will affect coastal communities and the nation’s economy by altering fisheries harvests, recreational opportunities, and employment.

What’s next?
OCRM can use the findings of this study to formulate a strategic approach towards responding to the challenges presented by climate change and to guide future research and monitoring efforts across the reserve system.  Because the study provides an index of sensitivity, those resources can be focused on topics and areas of greatest need.

 Following on from this work, our biophysical team has proceeded to take the next step, which is to build a coastal ocean climate response indicator, which identifies how the habitat conditions within each reserve have changed over the last few decades.  To do that, we used multivariate statistics to look at all of the SWMP variables simultaneously, which allowed us to identify and describe the strongest response in estuarine biophysical conditions at each reserve.  This analysis described patterns of change at each site, and also identified regional similarities across the Nation’s coastline. This information provides a more detailed picture of how the Nation’s coastal ocean ecosystems have changed in the past, which is the key to understanding how they are likely to respond to future climate changes.

Were can readers find this report and other climate science taking place at NCCOS or NOAA?
The report is available online at <link>. In addition to the work described in this study, NCCOS scientists are heavily engaged in climate science, including working on tools for predicting impacts to fish and shellfish populations from changes in temperature and precipitation, coastal impacts from sea-level rise, and changes in pathogen distributions based on water quality. Information about these projects is available online at <link>.

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A.K. Leight

NCCOS Blogger Biography: A.K. Leight conducts NOAA research related to the health and management of coastal environments. He has worked on assessments of estuarine conditions ranging from chemical contaminant impacts, nutrient concentrations, bacterial pollutants, and climate modeling. He started working with NOAA at the Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research in Charleston, South Carolina in 1994 as a graduate student and later as a contractual employee. He joined NCCOS’s Cooperative Oxford Laboratory in 2002. Mr. Leight earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Old Dominion University, a Master of Science degree from the University of Charleston, and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Marine and Estuarine Environmental Studies program of the University of Maryland.

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Climate: First Climate Sensitivity of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System blog series, Part 1, Overview Interview with Dr. Dwight Trueblood, NERRS Science Collaborative Program Manager

NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science is responsible for working with researchers from across sectors to provide internal, regional, state and local coastal and ocean resource managers with the best science tools for monitoring and mitigating existing and emerging threats to the nation’s coastal and ocean resources. Researchers at NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, OCRM and the University of Wisconsin recently published the first national climate sensitivity indicator using NOAA’s National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) of research sites as the background. For this blog series, NOAA Ocean Science Blogger sat down with key members of the research and coordination team to learn more about what they did and its role in assisting NOAA, regional and state resource managers with overseeing the nation’s coastal and ocean resources.

This series also includes Part 2 featuring A.K. Leight about NCCOS’s biophysical research and Part 3 featuring Dr. Patrick Robinson of University of Wisconsin who tells us more about the socioeconomic component of this project. The NOAA press release is available online here

Thank you for speaking with our readers, Dwight.
Great to be here. 

Here at NOAA, there are many offices focusing on a variety of ocean science research. Why do you feel NOAA’s Natonal Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) and NOAA’s National Center for Coastal Ocean Science are good partners for projects like this?

The NERRS is a network of 28 estuaries representing different biogeographic regions of the United States that are protected for long-term research, water-quality monitoring, education, and coastal stewardship. This makes them ideal locations to do this type of research project. The reserve scientists work directly with their local communities so they are highly attuned to the local natural resource management needs of each reserve. An environmental issue like climate change has both local and national dimensions so with this project we wanted to tap into the research expertise of each reserve and see if we could synthesize that information into a larger national picture of climate impacts on estuaries and the communities that depend on them around the country. The NCCOS scientists we worked with on this project had the experience and expertise to synthesize large, environmental data sets. Since we needed both local and national research perspectives for this project it just made sense to reach out and involve NCCOS scientists in the project.

What did the scientists learn from this study?
First we learned that all reserves around the country are sensitive to climate change to some degree. This may seem like an obvious conclusion, but this study is the first that I’m aware of that systematically looked at quantitative and qualitative data in estuaries around the country to make this determination. Second we learned which socio-demographic factors are important to look at – estuarine areas where people were most likely to be affected by climate change were dependent on fishing, tourism and shipping industries. Low incomes, high percentages of minority populations and undereducated populations make communities highly sensitivity to climate change. Finally, temperature change and sea level rise exposure are key factors in determining a reserve’s sensitivity to climate change.

Why is this report important to NOAA and the national managers who benefit from NERRS climate research efforts?
The research in this study is important because it is the first attempt to synthesize the socio-demographic impacts of climate change with the biophysical impacts. We feel our approach provides a more holistic view than simply looking at one of these disciplines by itself. I think the collaborative nature of the research is also a major strength of the study. Involving local reserve scientists in the research allowed us to tap into local knowledge about the estuaries we were studying and provided a critical understanding of the ecological resiliency of the reserves, something we couldn’t have understood by simply looking at the biophysical and socio-economic data only. We need to understand how people and natural resources will be impacted to make smart decisions about which climate mitigation measures to make.

What do you think will be the most useful parts of this report for those looking at cross-system studies related to climate sensitivity?
I hope the integrated analysis approach we took will be adopted by others. We also developed some unique indices for the socio-demographic and biophysical analyses which I hope others will find useful to adopt. The information at both the reserve level and national level will also be useful to natural resource managers looking to do estuarine vulnerability assessments to assess their community’s  risk to climate change.

Can you tell readers a bit more about how OCRM and NERRS program is planning to use this data in its climate studies and research?
Local communities are just beginning to understand the potential issues they are facing from climate change – flooding, habitat loss and increased property damage to name a few. The information in this report provides some summary information the reserve communities can use to conduct climate change vulnerability assessments in order to begin planning what steps reserves and local communities need to take to adapt and mitigate climate change impacts locally.

Where can readers find out more about this research and the report?

Readers can find the Executive Summary and full report online.

Where can readers learn more about the NERRS?
The best place to learn more about the NERRS is at our website – NERRS.NOAA.GOV. 

white male with glasses and brown hair smiling at camera

Dwight D. Trueblood, Ph.D.

Guest Blogger Biography: Dr. Dwight Trueblood is the NOAA Program Manager for the National Estuarine Research Reserve Science Collaborative, which develops approaches to better link science to decision making. Dwight has worked at NOAA for 22 years serving as the NOAA Co-Director of the Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology which fostered the development and effective transfer of science and technology for clean water and healthy coastal habitats. In his tenure at the NOAA, Dwight also has served as chief scientist for the Deep Seabed Mining Program (1991–1994) and Science Coordinator for both the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (1994–1999) and the National Marine Sanctuary Program (1994–1996). Dwight obtained a B.S. in Biological Oceanography at the University of Washington (1979), an M.S. in Marine Science at the University of Puerto Rico (1985), and a Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences, at the University of Massachusetts at Boston (1990). He was a postdoctoral fellow at Rutgers University’s Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences (1990). Dwight’s interests include marine ecology, coastal monitoring, the environmental impacts of deep-seabed mining and ocean energy, and fostering better communication and technology transfer between scientists and coastal managers.

Posted in Climate Change, General, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, NOAA's National Ocean Service, NOAA's Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, Ocean Research, Oxford Coopertive Laboratory, Partnerships, Science for Coastal Ecosystem Management, Southcentral Alaska | Leave a comment

NCCOS Acknowledged for Development of Innovative Mapping Tool

NCCOS Receives Award for Excellence in GIS

By Ken Buja, NCCOS/CCMA Biogeography Branch

The National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science were honored this year with the Esri Special Achievement in GIS award. This award, presented at the 2013 Esri International User Conference in San Diego, California, acknowledges vision, leadership, hard work and innovative use of Esri’s geographic information system technology. The international group of organizations honored this year span numerous industries, including: agriculture, cartography, climate change, defense and intelligence, economic development, education, government, health and human services, telecommunications and utilities.NCCOSstaffwithEsrPres

“Ken Buja’s innovative use of the Esri technology to further our mission is something we are particularly proud of. His BIOmapper application has helped us serve our partners all over the country as we strive to better understand and manage our coral reef ecosystems.”-John Christensen, Program Director of the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program

NCCOS was recognized as a leader in developing ArcGIS tools and applications, with strong analytical capabilities that support the management of coastal ecosystems around the nation. BIOMapper was specifically cited in the nomination. This application, using the ArcGIS Flex API, is a browser-based mapping tool displaying sea floor habitat data collected from over a decade of mapping the U.S. coral reef ecosystems. The BIOMapper integrates map data using ArcGIS Server with images and videos to provide researchers and partner organizations with a powerful communication and decision making tool.

SAG award 1Other tools that developed for ArcGIS include the Sampling Design Tool and the Habitat Digitizer Extension, both downloaded several thousand times by users worldwide. NCCOS staff were also recognized for their expertise in biogeographic assessments and analyses in a variety of fields, including energy planning, marine spatial planning, sea floor mapping and coral reef monitoring.

For more information about the ArcGIS tools being developed by NCCOS, please contact Ken Buja (Kevn.Buja@noaa.gov)

Ken Buja head shot

Mr. Ken Buja

Ken Buja is the senior GIS analyst and developer for NCCOS‘ Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment‘s (CCMA) Biogeography Branch. He graduated from the University of Illinois in 1986 with a B.S. in Geography and started working at NOAA in 1992, joining the Biogeography Branch in 1993. In addition to providing GIS analysis and support for a wide variety of projects, he has built applications in ESRI‘s many languages, starting with AML and transitioning to Avenue, ArcObjects, and the Flex and Javascript APIs.

Posted in Benthic Mapping, Biogeography Branch, Caribbean, Coral, Coral Reef Conservation Program, General, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science | Leave a comment