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Ocean Research


October 2013 Issue

NOAA Gives CIOERT $1 Million, One-Year Grant
The Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research and Technology (CIOERT) located at Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Institute received a one-year, $1,008,310 grant from NOAA, which began this summer. This is the fifth year of funding for CIOERT.

The grant will support ocean exploration, research, technology development and education, with a focus on the Gulf of Mexico. The objectives are to discover, survey, map and describe unknown or poorly known mesophotic and deep reef communities in the Gulf of Mexico; discover new resources with human health applications; continue development of in-situ instrumentation for coral health monitoring; and engage graduate students in exploration, research and technology development, including development of an exploration command center for telepresence-enabled ocean exploration at Harbor Branch.

IOOS Backs ERISS Economic Study on Ocean Observation
The U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) has awarded ERISS Corp. the funds to work with The Maritime Alliance on a study that will articulate the economic impact of the ocean observation sector in the U.S.

"IOOS data and information fuel industry with knowledge that determines business operations," Zdenka Willis, U.S. IOOS program director, said. "Shellfish growers rely on ocean acidification data to know when to take action to protect crops. Shipping companies check ocean currents, wave heights and bridge clearance data to know when it is safe to deliver goods."

ERISS will be building upon its San Diego Maritime Industry Report from 2012. The new nationally focused study will inventory companies classified as providers of technology to IOOS and intermediate users of IOOS information that sell it to end users. The study will address items such as the number of companies in each category (provider and intermediate user), size of these companies, volume of activity, volume of exports and number of employees. The study will include narratives by companies on how IOOS has helped their operations, planning and growth, as well as perceived potential for future growth and investment.

Robert J. Walker Wreck Identified Off New Jersey Coast
More than 153 years after it was lost in a violent collision at sea, government and university maritime archaeologists have identified the wreck of the ship Robert J. Walker, a steamer that served in the U.S. Coast Survey, a predecessor agency of NOAA.

The Walker served a vital role as a survey ship, charting the Gulf Coast, including Mobile Bay and the Florida Keys, in the decade before the Civil War. It also conducted early work plotting the movement of the Gulf Stream along the Atlantic Coast.

Twenty sailors died when the Walker sank in rough seas in the early morning hours of June 21, 1860, 10 miles off Absecon Inlet on the New Jersey coast. The crew had finished its latest surveys in the Gulf of Mexico and was sailing to New York when the Walker was hit by a commercial schooner off New Jersey. The side-wheel steamer, carrying 66 crewmembers, sank within 30 minutes. The sinking was the largest single loss of life in the history of the Coast Survey and its successor agency, NOAA.

While in the area to conduct hydrographic surveys after Hurricane Sandy for navigation safety, NOAA's ship Thomas Jefferson sailed to the wreck site and deployed its multibeam and side scan sonar systems. Hydrographers searched likely locations based on analysis of historical research.

A NOAA Maritime Heritage diving team, on a separate Hurricane Sandy-related mission in the area, was able to positively identify the Walker. Key clues were the size and layout of the iron-hulled wreck, and its unique engines, rectangular portholes and the location of the ship, which was found still pointing toward the Absecon lighthouse.

Marine Species Vary in Response to Ocean Acidification
Biologists at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) have compiled and analyzed all available data on the reaction of marine animals to ocean acidification. They found that while the majority of the animal species investigated are affected by ocean acidification, the respective impacts are very specific. The AWI researchers presented their study in Nature Climate Change.

The researchers examined corals, crustaceans, molluscs, vertebrates such as fish, and echinoderms such as starfish and sea urchins. They compiled 167 studies with data from more than 150 different species. To classify these results, they used emission scenarios for carbon dioxide on which the world climate report is also based. These scenarios allow forecasting of the impacts of different carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere far into the future.

The study showed that all animal groups considered are affected negatively by higher carbon dioxide concentrations. Corals, echinoderms and molluscs above all react very sensitively to a decline in the pH value. Some echinoderms such as brittle stars have lower prospects of survival in carbon dioxide values predicted for the year 2100.

By contrast, only higher concentrations of carbon dioxide would appear to have an impact on crustaceans, such as the Atlantic spider crab or edible crab. However, the sensitivity of the animals to a declining pH value may increase if the sea temperature rises simultaneously.

The researchers have determined the consequences of ocean acidification on the fitness of the individual species using physiological features. For example, they considered whether metabolism, growth, calcification or behavior change in high carbon dioxide concentrations.

The reason for different taxa reacting differently to ocean acidification is that they differ fundamentally in terms of their bodily functions. While fish, for example, are physically very active and able to balance any initial fall in the pH value very well in their blood, this is more difficult for corals. They spend their entire life in one place and cannot compensate as well for a higher carbon dioxide level in their bodies because they lack efficient physiological mechanisms.


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