SoundingsEU Funds Three Blue Growth Projects. Three projects under the H2020 priority “Blue Growth: unlocking the potential of seas and oceans” will receive nearly €14.5 million of EU funding to develop tools for the exploration of the underwater world, as well as to advance the Blue Growth economy. BRIDGES, a four-year-long project bringing together research partners from nine countries, will improve the European underwater glider SeaExplorer to adapt it to more diverse operations in deeper water. The glider, a rocket-shaped vehicle, navigates autonomously in the ocean to collect a variety of data and report back to a ground station. The project team will use nearly €8 million of EU funding to increase the glider’s sensing capacity and pilot its use in environmental monitoring, the oil and gas industry, and the deep-sea mining industry. DexROV will receive more than €4.5 million of EU funding to develop a robot for underwater operations in various industries, such as oil extraction. The project team, from six countries, will improve available technologies to allow manning the robot from an onshore location at a great distance. The robot will be tested in a real-time simulation and then tried in real-world conditions. MARIBE, a nearly €2 million project, will be devoted to identifying the most promising business models in the Blue Growth economy (e.g., offshore wind, deep-sea mining, aquaculture, offshore logistics) and their possible combinations. The project team will also come up with toolkits and guidelines for stakeholders and the investment community.
Deep-Ocean Fungi Could Yield Next Wonder Drug. Deep below the seafloor live thriving fungi that could be the next penicillin-like wonder drug. Island University’s Dr. Brandi Kiel Reese is studying microbial life found in deep marine sediments and will travel to Germany to continue her research at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology. She will head to the institute in Bremen, Germany, this summer and again in 2016 to study samples collected from the South Pacific Gyre during an Integrated Ocean Drilling Program expedition. It is only recently that fungi were discovered to be thriving in deep-sea sediments—sometimes as deep as 127 meters below the seafloor. Of the at least eight groups identified in the samples, cultures of four of the fungi were grown successfully. These fungi may be able to break down elements, such as some specific forms of carbon, that other microscopic organisms are not capable of breaking down, making it into food for those other micro-organisms to thrive. Thus, these fungi provide an important food source for other micro-organisms important to the global carbon cycle. Some of the fungi under study belong to the genus Penicillium, the source of penicillin, an essential drug that seems to be losing its effectiveness. “This is adding a new family of potential drugs,” Reese said.
MARAD Supports World’s First LNG-Powered Cargo Ship. The Isla Bella, the world’s first LNG-powered containership, has launched. This vessel is one of two new containerships designed to run on natural gas that were ordered by TOTE Shipholdings Inc. (Seattle, Washington). The 764-foot Marlin-class vessel has two dual-fuel engines that will operate primarily on LNG but are also capable of burning diesel when needed, which will significantly reduce the air-polluting emissions. TOTE will operate the vessels between the Port of Jacksonville and Puerto Rico, transporting containers, automobiles and other cargo. This ship is one of two being financed with a $324.6 million Federal Ship Financing Program (Title XI) loan guarantee from the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) to finance its construction. The MARAD Title XI Loan Guarantee program promotes the growth and modernization of U.S. shipyards and the U.S. Merchant Marine by ensuring that American vessels are manufactured in American shipyards by American workers. MARAD currently guarantees approximately $1.7 billion in U.S. shipbuilding projects.
Mega Expedition to Create First High-Res Map of Pacific Ocean Plastic. The Ocean Cleanup, founded in 1994 by the Dutchman Boyan Slat, who invented a method aimed at cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, announced its next major project: the Mega Expedition, in which up to 50 vessels will collect more plastic measurements in three weeks than have been collected in the past 40 years combined. The Mega Expedition will take place August 2015 and will cover 3.5 million square kilometers between Hawaii and California, creating the first high-resolution map of plastic in the Pacific Ocean. The city of Los Angeles, California, will welcome the expedition to its port by the end of August. “Increasing our scientific understanding of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is essential to developing effective solutions,” said Eric Garcetti, mayor of Los Angeles. “It’s this type of creative and large-scale thinking that we need to tackle problems like this.” Skippers and vessel owners can still sign up to participate. More information is available at www.theoceancleanup.com/the-technology/mega-expedition.html.
Recovery From Deepwater Horizon Continues. The Partnership for Gulf Coast Land Conservation, organized by the Land Trust Alliance, is marking the fifth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which occurred April 2010, with a renewed push for strategic land conservation that preserves the Gulf of Mexico region’s ecological, economic and cultural resources. Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas lost an estimated $22.7 billion in tourism revenue and $8.7 billion in commercial fishing activity following the spill. Land conservation work along the Gulf Coast is informed by “A Land Conservation Vision for the Gulf of Mexico Region,” a landmark report the Alliance and the Gulf Partnership released in November 2014. It outlines voluntary conservation opportunities for local landowners, public agencies and others; presents regional and state maps showing priority locations for conservation and restoration activities; and provides a resource for state and federal policymakers.