December 2019
Greetings from GCOOS
There’s some good news to report for the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System! Omnibus bill HR 729, which included HR 1314 to reauthorize the Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System (ICOOS) Act Amendments of 2019 through FY2024, has passed in the House. The legislation, which contains several ocean, coastal and Great Lakes authorizing bills, passed by a bipartisan vote of 262-151. See what legislation was included in the bill on the House website. Now, it’s on to the Senate.

I’m also pleased to report that the HABscope system we developed in partnership with NOAA, other partners and thanks to NASA funding, was recognized for an innovation award by the National Ocean Service. GCOOS Product Developer Bob Currier has done an amazing job using AI technology to help identify Karenia brevis in water samples and we look forward to bringing this tool to more beaches across the Gulf of Mexico. (If your organization has an interest in funding low-cost HABscopes in your region and training volunteers to use them, please let contact Program Coordinator Grant Craig know!)

And finally, I wanted to take a minute to recognize Dr. Larry McKinney, Senior Executive Director for the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies (HRI) at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, who has announced his retirement. Larry will be stepping down Aug. 30, 2020, after more than a decade of service as a tireless champion for the Gulf of Mexico. Larry spent more than 50 years as a researcher and resource manager and was the first scientist to lead HRI after its inception in 2000. ( Read more about his career here.) It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to work with Larry to bring more awareness about the importance of the Gulf of Mexico to the nation!

Until next time!

Human Health & Safety
Innovating Ways to Sample for Toxic Algae
HABscope, developed by GCOOS in partnership with NOAA and many other groups and organizations, was selected as a 2019 Science Innovation Incentive Award by NCCOS. HABscope is a portable microscope system that uses video and artificial intelligence (AI) to quickly analyze water samples taken by citizen scientists or researchers for near real-time cell counts of Karenia brevis.

An external review panel choosing the award winners said:

  • “This is certainly what one would envision as an innovative new project — they improved something that takes longer at greater cost in terms of assessing red tide. Accomplishing the outreach and collaboration with the local and citizen scientists to provide beach monitoring could not have been done without the innovation. The citizen science component enhanced the customer experience. The nomination mentions other possible applications and local communities are clearly wanting this and many have already been deployed. The impact to enhance NCCOS to local communities seems high.”

Marine Operations
Tracking Gulf Gliders
More than 170 days and counting… that’s the combined total for how long sensors on Seaglider sg636, operated by Dr. Stephan Howden’s team at the University of Southern Mississippi, and Slocum glider Sverdrup, operated by Dr. Steve DiMarco’s team at Texas A&M University, have been gathering information about water properties in the Gulf of Mexico.

Data on water temperature, salinity, density, dissolved oxygen, sound velocity, chlorophyll, color dissolved organic matter, and other parameters are being collected to better understand the properties that drive ocean processes, ranging from the formation of tropical cyclones to how particles are transported from place to place.

Redefining the Gulf’s Waters to Maximize Energy Production
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) released a report in November indicating the need to define the Gulf of Mexico Shallow Water Province (water depth less than 200 meters) as a distinct province to avoid stranding more than $20 billion of the Nation’s oil and natural gas resources.

The research has laid the groundwork for two actions that encourage increased activity in the province. They include: (1) BOEM’s publication of updated discount rates for the two distinct provinces of the Gulf of Mexico; namely, the Shallow Water Province and the Deepwater Province (the discount rate for the Deepwater Province also applies to all other OCS areas that that will be used for BSEE’s special case royalty relief evaluations); and (2) verification that BSEE has authority to consider applications for royalty relief on a “per project” basis. These projects can include exploratory wells in order to promote development of discovered resources.

Oceans in Action
The ninth Oceans in Action Workshop in November, spearheaded by MTS Gulf Coast Chair Laurie Jugan with help from Section leadership, and in collaboration with the Mississippi Enterprise for Technology (MSET) brought together an array of corporate, academic, military and government representatives for three days of information and technology sharing and networking. The last day of the workshop included business to government meetings and demonstrations at the Advanced Naval Technology Exercise (ANTX): Gulf Coast exercise.

Healthy Ecosystems & Living Resources
Florida Merger
GCOOS member organizations the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation and the Sanibel Sea School are merging. Effective Jan. 1, 2020 the organizations will join their complementary missions into a single, stronger and more productive nonprofit organization.

Sanibel Sea School will become SCCF's Education Department and Dr. Bruce Neill will be that department's new director. Under Dr. Ryan Ortega's leadership as CEO, SCCF's new reach will be stronger and go further, expanding its educational offerings and advocacy outreach to better serve our community.
New Grants Program
Restore America's Estuaries has partnered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to administer a new grants program: the National Estuary Program Coastal Watersheds Grant Program.

This newly established, nationally competitive program is designed to support projects that address urgent and challenging issues threatening the well-being of coastal and estuarine areas within determined estuaries of national significance and will support the following priorities:

  • Loss of key habitats
  • Recurring harmful algae blooms
  • Unusual or unexplained marine mammal mortalities
  • Proliferation or invasion of species
  • Flooding and coastal erosion
  • Impacts of nutrients and warmer water temperatures on aquatic life
  • Contaminants of emerging concern found in coastal and estuarine waters
  • Learn more
Coastal Hazards
When Oil & Fish Mix
Scientists synthesized data from 53 peer-reviewed laboratory studies that investigated how Deepwater Horizon oil may have affected 20 ray-fin fish species. The most frequently reported impact was reduced cardiac function, which could contribute to effects on fitness and survival. However, a few studies found that sensory function, sensory organ development and behavior were affected at even lower exposure concentrations, suggesting that these may be more sensitive than cardiovascular impairment.

Oil Spill Physics for High Schoolers
University of New Orleans doctoral student Kendal Leftwich, who is a member of the LADC-GEMM research consortium investigating how Deepwater Horizon affected large marine mammals, created and implemented a year-long physics methodology to engage high school students in university research that helped students experience hands-on scientific research and being part of a research group.

“We need more scientists and engineers to solve existing technical problems," Leftwich said.
Study author Kendal Leftwich (left) teaches students to interpret and analyze underwater acoustic data.
“Studies such as ours show that students can discover that they are interested in a science career. Some of the feedback from students suggests that [they offer] a great deal of unrealized potential for new ideas and new approaches to solving some of our current research problems.”

This research was made possible in part by a grant from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI).

Restoration Resources
In 2010, the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon resulted in the largest man-made disaster in U.S. history. Today, each Gulf state administers restoration funds and programs. Additionally, other agencies and organizations are also tasked with administering programs designed to restore Gulf habitats and better understand Gulf ecosystems.

Long-Term Change
New IUCN Ocean Deoxygenation Report
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Global Marine and Polar Program recently launched a landmark report on ocean deoxygenation.

Led by authors Dan Laffoley and John Baxter, the report addresses global-scale oxygen loss in the ocean that is resulting as our climate warms. Aggregating information from many researchers and authors, including long-time global hypoxia expert and GCOOS Board member Dr. Nancy Rabalais, the report raises awareness about the connection between oxygen loss and changes in nutrient cycles, distributions of plants and animals and socioeconomic implications.

Dr. Rabalais wrote two chapters — “Ocean Deoxygenation from Eutrophication-Human Nutrient Inputs” and “Estuarine and Coastal Benthos” and co-authored a third “Paleo-Records of Histories of Deoxygenation and its Ecosystem Impact.”

“This is truly a global effort with global experts focused on both the open and coastal ocean,” Rabalais said. “What all the contributors hope is that this document will bring awareness to the climate change of decreasing dissolved oxygen and human activities that lead to coastal water low oxygen zones. There are about 35 U.S. authors and I am proud to be among them.”

Crowdsourcing Science
Looking to engage your community in meaningful science and stewardship activities? Then Global Observations to Benefit the Environment ( GLOBE ) Observer might be of interest.

Citizens using GLOBE Observer contribute information about land cover to supplement and ground-truth data collected from sensors on satellites, an observation method that can’t always distinguish things like crops, beach vegetation or some kinds of urban areas.
The crowd-sourced data, which simply requires taking photos with your phone, helps scientists understand how land cover changes are influencing temperature and rainfall patterns — parameters that affect our quality of life, environment and economy.

  • Get Started: Watch this video
  • To download the app in Google Play or the Apple store, search for GLOBE Observer
  • To learn more about the program and opportunities with the GCOOS outreach and education team, contact GCOOS Outreach and Education Council member Dr. Rusty Low
Job Opportunities
GCOOS maintains a jobs listing for positions and fellowships in the ocean observing community. Want to advertise a position? Email Laura Caldwell
  • GCOOS — Glider Coordinator
  • University of California, Irvine — Assistant Professor in Hydrological and Climate Extreme
  • University of Oslo — Associate Professor in Meteorology
  • Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution — Assistant Scientist (tenure track)
  • Texas A&M/Sea Grant — Program Coordinator
  • Mote Marine Laboratory — Ocean Technology Program; HAB Mitigation and Ecology; Stranding Investigations Program; Grants Administration
  • Florida International University — Open-rank faculty position in Phycology
  • Texas A&M University — Instructional Assistant Professor
  • Postdoctoral Positions: University of Florida; CeNCOOS; University of Southern Mississippi; NRC
  • Fellowships: NOAA & SeaGrant
  • National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, Gulf Research Programs
  • Louisiana State University Phytoplankton Ecology Lab; graduate student
  • IOOSAssociation/MARCOOS; Program Assistant
  • IOOS; Data Scientist (Biological Data Integration

Funding Opportunities
GCOOS maintains a listing of funding opportunities. Have an opportunity you'd like to advertise? Email Laura Caldwell
  • FY 2020 Community-based Restoration Program Coastal and Marine Habitat Restoration Grants
  • FY 2020 B-WET Grants
  • FY 2020 Ocean Technology Transition Project
  • Gulf of Mexico Alliance Funding Calendar

16: OceanObs RCN San Diego, immediately preceeding the AGU/TOS Ocean Sciences Meeting.
16-21: Ocean Sciences Meeting 2020, San Diego Convention Center. This is the flagship conference for the ocean sciences and the larger ocean-connected community. As we approach the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, beginning in 2021, it is increasingly important to gather as a scientific community to raise awareness of the truly global dimension of the ocean, address environmental challenges, and set forth on a path towards a resilient planet. 
30: People, Health and Ocean Conference at the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts, Brussels. The Conference will tackle the question “How can we sustainably interact with the Ocean and improve our own health and wellbeing?” and will feature interactive discussions and the launch of the European Strategic Research Agenda for oceans and human health. Travel grants for early-career researchers available.
Contact Us
GCOOS is the Gulf of Mexico regional component of the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) and the only certified system dedicated solely to the Gulf of Mexico. Our mission is to provide timely, reliable and accurate information on the open ocean and coastal ocean waters of the Gulf of Mexico to ensure a healthy, clean, productive ocean and resilient coastal zone.
Dr. Barbara Kirkpatrick , Executive Director • Dr. Leila Belabbassi , Data Manager Dr. Chris Simoniello , Outreach & Education Coordinator •  Felimon Gayanilo , Systems Architect • Dr. Shinichi Kobara , Assistant Research Scientist, Product Developer •   Bob Currier, Research Specialist, Product Developer • Marion Stoessel , Senior Research Associate • Dr. Steven Baum , Associate Research Scientist • Jennifer Vreeland-Dawson , Research Associate •  Grant Craig , Program Coordinator • Nadine Slimak , Public Relations & Content Marketing, Vetted Communications, LLC • Dr. Chuan-Yuan Hsu , Post Doctoral Research Associate • Robbie Iles , Graduate Research Assistant • 979.847.8879
In Memoriam: Matt Howard, 1952-2018