August 2023

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Greetings from GCOOS!


As we head into August, you might be thinking “it sure is hot out there.” And you’d be right. NASA recorded July as hotter than any other month in the global temperature record, and temperatures this month remain high with excessive heat warnings covering eastern Texas, southeastern Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, most of Georgia and into western and northern Florida.

Ocean temperatures are also hitting unprecedented levels — data from the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) have shown that sea surface temperatures reached the highest value in the ERA5 dataset kept since 1979: 20.96 C (69.7 F) on July 31.

A buoy in Manatee Bay, Florida, recorded an SST of 38.4 C (101.1 F) and coral reefs in the Florida Keys are bleaching at unprecedented rates, leading NOAA and its partners to enact emergency rescue plans.

The high temperatures and other climate factors have even led the National Hurricane Center increase the Atlantic season forecast.

So yes; it is indeed hot out there.

At GCOOS, things are also “heating up” on GANDALF, where we’re serving data for uncrewed platforms in the Gulf, which provide critical information on ocean temperatures. Thankfully, the U.S. is making new investments into ocean observing capacity through the Inflation Reduction Act and we look forward to providing even more data to help communities weather long-term changes in our climate.

We also recently welcomed our new GIS developer Hannah Dillahunt, who is already hard at work improving the products GCOOS is able to offer (look for more on that next month).

Sadly, we said goodbye to Dr. Gary Kirkpatrick. Many in the harmful algal bloom community had the opportunity to work with Gary, husband of GCOOS Senior Advisor Dr. Barbara Kirkpatrick, over the years. As a phytoplankton ecologist, he was known for his pioneering work on optical detection for algal blooms and using gliders to track blooms. He also used his engineering expertise to help GCOOS develop the HABscope. I’m sure you’ll join with the GCOOS staff and Board of Directors in supporting Barb during this difficult time.

Until next month,

News from HQ

Save the Date: GCOOS Fall Meeting

  • When: 1-5 p.m. ET, Tuesday, Oct. 10.
  • Where: This will be a virtual meeting.
  • Please help to spread the word by sharing the news with your Gulf colleagues!

Welcome Aboard!

Welcome aboard to GCOOS’s newest staff member Hannah Dillahunt! Dillahunt is our GIS Developer and also serves as a Research Specialist I in the Department of Oceanography at Texas A&M University (TAMU). At GCOOS, she’ll be focused on creating, maintaining and updating GCOOS spatial data resources.

Dillahunt has a master’s degree in Geospatial Data Science from the School of Environment & Sustainability (SEAS) at the University of Michigan. Her master’s project focused on identifying the most suitable regions for offshore wind development along the coastal contiguous United States. For her research, she created site suitability maps that identified the suitability for offshore wind development along each coastal region through the analysis of environmental, economic, and social variables with specific focus on the protection of endangered marine mammals such as the North Atlantic Right Whale. She also has a bachelor’s degree from Smith College where she majored in Environmental Science & Policy and minored in Biological Sciences.

GCOOS Seeks Data Scientist for CETACEAN Project

GCOOS is seeking a highly motivated and skilled biologist and data scientist interested in contributing to the understanding of marine mammals in the Gulf of Mexico as part of the team of our CETACEAN Project with NOAA.

This project seeks the integration of a database useful in supporting plans and performance tracking of population restoration efforts during the next several years.

With an estimated population of fewer than 100 individuals, scientists were thrilled to sight Rice's whales in the Gulf this July. NOAA Fisheries/Felipe Triana (Permit #21938)

The CETACEAN Biologist and Data Scientist will work closely with the Project Manager and Data Management and Cyberinfrastructure Team to identify, gather, and QA/QC available data that is useful to achieve project goals with the guidance of the project’s Executive Committee.

This is an ideal role for someone with a solid background in marine mammal biology, ecology, health, and/or management training and experience. The CETACEAN Biologist and Data Scientist responsibilities will include:

  • Discovering available data (primary data types in this project are population, environment/habitat, and threats);
  • Identifying priorities within different data types and databases;
  • Reviewing suitability of data for contributing to project objectives;
  • Developing collaboration agreements with data providers;
  • Reviewing and implementing exploratory data analysis, and QA/QC datasets

Additional skills and experience in project management, project communication, data science and GIS, and ability to work cooperatively will be appreciated.

This is a two-year contract position, eligible for remote work, that offers competitive compensation commensurate with experience.

Teaching Young Scholars

GCOOS Product Developer and Co-Data Manager Bob Currier and HABscope Volunteer Coordinator Grant Craig provided a special HABscope lab for students during a July training for 34 students through NOAA’s Center for Coastal and Marine Ecosystems-II program.

The students were at the University of South Florida's St. Petersburg Campus for a week-long course learning practices and approaches to integrated science in support of coastal resource management. The course focused on red tide impacts on coastal communities and students demonstrated interdisciplinary approaches to addressing issues confronting marine and coastal communities.

During the course, Currier (above, left) explained how HABscope was developed — from concept to completion — including code writing, building an AI recognition platform and utilizing inexpensive components. Craig (left) explained how GCOOS established and trained a dedicated group of organizations and individuals to use HABscopes to collect red tide cell count data from dozens of beaches daily during red tides and explained how the data fuels the real-time Red Tide Respiratory Forecast.

The NOAA Center for Coastal and Marine Ecosystems-II was established in 2021 as a Cooperative Science Center through an award funded by the NOAA Educational Partnership Program with Minority Serving Institutions. The Center’s focus is to recruit, educate, train and graduate next generation scientists, particularly from underrepresented communities.

Human Health and Safety

Hurricane Season 2023

NOAA recently upgraded its predictions for the 2023 hurricane season to “above average” thanks to record sea-surface temperatures and other atmospheric conditions.

At GCOOS, we support the water column data-gathering and distribution for storm forecasting at the National Weather Service through GANDALF, our uncrewed systems piloting dashboard. Right now, we’re tracking 18 vehicles, including Slocum gliders, seagliders and Saildrones, autonomous sailing vehicles that are patrolling the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and the Southeast Atlantic. Each of the NOAA Saildrones provides mean wind speed, mean air temperature, significant wave height and mean barometric pressure. The plots for sensors on all the systems can be accessed by clicking on the 'Science Plots' box in the GANDALF pop-up.

Other uncrewed systems we’re tracking on GANDALF — and whose data you can access there — are deployed by the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, Texas A&M University's Geochemical and Environmental Research Group, the University of Southern Mississippi, University of South Florida, and includes gliders on loan from the U.S. Navy.

Marine Operations

Understanding Loop Current Dynamics — Webinar Series

The Understanding Gulf Ocean Systems (UGOS) initiative is hosting a new monthly webinar series led by early career researchers Luna Hiron, Sakib Mahmud and Aryan Safaie featuring UGOS and UGOS-related research.

The UGOS initiative is designed to improve forecasts of the Gulf of Mexico circulation on relevant spatial and time scales by advancing the understanding of Loop Current dynamics. The third and final phase of UGOS, launched in 2022, is a five-year program that will apply existing and emerging data to improve reliability and skill of operational forecasts of ocean dynamics for end users.

The goal is to help reduce risks to offshore energy exploration and production and  benefit understanding of sea-level rise variations, hurricane intensification and fisheries management challenges.

During the webinar series, speakers will share new and exciting research findings and state-of-the-art techniques, initiating interesting discussions that align with the interests of UGOS, foster knowledge exchanges and collaborations across various fields and UGOS working groups.

  • Next Webinar: 11 a.m. ET, Monday, Aug. 28
  • Speakers: Dr. Maria Josefina Olascoaga, Associate Professor of Ocean Sciences, University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science “Sargassum motion and connectivity pathways in the Gulf of Mexico” and Dr. Keshav Raja, Assistant Research Faculty at the Florida State University Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies (COAPS), “Improving the representation of internal waves in the Navy and NOAA data assimilative forecast systems in the Gulf of Mexico”
  • Webinar link: Email for the link.

Additional information: Email webinar series organizers Luna Hiron, Sakib Mahmud or Aryan Safaie.

New Research Ships

NOAA will add two new ships to its fleet. The agency selected Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors, LLC for a $624.6 million contract to initially design and build two cutting-edge research vessels, with an option to purchase two more. The first two ships will be built in Houma, Louisiana, with expected delivery dates of 2027 and 2028. 

The new ships will focus primarily on ocean mapping and nautical charting as part of NOAA’s mission to deliver tools and information to help mariners safely navigate the nation’s ports and harbors. The design and construction of these new ships is funded in part by the Inflation Reduction Act.

Offshore Wind Lease Sale

The Department of the Interior has announced the first-ever offshore wind energy lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico in support of the Biden-Harris administration’s work to deploy 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind energy by 2030 and reach a carbon-free electricity sector by 2035.

The areas will be auctioned Aug. 29 by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and include a 102,480-acre area offshore Lake Charles, Louisiana, and two areas offshore Galveston, Texas — one comprising 102,480 acres and the other 96,786 acres.

The administration says the areas have the potential to generate approximately 3.7 GW and power almost 1.3 million homes with clean, renewable energy.

Coastal Hazards

Modeling for Contaminant Transport

The Coastal Ocean Modeling Testbed project led by LSU’s Dr. Kevin Xu continues to advance predictive capabilities for the transport and fate of contaminants through the river-estuary-ocean continuum. (This video snippet below by Daoyang Bao from the Louisiana State University Coupled Ocean Modeling group shows flooding from Hurricane Harvey.)

The team is working on developing complex computer models that can be applied to simulate and forecast how contaminants or pollutants are likely to move between land and sea under a range of oceanographic and hydrologic conditions.

Major tasks under way include the coupling between a process-based land surface/hydrological model and a 3-D ocean circulation model. Understanding the drivers and processes responsible for the exchange along the freshwater to saltwater continuum is central to estimating how, for example, inundation events might distribute contaminants and influence the potability of drinking water.

Through the efforts of GCOOS Co-Data Manager Felimon Gayanilo, GCOOS is part of the project’s data processing and curation that includes:

  1. Scientist-generated, IOOS-compliant models (netCDF);
  2. netCDF model outputs that are uploaded to GCOOS data services;
  3. Data evaluation and publication in GCOOS ERDDAP Data Service;
  4. Data archive at NCEI; and
  5. Data published in the GCOOS/COMT Model Handler facility when applicable.
Image links to a video showing flooding after Hurricane Harvey
Healthy Ecosystems & Living Resources

This Year’s Hypoxic Zone

Louisiana State University (LSU) and the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON) completed their annual hypoxia cruise to map the size of the low-oxygen or “dead zone” at the mouth of the Mississippi River. At 3,060 square miles, it's the sixth smallest in 36 years. The area mapped is much smaller than the predicted area of approximately 10,800 square kilometers (4,155 square miles).

Was less rainfall responsible for the smaller-than-predicted zone? Has nutrient loading decreased?

The Deeper They Are, the More Microplastics They Consume

A recent study in the journal Limnology and Oceanography shows that the deeper animals are in the Gulf of Mexico, the more microplastics (particles smaller than 5mm) they’re consuming.

Lead author Ryan P. Bos joined DEEPEND deepwater cruises in the Gulf of Mexico beginning in 2015 to better understand microplastic ingestion in deep Gulf fish and crustaceans. Bos and his team collected 557 organisms from 35 species, taking note of the depth each animal was found at — from the surface to 5,000 feet deep.

In "Microplastic ingestion by deep-pelagic crustaceans and fishes," they found that 29 percent of crustaceans and 26 percent of fish collected had eaten at least one microplastic particle. Fish and crustaceans that live in deeper parts of the ocean without migrating up to shallower depths had ingested more microplastics than organisms collected at shallower depths — a finding that was particularly true for animals collected from 4,000 to 5,000 feet deep.

Educational Resources RFP

Human activities and environmental perturbations can threaten the health and resiliency of Mesophotic and Deep Benthic Communities in the Gulf of Mexico. In response, the Active Management and Protection (AMP) project wants to use existing knowledge and information from the work of the Deepwater Horizon MDBC Restoration portfolio to identify activities that can address threats, prevent future injury, and provide a framework for monitoring, education and outreach.

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and NOAA are seeking proposals for new resources that could be implemented to reach audiences across the Gulf of Mexico and beyond.

Long-Term Change

New Climate Regional Action Plan for Fisheries

The NOAA Fisheries Southeast region, from Texas to North Carolina and the U.S. Caribbean, has endured a number of climate-related impacts over the last century, yet climate information is needed to inform conservation and management of marine wildlife and habitats. In response, NOAA Fisheries has developed the 2022–2024 Southeast Climate Regional Action Plan, which outlines priorities managing fisheries, protected and endangered resources and their associated habitats over the next three years.

The Plan is designed to increase production, delivery and use of scientific information needed to fulfill NOAA Fisheries’ mission in a changing climate and help NOAA, stakeholders and communities that depend upon marine life prepare for, and respond to, climate-related impacts.

Improving Weather Forecasts

The Department of Commerce and NOAA have announced a $7 million funding opportunity through the Inflation Reduction Act to establish a new multi-university Data Assimilation Consortium designed to improve weather predictions.

The award will support a new consortium focused on numerical weather prediction to bolster NOAA forecast models, provide strategic workforce development in data assimilation and enhance long-term partnerships between NOAA and those working in academia, government and the broader weather enterprise. NOAA is currently soliciting collaborative proposals for the project.

Climate Resilience Accelerator Funding Opportunity

NOAA has announced a new Ocean-based Climate Resilience Accelerator (OCRA) opportunity with funding through the Inflation Reduction Act.

The program aims to create a nationwide, coordinated business accelerator program that identifies and develops key commercial opportunities for improved use of ocean and coastal observing technologies and information services essential to the delivery of climate resilience.

Long-Term Change and Biodiversity

Biodiversity is a fundamental concept in biology. We learn that it is essential for the processes that support all life on Earth — from the air we breathe to the food we eat. Yet across the planet, biodiversity is in jeopardy.

Nowhere is this currently more evident than in southeast Florida where recent record temperatures are proving disastrous for coral reefs. If coral reefs are in jeopardy, so too will be the 25 percent of all marine animals that depend on them at some point in their lives.

The Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (MBON) continues to increase our understanding of biodiversity by integrating across advancements in eDNA techniques, tracking animal movements, assessing sound in the sea and development of seascapes.

The outreach and data activities that GCOOS and SECOORA undertake as part of MBON development help to cultivate the co-evolution of communities that research, manage, educate and inform policy for the health of ecosystems that ultimately sustain us.

To this end, MBON and partners across the globe are coordinating global biological observing capability, including the Marine Life 2030 program of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development aimed at a sustainable future for nature and people amidst a shifting climate.  

Partner News

Gulf of Mexico Alliance (GOMA)

GoMCON Registration

Early-bird registration is now open of the Gulf of Mexico Conference scheduled for Feb. 19-24 in Tampa.

Early-bird registration is $250 and available through Jan. 12, 2024. You may also register for Monday workshops ONLY for $50. Online registration from Jan. 13-Feb. 16, 2024, is $300. On-site registration is $350.


Overseeing Louisiana’s New NERR

The Atchafalaya River System has been named as the preferred site of a new National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) in Louisiana.

Gov. Jon Bel Edwards designated the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority to collaborate with NOAA, with ongoing assistance from Louisiana State University, A&M College and Louisiana Sea Grant, to complete the remaining steps necessary to designate the Atchafalaya River System as the preferred location of Louisiana’s NERR. LUMCON has been selected as the managing entity.

Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies (HRI)

New Director of Community Engagement

Jace Tunnell has been named the new Director of Community Engagement at HRI. Tunnell follows in the legacy and impact of his father, the late Dr. Wes Tunnell, who was a central figure at HRI for decades and helped lead some of the earliest strategic planning and development efforts of HRI. As the HRI Director of Community Engagement, Tunnell will focus on promoting HRI research and collaborations, the HRI mission, and HRI’s overall impact with various groups, stakeholders, and communities.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM)

Take the Survey: Understanding the Ocean’s Role

The NASEM’s Decadal Survey of Ocean Sciences (DSOS) committee seeks your input on research and infrastructure needs to advance the understanding of the ocean’s role in the broader Earth and is hosting a survey to get your input.

Perspectives provided will help guide the work of the committee, which advises the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) Division of Ocean Sciences (OCE) on forward-looking approaches to investments in ocean sciences research, infrastructure, education and workforce development.

Ocean Resources

Explore the Virtual Ocean

The World Ocean Observatory has launched a new virtual aquarium experience designed to increase ocean literacy and interest in ocean fields of study. This web-based interactive 3-D platform offers users The Hub, a central, organizing space and main portal of the virtual experience.

Users can investigate aquarium exhibitions, a virtual manned submersible, the Earth Ocean Analyzer interactive mapping tool, the Ocean Theater auditorium for a collection of underwater films and educational videos and Ocean Classroom, the educational resource center where Ocean Literacy principles are explored and organized.

In Memoriam

We’re sad to share the news of the July 25 passing of Dr. Gary J. Kirkpatrick, phytoplankton ecologist and engineer and husband of GCOOS Senior Advisor Dr. Barbara Kirkpatrick.

Gary, who served as a U.S. Air Force officer from 1974-1980, held a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Miami, and masters and doctorate degrees in marine science from North Carolina State University. He joined Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida, in 1990 to lead the Phytoplankton Ecology Program focused on red tide research. He fully retired from Mote in 2022.

Gary published more than 80 peer-reviewed scientific papers and, among his many professional achievements, was his design and construction of the first automated red tide detector, initially known as the “BreveBuster.” He led the way in using underwater gliders to track and monitor the Gulf of Mexico red tide organism Karenia brevis, which helped advance communities’ abilities to mitigate the effects of the toxic algae. Most recently, he worked with GCOOS to develop HABscope, a low-cost microscope system that can be used by volunteers to detect Karenia brevis in water samples. The system is now being used throughout Florida’s west coast to enable the Red Tide Respiratory Forecast. It has also been expanded to detect other harmful algae in marine waters and is being used across the U.S.

Gary also leaves behind a legacy as a mentor who helped to support and guide the careers of numerous students and young colleagues.

Barb and Gary were married for 49 years. In lieu of flowers, Gary requested that donations be made to the Ocean Conservancy or a charity of your choice and, as the recipient of a living donor organ transplant, he would also ask that you consider becoming an organ donor.

In addition to Barb, Gary is survived by his brothers Robert Kirkpatrick (Carol) and Douglas Kirkpatrick (Dottie), his sister-in-law Carol Stack (David Cleveland) and many nieces and nephews.

Jobs & Felllowships

GCOOS maintains a jobs listing for positions and fellowships in the ocean observing community. Want to advertise a position? Email Laura Caldwell.

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  • Board on Gulf Education and Engagement: Program Officer
  • National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration: Research Physical Scientist, Plainsboro, NJ; Boulder, CO,
  • The University of Southern Mississippi: Associate Marine Instrumentation Specialist
  • The University of Miami (RSMAS): Tenure or Tenure-Track Professor
  • GOOS Biology: Data Manager
  • USACE Jacksonville District, Engineering Division: Coastal Design Section - Civil Engineer
  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation: Program Director
  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation: Staff Scientist, Coastal Resilience
  • Mote Marine Laboratory

Postdoctoral Positions:

  • National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration: National Centers for Coastal Ocean Sciences, NRC Research Programs
  • National Research Council: Research Associateship Programs Postdoctoral and Senior Research Awards
  • Smithsonian Environmental Research Center: Animal Teletmetry Postdoctoral Fellow


  • Susan L. Williams National Coral Reef Management Fellowship
  • National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration - Coastal Management Fellowship
  • National Academies of Science, Engineering and Mathematics: Early Career Fellowships
  • Department of Defense: Visualization of Coastal Data, Coastal Vulnerability Assessment Fellow
Funding Opportunities

GCOOS maintains a listing of funding opportunities. Have an opportunity you'd like to advertise? Email Laura Caldwell

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  • National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration – Translating Coastal Research into Application
  • The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine – Early Career Research Fellowship
  • National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration: American the Beautiful Conservation Initiative
  • Gulf of Mexico Alliance

Meetings & Conferences

25-28: Oceans Conference and Exposition 2023 Gulf Coast, Mississippi Sound, Mississippi
12-16: CERF 2023 Conference, Portland, Oregon
14-17: 2023 International Ocean Colour Science Meeting, St. Petersburg, Florida
19-22: Gulf of Mexico Conference, Tampa Convention Center, Tampa, Florida

Have meeting or workshop info you want to share? Email Laura Caldwell.

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 on-demand information about the Gulf’s coastal and open ocean waters that is accurate, reliable and benefits people, ecosystems and the economy.
Dr. Jorge Brenner, Executive Director • Dr. Barbara Kirkpatrick, Senior Advisor  Bill Lingsch, Underwater Glider User Group Coordinator  Dr. Chris Simoniello, Outreach & Education Manager  Felimon Gayanilo, Systems Architect, Co-Data Manager • Bob Currier, Product Developer, Co-Data Manager • Dr. Uchenna Nwankwo, Oceanographer  Marion Stoessel, Senior Research Associate • Tuomo Saari, Scientific Computing Specialist • Jennifer Vreeland-Dawson, Research Associate, GCAN Coordinator • Grant Craig, Program & Volunteer Coordinator • Laura Caldwell, Program Assistant • Nadine Slimak, Public Relations & Content Marketing, Vetted Communications, LLC
In Memoriam: Matt Howard, 1952-2018