AOML’s Coral Health and Monitoring Program (CHAMP) rolled out a new data source in October as part of its online data query tool. Optimally Interpolated Sea Surface Temperatures, or OISSTs, are data from microwave satellite observation platforms, products that are sourced from Remote Sensing Systems. Whereas other sea surface temperature sources might be missing data due to orbital gaps or non-ideal environmental conditions such as cloud cover or rainfall, the OISST platform corrects for these errors to provide a complete, daily sea surface temperature map that can benefit coral health and monitoring efforts worldwide.
NOAA selected AOML oceanographer Dr. Rik Wanninkhof in October 2015 to become a Senior Technical Scientist, the highest attainable level for federal research scientists within NOAA. Rik is an internationally recognized authority on air-sea gas transfer with close to 25 years of experience studying the effects of atmospheric carbon dioxide on the ocean. Senior Technical Scientist positions are held by individuals who achieve national and/or international distinction in their field through their high-level research.
On September 29th, researchers from AOML’s Environmental Microbiology Lab along with scientists from Florida International University’s Southeast Environmental Research Center collected water samples along Miami Beach during a king tide event, the highest astronomical tide of the year. Sample sites were located adjacent to pumps installed by the City of Miami Beach to actively pump super-tidal floodwaters out of the streets and back into Biscayne Bay. AOML’s team continuously monitored and collected water samples over a 5-hour period at locations in Maurice Gibb Memorial Park, along 14th Street, and at 27th Street and Indian Creek Drive. During sampling, physical water properties such as temperature, salinity, pH, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen content were also measured.
A team of NOAA scientists from the Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC) and AOML conducted a survey aboard the NOAA research vessel Hildebrand to capture, tag and release leatherback sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico. The survey, which took place off the coast of the Florida Panhandle, was the first directed research on leatherbacks in Gulf waters. The team of scientists sought to obtain accurate information on these endangered animals in order to answer questions relating to habitat use, migrations, and distribution within the Gulf region. After locating a turtle with help from spotters in NOAA aircraft, each turtle was secured with a net and brought to the vessel to be measured and equipped with a satellite tag, which will collect data on dive patterns and water temperatures in addition to long-term movement. The team successfully tagged a total of six turtles during the survey. The team also assisted in the scheduled release of a female leatherback that had stranded earlier in September off of Fort Walton Beach, FL. The turtle, which had been rehabilitated at the local Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, was brought aboard the R/V Hildebrand in Destin, FL and successfully released 20 miles offshore.
AOML scientists aboard the R/V F.G. Walton Smith conducted the bimonthly water quality research cruise in support of the South Florida Project during the week of September 21st. The AOML South Florida Project (SFP), and its associated field operations, have enabled scientists and resource managers to keep a watchful eye on the sensitive marine habitats found in the region and have served as a sentinel during periods when the ecosystem has been subjected to extreme events such as hurricanes, harmful algal blooms (HAB), and more recently, potential oil spill contaminants. Additionally, the AOML SFP has produced a comprehensive, long-term baseline regarding regional circulation, salinity, water quality, and biology for the ecosystem.
AOML’s ecosystem assessment and modeling group is collaborating with the protected species and biodiversity lab at NOAA’s SEFSC to begin a water quality monitoring survey of South Florida’s Biscayne Bay watershed. Biscayne Bay is a designated Habitat Focus Area under NOAA’s Habitat Blueprint, a program which offers opportunities for NOAA to partner with organizations to address coastal and marine habitat loss and degradation issues. Scientists will collect continuous temperature, salinity, turbidity, dissolved organic matter, and fluorescence measurements, as well as discrete samples for Chlorophyll a, nutrients, and phytoplankton. The surveys will occur quarterly and will examine the sources of potential contaminants from canals and waterways, and the subsequent effects these contaminants will have on the Bay.
AOML coral scientists participated in a NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service-led project to document coral spawning in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary during August & September 2015. The project aims to measure spawning success for two imperiled Caribbean species, elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) and mountainous star coral (Orbicella faveolata) in the Florida Keys. The team collected gametes from both species to be used in experiments that aim to improve the understanding of factors that may enhance the likelihood of coral larvae to survive and settle on the ocean floor. Experiments will also assess impacts of current and future global environmental changes, such as ocean acidification, on these vulnerable early life stages of corals. Click on the image below to view a video of a spawning mountainous star colony.
Photo and Video credit: NOAA
For the third time in recorded history, a massive coral bleaching event is unfolding throughout the world’s oceans, stretching from the Indian Ocean to the Caribbean. Above average sea surface temperatures exacerbated by a strong El Niño could result in the planet losing up to 4,500 square miles of coral this year alone, according to NOAA. The global event is predicted to continue to impact reefs into the spring of 2016.
Members of AOML’s Acidification, Climate, and Coral Reef Ecosystems Team (ACCRETE) recently traveled to two remote reef locations to expand the National Coral Reef Monitoring Program’s (NCRMP) network of sentinel climate and ocean acidification monitoring sites. The newly established sites, located in the Flower Garden Banks and the Dry Tortugas, will provide researchers with additional data and insights into the ocean’s changing chemistry and the progression of ocean acidification, as well as the ecological impacts of these variables across the Caribbean basin and the Gulf of Mexico.
A team of scientists from NOAA’s AOML and Southeast Fisheries Science Center have conducted a series of surveys in Florida Bay this year as part of an ongoing project to investigate how juvenile sport fish in the bay respond to changes in water quality and habitat resulting from Everglades restoration. During the survey, scientists collected water quality and seagrass measurements and conducted otter trawls to sample the juvenile sport fish populations.