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Ocean Research

2018:  FEB

April 2017 Issue

OCEARCH Partners with
Jacksonville University

OCEARCH has launched at Jacksonville University (JU) for student-centric marine science learning. OCEARCH is dedicated to the study of keystone marine species such as great white and tiger sharks, and JU is located at the nexus of an important great white shark habitat and migration area. OCEARCH Founding Chairman and Expedition Leader Chris Fischer will take on the role of explorer in residence at JU. Under the new collaboration, the MV OCEARCH will be home-ported in Jacksonville.

The MV OCEARCH has tagged more than 200 sharks and done dozens of research expeditions from South Africa to the Galapagos Islands to Australia over the past decade.

The learning opportunity will extend beyond marine sciences students to JU students in disciplines such as marketing, public policy, film, engineering, aviation, sustainability, communications, business and environmental sciences. Located on the banks of the St. Johns River and a quick trip away from the Atlantic Ocean, JU is also home to the Marine Science Research Institute.

$3 Million Gifted to
UNH Ocean Lab

Thanks to a $3 million gift from an anonymous alumnus, the University of New Hampshire (UNH) will be able to expand its work in ocean exploration with the construction of a new wing at the Chase Engineering Laboratory to support a recently created bachelor’s degree in ocean engineering and faculty research.

Coastal, marine and other ocean science fields represent a vast area of employment expected to see nearly 20 percent growth in the next five years, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The UNH School of Marine Sciences and Ocean Engineering, founded in 2013, allows students and faculty to engage in innovative research across a broad platform of marine and ocean studies, through both lab and field experiences.

The building expansion will include four research labs, an instrumentation lab, a machine shop and a computer cluster room for students. It will also house a 90-seat lecture hall, a seminar classroom and a large covered outdoor workspace. Work is underway, with the new features set to open in the fall.

The new research labs will provide space for UNH’s four identified areas of academic study and research within ocean engineering: ocean structures, coastal sediments, ocean acoustics and marine robotics.

El Niño Could Increase
Coastal Hazards

Last winter’s El Niño was one of the most powerful climate events of the past 145 years. If such severe El Niño events become more common in the future, the California coast—home to more than 25 million people—may become increasingly vulnerable to coastal hazards. And that’s independent of projected sea level rise. New research conducted by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists and their colleagues at UC Santa Barbara and six other institutions found that during the 2015 to 2016 El Niño, winter beach erosion on the Pacific coast was 76 percent above normal, and that most beaches in California eroded beyond historical extremes.

Winter beach erosion is a normal seasonal process, but during El Niño events the extent of erosion can be more severe.

The research team assessed seasonal beach behavior for 29 beaches along more than 1,200 miles of the Pacific coast.

The investigators’ efforts included making 3D surface maps and cross-shore profiles using aerial lidar, GPS topographic surveys and direct measurements of sand quantities. They combined that with wave and water level data from each beach between 1997 and 2016.

The 2015 to 2016 El Niño was one of the three strongest events ever recorded, along with the El Niño winters of 1982 to 1983 and 1997 to 1998. Climate change will likely bring more El Niño events, possibly twice as many, at twice the frequency as in the past.

US Northeast Atlantic Now
Long-Term Research Site

The Atlantic Ocean off the Northeast U.S. coast is known for its productive fisheries and abundant harvests. To better understand and manage this intricate ecosystem, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has selected this critical ocean region for a new Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) site led by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), along with researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Wellesley College and the University of Rhode Island.

The Northeast U.S. Shelf (NES) LTER focal site spans the Continental Shelf with an intensive study area connecting Martha’s Vineyard Coastal Observatory (MVCO) on the Inner Shelf to the Pioneer Array on the Outer Shelf. Collaborations with scientists at other institutions will extend the studied area broadly over the Continental Shelf from North Carolina to Maine. LTER programs focus attention on specific sites representing major ecosystem types and undertake long-term assessments of populations, communities and the physical environment. A second new LTER coastal ocean site will be in the Gulf of Alaska. Scientists have already documented changes in the Atlantic off the Northeast U.S. But they have lacked the sustained, comprehensive observations needed to understand the mechanisms that link the physical ocean environment to plankton food webs and to fish stocks—limiting their ability to predict how the ecosystem will respond to environmental change. The NES-LTER will fill that gap. The LTER science team will conduct four research cruises a year to observe the intensive cross-shelf study area using equipment such as imaging systems to assess phytoplankton and zooplankton populations and mass spectrometers to measure gases that trace production within the food web.

Funding for the five-year project totals $6 million, administered through WHOI, and LTER projects are renewable in six-year cycles.

2018:  FEB

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Sea Technology is read worldwide in more than 110 countries by management, engineers, scientists and technical personnel working in industry, government and educational research institutions. Readers are involved with oceanographic research, fisheries management, offshore oil and gas exploration and production, undersea defense including antisubmarine warfare, ocean mining and commercial diving.