NOAA's Undersea Research Program
FY 2004 SCIENCE GUIDANCE
This document outlines NURP's Science Guidance to the NURP Centers
for FY 2004.
NOAA's Undersea Research Program (NURP) is a comprehensive
underwater research program that supports NOAA's mission by placing
scientists underwater to research issues of regional, national,
and global importance. NURP provides access to advanced underwater
technologies and methods, including mixed gas diving, manned submersibles,
remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), autonomous underwater vehicles
(AUVs), sea floor observatories, and Aquarius, the world's only
underwater laboratory. By using this in situ approach, NURP makes
observations, collects samples, and conducts experiments that would
otherwise be unobtainable.
NURP is primarily a grant program with about 90 percent
of its funding going to the extramural (outside NOAA) research community.
NURP-supported research quality is ensured by competitive and high
standards of peer review patterned after that of the National Science
Foundation. Highest priority is given to proposals for studies in
the Great Lakes, territorial seas, adjacent waters of the United
States, U.S. Territories, Freely-Associated States, and Puerto Rico.
Responsibility for soliciting and supporting the research is assigned
to regional NURP Centers in the North Atlantic and Great Lakes;
Mid-Atlantic Bight; Southeastern U.S. and the Gulf of Mexico; Caribbean;
West Coast and Polar Regions; and Hawaii and the Western Pacific.
See Table 1 for NURP contacts, addresses, and phone numbers.
Table 1. NOAA's Undersea Research Program Contacts
NOAA's Undersea Research Program (Headquarters)
Barbara Moore, Director
1315 East West Highway, Rm. 10322
Silver Spring, MD 20910
TEL. 301/713-2427, ext. 127
North Atlantic and Great Lakes (NURP Center)
Ivar Babb, Director
1084 Shennecossett Road
Groton, CT 06340
Southeastern U.S. and Gulf of Mexico (NURP Center)
Andrew Shepard, Director
University of North Carolina, Wilmington
5600 Marvin K. Moss Lane
Wilmington, NC 28049
Mid-Atlantic Bight (NURP Center)
Michael DeLuca, Director
Institute of Marine & Coastal Sciences
71 Dudley Road
New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8521
TEL. 732/932-6555 ext. 512
Caribbean (NURP Center)
John Marr, Director
Caribbean Marine Research Center
Perry Institute for Marine Science
100 North U.S. Highway 1
Jupiter, Florida 33477
West Coast and Polar Regions (NURP Center)
Jennifer Reynolds, Interim Director
University of Alaska, Fairbanks
208 O'Neill Bldg., Box 757220
Fairbanks, AK 99775-7220
Hawaii and the Western Pacific (NURP Center)
Alexander Malahoff, Director
Hawai'i Undersea Research Laboratory
University of Hawai'i - Manoa
1000 Pope Road, MSB 303
Honolulu, HI 96822
NOAA is adopting a new strategic plan for FY 2003-2008,
in response to the changing needs of society and the environment.
The new plan responds to increasing changes in demographics, globalization,
climate, economies, and stressors to the environment. NOAA's Strategic
Plan for 2003-2008 is located at the web site for NOAA's Office
of Strategic Planning, http://www.osp.noaa.gov/.
To understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment
and conserve and manage coastal and marine resources to meet the
Nation's economic, social, and environmental needs.
NURP responds to NOAA's mission by using its expertise
in undersea in situ science and technology.
To increase knowledge essential for the wise use
of oceanic, coastal, and large lake resources through advanced undersea
research, sampling, observation, experimentation and education.
NURP's mission directly supports NOAA's mission, leading
to understanding and predicting the undersea environment. From that
standpoint, NURP will provide the scientific basis for NOAA and
the Nation to align with the future so that a healthy and sustainable
balance of the sea is reached.
To strive towards NURP's mission, five strategies have
These strategies form the basis of NURP's scientific
guidance for FY 2004.
- Promote healthy coasts and effective management
with new scientific knowledge;
- Foster ocean stewardship through an improved understanding
of ocean processes and ecosystems;
- Ecologically assess our ocean frontiers;
- Develop new and novel underwater technologies; and
- Educate the nation about the oceans and the Great
1. Promote healthy coasts and effective management.
U.S. coasts are more densely populated than the rest of the country
and continue to grow at faster rates. According to the Pew Oceans
Commission, half the U.S. population currently lives in the one_fifth
of our land area along the coasts; by 2025, demographers anticipate
three_quarters of the U.S. population will reside in coastal regions.
Much of the national economy is dependent upon a healthy and vibrant
coastal zone consisting of recreational and commercial fishing, seafood
processing, recreation and tourism, the boating industry, ports and
harbors, marine shipping, offshore oil and gas, and marine equipment
manufacturing. Aesthetic, cultural, and environmental aspects of the
coastal zone significantly enhance its value. Clearly, economic growth
and environmental protection are inextricably linked.
Driven by concern for the health and conservation of marine ecosystems
and resources, certain marine and coastal zone areas are facing widespread
degradation. For example, coral reefs are of particular concern. The
National Marine Sanctuaries (NMS) Program and the National Estuarine
Research Reserve System (NERRS) need to identify, designate, and manage
areas of the marine environment of special national significance due
to their conservation, recreational, ecological, historical, research,
educational, or aesthetic qualities. Although the following research
areas are not the only ones, they represent research needs that would
be particularly relevant to NOAA's and NURP's mission. Accordingly,
1.1 Perform research, monitoring, and comprehensive site characterizations
(including assessment of patterns of biodiversity and the processes
which maintain them) for key coastal habitats such as coral reefs
and other critical habitats in NMS and NERRS sites to allow for more
efficient management of protected resources.
1.2 Support sound decision-making for the management of toxic contaminants
by providing reliable scientific analysis of trends, transport, fate,
and effects for both point and non-point sources, and communicating
these findings to policy makers.
1.3 Understand the effects of anthropogenic stressors on processes
that affect specific life stages of marine organisms, particularly
processes critical to population maintenance, such as reproduction
(fertilization, metamorphosis, settlement, and recruitment). It
is particularly important to understand what levels of exposure
to stressors in the marine environment are acceptable, what limits
ought to be targeted in monitoring programs, and what techniques
are most appropriate to assess environmental exposure.
1.4 Identify and investigate the causes and consequences
of eutrophication in coastal and estuarine waters and work with
policy makers to identify cost-effective alternatives for their
control, develop mitigation strategies, and promote integrated watershed
1.5 Seek a better understanding of the role that lake and ocean
habitats play in maintaining the health of living marine and Great
1.6 Use tools from engineering, biotechnology, ecology, and genetics
to help identify aquatic nuisance species, their life cycles, ecological
relationships, and disruption to coastal ecosystems.
1.7 Assess the physical and biological impacts of natural and anthropogenic-related
disasters (e.g., hurricanes, tsunami, flood plumes, pollutant spills),
and develop methods to evaluate the economic costs of destruction
1.8 Evaluate the potential for the spread of waterborne diseases,
alien and invasive species, particularly between Atlantic and Pacific
NOAA Fisheries also has interest in many of these areas because
of responsibilities related to building sustainable fisheries and
recovering protected species through, e.g., a better understanding
of essential fish habitat (as defined in the Magnuson Fishery Conservation
and Management Act). Success will be dependent on effective coordination
of different programs, using the matrix management approach now
required by the new NOAA Strategic Plan.
2. Foster ocean stewardship. According to NOAA Fisheries,
over one-third of all fish stocks for which we have scientific population
information are over-utilized, and nearly half are below optimal
population levels. Additionally, habitat is degrading, posing an
ever-increasing challenge to promote the recovery of protected species.
The reasons are varied and complicated; some are natural and cyclical
(e.g., hurricanes), while others are caused by humans (e.g., over-fishing).
Fish are selective about where they live. With the advent of new
fishing technologies, for example inexpensive satellite positioning,
commercial and recreational fishermen have gotten better at finding
and targeting fish habitats. Destructive fishing practices degrade
these habitats, e.g., anchored gill nets are destroying fragile
coral reefs. Trawls customized for "rock-hopping," plow
through rocky substrate, topple boulders, and bury the encrusting
species that attract fish. Many commercial and recreational fishing
activities relocate to deeper depths as shallow resources are depleted,
and we know even less about the ecology and habitat of deep water
species. Working with others, again with a matrix management approach,
2.1 Improve stock assessments of mammals, fishes, and invertebrates
by developing and employing advanced underwater technology, providing
comparative data on populations, and improving and developing population
and community models.
2.2 Identify and map essential fish habitat to determine habitat
requirements for healthy populations, assess damage from mobile
fishing gear, and provide research results that increase a manager's
ability to identify, protect, and restore essential fish habitat.
2.3 Conduct research on the life histories of marine organisms of
commercial or ecological importance, including reproduction, feeding,
behavior, age and growth, and distribution.
2.4 Conduct studies to assess the effectiveness of Marine Protected
Areas (MPAs) and marine zoning for conserving fish stocks, essential
fish habitat (including conservation of biological diversity), and
for contributing new productivity to adjacent unprotected areas.
2.5 Improve the ability to accurately predict the effects of changes
in environmental conditions by determining the relationships of
oceanographic and climatic parameters to the abundance and diversity
of fishery populations and communities.
2.6 Identify and quantify damage to fisheries resources and their
habitat resulting from fishing gear impacts and contaminant input
and spills, and determine rates of impact recovery.
2.7 Provide scientific information to assist NOAA Fisheries in developing
the requirements for the siting of aquaculture operations in the
U.S. exclusive economic zone.
2.8 Conduct studies of habitat preference, including adaptations
of species to enhance stocks.
2.9 Determine the effectiveness of stock enhancement efforts, including
replenishment of wild populations with hatchery-reared juveniles.
2.10 Assess the effectiveness of habitat enhancements designed to
improve the success of stock enhancement efforts.
These objectives must be accomplished in cooperation with NOAA Fisheries
to provide the research results to improve federal and state abilities
to effectively manage and restore fisheries. NOAA's Ocean Service
also has an interest in some of these areas (e.g., MPAs) because
of responsibilities related to sustaining healthy coasts through
such programs such as the NMS and the NERRS programs.
3. Ecologically assessing our ocean frontiers. A wealth of
untapped living and non-living resources lie hidden at our ocean
frontiers. In fact, the ocean floor constantly vents and seeps a
wide array of chemicals and materials, at rates and amounts capable
of affecting ocean chemistry on a regional scale. In turn, changing
chemistry impacts how the oceans absorb (or release) greenhouse
gases, process contaminants, give rise to new pharmaceuticals, and
sustain life. NURP and NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration (OE) are
developing an effective partnership under this strategy. OE explores
the ocean frontiers, while NURP's role is to understand (i.e., monitor,
research, and assess) the importance of these ocean frontiers, including
deep-sea vents, seeps, and volcanism. NURP will work with OE, NOAA
line offices, and others to:
3.1 Expand the monitoring of deep-sea vents, seeps, and volcanism
and the flux of materials emanating from them, and biological communities
associated with them.
3.2 Seek out, recover, isolate, and culture novel organisms from
unique, extreme environments such as deep-sea vent ecosystems.
3.3 Identify unique bioactive compounds with commercial potential
associated with marine organisms.
3.4 Characterize deep-sea communities and the processes that regulate
patterns of biological diversity to better understand effects of
human exploitation (now and in the future).
3.5 Conduct basic and applied research to identify, explore, assess,
and environmentally characterize gas hydrates.
3.6 Conduct basic and applied research on gas hydrate degassing
and its role in the carbon cycle.
3.7 Conduct studies of past climates through paleoenvironmental
methods, as a means of assessing present and predicting future climate
4. Develop new and novel underwater technologies. The changing
and difficult study of the ocean realm requires new intellectual
approaches and a national investment in a new mode of conducting
marine investigations. With the exception an advanced synoptic remote
sensing technologies over the last several decades, surface-ship
expeditions have dominated ocean science since World War II. New
approaches, such as advanced sea floor observatories and habitats
(human occupied) greatly enhance traditional capabilities by providing
invaluable long-term monitoring and continuity of observations.
They are an example of the next generation in the development of
technology for understanding the oceans.
Recent technological advancements in low-power miniaturized components
enable development of ocean floor stations that feature a wide variety
of in situ sampling tools and sensors. ROVs and AUVs use sea floor
observatories as a home base to power-up and download acquired data,
thereby extending the geographic range of these stations. Real-time
data and imagery are routinely transmitted to land-based laboratories
and the Internet via cables, radios, and satellite connections.
Through sea floor observatories and habitats, scientists can control
in situ experiments and equipment from their land-based laboratories.
Through a matrix management approach, and partnerships with others,
4.1 Develop new technologies that promote in situ, long-term research.
This includes AUVs, underwater observatories and habitats, and chemical,
physical and biological sensors that are needed to study critical
elements and forcing factors in the marine environment.
4.2 Expand the monitoring of deep-sea vents, seeps, and volcanism
and the flux of materials emanating from them, their effect on the
ocean and atmosphere, and biological communities associated with
5. Educate the nation about the oceans and the Great Lakes.
Education and outreach must be linked to NURP's research programs
and innovative means must be developed to bring the excitement of
ocean research to the general public. An additional way that NURP
can engage in education and outreach programs is by supporting undersea
research that involves more masters and doctoral candidates. NURP
is intent on doing more to communicate the value of its research
to a larger audience. This strategy will be accomplished through
a matrix management approach, encouraging corroborations with others
5.1 Contribute to educational outreach programs to enhance awareness
and understanding of ocean and large lake processes, ecosystems
and resources, and their study, management and conservation.
5.2 Hold periodic regional workshops regarding NURP research directions,
necessary actions, NURP priorities, and the development of initiatives
to provide a forum for all participants to listen, inform themselves,
discuss, explain, and exchange views.
5.3 Promote formal and informal partnership agreements both inside
and outside of NOAA.
5.4 Establish easily accessible communications links through Web
pages, electronic bulletin boards, and printed material to provide
current information to all our partners and customers regarding
current research, future plans, and policy developments.
5.5 Encourage publication of articles in the popular press, including
scientific outlets for laypersons, newsletters, newspapers, and
publications of trade and hobby organizations with interests affected
by NURP management and research. This is in addition to traditional
technical articles in scientific journals,
The above five objectives constitute the NURP FY2004 Science Guidance.
It is based upon the draft NOAA Strategic Plan for FY 2003-2008.
Undoubtedly, additional objectives could be added. However, these
objectives are meant to serve as an initial guide the NURP Centers
in forming their approach to FY2004. The NURP Centers should continue
to consider their individual capabilities, expertise, and unique
regional priorities in developing their scientific and programmatic