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LEO-15 Observatory
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For the past decade, NURP has been a pioneer in developing and supporting unique ocean observing systems. NURP established the Long-term Ecosystem Observatory (LEO-15), the first cabled seafloor observatory, located at 15 m in depth on an inner shelf offshore of Tuckerton, NJ. LEO-15 (right) was designed to address management questions focused on short- and long-term ecosystem change, such as, identifying environmental stressors and their impacts over time and the effects of episodic events (e.g., storms, upwelling, harmful algal blooms, etc.) on the seafloor. NURP has been fundamental in the operation and maintenance of other unique observing systems, such as NOAA's Aquarius, the world's only underwater laboratory, CariCOOS, FRONT, and CREWS (NOAA's Coral Reef Early Warning System).

Moving Ocean Observatories into the 21st Century

NOAA's Strategic Plan for FY 2003 - FY 2008 recognizes the role of an "Integrated Global Environmental Observation and Data Management System" as one of it crosscutting strategic priorities. The plan states that NOAA will work with its local, regional, national, and international partners to develop global-to-local environmental observations and data management for comprehensive, continuous monitoring of coupled ocean, atmosphere, and land systems. NOAA's role in the "Integrated Global Environmental Observation and Data Management System" is to work with and represent its U.S. partners through the Integrated Ocean Observation System (IOOS).

NURP's Role in Ocean Observing

To support NOAA's role in IOOS, NURP intends to use its unique capabilities and background in ocean observing science and technology to leverage and fill gaps in the objectives and/or capabilities of existing NOAA IOOS efforts.

1. Support Operational Research

Through its regional network of six Centers and the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology, NURP provides the academic research community access to underwater tools to conduct process-oriented research. This research relies upon an underwater presence, conducted at multiple scales and over a range of depths. NURP focuses the academic community to conduct research that directly supports the operational needs of NOAA. Among the major research themes that will be part of the Ocean Observatory Research Program are:

  •  Climate change, particularly at continental shelf and slope depths
  •  Shallow and deep water habitat mapping and assessment
  •  The role of gas hydrates in climate change and seafloor stability
  •  Deep-sea coral ecosystem research
  •  Shallow and deep sea fisheries

2. Provide Service to NOAA and to other Ocean Observing Systems

Many NURP Centers and the NIUST maintain an undersea operational capability (e.g. occupied submersibles, remotely operated vehicles, conventional and technical diving) that can provide a significant service to NOAA and academic observation systems. NURP also directly supports the development of new technologies and sensors. Examples include:

  • Installation, operation, and maintenance of observatories and sensors
  • Search and recovery of lost scientific equipment
  • Technology development and testing:
    • New sensor development and application
    • Use of Existing observatories as a test bed for new sensors and technologies
ROV and seafloor observing platform
NURP ROV having recently recovered a seafloor observing platform (at right).

3. Benthic Ecosystem Monitoring Program
One of the major contributions that NURP provides to NOAA's research mission is quantitative and qualitative data on the status of seafloor ecosystems. NURP divers and dive systems (submersibles, remotely operated vehicles, towed camera systems, and autonomous underwater vehicles) provide imagery (both video and still) that has been used to assess the health of a wide variety of ecosystems, including coral reefs, productive fishing banks, canyons, and seamounts.

4. Education and Outreach
Several NURP Centers have demonstrated the educational value of experiences at sea. Observatory data can be used to extend such experiences beyond time spent on the ship and provide teachers and students an ongoing and dynamic link to real-time events in the ocean. Furthermore, public access of observatory data products provides a link to oceans and large lakes for both users (e.g., fishermen interested in sea conditions or water temperatures), as well as individuals who have an interest in the oceans and large lakes. NURP cooperates with other programs to make its undersea data available for education and outreach. Examples include:

  • Web-based access to real-time and archived data for educators (e.g. Cool-Classroom) for the Problem Based Learning approach
  • Provision for live-link (microwave) of real time video and imagery products, providing non-traditional data (e.g. visual response of the environment to observed events and trends), to NOAA programs (e.g. NERRs, Sanctuaries) and other educational centers (e.g. COSEE, aquaria).
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Updated: October 13, 2004