July 2019
Greetings from GCOOS
The GOMA All-Hands meeting was once again a success, and it was really great seeing so many familiar faces and having the opportunity to meet new colleagues dedicated to working in the Gulf of Mexico.

Lots and lots of GCOOSians were there, including Board Directors Renee Collini, Alyssa Dausman, Kirsten Larsen, Mike Lee and Ruth Perry. Many of our Outreach and Education Council members also participated in the Education and Engagement team meeting, including Dianne Lindstedt, Louisiana Sea Grant; Dinah Maygarden, University of New Orleans; Leslie Peart, Texas State Aquarium; Angela Sallis, NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information; Chris Verlinde, Florida Sea Grant and Lee Yokel, GOMA Education and Engagement PIT Coordinator.

I also want to give a shout out to the Water Institute of the Gulf, which has been selected for a five-year NOAA restoration agreement. Alyssa Dausman, the Institute’s Vice President for Science, says that the funding will help continue restoration programs and provide opportunities for new efforts and partnerships.

Not everything around the Gulf is as positive though, with news about beach closures and advisories in Mississippi and Louisiana getting a lot of national attention this week thanks to an influx of fresh water from an overly wet season. There's also the possibility of a tropical storm developing in the next day or so which could bring even more rain. (Be sure to watch our hurricane page for updates!)

Questions about beaches is one reason that we've been working to develop a new app that we're calling "All Things Beaches." Our goal is for it to be a one-stop shop of comprehensive information about beaches throughout the entire Gulf — from Texas to Florida. We're still developing the tool and hope to have it ready for users by the end of the year. In the meantime, we sure could use your help — see the item below about submitting pictures to help us illustrate the Gulf's beaches.

Until next time!

Last Chance: Submit Your Meeting Travel Award Application Before Time Runs Out
GCOOS is soliciting applications for the first Howard Scholarship award. The awardee will receive registration and travel support (a maximum of $1,500) to give an ocean data-related presentation at either the  American Geophysical Union Meeting  or  2020 Ocean Sciences Meeting . The award is for undergraduate, graduate or post-doctoral students. (Please share this info with your students & colleagues!)

Human Health & Safety
Northern Gulf: Beach Closures and Advisories
A massive influx of freshwater sent down the Mississippi River due to heavy rains throughout the basin is wreaking havoc on coastal communities in Louisiana and in Mississippi — where the state has closed all beaches to swimming.

And it looks like more rain is on the way, thanks to a low-pressure system over the Florida Panhandle, which is expected to move out over the Gulf and strengthen into the season’s second tropical storm this week. ( See our hurricane page for updates.)

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality has closed all of the state’s beaches to swimming due to an outbreak of toxic blue-green algae. The algal bloom is believed to have been caused by the opening of the Bonnet Carre spillway in Louisiana, which was partially opened to offset a rising Mississippi River that swelled due to an especially wet winter in the Mississippi Valley. MDEQ began the beach closures in June and advises people, and their pets, to avoid contact, including swimming, with the blue-green algae because exposure can be harmful.

Louisiana health officials have also issued advisories due to a large bloom in Lake Pontchartrain and high fecal coliform levels on a dozen beaches. Lake Charles South Beach was also closed.

Better Tracking Tools for Toxic Algae
A new study led by NOAA and GCOOS and published in the peer-review journal PLoS ONE shows that citizen science volunteers using a relatively low-cost tool can help increase the size and accuracy of a red tide monitoring network to better protect public health from the impacts of toxic algae in the Gulf of Mexico.

The study — “HABscope: A tool for use by citizen scientists to facilitate early warning of respiratory irritation caused by toxic blooms of Karenia brevis” — shows that it’s possible to:

  • Increase red tide monitoring over a wider geographic area;
  • Provide more accurate scientific data about red tide concentrations based on water samples instead of anecdotal reports from beach observers;
  • Expand the red tide monitoring network throughout the Gulf states in a cost-effective fashion.

Photo Contest for New GCOOS App: We need You!
GCOOS is developing an app, "All Things Beaches," which will be a comprehensive source for current conditions at Gulf of Mexico Beaches.

It will include beach safety information and other resources to help people enjoy their day at the beach.  But we need your help! We need photos of your favorite beaches — and the amenities they have — to help us populate the app.

Marine Operations
GCOOS Director is Breaking Waves, Breaking Barriers
The organizers of OceanObs’19 have announced a special side event that will take place during the September meeting in Hawaii.

“Breaking Waves, Breaking Barriers” will celebrate women's instrumental role in ocean science, leadership and mentorship. It will also pay tribute to great women and inspire future generations for a more inclusive, robust and forward-leaning discipline.

Confirmed speakers include GCOOS’ own executive director, Dr. Barbara Kirkpatrick along with:
  • Wendy Schmidt, Schmidt Ocean Institute
  • Karen Helen Wiltshire, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research Alfred Wegener Institute, Germany
  • Juliet Hermes, South African Environmental Observation Network, South Africa
  • Rosie Alegado, University of Hawaii, as panel host
World Ocean Observing System Report Card
The Joint Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology (JCOMM) of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) has released the 2019 Ocean Observing System Report Card.

The report provides insight into the status of the global ocean observing system and highlights the need for sustained ocean monitoring.
Healthy Ecosystems & Living Resources
Gulf Dead Zone Predictions for 2019
NOAA scientists are forecasting this summer’s Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone or ‘dead zone’ — an area of low to no oxygen that can kill fish and other marine life — to be approximately 7,829 square miles or roughly the size of the land mass of Massachusetts.

This is the second year NOAA is producing its own independent forecast product, the culmination of a multi-year academic-federal partnership to develop a suite of NOAA-supported hypoxia forecast models. The partnership included teams of researchers at the:

The NOAA forecast integrates the results of these multiple independent models into a separate average forecast that is released in coordination with these external groups, some of which are also developing independent forecasts.
The LSU Forecast
The dead zone off the Louisiana coast is the second largest human-caused coastal hypoxic area in the global ocean. Researchers led by GCOOS Board Director Dr. Nancy Rabalais, Distinguished Research Professor at LUMCON and Professor and Shell Oil Endowed Chair at Louisiana State University, and Dr. R. Eugene Turner, Boyd Professor at Louisiana State University, consider v arious models based on the May nitrogen load of the Mississippi River as the main driving force to predict the size of this hypoxic zone in late July. The LSU prediction is based on one of these models.

Their June 2019 forecast is that the size of the hypoxic zone in the northern Gulf of Mexico for late July 2019 is that it will cover 22,557 square km (8,717 square mi) of the bottom of the continental shelf off Louisiana and Texas. The 95% confidence interval is that it will be between 20,433 and 24,821 square km (7,889 and 9,583 square mi).

This estimate is based on the assumption that there are no significant tropical storms in the two weeks before the next monitoring cruise, or during the cruise. If a storm does occur, then the size of the zone is predicted to be 70% of the predicted size without the storm, equivalent to 13,847 square km (5,346 square mi).

The predicted hypoxic area is about the size of the land area of New Hampshire — and 67% larger than an average year with no storms.

(The image above is from 2018.)
Sargassum Supersized
A new study in the journal Science — made possible thanks to ocean-observing satellites viewing visible and infrared light wavelengths — says that recurring, massive blooms of sargassum stretching across the southern tropical Atlantic Ocean from western Africa all the way to the Gulf of Mexico have become the world’s largest macroalgal bloom and may become the “new normal” thanks to continued Amazon River discharges combined with upwelling off West Africa.

The record sargassum bloom, in 2018, weighed an estimated 20 million metric tons. (The image above shows sargassum growth in the Atlantic each July from 2011-2018.)

While sargassum plays a critical role as cover for baby sea turtles and many other juvenile species, such widespread blooms can stop light from reaching seagrasses or corals and deplete dissolved oxygen as they decay — essentially creating a floating dead zone. Such thick sargassum mats also wreak havoc on boat engines of commercial and recreational boaters and fishers as well as beach economies that depend on clean beaches for happy tourists.

Caught on Film: Architeuthis in the Gulf
A NOAA-funded research expedition in the Gulf of Mexico caught something unexpected: rare footage of a giant squid. The squid was captured by the Journey into Midnight expedition at a depth of 759 meters (2,490 feet) and looked to be 10-12 feet long.

The scientists on the ship sent the footage to NOAA Fisheries Zoologist Dr. Michael Vecchione who confirmed that he was nearly certain it was Architeuthis.

Coastal Hazards
NOAA Announces New DARRP Partners
NOAA Fisheries announced recommendations for two new five-year cooperative agreements under the Damage Assessment, Remediation and Restoration Program (DARRP), which restores natural resources after disasters like oil spills or releases of hazardous waste.

The partners, The Nature Conservancy and The Water Institute of the Gulf, will receive $830,000 and $140,000 respectively and their proposed projects will restore areas impacted by pollution events in Alabama, Louisiana and New York with opportunities to expand to other areas in the future.

Hydrographic Services Review Panel Meeting
The HSRP is a federal advisory committee that provides NOAA with independent advice on improving the quality, efficiency and usefulness of NOAA's navigation-related products, data and services — including nautical charts and more. During public meetings, the committee seeks public input from stakeholders and partners.

GOMA All-Hands Meeting a Success
Congrats to the Gulf of Mexico Alliance for a successful All-Hands Meeting in Alabama in June. GOMA welcomed more than 425 participants and had the opportunity to celebrate new Gulf Star partners, explore ecotourism, conduct six priority issue team meetings and three cross-team meetings and more.

GCOOS was proud to be a sponsor and we were pleased with the opportunities we had to showcase our work and partnerships.

  • GCOOS Product Developer Dr. Shin Kobara showed off our data products, including our glider tracker GANDALF, during the popular Tools Café.
  • GCOOS Outreach and Education Manager Dr. Chris Simoniello had the opportunity to present GCOOS activities in support of next year’s Embrace the Gulf 2020 campaign, which will highlight the positive contributions of the Gulf of Mexico.
  • GCOOS Research Associate Jen Vreeland-Dawson staffed our exhibit.

Restoration Resources
In 2010, the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon resulted in the largest man-made disaster in U.S. history. Today, each Gulf state administers restoration funds and programs. Additionally, other agencies and organizations are also tasked with administering programs designed to restore Gulf habitats and better understand Gulf ecosystems.

Long-Term Change
Preparing for Coastal Flooding
A new Coastal Inundation Dashboard created by NOAA brings together real-time water level information, 48-hour forecasts of water levels, storm surge and historic flooding information into one online tool.

The dashboard will help decision makers and coastal residents understand both short-term risks such as an approaching hurricane or nor’easter, as well as longer-term risks like high tide flooding and sea level rise. Boaters and fishermen can even use the tool to get their latest local tides. 

Job Opportunities
GCOOS maintains a jobs listing for positions and fellowships in the ocean observing community. Want to advertise a position? Email Nadine Slimak
  • Miami Waterkeeper — Outreach Coordinator
  • Department of Oceanography, Texas A&M University — Instructional Assistant Professor
  • New England Aquarium, The Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life — three positions
  • The University of Southern Mississippi — Assistant Professor
  • NRC Research Associateship Programs — Postdoctoral and Senior Research Awards
  • Simons Foundation — Postdoctoral Fellowships in Marine Microbial Ecology
  • Mote Marine Laboratory — Postdoctoral Fellowship in Ecotoxicology
  • Marine GEO-University of Washington — Postdoctoral Fellowship for Salish Sea Research

Funding Opportunities
GCOOS maintains a listing of funding opportunities. Have an opportunity you'd like to advertise? Email Nadine Slimak
  • Sea Grant Announces Funding Opportunity for Highly Migratory Species Research
  • Texas General Land Office
  • Gulf of Mexico Alliance

16-20: OceanObs’19, Hawaii Convention Center, Honolulu. As part of the decadal conference series, OceanObs’19 will galvanize the ocean observing community — from scientists to end users. OceanObs’19 seeks to improve response to scientific and societal needs of a fit-for-purpose integrated ocean observing system, for better understanding the environment of the Earth, monitoring climate and informing adaptation strategies as well as the sustainable use of ocean resources.
3-7: 2019 CERF 25th Biennial Conference, Mobile Convention Center, Mobile, AL. C onnecting science and society in the collective goals of preserving coastal and estuarine habitats, resources and heritage . Registration to open in February 2019. Abstract submission deadline May 1.
9-13: AGU Fall Meeting, Moscone Center, San Francisco. As AGU marks its Centennial, the meeting will prepare you for rapid developments in science, new approaches to observing Earth and beyond, the introduction of new data streams, growing demand for accessible science, the expansion of convergent science and more.
16: OceanObs RCN San Diego, immediately preceding the AGU/TOS Ocean Sciences Meeting.
16-21: Ocean Sciences Meeting 2020, San Diego Convention Center. This is the flagship conference for the ocean sciences and the larger ocean-connected community. As we approach the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, beginning in 2021, it is increasingly important to gather as a scientific community to raise awareness of the truly global dimension of the ocean, address environmental challenges, and set forth on a path towards a resilient planet. 
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 timely, reliable and accurate information on the open ocean and coastal ocean waters of the Gulf of Mexico to ensure a healthy, clean, productive ocean and resilient coastal zone.

Share Your News
Meeting, job or funding announcement? News about a published study, new project or something that the Gulf ocean observing community needs to know? Email Nadine Slimak .
Dr. Barbara Kirkpatrick , Executive Director • Dr. Chris Simoniello , Outreach & Education Coordinator •  Felimon Gayanilo , Interim DMAC Manager • Dr. Shinichi Kobara , Assistant Research Scientist, Product Developer •   Bob Currier, Research Specialist, Product Developer • Marion Stoessel , Senior Research Associate • Dr. Steven Baum , Associate Research Scientist • Jennifer Vreeland-Dawson , Research Associate •  Grant Craig , Program Coordinator • Nadine Slimak , Public Relations & Content Marketing, Vetted Communications, LLC • Dr. Chuan-Yuan Hsu , Post Doctoral Research Associate • Robbie Iles , Graduate Research Assistant
info@gcoos.org • 979.847.8879
In Memoriam: Matt Howard, 1952-2018