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NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program awards $2.7 million for Gulf research

Projects to assess ecosystem modeling, ecological indicators, monitoring and observing
September 1, 2015 NOAA’s RESTORE Act Science Program has completed its first funding competition and is awarding approximately $2.7 million to seven research teams.
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Improving habitat for Gulf of Mexico marine life including fish and sea birds, is one long range potential restoration activities. (Credit: NOAA)

Improving habitat for Gulf of Mexico marine life including fish and sea birds, is one long range potential restoration activities. (Credit: NOAA)

Each of the teams will address one or more of the Science Program’s short-term priorities for the Gulf of Mexico, which focus on assessing ecosystem modeling, evaluating indicators for Gulf conditions, and assessing and developing recommendations for monitoring and observing in the Gulf.

These projects will aid current scientific understanding and management needs and inform the future direction of the NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program, as well as other science and restoration initiatives in the region. The results from these projects will also help in the development of management strategies to support the sustainability of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem, including its fisheries.

Determining damages to the Gulf ecosystem through scientific assessment and monitoring will be a major part of the foundation for future NOAA RESTORE Science Program projects. (Credit: NOAA)

Determining damages to the Gulf ecosystem through scientific assessment and monitoring will be a major part of the foundation for future NOAA RESTORE Science Program projects. (Credit: NOAA)

“These awards put funds in the hands of researchers who can work with us to make a difference in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Julien Lartigue, Ph.D., director of the NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program. “These teams of researchers will be working closely with resource managers and others who can use the results of their work to advance our understanding and management of the Gulf.”

“We received many strong proposals, which shows the capacity out there for addressing the science and management needs of the region. We will look to further tap into this capacity with future competitions,” he added.

The seven teams receiving funding draw researchers from 17 institutions including universities, federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations and the private sector. In total, 31 researchers will be involved, with 28 of them located in the Gulf of Mexico region. Of the seven projects, six are being led by institutions located in the region (three in Texas, one in Florida, one in Mississippi, and one in Louisiana). The awards range in size from $309,000 to $400,000 and the projects will run for up to two years. These projects were selected following a rigorous and highly competitive process which included a review by a panel of independent experts.

The seven research team awards are:

  • Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi ($398,349): To develop and test a set of indicators and an approach for using them based on specific management needs in the Gulf.
  • NatureServe ($399,955): For this national conservation network to recommend scientifically rigorous, practical, and cost-effective monitoring indicators for five key habitats across the Gulf.
  • University of Miami ($398,812): To work with resource managers to expand observing system evaluation techniques to include biogeochemistry and ecosystem observations. This should help with recommendations on the type and location of observations needed for monitoring and managing the Gulf.
  • Texas A&M University Corpus Christi ($395,000): To work with resource managers and other researchers to test and align ecosystem models with management needs and restoration activities in the Gulf.
  • University of Southern Mississippi ($366,787): To use archived satellite ocean observations, ocean circulation models, and existing marine sampling datasets, including fish datasets, to identify ecological active regions in the Gulf, as well as gaps in current oceanographic data collection.
  • University of Texas at Austin ($391,021): To work with experts from academia, federal and state government, and non-governmental organizations to compile and evaluate existing information on fish spawning aggregations in the Gulf. This information should aid in the conservation and management of the region’s fisheries.
  • Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium ($309,276): To investigate the influence of the Mississippi River and its delta on the oceanography, ecology, and economy of the Gulf and identify the additional data collection and modeling necessary for managers to better monitor and manage the Gulf’s natural resources.

Additional details on the funded projects are available on the NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program website.

This funding is in response to the RESTORE Act, also known as the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act that authorized NOAA to establish and administer a Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Science, Observation, Monitoring, and Technology Program. Additional details on the funded projects were published today on the NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program website.

The NOAA program is funded by 2.5 percent of the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund, established by the RESTORE Act, which comprises 80 percent of Clean Water Act civil penalties recovered from parties responsible for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. On February 19, 2013, a federal judge approved a $1 billion civil settlement with Transocean, as a responsible party for the oil spill. This settlement provides the NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program with $20 million plus 25 percent of any interest accrued from the portion of the settlement deposited into the Trust Fund.

Additional funding may become available from the proposed Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill settlement announced by BP and the U.S. Department of Justice on July 2, 2015.

BP announced that it has reached an agreement in principle with the United States and the five Gulf states to settle the civil claims against the company arising out of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill tragedy. As part of the $18.7 billion dollar overall settlement BP will pay, upon court approval, a $5.5 billion Clean Water Act penalty, 80 percent of which will go to restoration efforts in the affected states pursuant to a Deepwater specific statute the RESTORE Act. This will be the largest civil penalty in the history of environmental law. The terms will not be final or binding until a consent decree is negotiated, undergoes public comment, and secures final court approval.

The mission of the NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program is to increase understanding of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem, including its fisheries, and to support its restoration and sustainability through research, observation, monitoring, and technology development.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on FacebookTwitter, Instagram and our other social media channels.

Contact:
Ben Sherman
202-253-5256