Last week in New Orleans, nearly 1,100 researchers and students from around the world met up for the annual Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science (GoMOSES) conference to discuss “Ecosystem approaches to Gulf response and restoration.” COL helps facilitate this conference as part of the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) program, one of the 12 conference partners. Oil spill-related experts from across academia, state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, and industry (including scientists from 14 countries) gathered for more than 600 talks and posters in 23 scientific sessions focused on the latest oil spill, response, and restoration scientific discoveries, innovations, technologies, and policies. Presentations emphasized the role of science in oil spill response and management decisions, with topics ranging from the use of dispersants at depth, invasive lionfish, microbial oil consumption, surface oil clean up, and seaside sparrows in oiled marshes. Additional management topics included novel strategies for derelict oil rig decommissioning and cleanup of abandoned crab traps to decrease “ghost fishing.” I am thrilled to note that 38 COL member institutions participated in this important conference. There is much vital research occurring in the Gulf (not just related to the oil spill), and we must endeavor to sustain this research going forward.
Back in D.C., I had several visits on Capitol Hill and was impressed with the bipartisan understanding of the relevance and importance of ocean science and technology to our nation’s security, prosperity, and health. I am cautiously optimistic that this understanding can mitigate unintended consequences of future funding decisions to increase discretionary defense spending at the expense of non-defense discretionary programs (including ocean and geosciences). We must take steps to ensure these actions do not send the nation tumbling backwards in our investment in and knowledge of the ocean. We continue to monitor this closely at COL, which includes working in a team effort across the geoscience community to illuminate potential risks of fiscal proposals and decisions.
Speaking of the future – we have officially started the 2017 National Ocean Sciences Bowl competition, with the first 10 regional bowls taking place around the country on the weekend of February 4. You can find a list of winners here and keep up-to-date with the next round of regional bowls (Feb 18) by following the hashtags #NOSB17 and #NOSBturns20 on Facebook and Twitter. I’ll be heading down to the Blue Crab Bowl this coming Saturday to volunteer and be inspired by the amazing future generation of ocean scientists and ocean-smart world citizens.
Don’t forget to join us March 8 at our annual public policy forum, Feeding the Future: An Ocean of Opportunity! And if you’re in Boston for the AAAS Annual Meeting, stop by booth 215 to say hi!
RADM Jonathan W. White, USN (ret.)
President and CEO
Consortium for Ocean Leadership
New Ocean Observations Improve Understanding Of Motion
Oceanographers commonly calculate large scale surface ocean circulation from satellite sea level information using a concept called “geostrophy,” which describes the relationship between oceanic surface flows and sea level gradient. Conversely, researchers rely on data from in-water current meters to measure smaller scale motion. New research led by University of Hawai’i at Mānoa (UHM) oceanographer Bo Qiu has determined from observational data the length scale at which using sea level height no longer offers a reliable calculation of circulation.