NOAA's Response and Restoration Blog

An inside look at the science of cleaning up and fixing the mess of marine pollution


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Constituent and Legislative Affairs Internship

Large white building with green lawn in front.

The U.S. Capitol Building. (Architect of the Capitol)

We invite you to join a dedicated and enthusiastic team at NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration where you will gain invaluable resume-building experience and an insider’s perspective from the nation’s leader in ocean conservation and management.

As an intern, you will work on a variety of projects focusing on outreach and public engagement. Based at our headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. (easily accessible on Metro’s Red Line), you will be in the loop on and encouraged to attend marine policy events, lectures, conferences, and receptions that provide fantastic networking opportunities for your career development.

Position Description

Volunteers pick up marine debris on a beach in Washington state. (NOAA)

OR&R faces the challenges of supporting NOAA and federal initiatives while keeping pace with Congress and constituents in support of our major programs:

  • Emergency response support for 120–200 oil and chemical spills in coastal waters each year
  • Natural Resource Damage Assessment and environmental restoration planning
  • NOAA’s Marine Debris Program
  • NOAA’s Disaster Response Center

OR&R works on critical environmental hazard issues, such as oil spill response, offshore drilling policy, marine debris prevention and reduction, and restoring natural resources. We are looking for motivated self-starters who enjoy independent as well as group work to join our team. The ideal candidate for this internship will possess a strong academic background and the desire to immerse him or herself in the world of marine policy and the internal workings of a federal office.

Two people on beach picking up trash.

Volunteers pick up marine debris on a beach in Washington state. (NOAA)

Major Responsibilities

  • Assist in preparations for one-on-one meetings with key OR&R constituents and events to support OR&R programs; assist in note-taking at events and prepare debrief materials.
  • Attend NGO, interagency, and Congressional events and prepare debrief materials for OR&R staff
  • Assist in preparation for and execution of congressional outreach events, such as briefings, hearings, and testimonies
  • Write and update biographical profiles for key members of Congress and stakeholder groups
  • Track progress of key legislation and policy initiatives
  • As experience permits, provide input on federal policy initiatives, including permits, administration views, and agreements
  • Assist in special projects as needed that fit your interest and skill areas, including research reports, video production, or media relations

Desired Qualifications

  • Interest or experience in marine policy and communications

    A heavy band of oil is visible on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico

    A heavy band of oil is visible on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico during an overflight of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on May 12, 2010. Predicting where oil like this will travel depends on variable factors including wind and currents. (NOAA)

  • Strong writing and verbal communications skills
  • Familiarity with MS Word, Excel, and PowerPoint software
  • Excellent attention to detail and a strong work ethic
  • Experience researching academic literature or legislation
  • Familiarity with Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Calendar

Eligibility and Compensation:

OR&R cooperates with institutions of higher learning and internship coordination programs to support students who have arranged to receive credit for their work. Interns are also expected to develop a project based on their interests and present on the project to the NOAA community. We can accommodate part- time and full-time availability. While the duration of internships can vary, most typically last at least 10 weeks. At this time, stipends are not offered. Internships are open to students age 16 and older. The NOAA Office of Security requires a background check for all interns and staff; this process will begin at the start of your internship.

Non-US citizens must hold an appropriate visa and be accepted as an intern at least 45 days prior to the scheduled start date to complete additional security clearance.

To apply, email a cover letter (including dates of availability), resume and a writing sample to Policy Analyst Robin Garcia at Robin.Garcia@noaa.gov.

Application deadline is Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017

Please review the OR&R Internships page for further details on eligibility for this and other OR&R intern positions.


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Updated Environmental Sensitivity Index Maps and Data for Some Atlantic States

Colored map of grid and ocean.

A section of ESI map for the New York/New Jersey area. (NOAA)

One of the challenges in any oil spill is the ability for spill responders to quickly evaluate protection priorities appropriate to the shoreline, habitats, and wildlife found in the area of the spill. Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) maps and data developed by NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) provide spill responders with a concise summary of coastal resources that are at risk if an oil spill occurs nearby. Additionally, ESI maps can be used by planners—before a spill happens—to identify vulnerable locations, establish protection priorities, and identify cleanup strategies.

OR&R and its partners have recently updated much of the Atlantic Coast ESI data, and Geographic Information System (GIS) data are now available for these states and regions:

  • Maine and New Hampshire
  • Long Island Sound
  • New York/New Jersey Metro area, including the Hudson River and South Long Island
  • Chesapeake Bay, including Maryland and Virginia outer coasts
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Georgia

Maps in Portable Document Format (PDF) are currently available for South Carolina, Long Island Sound, Georgia, and the New York/New Jersey region. PDFs for the other regions listed will be coming soon, as well as PDF maps for the Washington/Oregon Outer Coast data published in late 2014. GIS data for Massachusetts/Rhode Island are currently under review and will be available soon.

More Information about OR&R’s ESI Mapping Work

Redrawing the Coast After Sandy: First Round of Updated Environmental Sensitivity Data Released for Atlantic States

Corals and Marine Debris

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Our Marine Debris Program explains the harmful effects of trash and other debris on delicate coral ecosystems for #CoralsWeek.

NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Corals week logo.

Coral reefs are diverse and important marine ecosystems, supporting a wide array of marine life. Not only do they provide essential structure for habitats, but corals themselves are a unique and beautiful type of animal. However, these animals are also very delicate and are under threat by a preventable problem: marine debris. Debris can damage these sensitive reef habitats, crushing or smothering the corals that make them up. Derelict fishing gear, or fishing gear that has been lost or abandoned, can be especially harmful.

Luckily, this is a completely preventable problem and we can all help to reduce these impacts! Remember your “3Rs” (reduce, reuse, recycle) to minimize your contribution to marine debris. Make sure you’re responsible with your trash and when fishing, make sure none of your gear gets left behind. If you don’t know how to properly use your gear or dispose of…

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Effects of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on Coastal Salt Marsh Habitat

Oil in marsh vegetation during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill.

Oil in marsh vegetation during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill. (NOAA)

The 2010 explosion on the DeepwaterHorizon Macondo oil well drilling platform triggered a massive oil release polluting over 1,300 miles of shoreline along the Gulf of Mexico. The harm from the spill to coastal salt marsh habitat was extensive, and in some instances, permanent. NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration along with other federal and state agencies measured the spill’s effects and created a restoration plan as part of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA).

Why are coastal salt marshes important?

A large variety of open water and estuarine fish, birds and invertebrates, use the salt marsh habitats of the northern Gulf of Mexico for refuge and feeding. Marsh plants and nearshore oysters can dampen wave energy, trap and stabilize soil and adjacent sediment, and provide structure and cover for predators and prey. The salt marshes promote rapid growth of juvenile fish and invertebrates of commercial importance.

Animals affected by exposure to oil include:

  • Periwinkle snails (L. Litoraria)
  • Fiddler crabs (Uca spp.)
  • White and brown shrimp (F. aztecus, L. setiferus)
  • Flounder, drum, and forage fish (P.lethostigma, F. grandis, S. ocellatus)
  • Nearshore oysters (C. virginica)

Because birds, fish, crabs, shrimp, oysters, coastal dolphins, and other wildlife depend on the Gulf’s salt marshes, any loss or degradation of this habitat has broad implications for the ecosystem.

Harm to coastal salt marshes

Oil can affect animals and plants through chemical toxicity and physical smothering. More than 687 miles of coastal wetland shoreline were polluted with oil throughout the Gulf during the 87-day spill. The injury assessment team used field and laboratory studies to demonstrate that oil degraded the health of coastal marsh plants and animals, reduced nearshore oyster cover, and increased erosion of oiled marsh edge habitat.

The amount of oil along the shoreline (and how long it stayed there) was the most useful indicator of harm to nearshore organisms, while plant stem oiling was the best indicator of loss of vegetation. Activities to clean up oiled marshes (like flushing with water or raking to remove oil) delayed marsh recovery and exacerbated the loss of oysters, though it was not always possible to separate effects of oiling from effects of response actions.

Graphic with person raking on drawing of salt marsh layers.

Oil clean-up actions in coastal salt marsh. NOAA

Salt marshes in Louisiana were most intensively polluted by the oil spill. At least 350 miles of coastal marsh shoreline in Louisiana was injured. Even trace oiling of plant stems in Louisiana salt marshes reduced plant cover in the marsh, and affected plant growth, particularly in the marsh edge zone closest to the shoreline. The marsh edge is most productive zone because it provides migrating animals access to flooded marsh surfaces for refuge and foraging.

Oil damage to plants and oysters, as well as oil clean-up measures (see graphic), increased the erosion of marsh shorelines between 2010 and 2013. Increased erosion of oiled vegetated shorelines is estimated to have occurred over at least 108 miles of shoreline throughout the Gulf. Marsh recovery is expected to take more than 10 years for long-lived species such as periwinkle, while eroded shoreline has been permanently lost. All data collected as part of the Deepwater Horizon NRDA are available online.

 

Mary Baker is the OR&R  branch chief for the Northwest and Great Lakes.


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Preserving Natural Resources for All Americans

People standing in boats on river spraying water with hoses.

To clean sediment following the oil spill in the Kalamazoo River, Michigan, workers sprayed sediment with water and agitated sediment by hand with a rake. (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

By Robin Garcia

NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) works with federal, state, and local agencies to prepare for, respond to, and assess the risks to natural resources following oil spills and hazardous waste releases. Often, OR&R also collaborates with Native American tribes to ensure that response, assessment, and restoration efforts fully address the needs of all communities.

In recognition of Native American History Month, here are past oil spills and hazardous waste releases that OR&R worked on with Native American tribes as trustees, or government officials acting on behalf of the public.

  • Industrial activities beginning in the 1890s released polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and other toxins into the St. Louis River in Minnesota. Recreational activities are discouraged in the area and recreational fishing has decreased, likely due to visible sheens. NOAA, the Fond du Lac Bands of Lake Superior Chippewa, and other trustees have completed an assessment of the site and are developing restoration projects with the responsible parties.
  • Since the early 1900s, activities at a wood treatment facility and a shipyard released toxins including PAHs, mercury, and heavy metals into Eagle Harbor in Washington. About 500 acres of Eagle Harbor were contaminated, and seafood consumption advisories are still in effect. NOAA, the Suquamish Tribe, the Muckleshoot Tribe, and other trustees reached a settlement in 1994 and a restoration plan was finalized in 2009. Projects restored and created habitats for species including Chinook salmon and steelhead trout. While these projects are complete, NOAA is providing input as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers additional cleanup efforts.

    Diver underwater planting eel grass.

    A diver plants eelgrass at the Milwaukee Dock site in Eagle Harbor, Washington. (NOAA)

  • In March 1999, a tanker truck jackknifed on a highway, spilling over 5000 gallons of gasoline onto the reservation of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon and into Beaver Creek. The spill occurred in an important spawning and rearing area for Chinook salmon, steelhead, and other migratory fishes. NOAA, the Confederated Tribes, and the U.S. Department of the Interior reached a settlement with the responsible party in 2006 and finalized a restoration plan in 2009. Restoration projects began in 2011, including the restoration of native vegetation and the development of beaver-dam mimicking structures.

Robin Garcia is the Policy Analyst for the Office of Response and Restoration. She supports congressional and partner outreach for the Emergency Response Division, the Assessment and Restoration Division, and NOAA’s Disaster Response Center.


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Let’s Talk Trash this Full Moon!

Check out the latest in Ocean Today’s Every Full Moon series.

NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

If you haven’t had a chance to check out our Trash Talk video series (or even if you have), head over to Ocean Today’s website to see Trash Talk featured as this full moon’s highlighted series! Trash Talk is a great way to learn a little about marine debris, or to get the conversation started about this issue. The six-part series talks about what marine debris is, where it comes from, its impacts, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, plastic debris, and what we can do about it. There is also a video that demonstrates educational activities to help kids understand the problem and even some bonus content!

Trash Talk was originally released in June 2015 as a collaboration between the NOAA Marine Debris Program and NOAA’s Ocean Today. It can be viewed either as a full-length (about 15 minutes) mini-documentary, or as six…

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Transportation of Crude Oil Along the West Coast

Boats on water

Oil spill cleanup demonstration at Clean Pacific 2015, Vancouver B.C. Credit Pacific States/B.C. Oil Spill Task Force.

By Sarah Brace

The Pacific States/B.C. Oil Spill Task Force has updated its West Coast crude oil transport map. The map depicts the routes of crude traveling by rail, tanker vessel, pipeline and barge across the western states and British Columbia. It also captures the locations of current and proposed facilities, refineries and terminals. The rapid growth in crude by rail transport has highlighted response and preparedness gaps along the rail line.

The task force also tracks the volumes of crude transported across the region. This data is collected on an annual basis and summarized in a report available to the public. The task force continues to track the volumes of crude movement annually to assist in oil spill prevention, preparedness and response across the West Coast.

Map drawing of crude oil routes.

Map of current rail routes, interstate
pipelines and barges transporting crude across the West Coast.

Recently, the task force partnered with NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration to incorporate its oil spill data into NOAA’s Environmental Response Management Application (ERMA), an online mapping tool that integrates both static and real-time data, such as Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) maps, ship locations, weather, and ocean currents, in a centralized, easy-to-use format for environmental responders and decision makers.

Since 2002, the task force has been collecting data on oil spills in Washington, Oregon, California, and Hawaii, providing information on the size of spill, location, type of material and substrate (on land or water).

The Pacific States/British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force was formed in 1988 by the governor of Washington and premier of British Columbia, after the oil barge Nestucca collided with its tug along the Washington coast. The following year, the Exxon Valdez spill in Prince William Sound led to Alaska, California, and Oregon joining the Task Force. Hawaii became a member in 2001, creating a broad coalition of western Pacific states and British Columbia, united in their efforts to prevent and respond to oil spills across the West Coast.

Sarah Brace is the Executive Coordinator of the Task Force. She leads the Task Force projects, studies and outreach activities focused on spill prevention, preparedness and response across the western States of AK, CA, HI, OR and WA and British Columbia.