NOAA's Response and Restoration Blog

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

Leave a comment

Preparing for Hurricanes

Houses, trees, and powerlines in a New Orleans neighborhood flooded by Hurricane Katrina.

Hurricane Katrina flooded much of New Orleans, trapping many residents who did not evacuate. (NOAA)

Hurricane Matthew is the latest storm to wreak havoc on our nation’s shores. Being involved in disaster response, we at NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration know what can go wrong when a hurricane hits the coast—after all, we’ve seen it firsthand:

Boats scattered in a marsh and onshore next to damaged buildings.

After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, thousands of boats were scattered along the shores and waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Dealing with these vessels and their resulting pollution can be a long and difficult process. (NOAA)

Clearly, a lot is at stake when a hurricane sweeps through an area, which is why preparing for hurricanes and other disasters is so important. We can’t stop these powerful storms, but we can prepare ourselves, our homes, and our coastal communities to lessen the impacts and bounce back more quickly after storms hit. NOAA’s National Weather Service has plenty of tips and guidelines for preparing to weather these storms.

NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration also takes care to prepare for hurricanes and other disasters.

Sometimes that means building internet and phone access into the stormproof bathrooms of our facilities so that we can continue providing sound science and support to deal with pollution from a storm. Other times that means working with coastal regions to create response plans for disaster debris, training other emergency responders to address oil and chemical spills, and developing software tools that pull together and display key information necessary for making critical response decisions during disasters.

NOAA’s National Weather Service has plenty of tips and guidelines for preparing to weather these storms.

Learn more about how to protect yourself and your belongings from a hurricane.

NOAA’s National Weather Service has the latest information on Hurricane Matthew.

Leave a comment

Are You Ready for the Storm? — NOAA’s Marine Debris Blog

Hurricanes and severe storms come with high winds, heavy rains, and storm surges that have the potential to damage property and create a large amount of marine debris. Protecting our families and possessions are usually our top priority when we hear of an approaching storm, as they should be, but do you know what else […]

via Are You Ready for the Storm? — NOAA’s Marine Debris Blog

Leave a comment

Science of Oil Spills Training: Apply for Spring 2017

People sitting around desk in classroom

Science of Oil Spills class

October 3, 2016 —NOAA‘s Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R), a leader in providing scientific information in response to marine pollution, has scheduled two more Science of Oil Spills (SOS) classes:

  • Charleston, South Carolina, the week of February 13, 2017
  • Mobile, Alabama the week of March 27, 2017

OR&R will accept applications for these classes as follows:

  • The application period for the Charleston class will run through Monday, November 28, 2016. We will email applicants regarding their application status no later than Friday, December 9.
  • The application period for the Mobile class will run through Friday, January 20, 2017. We will email applicants regarding their application status no later than Friday, February 3, 2017.

SOS classes help spill responders increase their understanding of oil spill science when analyzing spills and making risk-based decisions. They are designed for new and mid-level spill responders.

The trainings cover:

  • Fate and behavior of oil spilled in the environment.
  • An introduction to oil chemistry and toxicity.
  • A review of basic spill response options for open water and shorelines.
  • Spill case studies.
  • Principles of ecological risk assessment.
  • A field trip.
  • An introduction to damage assessment techniques.
  • Determining cleanup endpoints.

To view the topics for the next SOS class, download a sample agenda [PDF, 170 KB].

Please understand that classes are not filled on a first-come, first-served basis. We try to diversify the participant composition to ensure a variety of perspectives and experiences, to enrich the workshop for the benefit of all participants. Classes are generally limited to 40 participants.

For more information, and to learn how to apply for the class, visit the SOS Classes page.

Leave a comment

Response and Restoration in a Changing Arctic

ice on ocean with two people

The Beaufort Sea. (NOAA)

Last week, the Administration hosted the first White House Arctic Science Ministerial. The gathering of science ministers, chief science advisers, and additional high-level officials from countries worldwide, as well as indigenous representatives, provided an opportunity to discuss Arctic science, research, observations, monitoring, and data-sharing. Discussion topics included:

  • Identifying Arctic science challenges and their regional and global implications
  • Strengthening and integrating Arctic observations and data sharing
  • Applying expanded scientific understanding of the Arctic to build regional resilience and shape global responses
  • Empowering citizens through Science Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education leveraging Arctic science

These issues are deeply entrenched in the work of NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R). Rising temperatures and thinning sea ice in the Arctic creates more opportunities for human activities that increase the threat of oil and chemical spills in a remote region that presents unique challenges.

As the lead science advisor to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) during oil and hazardous material spills, OR&R provides both preparedness training and support during spills. In August, OR&R participated in an Alaska North Slope oil spill drill, conducting Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Technique surveys, relaying information to the Incident Command Post in Anchorage, and sharing operational and environmental information using the Arctic Environmental Response Management Application (ERMA).

OR&R also conducts assessments of natural resources damaged by spills and often participates in exercises for such activities. In 2014, OR&R released Guidelines for Collecting High Priority Ephemeral Data for Oil Spills in the Arctic in Support of Natural Resource Damage Assessments. In May, OR&R and the NOAA Restoration Center led a tabletop drill and management training for the Alaska Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration trustees.

OR&R’s Arctic work is not restricted to domestic activities. OR&R’s Spatial Data Branch Chief Dr. Amy Merten currently serves as chair of the Arctic Council’s Emergency Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Working Group, and OR&R frequently participates in international meetings and exercises. A few weeks ago, OR&R participated in an international cooperative information exchange with Canada and Norway hosted by USCG. Staff reviewed the use of Arctic ERMA and presented the Arctic Dispersant State of the Science initiative in coordination with the University of New Hampshire’s Coastal Response Research Center.

As the protection of Arctic natural resources and coastal communities gain increased attention, OR&R will continue to prepare and support partners with innovative science, tools, and services.

Graphic of cross section of oil spill.

Conceptual model of the impacts of an oil spill to various segments of the Arctic environment (NOAA)

Learn more about NOAA and oil spills, including challenges in the Arctic.

Learn more about the White House Arctic Science Ministerial.

Leave a comment

50th Anniversary of Bodega Marine Laboratory

Aerial view of coastal bluff with buildings

Aerial view of the Bodega Marine Laboratory. Credit: Bodega Marine Laboratory

The Bodega Marine Laboratory is 50 years old and going strong along with the partnership between NOAA and the University of California (UC).

Back in 1956, undeveloped land stretched across a peninsula to Bodega Head. In 1966 the first lab opened under the supervision of UC Berkeley, by the 1980s UC Davis took the helm. Since then the laboratory has more than doubled in size and the research scope greatly expanded to include fields as diverse as organismal biology, coastal ecology, climate change effects and ocean acidification, toxicology, bio-engineering, physical oceanography, and biotechnology.

Students, faculty, and visiting scientists have studied the shoreline habitats and conducted research at the lab since its modest beginnings – expanding our understanding of marine and estuarine systems along a beautiful stretch of northern California coastline.

The lab is part of the Bodega Marine Reserve, which is part of the UC Natural Reserve System and within NOAA’s recently expanded Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.

Some of the research at the BML includes:

  • Marine aquaculture
  •  Toxicity studies
  • Effects of oil spill in San Francisco Bay on Pacific herring
  • Captive breeding programs to support recovery of the special status species such as white abalone (Haliotis sorenseni ) and salmon (Oncorhynchus)
  • Ocean acidification studies
  • Deployment of various types of sensors to monitor physical phenomena such as oxygen levels in sanctuary waters.

Partnerships with marine laboratories such as Bodega Marine Laboratory are critical to the NOAA mission to protect and restore coastal resources and to help us remain a strong science-based agency well connected with current scientific research, trends, and findings.

Ten Years of the NOAA Marine Debris Program: 2012

Leave a comment

NOAA Marine Debris Program is celebrating 10 years of protecting our nation’s marine environment.

NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

The NOAA Marine Debris Program 10 year anniversary identity marker.

This year marks the ten year anniversary of the NOAA Marine Debris Program and we will be celebrating throughout the year! As part of our celebration, we will be looking back on our accomplishments over the years (check out our timeline for a review of the past decade!). Let’s take a look back to 2012:


The NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) faced some important challenges in 2012 and was busier than ever! To start, the Marine Debris Act was amended, expanding to include regional coordination and emergency response. This made the MDP responsible for coordinating with partners on a daily basis, as well as responding to severe debris events. With the added responsibility of regional coordination, the MDP upgraded its reach from six to ten coastal regions, now including the Pacific Islands, Alaska, Pacific Northwest, California, Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico, Northeast

View original post 271 more words

This gallery contains 5 photos

Leave a comment

Restoring Marsh Habitat by Sharing Assessment Techniques

Group of four people stand in a marsh.

Training participants examine a one meter square quadrant transect (rod at bottom) to illustrate how new metrics could be applied for a northeast assessment. (NOAA)

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to environmental assessments for oil spills or hazardous waste events. We must therefore custom-tailor our technical approach for each pollution incident.

We first determine whether impacts to natural resources have occurred and whether it is appropriate to proceed with a Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA). We collect time-sensitive data, evaluate available research and information about the type of injury, and determine what species and habitats are likely to have been affected. If we determine that habitats, wildlife or human uses have been harmed or could experience significant impacts, we often proceed with a full damage assessment.

This type of scientific assessment is particularly challenging in a marsh environment given potential injury due to both oil persistence and toxicity. For example, a home heating oil released by the North Cape barge in 1996 caused acute injury to lobsters, clams, fish, crabs, and mussels in, and adjacent to, the marshes of southern Rhode Island. The light oil was highly toxic, but quickly dissipated, thereby causing a lot of immediate injury, but less long-term problems. By contrast, a more chronic impact was the result of persistent fuel oil released by the Barge Bouchard 120 in the salt marshes of Massachusetts in 2003. That oil saturated 100 miles of shoreline, impacting tidal marshes, mudflats, beaches, and rocky shorelines. These evolving factors are why we constantly share best practices and lessons learned among our colleagues in the northeast and nationwide.

Members of the Northeast and Spatial Data Branch of NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration and NOAA’s Restoration Center recently met at Spermaceti Cove, Sandy Hook, New Jersey, to participate in a hands-on workshop to improve our salt marsh damage assessment techniques and data compilation.

They were building on previous findings presented at a 2015 salt marsh assessment workshop in Massachusetts, that information learned there should be shared in other locales. Of note were the variety of vegetation and native invertebrates around the coastal United States that necessitate region-specific marsh field training.

Two people standing in shallow water holding a seining net.

Scientists seining salt marsh tidal channel collecting native small fish for injury determination. (NOAA)

To address the study of natural resource damages in a mid-north Atlantic salt marsh environ, this 2016 effort included the count of flora and fauna species within a 2 meter square quadrant along a designated transect (see photo) to provide a measure of diversity and species richness.  Also they used a seine, a lift net, and minnow traps to collect fish adjacent to the marsh for species identification and to measure body size and observe possible abnormalities, both external and internal.

Additionally, NOAA scientists discussed and demonstrated current best practices to perform our work regarding health and safety, sample custody, and data management.

In an actual future marsh injury assessment, the Trustees would develop a conceptual site model for guidance in testing the hypotheses, the specific study design, and the proper site and habitat injury measures.

Ken Finkelstein and Kathleen Goggin of NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration contributed to this article.