Biological/Social Sciences Section (BSSS)

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The Biological/Social Sciences Section provides the scientific expertise to support the GOM OCS Region’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) 42 U.S.C. 4321-4347, as amended requirements, environmental consultation requirements and Environmental Studies Program.

The Biological/Social Sciences Section:

  • Advises management on environmental issues and on methods of environmental analysis, study and regulation, especially in the areas of: coastal and marine biology; fisheries biology; protected and endangered species; environmental justice; demography; employment; infrastructure; and historic preservation.
  • In collaboration with the Environmental Studies Section, develops and manages studies to support BOEM’s mission. This effort involves designing the study and contract/cooperative agreement (CA)/inter-agency agreement (IA) specifications for scientific investigation; participating in the evaluation of contract/CA/IA proposals; providing technical oversight of study contracts/CA’s/IA’s; monitoring contract/CA/IA progress and performance; reviewing deliverable products; and approving invoices.
  • Analyzes the potential environmental, archaeological, economic, and social impacts of offshore oil and gas activities for pre-sale and post-lease environmental impact statements (EIS’s) and environmental assessments (EA’s); develops unique measures to abate potential effects from proposed activities.
  • Leads interagency consultations and coordination regarding the Endangered Species Act (ESA) 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.
  • Leads interagency consultations and coordination with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Essential Fish Habitat) 16 U.S.C 1801 et seq. regarding Essential Fish Habitat (EFH).
  • Holds responsibility for consultations with State Historic Preservation offices and Tribal governments under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and ensures compliance with Sections 106 and 110 of NHPA, as amended, and Executive Order No. 11593, “Protection and Enhancement of the Cultural Environment” or OCS lease sale planning and for all BOEM and BSEE-permitted industry activities.
  • Represents BOEM by collaborating with various external panels and groups such as: Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council; Southeast Natural Resource Leaders Group (SENRLG); Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary; Antiquities Commission; Interagency Submerged Cultural Heritage Working Group; and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Response Team.

ESS is made up of two units: Biological Sciences Unit (BSU) and Social Sciences Unit (SSU). Each unit is made up of scientists responsible for analyzing and studying specific resources.

Biological Sciences Unit (BSU)

BSU’s marine biologists and protected and endangered species biologists are responsible for the following resources: coastal barrier beaches and dunes, wetlands, submerged vegetation communities, live bottom areas, topographic features, Saragassum (floating algae), deep water benthic communities including chemosynthetic communities, non-chemosynthetic communities (deep water corals), soft bottom areas, marine mammals, sea turtles, coastal and marine birds, beach mice, other protected species, fisheries/Essential Fish Habitat (ESH) and commercial and recreational fisheries.

Some of the BSU’s specific tasks include:

  • Researching, writing and reviewing resource sections for pre- and post-lease NEPA documents,
  • Consulting with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) regarding the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the EFH for both the GOM and the Atlantic Regions,
  • Reviewing post-lease permits and plans to ensure mitigations are met and minimal impacts are made on protected areas and species and develop and manage studies with the Office of Environmental Studies,
  • Representing BOEM by collaborating with various panels and groups such as the Rigs to Reef (R2R) group, the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council’s Ad Hoc Artificial Substrate Advisory Panel and the Southeast Natural Resource Leaders Group,
  • Proposing research projects for BOEM to fund and serve as the Contracting Officer’s Representative or Points of Contact for different projects which involves technical reviews of reports, receiving and creating invoices for payment, and finalizing published reports.
  • Producing informational posters for educational purposes that highlight some of the areas we research. Current posters available: marine mammals, sea turtles and corals.

Social Sciences Unit (SSU)

SSU’s social anthropologists, economists and archaeologists are responsible for the following resources: land use and coastal infrastructure, recreational resources, demographics, economics, environmental justice and historic and prehistoric resources.

Social Anthropologists and Economists:

With close to 6,000 currently active leases in the GOM, this region accounts for 30 percent of all U.S. oil production and 10 percent of U.S. natural gas production. Some estimates credit the regional industry with contributing between 430,000 and 550,000 jobs and between $30 and $90 billion in gross domestic product to the national economy. Offshore mineral leases account for one of the federal government’s largest sources of non-tax income. Combining bonuses, rents and royalties, revenue from leasable minerals contributed $11.4 billion in 2011 and $11.3 billion in 2010 to Federal coffers (these numbers do not include other liabilities such as corporate income, severance and property taxes.)

The social scientists and economists at BOEM are responsible for analyzing the effects of the Agency’s actions (e.g., lease sales, exploration and development permits, etc.) on human society in environmental documents required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) 42 U.S.C. 4321-4347, as amended. They also are responsible for developing papers and presentations for the purpose of disseminating to the public information relating to the socio-economic effects of BOEM’s program.

The data required to affect these analyses are obtained through numerous studies that are planned and managed by the staff through interaction with other social scientists at professional conferences, meetings and presentations; through library and internet research; and by conducting in-house analyses of economic and demographic data using a variety of software packages.

Archaeologists:

Archaeologists in BOEM’s Office of Environment are responsible for reviewing and managing historic resources in over 1.7 billion acres on the Gulf’s OCS. During the last Ice Age, a large portion of the area that is now under water was exposed as dry land and was open to habitation by prehistoric peoples as much as 12,000 years ago. Historically, the Gulf has served as a major borderland for trade, contact and conflict for the last 500 years. With over 3,000 known shipwrecks managed and protected today, and another 7,000-10,000 estimated to yet be discovered, it is easy to see the constant need for marine archaeologists at BOEM to ensure that these irreplaceable resources are not lost.

The archaeologists at BOEM’s GOM Region seek to protect the physical remains of our Nation’s history during the search for natural resources to sustain our Nation’s future. They review technical and survey data provided by oil and gas companies to make sure that offshore development does not inadvertently damage preserved prehistoric and historic resources like the shipwrecks seen above.  (see Gulf of Mexico Archaeological Information)

The National Historic Preservation Act, as amended, is Federal legislation developed to ensure that our Nation's historical and archaeological properties are not lost through neglect or inadvertently damaged by activities permitted or funded by Federal agencies. BOEM, as a Federal bureau, is required under Section 106 of the Act to institute procedures to insure that Federal plans and programs contribute to the preservation and enhancement of non-federally owned sites, structures and objects of historical, architectural or archaeological significance.

Contact(s):

Vacant—Section Chief
Agatha Marie (Arie) Kaller, PhD —Biological Unit Supervisor
Jack Irion, PhD—Social Sciences Unit Supervisor

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
Gulf of Mexico OCS Region
Office of the Environment
1201 Elmwood Park Boulevard
New Orleans, LA 70123