Research and Studies

The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) established policy for managing the OCS leasing program and the protection of marine and coastal environments. The Marine Minerals Program has utilized four types of research—Marine Mineral Related Studies (Biological Studies, Physical Modeling Studies, and Environmental Impact Investigations), and Marine Mineral Resource Evaluations. BOEM analysts use the information obtained from these studies to evaluate the effects of specific proposed dredging operations, as required under current environmental laws. The results are incorporated, as appropriate, into lease requirements and stipulations for the dredging of OCS sand, gravel or other mineral material. Environmental studies may be found on BOEM’s Environmental Studies Program Information System (ESPIS), which now displays reports with new geo-referencing tools, animation and other new features.

BOEM must wisely manage OCS marine mineral resources to maximize long term use while ensuring that environmental damage to the marine and coastal environment is avoided, minimized, or mitigated. BOEM’s Marine Minerals Program science strategy focuses on integrating the resource evaluation data provided through state/Federal cooperative efforts with environmental studies information. This strategy  recognizes the importance of identifying suitable OCS sand deposits and describes past, ongoing, and future environmental studies investments needed to make informed decisions regarding the use of Federal mineral resources for future beach nourishment or wetlands restoration activities.

Based on the current data needs identified in past assessments and input received through coordination with stakeholders, the MMP proposes and conducts environmental studies to support the following principal areas of focus:

  • Identify and fill data gaps on resources of concern in advance of project implementation to inform NEPA and other relevant consultation documents and avoid, minimize, and/or mitigate impacts accordingly.
  • Contribute to strategic stakeholder engagement and regional partnering initiatives to identify and implement effective resource management strategies.
  • Utilize data associated with regional geological and geophysical (G&G) investigations of potential sediment resource areas to support programmatic consultations within the Atlantic and GOM OCS in order to more strategically manage impacts.

Since 1992, BOEM has invested about $40 million to identify non-energy resources on the OCS, conduct world-class scientific research, and lease OCS resources to coastal communities and other Federal agencies in need.


Marine Mineral Resource Evaluations historically have been completed through cooperative agreements, and have been used for joint sand evaluation projects with coastal states, environmental studies and other research projects through state agencies and universities on the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific coasts. BOEM received $16.3 million for Hurricane Sandy response under the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013. It included funds for cooperative agreements with 13 Atlantic states to update their offshore sand resource maps and data bases. The funds also supported additional research to gather and analyze geophysical information and sediment core samples from Florida to Massachusetts under the Atlantic Sand Assessment Project (ASAP). The new data identifies and assesses new potential sand resources which might be needed in the future.

Spatial Analysis of Bottom Habitats cover


Marine Mineral Studies fulfill the Bureau’s environmental responsibilities which include: assessing the effects of OCS activities, including the effects of OCS sand, gravel, and shell acquisition and placement, on natural, historical, and human resources and the appropriate monitoring and mitigating of those effects.

MMP Report cover_Review of Biol_Biophys Impacts fr dredging


The Environmental Studies Program (ESP) is required by OCSLA, as amended in 1978, to provide information for sound decision-making and management. The ESP conducts research across the spectrum of the physical, biological and socioeconomic environments as required by the OCSLA and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). Many of the MMP environmental studies may be found on BOEM’s Environmental Studies Program Information System (ESPIS), which now displays reports with geo-referencing tools, animation and other new features.

Spatial Analysis of Bottom Habitats cover
Sample of ESPIS Search Results


Ocean Science is the science and technology journal of BOEM. The Bureau funds, on average, $30 million per year for scientific studies in the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Arctic. Data gained from these studies inform policy decisions regarding offshore oil, natural gas, renewable energy, and marine mineral development. The information is also used by other federal and state agencies in decision-making and by members of academia and experts in the private sector. BOEM is one of the leading contributors to the body of scientific knowledge about the Nation's marine and coastal environments.

Ocean Science October November December 2012