Ocean Science

BOEM develops, conducts and oversees world-class scientific research to inform its policy decisions. By using science, regulatory frameworks and input from others, the bureau considers the potential for BOEM activities to impact the ocean’s physical characteristics, biological resources and marine or coastal uses that are important to the environment and society.

Stock Image of Kitty Hawk Beach

BOEM Helps to Restore Popular Outer Banks Beaches

Over the years, Outer Banks beaches have been severely impacted by extreme weather events and naturally occurring erosion. In 2022, BOEM entered into a negotiated agreement to provide access to approximately 3.14 million cubic yards of Outer Continental Shelf sand to replenish 11.65 miles of Dare County shoreline along portions of the Towns of Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, and Kill Devil Hills. Projects like these reduce storm damage and impacts from flooding, while maintaining useable recreational beaches. 

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WINDY CORNER, Alaska – Grace Callahan, daughter of BOEM Alaska Public Affairs Officer John Callahan, scans for beluga whales here Sept. 23. Grace and her father were at the Windy Corner observation station as part of Belugas Count! 2023. Now in its fifth year, Belugas Count! brings together citizen volunteers from around Cook Inlet to count whales as part of an effort to monitor the population of the endangered Cook Inlet beluga whales. BOEM photo by John Callahan.

Cetacean Estimation: Belugas Count! 2023

Belugas Count! is a BOEM-sponsored, NOAA-led, and citizen-driven initiative to track the population of this ecologically important species. At the forefront of the effort are the citizens who volunteer to staff 14 public shore viewing stations around the Cook Inlet in Alaska.

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Environmental Studies Program Celebrates Golden Anniversary

Innovative program has provided important scientific data to inform bureau's decisions for 50 years. By Dr. Rodney E. Cluck Chief, Division of Environmental Sciences, Environmental Studies Program

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ESP Features Graphic

Surf 50 Years of Coastal and Ocean Science

BOEM’s Environmental Studies Program (ESP) develops, fund and manages rigorous scientific research specifically to inform policy decisions on energy and mineral resource development on the Outer

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installing the quivers and push core tubes on the front of the ROV

Boldly Explore Where No One Has Explored Before

BOEM is exploring the uncharted ocean off the coast of the United States, thanks to improving technology and the combined efforts of partner federal agencies.

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Divers swimming along very healthy live coral cover at East Flower Garden Bank at a depth of about 75 ft. (Photo by Gregory S Boland)

The Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

Derived from invited article submitted by Gregory S. Boland, former BOEM employee. This year, the Department of the Interior (DOI) celebrates nearly 50 years of environmental protection of the Flower

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Send in the Drones

The waters around the Aleutian Islands are virtually unexplored territory. And for good reason.

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Whale Tail

Studying Noise Impacts on Cetaceans: We’ve Come a Long Way!

Review paper summarizes the history of research efforts on anthropogenic noise effects to cetaceans.

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American Shoreline Podcast logo square logo

Offshore Wind and Marine Mammal Protection

The American Shoreline Podcast. Listen as Dr. Lewandowski explains how BOEM uses science to guide its decision-making process for offshore wind development, particularly in relation to marine mammals and marine acoustics.

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crab underwater

Will Crabs Cross Undersea Cables?

Commercial fishermen have expressed concern about the potential impacts electromagnetic fields associated with offshore energy development could have on crabs. BOEM partnered with researchers and fishermen to conduct a four-month study to help the bureau better understand whether offshore energy-related undersea cables effect crab behavior. The study is part of BOEM’s larger efforts to ensure that offshore energy and commercial fisheries can successfully co-exist.

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Seen during 2022’s Investigation of a Historic Seabed Mining Equipment Test Site on the Blake Plateau, along with a skate (look closely), manganese nodules like these were the subject of an experimental deep-sea mining pilot project in the 1970s. Image courtesy of NOAA Ocean Exploration, Investigation of a Historic Seabed Mining Equipment Test Site on the Blake Plateau.

Scientists Explore Site of Historic Seabed Mining Equipment Testing Offshore Georgia

BOEM, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and NOAA Ocean Exploration explored a site on the Blake Plateau offshore of the Georgia coast from July 31-August 12, 2022, to better understand the impacts of historic seabed mining equipment testing conducted in the 1970s.

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The Saildrone Surveyor departing Dutch Harbor, Alaska, after the mid-project pit stop. Image courtesy of Saildrone Inc.

BOEM-Sponsored Saildrone Surveyor Expedition Returning Home After Exploring Aleutian Islands

Since departing Dutch Harbor on August 11, the uncrewed surface vehicle (USV) Saildrone Surveyor has been collecting seafloor mapping and surface oceanographic data in priority areas of the relatively unexplored Aleutian Islands. The expedition, part of a multi-agency public-private partnership funded by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), gathered data on several large, unexplored areas off the Aleutian chain identified as high priority for NOAA, BOEM, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the broader federal Interagency Working Group on Ocean Exploration and Characterization.

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Ocean Exploration Map

Pursuing New Frontiers in Ocean Exploration and Characterization

The U.S. Ocean Policy Committee recently released the report Strategic Priorities for Ocean Exploration and Characterization of the United States Exclusive Economic Zone. The report identifies current high-priority geographies and thematic topics that require better characterization and understanding. Federal agencies working to address these priorities will help advance the nation’s forecasting of seafloor hazards, improve understanding of ocean cultural heritage and uncover important new knowledge about previously underexplored habitats and ecosystems. As a co-chair of the Working Group and a Council member agency, BOEM played an integral role in the report’s development and is actively promoting interagency efforts to further meet ocean exploration and characterization needs.

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Sea Turtle

BOEM and HeroX Launch “Better Call Trawl” Challenge

New crowdsourcing challenge will help BOEM better understand the effectiveness of current relocation trawling methods for protecting sea turtles during offshore dredging operations.

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Discovering Lost Worlds

The ocean contains archaeological remains from every age of human history, and the BOEM Marine Archaeology program is responsible for studying and cataloging pre-contact human settlement and deep-sea shipwrecks. These finds have the potential to contribute significantly to our understanding of the commerce, technology, and culture of bygone eras, as well as inform agency decision-making on energy development.

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Image showing platform downwash – the effect that wind flowing over, around, or through an offshore platform has on plumes released from stacks on the platform.

BOEM Funds Study to Improve EPA Air Quality Model for Overwater Applications

Working under an interagency agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), BOEM recently funded an effort to update and improve coding for the American Meteorological Society/Environmental Protection Agency Regulatory Model (AERMOD), a dispersion modeling system that uses meteorological data, including wind speed and direction, temperature and turbulence, plus emissions data, to predict air quality impacts. Updating the program’s platform downwash algorithm will result in more accurate model results, improving BOEM’s offshore activity impact assessments and better informing the bureau’s policy decisions.

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Photo credit: Dr. Alex Mustard

BOEM Partners with Commercial Lobstermen on Fish Movement Study

New study will help BOEM scientists to better understand fish movements and reduce impacts from offshore wind development on basking sharks and other large marine species.

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American Shoreline Podcast

BOEM 101: The Environmental Science Behind the Decision

On June 12, Dr. Rodney Cluck, Chief of BOEM’s Division of Environmental Sciences, appeared on The American Shoreline Podcast. Listen as Dr. Cluck explains the bureau’s mission and purpose and discuss the important role that science plays in informing its decisions in offshore energy development.

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An Uncrewed Arial Vehicle (UAV or drone) deploys a suction-cup equipped, biologging “dtag” for attachment to a sei whale in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Sei whales are an endangered species of special interest to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

BOEM and NOAA Complete First-Ever Successful Drone-based Tagging of Endangered Sei Whales in U.S.

BOEM and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary have completed the digital acoustic tagging of 14 sei whales in waters offshore Massachusetts – the first time researchers have successfully tagged an endangered species in the United States using an uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV), or drone. The collected data will shed important light on the whales’ acoustic behavior, which researchers will use to inform mitigation strategies – including passive acoustic monitoring – to protect this endangered species from the potential impacts of offshore wind energy activities.

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Deep-sea wooden shipwrecks photos

Shipwreck Study Unearths Microbial Diversity on Seafloor

New research from BOEM marine archaeologists, recently published in the journal Limnology and Oceanography, further explores the role that shipwrecks in the northern Gulf of Mexico serve as habitats for marine microbial communities.

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