Ocean Science News

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.

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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Diver

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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Ward Cove in southeastern Alaska

A Third Way of Drilling

Understanding down-the-hole (DTH) piling sounds and their potential effects on marine life is essential for BOEM to conduct environmental impact assessments and explore mitigation measures to reduce impacts should DTH pilling techniques be used for offshore wind facility construction. Dr. Shane Guan, a BOEM oceanographer who specializes in underwater acoustics, recently published a paper the examines the sounds and potential impacts of DTH pile drilling.

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Atlantic Sturgeon

Tale of Two Fish

During dredge operations, BOEM receives and shares data on various species, including Atlantic sturgeon, to help resource managers better understand how, where and when these protected species move throughout the ocean.

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marinecadastre screen shot

MarineCadastre.gov – Still Growing After 15 Years

Developed in a cooperative effort between BOEM and NOAA, MarineCadastre.gov is an online interactive map viewer that integrates coastal, oceans, and great lakes information in a common reference framework. It supports a wide array of ocean user and regulators by adding new and updated data and services.

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Aerial Imagery

BOEM and USFWS Partner on Marine Wildlife Aerial Surveys

As energy development increases along the Atlantic Coast and across the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), BOEM needs robust species and site-specific information on the seasonal distribution and abundance of marine species – including seabirds, marine mammals and turtles – that could be affected by offshore energy activities.

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air quality and meteorological monitoring station

BOEM Partners with Louisiana High School to Monitor Air Quality Study Station

Environmental oversight in the Gulf of Mexico is an essential part of BOEM’s mission, and the collection of air quality and weather data near areas where offshore oil and gas activities are taking place is an important aspect of this effort. This data helps scientists assess the impact of pollutants from offshore development on regional air quality.

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Turtle Tracker

How Loud is Too Loud?

Protecting the environment while ensuring the safe development of offshore energy is a critical part of BOEM’s mission. Sea turtles are endangered species and a sentinel species for the effects of climate change. Loud underwater activities, such as seismic surveys or pile driving for renewable energy installations, could be harmful to these protected animals. BOEM wants to understand how the activities it permits impact these species so it can make informed, science-based decisions. Consequently, the bureau is collaborating with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, North Carolina State and Duke Universities in the U.S. and with sea turtle researchers in Dominica to measure sea turtle hearing to help fill in data gaps about the species’ hearing sensitivity.

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SCOAPE logo

BOEM Partners with NASA on Air Quality

Under the Clean Air Act, BOEM has jurisdiction to monitor and enforce air quality requirements in federal waters in the Central and Western Gulf of Mexico. Most physical air quality monitors do not fare well long term when used in the marine environment – they can rust, corrode and become contaminated. Consequently, BOEM partnered with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to test the feasibility of using satellites to measure air quality pollutants in federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico.

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whale with mouthful of sand lances

Little Fish, Big Impacts

BOEM provides sand to coastal communities to restore and protect coastal areas affected by storms of increasing frequency and power. Making sand from the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) available to coastal communities helps them improve their resiliency in the face of climate change. The sand that BOEM provides communities comes from the seafloor on the OCS. It is often the same sand preferred by a tiny fish that humans and animals greatly depend on – the slender, silvery sand lance.

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Lophelia colony. Image courtesy of Brooke et al. 2005, NOAA-OER Florida Deep Corals.

On a Deep SEARCH for Science

Since 2017, the Deep Sea Exploration to Advance Research on Coral/Canyon/Cold seep Habitats (Deep SEARCH) study has explored the deep-sea ecosystems of the U.S. Mid- and South Atlantic. Deep SEARCH’s primary goal is to help BOEM better understand and predict the location of various seafloor communities off the U.S. southeastern coast that may be vulnerable to disturbance from resource development activities.

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