NOAA RESTORE Science Program Announces Awards From 2017 Competition

The NOAA RESTORE Science Program has completed its second funding competition and awarded approximately $16.7M to 15 teams of researchers and resource managers to support work on living coastal and marine resources and their habitats in the Gulf of Mexico.

Six of the teams will be working directly with resource managers to improve the decision support tools available for managing living coastal and marine resources in the Gulf of Mexico.

Nine of the teams will be conducting research on living coastal and marine resources to address questions resource managers need answered about food webs, habitat use, fisheries recruitment, the impact of stressors, and how habitats are connected in the Gulf of Mexico.

The 15 teams receiving funding are drawn from across 37 institutions including universities, federal and state agencies, and non-governmental organizations. These teams and their projects, which will run for up to three years, were selected following a rigorous and highly competitive process which included review by a panel of outside experts.

These awards continue the Science Program’s commitment to producing timely and high-quality scientific findings and products to support the management and sustainability of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem, including its fisheries.

Full details on each team and their project can be found under the 2017 ‘Funded Projects’ and a short summary of each is below.

DECISION-SUPPORT TOOLS

TitleLiving shoreline site suitability model transfer for selected water bodies within the Gulf of Mexico: A GIS & remote sensing-based approach
Lead Investigator (Institution): Chris Boyd (Troy University)
Amount: $519,853
Dr. Boyd and his colleagues will adapt an existing computer model for assessing the suitability of a site for construction of a living shoreline, apply the model to Perdido Bay/Wolf Bay/Ono Island complex in coastal Alabama; Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana; and Galveston Bay, Texas, and develop an interactive decision support tool that allows for a rapid assessment of a site.

Title: Ecosystem Modeling to Improve Fisheries Management in the Gulf of Mexico
Lead Investigator (Institution): David Chagaris (University of Florida)
Amount: $1,167,586
Dr. Chagaris and his colleagues will integrate information on ecosystem stressors and predator-prey interactions into the fisheries assessment and management process in the Gulf of Mexico.

Title: Expansion of www.mymobilebay.com for coastal Alabama resource management
Lead Investigator (Institution): Renee Collini (Dauphin Island Sea Lab)
Amount: $720,000
Ms. Collini and her colleague will improve and expand an observing network and website, www.mymobilebay.com, which provides accurate real-time weather and water quality data to Alabama environmental managers and the public.

Title: SPAT: Shellfish Portfolio Assessment Tool
Lead Investigator (Institution): Daniel R. Petrolia (Mississippi State University)
Amount: $590,143
Dr. Petrolia and his co-developers will design, test, and put into use a decision support tool to assist resource managers and oyster farmers in optimizing oyster resources in the State of Mississippi.

Title: A Web-Based Interactive Decision-Support Tool for Adaptation of Coastal Urban and Natural Ecosystems (ACUNE) in Southwest Florida
Lead Investigator (Institution): Y. Peter Sheng (University of Florida)
Amount: $995,487
Dr. Sheng and his colleagues, working with local governments, will develop a decision-support tool to aid resource managers, municipalities, and a county with decisions related to the preservation and restoration of mangrove, marsh, and beach habitats; water management; and coastal planning, zoning, and land acquisition.

Title: A decision support tool for evaluating the impacts of short- and long-term management decisions on the Gulf of Mexico red snapper resource
Lead Investigator (Institution): Yuying Zhang (Florida International University)
Amount: $528,945
Dr. Zhang and her colleagues will work with fishery managers to develop a decision-support tool to assess the effectiveness of different long-term management strategies and short-term management regulations for the red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico.

RESEARCH

Title: Assessment of movement patterns and critical habitat for coastal and continental shelf small cetaceans in the Gulf of Mexico using newly developed remote satellite tagging techniques
Lead Investigator (Institution): Brian Balmer (National Marine Mammal Foundation)
Amount: $407,128
Dr. Brian Balmer and his colleagues will develop and then deploy telemetry tags on free swimming dolphins in the coastal and continental shelf waters of the Gulf of Mexico to monitor their movement, behavior, and habitat use.

Title: Use of elemental signatures to detect and trace contaminant entry to the northern Gulf of Mexico coastal food web: managing multiple stressors
Lead Investigator (Institution): Ruth Carmichael (Dauphin Island Sea Lab, University of South Alabama)
Amount: $231,671
Dr. Carmichael will test whether trace elements associated with oil can be detected in oyster shells and serve as an indicator of oil exposure that provides resource managers with a way to relate contaminants to effects on oyster reefs and their food webs.

Title: Gulf-wide assessment of habitat use and habitat-specific production estimates of nekton in turtlegrass (Thalassia testudinum)
Lead Investigator (Institution): Kelly M. Darnell (The University of Southern Mississippi)
Amount: $992,136
Dr. Darnell and her colleagues will assess the use of turtlegrass by finfish and shellfish across the northern Gulf Mexico and evaluate the specific ways this seagrass supports blue crabs, a commercially important species.

Title: Trophic Interactions and Habitat Requirements of Gulf of Mexico Bryde’s Whales
Lead Investigator (Institution): Lance P. Garrison (NOAA)
Amount: $2,312,275
Dr. Garrison and colleagues will gather information about the habitat and food web of Gulf of Mexico Bryde’s whales which will be used to develop restoration plans for this rare population.

Title: Linking habitat to recruitment: evaluating the importance of pelagic Sargassum to fisheries management in the Gulf of Mexico
Lead Investigator (Institution):  Frank Hernandez (The University of Southern Mississippi)
Amount: $1,770,853
Dr. Hernandez and his co-investigators will evaluate the importance of Sargassum as a nursery habitat for fish in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Title: Population Connectivity of Deepwater Corals in the Northern Gulf of Mexico
Lead Investigator (Institution): Santiago Herrera (Lehigh University)
Amount: $1,338,193
Dr. Herrera and his colleagues will determine where the corals in different deepwater populations originated from, which is critical information for conserving and restoring these important habitats.

Title: Effects of nitrogen sources and plankton food-web dynamics on habitat quality for the larvae of Atlantic bluefin tuna in the Gulf of Mexico
Lead Investigator (Institution):  John Lamkin (NOAA)
Amount: $1,613,288
Dr. Lamkin and his colleagues will investigate the link between nutrients, food availability, and the survival of Atlantic bluefin tuna larvae which can be used to improve stock assessments for this commercially and recreationally important species.

Title: Linking community and food-web approaches to restoration: An ecological assessment of created and natural marshes influenced by river diversions
Lead Investigator (Institution): Michael J. Polito (Louisiana State University)
Amount: $2,057,684
Dr. Polito and colleagues will investigate how river diversions influence the living communities, food web structure, and function of created versus natural marshes to inform the development of marsh restoration strategies.

Title: A multiscale approach to understanding migratory land bird habitat use of functional stopover habitat types and management efforts
Lead Investigator (Institution): Theodore J. Zenzal, Jr. (The University of Southern Mississippi)
Amount: $1,492,151
Dr. Zenzal and colleagues will investigate migratory bird use of stopover habitats to inform bird habitat protection and restoration decisions in the Gulf of Mexico region.