Identifying Ecological Hotspots

Full Title: Defining abnormal events of oceanographic, biological, and physical properties in the Gulf of Mexico to identify data gaps

The project will characterize the temporal and spatial variability of physical and biochemical oceanographic parameters in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Team: Robert Arnone (Lead Investigator, The University of Southern Mississippi,, E. Brooke Jones (The University of Southern Mississippi), Sherwin Ladner (U.S. Naval Research Laboratory), Charles Carlton (NOAA)

Technical Monitor: Julien Lartigue (

Federal Program Officer/Point of Contact: Frank Parker (

This project began in November 2015 and will end in November 2018.

Award Amount: $366,787

Why we care: This work will give resource managers a tool for identifying ecological hotspots in the offshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico and identify connections in offshore waters between ocean circulation features and different animals, such as fish, birds, and corals.

What we are doing: The investigators will define event-driven ecologically active regions in the Gulf for both water quality and physical ocean parameters and determine how these conditions can be used to identify data gaps for fisheries and coastal management. Specifically, the investigators will identify the regions in the Gulf where these parameters most often change on a weekly basis using satellite ocean products and ocean circulation models. This will provide a decision support tool for identifying the locations and temporal gaps of present oceanographic data collection. These active water quality and physical property products will identify ecological “hotspots” for the Gulf and can be used to guide adaptive sampling by fisheries and coastal managers. The investigators will analyze ocean variability use existing data sets to identify the linkages between fish, nekton, birds, and corals, and the variability of water quality and physical events. This will enable monitoring activities to target future abnormal or ecologically active events in the Gulf.

Expected Outcome: The products and analyses generated by the investigators will be shared with fisheries and coastal managers for use in decision making and designing  observation networks.

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