Identifying Ecological Hotspots

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

Lead Investigator (Institution): Robert Arnone (The University of Southern Mississippi)

Co-investigators (Institution): Ryan Vandermeulen (The University of Southern Mississippi). Sherwin Ladner (U.S. Naval Research Laboratory), Charles Carlton (NOAA), Redwood Nero (NOAA), and Valerie Samedy (Mississippi State University)

NOAA Technical Point of Contact: Julien Lartigue (

Award Amount: $366,787

Award Period: November 1, 2015 to November 30, 2017

Summary: The project will characterize the temporal and spatial variability of physical and biochemical oceanographic parameters in the Gulf of Mexico for a 3 year time period. 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 Northern Gulf of Mexico and can be effectively used as a method of adaptive sample collection by fisheries and coastal managers. The investigators will analyze ocean variability use existing data sets to identify the linkages between fish and nekton along sampling transects and the variability of water quality and physical events. This will enable monitoring activities to target future abnormal events or ecologically active events in the Gulf. In addition, active events showcasing the ocean’s changing conditions will be combined with existing NOAA Fisheries acoustic data to identify how the higher trophic layers of the ecosystem respond. The products and analyses generated by the investigators will be shared with fisheries and coastal managers for use in decision making and establishing an observation network.