On September 16th, the Marine Ecosystem Risk Team (MERT) held a focus group of climate change and research staff from the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) East Coast-Great Lakes Region to identify their climate science information and research needs. The focus group featured lightning talks from researchers at NOAA Research labs (AOML, GLERL, and GFDL) as well as the NESDIS CoastWatch program. It also included observers from NOAA Research labs and other NOAA line offices (NESDIS, National Ocean Service, Fisheries) who noted when and where they saw strong convergence between expressed sanctuaries needs, NOAA Research science capabilities, and other current NOAA activities.
The focus group identified climate research and information needed to improve the management of the West Coast national marine sanctuaries and further NOAA’s stewardship mission in these federally protected areas. Participants identified rising ocean temperatures; ocean acidification and carbonate dynamics; runoff and land/sea interactions; the impacts of climate variability and change on deep water ecosystems; extreme events; and the ability to predict and project these changes at temporal and spatial scales meaningful to sanctuaries as the most pressing needs. The need for continued long-term in situ observation and monitoring was a particular focus. The identification of these priorities provides NOAA Research programs and labs with directions and new stakeholders for research, model development, and observational efforts that could meaningfully advance NOAA’s stewardship mission.
This focus group was the first step towards a larger goal of identifying and connecting the climate science and information needs of the National Marine Sanctuary System with NOAA Research climate science capacity and products. A focus group was also held with the West Coast Region on September 2nd and an additional focus group will be held with the Pacific Islands Region later this month. The goals and topics identified in these focus groups will become the focus of an ONMS-NOAA Research climate workshop this winter. These focus groups and the subsequent workshop are part of an overarching goal of the MERT initiative to increase collaboration between ONMS and other NOAA programs and develop partnerships between labs, programs, and individual sanctuaries to advance NOAA’s stewardship mission.