On September 23rd, CPO’s Marine Ecosystem Risk Team (MERT) held a focus group of climate and research staff from the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) Pacific Islands Region to identify their climate science information and research needs. The focus group featured lightning talks from researchers at NOAA Research labs (PMEL and GFDL) as well as NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center and 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 Pacific Islands national marine sanctuaries and further NOAA’s stewardship mission in these federally protected areas. Participants identified rising ocean temperatures; ocean acidification and carbonate dynamics; 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 tools that improve climate communication and interaction with local communities was a particular focus. Identifying 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 the East Coast and Great Lakes Region on September 16th. The goals and topics identified in these focus groups will become the focus of an ONMS-NOAA Research climate workshop in January. 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.