Solution specific articles for Marine, Ocean, Coastal, Science & Information.

Lynker Attends First Annual Nic ECO at Duke!

Lynker HR attended Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment first annual Nic ECO (Explore Career Options) event last week. We met a lot of talented students interested in a career in the environmental field. We identified exciting potential candidates that Lynker is looking for to fill internships and full-time openings in the future.


Whale Whispering in the Hawaiian Islands

Lynker Bioacoustician and Marine Mammal Specialist, Eden Zang, recently assisted in deploying deep water acoustic recorders in waters off Maui and Kauai. These passive acoustic recorder packages will be deployed until Spring 2020 to study the presence and distribution of humpback whales in Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary (HIHWNMS) waters. The recorders will also monitor other biological and anthropogenic (human-related) sources of sound as part of NOAA’s SanctSound project examining soundscapes across seven national marine sanctuaries and one national marine monument. Eden’s work will contribute directly to NOAA’s nationwide efforts to baseline sound levels and acoustic conditions in the sanctuaries, and measure and model their effects on marine mammals and other living marine resources inhabiting US waters from the Eastern Caribbean to the Western Pacific.

NOAA Fisheries’ ESA & MMPA Programs Receives Award

The US Secretary of Commerce recognized NOAA Fisheries’ ESA and MMPA programs with a Gold Medal Award for their contribution to regulatory efficiencies and effectiveness in protecting and sustaining at-risk marine and ocean living resources. The Department of Commerce Gold Medal is the highest honor award of the United States Department of Commerce.  Since 1949, the Gold Medal is presented by the Secretary of Commerce for distinguished performance. Particularly noted, Lynker’s Dean-Lorenz Szumylo spearheaded the implementation of the ESA Section 7 Mapper, an interactive, GIS-driven visualization tool NOAA scientists, federal action agencies, and the general public use to help identify ESA-listed species and critical habitats along the East Coast.  Dean was previously awarded NMFS Team Member of the Year for his efforts regarding this tool.

The innovative Mapper tool provides a dynamic web interface used to locate areas where Section 7 Consultations are recommended due to the presence of ESA-listed fish, marine mammals, or sea turtles at various life stages, exhibiting specific behaviors (such as migrating, foraging, spawning, rearing, or calving). The Mapper currently covers consultation areas along major waterways and marine zones of the Greater Atlantic Region and is expanding to include the South Atlantic and Eastern Gulf of Mexico later this year. The tool allows users to draw a project site on a map, determine which consultation areas overlap, and generate a detailed report of ESA species found there. In addition to greatly expediting the process of determining whether further consultation with NOAA Fisheries is necessary, the tool has reduced the number of unnecessary consultation requests received and has improved the quality, accuracy, and reliability of data needed to support regulatory compliance.

Version 2 is now out and represents a major update to the underlying Section 7 Consultation Area data. In the new version of the mapper, users now have increased control over the map display.  They can toggle individual data layers on and off, rearrange the drawing order of data layers, and use a new tool that easily allows them to “swipe” away the data to view the underlying basemap.

Lynker In the Field with Our Liaison Hideyo Hattori

Lynker’s Hideyo Hattori, who serves as site liaison for the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation and Coastal Zone Management programs in American Samoa, is partaking in local Samoan delicacy – palolo worms! These worms are only available for a short time between mid-October and early November and are collected with a net for preparation in many local dishes. Hideyo collected and prepared these worms himself for our jurisdictional workshop here in American Samoa!


Monitoring Towers Provide the “Missing Link” in Bat Migration Data

Lynker staff at NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management prepared the following story for @NOAADigitalCoast about how coastal managers are collecting valuable data on bat migration in Pennsylvania. Just in time for #Halloween!

Coastal Grant Initiates Bat-Monitoring Towers across Pennsylvania

Approximately 50 monitoring towers provide the “missing link” in bat migration data—a must for Lake Erie offshore planning—and NOAA, the Pennsylvania Coastal Program, and Texas Tech made the first two towers possible.

Until recently, little was known about how and where bats migrate over Pennsylvania’s Lake Erie coastal region. Construction of the state’s first two monitoring towers gave scientists a whole new understanding of Lake Erie bat migration patterns—essential data for conservation and potential offshore wind plans—and led to about 50 towers being built statewide. That state “first” was made possible by NOAA, the Pennsylvania Coastal Resources Management Program, and Texas Tech.

Before tower construction, scientists wondered whether bats on long migrations flew over Lake Erie or remained along the shoreline. A NOAA grant administered by Pennsylvania’s Coastal Resources Management Program enabled Texas Tech to build the first two towers in the coastal zone, install the international MOTUS Wildlife Tracking System, and tag 102 bats digitally during the first fall and spring migration. Data confirmed that the migrating bats flew across Lake Erie in both seasons. Surprisingly, they did not follow a consistent migratory corridor but flew across the lake from many points and pathways.

The funding of the first two towers was the catalyst needed for other organizations throughout the state to invest in scores of additional tracking towers. Tower technology not only fills data gaps in bat research and potential offshore plans but can track birds as well, adding value to the data collection. (2019)

Partners: NOAA, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Coastal Resources Management Program, and Texas Tech

Harmful Algal Bloom Alerts are Saving Lives of Shellfish Consumers

The shellfish industry depends on harmful algal bloom alerts from Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Lynker’s staff writer at NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management shares the details:

Kachemak Bay Reserve Alerts Thousands to Poisoned Shellfish Dangers

Communicating harmful conditions helps keep shellfish consumers safe.

A harmful algal bloom alert for Alaska’s Kachemak Bay is saving the lives of recreational and subsistence shellfish consumers—thanks to NOAA’s Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, which monitors 12 sites for toxic phytoplankton and publishes weekly reports for communities and the state’s shellfish-poisoning communication team. The reports also include mussel toxin-level data from other labs.

In 2015 Kachemak Bay experienced its first harmful algal bloom event in 10 years. As ocean temperatures rise, blooms are expected to occur more frequently. Consumers of bloom-affected shellfish can experience paralytic shellfish poisoning symptoms that include tingling, light-headedness, numbness, and even death. The Kachemak Bay Reserve’s Coastal Training Program brought community partners together to determine how to improve local monitoring and response efforts. Today both goals are being realized.

Recently the reserve’s monitoring program provided a warning about toxic shellfish in Homer Harbor a full week before oyster farms had reached their toxin limit (commercial shellfish in Alaska are monitored and inspected). And the partnership networking component is working, too. A Facebook posting about this event was shared 253 times, reaching 18,373 people in rural Alaska. Unfortunately, six reports of illness potentially tied to this type of poisoning were found, but the impact could have been much worse had it not been for this monitoring and notification effort.

Lives are at stake. Subsistence shellfish harvesting serves a vital nutritional and cultural role for many indigenous Alaskans, especially those in rural areas. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, rural subsistence users harvest more than 36 million pounds of wild foods annually.

The Kachemak Bay Reserve is supported by NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management through the National Estuarine Research Reserve Program. Their Harmful Species Program receives assistance through three NOAA labs: the Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research and Center for Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research, both part of the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science; and the Undersea Research Program, part of the Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. (2017)

Partners: Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, National Phytoplankton Monitoring Network, NOAA Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research, NOAA Center for Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research, NOAA Undersea Research Program, Seldovia Village Tribe, Southeast Alaska Tribal Toxins

Photo credit: Alaska Center for Conservation Science

Shellfish Economy Depends on Research Reserve Data

Data from the National Estuarine Research Reserves helps the US shellfish industry increase commercial yields. Lynker’s staff at NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management help tell the story for National Seafood Month.

Multimillion-Dollar Shellfish Economy Depends on Research Reserve Data

By monitoring oxygen, eelgrass health, and other marsh variables, the data system supports shellfish habitat and commercial yields.
U.S. estuaries are the lifeblood of commercial shellfishing. Total fish catch in estuaries contributes $4.3 billion annually to the national economy, and estuaries are nurseries to more than 75 percent of all the fish and shellfish harvested. Data from the National Estuarine Research Reserve System’s environmental monitoring program keeps shellfish businesses informed about conditions and supports product safety. Examples are provided below:

• The West Coast reserves—California’s San Francisco Bay and Elkhorn Slough, Oregon’s South Slough, and Washington State’s Padilla Bay—provide the region’s $270 million annual commercial shellfish industry with critical data about marsh health, including oxygen and nitrogen levels, eelgrass health, turbidity, restoration, and other marsh variables.

• In Massachusetts, the Waquoit Bay Reserve’s water-temperature data are routinely used by the state’s shellfish aquaculture industry, an economic powerhouse that in 2013 generated more than $25 million in profits and paid out nearly $12 million in wages.

• The Apalachicola (Florida), ACE Basin (South Carolina), and North Inlet-Winyah Bay (South Carolina) reserves collect rainfall, salinity, and temperature data critical to the commercial blue crab industry, which in Florida alone carried a dockside value of over $12 million in 2015.

• In North Carolina, the commercial oyster harvests garner $4.5 million in annual profits. Harmful bacteria have caused repeated shellfish farm closures, so the North Carolina Reserve and University of North Carolina are developing a tool to help shellfish aquaculture firms make more-informed siting decisions.

• In Alaska, the Kachemak Bay Reserve supplies real-time temperature, oxygen, acidification, and toxin-related data used by commercial oyster farms and state officials. Alaska’s seafood industry employs more people than any other private industry in the state, and fishermen in this North Pacific region made $238 million in 2014 from crab alone.

• In South Carolina, data from the ACE Basin Reserve aids the state’s shrimp industry—which in 2015 netted more than two million pounds with a dockside value of over $8 million—by predicting areas of shrimp abundance and sending out alerts when black-gill disease is found. (2017)

Image Credit: NOAA Photo Gallery


Cold-Stun Alert Helps Save Spotted Seatrout in VA and SC

The National Estuarine Research Reserves in Virginia and SouthCarolina have a cold-stun alert that aids fisheries to temperature drops and potential die-offs. Check out the story written by Lynker staff at NOAA’s Office of Coastal Management.

Cold-Stun Alert Aids Fishery Managers and Seatrout Stocks

The alerts’ real-time monitoring data comes from three research reserves in Virginia and South Carolina.

Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is piloting a cold stun alert system that identifies when sudden drops in water temperature could cause die-offs of Spotted Seatrout and other species along Virginia’s Bay areas and the South Carolina coast. It gives commercial and recreational fishermen the chance to take actions that can preserve existing stocks. Spotted sea trout (Cynoscion nebulosus) are popular catches for commercial and recreational fishermen trolling the Chesapeake Bay, Southeast coast, and Gulf of Mexico.

The alerts use real-time monitoring data from the Virginia research reserve as well as South Carolina’s ACE Basin and North Inlet-Winyah Bay research reserves. The system also logs how long each temperature drop lasts. “Winter kills” are a serious threat to local and regional Spotted Seatrout. The cold-stun alert can help fishery managers act to save fish populations by temporarily cutting their catch quotas or asking recreational fishermen to “catch and release” for a limited time. For example, a 2018 winter kill along Virginia’s coast motivated North Carolina’s Division of Marine Fisheries to enact an emergency season closure through June 15, which allowed surviving seatrout to spawn in springtime.

Spotted Seatrout is an important cash crop for commercial fisheries. In 2017, North Carolina’s Division of Marine Fisheries reported commercial landings of nearly 300,000 pounds of this species. The Virginia research reserve hopes to expand the alert system to the Gulf of Mexico and other areas along the Southeast and Gulf of Mexico coasts. (2018)


Lynker, Pacific Islands Fisheries Group, and Local Fishers Collaborate

Lynker and the Pacific Islands Fisheries Group (PIFG), a Hawaii-based research cooperative, have been out on the water this fall, sampling in 75 fishing locations to determine abundance and health of Hawaii’s “Deep 7” bottomfish, including opakapaka (pink snapper), onaga (longtail snapper), ehu (squirrelfish snapper), kalekale (Von Siebold’s snapper), gindai (Brigham’s snapper), lehi (silverjaw snapper), and hapuʻupuʻu (Seale’s grouper).
These fish species are jointly managed by state and federal authorities, and our work, funded by NOAA Fisheries, will help scientists, policy-makers, and the local community better ensure the sustainability of these important stocks (currently not overfished) now and into the future.
The research fishing portion of the survey is now 44% complete, with overall survey completion at 66%.
A huge shout-out to the local fishing captains and observers, who spend days on the water, often in less than ideal conditions, collecting the samples around the islands of Kauai, Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island, in making this survey a success.

Lynker Honors Employees at NOAA’s Science on a Sphere

Lynker celebrates with employees by giving service awards and hosting a luncheon at NOAA’s Science on a Sphere. Thank you to all the employees who attended the event!