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Sanctuary Currents 2007
The Ocean Revealed: Observing System for Healthy Oceans

General Info & Program | Session Abstracts | Ricketts Lecture | MBNMS Awards | Exhibitors
Poster Abstracts & Awards | 2007 Symposium Poster (PDF)

Session Abstracts


Saturday, March 3, 2007


Representative, Board of Directors, Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments

Karen Grimmer, Acting Superintendent, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Moderator: Dr. Chris Harrold, Director of Conservation Research, Monterey Bay Aquarium

Moderator: Ms. Heather Kerkering, CeNCOOS Coordinator, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

New Tools for Ocean Observing

Dr. Marcia McNutt, President and CEO, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

The vast majority of ocean research to date has involved transient occupation of the oceans during research expeditions or short-term instrument deployments. While much exciting science has been accomplished with this strategy, the solution to a whole host of important scientific problems requires the ability to maintain a long-term presence in the sea. By establishing ocean observatories, we can capture the record of infrequent events as they happen and continuously monitor properties that change rapidly with respect to the return time of an oceanographic vessel.

Maintaining a long-term scientific presence in the oceans is a challenge akin to space exploration, although in most ways even more daunting and even more vital to mankind's survival. Physical, chemical, and biological agents are continually trying to destroy or incapacitate instrument packages. Electromagnetic waves for communication and sunlight for energy cannot be used except in the uppermost portion of the water column. Vandalism by passing ships is not uncommon, and moorings themselves become microhabitats for marine organisms, thus changing the parameters of the experiment. Sea floor observatories, in particular, are difficult to install and service. Researchers frequently drown in the sheer volume of their own data. New funding mechanisms that scale up to projects larger than the individual investigator and longer than a typical research grant are needed to surmount the technical challenges, deploy observatories, maintain them in any great number, and fully understand the data. But if we do not meet this challenge, it will be difficult to obtain the scientific knowledge needed to maintain the health of the ocean environment and optimize the use of its resources for the benefit of society.

Many of the technical difficulties cited above have been overcome. We can and do deploy moorings and ocean floor instrument packages for months to a year at a time using manned and unmanned submersibles, advanced materials, low-power instrumentation, long-life batteries, and cable or satellite communications. Combinations of stationary moorings with autonomous vehicles, gliders, and drifters are being used to overcome the spatial and temporal aliasing and lack of resolution that plague most marine data sets. In Monterey Bay, we use observatories not only in passive mode to monitor changes in the ocean environment, but also in active mode to perform controlled experiments. Elements of the observatories are modular so as to allow ingenuity while maintaining compatibility, low cost so as to encourage proliferation, and easily maintained. The data are in the public domain so that they can be readily downloaded from the Internet anywhere in the world.

The State of the Central California Ecosystem

Dr. Francisco Chavez, Senior Scientist, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and CeNCOOS collaborators

What is the state of the ocean? Why is it different from year to year? Are humans impacting the ocean? Are fish and whale populations thriving or declining? The public has every right to ask such questions, but scientists can rarely give clear and complete answers. In spite of all that is known, scientists still do not understand many basic processes that occur in our oceans. The relationships between ecosystem processes are complex and unexpected interactions often occur. For example the oceanographic environment of a place like central California depends not only on local weather, but on climate phenomena that occur many thousands of kilometers away—across ocean basins—that can be transmitted here through the atmosphere or through the oceans. Another reason has to do with human perception and focus. A scientist studying phytoplankton—the microscopic drifting algae that turn our local waters green, brown or red—would likely answer the above questions differently than a scientist studying whales, even though whales depend on phytoplankton for their growth and survival. Similarly, scientists studying deep or offshore waters would likely give different answers than those studying shallow or nearshore waters. Even so, if there is any area of the worldís ocean was we might successfully construct an integrated picture of ocean ecosystems, it is in the waters of Monterey Bay and the contiguous California Current System.

The Monterey Bay area is studied by a large cadre of scientists working within separate research programs. Thirty years ago these scientists would have spent their careers working independently—with scientists diligently publishing scholarly papers, interacting with close colleagues, and attending annual scientific conferences. But we have now entered the 'Age of Connectivity', where computers and the internet permit almost-instant data assimilation and sharing. Scientists have become socialized, and this connectivity has encouraged formation of regional umbrella organizations such as CeNCOOS ( and the Sanctuary's SIMoN network (

In this presentation we review the main biological time series research that has been conducted in the California Current System. between Cape Mendocino and Point Conception and reflects our Monterey Bay area bias. We take an ecologically-oriented, bottom-up approach and (1) summarize recent results, (2) highlight areas of continuing ignorance, and (3) attempt an ecological synthesis.

Animals as Ocean Sensors

Dr. Daniel Costa, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Center for Ocean Health, University California, Santa Cruz

The Tagging of Pacific Pelagics (TOPP) program is using biologging technology to monitor apex predators (sharks, tunas, seabirds, marine mammals, squids) in the North Pacific. TOPP scientists are engaged in technological innovation, discovery, exploration, and marine conservation. TOPP is identifying ecologically important habitats used by apex predators in the Pacific Ocean. TOPP also has developed the capacity to deliver ocean observations from the largest undersea network of sensors or "bioprobes" in the open sea - by using the animals to report on their environment. TOPP's ìanimal oceanographersî have exposed hidden marine habitats that are critical foraging habitats, migration corridors and regions of high occupancy.

To date over 2300 electronic tags have been placed on top predators in the North Pacific. The electronic tags can measure temperature, pressure, light and salinity with spatial resolutions ranging from 10 meter (GPS tags) to 50-90 km accuracy (light based archival tags). TOPP predators have obtained over 300,000 profiles of depth and temperature, salinity, or chlorophyll from 2002-2006, adding significantly to the knowledge of the Pacific basin oceanography. The tags provide information on the physical state of the upper ocean along with the behavioral and physiological characteristics of the animal. These data are being merged with other oceanographic information obtained from remote sensing, other in situ oceanographic sensors, and ocean models to understand the habitat utilization of top predators.

California Rides the Waves to Lead the Nation in Monitoring Ocean Surface Circulation

Dr. Newell Garfield, Associate Professor, Romberg Tiburon Center, San Francisco State University

California is the first State in the US making a concerted effort to establish an operational array to monitor the coastal ocean surface currents in near real time. The Coastal Ocean Currents Monitoring Program (COCMP) is a statewide effort, lead by the State Coastal Conservancy and involving twelve coastal institutions, to establish an integrated array of surface current mapping instruments. This talk will explain how wave data are used to determine surface currents, progress of the COCMP program, and some recent examples on how the data are being used.

From Genomes to Satellites: An Integrated Approach to Improving Monitoring and Detection of Harmful Algae

Dr. Raphael Kudela, Associate Professor, Ocean Sciences and Institute for Marine Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz

California has the longest history of Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) monitoring in the U.S. Indeed, the discovery that phytoplankton produce toxins that endanger human health was first made by medical researchers and microbiologists responding to an outbreak in central California (San Francisco to Monterey Bay) in 1927. As recognition of new HAB organisms has changed over the last 80 years, so too have the tools available to researchers and managers to detect and monitor harmful algal events. While we still rely on visual analysis of water samples collected by monitoring programs and volunteers, we can now augment this with new techniques and information such as genetic (molecular) signatures for harmful organisms and toxins, rapid identification using automated in-water sensors, and improved detection and tracking using satellites, surface current maps, and models. Using Monterey Bay as an example, an integrated approach to monitoring, predicting, and tracking harmful algal events will be presented, highlighting the existing and emerging technologies that continue to improve our ability to alert and protect the public from harmful algal events.

Using Real Time Data in Today's Classroom

Ms. Joanne Vanderhorst, Teacher, Junipero Serra School

Todayís teachers understand real-time data (RTD) connects what is being taught in the classroom to their students' lives. Importantly, RTD activities work successfully with all students: minorities, English language learners, students whose schools have limited technology, and special needs students. Bringing the real world into the classroom by allowing students to monitor weather stations; track striped bass, hurricanes and drifters; or test and report on air and water quality in their local environment, or world-wide, is the driving force behind teachers embracing RTD.

Regrettably, the current trend toward standardized testing and school accountability make it difficult to incorporate forms of inquiry, or student centered, learning. Teachers need to be able to justify how RTD activities meet their stateís standards because state standardized testing is the greatest barrier to RTD education.

Fortunately, curriculum based RTD activities can bridge the gap between student-centered learning and curriculum-based assessment. Having scientists provide local data sets in a user-friendly format will greatly encourage teachers to incorporate RTD into their teaching. Dynamically scaffolded activities, information that is easy to obtain, a rationale for the importance of the project, and accessibility to "on-line scientists" will facilitate this marriage of RTD and education. Equipped with this information and teacher training in RTD, today's classrooms will be filled with empowered students, surrounded by the world at their fingertips.

The Robots Come to the Monterey Bay: An Overview of the Adaptive Sampling and Prediction System

Dr. Steve Ramp, Research Professor, Department of Oceanography, Naval Postgraduate School

One of the largest oceanographic field programs in the United States took place in the Monterey Bay during August 2006. This ongoing program, which has come to be known as Monterey Bay 2006 (MB06) was actually a combination of four programs, all funded in whole or in part by the Office of Naval Research. Todayís talk highlights just one of the four called The Adaptive Sampling and Prediction (ASAP) system. The ASAP program has both operational and scientific goals. The operational goal is to learn how to make fleets of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) sample more effectively together as a group than each individual vehicle can sample on its own. This is done via a process known as adaptive sampling and coordinated control. The scientific goal is to close the heat budget in a coastal upwelling center, in order to illuminate the physics of the coastal upwelling process and facilitate improved forecasting of ocean conditions.

The summer experiment took place off Point Año Nuevo, CA and included ships, aircraft, and both propeller-driven and buoyancy-driven ("gliders") vehicles. Moving the data from the ocean to the lab in real-time, assimilating the data into numerical prediction systems, and implementing a human decision-making process for adapting the vehicles to changing oceanographic and meteorological conditions were also a big part of the program. The talk will show some of the vehicles used, describe how they work and were deployed during August 2006, and provide directions for improving such sampling systems in the future.