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UTMSI to Lead a Synthesis Study of Fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico

UTMSI to Lead a Synthesis Study of Fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico

In a new initiative announced in June by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Dr. Chris Biggs, Assistant Professor of Instruction at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute, will lead a working group to understand severe weather effects on Gulf of Mexico ecosystem and fisheries. The group will focus on two Texas estuaries — Mission-Aransas and Galveston Bay estuaries and use statistical models to analyze long-term datasets of the hydrology, water quality and chemistry, primary production, zooplankton, benthic fauna, and nekton. This synthesis will inform the needs of fisheries and resource managers in response to severe weather.

This is one of two projects supported by the NOAA RESTORE Science Program and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS). Two projects, each receiving two years of funding, were selected following a rigorous and competitive process that included a review by a panel of outside experts. These are the first projects funded through the Gulf Ecosystem Initiative, a $3.5 million partnership to support synthesis science and postdoctoral research for the Gulf of Mexico.

“These awards are an exciting investment in synthesis science that supports the sustainability of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem,” said Nicole LeBoeuf, NOAA’s National Ocean Service director, in a website post issued by NOAA Restore Science Program on June 19, 2023, by Hannah Brown. “Through these projects, we hope to gain a better understanding of the factors that influence the health of natural resources in the region, especially in the context of a rapidly changing climate.”

To provide additional data and information, the projects will work with postdoctoral researchers recently hired by the NCEAS, Drs. Mai Fung, Raymond Czaja Jr., and Shayna Sura.

Over the next five years, the Gulf Ecosystem Initiative will support ten scientific working groups and up to eight postdoctoral fellows, stated the NOAA Restore Science Program’s website post. The next call for proposals for the Gulf Ecosystem Initiative will be announced later this year.

This funding is provided through the RESTORE Act, also known as the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act, which authorized NOAA to establish and administer a Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Science, Observation, Monitoring, and Technology Program.

The Science Program is funded by 2.5% of the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund, which the RESTORE Act established. The Trust comprises 80% of the Clean Water Act civil penalties recovered from parties responsible for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Collectively, the fines will result in at least $133 million in funding for the NOAA RESTORE Science Program.

The mission of the NOAA RESTORE Science Program is to increase understanding of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem, including its fisheries, and to support its restoration and sustainability through research, observation, monitoring, and technology development.

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