Organizations recognized for conservation results based on engagement and contributions of many partners
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell presented the Partners in Conservation Awards to two science teams conducting ocean research sponsored by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management at a Department of the Interior ceremony. The research involved collaboration with about two-dozen federal, academic and private sector partners over the past four years through the bureau's Environmental Studies Program, with both projects leveraging the National Oceanographic Partnership Program, or NOPP, framework.
"The Department of the Interior is proud to recognize the accomplishments of those who are innovating and collaborating in ways that address today's complex conservation and stewardship challenges," Secretary Jewell said at the awards ceremony. "These partnerships represent the gold standard for how Interior is doing business across the nation to power our future, strengthen tribal nations, conserve and enhance America's great outdoors and engage the next generation."
One BOEM study team was honored for its work on the mid-Atlantic Canyons partnership, which resulted in several significant biological and marine archaeological discoveries. The other study involving eight components produced an extensive array of environmental protocols and monitoring tools to support offshore renewable energy planning and operations.
"Congratulations to all the people and organizations represented here today," said BOEM Director and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Tommy P. Beaudreau. "We recognize the hard work and dedication that is required to improve our understanding of the ocean so we can develop conventional energy and expand the renewable energy frontier in an environmentally responsible manner."
"These partnerships help us better understand our oceans so that we become caretakers of, not just takers from, this vital resource," said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who co-chairs the Senate Oceans Caucus. "As we turn to our oceans to support clean energy projects we must also protect the communities and ecosystems they support. I am proud to see the University of Rhode Island recognized, among others, for its contributions in this field."
The mid-Atlantic canyons study team consisted of researchers from 17 institutions. Scientists discovered abundant deep-water coral habitats off the mid-Atlantic outer continental shelf, and vast communities of deep-sea mussels that depend upon methane gas seeps for sustenance. Research has yielded a wealth of oceanographic data never before assembled about this region, and information about historic shipwrecks and their biological communities. Photos and web logs from 2011-2013 missions for this study are available on: http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/explorations.html, with the 2013 excursion at http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/13midatlantic/welcome.html.
In addition to BOEM, organizations being honored for this study are: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Geological Survey, CSA Ocean Sciences, Inc., Florida State University, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Texas A&M University, Netherlands Institute of Sea Research, Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, University of Rhode Island, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Bangor University (Wales), Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, University of Connecticut, Cape Fear Community College, Artwork, Inc., and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
The second study team, consisting of 12 organizations, was recognized for renewable energy stewardship. In 2010, the BOEM initiated a partnership for "Developing Environmental Protocols and Monitoring to Support Ocean Renewable Energy and Stewardship" in response to the increased interest in development of offshore renewable energy. BOEM collaborated with the Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy - Wind and Water Power Program [EERE], and three offices within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research [OAR], National Marine Fisheries Service [NMFS] and National Ocean Service [NOS]).
In addition to the three federal agencies named above, organizations being honored are: the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, Cornell University, Pacific Energy Ventures, University of Massachusetts, University of Washington, University of Texas at Austin, University of Arkansas, University of Rhode Island and Parametrix, Inc.
This partnership engaged Federal agencies, academic institutions, private companies and public stakeholders to conduct a suite of eight timely projects. Outcomes included new baseline environmental information, identification and evaluation of best management practices and protocols, evaluation of technologies for environmental assessment and monitoring, development of protocols and GIS tools to assist with facility siting, and the social and cultural implications of renewable development. The partnership and the subsequent peer reviews of the projects were designed to be relevant to decision-making, leverage fiscal resources, and ensure the credibility of results within the scientific and public communities.