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Healthy Ecosystems Grant Awards

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Grant Awards HE 3
Image: NOAA

Healthy Ecosystems Grants 3 (Awarded 2018)

Topic: Integration of Monitoring and Evaluation into Environmental Restoration Projects to Improve Outcomes in the Gulf of Mexico
Total Awards: 5 projects totaling $3,574,994
Grant Type: Research-Practice
Grant Type Description: For projects that bring together researchers, practitioners, and other perspectives to collaborate on efforts that both inform research and facilitate use of research results.
Press Release

Developing an Integrated Monitoring and Assessment Framework for Evaluating Ecosystem Service Outcomes from Seagrass Restoration in the Gulf of Mexico
Award Amount: $365,699
Project Director: Sarah Lester (Florida State University)
Project Team Affiliation: Florida State University
Overview: Long-term degradation of seagrass habitat by human impacts and a growing understanding of the ecosystem services benefits that healthy seagrass beds provide have made seagrass restoration a major priority for the Gulf of Mexico. However, ecosystem services benefits are rarely tracked by restoration monitoring efforts due to a lack of standardized approaches for measuring them. This project intends to address this gap by using existing datasets on seagrass along the Florida Gulf Coast to develop models and metrics that can be used to link and quantify the relationship between seagrass restoration and ecosystem services. The project outputs will assist practitioners with seagrass management and restoration planning and prioritization both in the Gulf of Mexico and beyond.

The Efficacy of Marsh Terraces in Enhancing and Restoring Gulf Coastal Wetlands
Award Amount: $852,387
Project Director: Brian Davis (Mississippi State University)
Project Team Affiliations: Mississippi State University in cooperation with Ducks Unlimited and Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
Overview: Some of the greatest rates of coastal wetland loss in North America occur along the U.S. coast of the Gulf of Mexico. One coastal restoration technique commonly used to mitigate wetland loss in Louisiana and Texas is marsh terracing, whereby ridges of sediment are constructed and planted with vegetation to help protect surrounding areas against erosion from wind and waves. Despite widespread use, past monitoring and research efforts have yielded only limited understanding about the efficacy and persistence of marsh terraces. Through close collaboration with practitioners, this project aims to address this gap and will examine past marsh terracing projects to evaluate their effectiveness as a coastal restoration technique and provide guidance on their use in future restoration efforts.

Standard Logical Models and Metrics for Gulf Restoration: Linking Project Outcomes to Economic, Health, and Well-Being Benefits for People
Award Amount: $1,335,798
Project Director: Lydia Olander (Duke University)
Project Team Affiliations: Duke University in cooperation with Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi and The Nature Conservancy
Overview: Billions of dollars will be devoted to the restoration of Gulf ecosystems over the coming decades. However, a common framework does not currently exist for assessing and reporting on restoration progress and effectiveness across different projects and locations in order to coordinate progress toward shared, overarching environmental, social, and economic goals. This project is focused on advancing standardized measures of restoration work through a collaborative approach with practitioners, community members, technical experts, and decision makers to develop ecosystem service logic models. These models can then be used to produce a transferable and scalable approach for measuring success and comparing outcomes across different Gulf restoration projects.

Transport Thresholds for Fine Sediment in Vegetation
Award Amount: $592,180
Project Director: Christopher Esposito (The Water Institute of the Gulf)
Project Team Affiliations: The Water Institute of the Gulf in cooperation with Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tulane University
Overview: Sea-level rise poses a serious challenge to natural resource managers as they work to retain and restore coastal marshes. Sediment transported to a marsh by a river or tides can play an important role in mitigating the effects of sea-level rise by increasing land surface elevation. At present there are no standardized data collection techniques that can be used to monitor sediment transport into and within vegetated regions, limiting the ability to measure and predict the influence of restoration efforts. This project, developed in close collaboration with coastal restoration practitioners, aims to establish a standardized data collection methodology for monitoring sediment transport within coastal wetland vegetation. Restoration practitioners will be able to use this methodology to improve predictions of marsh sustainability and better assess the effectiveness of restoration efforts.

Using Past Seagrass Restoration Projects to Inform Research and Improve the Monitoring of Future Restoration Efforts
Award Amount: $428,930
Project Director: Susan Bell (University of South Florida)
Project Team Affiliations: University of South Florida in cooperation with Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
Overview: Seagrass restoration is becoming an increasingly common management component for enhancing ecosystem health within the Gulf of Mexico. However, the various efforts undertaken by different entities have not yet been adequately assessed to learn about their success over time and inform future restoration efforts. This project aims to synthesize unpublished data from past seagrass restoration projects at more than 250 sites along the Florida coast into a single database, conduct on-site visits of selected projects, and convene a workshop involving researchers and restoration practitioners in order to determine best practices for seagrass restoration design and monitoring. The products will be used to improve both the implementation and the assessment of future seagrass restoration efforts.

Grant Awards HE 2
Image: NOAA

Healthy Ecosystems Grants 2 (Awarded 2015)

Topic: Tapping the Potential of Existing Observations and Monitoring Data Through Integration and Synthesis
Total Awards: 9 projects totaling $4,416,112
Grant Type: Synthesis
Grant Type Description: For projects that bring together methods or data from different disciplines and sectors to generate novel insights or develop new approaches.
Press Release

Improved Understanding of the Northern Gulf of Mexico Pelagic Ecosystem: Integration, Synthesis, and Modeling of High-Resolution Zooplankton and Fish Data
Award Amount: $504,471
Project Director: Michael R. Roman (University of Maryland)
Project Team Affiliations: University of Maryland in cooperation with Oregon State University
Overview: Zooplankton and small fish provide the foundation for commercially and recreationally important fish species in the Gulf of Mexico, but their limited mobility makes them particularly vulnerable to impaired environmental conditions. Project researchers will build upon a variety of models to assess potential responses of zooplankton and fish to stressors such as oil spills and events limiting oxygen supply in the northern Gulf of Mexico. The synthesis of historic data with a broad range of new information will identify new, cost-effective ways of monitoring critical living marine resources in the Gulf.
Final Report: View PDF

Integrating Visual and Acoustic Data on Cetacean Abundance and Habitat in Gulf of Mexico Deepwater
Award Amount: $450,857
Project Director: John A. Hildebrand (Scripps Institution of Oceanography)
Project Team Affiliation: Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Overview: Protected species in the deep ocean, such as dolphins and whales, require monitoring for management and conservation purposes. In response to the need for improved monitoring, the project team will integrate temporally rich acoustic survey data and spatially rich visual survey data of whales and dolphins from the Gulf of Mexico and develop habitat models. These models could inform the development of new conservation and management strategies — particularly after events such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Final Report: View PDF

Living Shorelines: Synthesizing the Results of a Decade of Implementation in Coastal Alabama
Award Amount: $469,374
Project Director: Kenneth L. Heck Jr. (Dauphin Island Sea Lab)
Project Team Affiliations: Dauphin Island Sea Lab in cooperation with The Nature Conservancy and Northeastern University
Overview: Restoration of coastal habitats has proceeded rapidly over the last two decades and will likely accelerate in light of the civil settlement stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. With opportune timing, the project research team plans to synthesize data that capture biological and physical effects of living shorelines with data from companion socio-economic studies to fully evaluate the benefits of living shoreline projects across coastal Alabama. The research is expected to contribute insights into the performance and efficacy of the different environmental restoration strategies being applied across the Gulf region.
Final Report: View PDF

Quantifying Environmental and Anthropogenic Drivers of Sea Turtle Distribution and Abundance in the Gulf of Mexico
Award Amount: $493,771
Project Director: Katherine Mansfield (University of Central Florida)
Project Team Affiliations: University of Central Florida in cooperation with the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies, University of Miami
Overview: Biological connectivity can facilitate the propagation of impacts due to environmental and anthropogenic stressors from local to regional scales, posing significant challenges for ecosystem management and protection of species. To address these challenges and to help guide the management and protection of sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico, the project research team plans to synthesize sea turtle distribution and abundance data with key oceanographic data to advance our understanding of how human activities influence the distribution and abundance of mobile marine species.
Final Report: View PDF

Synthesis of Historical Observations Using Novel Model Approaches to Improve Understanding and Predictability of Deep Gulf of Mexico Circulation
Award Amount: $896,992
Project Director: Steven Morey (Florida State University)
Project Team Affiliations: Florida State University in cooperation with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, Leidos Corp., Centro de Investigacion Cientifica y de Educacion Superior de Ensenada, Tendral LLC
Overview: Understanding of the physical processes that control the deep circulation in the Gulf of Mexico is a fundamental goal for improving the characterization and prediction of the deep water environment. Project researchers will synthesize a mix of historical observations with new models to better understand the unique currents that flow through the deep Gulf of Mexico. Findings are expected to improve forecasting methodologies critical for safe design and operation of offshore oil and gas infrastructure, as well as improve our predictive capabilities for the transport of deep water organisms and contaminants.
Final Report: View PDF

Synthesizing Spatial Dynamics of Recreational Fish and Fisheries to Inform Restoration Strategies: Red Drum in the Gulf of Mexico
Award Amount: $480,248
Project Director: Kai Lorenzen (University of Florida)
Project Team Affiliations: University of Florida in cooperation with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Overview: Healthy recreational fisheries in the Gulf are important economic and environmental indicators of coastal communities’ well-being, but these fisheries are vulnerable to disturbances such as oil spills. The project team plans to synthesize diverse data sets from monitoring programs and research projects in an effort to develop an integrated, social-ecological systems model for the red drum fishery that can be applied to potential restoration strategies. The team's work could advance management strategies applied to other coastal recreational fisheries across the nation.
Final Report: View PDF

The Transport of Oil to the Coast in the Top Centimeter of the Water Column
Award Amount: $432,574
Project Director: Allan J. Clarke (Florida State University)
Project Team Affiliation: Florida State University
Overview: Without a reliable estimate of surface-level flow, predictions of the movement of oil floating in the Gulf of Mexico and where and when it will reach the coast are inaccurate. Theory suggests that the surface flow can differ considerably from the flow at even half a meter depth. This project will use drift card data collected by the Gulf Integrated Spill Response Consortium during 2013 and 2014, together with measurements of winds, waves, and state-of-the-art numerical models, to improve the reliability of surface-flow estimates and advance understanding of the connectivity between the deep Gulf and coastal waters.
Final Report: View PDF

Understanding the Trajectory of Coastal Salt Marsh Structure, Function, and Processes in the Face of Sea-Level Rise: A Synthesis from Historical Imagery, Biophysical Processes, and Hierarchical Modeling
Award Amount: $506,619
Project Director: Patrick D. Biber (University of Southern Mississippi)
Project Team Affiliations: University of Southern Mississippi in cooperation with the University of Georgia
Overview: Coastal wetlands in the northern Gulf of Mexico are vulnerable to degradation by natural and human-induced environmental changes. The project researchers plan to combine historical aerial photography and satellite imagery with analyses of wetland fragmentation and other biophysical and biogeochemical data to improve predictions of the health and productivity of coastal wetlands. The products of this research are expected to inform plans for marsh preservation, restoration, and the future viability of the ecosystem services provided by coastal marshes to human communities.
Final Report: View PDF

Utilizing Secondary Data to Assess the Health and Health System Impacts of Natural and Technological Disasters in the Gulf
Award Amount: $181,206
Project Director: Jennifer A. Horney (Texas A&M University Health Science Center)
Project Team Affiliation: Texas A&M University Health Science Center
Overview: Socially vulnerable groups who live in hazard-prone coastal areas such as the Gulf Coast are disproportionally at risk from both natural and technological disasters such as oil spills. The project researchers plan to integrate publicly available federal data and individual medical claims data in order to conduct a large-scale evaluation of the effects of disasters on the health status and health system utilization of Medicare beneficiaries living in coastal Gulf communities. Such efforts could help policymakers anticipate risks posed by future disasters and help enhance the resilience of vulnerable communities.
Final Report: View PDF

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Grant Awards HE 1
Image: Texas Parks & Wildlife

Healthy Ecosystems Grants 1 (Awarded 2015)

Topic: Linking Ecosystem Services Related to and Influenced by Oil and Gas Production to Human Health and Well-being
Total Awards: 6 projects totaling $774,328
Grant Type: Exploratory
Grant Type Description: For projects that jumpstart innovations and transformative ideas for novel approaches, technologies, or methods in their early phases.
Press Release

Advancing Optimization of Ecosystem Services to Inform Management and Restoration of the Gulf of Mexico
Award Amount: $128,031
Project Director: Gretchen Daily (Stanford University)
Project Team Affiliations: Stanford University in cooperation with the University of Minnesota and The Nature Conservancy
Overview: This project team will work to advance the use of science in strategic management and planning in the Gulf of Mexico. Team members plan to develop a science-based framework to prioritize restoration projects that provide the greatest returns for people and nature. By accounting for external factors like a changing climate and its effects on ecosystems and the benefits they provide to people, this project intends to identify the best places to enhance resilience in a region affected by oil and gas activity.
Final Report: View PDF

Assessing Long-Term Linkages Between Development of Oil and Gas Industry-Related Coastal Infrastructure, Societal Well-Being and Ecosystem Function in Coastal Louisiana
Award Amount: $129,638
Project Director: Tim J.B. Carruthers (The Water Institute of the Gulf)
Project Team Affiliations: The Water Institute of the Gulf
Overview: Researchers will examine the costs and benefits of expanding oil and gas activity in coastal Louisiana by looking at how human well-being and ecosystems changed as onshore oil and gas infrastructure developed from 1950 to 2015. By mapping trends in these relationships at different levels (by parish, by community, and coast-wide), this work intends to help future land managers make informed decisions about coastal planning and restoration in Louisiana’s rapidly-changing coastal areas. The decision-making framework this research produces could also be relevant to other Gulf coast areas with developing oil and gas infrastructure.
Final Report: View PDF

Developing a Decision Support Tool to Evaluate Ecosystem Services and Associated Uncertainties Using a Bayesian Belief Network
Award Amount: $124,342
Project Director: Wei Wu (University of Southern Mississippi)
Project Team Affiliations: University of Southern Mississippi
Overview: This project proposes to develop a tool which integrates knowledge from both natural and social sciences and quantifies uncertainties to help resource managers in the Gulf of Mexico understand how ecosystems—and the benefits they provide to people—may change as a result of different management decisions (such as developing offshore oil and gas or restoring coastal wetlands). This tool could allow decision makers to evaluate the potential risks and trade-offs that these types of decisions entail in a dynamic system like the Gulf of Mexico. This tool may also be used by policymakers in other regions who want to maximize the benefits that ecosystems provide to people.
Final Report: View PDF

The Effect of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on Human Well-Being in the Gulf of Mexico
Award Amount: $118,000
Project Director: Paul Montagna (Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi)
Project Team Affiliations: Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
Overview: Researchers propose to develop a better understanding of how offshore oil and gas production affects the links between human well-being and offshore ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico. By developing a model with data from before and after the 2010 oil spill, researchers intend to determine how the benefits that ecosystems provide to people have changed during this period. They also intend to test the resilience of offshore environments and assess their potential for recovery. This work will produce a model that could predict how oil and gas production may influence human well-being in other regions.
Final Report: View PDF

Expanding Ecosystem Service Provisioning from Coastal Restoration to Minimize Environmental and Energy Constraints
Award Amount: $147,937
Project Director: John Day (Louisiana State University)
Project Team Affiliation: Louisiana State University
Overview: Researchers intend to show how healthy ecosystems support healthy and resilient Gulf communities through benefits like improved water quality, sustainable fisheries and recreation, and better storm protection. The team plans to address how these benefits change over time, both with and without restoration activities that respond to climate change, sea-level rise, and future energy costs. This work could help decision makers prioritize and sequence restoration projects by showing them how project timing affects project costs.
Final Report: View PDF

Modeling Stress-Associated Health Effects of Multiple Impacted Ecosystem Services in the Gulf of Mexico
Award Amount: $126,380
Project Director: Paul Sandifer (College of Charleston)
Project Team Affiliations: College of Charleston in cooperation with the University of Maryland, University of South Carolina, and University of Illinois
Overview: Researchers will examine how human health and well-being are affected when people in the affected area derive fewer benefits from ecosystems following a natural or technological disaster. They will test their hypothesis that healthy coastal environments and marine biodiversity support improved human health. This work could provide a framework for improving resilience and recovery planning for future disasters. It could also help researchers better understand and anticipate the health effects of future disasters.
Final Report: View PDF

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