2022 Mid-Atlantic Ocean Forum On-Demand Presentations

The Mid-Atlantic Committee on the Ocean (MACO) issued a call for proposals for on-demand presentations for the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Forum, scheduled May 5 and 6, 2022. The presentations below were pre-recorded by researchers throughout the region and made available for viewing before, during, and after the event. Presentations were welcome on a variety of topics relevant to ocean science, policy, and socioeconomics in the Mid-Atlantic region. MACO thanks all who shared presentations.

Assessing Environmental Impacts of the Block Island Wind Farm

Submitted by: Wright J. Frank, Acting Policy Group Chief, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Office of Renewable Energy Programs

Abstract: The Realtime Opportunity for Development Environmental Observations (RODEO) study takes direct, real-time measurements of the nature, intensity, and duration of potential stressors during the construction and initial operations of selected offshore wind facilities. Data collected under RODEO will be used to help inform future decision-making on offshore wind. For more information, please see: https://www.boem.gov/rodeo.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) oversees the development of offshore renewable energy projects on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), which have the potential to make significant contributions to our nation’s energy portfolio. BOEM depends on science to meet our responsibilities under environmental laws, regulations, and standards. As such, we fund and manage scientific research to inform our decision-making processes for renewable energy projects on the OCS.

Modeling and Mapping Blue Carbon Storage in Delaware Coastal Marshes

Submitted by: Daniel Warner, Associate Scientist, Delaware Geological Survey

Abstract: Understanding the spatial patterns of organic carbon storage in coastal marsh ecosystems is key to assessing potential climate change feedbacks as these ecosystems experience shifting hydrologic regimes. Using a set of sediment core data from Blackbird and St. Jones marshes in Delaware, a team at the Delaware Geological Survey evaluated different statistical models for “upscaling” point observations of organic carbon content across the entire marsh platform. Models were compared based on their predictive performance and relative dependence on different input variables. We found that a simple multiple linear regression performed similarly to more complex machine learning approaches and was easy to interpret. We also found that all methods provided a greater predictive performance than a simple mean. We estimated that Blackbird and St. Jones marshes store roughly 70 and 79 gigagrams of organic carbon in the upper 30 cm of their marsh platform, with near-channel areas having the highest levels of carbon storage. We recommend future research focuses on deeper carbon storage in these coastal ecosystems and that care is taken to preserve these near-channel areas from erosion.

Promoting Coastal Resilience: BOEM Helps Restore and Protect America’s Coasts

Submitted by: Jeffrey Reidenauer, Marine Minerals Division Chief, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

Abstract: Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) sand and gravel resources are vital sources of material for the construction of coastal protection and restoration projects, including efforts to protect coastal communities, national defense facilities, and federal and state infrastructure. In recent years, there has been a growing demand for OCS sediment for planned projects, as well as for emergency needs to restore areas damaged by natural disasters. Further, given the significant number of other ocean users (e.g., energy infrastructure, fiber optic telecommunication cables, electrical transmission lines, and fisheries), BOEM strives to reduce or eliminate the potential for multiple use conflicts or environmental impacts that could result from marine minerals projects. 

On a national scale, little is known about the character, quantity, and location of sediment resources on the OCS or the habitat this offers marine biological communities. To inform, support and enable multi-use ocean planning, coastal protection and restoration projects, it is crucial to know the location and extent of compatible sediment resources on the OCS. As a steward of offshore sediment resources, it is critical that we have our sand resources organized and that we allow easy access to this information. To meet these challenges, BOEM has launched the Marine Minerals Information System (MMIS) as part of the National Offshore Sand Inventory to help to reduce response time in disaster recovery and facilitate long-term planning to strengthen the resilience of coastal communities and infrastructure. Ensuring all parties have access to detailed offshore information is critical to responsible decision-making. 

Quantifying the Waters of the Mid-Atlantic

Submitted by: Hugh Roarty, Research Project Manager, Rutgers University Center for Ocean Observing Leadership


Objective: Remote sensing technologies provide users the ability to collect data across a large geographic area without the time and cost associated with manual observations. Sensor placement is critical in maximizing the effectiveness of an organization’s remote sensing strategy. While technical specifications among sensors are relatively easy to compare, the geographic coverage of a remote sensing network compared to an organization’s designated observation area is challenging to quantify. As part of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Association Coastal Ocean Observing System (MARACOOS), Rutgers University studies ocean dynamics in the Mid Atlantic Bight (MAB). This complex coastal and estuarine environment from Massachusetts to North Carolina is constantly changing and its surface areas are difficult to measure. Accurately calculating the coverage a network provides, justifies future network investment and future sensor placement. This paper provides a reliable and authoritative method for calculating the total surface area of designated study areas within the United States.

Methods: To solve this problem, Rutgers University utilized the National Hydrography Dataset from the United States Geological Survey’s National Map. Researchers processed hydrography data in ArcGIS Pro selecting, merging, clipping, and dissolving water feature boundaries within the general confines of the IOOS designated MARACOOS observation area. Results: Rutgers developed detailed shapefiles for 11 coastal sub regions of the Mid Atlantic and an overall observation boundary for the MARACOOS network. Furthermore, Rutgers calculated the surface area of each sub region.

Conclusion: Rutgers now uses these surface areas in calculating the percent coverage of their maintained High Frequency radar network. Other students, researchers, and organizations can use these shapefiles to accurately define study areas, brief personnel on areas of operation, or evaluate asset distribution.

Update from the Mid-Atlantic Marine Debris Work Group: Balloon Release Reduction CBSM Campaign in the Mid-Atlantic

Submitted by: Avalon Bristow, Program Manager, Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean

Abstract: The Mid-Atlantic Committee on the Ocean’s Mid-Atlantic Marine Debris work group is a multi-sector group that is currently focusing on implementing a Community-Based Social Marking (CBSM) campaign to reduce balloon litter in the region. Balloons are unique among all the man-made litter and debris found in the ocean and on the land, in that balloons and their attachments (e.g. plastic ribbons, plastic valves and plastic disk) are a form of litter that people purchase often with the intent to release them “on purpose” into the environment. Families, schools, businesses and sport venues across the globe continue to purchase mass quantities of helium-filled latex balloons or foil-covered plastic balloons (often mistakenly referred to as Mylar), transport them to a selected site, and then release them into the air. These mass releases of balloons have become part of various social and marketing events such as weddings, funerals, memorials, athletic events, birthdays, festivals, political rallies, store openings, car sales and fundraisers. Floating balloons always  come back to earth where they form litter either on land, within land-side waterways, or in the ocean. As ocean and/or beach debris, balloons and their attachments are some of the most deadly to wildlife because they are often mistaken as food, or can pose an entanglement threat.  

The Mid-Atlantic Marine Debris work group, with funding support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program, has partnered with three aquariums in the region (New York, National, and Virginia) to develop and disseminate a campaign to reduce behavior of balloon releases. This presentation covers the background of this focus-area for the Marine Debris Work Group, as well as other updates and plans from the Work Group. Special thanks to Laura McKay from the Virginia CZM program for co-leading the Mid-Atlantic Marine Debris Work Group alongside the U.S. EPA (a new representative from the EPA is forthcoming due to staffing changes), as well as all work group members. More information about the Mid-Atlantic Marine Debris Work Group can be found on MARCO’s Ocean Planning website. For ideas about alternatives to balloon releases for celebrating, honoring, or remembering please visit www.preventballoonlitter.org.

Use Case Analysis for MARCO Portal, OceansMap, and ESRI Living Atlas

Submitted by: Christopher Shivock, Unit Administrator/Specialist, Rutgers University Department of Marine & Coastal Sciences


Objective: Online portals, web maps, dashboards, or common operating pictures are popular tools used in the maritime community to effectively plan, execute, and analyze daily operations. With the magnitude of maritime domain awareness (MDA) tools available to today’s maritime planner, awareness and understanding are critical to the selection of the proper tool at the proper time. Members of the maritime community often use previous events both major and minor to evaluate, learn, and improve response efforts or techniques. Even if users are not part of an official response agency, coordinators of marine events use prior events as the foundation for planning and organizing the next one. This analysis will directly compare (MARCO Portal, OceansMap, and ESRI Living Atlas) three different web based products currently accessible by maritime planners and evaluate potential implementation strategies.

Methods: The MDA tools are evaluated from a Coast Guard search and rescue (SAR) response and coordination perspective. The authors navigate through each program from varying points of view trying to use each program to perform the fundamental tasks of response personnel, maritime planners, and instructors at different levels of the USCG’s SAR chain of command.

Results: Specific use case scenarios are provided in which users may choose one tool over the other and the available features available to the operator are compared. How different products can assist with the thought process behind key decisions during SAR cases are discussed.

Conclusion: Insight into how users can more effectively leverage these specific MDA tools is also provided. The authors aim to instill a mindset within operators and managers that does not discount any one particular MDA tool, but allows users to identify the strengths and weakness of each one. This allows users to combine the assets of multiple MDA tools for the overall improvement of their organization.