|Office of the Chancellor / Public Affairs||
Monday, November 1, 2004
Monterey County Herald 11-1-04
Scientists take flight to learn about bay
What can scientists learn about ocean kelp and marsh grass from a plane flying 10,000 feet in the air?
Quite a lot, according to a crew that will fly over Monterey Bay this week.
Scientists from the Florida Environmental Research Institute in Tampa, Fla., in cooperation with researchers from six California universities, will be flying between Santa Cruz and Point Sur beginning Tuesday.
Using a King Air twin-engine plane outfitted with special sensors, the institute's aim is to collect high-tech, cutting-edge data about water color in the bay and vegetation color on the shore.
The information they gather can be used to study algae blooms, kelp forests, and marsh grass, maybe even jellyfish.
"From our perspective, carrying out estuarine conservation, it certainly seems like a very promising new tool," said Kirsten Wasson, research coordinator at Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve.
The Florida institute flights are part of a larger effort by California's Center for Integrated Coastal Observation, Research, and Education or CI-CORE.
CI-CORE's objective, said Moss Landing Marine Laboratories marine biologist Krista Kamer, is "to establish an ocean observatory along the entire 1200-mile California coastline."
The California coastal plan unveiled by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last week at Point Lobos places a high priority on coastal monitoring. State leaders said California is a national leader in establishing a statewide network.
In CI-CORE, Kamer said, "We have a three-tiered approach."
She said, "We use in situ sensors -- things that are in the water -- to measure standard oceanographic variables like temperature, salinity, turbidity."
In-water sensors are already in place, Kamer said, in San Francisco Bay, San Luis Obispo and Monterey Bay.
Two CI-CORE in-water sensors log data in the Moss Landing area. The data are on display at the CI-CORE Web site: http://cicore.mlml.calstate.edu.
"We're also doing seafloor mapping," Kamer said. "The goals of this are to look at changes in the sea floor over time and also to map specific habitats."
A group at CSU-Monterey Bay leads the sea-bottom effort.
The third observation component, Kamer said, is the "high-resolution imaging technique" provided by the aircraft overflights.
The high-flying FERI scientists began mapping last week in Humboldt Bay, and they'll finish at Tijuana Estuary. CI-CORE aims for overflights once or twice a year to watch for coastal change.
Kamer added, "All of the data that we have is publicly available," usually within hours or days of its collection.
"That's one of the things that's new -- trying to get data out onto a public Web site in near real-time," Kamer said.
"Academics are usually extremely careful about putting their data out there. We're trying to be careful, too, but we're trying to put the data out there in a time frame that it might be useful," she said.
"Our goals are to get information out there in a timely fashion so that the coast environments can be managed with as much scientific information as possible, because there are a number of challenges to these environments," Kamer said.
Kenneth Coale, director of Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, said the ocean observatories -- just like astronomical observatories that gaze into the heavens -- have a lot to teach us.
"I think that these emerging coastal observatories, which are down-looking,
will tell us a lot about the planet whose resources we all must share
and whose resources we are now the custodians of," Coale said.
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