Funded by the NOAA Educational Partnership Program with Minority-Serving Institutions Cooperative Agreement Award #NA16SEC4810009

For more information regarding the NOAA Experiential Research and Training Opportunity requirements please visit:


Fall 2017 NERTOs


Philip Bellamy

NERTO Project Title: Determining Trends in Water Quality Using High Resolution Land Use Data

NERTO Duration: 12 weeks

NOAA NERTO Mentor: Dr. Christopher Kelble, AOML, NOAA OAR


Shan Guruvadoo

NERTO Project Title: Investigating Causes of Changing Tidal Range and Timing in U.S. Harbors

NERTO Duration: 12 weeks

NOAA NERTO Mentor: Dr. Gregory Dusek, CO-OPS, NOAA NOS

NOAA NERTO Co-Mentor: Dr. Chris Zervas, CO-OPS, NOAA NOS


Summer 2018 NERTOs


Mallory Brooks

NERTO Project Title: Implementing Ecosystem-based Management in the U.S. Caribbean

NERTO Duration: 12 weeks

NOAA NERTO Mentor: Dr. William Arnold, Southeast Regional Office, NOAA NMFS


Rebekah Hernandez

NERTO Project Title: East Flower Garden Bank Photostation Coral Species Identification and Historical Coral Cover Analysis for CSC Graduate Student

NERTO Duration: 12 weeks

NERTO Mentor: Dr. Michelle Johnston, ONMS, NOAA NOS

Abstract: Coral reefs provide critical habitat for diverse benthic communities; however, more than 10% of existing reefs have been lost in association with global warming and anthropogenic activities. While there is a decline in reefs around the world, the East and West bank reefs in particular have maintained >50% coral coverage for over 28 years (Johnston et al., 2016). This reef, East and West Flower Garden Banks, is located within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS). The FGBNMS began a monitoring program in 1989 to assess coral and reef-associated benthic organism health using repetitive photostations. Analyses of these photostation data are useful in not only determining the status of living resources within the sanctuary but also in assessing changes and variability in coral abundance thereby informing management strategies for these important habitats.


Nigel Lascelles

NERTO Project Title: Chemical Characterization of Microplastics Polymers

NERTO Duration: 12 weeks

NOAA NERTO Mentor: Dr. Ashok Deshpande, Sandy Hook Laboratory, NOAA NMFS

Abstract: Marine plastic pollution is a growing environmental concern, with plastic production and use increasing worldwide. Plastics are the most prevalent type of marine debris found in the oceans. In the environment, plastics can become brittle and fragment into small particles called microplastics. Microplastics have been found in a variety of marine organisms, but major knowledge gaps remain about their distribution and impacts in coastal and estuarine environments. In many cases, microplastics may enter coastal waters through a variety of anthropogenic activities. Microplastics may enter the organisms through dietary pathways, suggesting filter feeders, and other organisms that consume these, may be at particular risk. Existing programs, such as NOAA’s Mussel Watch, use shellfish as sentinels of coastal pollution, although plastics have not historically been monitored in these animals. We focus on the chemical identification of microplastics that allow us to understand where these plastics originated from, how they ended up on our coast and how the shellfish and the aquatic food webs might be impacted. Also, the recent work suggests that microplastics may accumulate and concentrate persistent organic pollutants and serve as potential vectors to transfer these to the consumers. A goal of this work is to understand if microplastics and associated persistent pollutants have an impact on the ecological and human health.


Anthony Lima

NERTO Project Title: Evaluating Indicators of Regulatory Complexity to Understand the Cost of Compliance

NERTO Duration: 12 weeks

NOAA NERTO Mentor: Dr. Scott Large, Northeast Fisheries Science Center, NOAA NMFS

Abstract: All industries in the United States are governed by some capacity by the Federal Government through the Code of Federal Regulation (CFR). Predictability and stability are prerequisites for profitability within any sector. Although the drastic increase in the sheer length of the CFR is evident, determining the benefit or harm is still up for debate between policymakers, economists, and scientists. Regulatory complexity is the ill-defined term used to describe policy changes, although few studies set out to determine a quantifiable system. We look at regulatory complexity as a collection of dimensions (length, frequency of change, purposefulness and unintended consequences, etc.), rather than one concrete aspect.

Within natural resource management, fisheries are perhaps the sector with most annual volatility. Fisheries exist as a replenishable natural resource, but only remain so with management that prohibits over exploitation. Ecosystem-based fishery management (EBMF) seeks to use responsive management to address multiple aspects of marine ecosystems. Managers must balance between overall ecosystem sustainability, while striving for optimal catch yields.

Developing a complete tool for measuring and tracking regulatory complexity is beyond the scope of this study. However, this study does investigate some existing software, as well as a basic R package to conduct some preliminary analysis of the CFR. Additionally, a brief review of case studies from American fisheries can provide insight and detail that may not be attainable via text mining. It is necessary to use several metrics due to the intricacies and complications from regulatory, socio-economic, and ecological attributes of fishery management.


Cristina Madrid

NERTO Project Title: Gray, Green, and Cultural Infrastructure Solutions to Enhance Coastal Resilience

NERTO Duration: 12 weeks

NOAA NERTO Mentor: Dr. Kimberly Penn, OCM, NOAA NOS

NOAA NERTO Co-Mentor: Dr. Melissa Kenney, CICS-MD

Abstract: The Eastern Shore of Maryland, along with several coastal communities, is susceptible to coastal hazards and climate change impacts such as sea level rise and salt water intrusion. The Sustainable Adaptive Gradients in the Coastal Environment (SAGE) is focused on helping communities become more resilient to coastal hazards and climate change impacts. SAGE is an effort focused on advancing coastal resilience solutions by considering gray, green and cultural infrastructure solutions. The efforts are composed of a wide array of Federal, State, and Local Agencies, non- governmental organizations, academic institutions, engineers, and private businesses. The objective of this work was to identify solutions and build community buy-in for coastal adaptation and resilience strategies. This stakeholder engagement effort will focus on understanding the needs of communities and considering a range of potential solutions beyond the traditional built/gray infrastructure approaches.


Fall 2018 NERTOs


Taylor Eddy

NERTO Project Title: Meta-analysis of West Coast MPA Performance

NERTO Duration: 12 weeks

NOAA NERTO Mentor: Dr. Charles Wahle, NOAA NMPAC, NOAA NOS

Abstract: Marine protected areas (MPAs) are an important ecosystem-based management tool. Along the West Coast of the United States there are many types of MPAs that work together to protect economically and ecologically important species. In this study, we assess the effectiveness of MPAs, including rockfish conservation areas (RCAs) and the network of MPAs created through the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) in California on rockfish populations in this region, and whether habitat type plays a role in the protection of the genus. To assess rockfish catch, we used data from the Northwest Fisheries Science Center’s (NWFSC) groundfish trawl program from 1977 to 2017 and used ArcGIS hot spot analysis. We found that since the implementation by NOAA Fisheries of Rockfish Conservation Areas in the early 2000s there has been an overall increase in the relative abundance of rockfish, as reflected in their catch rate by the surveys. Additionally, we found that hot spots – areas of higher than expected abundance – have become more widespread along the coast, rather than being restricted to small areas. Further, we document significant increases of catch rate of the species that the RCAs were specifically designed to protected (i.e. Cowcod rockfish, p = 0.0310; Darkblotched rockfish, p = 0.0434; and Pacific Ocean Perch, p = 0.0012), and trends of increase in other species in the rebuilding plan (i.e. Yelloweye rockfish, Boccacio rockfish, Canary rockfish, and Widow rockfish). Aside from the RCAs in the region, the California MLPA was established and the California Network of MPAs was created. Since many of these MPAs have been implemented recently, we saw no significant change in the catch of rockfish- a genus with slow growth and late reproduction – but there seem to be an increasing trend in the population after implementation. Finally, the survey catch rates of rockfish were higher in sandy canyons, along ridges, shelf and slope habitat than on the sandy basin (p = 0.0009). These hotspots were often observed along the sh elf break and near canyon heads. While there are many factors that could be contributing to the increase in rockfish abundance, it seems that the RCAs have had a positive effect on the populations, consistent with their initial purpose. Continuous monitoring of this important group of species is needed to understand the contributors to annual variability and how climate change will play a role in the distribution and abundance of the genus.


Lauren Parker

NERTO Project Title: Meso-photic reefs of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

NERTO Duration: 12 weeks

NOAA NERTO Mentor: Dr. Andrew DeVogelaere, MBNMS, NOAA NOS

Abstract: Lauren Parker has completed a NERTO internship with NOAA’s Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS). Her internship included participation in the review of the current Sanctuary Management Plan with an emphasis on relating the study of meso-photic reefs to resource management; development of an interactive method to improve communication between resource managers and scientists in the Monterey Bay region using activities outlined in the draft Sanctuary Management Plan; development of skills to edit and “stitch” together underwater images to create 360-degree virtual dives into sites within the MBNMS; and gaining an in-depth understanding of the role of MBNMS research and monitoring partners in the Monterey Bay region while actively participating in all sanctuary Research Team activities. She also participated in a research cruise aboard the E/V Nautilus in October 2018 to map and characterize unexplored seafloor habitat within the Davidson Seamount Management Zone. Proposed research to characterize meso-photic reefs of the MBNMS and incorporate this work into the MBNMS Management Plan was presented at the Western Society of Naturalists in November 2018. MBNMS Management Plan “Research Needs” ideas and documents were presented at the U.S. West Coast Biological Observing Workshop in November 2018.


Spring 2019 NERTOs


Brianna Alanis

NERTO Project Title: Patterns of Pelagic Primary Productivity in South Florida Coastal Waters for CSC Graduate Student

NERTO Duration: 12 weeks

NOAA NERTO Mentor: Dr. Christopher Kelble, AOML, NOAA OAR

Abstract: NOAA has been involved in Everglades Restoration since its inception in the 1990s. NOAA’s primary interest is to ensure the improvement of Everglades Restoration conditions in coastal ecosystems, including NOAA trust resources. The coastal ecosystems surrounding the Everglades are predicated upon oligotrophic conditions with low nutrient input, and a high ratio of benthic to pelagic primary productivity. Thus, it is important that we understand how runoff from the Everglades affects pelagic primary productivity and grazing in nearshore coastal ecosystems.

NOAA has been conducting research cruises to survey water quality in the coastal ecosystems of south Florida since 1998. These cruises have measured temperature, salinity, nutrients, and chlorophyll a since their inception until present day. Pelagic Primary Productivity in coastal ecosystems is driven by the availability of light and nutrients. The amount of standing stock biomass in phytoplankton is controlled by the balance between productivity and grazing. Before investigating pelagic primary productivity and grazing we need to better understand how chlorophyll a, nutrients, and light attenuation vary in response to freshwater runoff in the coastal ecosystem. The primary goal of this internship project was to do just that, to view the effects of river discharge on nutrients, chlorophyll a, temperature and salinity. Additional goals for this internship include (1) participating in research cruises and sampling trips, (2) conducting grazing and productivity incubations on the cruises, (3) conducting CTD casts and processing samples and (4) expanding previous knowledge of R, R studio and the R markdown plug-in to conduct statistical tests for data comparison.


Diana Del Angel

NERTO Project Title: Improving Coastal Resilience through the Use of Natural and Nature Based Features

NERTO Duration: 12 weeks

NOAA NERTO Mentor: Dr. Mary Culver, NOAA Office for Coastal Management, NOAA NOS

NOAA NERTO Co-Mentor: Dr. Rebecca Allee, NOAA Office for Coastal Management, NOAA NOS

Abstract: Green Infrastructure includes natural and nature-based features that can be integrated into planning activities to reduce flood risk and increase community resilience. During this NERTO the fellow synthesized data regarding methods to assess the benefits of green infrastructure and assessed models for coastal habitat change in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Additionally, the report highlights other activities the fellow participated in during the NERTO.


Keenasha Minor

NERTO Project Title: Geospatial mapping of flood extent for river basins in the Jackson, MS NWS forecast area – For CSC Student

NERTO Duration: 12 weeks

NOAA NERTO Mentor: Chad Entremont, NOAA NWS

Abstract: My project was to assist the Jackson, MS NWS office (JAN) in developing extent maps for flooding for river basins within the JAN forecast area for public and partner use.


Elizabeth Murphy

NERTO Project Title: Patterns of change in the fish assemblages of Biscayne Bay mangroves

NERTO Duration: 12 weeks

NOAA NERTO Mentor: Dr. Joseph Serafy, SEFSC, NOAA NMFS

Abstract: Red mangroves (Rhizophora mangle) are conspicuous features along natural shoreline coasts of south Florida that provide habitat for many species of marine and estuarine fishes and invertebrates. Anthropogenic activity in the study area of Biscayne Bay has altered salinity regimes, which can affect fish assemblages utilizing mangrove habitat. Visual fish surveys, conducted by snorkelers, began in 1998 to quantify fish abundance and species richness in the wet and dry seasons. Belt transects of 60 m2 were performed along the mainland shorelines of Biscayne Bay and along the leeward coast of the Elliot Key (Figure 1). A total of 26 sampling seasons were considered in statistical analyses to assess changes in community structure, abundance, and taxonomic richness over time. Analyses of visual surveys are useful in detailing changes in Biscayne Bay’s fish assemblages, which will inform future management strategies. This study found that the shorelines with less salinity variation had highest fish density and taxonomic richness. Fish assemblages differ along all strata; however, there is some similarity between Mainland North and Canal Zone which also have similar salinities. Density significantly decreased in Mainland North and Leeward Key, and richness significantly decreased along Leeward Key alone as a result of the 2010 cold snap. Salinity concentration appears to have an impact on fish density, taxonomic richness, and community assemblage in this region, and the cold snap mainly affected the eastern part of the bay.


Samuel Mwenda

NERTO Project Title: Identification of cost-effective salt marsh restoration opportunities along the South Atlantic coast for CSC Student

NERTO Duration: 12 weeks

NOAA NERTO Mentor: Dr. Lisa Vandiver, NOAA Restoration Center, NOAA NMFS

NOAA NERTO Co-Mentor: Leslie Craig, NOAA NMFS

Abstract: Salt marshes are estuarine wetlands that flood on a consistent basis enabling growth of specific vegetation due to submersion and salt tolerance. These estuarine wetlands are crucial to natural and human systems due to the unique ecosystem services they provide. As transitional areas or ecotones between waterbodies and land, salt marshes typically provide functions of providing stable habitats for a variety of organisms, reducing erosion, environmental buffering, modifying water quality, and supporting nutrient cycling. Comprehensively wetlands enact biological, physical, and chemical processes regularly needed for ecosystem functionality (Merkey et al., 2005; Datta et al., 2005). Additionally, salt marshes generate $1.8 trillion in GDP as they provide nursery habitat to 75% of fishery species. Coastal wetlands cover roughly 40 million acres, making up 38% of the landmass in the conterminous United States. Conservatively 81% or 33 million acres are located in the southeast region of the United States (EPA, 2016). Unfortunately, restriction of tidal flow related to development has resulted in substantial loss of salt marsh habitats along the U.S. coast.

For the purposes of this project, impoundments are areas of salt marsh that have been tidally restricted through use of water control structures limiting the amount of ocean flow into the system. Common control structures include undersized culverts and tide gates that are mechanical tools. Tidal restriction can also occur through dumping of fill or substrate into existing marsh system. Additional mechanisms limiting tidal flow, include earthen structures such as dikes, berms, and levees. Restoring salt marsh habitat oftentimes utilizes actions such as breaching dikes/berms or replacing mechanical control structures to allow greater volume of tidal flow into the system. Benefits of these actions include natural removal of invasive vegetation, normalization of environmental indicators, and increased richness of nektons as well as invertebrates within the system. Additional benefits include enhanced resilience of the socio-ecological system providing added protection from large storm events.

Site identification for salt marsh restoration was conducted through a Geographic Information System (GIS) procedure utilizing various datasets retrieved through a variety of data repositories at the state and federal level as well as from non-profits. The datasets were then analyzed, reconfigured, and placed into a file geodatabase for ease of access. These processed GIS files will prove to be crucial in not only locating areas for habitat restoration but also enhance functionality as well as resilience regionally.


Miya Pavlock-McAuliffe

NERTO Project Title: Geospatial Data Collection and Visualization to Enhance Resource Manager/Scientist Collaborations

NERTO Duration: 12 weeks

NOAA NERTO Mentor: Dr. Andrew DeVogelaere, MBNMS, NOAA NOS

Abstract: Miya Pavlock-McAuliffe completed a NERTO internship with NOAA’s Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS). Her internship included at-sea data collection and analyses of physical oceanography information from the Davidson Seamount Management Zone; development of an interactive geographic information system collaboration between NOAA and California State University at Monterey Bay; and active participation in all sanctuary Research Team activities. While developing applied science skills needed to work for an organization like NOAA, Miya learned about MBNMS and regional science cultures and positively contributed to this highly collaborative and large science community.


Ra'Teema Stanley

NERTO Project Title: Rip Current Model Validation

NERTO Duration: 12 weeks

NOAA NERTO Mentor: Michael Churma, OSTI MDL, NOAA NWS


NOAA NERTO Co-Mentor: Parks Camp, NOAA NWS

Abstract: Rip currents are dangerous coastal hazards that occur in water. It has strong and narrow currents of water that move away from the shore. With the direction and speed of the rip currents, it makes it difficult for swimmers to swim out of them. Being able to predict when and where rip currents occur could help save many swimmers from drowning. There are few research papers have been targeted in predicting the rip currents in Florida.

In this thesis, the NWPS (Nearshore Wave Prediction System) Model used by the NOAA National Weather Service, is based on collecting data from the Florida coastal ocean and analyzing the data. This model could help us decrease the number of deaths and recuse due to rip currents. The model uses data collected by lifeguard observations on a daily basis. A novel method will be developed using imaging visualization via archived webcam WebCAT. These archive videos will be analyzed from SECOORA using an online GUI tool call Labelbox. Once the data is collected, we will compare the lifeguard observation, and imaging visualization via archived webcam WebCAT with the NOAA NWPS (Nearshore Wave Prediction System) Model to see which method will be the most accurate and effective in Miami, Florida. Time Series: Observation and Images graph, Imagery and Observation Distribution Chart ("4x4"), Imagery and Observation Distribution Chart ("2x2"), Time Series: Images Visualization and NWPS Model output, and the Time Series: Lifeguard Observation and NWPS Model output graphs will show the comparisons between lifeguard observation, imaging visualization, and the NWPS model. After evaluating the graphs, the correlation between the lifeguard observation and image visualization with the NWPS RIP probabilities percentage will be calculated. The preliminary results for those computational experiments will be shown in this thesis.


Summer 2019 NERTOs


Elizabeth Del Rosario

NERTO Project Title: Low Flow Reservoir Release Predictions for the National Water Model for CSC graduate student

NERTO Duration: 12 weeks

NOAA NERTO Mentor: Dr. Trey Flowers, Office of Water Prediction, NOAA NWS

Abstract: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Experiential Research & Training Opportunities (NERTO) provides EPP/MSI Cooperative Science Center-supported students with a valuable NOAA mission-aligned internship. The National Water Center (NWC) in Tuscaloosa Alabama enables NOAA to deliver water information and services to the nation. The National Water Model (NWM) is a hydrologic model that simulates observed and forecast streamflow over the entire continental United States (CONUS) using the network of USGS stream gages. The NWM simulates the water cycle with mathematical representations of the different processes and how they fit together. The NWM complements current hydrologic modeling which is done in a simplified manner for approximately 4000 locations across the CONUS by providing information at a very fine spatial and temporal scale at those locations, as well as for locations that do not have a traditional river forecast. The purpose of this NERTO project is to develop data-driven correlations to predict reservoir releases under low flow conditions. This will be done by investigating datasets; the identification of watersheds that have a long record of reservoir releases and other data sets (irrigation demand, soil moisture, etc.); and the development of correlations between thresholds in the data sets and reservoir releases. The correlations will then be used as a predictive measure for the triggering of a release. A minimum of two watersheds that exhibit low flow conditions will be identified and analyzed; additional watersheds will be investigated as appropriate. Reservoirs will be selected and primary purposes for withdrawals determined. This project will look at release requirements, the releases that were made, and then correlate the releases to other datasets to determine what prompted the release decision. The correlations determined will then be used to construct a predictive model that can be used to inform the National Water Model.


Meghan Martinez

NERTO Project Title: Data Needs for Planning and Assessment of Oyster (Crassostrea virginica) Restoration in the Northern Gulf of Mexico under the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA)

NERTO Duration: 12 weeks

NOAA Mentor: Dr. Dionne Hoskins-Brown, NOAA NMFS

NOAA NERTO Mentor: Dr. Eric Weissberger, Office of Habitat Conservation, Restoration Center, NOAA NMFS

Abstract: The Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill in 2010 was the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. The oil spill produced an ecosystem-level injury that covered more than 1,300 miles of shoreline habitats and severely impacted ecosystem processes and linkages, and specific natural resources to include nearshore and subtidal oysters across all five Gulf states (DWH Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Trustees, 2016). In accordance with the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), both federal and state natural resource trustee agencies (Trustees) prepared a Final Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration and Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PDARP/PEIS, 2016) to assess injuries of natural resources in the northern Gulf of Mexico (GoM). As a result, comprehensive restoration planning and strategies are being developed under an ecosystem context by Trustees to make the public whole for those injuries. During this NERTO, the EPP intern inventoried and synthesized information that would support future oyster restoration evaluation and planning. In addition, other relevant activities that the fellow participated in are highlighted. 


Javier Navarro

NERTO Project Title: The distribution and composition of estuarine nekton species assemblages in a changing salt marsh-black mangrove landscape for NOAA EPP Graduate Student

NERTO Duration: 12 weeks

NOAA NERTO Mentor: Jennifer Doerr, SEFSC Galveston Laboratory, NOAA NMFS


Andrea Pugh-Kelley

NERTO Project Title: Numerical Simulation of PFAS in the Great Lakes for NOAA EPP Graduate Student

NERTO Duration: 12 weeks


Abstract: Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a man-made group of chemicals that are widely distributed in nature, mostly due to their use as surfactants and emulsifiers, as well as their persistence in the environment. Human exposure to PFAS is likely to include thyroid effects, cholesterol changes, multiple cancers, liver tissue damage, immune effects, and development effects to fetuses during pregnancy or breastfed infants. Interest in PFAS has piqued recently due to their emergence as contaminants in the Great Lakes Region. Limited research has been conducted to determine their behavior in aqueous environments and the pathways by which they reach water intakes for human consumption. A Finite Volume Coastal Ocean Model (FVCOM) simulation for Lake Huron and Lake Michigan is used to estimate patterns of dispersion for two perfluoroalkyl substances (Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid – PFOS – and Perfluorooctanoic acid – PFOA) throughout the lakes from their major routes of entry (rivers). The objective of this research is to determine how the dispersion of PFAS in surface waters of the Great Lakes impacts PFAS concentrations in public drinking water supplies obtained from these sources.


Queriah Simpson

NERTO Project Title: Linking habitat suitability models for deep-sea corals with exploration to discover unique microbiota on the west Florida slope for CSC graduate student

NERTO Duration: 12 weeks

NOAA NERTO Mentor: John Christensen NCCOS, NOAA NOS

Abstract: Proper stewardship of the ocean requires proper management practices and policies that seek to protect vulnerable ecosystems. Protection of the ecosystem necessitates an understanding of the distribution of biota. Recently, there has been an increase in surveys and studies of deep-sea coral (DSC) and sponge habitats. The eastern Gulf of Mexico (GOM) contains a steep slope called the West Florida Slope (WFS) which is known to harbor DSC between 50 – 1000m depths. Based on such information, there is reason to believe that there are DSC communities that exist at depths >1000m in that same area on the West Florida Escarpment (WFE) which sits below the WFS. Using data from surveys and studies completed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other entities interested in DSC, and modeling tools, scientist with NOAA’s National Center for Coastal Ocean Science (NOAA-NCCOS) seek to build Habitat Suitability Models (HSMs) that predict the distribution of DSC in the eastern GOM on the WFE. This project contributed to the development of new HSMs to predict the occurrence of deep-sea coral communities in the eastern Gulf of Mexico that will be used to direct ground truthing efforts on a NOAA-OER funded cruise in October 2019.


Alexandra Thomsen

NERTO Project Title: Developing a remote sensing approach for monitoring estuarine restoration to inform Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary science and management

NERTO Duration: 12 weeks

NOAA NERTO Mentor: Dr. Steve Lonhart, MBNMS, NOAA NOS

Abstract: Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or “drones”) have begun to be utilized to monitor restoration sites in recent decades due to sensitivity of these sites to trampling during more traditional survey methods (Tuxen et al. 2008) . I partnered with the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (ESNERR) to test different UAV data collection methods (sensors and flight elevations) and assessed accuracy using image analysis and validation with field-collected data. I ultimately selected an optimal methodology for mapping of an entire restoration site in Elkhorn Slough in central California, and will conduct analysis using this methodology to inform planning of future restoration projects in the Slough and other coastal areas.


Julian Venable

NERTO Project Title: Characterization of microplastics collected from the beaches, for CSC Graduate Student

NERTO Duration: 13 weeks

NOAA NERTO Mentor: Dr. Ashok Deshpande, Sandy Hook Laboratory, NOAA NMFS

Abstract: Microplastics are widespread marine pollutants that have accumulated in the North Pacific Gyre between Hawaii and California, resulting in a phenomenon known as the North Pacific Garbage Patch (PGP). The abundance of weathered plastic particles in the region have resulted in plastics entering the marine food web, potentially harming both marine species and humans alike. Many questions have arisen regarding the impact of the plastics floating within the PGP, yet knowledge of the composition and other compounds associated with these microplastics is meager. In an effort to increase understanding of the polymer types associated with these degraded plastic particles, a Pyrolysis-Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometer was used for the analyses of samples collected from the PGP in 2014. We analyzed 50 samples and our results suggest that these samples are dominated by both polyethylene and polypropylene particles (78% and 14%, respectively). The remaining 8% were comprised of polyvinyl chloride (4%) and a copolymer of polyethylene and polyvinyl acetate (4%). As polyethylene and polypropylene particles have been shown to release dimethyl sulfide, a common infochemical used by zooplankton to detect the phytoplankton they feed upon, these results suggests that the abundance of these particular plastic types in the PGP may reduce overall energy flow in the pelagic ecosystem as zooplankton may selectively feed on these types of microplastic particles rather than phytoplankton.


Prian Vidal

NERTO Project Title: Re-immersion time for reduction of Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Vibrio vulnificus to ambient concentrations in Eastern Oysters

NERTO Duration: 12 weeks

NOAA NERTO Mentor: John Jacobs, NCCOS/Oxford, NOAA NOS

Abstract: Oyster aquaculture is an important industry in the State of Maryland. When oysters are grown in submerged cages fouling organisms attach to the cage and oysters, impacting water flow and feeding. To reduce fouling, farmers remove cages and oysters from the water for a desiccation period for up to 24 hours. This has been recognized to elevate levels of Vibrio spp., heterotrophic bacteria found in coastal waters world-wide. Some species such as V. vulnificus cause illness in people associated with consumption of raw shellfish including gastroenteritis, and in more extreme cases, mortality. Oysters can depurate Vibrio, and a 14-day re-immersion period has been suggested as adequate to return to background levels. Currently, there have been no studies specific to Maryland waters that examine Vibrio levels following antifouling dry periods and re-immersion for various intervals. To address this information gap, we initiated ISSC-sponsored research to determine the time needed to return V. vulnificus levels to background and to determine whether salinity, temperature, or intersite differences impact depuration rates. V. vulnificus levels were measured using the most-probable number enrichment protocol followed by real-time PCR to determine presence/absence. Preliminary data from one site suggests that a 7-10 day period is sufficient to reduce Vibrio vulnificus levels to background; data from other sites is being processed.


Fall 2019 NERTOs


Patricia Cockett

NERTO Project Title: Temporal and Spatial Comparison of Intertidal Community Dynamics Within Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

NERTO Duration: 12 weeks

NOAA NERTO Mentor: Dr. Randall Kosaki, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, NOAA NOS

Abstract: The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM) is primarily managed by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Most islands within PMNM are uninhabited by humans and their rocky intertidal shorelines harbor species that are culturally and economically important. Biological surveys of the rocky intertidal zone were conducted on four uninhabited islands (Nihoa, Mokumanamana, Mokupapapa, and Puhahonu) within PMNM annually between 2009-2017. Data was collected on the abundance of all intertidal animals (e.g. snails, urchins) and surface distance of each transect was measured at each survey location; however, available data sets have not been consolidated or processed for statistical analyses. The CSC intern completed the following tasks for this NERTO project: 1) located and inventoried data collected at each site within each island for every year intertidal surveys were conducted, 2) reviewed data in detail and made corrections, 3) mapped GPS points for each transect and created site names, 4) formatted and prepared meta-data to create a final data set for storage and distribution, 5) coordinated with Hawaiian communities to identify questions the communities were interested in getting answers to with the analysis of the final data set.


Angelique Rosa-Marin

NERTO Project Title: Exploring the Use of Foraminifera as a Bioassay Organism for Coral Reef Environments

NERTO Duration: 12 weeks

NOAA NERTO Mentor: Dr. Cheryl Woodley, NCCOS, NOAA NOS


Spring 2020 NERTOs


David Lecusay

NERTO Project Title: A multi-metric index for south Florida coastal ecosystems for CSC student

NERTO Duration: 12 weeks

NOAA NERTO Mentor: Dr. Chris Kelble, AOML, NOAA OAR

Abstract: Multimetric indices (MMI) have been developed to provide a simplified understanding of the condition of ecosystems. This study focused on investigating the application and integration of well-accepted indices to Barataria Basin, LA to assess ecosystem status. Data were obtained from various collection efforts. Finfish abundance and water quality data were analyzed using the Trophic State Index (TSI) and a modified Fish Community Index (FCI). Due to differences in scales, TSI and FCI subsequent values were normalized to a maximum score of 50. Normalized scores were integrated by summation to yield an overall Estuarine Condition Index (ECI), ranging from 0-100. Correlations between the final MMI and its subcomponents using linear models found that fish communities drove ECI to a greater extent than water quality. Analysis of relationships between the subcomponents (TSI and FCI) suggested the indices were not redundant and may require further weighting adjustments.


Fall 2020 NERTOs


Josh Rigo

NERTO Project Title: Rip Current Image Analysis and Model Validation

NERTO Duration: 12 weeks

NOAA NERTO Mentor: Michael Churma, NWS, OSTI

Abstract: Rip currents are dangerous not only for novice but also experienced swimmers. Over 100 people in the U.S. die every year from rip currents in addition to the over 740,000 rescues from rip currents by lifeguard personnel over a 20-year period. To mitigate this issue, researchers are creating mobile applications that may notify swimmers of rip current risks in real-time based on images provided by users along with other resources to verify those images. With machine learning’s help, rip currents can be identified quickly and effectively. There are many public resources available for public to use. The NOAA National Ocean Service Web Camera Applications Testbed (WebCAT) was launched in 2017. Seven web cameras have been installed at six locations along the southeast United States coast (from Florida to North Carolina) for purposes including: counting animals on the beach, observing migrating right whales, and identifying rip currents.

Currently, there are many apps for detecting rip currents based on image and video analysis of the shoreline and surf zone. Few research papers have analyzed and compared those apps to assess their effectiveness. This report describes the development of a benchmark for assessing those apps based on their machine learning approach, the accuracy of rip current forecasting models, the use of public resources and interface design. Using the benchmark, a smartphone application is evaluated. The outcomes of this research are intended to be helpful for evaluating and selecting of smartphone applications that can provide users with information on rip current risk in real-time.


Willis Lyons

NERTO Project Title: Utilizing Social Marketing Tools and Theories to Support Protected Species Management

NERTO Duration: 12 weeks

NOAA NERTO Mentor: Allison Rosner, NMFS, Greater Atlantic Regional Office


Spring 2021 NERTOs


Jeanna Dampier

NERTO Project Title: National Mussel Watch Program: Assessment of Metals in the Northern Gulf of Mexico from NOAA NCCOS Mussel Watch Program Data

NERTO Duration: 16 weeks

NOAA NERTO Mentor: Dr. Dennis Apeti, NOS, NCCOS