Spatial Assessment of the Gulf of Mexico & Coral Reef Fisheries with an Emphasis on the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

On April 22, 2010, British Petroleum operated Deepwater Horizon sank 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana. In a span of weeks the event led to the largest ecological disaster in United States history. To date, no definite numbers exists for the amounts of oil that were released into the Gulf of Mexico however, estimates exceed well past the million marks. On July 15, 2010, a temporary stop to the oil spill occurred with the placement of a cap. Currently, relief wells to allow permanent termination of the flow are being drilled with completion expected in August 2010. Through the development of a spatial application, an assessment using GIS was made to view the extents of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Data concerning environmental factors, most of which concern identified National Marine Sanctuaries, and cold water coral populations ,were collected from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and displayed. Daily imagery of the oil extents were provided on a weekly basis from an independent source, georeferenced, projected, and digitized using ArcMap. Using Oracle SQL developer, benthic permitted fisheries were identified within the vessel monitoring system (VMS) database, exported, integrated within Microsoft Access, and then imported into ArcMap to be projected to show locations of fishing grounds. In addition, the series of current fishery closures were adopted the from NOAA Fisheries Service, Southeast Regional Office, incorporated into the GIS application and viewed simultaneously as major component of the assessment. Other identifiable components include point location of the Deepwater Horizon incident, visible shoreline for the impacted regions, and bathymetric contours. The overall completion of this assessment is intended to yield a product that is conducive in viewing both deep sea coral populations and fisheries as it relates to benthic specified permitted vessels. In light of the Deepwater Horizon incident, the implementation of the assessment is to be utilized as an aid in viewing potentially at risk coral communities, fishing industry, and associated incident impact.


Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Habitat Product Development: On-Screen Digitizing and Spatial Analysis of Core Sound

A hydrophyte of high relevance, submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) is of great importance to estuarine environments. SAV helps improve water quality, provides food and shelter for waterfowl, fish, and shellfish, as well as protects shorelines from erosion. In coastal bays most SAV was eliminated by disease in the 1930’s. In the late 1960’s and 1970’s a dramatic decline of all SAV species was correlated with increasing nutrient and sediment inputs from development of surrounding watersheds (MDNP et al 2004S). Currently, state programs work to protect and restore existing wetlands, however, increasing development and population pressure continue to degrade and destroy both tidal and non-tidal wetlands and hinder overall development of SAV growth. The focus of this research was to utilize spatial referencing software in the mapping of healthy submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) habitats. In cooperation with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), students from Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) developed and applied Geographic Information Systems (GIS) skills to evaluate the distribution and abundance of SAV in North Carolina’s estuarine environments. Utilizing ESRI ArcGIS, which includes ArcView, ArcCatalog and ArcToolbox, and the applications of on-screen digitizing, an assessment of vegetation cover was made through the delineation of observable SAV beds in Core Sound, North Carolina. Aerial photography of the identified coastal water bodies was taken at 12,000 feet above mean terrain (AMT) scale 1:24,000. The georeferenced aerial photographs were assessed for obscurities and the SAV beds were digitized. Through the adoption of NOAA guidelines and criteria for benthic habitat mapping using aerial photography for image acquisition and analysis, students delineated SAV beds and developed a GIS spatial database relevant to desired results. This newly created database yielded products in the form of usable shapefiles of SAV polygons, as well as attribute information with location information, area in hectares, and percent coverage of SAV.


The Applicability of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing in Identifying Contributors of the Containment Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDE’s) with the NOAA National Status & Trends Mussel Watch Program

With an ongoing assessment of more than two decades, the Mussel Watch Program is one of the longest running contaminant monitoring programs in coastal ocean research. Mussel Watch uses bivalves (Mussels, Oysters, and Zebra Mussels) as a means to assess water quality. The purpose of the program was geared towards assessing contaminants nationally. Utilizing tools such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing data assessment, an attempt was made within this project to identify possible releasers of effluent waste into the major coastal watershed regions pertaining to ongoing research conducted within monitored mussel watch sites. The categorization of possible contaminating locations was made available through spatial data verification development. This dataset was derived from agencies such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the United States Geological Survey (USGS ), as well as independent state government databases. Utilizing platforms such as ESRI® ArcMap™ software, spatially referenced locations, via point data, vector data, line data, and polygons depicting points and sites of interest were created using latitude and longitude information. Points and areas of interest (AOI) were verified using Remote Sensing imagery. As such, Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) within observable mussel watch sites were assessed by NOAA’s Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment (CCMA). Using this data, present and future researchers will be more able to identify possible sources of contributors to the present contaminant areas.


Applying the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Concepts to Virginia’s Third Grade Mathematics Standards: Traveling to the Moon

The primary focus of this research was to develop a new NASA Digital Learning Network module that was mathematically based and tied to NASA concepts. This world of interactive learning with NASA’s DLN was available to teachers and students to enhance learning about our home planet. The mathematics team members conducted modules for students at a local elementary school in southeastern Virginia throughout the year. Objectives of this module applied the Virginia’s Third Grade Mathematics Standards of ratio & proportions, scaling, area, and volume to NASA’s space vehicle transportation systems that will return to the moon by 2020. The module educated six grade students on how America will send a new generation of explorers to the moon aboard NASA’s Orion crew exploration vehicle. The mathematics team reviewed results of faculty and student research projects to identify sources used in the mathematics preparation of children at the third grade level. We then produced educational lessons, which incorporated mathematical concepts from the data collected. Thus, this project was designed to build on the curiosity and enthusiasm of children as it relates to the study of mathematics. Appropriate mathematical experiences were designed to challenge young children to explore ideas related to data analysis and probability, measurement, mathematical connections, algebraic concepts, and numerical operations. The success of this research produced results that allowed third grade students to experience learning linked to NASA exploration in future years. The students also used age-appropriate mathematical calculations to fully understand related processes. Participants in this newly-developed DLN activity aided NASA in calculating the surface areas, obtaining measurements of models, and using proportions to discover how & why NASA scientists have constructed the Orion, Ares 1, and Ares V vehicles.


Designing and Developing a Portal for the Polar Grid High Performance Computing System at Elizabeth City State University

Polar Grid is a National Science Foundation (NSF) Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program funded partnership of Indiana University (IU) and Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) to acquire and deploy the computing infrastructure needed to investigate the urgent problems in glacial melting. The grid will be comprised of ruggedized laptops and computer clusters deployed in the field in the Polar Regions and two large scale computing clusters for detailed analysis in the U.S. – one to be installed at IU, and the other at ECSU. This installation will give ECSU a 5 Teraflop MSI High performance computing system, building on its distance education and undergraduate laboratory infrastructure to create tremendous outreach capabilities. Accessing this computing cluster will entail the development of a grid portal to provide security, access to data, and the ability to process data along with education and outreach functions. Development of this portal will start with the documentation of terms, processes and software needed to develop a portal and understand what the grid is. The project will then progress to producing XML page structures to display processed data acquired during expeditions in Greenland and Antarctica. Another aspect will be the development of “IGoogle Gadgets” simulating the portal user environment and the process of converting that gadget into an RSS feed.


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