Accomplishments in

Research is at the center of all National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration services. NOAA’s Office of Oceanic & Atmospheric Research (OAR) conducts research, develops products, and provides scientific understanding and leadership to support NOAA’s mission to meet our nation’s economic, social and environmental needs.

Ecological Monitoring and Forecasting

NOAA is a leader in pulling together experts in diverse disciplines to study entire ecosystems – from atmospheric and oceanic processes in play to the micro-universe of plant and animal organisms within it. NOAA is integrating biological, chemical, and physical data to produce ecosystem forecasts to predict outbreaks of potentially damaging environmental conditions before they occur.

New Test for Red Tide and Fecal-Indicating Bacteria

NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) developed techniques for red-tide and fecal-indicating bacteria markers indicative of human sources of fecal pollution, and a viral pathogen. The methods can be used to rapidly screen water samples for the presence of microbial contaminants and work is underway to integrate them into semi-automated detection platforms. This tool will assist resource managers in making improved, timely decisions regarding human health and safety.

Regional Climate and Ecosystems

NOAA scientists are at the forefront of studying climate change and modeling what the effects will be on the Earth. Researchers at NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) have developed the Coupled Hydrosphere-Atmosphere Research Model (CHARM) to enable a valid assessment of the impact of how climate change might affect the climate and ecology of the Great Lakes. The CHARM model provides a realistic surface-atmosphere feedback portrayal, and accounts for runoff from land surfaces. It allows researchers to predict that global warming likely will bring higher temperatures and increased precipitation to the Great Lakes. Development of a second generation of CHARM is underway to help answer questions about greenhouse warming effects on Great Lakes water quantity.

yellow Enallopsammia stony coral with pink Candidella teeming with brittle stars

Stunning yellow Enallopsammia stony coral with pink Candidella teeming with brittle stars off New England. Image courtesy of the Mountains in the Sea Research Team; the IFE Crew; and NOAA.

Coral Reefs

In 2006, researchers at NOAA’s Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR) and partners, including NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, began to deploy Ecological Acoustic Recorders (EARs) to monitor patterns of change in the ambient sound field at remote coral reef ecosystems in the Pacific. EARs collect timeseries data that will allow coastal resource managers and enforcement personnel to remotely detect ecologically significant events and anthropogenic disturbances such as vessel intrusions or the use of explosives.

Modeling for Marine Management

Effective marine management and conservation planning require a better understanding of the movement of young marine animals, including small larvae. The tiny larvae are impossible to follow directly, but models of ocean currents make it possible to predict their movements. A computer model newly developed by researchers funded by NOAA’s Florida Sea Grant Program and partners, combines ocean current simulations and genetic forecasting to help scientists predict animal dispersion patterns and details of the ecology of coral reefs across the Caribbean Sea. The work enables scientists to fieldtest such predictions and hone their understanding of how marine larvae disperse in the environment and influence the structure of adult populations.

Is the Beach Safe Today?

NOAA researchers and operational forecasters are working together and with other agencies and academic scientists to gather information on ecological conditions that can make swimming unsafe in a particular area, and getting that information out to beachgoers. Regional forecast systems for microbial contamination are being developed by NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL), the Michigan Sea Grant program and NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research (CILER) at the University of Michigan, as well as NOAA’s National Ocean Service. Together forming the Center of Excellence for Great Lakes and Human Health (CEGLHH), NOAA and others are integrating resources into research plans and coordinating expertise in order to predict when contaminants threaten recreational waters in the Great Lakes. Observations coordinated by GLERL feeds a model that predicts bacterial counts for E .coli based on rainfall, wave heights, and the direction of lake currents, in order to determine when counts are high enough to threaten human health. NOAA’s Atlantic and Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory also has developed techniques for red-tide and bacteria markers indicating human sources of fecal pollution. This tool can be used to rapidly screen environmental water samples for the presence of microbial contaminants, assisting beach and resource managers to make more accurate and timely decisions on health and safety.

Forecasting Coral Reef Conditions

To monitor conditions that affect coral reefs, as well as to develop modeling systems to forecast conditions of reef ecosystems, NOAA's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) is installing monitoring stations at major United States coral reef areas. Station sensors measure conditions in the atmosphere and oceans, and provide near real-time “alerts” to conditions of stress in monitored reef areas. Data collected under NOAA’s Integrated Coral Observing Network (ICON) are saved and processed at AOML.

Aerial view of the red tide off the coast of Florida

The Florida "red tide" occurs almost annually along portions of the state's Gulf Coast. Just one harmful algal bloom event can impose millions of dollars in losses upon local coastal communities. Image courtesy of P. Schmidt, Charlotte (FL) Sun.


NOAA is charged with developing a program for aquatic invasive species prevention, monitoring, control, education and research to prevent introduction and dispersal of aquatic invasive species, to disseminate related information, and to provide leadership in the coordination of federal invasive species efforts. NOAA Research leads the coordinated NOAA-wide invasive species program through leadership under two significant research, outreach, and education programs: The National Sea Grant Aquatic Nuisance Species Program and the GLERL Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Species Program.

NOAA Research works at the local, state, national and international levels to address the Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) problem and the impacts AIS have on the environment, commerce, and trade using a six-part approach: prevention, monitoring and early detection, rapid response, control and management, restoration, and leadership and coordination.


Populations of invasive species can explode in new ecosystems, reduce the size and value of native fish stocks, and change food chains, increasing the danger to humans of toxic substances. Legislation in the 1990s recognized NOAA’s expertise and abilities to work on this growing problem and NOAA has led the way in addressing the aquatic invasive species problem, including research, interagency and international collaborations, and education and outreach efforts. NOAA’s Sea Grant Program published a report documenting research results on 22 species in 24 states, yet, with more than 160 invasive species reported from the Great Lakes and 260 from San Francisco Bay, more needs to be done.

To Learn More, Visit These Sites:
NOAA Research- Aquatic Invasive Species: http://www.oar.noaa.gov/oceans/t_invasivespecies.html
National Center for Research on Aquatic Invasive Species: http://www.glerl.noaa.gov/res/Programs/ncrais/ mission.html

To Work or Study at OAR, Visit These Sites:
NOAA Careers: http://www.careers.noaa.gov
Hollings Scholarships: http://www.orau.gov/noaa/HollingsScholarship/
Knauss Fellowships: http://www.seagrant.noaa.gov/knauss/
Ocean Careers: http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/edu/oceanage/welcome.html

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June 2007