By Kate Segarra, Marine Biology, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is proud to be a partner in the DEEP SEARCH project, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to join the science party. My first cruise in graduate school at the University of Georgia was on the Ron Brown with remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Jason aboard, so this cruise is a bit of a reunion. In this mission log, I’d like to share a bit about BOEM’s mission and why BOEM develops and funds research like DEEP SEARCH.
In addition to regulating offshore energy and minerals, BOEM is a science agency. Environmental protection is a foremost concern and an indispensable consideration in BOEM's decision-making. Science informs Bureau decisions at every level of activity from nationwide policy decisions to the exact placement of a well head on the sea floor. BOEM’s Environmental Studies Program develops, funds, and manages rigorous scientific research specifically to inform policy decisions on the development of energy and mineral resources on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). Research covers physical oceanography, atmospheric sciences, biology, protected species, social sciences and economics, submerged cultural resources and environmental fates and effects.
BOEM’s research is primarily use-inspired, meaning it is designed to fill information needs for the Bureau. Some studies are focused on assessing impacts from specific, potential actions by the Bureau, such as decommissioning oil rigs in the Pacific or the location of a particular wind farm in the Northeast U.S. However, many of our studies support broad-based, long-term research and are not narrowly attached to a particular regulatory action. Studies like DEEP SEARCH provide valuable baseline environmental information and contribute to our understanding of the environments in which we operate.
Building off previous BOEM research in the Mid-Atlantic, this study will provide authoritative baseline information for the Mid- and South Atlantic to help inform decision-making across program areas. Many of study sites for this cruise have not been adequately mapped until now. The outcome of this study will help us understand how the geology and bathymetry of the East Coast influences the deep-sea coral, canyon, and cold seep ecosystems. With a better understanding of these offshore habitats and communities, we can enhance our capacity to predict the distribution of sensitive areas with respect to the potential development of energy and marine mineral resources.
One of the strongest aspects of this study is the many partners involved. With three federal agencies and six academic institutions, BOEM is able to harness the expertise of scientists from many disciplines, leverage our research funding, and make projects of this scope more cost-effective.
As a BOEM scientist, participating in ship-based work is a very enriching and valuable experience. I spend a lot of time in meetings and in front of a screen. Going out to sea provides a critical change (or perhaps reset) in perspective. I am reminded of why I became a marine scientist and perhaps even why I spend so much time in meetings and at a computer. I’m also getting a refresher on the latest oceanographic technology and picking up some new knowledge from the scientists aboard about deep sea coral ecology.