$2.4 million grant supports research on coastal ecosystems at UCSC and other Monterey Bay institutions

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has awarded a grant of more than $2.4 million to support the Center for Integrated Marine Technologies (CIMT), a collaborative partnership led by the University of California, Santa Cruz. The center brings together a diverse group of scientists from six partner institutions around Monterey Bay to study the processes that drive California's highly productive coastal ecosystems.

The new grant provides ongoing funding for CIMT's "Wind to Whales" research program, which is using new technological approaches to monitor and understand the complex web of physical and biological interactions in the Monterey Bay ecosystem. Wind-driven upwelling of nutrient-rich deep water along California's Central Coast stimulates massive blooms of phytoplankton that support a rich web of marine life, including productive fisheries, seabirds, sea turtles, and marine mammals.

A key part of the center's mission is to pull together a highly diverse array of data collected by a range of technologies and present the data in an integrated fashion, making it readily accessible to scientists, resource managers, and the public. These efforts are helping to establish the core technologies for a national integrated ocean observing system, a top priority for NOAA and other federal agencies.

"CIMT serves as a regional pilot project for what they would like to do nationwide," said Gary Griggs, director of UCSC's Institute of Marine Sciences and chair of CIMT's Board of Directors.

In addition to UCSC, CIMT's partner institutions include the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and the National Marine Fisheries Service Laboratory in Santa Cruz. CIMT was established in 2002 with a $2 million grant from NOAA and received an additional $2 million grant last year.

Researchers involved in the center include physical, biological, and geochemical oceanographers; ecologists; resource managers; remote sensing experts; and instrumentation and networking engineers.

CIMT scientists conduct monthly surveys of Monterey Bay on the research vessel John Martin out of Moss Landing, gathering an abundance of data on oceanographic conditions and life in the bay, from phytoplankton to whales. For more continuous measurements of oceanographic conditions, instruments are deployed on moorings in the bay. MBARI, in association with CIMT, has developed an advanced mooring system that can monitor oceanographic processes in near real-time, and the center is expanding the number of these moorings in Monterey Bay.

In addition to the surveys and moorings, high-frequency radar from shore-based stations is used to monitor surface currents, while satellite observations are used to measure sea-surface temperatures and estimate phytoplankton abundance.

All these measurements are being used to investigate linkages between coastal upwelling, nutrient delivery, phytoplankton growth, and the distribution, abundance, and productivity of organisms such as squid, fish, seabirds, sea turtles, and whales. Ultimately, the researchers would like to be able to predict how the system will respond to short- and long-term changes in oceanographic conditions, such as El NiƱo events and climate change.

"This NOAA grant will increase our understanding of the influence the oceans have on our living marine resources and thereby gain new tools for the effective management and stewardship of them," said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.