Annual Meeting of the Parties (25 February)
and the
Winter Meeting of the Board of Directors (25-26 February 2009)
Renaissance Orlando Hotel – Airport
Orlando, FL

The GCOOS-RA Parties met jointly with the Board of Directors on 25 February 2009 at the Renaissance Orlando Hotel-Airport in Orlando, FL. The Board of Directors continued meeting on 26 February 2009. The attendees and their GCOOS roles are listed in Appendix A. The provisional agenda is given in Appendix B.

February 25: Annual Meeting of the Parties and Board of Directors

1.0     Introductory Remarks

Mike Spranger welcomed everyone to the joint meeting of the GCOOS-RA Parties and Board of Directors (BOD). He gave the introductory remarks on behalf of Worth Nowlin, BOD Chair, who could not attend the meeting. Spranger and Cort Cooper co-chaired the meeting. After participants introduced themselves, Spranger summarized the theme of the meeting: Building the GCOOS. Because of the severe budgetary restrictions, the GCOOS-RA will need to narrow its foci. Spranger presented three areas of main efforts recommended by Nowlin: (1) establish a data and product portal; (2) further identify and prioritize the needs of potential users for data and products; and (3) improve GCOOS communications, including the web site and regular newsletters.

2.0     Election Results

Terry McPherson presented the results of the recent election to the Board on behalf of Landry Bernard, Chair of the Membership Committee. Thirty-nine of the 59 voting Parties voted. The three new members are: Ray Toll of SAIC (private sector) and Barb Kirkpatrick of Mote Marine Lab and John Dindo of Dauphin Island Sea Lab (both for the education and outreach sector). This election results in the increase of Board membership from 12 to 15 members. It also provides the Board with at least one member from each of the five Gulf coast states.

[Note from the GCOOS Staff: With 15 members, there will be 5 members up for re-election or rotation off the Board each year. In last fall’s election to replace three members rotating off the Board, Terry McPherson of Computer Sciences Corporation (private sector), Jennifer Wozencraft of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (government sector), and Mike Spranger of Florida Sea Grant (education and outreach sector) were elected to three-year terms. In the expansion election, the private sector term is for three years and the education and outreach terms are for two years. This results in one position being open every year from each of the four general stakeholder sectors – academia, government, private, and education and outreach sectors. Member terms begin at summer BOD meetings.]

3.0     Building IOOS: Priorities of the NOAA IOOS Program Office

Suzanne Skelley, Deputy Director of the NOAA IOOS Program, presented the talk "IOOS: Our Eyes on the Oceans, Coasts and Great Lakes" summarizing the functions and priority activities of the NOAA IOOS Program. The global aspects of the U.S. IOOS resides within the NOAA Office of Climate Observation directed by Mike Johnson. The NOAA IOOS Program Office, which is directly involved with the Regional Associations, opened in 2007, with Zdenka Willis as the Director. The Office is in the NOAA National Ocean Service (NOS). As of February 2009, it had 11 full-time equivalent staff and 5.5 onsite contractors. It supports the Interagency Working Group on Ocean Observing (IWGOO), which consists of 17 federal agencies and is chaired by NOAA. The NOAA IOOS Program is one of the 47 NOAA Programming, Planning, Budgeting, and Execution System (PPBES) units. Among the primary functions of the NOAA IOOS Program are completing PPBES duties, planning and executing data management activities, and leading the regional enterprise.

Fiscal Year 2008 (FY08) was the first year IOOS appeared in the President’s budget. Prior to that time, regional IOOS activities were funded mainly through earmarks or via the Coastal Services Center budget. In FY08, funding levels were $20.4M to regional efforts, $6.8M to NOAA IOOS Office, and a $1M earmark to the Alliance for Coastal Technology that provides workshops and technical evaluations on coastal ocean observing instrumentation and methods. Funding for FY09 consists of two pieces in the NOAA budget: NOAA IOOS and Regional IOOS. It is expected to be approximately $20M for the regions, $1M to ACT, and $6.5M to NOAA IOOS Office. It was unclear, but not likely, whether any of the $830M for NOAA in the FY09 Congressional stimulus package would go to IOOS, as it mainly addresses NOAA satellite and facilities needs. The funding levels for FY10 are projected to be similar to FY09. Budgeting for FY11 has begun, with the NOAA IOOS Program planning for some increase in regional funding. NOAA also has started planning for the FY12 IOOS budget. In comparison to the earmark years, the funding levels have decreased significantly for the activities of the regional associations. To justify increasing the IOOS budget to Congress, the NOAA IOOS Program is working to link assets with dollar values in improvements to societal issues.

Specific funding opportunities for the RAs will be limited in FY09 and FY10. There will be no Federal Funding Opportunity (FFO) in FY09. Rather the funds allocated by Congress will go to fully fund the 11 RA support awards at the FY08 levels and to fund the FY07 project awards. For FY10, the FFO will be limited to specific geographical areas to get all RAs on the same budget cycle. This will allow a national funding competition for regional coastal ocean observing systems (RCOOS) in FY11.

The staff of the NOAA IOOS Program has put substantial effort into the Data Integration Framework (DIF) to make ocean data interoperable and is starting work to revitalize the Data Management and Communications (DMAC) effort. Under the DIF, capabilities for serving data in an integrated and interoperable manner have been developed for seven core variables (temperature, salinity, water level, currents, winds, waves, and ocean color). The DIF has been implemented within NOAA by the National Data Buoy Center (NDBC), Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS), and CoastWatch. Efforts are underway to implement these capabilities at the regional level, with SECOORA and, as reported by Howard, the GCOOS-RA already having implemented the DIF. Benchmarks for the DIF are to integrate ocean data for the user areas of coastal inundation (IOOS and National Weather Service data), harmful algal bloom forecast (to include integrated surface currents), hurricane intensity forecast (to develop synthetic profiles of temperature and salinity and test them against three hurricane cases to measure improvements to forecasts), and integrated ecosystem assessment (to combine IOOS and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) data management activities under the Integrated Ecosystem Assessments (IEAs) for the Gulf of Mexico and California Current). NOAA estimates the net present value of these activities at $38M in time saved by the user not having to manipulate data sets pulled from the sources.

To revitalize the DMAC effort, NOAA first considered what a national DMAC would look like, both as to interfaces and functionalities. A path forward was developed. Preparation of a market analysis, including a series of workshops (IOOS Industry Days), is underway in FY09 to support the case for funding to build the national DMAC program. The DMAC Steering Team will continue to work on developing standards. Interagency partnerships are being formed to develop common plans and standards (e.g., development of a National Operational Waves Plan and a National HF Radar Plan that involved a number of federal agencies as well as input from the RAs and other interested entities).

In final comments, Skelley showed a slide with IOOS Missions in the areas of transportation and homeland security, climate, ocean ecosystems and human health, and natural hazards and weather prediction. She stated that active support of the IOOS regions within both NOAA and the IWGOO for these missions was important. In answer to a question, she said that the top two IOOS advocates within Congress were the Maine and Gulf Coast delegations.

Discussion by the Parties and the Board was wide-ranging. There was an emphasis on the fact that many existing RCOOS observation stations are being removed and that critical capabilities, such as people and technical experience, are being lost due to low RA funding levels. It seemed to some attendees that the NOAA IOOS focus on benchmarking and future systems, albeit important, results in so little focus on keeping the existing systems running that operational systems are vanishing. Cannot the IWGOO take some action to show what we’ve got now and how important it is? Private industry representatives warned that because the attraction of IOOS – that there would be partnerships between government, industry, academics, and others to build RCOOSs – was not materializing, the window of industry interest could not be sustained much longer. Skelley pointed out that the budget cycle does not allow NOAA to impact the funding in the short term; however, the IOOS and regional activites are now almost 8 years old. Further, it is critical for future funding that success be demonstrated. So, for example, the 3-year DIF project will demonstrate an economical success – that interoperability for NOAA data and whatever other data are available can be integrated and used in models, saving time and money. NOAA IOOS Office has drafted performance metrics, which although based on the maturity of the RCOOSs, add another layer of administrative effort with no additional funding. Skelley pointed out that these metrics would provide a way for NOAA to demonstrate the value and progress of the RAs and RCOOSs. Bryon Griffin, EPA Gulf of Mexico Program Office, commented that the IOOS Office needs real world applications and so should to sign-on to support the state alliances, such as the Gulf of Mexico Alliance (GOMA). Jochens summarized the many ways GCOOS staff and volunteers already are supporting GOMA.

4.0     Building the GCOOS: Integration of Data

Matt Howard summarized activities associated with GCOOS data management. These included the development of the Data Portal, progress on the Local Data Nodes project, and upgrade of the GCOOS Web Site. He also gave an overview of the many GCOOS activities to interface with other RAs, the IOOS DMAC and DIF efforts, and data management projects such as the Marine Metadata Initiative (MMI), OOSTethys, and Qartod to OGC (Q2O).

The basic structure of the GCOOS Data Portal (the "under the hood" mechanics) has been completed. The portal has been made accessible for internal GCOOS evaluation. Howard showed some of the capabilities, which include satellite overlays, links to data providers, station status monitoring, automatic KML Google file production, and pages for data, satellite, and model output. All the data, including that of the 10 non-federal data providers participating in the Local Data Nodes project, are offered using the DIF. Howard requested that Skelley let Willis know so the GCOOS-RA implementation of the DIF can be included in NOAA IOOS talks and reports. He then discussed the documentation and coding for the portal. This information will be shared with anyone wishing to have it. The next steps for the portal are to move it to the website and make it publically accessible; prepare and make available products for the stakeholder sectors, add more data streams, and create tailored views and delivery capabilities.

The Local Data Nodes project is in year 2 of a 3-year effort designed to harmonize the data systems of the 10 major non-federal GCOOS data partners–the local data nodes. The nodes participate in the NOAA IOOS Observation Registry that hosts a machine-harvested sensor list. Unique among the RAs, the GCOOS-RA nodes automatically generate files that accurately reflect the status of the sensors in real-time. The nodes have agreed on a common vocabulary, which consists of the SECOORA dictionary. The IT personnel of the data nodes and the GCOOS-RA Office have attended a number of workshops and conferences to advance their understanding of data interoperability. The group has been working to offer their data via OGC Web services, such as the NOAA DIF and the OOSTethys Sensory Observation Service (SOS). One of the nodes is programming the SOS for the PC environment, and this will be shared with GCOOS data nodes, other RAs, and other IT interests.

The GCOOS web page ( is being substantially revamped to add features and improve utility. The new site is up, but the old site is accessible through the new site, providing information not yet available on the new site. The GCOOS web includes communications forums to allow exchanges of information through the web. The Data Portal will be accessible through the GCOOS web page. Next steps are to complete the migration of the old content to the new web site (in progress), build a search capability, and add products and content as needed by stakeholder groups.

Ray Toll asked how close GCOOS would be to having an operational data portal and data network at the end of the development project. Howard reported that we have in place the core elements specified in the IOOS DMAC Plan. The effort to incorporate the DIF into the GCOOS portal and nodes allows attainment of interoperability for real-time data. Decision support tools needed by users and a machine accessible catalogue are yet to be built.

Nick Shay addressed a comment to Skelley stating his concern about the NOAA IOOS DIF benchmark project to generate synthetic T/S profiles for hurricane forecasting, mentioned in her talk. Work has been done over the last 4-6 years to develop synthetic T/S profiles and assimilate them into the models to see if it improves the hurricane intensity forecasts. He had talked with people at the AOML hurricane research division, and they had not heard of this NOAA IOOS project. Shay suggested the NOAA IOOS office staff should contact Frank Marks, Hurricane Improvement Team, EMC/NHC, to find out what has been done. Skelley said that the NOAA IOOS Program is working on this project with people at AOML who work with the hurricane division. Discussion ensued with suggestions on improving the connections.

5.0     Building the GCOOS: Maintenance of Observing Elements

Ann Jochens discussed the state of maintenance of the existing observing elements of the GCOOS. Many real-time observing elements have registered with the IOOS registry. The eight major non-federal data providers of in situ data are registered and their data are being connected to GCOOS data portal; the two satellite product providers will register when the appropriate tools become available. Additional data sets, such as those of NDBC, will be connected to the GCOOS data portal in coming months. In addition to real-time data, there are many historical data from numerous sources. The accessibility to these data and their submittal to national repositories are highly variable. Maintenance and long-term retrievability even in national in repositories is uncertain. To assess the non-federal assets available and what is being lost, GCOOS is requesting from non-federal data providers updated information on assets in the water, costs to maintain those assets, and uses of information.

Jochens then discussed the impacts of hurricanes. GCOOS conducted quick, post storm surveys on the damage incurred by GCOOS elements during recent hurricanes. Many assets had their functioning knocked out, but were repairable. Some suffered total instrument loss or total platform loss. After the storms, vessels to survey damage were in short supply. Lessons learned included (1) the data sets were provided to many entities before, during, and after the storms, (2) GCOOS members contributed resources that provided back-ups for federal data streams, (3) replacement of instruments was highly dependent on the particular eccentricities of state and/or federal risk and emergency response funding rules, and (4) the replacement process was lengthy. Steve Lohrenz provided a real world example of these points. Off the Mississippi coast, USM had a 3-m buoy deployed with data returns telemetered to shore by phone. Hurricane Katrina knocked out the on-shore receiver, but TAMU redirected the phone to their site and so the data continued to be transmitted through the storm. The instrument suffered some damage, but the USCG and NDBC helped to replace it. However, this took close to one year through the FEMA process. The buoy did not survive the next storm, as it was washed up on the beach and poachers stripped off the instruments. To have operational systems, several issues should be resolved, e.g., how to maintain the GCOOS in an operational state if there is no rapid way to replace damaged instruments; how to make instruments hurricane-hardened; and how the GCOOS community can better convey the value of the GCOOS to the different groups who do use these data sets. Discussion centered on the facts that (1) non-federal GCOOS data providers contribute significantly to the federal data stream, especially during storms, (2) lack of funding coming into the region significantly delays bringing lost or damaged instruments back online-on, (3) there seems to be little or no federal interest in what non-federal assets are being lost, and (4) the value to IOOS provided by the GCOOS-RA focus on integrating existing data sets is at risk as resources diminish.

Ray Toll requested that each person give him names of people who work for Congress, so that he and Nancy Rabalais can visit with these people during the upcoming NFRA conference on Capital Hill.

6.0     Building the GCOOS: Enhancements to Observing Elements

Ann Jochens provided information on ways to enhance the GCOOS observing elements in these difficult financial times. This included possibilities for enhancing engagement of federal data systems, entraining additional non-federal data systems, and identifying non-NOAA-IOOS funding opportunities. The GCOOS-RA has a unique challenge as well as opportunity because, unlike other RAs, GCOOS has no funds for observing system assets, but does have funds to develop a user-friendly, comprehensive data portal with which to build a true system of systems. The focus for the present is to integrate data that already are being collected from a wide range of data providers. Additional activities are to prepare pilot projects that cost little to start but reap large benefits, discover new sources of funding, and actively communicate information on the benefits of GCOOS to funding entities, legislative representatives, the public, media, and industry. Materials should be provided to the GCOOS-RA Parties that will help them actively make a strong argument for GCOOS funding to their federal and state legislators and executive branches.

Discussion brought out numerous venues for getting out the IOOS-GCOOS message, including the MTS/IEEE 2009 Oceans conference in Biloxi, MS. Products and outcomes of GCOOS-RA activities also need to be as specific as possible and tied to stated needs of the community being served (e.g., Gulf of Mexico Alliance). Another suggestion was to find ways to connect the ocean with terrestrial environment.

7.0     Update on Florida COOS activities

Jyotika Virmani, Executive Director of the Florida Coastal Ocean Observing System Consortium (FLCOOS), provided an update on FLCOOS activities. She reviewed the membership and goals of FLCOOS and activities to improve communications and to further develop the Coastal Ocean Observing System for the large coastal region in Florida. Activities include in situ observations, remote observations, regional and shelf models, and development of products addressing specific problems. The guiding principles for FLCOOS are to (1) sustain the existing assets, (2) work with GCOOS-RA, SECOORA, GOMA, and others to develop a mixture of assets to simultaneously address variety of issues, and (3) use leveraging opportunities through diversification to enhance funding for a sustained and integrated COOS. After reviewing the status of various projects, Virmani demonstrated the precipitous decline in observing capacity, including 7 moorings, that is being experienced because of lack of funding.

8.0     Updates

8.1     NOAA Hypoxia Monitoring and Research Plans

Nancy Rabalais provided an update on the Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Monitoring Implementation Plan. The hypoxia action plan was developed in 2001 and modified and updated in 2008. The goal of the plan is to reduce the size of the hypoxic zone in the Gulf to below 5,000 km2 by 2015. Actions are underway to develop an implementation plan. Rabalais reviewed elements of the plan.

8.2     Interactions with CaRA and SECOORA

Ann Jochens reported on interactions between GCOOS-RA and CaRA and SECOORA. Debra Hernandez is the new Executive Director of SECOORA. Jochens and Hernandez have held initial discussions on how best to coordinate the two RAs. Yasmin Detres is the newly appointed E/O lead for CaRA. Chris Simoniello is working with Detres on joint E/O issues. Additional interactions include participation in meetings and holding joint workshops. Jochens participated in the 3rd CaRA Stakeholder Council Meeting (9 December 2008). CaRA’s Jorge Capella and SECOORA’s Samuel Walker and Jeremy Cothran participated in the GCOOS-RA DMAC Committee Meeting (23-24 February 2009). An ecosystem modeling workshop is being planned and will be co-sponsored by the three RAs along with GOMA. Other exchanges on stakeholder workshops will evolve. The GCOOS-RA and SECOORA are working together in development of data management systems, and CaRA is also becoming involved.

8.3     Interactions with Mexico

Alfredo Prelat reviewed the activities with Mexican counterparts. These include meetings with people from the University of Mexico, PMEX, and University of Tobasco. The major recent interaction is with the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT). SEMARNAT is interested in the possibility of becoming a member of the GCOOS-RA. Prelat then introduced Dr. Porfirio Alvarez Torres, Director for Regional and Sectoral Integration, SEMARNAT.

9.0     Mexico’s Ocean Policy and Activities in the Gulf of Mexico

Dr. Porfirio Alvarez Torres presented an overview of Mexico’s ocean policy, strategies and actions in the Gulf of Mexico. About 15 years ago, many institutions were involved with many aspects of the coastal environment. There was no strategic framework for handling coastal and ocean issues. An Ocean Policy was needed, and an interagency commission (OCDE) was established. After much review of the policies of other nations and evaluation, the “National Environmental Policy for the Sustainable Development of the Oceans and Coasts of Mexico” was developed. The document provides the strategic ocean policy framework with guidelines.

On 13 June 2008, the Interministerial Commission for the Sustainable Management of Oceans and Coasts, CIMARES, was formed by Presidential Decree. Ten federal agencies are on the commission, and they consider the main issues for developing a plan for use of the coast and ocean. There is a participatory process, which involves the states, universities, and NGOs, to develop the plan. The process is underway.

SEMARNAT has a major project in partnership with NOAA-SEFSC to study the Gulf of Mexico Large Marine Ecosystem. The project is funded at $4.5M over 4 years, with possibility for further funding. The team will work on an integrated assessment and monitoring of ecosystem health, conservation, restoration, and recovery of fish stocks. SEMARNAT is interested also in building a strong partnership with the GCOOS-RA and is considering becoming a Party to the GCOOS-RA MoA.

10.0     Building a Carbon Observing System

Dr. Steve Lohrenz of the University of Southern Mississippi spoke on building a carbon observing system during the lunch. He provided an overview of recent reports and information on the carbon cycle and carbon observing. He then discussed the significance of coastal ecosystems to global carbon cycling and examined the contribution of the Gulf of Mexico to the North American carbon cycle. Carbon management-related issues for the Gulf of Mexico include watershed nutrient linkages to hypoxia, ocean acidification, wetlands loss and restoration, and continental margin atmospheric boundary conditions. The North Atlantic Carbon Program Plan (NACP) to improve understanding of carbon dynamics in the ocean includes the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Interim Synthesis “to stimulate the synthesis and publication of recent observational and modeling results on carbon cycle fluxes and processes along the North American continental margin” and a possible NACP Gulf Intensive Experiment. Lohrenz then described the desired elements of a GCOOS carbon observing system, including observations from ships, moorings, and remote sensing, and data management and decision support tools.

11.0     Issues of the Parties

Issues raised by the GCOOS-RA Parties were discussed.
Issue 1: Improve communication of meetings (do not rely on an individual checking the GCOOS newsboard or calendar). The GCOOS Office has begun to compile a list of relevant meetings 6 months out and to send the list monthly to the GCOOS listserv. Included are URLs where interested persons can access more information. Funding opportunities are also included as the staff learns about them.

Issue 2:
In 2007, four GCOOS proposals were submitted; 2 were declined, and 2 were left on the back burner if funds became available. What is the update? The FY07 HF Radar proposal was reduced to a single year of limited funding which went to build the data portal. The FY08 HF Radar proposal is still on hold at NOAA IOOS. It is not likely to be funded because FY09 IOOS funds will go first to grants for RA development and then for level funding of the existing multi-year projects. The three-year FY08 Data Portal project was funded at a significantly reduced level and a one-year extension for no additional funds was approved for the FY07 Data Portal project.

Issue 3:
What mechanism is keeping Gulf radars operational? Only the existing funding sources; no IOOS funds are available. Steve Lohrenz reported that USM had 2-year funding, but Hurricane Katrina and a legislative continuing resolution resulted in reduction of the project to minimal level. Once the technical expertise is lost, it will not be easy to replace.

Issue 4:
Is NOAA IOOS willing to consider setting aside funds for maintenance? Suzanne Skelley reported it is not feasible for NOAA IOOS to have a reserve fund, but supplemental appropriations sometimes become available if there is a catastrophic event.

12.0     Reports of Councils and Committees

12.1     Stakeholder Council

Robert Stickney, Chair, gave the Stakeholder Council report (Appendix C). After presenting the report, Stickney suggested the Board consider the role of the Stakeholder Council and whether it is needed or should be merged with another GCOOS entity, such as the Education and Outreach Council. He also raised the concern that IOOS may be losing support as the promise of IOOS remains unfulfilled.

12.2     Education and Outreach Council

Joe Swaykos, Chair, gave the report for the Education and Outreach Council. He reported on the many activities of the EOC members. These included presentations, papers, workshop planning, and an EOC activity to review the GCOOS data portal. The next meeting of the EOC will be in summer 2009, with about a half day overlap with the GOMA Environmental Education Network. Swaykos asked whether the EOC chair could be a two-year term; the answer is that the EOC is free to determine the terms of its leadership.

12.3     Membership Committee

Terry McPherson, Member, reported on the Membership Committee on behalf of its chair, Landry Bernard. The two activities of the committee are to oversee the Board elections and help increase membership in the GCOOS-RA. Two elections, one in fall 2008 and one in early 2009 (expansion election), were held. The committee needs guidance from the Board on who should be approached to become a GCOOS-RA Party. To assist this effort, fact sheets or brochures are needed to promote the RA in appropriate venues. It is critical that a one page fact sheet be developed to market GCOOS. One such sheet for promoting membership in the MOA exists in the form of a letter Nowlin supplied to Stickney; see Appendix C. A short flyer will be developed for general audiences.

12.4     Data Management and Communications Committee

Vembu Subramanian, Chair, gave the report on the GCOOS DMAC Committee. The committee held a meeting just prior to the Board meeting, with 11 of 12 members present. Subramanian reviewed the action items that are being considered for inclusion in the 2009 Action Plan for the DMACC. One item is that the committee would like to recruit up to 8 new members. A second is that DMACC members have been identified for each of the other committees and councils. The committee had discussed a number of additional action items, and the Action Plan will be refined from the 8 items discussed at its meeting.

12.5     Observing Systems Committee

Member Mike Hemsley reported for Stephan Howden, Chair, on the Observing Systems Committee. Progress under the Action Plan was made to improve communications among the Committees and Councils, to develop a directory of IOOS/GCOOS technical experts, and to add four new members. No progress was made on the other five actions, mainly due to the lack of funding.

12.6     Products and Services Committee

Ann Jochens provided the Products & Services Committee report for Joe Stinus, Chair, who could not attend due to NOAA travel restrictions. Stinus recently stepped in as Chair and plans to re-energize this group. He intends to hold a meeting of the PSC in spring or summer, as soon as planning can be done. The 2007-2008 Action Plan goals and Stinus’ planned initial activities are:

  1. Reconstitute the membership: Stinus plans to review the balance of the membership and the need for additional representation, e.g., through engagement of personnel in the Northern Gulf Institute, state departments of marine resources, coastal chambers of commerce and others;
  2. Develop a product and service catalog to be posted on the GCOOS website and linked to the data portal: Stinus prepared a GCOOS Products & Services Committee Solicitation, provided it to the GCOOS Office staff, who will distribute it to the membership, with results to be discussed at the next PSC meeting;
  3. Conduct a gap analysis of existing products and services: Stinus will track down available information for discussion at the next PSC meeting; and
  4. Identify sites that provide integrated products and services: examples are C-SIDE (Coastal Science, Information and Data for the Ecosystem) and REDM (Regional Ecosystems Data Management).

Stinus also made a number of recommendations of actions to be undertaken soon. These are:

  1. For the GCOOS website, establish links to
    1. the Product and Services associated with the Gulf of Mexico Alliance, NOAA’s GoM Regional Collaboration Team (GoMRCT), and other Regional Associations, where appropriate,
    2. the monthly “Gulf of Mexico News” that is produced the NOAA Ocean Service, Office of Ocean and Costal Resource Management for posting to the GOMA website. It contains information of interest to RAs and is a great place to publish events or announcements.
  2. Add the GCOOS icon to the new Google Ocean (GCOOS Office).
  3. Review and provide feedback on the GCOOS Data Portal to help improve the capabilities and utility of the site (PSC members).
  4. Set a date and venue for the next PSC meeting (Stinus with GCOOS Office).

12.7     Standing GCOOS Task Team on Public Health

Ann Jochens reported that Andy Reich of the Florida Department of Health is the new Chair of the Task Team on Public Health, replacing Bart Bibler. Reich was unexpectedly called away and was not able to attend.

13.0     Operational Current Modeling Project

Cort Cooper provided an update on various aspects of interest to the offshore petroleum industry. One issue of concern is to better estimate the effect of global warming on hurricanes over the next 50 years. There is a modeling effort through National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) to address this issue. The project focuses on the Gulf of Mexico. the model is validated by hindcasting the past 10 years. The model will be run for 2 decades of the next 50 years. The project started in fall 2008 and will finish in 2009. The results will be made available publicly.

The MMS-required ADCP network funded by industry has been renewed and enhanced. There are 20 production platforms contributing upper water column data in real-time to NDBC. There are approximately 20 mobile drilling units with ADCPs. Because these units change location frequently, GPS data will be embedded in the data stream so that data collected are properly located.

Cooper then provided an update on plans for the Operational Current Modeling Project. Although the primary emphasis will be on deep water, it will set the stage for a community model. The project will begin in summer 2009 and will end in 2011. $1.5M project over 2.5 years, starting this summer. Cooper and Chris Mooers are forming the team, which will include several existing models (NOAA, Navy, and others). Because no matching funds could be provided by GCOOS-RA, the model results will not be made public. Cooper discussed the possible roles of GCOOS in the short and long term.

14.0     Building the GCOOS: Expanding Membership in the Regional Association

Reporting for Nowlin, Mike Spranger discussed the importance of expanding the membership of the GCOOS-RA and possible ways this could be accomplished. Among the benefits are the addition of new data sets, more ideas for building the GCOOS, and more advocacy for IOOS at the federal level and the GCOOS at the state and local levels. The most important mechanism is through personal contact, although informational materials are needed to support the contacts and show how GCOOS will benefit them. It was suggested that each Board member should contact their acquaintances in their specific areas of interest. Many ideas on recruitment were suggested. There should be consideration of why people should join: what do they bring and how do they benefit. Engagement of NGI, Navy, and an economist was suggested.

15.0     Priority Interactions with Gulf of Mexico Alliance & 5-year Action Plans

Ann Jochens introduced the topic of GCOOS interactions with GOMA and the new GOMA 5-year Action Plan. There are six Priority Issue Teams (PITs) in GOMA, and they are presently developing their action plans for the next 5 years. The GCOOS-RA has been very active in participating in workshops, meetings and teleconferences, as well as in providing input to white papers and other documents. With limited human resources, the GCOOS-RA needs to determine where it would be best to put our resources and assistance for GOMA actions, as well as who should be involved.

Mike Spranger discussed the Coastal Community Resilience PIT. He review the three main action areas in the draft Action Plan II: Risk and Resilience Assessment, Risk and Resilience Management Toolbox, and Risk and Resilience Communication. He suggested that Spranger and perhaps Buzz Martin participate in calls, meetings, and workshops; Howard assist in data management; and Simoniello and EOC assist with data and products for E/O activities.

Nancy Rabalais reviewed the goals and action items for the PITs on Water Quality for Healthy Beaches and Shellfish Beds and Habitat Conservation and Restoration. Activities of the Water Quality PIT are to monitor pathogens, to detect, monitor and forecast HABs, to reduce mercury risks from seafood; and to establish a standardized water quality monitoring network. GCOOS has been working with GOMA on developing an Integrated Observing System for HABs; these efforts should continue. Jochens has been participating in calls of the Water Quality PIT as time allows. Additionally, the GCOOS-RA could assist GOMA with data interoperability. Activities of the Restoration PIT are to identify bureaucratic, scientific, and technological impediments to habitat conservation and restoration, to continue development of the Gulf Regional Sediment Management Master Plan, and to engage with diverse stakeholders. The involvement of the GCOOS-RA in this PIT has been limited and likely will remain so for the near future.

Sharon Walker reviewed the goals and actions being planned by the Education PIT. The main goal is to enhance GOM environmental literacy. There are four specific priorities with actions for each. The GCOOS-RA has been involved with the GOMA Environmental Education PIT in several ways. GCOOS members have served on the teams who develop the educational priorities. Members of the GCOOS EOC also serve on the GOMA Environmental Education network (EEN), with about a 1/3 overlap. GCOOS plans are to remain engaged with the GOMA EEN. The 2009 GCOOS EOC meeting will be held so there will be a half-day joint session with the GOMA EEN. GCOOS and GOMA common messages for various public forums are being developed through various cooperative efforts. These efforts should be continued.

Ann Jochens reported on the Nutrient Reduction PIT and Ecosystem Integration and Assessment PIT. The Nutrient PIT is working on characterization of nutrients to aid in the development of nutrient criteria for state coastal waters, as required by EPA, and to develop strategies to reduce nutrients as well as hypoxia. GCOOS-RA has been working with the Nutrient PIT on developing a nutrient criteria framework and will continue with these efforts. GCOOS-RA also can assist with the education of the coastal communities to reduce nutrients. Goals for the Ecosystem Integration and Assessment PIT include establishment of a regional data system for environmental and economic data and development of decision support tools for use by resource managers. GCOOS-RA has begun interactions with GOMA on the ongoing efforts to update LIDAR-based bathymetry. The GCOOS Data Portal may be useful to provide links or products. The GCOOS stakeholder workshops and contacts may be useful for continued update of user needs.

During the discussion of priority interactions, a number of ideas were suggested. The GCOOS-RA should target a few specific outcomes to accomplish for our GOMA constituency. Interfacing with the lead for each PIT may be a way to determine the best tasks to undertake. It was suggested that GOMA PIT members be put on the GCOOS PSC to better determine products that GOMA needs that GCOOS could provide. Ray Toll would like the GCOOS-RA to increase engagement with the Ecosystem Integration and Assessment PIT.

16.0     Building the GCOOS: Identifying User Requirements

Mike Spranger reported that the Eastern Gulf Recreational Boaters Workshop was held 4-5 February 2009 in St. Petersburg, FL. Although attendance was lower than planned (35), the people worked well together and came up with lots of suggestions. The Western Gulf Recreational Boaters Workshop will be held 28-29 May 2009 in Clear Lake, TX.

Chris Simoniello reported that there will be two GCOOS GPS Workshop for Educators: one for educators in the eastern Gulf (FL, Al, MS, LA) and one for educators in the western Gulf (TX, LA). They will be held 23-24 April 2009 in Corpus Christi, TX, and 30 April-1 May 2009 at Dauphin Island, AL. There are 30 places for educators, all are filled and there is a stand-by list.

Nancy Rabalais reported on the upcoming HABs Workshop. She reviewed the GOMA water quality PIT activity regarding HABs and summarized the first of the three GCOOS/GOMA workshops intended to develop the HAB Integrated Observing System Implementation Plan (HABIOS). The second workshop is planned for 21-23 April 2009, in St. Petersburg, FL. The goal is to identify gaps in the existing HAB detection, tracking/monitoring, and forecasting system. The third workshop will be held at a date and venue to be determined, but will have the goal of completing an implementation plan.

Ann Jochens reported on future workshops that are in various stages of planning. The Ecosystem Modeling Workshop is being planned by GCOOS-RA, GOMA, SECOORA, and CaRA. The goals are to review the state of ecosystem modeling, consider future advances, and identify data and product needs. A Workshop Organizing Committee has been established based on inputs from the four co-sponsors. Logistics are still in the planning stage. Other planned GCOOS workshops are workshops for the marine transportation sector and urban planners and developers.

17.0     Building the GCOOS: 2009 Action Plan for the GCOOS-RA

Mike Spranger reviewed the Priority Actions for the GCOOS-RA (Appendix D) that had been developed in August 2008. Discussion resulted in the conclusion that the challenges for the Board are to

  1. determine which of the 2008 GCOOS Priority Actions are still a priority, who can dedicate the time to accomplish the priority tasks, and what the benefits and outcomes are.
  2. determine which of the many GOMA-related priorities should be embraced as GCOOS-RA priorities, how we are going to do it, who will be responsible, and what the benefits and outcomes are.

The Annual Meeting of the Parties and Board of Directors was adjourned about 5:30 pm.

February 26: Business Meeting of the Board of Directors

18.0     Business Meeting

18.1     Report on GCOOS Funding

Jochens reported on the funding that is available for GCOOS activities. All funds are for RA support or data portal/local data nodes projects.

18.2     Discussion and Decisions on 2009 Action Plan and priorities for next two years

Jochens showed the slides, prepared by Nowlin, on the Business Model for the GCOOS-RA. Feedback was requested. Discussion on priorities focused on how to better engage with GOMA. It was agreed that a number of contacts should be made by Board members to key GOMA personnel. Mike Spranger, as the interim Board chair for this meeting, will contact Bill Walker of the MS Department of Marine Resources, as MS is the lead state for GOMA at this time. The following Board members were assigned to contact the indicated state leads: Spranger for FL & MS, Sharon Walker for AL & MS, Nancy Rabalais for LA, and Worth Nowlin for TX. Spranger will provide some common talking points. A list should be prepared on how GCOOS-RA has worked with GOMA PITs (Jochens with inputs). Areas of common priority include HABIOS, hypoxia monitoring, and data management.

Priority actions for 2009 are to establish a more formal relationship with GOMA, develop a good brochure, and actively support and participate in the MTS/IEEE Ocean ’09 Conference in Biloxi, MS (perhaps have a booth for GCOOS). Activities for 2010 include exploring options regarding running of an operational current model for the Gulf, developing and installing the educational kiosks for the 5 U.S. Gulf CELCs, and investigating possible linkages of the urban development workshop to the GOMA community resilience PIT activities.

18.3     GCOOS Memorandum of Agreement

The Board reaffirmed the MOA and instructed the GCOOS Office to provide the 2009 date on the MOA.

Nowlin was requested to send a letter to SEMARNAT affirming that the $2K fee applied only to individuals who wished to have voting rights and not to Associate Parties.

18.4     Membership on Committees and Councils

The Board voted to invite John Valentine of the University of South Alabama onto the Observing Systems Committee and Richard Gagne of SAIC onto the Products and Services Committee.

18.5     New Business

Information is needed to better assess how well the various committees and councils are working. The Chairs, perhaps polling their members for input, should report on whether or not their group is functioning reasonably well. If it is, how is it doing? If not, why not and what changes need to be made to be as effective as we can given the persistent low-level of funding. Are there areas of overlap with other groups? Also any recommendations on the role and structure of the councils and committees would be helpful.

When the Business Model is completed, the Chairs of the councils and committees should be asked to provide feedback on it, assuming level funding over the next few years.

18.6     Date and Location of Next Board Meetings

The next Board meeting will be 17-18 September 2009, in Alabama or New Orleans. The key topic will be to look at the structure of the GCOOS-RA and reorganize to better reflect the way the GCOOS-RA is working. Committees will be examined to see how well engaged they are, who is active, and who is not. Some committees/councils may be put onto inactive status until funding picks up.

The Board of Directors Meeting was adjourned. No Executive Committee meeting was held.



Appendix A: Meeting Attendees: GCOOS-RA Parties and Board of Directors Meeting
25-26 February 2009

(P = Party; IP = Individual Party; RP = Representing Party; BOD = Board of Directors member; BOD-E = Board of Directors member-elect; SC = Stakeholder Council member; RSC = Representing Stakeholder Council Member; MC = Membership Committee member; PSC = Products and Services Committee member; OSC = Observing System Committee member; DMAC = Data Management and Communications Committee member; PP = Prospective Party; S = Speaker; IO = Interested Observer)

Name Institution Role Feb 25 Feb 26
Board of Directors
Cort Cooper Chevron P, BOD X X
Lars Herbst Minerals Management Service P, BOD X X
Buzz Martin Texas General Land Office P, BOD X X
Alfredo Prelat Terrallliance Technologies P, BOD X X
Nancy Rabalais LUMCON P, BOD X X
Mike Spranger Florida Sea Grant P, BOD X X
Ray Toll SAIC P, BOD X X
Jan van Smirren Fugro GEOS P, BOD X X
Sharon Walker J.L. Scott Marine Education Center P, BOD X X
Other Participants
Porfirio Alvarez Torres SEMARNAT, Mexico PP, Speaker X X
Chris D’Elia LSU   X  
Bryon Griffith EPA Gulf of Mexico Program P X  
Mike Hemsley Ocean.US (retired) OSC X  
Steve Lohrenz University of Southern Mississippi P, Speaker X  
Alexis Lugo-Fernandez Minerals Management Service PSC X X
Terry McPherson NASA MC, BOD-E X  
Robert Raye Shell DMAC X  
Wes Sessoms   IO X  
Nick Shay RSMAS OSC X  
Suzanne Skelley NOAA IOOS Office Speaker X  
Bob Stickney Texas Sea Grant P, SC X  
Vembu Subramanian University of South Florida DMAC Chair X  
Joe Swaykos University of Southern Mississippi P, EOC Chair X X
Jyotika Virmani Florida COOS Consortium P, Speaker X  
GCOOS Office Staff
Ann Jochens Texas A&M University IP, Regional Coordinator X X
Matt Howard Texas A&M University IP, DMAC Chair Pro Tem, Data Coordinator X  
Chris Simoniello University of Southern Mississippi E/O Coordinator X  




Appendix B: Provisional Agenda
Parties and BoD Meeting, 25-26 February 2009, Renaissance Orlando Hotel-Airport, Orlando, FL

February 25: Annual Meeting of the Parties and Board of Directors
8:00 Introductory Remarks (Mike Spranger)
8:20 Election Results (Terry McPherson)
8:30 Building IOOS: Priorities of the NOAA IOOS Program Office (Suzanne Skelley, NOAA)
9:00 Building the GCOOS: Integration of Data (Matt Howard)
Data Portal, Data Nodes, Data Enhancements, GCOOS Web Site
9:30 Building the GCOOS: Maintenance of Observing Elements (Ann Jochens)
Discussion of the inventory of observing elements; impacts of hurricane damage, etc.
10:00 BREAK
10:15 Building the GCOOS: Enhancements to Observing Elements (Ann Jochens)
Discussion of enhancing engagement of federal data systems, entraining additional non-federal data systems, identifying funding opportunities, etc.
10:45 Update on FLCOOS activities (Jyotika Virmani, FLCOOS Executive Director)
Discussion on how GCOOS-RA and FLCOOS can work together to support areas of common interest
11:15 Updates (5 minutes each):
NOAA Hypoxia Monitoring and Research Plans (Nancy Rabalais)
Interactions with CaRA & SECOORA(Ann Jochens)
Interactions with Mexico (Alfredo Prelat)
11:30 Mexico’s Ocean Policy and Activites in the Gulf of Mexico (Dr. Porfirio Alvarez Torres)
11:45 Discussion of Issues of the Parties
12:15 LUNCH (provided)
Dr. Steve Lohrenz to speak on building a carbon observing system
1:30 Reports of Councils and Committees (10 minutes each):
Stakeholder Council (Robert Stickney, Chair)
Education & Outreach Council (Joe Swaykos, Chair)
Membership Committee (Terry McPherson for Landry Bernard)
Data Management and Communications Committee (Vembu Subramanian)
Observing Systems Committee (Mike Hemsley for Stephan Howden)
Products & Services Committee (Ann Jochens for Joe Stinus)
Standing Task Force on Public Health (Andy Reich, Chair)
2:30 Operational current modeling project (Cort Cooper)
3:00 BREAK
3:15 Building the GCOOS: Expanding Membership in the Regional Association (Mike Spranger)
An opportunity for the GCOOS Stakeholder Council and assignments for Board members
3:45 Priority Interactions with Gulf of Mexico Alliance & 5-year Action Plans (5 minutes each):
Coastal Resiliency PIT (Mike Spranger)
Water Quality PIT (Nancy Rabalais)
Education PIT (Sharon Walker)
Nutrients PIT (Ann Jochens)
Ecosystem Integration & Assessment PIT (Ann Jochens)
Restoration PIT (Nancy Rabalais)
Discussion of Priority Interactions
4:15 Building the GCOOS: Identifying User Requirements (5 minutes each):
Recreational Boaters Workshops (Mike Spranger)
Education/Outreach Workshops (Chris Simoniello)
HABs Workshop (Nancy Rabalais)
Ecosystem Modeling Workshop (Ann Jochens)
Other Planned Workshops (Ann Jochens)
4:45 Building the GCOOS: 2009 Action Plan for the GCOOS-RA (Mike Spranger)
Strategic Plan and Business Model
Priorities for the next two years
5:30 Adjourn Annual Meeting of the Parties and Board of Directors
February 26: Business Meeting of the Board of Directors
8:00 Business Meeting
Report on GCOOS Funding
Membership on Committees and Councils
Discussion and Decisions on 2009 Action Plan and priorities for next two years
Election of Executive Committee
Date and Location of Next Board Meetings (Telephone and In Person)
New Business
11:00 Adjourn Board of Directors Meeting
11:00 Executive Committee Meeting – Topic: Building GCOOS



Appendix C: GCOOS Stakeholder Council Report, February 2009

Shortly after the last GCOOS Board Meeting, the membership list of the Stakeholder Council was examined in terms of the level of participation by each individual – which was in some instance not based so much on lack of interest but difficulty in making time to be active. As a result some members were thanked for their service by way of a letter from Worth Nowlin.

Since many of the activities considered by the Stakeholder Council are similar or overlap those of the Extension Council, a decision was made to have the two Councils collaborate rather than duplicate their efforts. One of the ways of doing that will be to have the chair or his/her representative sit in on conference calls of the other. Further, it was decided that at least one member of the Stakeholder Council should serve on the planning committee for any workshop that is conducted by GCOOS.

Shortly after those procedural changes were put into place, plans were initiated to hold a pair of Recreational Boaters Workshops. The first was initially planned for late 2008 in Galveston, Texas to be followed up by another workshop for the recreational boating committee in Tampa, Florida. Because of Hurricane Ike in the late summer of 2008, the Galveston meeting had to be postponed and is tentatively scheduled for May, 2009 to allow the Galveston area to return to something approaching normalcy.

The Tampa meeting was held on February 3-4, 2009 with about 40 attendees. Don Roman chaired the committee and with assistance from the committee put together a very good program. The plan was to have a breadth of attendees who would represent recreational fishing, weekend cruising, sport diving, and marine safety interests. All those groups were represented to one degree or another.

One of the major lessons learned was that the recreational boating community was totally unaware of GCOOS or ocean observing in the larger sense. They use some of the products, but aren’t aware of the global IOOS efforts and haven’t thought much, if any, about what services they may need.

Planning for the Galveston meeting will be initiated in the near future. I believe we learned some valuable lessons from the Tampa meeting and will undoubtedly make a few changes in an attempt to increase community participation.

A letter (copy appended) was sent to all members of the Stakeholder Committee asking them to contact colleagues in an attempt to get more individuals and organizations to sign on as Parties to the GCOOS Memorandum of Agreement. That activity is currently underway so it is too early to provide an indication of its success.

Having come to the conclusion that the Stakeholder and Education Councils of GCOOS need to work closely together and have most of their objectives in common, it may be time for the Board to consider whether it is necessary or even desirable to have two such bodies or if some streamlining might occur if the two are combined. Engaging stakeholders involves extension and education if those individuals and groups are going to become advocates for GCOOS. If there are situations where it seems appropriate, ad hoc subcommittees of the new Council could be developed.

Robert R. Stickney, Chair
Stakeholder Council

Copy of letter to GCOOS Stakeholder Committee members

Dear _____,

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System-Regional Association (GCOOS-RA), I invite you and ___{Organization Name}____ to become a Party to the GCOOS-RA Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). The MOA established the GCOOS-RA in January 2005. The GCOOS-RA is committed to (1) providing integrated, remotely-sensed and in situ information about the northern Gulf of Mexico coastal region and related ecosystems in real or near real time for use by researchers, managers, military, industry, educators and others seeking to understand this coastal environment, manage ocean and littoral resources, and develop commercial uses of marine resources, data and information; (2) developing new sensor technologies; and (3) stimulating innovation and supporting commerce.

GCOOS currently has three major foci. One is to establish a data and products portal to seamlessly serve non-proprietary information to all potential users in the Gulf region. This will integrate and better utilize existing sources of measurements and products. The second is to further identify and prioritize the needs of potential users for data and data products. This will allow us to best utilize any funds available for enhancements to the current system. The third is to improve GCOOS communications, including our web site and regular newsletters. This will enable all potential stakeholders, both users and providers of information, to more easily learn about and utilize GCOOS.

If you wish to become a Party to the GCOOS MOA, please download the MOA from the website, print the MOA, and sign the final page. You may fax the final signatory page only to Worth Nowlin, Chairman of the GCOOS-RA Board of Directors, at (979) 847-8879, or you can scan the signatory page into a pdf or similar document and email to Susan Martin ( Please indicate if you are signing as an individual or on behalf of an organization. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Member, GCOOS Stakeholder Council



Appendix D: Priority Actions for the GCOOS-RA

At the August 19, 2008 meeting of the GCOOS-RA Board of Directors it was agreed that the RA should set priorities on which to focus because there are more things that should be done in a perfect world than available personnel or resources can support. The following priorities have been vetted by the GCOOS-RA Board of Directors.

Priorities Completed or Underway and to be completed in 2009:

  • Complete initial interoperability with real-time tasks with local data nodes (M Howard) Done
  • Complete the GCOOS Data Portal (M Howard and A Jochens) Underway
  • Updated GCOOS data inventory (W Nowlin and S Martin) Underway
  • Complete revision of GCOOS web site (S Martin and W Nowlin) Underway
  • Improve Alabama’s participation in the RA Continuing
  • Prepare brochure and display materials for workshops (GCOOS Office) Continuing
  • Produce refined business plan (Business Model) Underway
  • Participate in relevant GOMA activities (A Jochens and C Simoniello) Underway

Priorities for 2009:

  • Increase number of Parties to the Moa
  • Actively seek out additional providers of data and products to be served through the GCOOS data portal
  • Begin adding federal data streams to the Data Portal
  • Complete initial inventory of regional products of interest (Products and Services Committee)
  • Prepare education and outreach component for new web site (C Simoniello and Education and Outreach Council)
  • Hold second HABIOS Development Workshop, Recreational Boaters Workshop for western Gulf, and Ecosystem Modeling Workshop, and prepare for Marine Transportation Workshop
  • Initiate first inter-RA Pilot Projects
  • Refine priorities for needed (enhanced or new) observing systems (Board and Observing Systems Committee)
  • Consider new sources of financial support
  • Maintain active involvement in 3-D ocean current model (RPSEA-CASE funding)
  • Maintain participation in relevant GOMA activities

Longer-term Prioriies (2010 and beyond):

  • Complete prototype GCOOS Operations Center
  • Identify funding source(s) to maintain Data Portal/Operations Center
  • Hold third HABIOS Development Workshop, Marine Transportation Workshop, and Urban Planning and Development Workshop to refine Integrated User Requirements
  • Formulate initial Integrated User Requirements
  • Perform gap analysis using operating system inventory and Integrated User Requirements
  • Continue planning and implementing Pilot Projects with focus on those agreed to jointly by GCOOS-RA, SECOORA, and CaRA
  • Install HF Radar system along the coast
  • Develop additional sources of financial support