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Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment

We make field observations and analyses on regional and national scales,
            and improve the accuracy, speed, and cost of monitoring approaches and tools.
We make field observations and analyses on regional and national scales, and improve the accuracy, speed, and cost of monitoring approaches and tools.

The Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment conducts field research and data analysis to support marine resource management at local, regional, and national levels. We partner with groups ranging from Tribal organizations to state governments to other federal agencies to identify research and monitoring questions of importance to communities. Based in Silver Spring, Maryland, our scientists work throughout the coastal United States, its territories, and the Freely Associated States.

Major research programs include:

  • Biogeographic assessments, in support of ecosystem management
  • Monitoring and research to help find sources of coastal contamination
  • Assessments of the ecological impacts of climate change
  • Forecasts to help to protect the public from harmful algae blooms

Biological and Geographic Characterizations and Mapping

Leadership: John Christensen, Branch Chief 240-533-0378

We conduct research on the distribution and ecology of marine plants and animals. From field studies and other surveys, we create maps, reports, and tools that document ecosystem conditions, anticipate changes in the environment and how they meet social and economic needs. We conduct our work nationwide in estuaries, along our coasts, and in marine ecosystems, especially marine protected areas (MPAs) and coral reefs.

When state and federal planners want to know where to place aquaculture, alternative energy facilities or protect fish spawning areas, they come to CCMA for expert advice. We help planners evaluate "what if" scenarios such as the impact of new development or proposed changes in sanctuary boundaries.

Key actions and accomplishments:

  • Our report "A Biogeographic Assessment of Seabirds, Deep Sea Corals and Ocean Habitats of the New York Bight: Science to Support Offshore Spatial Planning," is helping New York balance ocean uses and environmental conservation in their waters;
  • Completed an ecological assessment of Jobos Bay, Puerto Rico, part of an ongoing multi-agency effort to assess the effectiveness of conservation practices by agricultural producers;
  • Continued an ecological assessment of Guanica Bay, Puerto Rico, an effort in direct support of proposed watershed management efforts, useful in documenting environmental change in this system;
  • Worked with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and The Nature Conservancy to identify ecological hotspots for ground fish, and develop maps which were used in the Oregon Territorial Sea Plan;
  • Completed "A Biogeographic Assessment of the Samoan Archipelago," the first broad-scale, effort to characterize marine ecosystems in a comprehensive manner;
  • Completed the Integrated Marine Protected Area Climate Tools (IMPACT) project for the Florida Keys, a regional synthesis of satellite, water quality, and modeled climate data for tracking and attributing ecosystem changes in response to extremes in climate and weather.

Water Quality Monitoring, Status and Trends Assessments

Leadership: Dr. Greg Piniak 240-533-0335

We conduct integrated environmental and water quality monitoring and assessments to define the status and trends of estuarine, coastal, marine, and Great Lakes ecosystems. Our scientists evaluate pollution and its toxic effects on animals and develop systems to forecast and detect harmful algal blooms.

We develop models to assess and predict the impacts of human uses and natural events on coastal and marine ecosystems. These models are used to assess how aspects of climate change—including changing seawater chemistry and temperatures—will affect marine resources along the nation’s coastlines.

For ten years, CCMA has been providing coastal states with advanced warning and accurate information on harmful algal blooms, more commonly known as "red tides", which produce toxins dangerous to humans and wildlife. Our forecasts help states like Maine, Florida, and Ohio prepare and protect citizens by identifying which beaches, water intake pipes, and shellfish beds will be affected by a bloom.

We help state and federal authorities respond to disasters, pinpoint contamination "hotspots," and define the effects of contamination on living marine resources. We are home to "Mussel Watch", one of the nation's longest-running and most extensive contaminant monitoring programs in U.S. history.

Key actions and accomplishments:

  • Analyzed zebra mussels and sediments for chemical contaminants for the eastern portion of the Great Lakes to help EPA managers determine whether remediation efforts in the region are succeeding;
  • Worked with the USGS to determine whether legacy contaminants and contaminants of emerging concern are having an effect on fish species of the Shenandoah River;
  • Forecasted the movement of blooms of harmful algae in Florida to help minimize the amount of recreation beaches that are closed to the public;
  • Forecasted blooms of Lake Erie algae which help water treatment plant operators target their use of expensive carbon filtration with much greater precision;
  • Completed a comprehensive report highlighting the many aspects of NCCOS research that contributes to better understanding of the Chesapeake Bay’s ecology and environmental health.

Facility and Personnel

Leadership: Dr. Mark Monaco, Director 240-533-0327
Dr. Teresa McTigue, Research Coordination & Admin. Services 301-713-3028 x141

Our support staff in Silver Spring is critical to the CCMA mission by developing communications and outreach strategies and material, technical publications, and coordinating research with other parts of NCCOS and NOAA. Our ability to conduct and share our research, monitoring and assessment portfolio with our partners requires a suite of support services which are the responsibility of these dedicated employees.