Research

CIMEC's Funded Research Projects are a cooperation between NOAA and the CIMEC Partner Institutions.  Proposals submitted through CIMEC must relate to one fo the five CIMEC Research Tasks agreed upon by NOAA, and fit within on of the CIMEC Research Themes, one of 4 areas that relate to NOAA's mission.  Each year CIMEC is required to submit an Annual Progress Report to NOAA.  

 

Research Tasks

Under the Cooperative Institutes’ cooperative agreement, five tasks are outlined by CIMEC and agreed upon by NOAA, allowing CIMEC to group and account for research more easily. The tasks are defined as follows:

Task 1: Administration
Task 1 funding is for administration of the Institute and includes support for the CIMEC Director’s office and minimal support for the staff. It includes costs associated with annual scientific meetings that are deemed important for the CIMEC Director to attend, workshops sponsored by CIMEC, web-site development and maintenance, funding for the Joint Institute Director’s and executive board and fellows meetings.

Task 2: Joint NOAA Laboratory/CIMEC Collaboration 
Collaborative proposals have NOAA and participating California University partners working together jointly on research themes. These proposals are divided by theme and include all research associated with funding including the funding of salaries, benefits, travel as well as instrumentation and computer time.

Task 3: Individual Science Projects 
Cooperative research proposals are specific to the CIMEC theme areas, but submitted by individual scientists of CIMEC. The distinction here is that there is a loosely bound tie between individuals working on similar themes or topics. It is also seen that this may be a mechanism for developing collaborative proposals in the future, as well as encouraging new areas of research to develop. These proposals are divided by theme and include all research associated funding including the funding of salaries, benefits, travel and instrumentation and computer time.

Task 4: Education and Outreach 
In support of NOAA’s Mission and Strategic Plan, CIMEC’s Task 4 was developed to strengthen and coordinate an education and outreach component to compliment and convey CIMEC research into the academic and public realms.

Task 5: CIMEC Research Infrastructure Proposals 
Because proposals relevant to CIMEC will use a variety of observation platforms in order to carry out the research objectives, an infrastructure task by theme area was defined, which includes proposals for platform and specialized research facilities.

 

Research Themes

Four thematic areas form the basis for research performed in partnership with NOAA. Each of these areas are relevant to the NOAA mission elements, particularly those of environmental assessment and prediction and environmental stewardship.

A. Climate and Coastal Observations, Analysis and Prediction Research

The primary goals for this research theme are to understand the remote forcing functions that control fundamental ocean and atmosphere processes and to utilize this knowledge for prediction. For CIMEC the basis of interest is primarily the Pacific, although other areas may be studied as a model or to put the Pacific information in context (e.g., Indian, Arctic). These thrust areas include the following:

Oceanic roles in climate and global change
The oceans contain 96% of the Earth’s free water. They are the source of 86% of all evaporation and the direct recipient of 78% of rainfall. The salinity of the ocean surface layer reflects the global pattern of evaporation minus precipitation, with salinity maxima in regions of excess evaporation and minima in regions of excess rainfall. The meridional transport of water vapor in the atmosphere is equal and opposite to the freshwater transport in the ocean. Long-term trends in salinity show the evaporative regions of the ocean becoming saltier and the high precipitation areas fresher indicating an acceleration of the global hydrological cycle. Slow freshening of the oceans as a whole is a yardstick for the melting of glaciers, ice sheets, and sea ice. Past research in the hydrological cycle has been focused on the land and atmosphere, while the large role of the oceans has been poorly observed. It is increasingly clear that the complete global hydrological system, including the oceans, must be addressed.

Last, and very importantly among (physical) global change issues, is sea level rise. The present observing system includes satellite and in situ observations of total sea level, plus satellite measurements of changes in ocean mass and in situ observations of the ocean’s steric height. While the majority of future sea level rise may come from melting Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, the steric component of sea level is nonetheless significant, and the increasing heat content of the high latitude oceans is a key factor in understanding and predicting melting and precipitation (ice deposition) rates.

CIMEC projects contribute to datasets in an effort to build the models to address these important issues.

Coastal oceans and climate
The scientific community is faced with challenging issues across our coastal waters:

  • How do human activities impact the coastal ocean?
  • How do coastal ecosystems respond to climate change?
  • How does climate change and sea level rise present itself at local scales?
  • What role does the coastal ocean play in the global biogeochemical cycles?
  • What processes determine community structure in coastal ecosystems?
  • How can we predict and mitigate coastal hazards that impact human populations?
     

CIMEC has a myriad of tools within its partner institutions, including the long-running CalCOFI program with its 60-year time series of the California Current, at its disposal to help investigate these questions and find the solutions to the problems some of these questions pose.

B. Climate Research and Impacts

Observations and model simulations are crucial elements needed to guide decisions over the next several decades as global scale changes in climate, sea level and other environmental components such as aerosols and land surface changes continue to produce great impacts across the United States. Regions affected by these changes include the region of the western mountainous states, in particular, California and the adjacent coastal zone. CIMEC research will study climate and its impact on society to serve the nation’s needs for climatic information with programs conducting applied climate research to assist decision makers prepare for and adapt to climate changes, both natural and (potentially) anthropogenic.

C. Marine Ecosystems

CIMEC will directly address NOAA’s Ecosystem Mission Goal to “protect, restore, and manage the use of coastal and ocean resources through the ecosystem approach to management”. Fisheries and protected species and their relation to the environment, including climate change, are broad areas of research and teaching within CIMEC, and will include participation from faculty, graduate students, postdocs, and NOAA colleagues.

Ecosystem characteristics of particular interest are marine population dynamics, biodiversity, and biogeochemistry. The means by which these will be investigated include observing, process studies, and modeling. Collectively, the results are used to assess and predict ecosystem productivity and health for decision makers. Fishing affects both the target species and their environment. Climate change will affect marine ecosystems through rising sea level, warming, ocean acidification, deoxygenation, and potential changes in productivity and circulation.

Primary regions of interest are the California Current Ecosystem (CCE), the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP), and the Southern Ocean (SO). Fisheries management research, such as the long-running 60-year time series of the California Current conducted under the CalCOFI program, provides policymakers and management officers with the information needed to manage the nation’s marine resources.

D. Ecosystem-Based Management

Fisheries management has undergone a paradigm shift in recent years from an exclusive focus on individual assessments of commercially-exploited stocks to maximize sustainable yield (or comparable metric) to a precautionary, ecosystem-based approach. Ecosystem-based management (EBM) explicitly considers human impacts on key predator, prey and competitor species, on bycatch species and benthic habitat, as well as on directly targeted stocks. NOAA is mandated to manage US fisheries within an EBM framework and is implementing integrated ecosystem assessments (IEA) as a critical science-support tool.

The 60-year California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI) program is one of the longest running ocean observation programs in the world. A joint program of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the Southwest Fisheries Science Center (NMFS/NOAA), and the California Department of Fish and Game, CalCOFI is designed to provide data for stock assessment of key commercial species, as well as physical, chemical, and biological data on the state of the California Current ecosystem (CCE), including quantitative observations on ecologically critical species of krill, fish, seabirds and mammals. CalCOFI observations have provided the basis for much of our current understanding of the impact of climate variability (the El Niño, Pacific Decadal Oscillation, and the North Pacific Gyre Oscillation) on the CCE. In the future, CalCOFI will provide much of the observational ‘backbone’ for integrated ecosystem assessments (IEAs) and ecosystem-based management (EBM) of the CCE, as well as for modeling and understanding the impacts of long-term climate change.

Integration of Marine Protection Areas (MPAs) and Conventional Fishery Management
More than 15 percent of the coast of California will soon be in MPAs implemented under California’s Marine Life Protection Act. Modeling of the effects of these for decision makers has been done by Partner labs, and will soon be started in a Sea Grant project to develop models to use in the evaluation of ongoing monitoring efforts.

The Center for Stock Assessment Research (CSTAR)
CSTAR was formed in 2001, as a collaboration between the NMFS laboratories in Santa Cruz and Pacific Grove, with the objective of undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral research and training associated with the problems of assessing the numerical abundance, spatial distribution, size distribution and reproductive status of commercially important fish species and thereby increasing the pool of quantitatively trained biologists available to be hired by NMFS. The program of research and training at CSTAR is science done in the national interest and moves in the direction outlined by the National Research Council in its report “Recruiting Fishery Scientists.”