Focus Session: Hot Topics in Marine Science

Hot Topics in Marine Science

Updated 2.14.2013

1. Building a Sargassum Observing Network
Presenter: Dr. Amy Siuda (click here to see the presentation)

2. Marine Debris – not just in the gyres
Presenter: Rachael Miller, Rozalia Project For a Cleaner Ocean (click here to see presentation)

Building a Sargassum Observing Network

The pelagic drift macroalgae species, Sargassum fluitans and S. natans, are distributed across surface waters of the North Atlantic gyre, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. These floating island ecosystems host a diverse biological community including commercially important, endangered and endemic organisms. While observations of Sargassum date back centuries, basic questions about its distribution remain unanswered. Remote sensing has proven powerful for identifying the location of large Sargassum mats, however these satellite observations may not capture the entire picture. Sea Education Association (SEA) possesses a nearly 40-year dataset of Sargassum distribution derived from more than 6000 surface net tows on more than 250 cruises in the western North Atlantic and Caribbean. Recently, SEA started collecting even finer resolution data to not only estimate Sargassum biomass for the period between twice-daily net sampling stations, but to determine the relative proportion of Sargassum biomass in large mats, windrows, and diffuse individual clumps. These standard six-minute visual surveys conducted at the top of every daylight hour are simple and robust. To this end, SEA proposes to establish and manage a Sargassum Observing Network aimed to increase the spatial and temporal extent of the Sargassum dataset. SEA seeks collaborators among the member vessels of Tall Ships America to conduct visual surveys. SEA will provide scientific protocols, identification guidelines and a web-based data submission interface, as well as organize, analyze and make available this evolving dataset.

Biography of Speaker:
Dr. Amy Siuda is an Associate Professor of Oceanography and Chief Scientist at Sea Education Association (SEA,, a Woods Hole, Massachusetts-based institution that engages in education, research, and service for a sustainable global ocean. SEA offers undergraduate field programs in marine and environmental studies on campus and aboard two 134-foot steel brigantines, the SSV Corwith Cramer in the western north Atlantic/Caribbean and the SSV Robert C. Seamans in the eastern Pacific. Dr. Siuda was first introduced to Sargassum, her current research focus, as a SEA Semester® student and enjoys sharing its unique community of inhabitants with current students.

2. Marine Debris – not just in the gyres

Description: While the Pacific Garbage Patch was a hot topic in science and the press a few years ago, it is very far away and, through easy to recognize how ocean trash is bad for the fish, people had a hard time seeing the importance of impact marine debris had on their lives. Not anymore. With the debris from Japan’s Tsunami washing up on West Coast shores, and more and more scientific evidence showing the transfer of persistent organic pollutants into the human food chain via ocean-borne plastic, marine debris is a hot topic once again. This time its relevance is easier to see. Rozalia Project finds and removes marine debris, from the surface to the seafloor, using towed surface nets and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) for underwater cleanup and research. We have been focusing on marine debris in urban harbors and along the coast. In this session, Rozalia Project’s Exec. Director, Rachael Miller, will present results from Rozalia Project’s recent work, an update on recent scholarship on debris and tsunami debris as well as how ships and shore-based organizations can contribute date, find resources and be part of the solution.

Biography of Speaker:

Rachael Miller
Rachael Miller

Rachel Miller is co-founder/Executive Director of Rozalia Project for a Clean Ocean whose mission is to find and remove marine debris, from the surface to the sea floor, through action, technology, outreach and research. Rozalia Project uses sonar equipped ROV’s to search and clean the sea floor of marine debris of all sizes and to connect people of all ages to their underwater world through dockside and shipboard marine debris programs aboard their 60′ sailing vessel, American Promise. In addition to leading Rozalia Project, Rachael is a member of the US Sailing National Faculty and Training Committee, a US Sailing Instructor Trainer and ROV pilot trainer for VideoRay. She is a certified windsurfing, kitesurfing and snowkiting instructor, hold a USCG 50 ton Master’s license, lives in Vermont, has two newfies and loves the frozen water as much as the liquid.


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