On 30 March 2009, President Obama is expected to sign into law a legislative package of more than 150 land conservation bills that had been obstructed for months by procedural hurdles in Congress. The law will establish more than 2 million acres of wilderness, create a number of new conservation areas, and expand several existing parks. Also included are five ocean research bills that will collectively create three new research programs in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the federal agency charged with studying and managing our nation’s oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes.

Specifically, the new law addresses five areas of ocean research:

  1. Ocean acidification: The law will establish an interagency committee, chaired by NOAA, to develop and provide Congress with a strategic research plan on ocean acidification. The law also establishes an ocean acidification program in NOAA to conduct research, long-term monitoring and education, and to develop adaptation strategies and techniques for conserving marine ecosystems. The program will include extramural research grants for studies that explore the impacts of ocean acidification on ecosystems.

  2. Ocean exploration: A new national ocean exploration program will be established at NOAA that will conduct interdisciplinary ocean voyages to explore and study little known areas of the oceans, and to inventory and observe marine resources. Priority will be given to missions that explore the deep sea. The program will include extramural research grants.

  3. Ocean observation: The law requires the development and maintenance of an integrated system to collect basic environmental data on the nation’s oceans, coastal waters, and Great Lakes. The program also has the goal of advancing ocean observation technology and models. The program, which will be administered by NOAA, will include extramural research grants.

  4. Undersea research: The law will establish a coordinated national undersea research program which will be comprised of a network of regional undersea research centers and a National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology. The program will include education and public outreach.

  5. Ocean and coastal mapping: The law also directs the establishment of a committee to integrate federal and coastal mapping activities throughout U.S. waters. The committee will develop a plan that prioritizes ocean mapping efforts and identifies how data management and processing activities will be coordinated.


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