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Island University Researcher Awarded NOAA Restore Act Grant

October 19, 2015

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi scientist has received funds to help restore fishing communities in the Gulf of Mexico. Dr. James Simons, Associate Research Scientist with the Center for Coastal Studies, has been awarded a $395,000 NOAA Restore Act Science Program grant to fund his research titled “Ecosystem Modeling Efforts in the Gulf of Mexico: Current Status and Future Needs to Address Management and Restoration Activities.” The award distribution began on September 1, 2015, and will continue through August 31, 2017.

Simons, the lead investigator of the study, is working with two co-investigators: Dr. Elizabeth Babcock from the University of Miami, and Dr. Cameron Ainsworth from the University of South Florida.

“We are very excited to be awarded this funding,” said Simons. “There are many disparate modeling efforts, in the past and ongoing, with little connection to the management and fishing communities. Our project will help to address these issues.”

Simons and his team will conduct a comprehensive review and assessment of ecosystem modeling efforts in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) to identify how well these models currently address management and restoration issues. The intent is to align future ecosystem models with management and restoration needs.  The team will describe how existing models could be improved and what new ecosystem models should be developed to benefit management and restoration programs in the Gulf. In addition, they will also convene a workshop to inform and elicit input from the management and fishing communities. The team will also test the capacity of existing models to predict impacts of habitat and management actions in the Gulf. Finally, the investigators will link Fishbase and SeaLifeBase (global information systems on fish and marine organisms), GoMexSI (fish diet database), and OSMOSE (ecosystem model) to develop a framework to facilitate future development of ecosystem models in the GOM.

“This research is important in that it will lay the groundwork for better models that address issues of importance to managers and fishermen,” said Simons. “It will benefit the greater Gulf of Mexico community through better restoration and management of our fisheries resources.”

The NOAA Restore Act Science Program recently awarded seven projects funding through the science program’s first federal funding opportunity. Each of the research teams will address one or more of the program’s short-term priorities which focus on assessing ecosystem modeling, evaluating indicators for ecosystem conditions and assessing and developing recommendations for monitoring and observing in the GOM. These projects were selected through a rigorous and highly competitive procedure which included a review by a panel of outside experts. In total, about $2.7 million was awarded to seven different research teams. Read summaries of each of the seven projects at http://restoreactscienceprogram.noaa.gov/funding/ffo-2015.