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Marine tagging provides valuable data to biologists

Friday, March 04, 2011

The scientific community has an interesting definition of "fish and chips." It's the electronic tagging of marine mammals that provides all sorts of data about species as well as the ocean environment. The tags with computer chips in them can transmit or record everything from ocean temperature to depth of travel.

Barbara Block, Ph.D., is a professor of marine sciences at Stanford University. Dr. Block says "We are learning where the corridors are, we are finding out where the hot spots are, where are the places that need to protect."

For the first time, the tagging research is being taken to a new level through a partnership led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA has a vested interest in collecting the data because what marine mammals find in the ocean depths helps the agency better track both long-term climate change and even short-term weather forecasts. That's because the marine mammals go where ships, buoys and other devices don't go.

Zdenka Willis is directing a new program called U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System or IOOS. It will merge the various data and computer models from local, state and federal agencies into one incredible picture of the ocean ecosystem. The tagging research has great practical applications for NOAA. Zdenka says, "All of this information plays out in improving our knowledge of those storms both the intensity and the tracks coming onto the coast."

Research biologists are equally excited about the data merging. Andy Seitz, Ph.D, is from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He says, "Working in a vacuum is personally unsatisfying and professionally unsatisfying and to all of a sudden have 100 times more information overnight is really revolutionized the way we are doing our science."

The integrated system will take place this fall, but in the meantime you can view some of the interesting marine tagging at www.gtopp.org

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Tags:
animal, animals in peril, NOAA, monterey bay, green, karina rusk
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