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Dealing with Dead Zones: Hypoxia in the Ocean

This image from a NOAA Environmental Visualization Lab animation shows how runoff from farms (green areas) and cities (red areas) drains into the Mississippi. This runoff contains an overabundance of nutrients from fertilizers, wastewater treatment plants, and other sources. This nutrient pollution eventually ends up in the Gulf of Mexico, leading to the formation of hypoxic dead zones.

When water runs off of farmland and urban centers and flows into our streams and rivers, it is often chock-full of fertilizers and other nutrients. These massive loads of nutrients eventually end up in our coastal ocean, fueling a chain of events that can lead to hypoxic “dead zones” — areas along the sea floor where oxygen is so low it can no longer sustain marine life. In this episode, we’re joined by NOAA scientist Alan Lewitus to explore why dead zones form, how the problem of hypoxia is growing worse, and what we’re doing about it.

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Ocean Noise

The level of noise pollution in the oceans has increased dramatically the last 50 years. As shipping traffic increases and ships get bigger and noisier, ocean noise is becoming a larger issue within NOAA's sanctuaries. Shown here: Whales swimming near a tanker, photo taken under NOAA Fisheries Permit # 981-1707-00.

Many marine organisms, including marine mammals, sea turtles, fish and invertebrates, rely on sound and hearing for their survival. Over the last century, increases in human activity within our ocean have led to increasing levels of noise. This increasing amount of noise from human sources is a rising concern for the health and well-being of marine organisms and ecosystems. In this episode, we talk with NOAA marine ecologist Dr. Leila Hatch about her work to better understand the ocean soundscape by developing programs that can establish baselines, detect changes in noise levels, and support the design of methods to reduce noise impacts.

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Remote Control

Bathymetric Explorer and Navigator (BEN) Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) underway from the NOAA Ship Fairweather off Point Hope, Alaska, July, 2018. BEN, a four-meter diesel-powered USV manufactured by ASV Global, has an endurance of over 16 hours and is equipped with a standard suite of hydrographic survey equipment.

With the use of unmanned systems, NOAA is reducing operational costs and manpower requirements, while increasing the type and quality of data that NOAA collects. In this episode, Rob Downs from NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey explains the past, present, and possible future of unmanned systems at NOAA.

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