Awards and Recognition
NOAA Technology Transfer Awards
Each year, NOAA’s Technology Partnerships Committee selects individual projects as the best examples of technology transfer from across all NOAA’s Line Offices and Programs. The purpose of this award is to recognize NOAA scientific, engineering, and technical employees for: (1) inventions or other outstanding scientific or technological contributions of value to the United States due to commercial applications and (2) exemplary activities that promote the domestic transfer of science and technology developed within NOAA and result in the use of such science and technology by American industry or business, universities, State or local Government, or other non-Federal parties. The current and past years’ awardees are listed below.
2021 - No Awards Granted
NOAA Technology Transfer Award Archive
For development and transition to citizen scientists, technology that gives beachgoers in Florida forecast of respiratory irritation from red tides.
For innovative development of an inexpensive, automated river gage and transfer of that technology to the private sector through a CRADA.
For creating a unique instrument to measure atmospheric particles and helping a small company successfully commercialize it to yield $1M+ in sales.
For leadership in implementing technology transfer for Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tag detection in fish across the Pacific Northwest.
National Marine Fisheries Service
The team implemented an effective early warning system for harmful algal blooms for shellfish farmers, fish farmers, Native American Tribes, and State agencies—it includes a simple reporting database and real-time maps of harmful algae abundance to promote shellfish safety in the Pacific Northwest.
Washington State is a national leader in bivalve shellfish, an industry that employs more than 3,200 people and contributes an estimated $270 million to the economy. Recreation and tourism associated with shellfish harvesting account for more than $1 million in revenue for license sales and an estimated economic value of $5.4 million annually. However, coast wide shellfish harvest is often severely impacted by harmful algal blooms that are increasing in geographical distribution, type, intensity, and frequency.
Pacific Northwest state agencies and tribal co-managers were overwhelmed by the need to monitor increasing numbers of toxic algal blooms in more places, while detecting new types of toxins that had only recently been found in shellfish. The Washington State Department of Health reached out to the NWFSC Marine Biotoxin Team for assistance. As a result, in 2006, NOAA established a monitoring program to enhance Puget Sound shellfish safety, called SoundToxins. Over the past decade, this program has been optimized by NOAA staff to allow the transfer of a monitoring and mapping technology, now located on the www.soundtoxins.org website, to WA, OR, and AK state partners in 2017. SoundToxins partners include shellfish and fish farmers, environmental learning centers, community members, Native American Tribes, and state agencies who have been trained by NOAA staff to monitor for harmful algae weekly throughout Puget Sound, using protocols that have been improved over the past decade to allow for easy recording, submission, and viewing of data.
The Technology Transferred:
SoundToxins partners enter observations of harmful algae in real time into a customized database created by NOAA staff that has been refined over the last decade to make data entries easier and more accurate. NOAA staff created this user-friendly SoundToxins database, where phytoplankton abundances are converted into a “traffic light” mapping system (see figure, below) with specific abundance thresholds that enable public health officials and natural resource managers to rapidly visualize the reported data. This visualization helps to identify where toxic algal species are present so that shellfish tissue samples are immediately collected and analyzed in areas of high cell abundance (yellow and purple dots on the maps) to protect public health. State and tribal co-managers view SoundToxins maps daily, allowing them to determine where and when additional shellfish samples should be analyzed to protect public health. These managers immediately inform the commercial shellfish industry, tribes, and local health jurisdictions to take action. Once alerted, shellfish harvesters either move their operations to other growing areas or stop harvesting in the affected area. Specifically, the technology that has been transferred to state partners includes: 1) the SoundToxins monitoring program and database, and 2) the mapping system. Both are now served through the www.soundtoxins.org website, which is managed by the states (WA, AK, and OR).
Advantages the Technology Provides:
The SoundToxins partnership preserves public confidence while protecting the income of shellfish harvesters in Puget Sound, by: 1) preventing shellfish recalls; 2) identifying new toxic species, which are then added to the monitoring protocols; 3) protecting public health by promoting shellfish safety; and 4) contributing data to the Puget Sound Water Quality Monitoring Program of the Puget Sound Partnership and the Phytoplankton Monitoring Network.
The database and mapping system, initially developed by NOAA to rapidly assess the locations and risk of toxins in shellfish through real-time data entry, has expanded beyond Puget Sound to other parts of the United States, including the outer coasts of Washington, Oregon, and southeast Alaska. The SoundToxins program was established in 2006, and the transfer of the data entry and mapping system to state partners began in 2010 and was completed in 2017. These state partners include Washington Sea Grant, Washington State Department of Health, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Southeast Alaska Tribal Toxins Partnership. State partners recently have acquired funds to support the SoundToxins activities. For a complete list of partners, including tribal co-managers of shellfish resources who are benefiting from the technology transfer, see the following websites:
National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service
Mr. Liang serves as the Project Manager (PM) for the NESDIS Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellite (POES) series of legacy satellites that have been flown from the late 1970’s to present. This award is his predominant role in the POES sustainment contract that included tasking to investigate viable alternatives to replace legacy components with a more modular, extensible and flexible design to simplify maintainability of the units as well as substantially reduce the upfront per unit costs compared to the legacy products.
Continuity of operations of NOAA’s environmental satellites on a 24x7x365 basis is a mission critical function of NESDIS in order to support the life and property preservation missions of U.S. Federal, State and local agencies as well as international partner agencies. The technology developed and transferred under this project replaces costly components used for satellite telemetry and command with a more modular, extensible and flexible design to simplify maintainability of the units as well as substantially reduce the upfront per unit costs compared to the legacy systems.
Mr. Liang utilized his knowledge-based and participatory leadership styles and worked closely with the project team, sharing his electronic engineering expertise with the group, which resulted in positive team dynamics and a universally shared desire to meet the objectives of the project. In addition to cost and design flexibility factors mentioned above, a major benefit of the modular architecture was the incorporation of IT security compliance into the system design in order to isolate any hardware or firmware dependency on Operating System support. Therefore, the system can be updated and patched without adverse impact to the hardware or firmware module.
Over the course of the development period, three major integrated hardware/software deliverables were developed and successfully implemented into OSPO operations in support of multiple missions. These were the Command & Telemetry Transceiver (CaTT), the Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems (CCSDS) Command Telemetry Processor Compact Command & Telemetry Processor (CCTP), and the Satellite Telemetry Data Recorder (STDR).
The CaTT unit includes a suite of telemetry processing functions in a compact, highly integrated and configurable unit utilizing state-of-the-art electronics to achieve performance exceeding that of the legacy commercial units. Due to its modular design, the unit is extensible to support multiple missions (polar/geostationary earth remote sensing and space weather) at 40% the cost of the legacy commercial unit. The CaTT also includes a ranging capability required for precise orbit determination of geostationary and space weather satellites. The CaTT is operational on multiple NOAA satellite missions including DSCOVR, COSMIC, and KOMPSAT5, with plans for deployment in support of MetOp in FY18.
The STDR system provides high performance, highly-configurable, multiple channels data recording, storage, and playback capabilities that outperform those provided by the vendor of the legacy system recording system. These are critical functions required by any command and control system to enable timely diagnostics in the event of satellite anomalies, and/or to retransmit commands telemetry should a problem occur in the transmission during real-time operations.
The CCTP receives satellite commands from the OSPO Satellite Operations Center, and then generates and transmits a modified subcarrier analog data stream to an external modulator for transmission to the satellite via antenna. The telemetry downlink subsystem receives data transmitted by the satellite and performs telemetry CCSDS processing functions to prepare the satellite data for further downstream processing in the ground system.
LJT & Associates is commercializing the technology and began marketing these products in 2016 once sufficient maturity had been achieved, and has the interest of several prospective customers. LJT will make slight modifications to the STDR and provide 32 such units to the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR). The NASA Wallops Flight Facility has expressed considerable interest in the CCTP based on a comparison with a COTS unit. In addition, the Taiwan National Space Organization (NSPO) is evaluating CaTT product for use in their antenna ground equipment.
Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research
For delivering a buoy that provides water managers with the critical information necessary to more effectively process compromised drinking water.
The city of Cleveland Water Department (CWD) provides drinking water to approximately 1.5 million people in 72 communities in Northeast Ohio. The water system’s source is the Lake Erie Central Basin. A system of four water intakes, covering approximately 27 miles of shoreline in the greater Cleveland area, draw water into the CWD’s water treatment plants, which can be exposed to hypoxic (i.e. low oxygen) waters from Lake Erie, compromising water quality in the system. When upwelling events cause hypolimnetic waters to reach CWD intakes, pre-treatment operations are disrupted and corrosion control strategies are impacted by decreases in water temperature and pH. As a result, reduced and dissolved forms of iron and manganese from the hypolimnion enter the distribution system resulting in numerous customer water quality complaints about discolored water (Ruberg, Guasp (CWD Operations Manager), et al ).
Real-time information about the environmental conditions leading to the development of hypoxia can give drinking water managers time to prepare alternate processing methods in the event that low temperature and low pH hypolimnetic waters with increased levels of iron and manganese are transported to water intakes. Beginning in 2007, GLERL initiated a public-private partnership with the CWD to provide Lake Erie central basin environmental information through a hypoxia observation buoy system developed under GLERL’s Real-time Coastal Observation Network (ReCON). The hypoxia observation buoy system is a combination of instrumentation that is capable of providing real-time dissolved oxygen levels on the lake bottom, the vertical temperature gradient of the water column, and surface meteorological conditions. Information from the system is served to central basin drinking water processing managers from a GLERL website , providing hourly updates of decreasing dissolved oxygen, lake temperature stratification, and potential upwelling status using buoy surface meteorological conditions and the GLERL lake circulation model.
In 2014, NOAA/GLERL partnered with the CWD and the non-profit Great Lakes Observing System (GLOS) Regional Association to transition the real-time hypoxia observation buoy component of the Hypoxia Warning System into operations. A request for proposals was written based on the hypoxia observation system specifications provided by GLERL; the specifications for the system were obtained from years of GLERL central Lake Erie hypoxia observations research and development. GLOS secured funding from the CWD to purchase data from buoys providing physical, atmospheric, and water quality conditions needed to adequately characterize the conditions of the hypoxic zone in Lake Erie. Industry partner Limnotech was selected under a competitive award for buoy deployment, maintenance, and retrieval. The transition of this project into operations is the culmination of GLERL technology research and development under ReCON that goes back to 2004. This project was initially funded by GLERL through base funding and was funded under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative from 2012 to 2014.The customers of the Hypoxia Warning System attest to its value. Scott Moegling, Water Quality Manager with CWD stated, “Our first priority is the health of our customers. We receive valuable and complex information in real time with these buoys. That data is an important addition to our treatment tool kit.”
1.RUBERG, S.A., E. Guasp, N. HAWLEY, R.W. MUZZI, S.B. BRANDT, H.A. VANDERPLOEG, J.C. LANE, T.C. MILLER, and S.A. CONSTANT. Societal benefits of the real-time coastal observation network (ReCON): Implications for municipal drinking water quality. Marine Technology Society Journal 42(3):103-109 (2008).
GLERL hypoxia observations website 2007-2014: https://www.glerl.noaa.gov//res/recon/station-clv.html. Hypoxia Warning System, 2014-present: https://www.glerl.noaa.gov/res/HABs_and_Hypoxia/hypoxiaWarningSystem.html
Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research
For the design, implementation, and operation of a 21st-century observing network to address water resource and flood protection issues in the Western U.S.
In the late 1990s, NOAA Physical Sciences Division (PSD) scientists took advantage of their observing system expertise to begin studying the winter storms that impact the Western U.S. on an annual basis. The first of these focused field campaigns was the award-winning (1998 DOC Silver Medal) California Land-falling Jets Experiment (CALJET). Additional field campaigns followed in the early 2000’s and were eventually organized under the umbrella of the NOAA Hydrometeorology Testbed (HMT; hmt.noaa.gov). HMT has continued research on the underlying physical processes associated with extreme precipitation and flooding.
The California Department of Water Resources (CA-DWR) understood the importance of this research, especially as demands for water increased due to population and agriculture growth. In an effort to provide a more permanent solution than episodic field campaigns could provide, CA-DWR asked the nominees to work with them to design, build, and implement a permanent statewide observing system to help stakeholders detect, monitor, and forecast the conditions that can lead to dangerous flooding and/or valuable water supply. The nominees successfully accomplished this enormous task over the past eight years, with the last observing system becoming operational in January of 2017. California now owns a network consisting of over 100 observing sites that provide terrestrial and atmospheric information to CA-DWR and their stakeholders and is part of CA-DWR’s Enhanced Flood Response and Emergency Preparedness program. There is no other observing network of this magnitude on the planet. The specific contributions of the nominees to the various components of the CA-DWR observing network are highlighted in the paragraphs that follow.
A major finding from HMT is the role that atmospheric rivers (ARs), narrow regions of enhanced water vapor transported in the warm sectors of mid-latitude cyclones, play in creating heavy precipitation that can lead to flooding. Water vapor is the fuel that generates precipitation, and Global Navigation Satellite Systems such as Global Positioning System (GPS) offer a reliable method of calculating vertically integrated water vapor (IWV) under all weather conditions. For this part of the project, the nominees formed a collaborative partnership with UNAVCO, a university-based consortium focused on geodetic science, to upgrade existing GPS receivers across California (part of UNAVCO’s Plate Boundary Observatory) with meteorological measurements and real-time communications to allow for continuous retrievals of IWV. There are now 54 sites across California providing cost-effective measurements of IWV in near real time. The success of this program has motivated UNAVCO to add additional IWV sensing sites in Oregon and Washington.
In mountainous watersheds, the altitude in the atmosphere where snow changes into rain (a.k.a., the snow level) can determine whether a storm augments the snowpack or creates a flood. Because of the importance of the snow level in mountain hydrology, the PSD began making snow-level measurements in 2002 using vertically pointing radars. This work resulted in a U.S. patent. Unfortunately, the radars used for this purpose were relatively expensive and PSD only possessed a handful of them. Therefore, specifically for the CA-DWR project, the nominees and their CI partners successfully designed, prototyped, and perfected a new, frequency-modulated, continuous-wave (FM-CW) radar to routinely provide snow-level measurements during precipitation events. This “snow-level” radar is about 1/5th the cost of the radars PSD used previously to make snow-level measurements. CA-DWR invested in ten of these snow-level radars and the nominees deployed them in major watersheds across the state. The nominees are currently working with Radiometrics, Inc., to form a new CRADA to create a market for and increase the visibility of this unique instrument.
The timing of a storm within the winter wet season can also determine whether a flood will ensue. For early season storms the antecedent soil conditions are normally dry, such that much of the precipitation is absorbed by the ground, thereby minimizing runoff. Later in the wet season, the timing between subsequent storms determines whether the soils dry out sufficiently to absorb some or all of the rainfall from the next storm event. The nominees used commercially available soil temperature and moisture sensors that they have used in previous HMT research to create a network of 39 soil moisture stations across the state, many of which are located near fire stations operated by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. For little added cost, the nominees added precipitation and surface meteorological sensors to help portray the current fire weather conditions.
Finally, the importance of ARs to water supply and flooding motivated CA-DWR to invest in a coastal network of atmospheric river observatories (AROs), a unique collection of instruments designed by the nominees to detect and monitor the key features in ARs. Combined with collocated GPS water vapor, a 449-MHz Doppler wind profiler measures the transport of water vapor at the level in the atmosphere that largely controls the precipitation formed by lift over the coastal mountains and Sierra Nevada. A radio acoustic sounding system (RASS) provides temperature profiles that are important for determining atmospheric stability. A surface meteorological tower provides additional measurements to fill in the near surface conditions. CA-DWR invested in four AROs, which the nominees deployed at roughly 300 km spacing along the coast. The success of this project motivated the U.S. Department of Energy to invest in three additional AROs for Oregon and Washington to support wind energy studies in those states. The nominees constructed the wind profilers from components that were manufactured by PSD’s CRADA partners, Vaisala, Inc. and Scintec, AG. As with the ARO and other instrument installations listed above, the nominees were required to search for suitable sites, obtain leases with land owners, as well as install electric utilities and data communications. Already dozens of trips have been taken by the nominees to conduct site surveys, install and maintain the instruments, as well as to forge collaborative relationships with CA-DWR and their stakeholders.
All of the data from the observing network in California are telemetered to a data hub in Boulder using cellular internet technology. The data are organized and archived into a readily accessible data base and data visualization products are generated by the nominees and publicly displayed in near real time (https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/data/obs/datadisplay/). In addition, the data are transmitted to CA-DWR’s data exchange center (CDEC), to NOAA’s data clearing house (MADIS), and to NWS Western Region in specialized formats used by the River Forecast Centers. In 2013, CA-DWR signed a second five-year MOU with PSD to finish the instrument installations, to operate and maintain their observing network, and to conduct further research to increase our physical understanding of West Coast winter weather. By taking advantage of lessons learned in HMT, including both new and commercially available observing technology designed to monitor the impacts of ARs, California has built out an unprecedented statewide observing network that will provide detailed climate quality observations well into the future, to aid in their decisions for managing their water resources.
National Marine Fisheries Service
For conducting scientific studies and gaining approval for use of taurine as an essential ingredient in fish feeds.
Dr. Ron Johnson and scientists of the Aquaculture Program at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC) are currently searching for promising alternative feed ingredients to replace fish meal and fish oil in aquaculture feeds. The use of terrestrial plants, such as soybeans, can replace much of the fish meal in aquaculture feeds, but there are many nutrient deficiencies associated with these ingredients, such as taurine that is absent from plants. Dr. Johnson is nominated for the Technology Transfer Award for studies he conducted that determined taurine requirements for marine fish. This work led to FDA approval of taurine as a fish feed ingredient. This is a major accomplishment of the NOAA-USDA Alternative Feeds Initiative which identified determining taurine requirements in marine fish as a high priority in 2011 (see http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/aquaculture/docs/feeds/the_future_of_aquafeeds_final.pdf). The use of taurine supplemented fish feeds in the U.S. benefits several sectors of the economy: fish growers, fish feed companies, soy industries, and consumers. Globally, taurine approval will facilitate the transition of marine based fish feeds to more sustainable fish based feeds. By doing this, aquaculture producers will lower fish in: fish out ratios of their operation and ultimately, aquaculture could become a net producer of fish protein.
This is a significant contribution to growth and economic viability of the aquaculture industry for the following reasons. Aquaculture is the fastest growing food-producing sector in the world today, and demands for feed ingredients, especially fish meal and oil, have increased dramatically in recent years. World industrial fisheries of feed grade pelagic species are currently managed at or near maximum yield, and harvests cannot increase in the future without severe ecological impacts. Furthermore, fish meal is the most costly ingredient in fish feeds for carnivorous fish and prices have tripled since 2002 ($600 to $1800/ton) while at the same time soy prices doubled ($200 to $400/ton). There is a need to replace fish meal and fish oil in aquaculture feeds if further growth of the industry is to be sustained.
Taurine, an amino sulphonic acid, has important roles in many critical physiological processes in all vertebrate animals. While taurine is ubiquitous in animal proteins, it is absent from terrestrial plant proteins commonly used in alternative fish feeds. Though many animals biosynthesize taurine, felines and some marine finfish have limited ability to produce taurine. In cats, a diet devoid of taurine will cause blindness and multiple birth defects. Taurine is allowed in cat, dog, and chicken feeds in the United States and is generally recognized as safe for humans. Taurine is a key ingredient in many energy drinks for human consumption.
There is a need to supplement alternative plant based fish feeds with taurine for optimal growth, nutrient retention, and overall health of many farmed marine fish species. However, until recently, taurine was prohibited in fish feeds in the United States because of the lack of evidence for its requirement. Through a series of experiments at the NWFSC, aquaculture program scientists led by Dr. Johnson demonstrated that taurine was beneficial and safe in alternative plant-based feeds for sablefish Anoplopoma fimbria, a model cold water marine fish. These studies also showed that human consumption of sablefish that received taurine-supplemented feeds would result in a low to moderate exposure to taurine, with minimal human health risks. Consumption of a typical 100 gram serving of a fillet from sablefish fed a taurine supplemented feed would equate to less than 6% of the total permissible daily allowance for taurine.
In early 2016, NWFSC Aquaculture Program Manager Ron Johnson joined scientists from Auburn University and the USFWS to petition the FDA to allow taurine as an ingredient in fish feeds. The petition was reviewed by scientists of the American Association of Feed Control Officers (AAFCO), a voluntary organization of local, state, and federal agencies and universities that collaborate with the FDA. After review, at the AAFCO 2017 mid-year meeting AAFCO accepted the petition recommendations and a new ingredient definition was adopted for taurine, allowing use of the nutrient in fish feeds (in addition to cat, dog, and chicken feeds). From the AAFCO ruling, taurine is now approved for use in fish feeds in the United States and U.S. feed manufacturers are now allowed to sell taurine-supplemented feeds internationally. It is anticipated the approval will facilitate the use of domestic crops (e.g. soybeans) in alternative fish feeds and further increase the environmental sustainability and economic potential of the aquaculture industry. Industry partners from the Soy Aquaculture Alliance (Indianapolis, IN) and Zeigler Feeds (Gardners, PA) congratulated Dr. Johnson and other petitioners in a formal letter, and stated that they believe taurine approval will greatly facilitate the use of U.S. soybean products in aquaculture feeds worldwide, which will reduce reliance on costly fish meal and oil as feed ingredients. Prior to this ruling, taurine supplemented fish feeds were approved for use in other countries such as Europe and Canada for many years and U.S. fish farmers have been at a competitive disadvantage at not having an option to use less costly plant-based feeds.
The use of fish feeds containing plant-based components supplemented with taurine is expected to reduce feed costs for U.S. farmers by at least 20%. Thus the economic benefits to the U.S. include: fish growers with the availability of less costly feeds, fish feed industries with expansion of international sales, soy farmers with increased use of their products in fish feeds, and consumers with reduced costs of farmed fish products. For example, in 2015, five million metric tons of U.S. produced soy beans were used in aquaculture feeds, which is $2 billion dollars at current prices. The approval for use of taurine as a supplement will substantially expand that market, resulting in many millions of dollars increases in the economy of soy beans for aquafeeds.
The research that Ron’s group conducted has been published in peer-reviewed literature, and provided the scientific basis for the recommendation.
Johnson, R.B., S.-K. Kim, A.M. Watson, F.T. Barrows, E.L. Kroeger, P.M. Nicklason, G.W. Goetz, A.R. Place. 2015. Effect of dietary taurine supplementation on growth, feed efficiency, and nutrient composition of juvenile sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria) fed plant based feeds. Aquaculture 445, 79-85.
National Weather Service
For transfer of operational wave run-up forecast technology to domestic and international emergency response partners for the protection of life.
The components of coastal flooding include storm surge, tide, and wave run-up. When combined the three components produce total water level. Knowing total water level is vital to forecasting the risk to life and property along and behind coastal-facing property. Wave run-up is an important, but complex component of coastal flooding. Powerful coastal storms can produce large, battering waves that threaten lives, damage dune systems, property, and entire ecosystems. As waves break along the shoreline, wave run-up is the maximum distance any given wave will strike and advance up the beach. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, state and local emergency response officials along the Mid-Atlantic and New England coasts looked to NOAA to provide site-specific coastal flood information at vulnerable locations. NOAA’s Hurricane/Post Tropical Storm Sandy Service Assessment Finding #16 stated, “NWS lacks forecast guidance on inundation associated with wave run-up and coastal rivers making it difficult to forecast impacts from the storm.”
Dr. Hilary Stockdon of the U.S. Geological Survey developed a wave run-up parameterization scheme for sandy beaches. Forecasters Anthony Mignone and John W. Cannon applied Dr. Stockdon’s wave run-up research to produce operational guidance at 60 flood-prone sites from Maine to North Carolina. The guidance provided at these sites indicates whether or not forecast wave run-up will produce over topping and/or inundation at high tides up to 72-hours in advance. This guidance supports the NOAA Strategic Goals of Resilient Coastal Communities and Economies and Building a Weather-Ready Nation. It provides emergency response officials with actionable information to make resource decisions on structure protection, road closures, and evacuations.
Anthony and John surveyed either personally or trained other NOAA employees to conduct the surveys at these sites. They modified the wave run-up equations to account for rocky beaches and artificial constructs such as sea walls. They created hindcasts and forecasts and matched the data against spotter reports for verification. Dr. Stockdon validated their applied research after she toured some of the forecast sites and provided advice on site modifications.
Information Technology Officer Roman Berdes created algorithms using the wave run-up equations to produce 72-hour forecast grids at high tides. He used the Gridded Forecast Editor (GFE) tool in AWIPS, anticipating this guidance may be merged with other coastal flood inundation factors such as tide and storm surge in the future. Roman also created a text product for forecasters that indicates whether over topping or inundation is forecast at a specific site. He assisted three other coastal Weather Forecast Offices (WFO) with the software installation.
Meteorologist-In-Charge Richard Okulski persuaded the National Centers of Environmental Prediction (NCEP) to produce site-specific National Nearshore Wave Model guidance at wave run-up forecast sites to provide a consistent start point for WFOs and integrated with national center operations. He laid the groundwork for international technology transfer at a Marine Services Workshop in Halifax, Canada, and the inclusion of wave run-up forecasting in the current bi-lateral agreement. He provided outstanding leadership to the wave run-up initiative in his role as the North Atlantic Regional Team (NART) Resiliency Subteam Leader. He unceasingly sustained the momentum of the project through coordination and tracking of various component tasks and organization of workshops. He was a passionate champion of the wave run-up project to the NART subteam members, NOAA/NWS leadership, other WFOs, and core partners.
Environment Canada (EC) requested the transfer of wave run-up forecast technology under the EC-NOAA Bi-Lateral Agreement to establish forecast sites in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. The Wave Run-Up Team trained a visiting scientist in survey techniques and visited Halifax for follow up collaboration and data validation of a prototype site in Newfoundland.
The Northeast Regional Association of Coastal Ocean Observing Systems (NERACOOS) and the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) transferred the Wave Run-Up Team’s technology to establish a more agile forecast system using their own models and depicted in a web-based tool for the New England emergency response community and maritime partners. Their web based tool is viewed as prototype for a NOAA developed tool using local and national forecasts.
NERACOOS and the Northeast Regional Ocean Council (NROC) included wave run-up technology into a five-year grant to improve coastal resiliency along the New England coastline. This inclusion demonstrates the value academia places on this technology to solve unmet requirements of citizens, businesses, and the emergency response community.
The Maine State Emergency Management Agency and the Passamaquoddy Indian Nation requested WFO Caribou establish a wave run-up forecast site in a large bay in their territory prone to flooding. The forecasts have been used by decision makers in real-time. For example, York County (Maine) Emergency Management closed coastal flood-prone roads and worked collaboratively with their public works department in an effort to ensure the plowing/removal of rocks and debris. This proactive response was based on WFO Gray’s real-time wave run-up forecasts.
The team’s development of a wave run-up forecast technology has become a valuable Impact-based Decision Support Service tool for coastal WFOs between Maine and North Carolina. In addition, the technology has been transferred to Canada, the Passamaquoddy Indian Nation, academia, and a multi-sector regional association to meet the growing requirements of long term coastal resiliency and the deployment of limited resources to safeguard citizens and infrastructure during high impact coastal flood events.
National Ocean Service
For leading development and successful transition to commercial application of an automated sensor that provides early warning of harmful algal blooms.
The Imaging Flow Cytobot (IFCB) is an automated underwater microscope that rapidly and continuously identifies and counts plankton, which originally was developed and patented as a generic counting tool for research purposes. Recent research shows that harmful algal blooms (HABs) which are phytoplankton that produce toxins that can sicken or kill marine life and humans, cause more than $100 million in economic losses in US coastal waters each year. Quay Dortch, Marc Suddleson, Rick Stumpf, Jenifer Rhodes, and Dwight Trueblood fostered and led adaptation of the technology for addressing HABs, a severe and pervasive coastal management issue. The nominees for this award have been instrumental developing the technology and introducing it to the management community. As a result, McLane Research Laboratories has successfully commercialized the IFCB. McLane states, “Without NOAA’s support of the IFCB over the years and their socialization of the benefits of this novel technology at stakeholder and scientific meetings, the awareness of this product and our ability to rapidly turn this into a commercially successful product would not have been possible.”
Adapting the IFCB from a generic research tool with limited management utility to a marketable management asset for HAB detection and mitigation was a major task, spanning many years of extensive and sustained coordination. During each phase of development, the nominees were actively involved in disseminating the IFCB’s utility to coastal managers, leading to commercialization of the instrument and associated methodologies, and subsequent wide adoption by water resource managers. Collectively, this group worked with the academic, management, and private sectors to pursue the following major activities:
- Determined the feasibility of the IFCB for HAB detection and refinement, and tested algorithms for automated identification of critical HAB species in real-time;
- Developed and tested ways to increase the robustness and functionality of the instrument and to reduce the overall costs and size for operations and maintenance; and
- Researched and developed methods to allow deployment of the sensor on a wide range of monitoring platforms.
Beginning in 2006, the NOAA/University of New Hampshire Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology (CICEET) program funded the application of the IFCB to the automated imaging and classification of HABs along the Texas coast. Under Dwight Trueblood (OCM), the program manager, the potential of the IFCB to provide early warnings of HABs quickly became evident. The initial successes led Rick Stumpf of NCCOS’ Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment (CCMA) to continue funding the IFCB as a means of validating forecasts via the Texas HAB Bulletin.
After the initial success of the CICEET and CCMA work, Quay Dortch and Marc Suddleson worked to fund instrument improvements and continued applications via the NCCOS Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms (ECOHAB) and Monitoring and Event Response of Harmful Algal Blooms (MERHAB) programs. NCCOS staff worked with academic partners and stakeholders to make major advances in the algorithms necessary to accurately detect key HAB species in the Texas coastal region. Procedures and protocols necessary to automate processing of large amounts of data were developed, facilitating image and data display and implementation of automating notifications to state managers of impending HAB events. Major breakthroughs in the miniaturization and reliability of the device were made, allowing extensive deployment of IFCBs along the TX coast and forming an early warning network for managers.
In a third area of development, the IFCB was further improved as part of the IOOS Ocean Technology Transition (OTT) program. Building on the success of the earlier programs, Jenifer Rhodes (IOOS) led funded efforts adapting the IFCB for application to other regions, including San Francisco Bay and the Gulf of Maine, as well as to other platforms. By working with the academic community, IFCB capabilities were successfully extended for deployment on a variety of autonomous vehicles and for towed operations. Additional efforts led to partnerships between researchers, instrument and vehicle manufacturers, and resource managers that promote access and sustainability toward operational use of the IFCB technology, thereby further expanding the utility of the instrument. For example, the original developer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and McLane Research Laboratories, Inc., the manufacturer, are aiding installation of IFCBs in new regions by developing image recognition software and data products (i.e., dash boards) to fit the management needs in each region.
At regional and national shellfish monitoring meetings, managers have become increasingly excited about potentially applying the IFCB toward efforts to protect public health from HAB events and associated toxins. To give an example of its necessity, the IFCB in 2008 detected a new, highly-toxic HAB species previously undetected in US coastal waters off the coast of Port Aransas, Texas. The early warning enabled managers to act proactively with targeted monitoring, thereby preventing a significant public health crisis. The event garnered extensive press coverage highlighting the importance of this type of capability to protecting public health. Since 2008, the IFCB has been helpful in predicting or mitigating at least eight HAB events involving multiple HAB species. These include blooms of the infamous Florida red tide species detected in 2009, leading to fisheries closures. Early warnings of blooms, based on IFCB detection, also were reported to state officials in 2010-2012. At the April 2014 Southeast Interstate Seafood Conference, Kirk Wiles, an official responsible for biotoxin monitoring at the Texas Department of Health, likened the IFCB to having three technicians on location collecting and counting samples every 20 minutes.
Because of the successes of the IFCB, resulting in the ability to provide critical early-warning monitoring at key locations, coastal water quality, resource, and public health managers and researchers seek out the IFCB. The instruments are deployed or deployment is pending in multiple locations in TX (3), MA (2), Long Island Sound (1), Chesapeake Bay (1), San Francisco Bay (1), Catalina Sea Ranch (1), and on an AUV (1) for HAB early warning to aid shellfish and aquaculture managers and for monitoring water quality. Recent ECOHAB and OTT proposals indicate that researchers and managers are actively seeking funding to expand IFCB networks.
The staff nominated for this award took a generic research tool and through vision, persistence, innovation, and outreach, made a major accomplishment for our agency by successfully transitioning a technology from research to widespread application and subsequent commercialization. Crossing the so-called “valley of death” was only possible by the actions of all those involved, a true testament to the coordination and teamwork exhibited across these NOAA programs and ultimately resulting in greater monitoring capabilities for coastal managers and the prevention of HAB related human illnesses.
National Ocean Service
Model improvements, including enhancements to physics, parameterizations, and data assimilation, resulting from the WFIP1 and SFIP were transferred to operations at NCEP on August 23, 2016 in the RAPv3 and HRRRv2. These forecast model improvements significantly reduced the warm dry bias seen at the surface. The data assimilation improvements included canopy water cycling, innovations using pseudo observations for temperature in the boundary layer, and more consistent use of surface temperature and dewpoint data. There was reduced (excessive) shortwave radiation in the microphysics scheme, improved mixing length parameterization, and coupling of boundary layer clouds to the radiation radiative transfer model, and an improved boundary layer scheme. Finally, the land surface scheme included a reduced wilting point for more accurate modeling of transpiration.
Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research
For exceptional work in transferring the HYSPLIT dispersion model to first responders, emergency planners, academia, and other government agencies.
The Air Resources Laboratory has developed and improved the HYSPLIT model for more than 30 years to support NOAA’s mission of protecting life and property. HYSPLIT describes what happens to harmful materials after they are emitted to the air. What are concentrations downwind of the release? How much (and where) is material deposited to the ground? Accurate answers to these questions are essential to minimize threats to the public and response personnel after accidental or intentional releases of chemical, biological, or nuclear agents, or ash released by a volcanic eruption. A number of agencies share this mission (and numerous researchers have related questions), but many do not have the tools to provide a science-based response. They have requested help from NOAA, a leader in the scientific research and development of atmospheric dispersion models. Within NOAA, ARL has the mission to develop these models, particularly for emergency response applications.The HYSPLIT team has gone to great lengths to facilitate technology transfer. The model can be easily run on-line (approximately 1 million on-line runs annually) and also installed locally. The user can carry out simulations using a powerful but intuitive graphical user interface (GUI) or via scripts and other command-line operations. Context-sensitive help is readily available in every simulation mode, at every step. Comprehensive, self-paced on-line training is available, and more formal training sessions are regularly provided. A wide variety of meteorological data to drive the model has been prepared and is freely provided. Throughout, the team has remained extraordinarily responsive to questions and suggestions from users. In recent years, a User’s Forum has been created and supported to further facilitate the exchange of questions, answers, and ideas for model improvement. HYSPLIT is actually an extensive suite of integrated programs that enable the user to seamlessly carry out useful additional analyses, e.g., visualization of model results. In the following, a few of many possible examples of the successful technology transfer of the HYSPLIT model are provided, divided into the support of four components: mission-related, addressing a local problem, scientific research, and derivative applications.
ARL’s records show that HYSPLIT has been transferred to: 1,573 mission-related entities and state and local governments (U.S. and foreign governments, military, state/local governments, private pilots), 2,087 U.S. and foreign universities, non-profits, and non-profits; and 297 commercial applications.
National Ocean Service
For transferring expertise and technical assistance needed to implement national protocols used to measure sea level rise impacts on estuaries.
The National Estuarine Research Reserve System protects 29 reserves, covering more than 1.3 million acres in 23 states and Puerto Rico, for the purposes of long-term research, environmental monitoring, education, and stewardship. Each reserve represents a partnership between NOAA and a coastal state agency, university, or non-profit organization. They work with local communities and regional groups to address natural resource management issues, including the impacts of sea level rise.
All of these state reserves monitor key indicators of estuarine function using the consistent, vetted protocols of their System-Wide Monitoring Program, which was designed to detect short-term variation and long-term trends in estuarine habitats, looking at water quality, weather, biological communities, and habitat. In 2011, the reserves launched a climate change initiative to better understand climate change-driven impacts on estuaries and coastal communities by tying together accurate land elevations and water level measurements with associated changes in coastal ecosystems. A key strategy of this initiative was to establish the reserves as a network of sentinel sites to monitor the impact of local sea level and inundation change on vegetated habitats. These are observations are critical for decision makers, especially in low elevation coastal ecosystems.
A limiting factor in the plan was that the reserves’ state and university partners lacked the technical and scientific skills, knowledge, equipment, and resources to fully implement the protocols and derive the information products. The nominated team of Galen Scott, Philippe Hensel, Kevin Jordan (National Geodetic Survey or NGS), and Artara Johnson (Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services or CO-OPS) provided the skills and commitment needed to address this issue. They worked with each reserve to design an implementation strategy based on each site’s geography, tidal regime, and observational infrastructure, and provided the needed training and technical assistance to raise the capacity of the reserve staff and partners. Because of their efforts and transferred knowledge, reserve staff are now able to apply the concepts of geodesy, oceanography, and vertical reference systems for this network.
Implementing the vertical reference system in marshes required the use of NGS and CO-OPS surveying and water level measurement technology, and a modification of protocols associated with measuring accretion and subsidence. The team provided instruction regarding a refined survey method for use in difficult environments, offered technical assistance to each reserve, and developed web-based and in-person training specifically for state partners.
In evaluations from the training surveys given over the past two years, participants rated the NGS and CO-OPS effort as being highly effective, noting that the reserves and their partners developed the competence needed to execute the sentinel site network. Nearly all of the reserves experiencing sea level rise impacts are applying these protocols, which allows each site to gather the data and present their findings at scales relevant to local, regional, and national decision-makers.
The impact of this knowledge transfer can be seen in the implementation of this monitoring network, in published literature, and through adoption by other partners. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service, are using the protocol to provide regional analysis of marsh vulnerability to sea level rise, across their system of parks and reserves.
As an example, in 2014, the sentinel site monitoring at the Narragansett Bay Reserve served as a bellwether to the potential loss of Spartina patens to sea level rise within a 5-10 year period. This triggered a bay-wide mapping effort to identify vulnerable Spartina patens habitats and to guide the development and implementation of adaptation strategies to minimize loss. In 2016, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System published the Marsh Resilience to Sea Level Rise (MARS) index, which uses sentinel site data to compare the sensitivity of marshes to sea level rise. State resource managers use this index to inform vulnerability assessments of marsh ecosystems.
The research reserve sentinel sites are a foundational component of NOAA’s Sentinel Site Program, which leverages regional partnerships to implement sentinel site data. Information from these efforts is used by resource managers making decisions about how to best protect the natural and built environment from sea level rise. Through the work of this team, the National Geodetic Survey and the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services have become trusted agents for the reserve system, and have been singularly responsible for putting the reserves on the map as the first sentinel site ecological network, both nationally and internationally.
National Weather Service
The ASOS program is a tri-agency initiative between the NWS, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of Defense (DOD). ASOS field sites had been dealing with issues of erroneous wind data on the Ice Free Wind Sensor for years. After field analysis, it was determined that the issues were caused by birds sitting in between the transducers of the wind sensor. This would cause erroneous data and potentially create a hazard for aviation operations safety. The NWS had worked with outside vendors for years to develop a bird deterrent, a device (sharp metal post) that could be connected to the sensor, not interfere with sensor measurements itself, and keep birds off of the sensors. Dave Eckberg, using his own ingenuity, foresight and determination, developed the bird deterrent, now used by the NWS and FAA.
This deterrent was designed and developed by Eckberg, and subsequently tested at NWS and FAA ASOS sites. The study revealed that the deterrent nearly eliminated erroneous data from the IFWS. During that study, several Weather Forecast Offices offered praise for the new deterrent and were clamoring to get one immediately for each of their ASOS sites.
After the design and testing phase, it was agreed with program management to manufacture the bird deterrent for ASOS systems as a whole. After a bidding process and down select, one manufacturer, using NWS developed drawings, produced several hundred deterrents to put in stock at the National Logistics Support Center, in Kansas City, Missouri.
Since the release of the deterrents to NWS and FAA, Mr. Eckberg has worked with the Technology Partnership Office to release the drawings of the IFWS bird deterrent royalty free to industry. This release includes guidance that companies wishing to employ the device should, where appropriate, indicate that the device was invented and reduced to practice by David Eckberg of NOAA’s National Weather Service Sterling Field Support Center.