Welcome to Center for Ocean Solutions 2016 Online Annual Report
We continue to be inspired by our mission to solve the major problems facing the ocean and prepare leaders to take on these challenges. Our 2016 annual report provides a snapshot of key research and policy accomplishments in the areas of genomics, tipping points science, sustainable fisheries, and more. Our team also expanded our collaborative efforts to address climate-related impacts on ocean and coastal ecosystems. We invite you to dive deeper into our projects via the videos and links below.
A Message from the Science Director
2016 Discovery and Innovation
The Center for Ocean Solutions leads and collaborates on research to develop innovative technologies for real-time ocean monitoring and strategies for adaptive ocean management.
Our eDNA project team and research collaborators have continued their pioneering work using a genetic sampling technique that is revolutionizing the way we look at biodiversity in the ocean. Our work is currently funded by BOEM, NASA, and NOAA as part of the Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (MBON). In September, the eDNA team spent ten days aboard the R/V Western Flyer to continue eDNA sample collections for the Monterey Bay Long Term Monitoring Program, the results of which are adding to our understanding of the biodiversity and community dynamics in Monterey Bay over the last decade.
"Bright Spots" Research
The Bright Spots research project was one of the largest global studies of its kind, a collaboration of researchers from around the world—including from COS—who synthesized data from over 6,000 reef surveys in 46 countries across the globe. In this study, 15 "bright spots" were discovered—places where, against all the odds, coral reefs were doing better than expected. By virtue of the breadth of the survey, researchers identified several social-ecological characteristics that improved the state of coral reef ecosystems.
2016 Emerging Solutions
In 2016, we collaborated with many top scientific organizations to influence and inform environmental management and policy decision-making at state, national and international levels.
Ocean Tipping Points
The Ocean Tipping Points project, funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, completed its fourth and final year of initial funding in 2016. The project team synthesized the latest science and are applying new tools that incorporate our growing body of knowledge on ecosystem thresholds in case studies focused on specific management opportunities. In the Main Hawaiian Islands and Haida Gwaii, British Columbia the Ocean Tipping Points team is working closely with local scientists, managers, and stakeholders to make tipping point science and tools applicable and accessible to current management issues. This information will help managers avoid undesirable tipping points, monitor using early warning indicators, prioritize management actions, and evaluate progress toward ecosystem objectives. To this end, the Ocean Tipping Points communication team developed a web portal—available online in spring 2017—to make all of the data, resources, and guidance produced throughout the project accessible to marine managers and other stakeholders in need of the latest tools to manage a changing ocean.
Unprecedented Marine Conservation in the Antarctic
In early October 2016, Stanford doctoral student Cassandra Brooks and Center for Ocean Solutions Science Director Larry Crowder published a policy article in the journal Science entitled “Science-based management in decline in the Southern Ocean.” The timing was strategic; just days after the paper was published, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) convened their annual meeting. For the sixth time since 2012, the proposed Ross Sea marine protected area (MPA) was brought to the table for consideration—but this time, the motion passed, resulting in the establishment of the largest MPA in the world.
2016 Leadership Development
Underpinning the Center for Ocean Solutions’ work is the development of strong future ocean leaders. We work to enhance communication, collaboration, and problem-solving skills in the next generation of blue planet pioneers. We do this primarily through the Monterey Area Research Institutions’ Network for Education (MARINE), our Early Career Fellows program, and internships at the Center.
Professional Trainings & Presence at 2016 Ocean Sciences Meeting
MARINE continued to offer a variety of professional development opportunities for its emerging ocean leader audience in 2016. These included workshops, seminars, and panel discussions on topics ranging from diversity, equity, and inclusion to communicating climate change risk and converging art and ocean science. Total attendance for all events in 2016 was over 550 participants. MARINE also held an early career multidisciplinary mixer at the 2016 Ocean Sciences Meeting in New Orleans, LA, which saw 100 participants network across 50 different institutions and organizations represented at the conference.
Wicked Marine Problems
In partnership with UC Santa Cruz, MARINE offered the second course in our Wicked Marine Problems course series in Winter 2016: "Multidisciplinary Approaches to Coastal Climate Adaptation." Students explored the skills and techniques relevant for carrying out a substantive, original multidisciplinary research project with a focus on human adaptation to the coastal impacts of climate change. The 10 week course involved 17 undergraduate and graduate participants from three MARINE institutions, as well as 12 expert speakers from around the region, including those from NGO and agency groups.
2016 Engagement & Partnerships
Strong partnerships and stakeholder engagement are key to developing sustainable solutions to ocean challenges. In 2016, the Center for Ocean Solutions focused on ways to bridge science and policy through innovative projects that highlighted communication and the power of partnerships.
ICRS Leaders' Summit and Call-to-Action
In June 2016, the Presidents of Palau, Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands held a Summit with scientific experts—including several faculty members from Stanford University—during the 13th International Coral Reef Symposium. Out of the summit, the three presidents released a call to action requesting immediate assistance from the scientific community to improve coral reef protection. In response, a group of leading coral reef scientists from around the world, including Professors Larry Crowder, Steve Palumbi and Rob Dunbar of Stanford University, pledged their support to link science to policy action to better manage and protect coral reefs.
Coastal Adaptation Projects
Images of flooded coastal trails and roadways and collapsing seaside cliffs during winter storms in 2016 provided a stark reminder that coastal communities are already experiencing the impacts of rising sea levels. Our researchers are working with local coastal planners to harness the ability of natural habitats to reduce the vulnerability of coastal communities to sea level rise. In 2016, our team scaled up research developed during previous county-level engagements in the central coast of California to inform statewide climate adaptation decisions. Our team developed an approach to link ecosystem service and climate science to land use policy in a way that helps planners evaluate adaptation options. The results are distilled and communicated through an online viewer that directly links science to coastal adaptation land use policy considerations in a format relevant to coastal planners in an effort to advance resilient, science-based coastal planning.
The Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, Center for Ocean Solutions and key partners sponsored two significant "Uncommon Dialogues" in 2016, bringing together relevant experts to discuss important ocean issues, including:
Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Panel
Improving and updating water quality standards is one of the top recommendations of the West Coast Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia (OAH) Panel, co-chaired by Stanford researcher Ali Boehm, which released its recommendations in April 2016. State-level solutions are being proposed in revisions to these standards under the Clean Water Act and California’s Ocean Plan. In Fall 2016, The Center for Ocean Solutions, along with agency partners, joined together to host an Uncommon Dialogue to address these new water quality goals. In January 2017, the meeting organizers released a meeting summary report and accompanying e-news article outlining key findings.
Ocean Desalination in California
In light of California’s ongoing drought and increasing interest in meeting its water needs through desalination of ocean water, Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment, through the Center for Ocean Solutions and Water in the West, collaborated with Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Nature Conservancy to facilitate an Uncommon Dialogue among cross-sector experts on the potential impacts of ocean desalination on coastal and marine ecosystems. Over the course of the dialogue, open discussions regarding desalination revolved around the best available science, current technology, and policy.
2016 Communications & Impact
Tailored communication strategies are critical for optimizing the impact of scientific research. The COS communication team has focused on three key approaches to amplify the reach and impact of our research: (1) Link release of our science publications to timely and relevant events, news items, or topics; (2) coordinate with research partners and their communications teams; and (3) tailor our message to best match the targeted audience or media platform. Following the success of the Deep Seabed Mining publication released just before the International Seabed Authority meeting in 2015, COS and our partners jointly rolled out the "Bright Spots" research on coral reefs (on the cover of Nature) in advance of the International Coral Reef Symposium in June, 2016, and the Future of Antarctica Marine Protected Areas research in Science in advance of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources meeting (CCAMLR) in October – both of which generated tremendous interest from the media, issue stakeholders, and policymakers.
We succeeded in expanding our reach while reducing our costs through an emphasis on strengthening relationships and tightening our budgets.
In 2016, we continued our efforts to carefully manage our finances. We only slightly increased our external funding relative to core expenditures, but we streamlined operations and decreased spending by 14%, as compared to 2015. As a result, our total core spending decreased by $330,000.