NOAA’s Restore Act Science Program

The NOAA Restore Act Science Program is committed to producing timely and high-quality scientific findings and products to support the management and sustainability of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem, including its fisheries. Projects assisted with funding from NOAA's Restore Act Science Program carry out research, observation, and monitoring to support, to the maximum extent practicable, the long-term sustainability of the ecosystem, fish stocks, fish habitat, and the recreational, commercial, and charter-fishing industry in the Gulf of Mexico.

The 2017 projects funded total $16.7 million to support research in bluefin tuna, blue crabs, oyster farms, and other areas of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem. Dauphin Island Sea Lab researchers are among those receiving funding to meet the scientific needs of the Gulf of Mexico. 

Of the 15 projects, 13 are being led by institutions located in the Gulf of Mexico region. In total, 78 researchers and resource managers will be involved, with 58 of them located in the region. These projects were selected following a rigorous and highly competitive process, which included a review by a panel of outside experts.

Below you'll find a listing of Dauphin Island Sea Lab projects funded by the 2017 NOAA Restore Act Science Program.

Use of Elemental Signatures to Detect and Trace Contaminent Entry to the northern Gulf of Mexico Coastal Food Web: Managing Multiple Stressors

Primary Investigator: Dr. Ruth Carmichael

Collaborators: Alabama Department of Environmental Management, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy, and NOAA's Mussel Watch Program. 

Shellfish, such as oysters, can serve as a record of water conditions because they are stationary filter feeders with a hard shell that continually grows. This project will test whether elements associated with oil can be detected in oyster shells and serve as an indicator of oil exposure that provides resource managers with a way to relate contaminants to effects on oyster reefs and their food webs through time. 

This project will measure the stable isotope and trace element profiles in oyster shell and compare them to the profiles in oil and other contaminants. These experiments will make it possible to link the chemical fingerprint in oyster shell back to exposure of that oyster to a contaminant. Because oysters live in waters that vary in salinity, particularly on the Gulf of Mexico coast where freshwater discharge can be very high, this link will be tested under different salinities. Understanding this linkage will make it possible to use historical oyster shell and tissue samples to assess past contaminant exposure at different sites. The trace element profiles in the shell of oysters exposed to contaminants will also be compared to measures of the biological condition of the oyster such as its growth rate to develop an indicator for the condition of oysters at a particular site following contaminant exposure. 

This project will also assess whether current or previous exposure to contaminants has occurred among oysters on restored oyster reefs located on the Gulf of Mexico coast from Louisiana to Alabama. Overall, This work will improve the capabilities and technology for monitoring living coastal resources and will contribute to long-term improvements to the quantity and quality of data for future assessments of impact, recovery, and restoration success.


Expansion of for coastal Alabama resource management

Cedar Point Station

Primary Investigator: Renee Collini

Co-Investigator: Dr. Brian Dzwonkowski

Effective management of coastal estuaries requires real-time and historical knowledge of water quality such as salinity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, and water clarity. Resource managers and stakeholders can use web-based tools that integrate this water quality data to inform decision-making in coastal waters such as when to close oyster harvesting areas due to poor water quality. Unfortunately, many Gulf of Mexico coastal regions lack web-based tools that effectively integrate available real-time and historical water quality data. However, decision-makers in Alabama have access to the Alabama Real-time Coastal Observing System (ARCOS) which provides high-quality, system wide, continuous real-time water and weather observations in a user-friendly web-based portal,

The work conducted by Collini and Dzwonkowski will extend the spatial and temporal coverage for ARCOS and and add more measures of water quality. This will enhance the usefulness of ARCOS for resource managers by providing them with additional information critical to making decisions about living coastal and marine resources in coastal Alabama. Specifically, the improvements to the ARCOS network will include upgrading four older observing stations to enhance reliability and provide real-time water clarity data and adding offshore real-time measurements of salinity, temperature and dissolved oxygen by upgrading an existing data collection site. Finally, this work will also support the use of by recreational and commercial users who rely on the data it provides for safe and efficient boating, fishing, and shipping.

SPAT: Shellfish Portfolio Assessment Tool

Primary Investigator: Daniel R. Petrolia, Mississippi State University

Co-Investigators (Institution): Ardian Harri (Mississippi State University), William C. Walton (Auburn University), Just Cebrian (Dauphin Island Sea Lab), and Jason Rider (Mississippi Department of Marine Resources)

The State of Mississippi has established an ambitious goal to produce one million sacks of oysters per year and to increase the ecological and economic benefits to the state from healthy and productive natural oyster reefs and farms. This project draws on knowledge from economics, ecology, marine extension, and resource management to design, test, and put into use a decision support tool to optimize the restoration and use of oyster resources in the State of Mississippi.

Their approach recognizes that oysters provide a number of ecological and economic benefits and decisions about their management are most informed when the entire suite of benefits is considered. The team will begin by determining the type and extent of benefits delivered by three distinct oyster cultivation practices – restored oyster reefs, traditional shell plantings, and off-bottom oyster farms – and assign a monetary value to both their market and non-market benefits. They will then develop budgets of construction and maintenance costs for restored reefs, plantings, and farms.

Finally, the team will work in conjunction with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources to develop and test a decision support tool that directs the user through multiple criteria to select the portfolio of oyster cultivation practices that minimizes downside risk while maximizing benefits.

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