GRIIDC Attends GOMA All Hands Meeting in Gulf Shores

GRIIDC attended and participated in the annual Gulf of Mexico Alliance 2019 All Hands meeting June 10-13, 2019 at The Lodge at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

The Gulf of Mexico Alliance (GOMA) is a Regional Ocean Partnership for the Gulf of Mexico, which was designated by the Governors of all five Gulf States: Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Over the last 15 years, GOMA has been instrumental in increasing collaboration between the states in order to “enhance the environmental and economic health of the Gulf of Mexico.” The network includes 150 organizations and almost 1,000 members from state and federal agencies, academia, non-profits, and businesses.

Monday Pre-Meetings, Tools Café, and Welcome Reception
GRIIDC members participated in various “pre-meetings” and workshops on Monday, June 10. GRIIDC director Dr. Jim Gibeaut attended the Gulf of Mexico Monitoring Community of Practice Workshop, which was convened with the goal of coordinating water quality and habitat monitoring and mapping efforts to support the RESTORE Council’s Monitoring and Assessment Program (CMAP).

Lalitha Asirvadam, GRIIDC Technical Coordinator, attended the Microplastics Training Workshop where participants learned about a Gulf-wide citizen science project focused on microplastics. Participants were briefed on the project and received hands-on training on how to collect, process, and identify microplastics in seawater and sand. Other workshops/meetings included the ESRI Drone2Map Workshop, the Paddle the Gulf Meeting, and the Alabama Meet and Greet.

All Hands participants converged at the Tools Café and Welcome Reception Monday evening. The GRIIDC booth was front and center, ready to showcase our database repository to attendees. The team presented GRIIDC data management tools including: Dataset Information Forms that help researchers plan before they collect data; the Data Discovery Portal that allows users to easily search for data; the Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) for datasets; and the ability to link publications with datasets. There were 18 other regional groups, all of whose tools are meant to help stakeholders make educated decisions on vital issues in the Gulf such as coastal resilience, data management, flood mapping, habitat assessment, and citizen science monitoring. Other featured tools included: The Deepwater Horizon Project Tracker, Ocean Reports Tool, GCOOS Data Portal and Products, Gulf Coast Conservation Prioritization Tool, and NOAA’s Marine Debris Emergency Response Guide. The team enjoyed catching up with colleagues stationed around the Gulf and made some new contacts as well, many of whom are interested in storing their Gulf of Mexico data with GRIIDC.

Tuesday Plenary and Team Meetings
The meeting officially began on Tuesday, June 11 when Laura Bowie, GOMA Executive Director, welcomed everyone and introduced Chris Blankenship, Deputy Conservation Commissioner and Alabama Department of Conservation and National Resources. Blankenship discussed choosing The Lodge at Gulf State Park, a Hilton Hotel, as the venue due to their commitment to sustainability and environmental awareness. Protection of the local environment was a major priority during the construction of the hotel. Blankenship pointed out that visitors should take note of the many environmentally-friendly attributes of The Lodge such as the orange lights on the beaches at night (to minimize disruption of sea turtle nesting activities), reusable water bottle filling stations, using only native plants species on site, and plastic alternatives such as substituting hollow pieces of hay for drinking straws in order to help “save the world one straw at a time.”

The rest of the week consisted of Priority Issue Team Meetings and Cross-Team Meetings for the 6 major groups: Coastal Resilience, Data and Monitoring, Education and Engagement, Habitat Resources, Water Resources, and Wildlife and Fisheries. Meeting attendees received updates on current team projects and were encouraged to participate in break-out sessions to discuss ideas and collaborate on future work.

Dr. Gibeaut; Rosalie Rossi, Program Manager; and William Nichols, GRIIDC GIS and Metadata Specialist, attended the Data and Monitoring Team meetings. GRIIDC thanks Dr. David Halpern, GoMRI Research Board Data Committee member, for attending the meeting as well. The data group was given updates on the GOMA data management plan and tools. Nichols reported updates and improvements on GOMAportal, the metadata catalog and data repository for Gulf of Mexico related geospatial datasets, to the attendees. The data group was also informed that GOMA received a grant to enhance interactions with industry. One major industry partner is ESRI (international supplier of Geographic Information System (GIS) software), who has formed a great relationship with GOMA. They helped sponsor the Tools Café and are also funding individual researchers.

GRIIDC enjoyed our time at the GOMA All Hands meeting and thank the planning team for choosing such an ideal location. We look forward to next year’s meeting in Biloxi, Mississippi!