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Weekly Highlights

MEMORANDUM

From: Gaye Farris
Subject: Weekly Highlights, USGS National Wetlands Research Center, September 18, 2008

Hurricane Ike Activities

  • Hurricane Ike Internal Report: The USGS National Wetlands Research Center is currently working on an internal Hurricane Ike Support, Assessment, and Response (ISAR) Report summarizing NWRC activities related to the hurricane. The report will be released the week of Sept. 22. The center is maintaining contact with the Louisiana and Texas Water Science Centers, as well as other Federal and State and local agencies, to share resources and assist with emerging needs.

  • Hurricane Ike Web Site and Podcast: Information on activities of the USGS National Wetlands Research Center related to Hurricane Ike can be found at http://www.nwrc.usgs.gov. Information includes:
  • Search and Rescue: For Hurricane Ike, the USGS National Wetlands Research Center made 10 boats available for search and rescue teams and provided the Federal Emergency Management Agency and others with about 4,000 maps depicting various infrastructure from roads to cemeteries. All NWRC personnel involved in ESF9 Support (Search and Rescue) under the National Park Service have been demobilized. On Sept. 18, the Incident Support Team (IST)-Red Team working out of the Cajundome sports center in Lafayette, La., has also been demobilized. The IST-Blue Team in Houston will be demobilized soon.

    The center’s Science Response Vehicle (SRV) was released on Sept. 17 from the geospatial support mission after producing thousands of maps and products over the past several days. Final products are being used by the IST-Red Team in preparing their After Action Report. Maps produced by the SRV team were sent directly from the field deployment area to the Department of Homeland Security Secretary’s situation room and were used to brief the President of the United States.

  • Aerial Flights: During the weeks of Sept. 8 and Sept. 15, USGS National Wetlands Research Center’s pilot and wildlife research biologist Tommy Michot and crew flew the Louisiana and Texas coasts before and after Hurricanes Gustav and Ike to collect aerial (oblique) High Definition Video (geo-referenced) that documented coastal wetlands and cultural resources of interest to Department of the Interior partners. Photos of hurricane impacts were made available within 6 hours of the plane landing. These images can be found at the center’s Web site (http://www.nwrc.usgs.gov).

    Current plans are to also fly aerial missions focused on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) refuges as well as the National Park Service’s (NPS) Big Thicket National Preserve. The center has been contacted by John Huffman (USFWS-Clearlake, Texas) and Dusty Pate (NPS Big Thicket National Preserve) to provide aerial habitat assessment of storm impacts.

    Michot’s plane is equipped with a “moving map” display that accepts feeds from the aircraft’s Global Positioning System (GPS) and plots track files on an LCD panel while constantly logging position to a separate data file. This allows Michot to call up previous track files and re-fly them at the same altitude, speed, and position in order to compare coastal conditions. His video camera consists of two natural color, high definition cameras set for oblique capture and two cameras for nadir (straight-down) capture. The time signal for the GPS and time signal for the video cameras are matched frame-by-frame allowing geo-referencing of multiple dates to a common reference system. The Center can simultaneously dispay the two track files and images, thus allowing direct track and frame comparisons of two or more dates of video files.

    Michot has flown the Cheneir Plain of coastal southwest Louisiana and the upper coast of southeast Texas that have ancient beach front ridges several feet above the surrounding marsh and are often covered with live oak trees. This habitat is extremely biologically important for neotropical migratory birds that fly across the Gulf of Mexico to winter in South and Center America, returning to North America in summer. Hurricanes can deprive these birds of important habit and food during the critical fall migration. (Tommy Michot, Lafayette, La., 337-266-8664)

  • Climate Change and EPA: USGS National Wetlands Research Center Director Gregory Smith traveled to Pensacola, Fla., Sept. 18-19 to meet with representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding climate change.

  • Climate Change and DRAGON Institute: To begin organizing the bilateral Climate Change Working Group under the U.S.-Vietnam Science and Technology Agreement, established by the U.S. President and the Prime Minister of Vietnam, Gregory Smith, USGS National Wetlands Research Center Director, will meet with U.S. Embassy personnel in Hanoi, Vietnam during the week of Sept. 22. He will be joined by Stanley Ponce, USGS South Central Area Executive, at the U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. They will also meet with key personnel at Can Tho University to establish the Delta Research and Global Observation Network (DRAGON Project) Institute that will be the principal partner in current and future comparative studies on the Mississippi River and Mekong River deltas. They will also travel to Bangkok, Thailand to meet with representatives of the U.S. Agency for International Development and Mahidol University to discuss climate change programs and specific projects being developed in Vietnam and other parts of Southeast Asia. (Gregory Smith, Lafayette, La., 337-266-8501)

Media Coverage

  • The Lafayette, LA CBS affiliate, KLFY Channel 10, aired several clips including this one on Sept. 17, 2008, involving the USGS National Wetlands Research Center’s participation in search and rescue after Hurricane Ike. Scott Wilson, Spatial Analysis Branch chief, explained in this video how the center used its geographic information system capabilities inside its Science Response Vehicle, both in Houston, Texas, and in Lafayette, La., to provide the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other agencies with more than 5,000 maps, depicting every kind of infrastructure from roads to cemeteries. (Scott Wilson, Lafayette, La., 337-225-8644)

Media Contacts

  • USGS National Wetlands Research geographer John Barras provided John Felsher, Associate Editor, Sport Fishing Magazine, with information on Louisiana wetland loss including aerial photography and several USGS publications. (John Barras, Baton Rouge, La., 225-578-7486)

  • Rick Jervis with USA Today interviewed John Barras, USGS National Wetlands Research Center geographer, concerning current Louisiana land loss rates, hurricane impacts on coastal loss, and probable loss contributions from historical hurricanes. Jervis also inquired about land loss assessments related to Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. Barras provided him with information, plus several Web links and USGS publications. (John Barras, Baton Rouge, La., 225-578-7486)

  • On Sept. 17 Gregory Smith, USGS National Wetlands Research Center Director, was interviewed by Sidney Moore, producer at The Weather Channel, about the center’s geospatial support and response readiness regarding Hurricane Ike. Moore also interviewed Tommy Michot, who flew the coast both before and after Hurricanes Gustav and Ike to assess damage to wetlands. (Gregory Smith, Lafayette, La., 337-266-8501)

  • On Sept. 17 Associated Press contacted the USGS National Wetlands Research Center for general information on the value of wetlands and historical information on wetlands near Chicago. The AP was referred to John Barras, geographer, and Stephen Faulkner, ecologist, for help in identifying wetland experts in Chicago. (Gaye Farris, Lafayette, La., 337-266-8550)

Congressional Inquiry

  • On Sept. 18, 2008, Ambrose Stephen of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration recommended to U.S. Senator Vitter’s staff member, Rachal Perez, that she contact John Barras, geographer, USGS National Wetlands Research Center, to help with wetland loss analysis. (John Barras, Baton Rouge, La., 225-578-7486)

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