Abstract

The Gulf of Mexico is a unique cultural, ecological, and oceanographic environment and host to diverse stakeholders from public to private users. The balance between an expanding coastal population and increasing demands on its natural resources requires diligent, and ideally real-time, monitoring to protect lives, property, and the environment. Shell Exploration and Production Company is working with academic and federal government partners (Federal – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Data Buoy Center and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management; Academic – University of Southern Mississippi and Texas A&M University; and Non-profit – Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System), to develop and implement long term environmental monitoring programs that provide real-time oceanographic data to improve understanding of the regional offshore environment and mitigate potential impacts of Shell's activities in the Gulf of Mexico. These federal-academic-industry partnerships include the use of autonomous ocean vehicles to measure offshore ocean heat content for improving hurricane intensity predictions and the establishment of an ocean acidification sentinel site at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. These monitoring projects leverage each partner's strengths for building comprehensive and sustainable systems for providing real-time high resolution and/or baseline data to better assess environmental conditions and shifts and to disseminate data and findings to the broader Gulf of Mexico stakeholder community. In this paper, we present the motivation, scope, and findings of each project. Furthermore, we elaborate on the effectiveness of collaborative partnerships to meet partners' and stakeholders' needs and how building long term monitoring programs improve the understanding and management of the Gulf of Mexico physical environment and ecological health.

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