Other Notable Accomplishments

External Review of Sea Turtle Research and Monitoring

In July 2011, PIFSC invited a panel of independent experts, external to the Center, to review and evaluate the Center's approaches to research on sea turtle population modeling, population monitoring, and by-catch mitigation. Panelists were asked to advise Center leadership on ways PIFSC could improve our work in this important area of conservation and management science. In sessions open to PIFSC staff and stakeholders, the panel heard oral presentations by PIFSC staff describing the Center's multifaceted sea turtle research program, including studies on inshore and pelagic ecology, population monitoring, population assessment, bycatch mitigation in longline fisheries and net fisheries, effects of oceanography and climate, and more. The presentations focused on four species: Hawaiian green sea turtles, loggerhead turtles, leatherback turtles, and hawksbill turtles.

The panel also met privately with key PIFSC stakeholders to learn candidly how well the Center is doing in meeting our clients' needs. At the conclusion of the review, the panel chair prepared a report with consensus views and advice of the experts.

The external review helped the Center focus sharply on ways to improve its marine turtle research and particularly how to do so in the face of increasing fiscal challenges. We have already set out to implement many of the panel's recommendations.

Center Reorganization

In 2011, as in the previous year, we made significant organizational changes to improve our effectiveness in addressing the Center's research mission. Previously, our Information Technology (IT) functions and core administrative functions were carried out by separate divisions. In 2011, these were consolidated through creation of a single Operations, Management and Information Division. The new division has an assortment of management and administrative responsibilities: maintaining computer, network and communications infrastructure across the Center; compliance with government IT security protocols; management of Center purchases; procurement and property management; personnel services; grants management; diversity and training; travel management; facilities management and maintenance; and safety and environmental compliance. As part of the reorganization, management of diver safety and the Center's small boat program were handed over to the Scientific Operations Group under the Directors Office.

Summer Internship Program

The Center's summer internship program for university undergraduate students made notable strides forward during its third year of operation. In the summer of 2011, the program hosted three outstanding young scientists from the University of Washington, Cornell University, and Stanford University. Under the mentorship of PIFSC staff, each intern tackled a challenging research project related to their own interests and the science mission of the Center. Their work encompassed a range of topics: analysis of biosampling data from Guam fisheries; analysis of towboard images from coral reef surveys at Rose Atoll in American Samoa; and physical oceanography of the Kona Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. Before returning to school for the fall semester, the interns presented their research findings at a special PIFSC symposium.

New Ford Island Facility

Seawater tanks at the new Pacific Regional Center on Ford Island will support live-animal research.
Seawater tanks at the new Pacific Regional Center on Ford Island will support live-animal research.

PIFSC continued to have significant involvement in preparations for the new NOAA Pacific Regional Center at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, which will soon be home to all PIFSC staff, along with other NOAA workers in Honolulu. Significant progress on construction of the new facility has been made and completion is expected in late 2013. In February 2012, the first phase of the project, a Marine Science and Storage Facility, was completed and celebrated in an open-house ceremony attended by NOAA officials, Hawaii congressional staff, and key stakeholders. Besides providing specially designed tanks to house marine life for research projects, the first-phase addition will enable storage of equipment needed for research expeditions on the NOAA ships now berthed at Ford Island adjacent to other components of NOAA.

Research Support: Administration, Information Technology, and Other Services

Our scientists could not achieve NOAA's mission without the help of an able and dedicated support staff. During 2011, our administrative staff managed budgets, enabled travel, procured equipment, managed facilities and small boat operations, ensured safety of the workplace, and provided other critical support. Research projects were aided by a computer systems staff that maintained the Center's information and communication infrastructure, including hardware and software, networks, security protocols, and other critical assets at our main Dole Street offices and 5 satellite office and laboratory complexes elsewhere on Oahu. Other key support was provided by our scientific information specialists who managed our public library; prepared graphics and outreach materials; ensured that results of Center research were properly prepared, edited, and disseminated through peer-reviewed journals, Center technical reports, and our website; ensured timely availability of data for fishery monitoring; coordinated the collection and publication of metadata; assisted Center staff and partners with data queries; improved software tools that helped users tap directly into the Center's Oracle enterprise database; and more.

Partnership with University of Hawaii Continues under New NOAA Cooperative Institute

For more than 2 decades, the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center has enjoyed a fruitful partnership with the University of Hawaii's Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR). In 2011, JIMAR's tenure as one of NOAA's 18 Cooperative Institutes ended, but the University was successful in an open competition to host a new Cooperative Institute for the Pacific Islands Region. The award is for a 5-year period. The new research organization is known by the same name as its predecessor—JIMAR.

JIMAR conducts research in many areas germane to NOAA's mission. One of its key partnerships is with PIFSC. JIMAR collaboration with PIFSC provides much of the science needed for conservation and management of living marine resources in the central and western Pacific. The research has focused on many critical areas, including monitoring and assessment of fish stocks, studies of coral reef ecosystems, and ecology of protected species.