April 22, 2013


Sea level rise threatens coastal towns and cities. Deepening water filters out light needed by coral reefs and sea grasses

Sea level rise threatens coastal towns and cities. Deepening water filters out light needed by coral reefs and sea grasses. From March 2-16, a team of scientists from the Smithsonian and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) set up new monitoring equipment at STRI',s Bocas del Toro Research Station to accurately measure how fast sea level is rising there.

Measuring tides and water levels with a platform-mounted gauge is essential. But what if the land under the platform is sinking? To monitor how fast sea level rises, one needs to compare the water level to the level of the surrounding land.

Bocas del Toro Research Station Director Rachel Collin, and Physical Monitoring Director Steven Paton, asked the STRI director',s office for funds to replace the old, palm-log supported marine monitoring platform in Almirante Bay. Meanwhile, a team led by Patrick Megonigal from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Maryland and Marguerite Toscano from the Paleobiology Department at the Smithsonian',s National Museum of Natural History received a $100,000 Grand Challenges grant from the Smithsonian Consortium for Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet: Sea Level Observations for Understanding Coastal Marine Ecological Change: Advancing MarineGEO through Networked Sentinel Instrumentation to begin this work.

The grant will allow collaborators to install similar geodetic and marine monitoring networks at all Smithsonian marine stations. Installation of new monitoring equipment, including a Continuously Operating Observational Network (COCONet) GPS receiver from UNAVCO in Panama represents the first step in establishing the true linkages between all of the sites of the Smithsonian',s new Tennenbaum Marine Observatories.

Photo caption:
Measuring water level: STRI’s Sergio Dos Santos and Ricardo Thompson installed monitoring equipment on the new, more stable platform (right).

Measuring the height of the land: To accurately determine the height of the land, Maggie Toscano (NMNH), Philippe Hensel (NOAA National Geodetic Survey), Sergio Dos Santos and Ricardo Thompson (STRI Physical Monitoring Program), aided by Dennis Allen and Plinio Gondola, installed three deep rod survey marks and two surface concrete post marks at the station.

To a job well done!

“Had it not been for the staff at Bocas, our mission would not have been the success that it was.”
-letter to Rachel Collin, Bocas Research Station Director from Philippe Hensel, NOAA

“The partnership with NOAA in Bocas del Toro is particularly satisfactory as it further strengthens the concept of a network of Smithsonian marine observatories.”
-Biff Bermingham, STRI director

“This says a lot of good things about STRI, SI and most importantly about our wonderful staff.”
-Eva Pell, Under Secretary for Science, Smithsonian Institution


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