Know Your NOAA!

NOAA Research Vessel Okeanos Explorer Photo Credit: Allen Shimada, NOAA/NMFS/OST, via the NOAA Photo Library

Written by Meghan Campbell, Government Publications

Through the U.S. Department of Commerce, NOAA or the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, is an amalgamation of a few different government agencies created in 1970. Though its name might be self-explanatory, NOAA exists to observe and protect the interests of our world at large via the earth’s oceans and its atmosphere. Its scientists and personnel cover a multitude of different areas of the planet and its natural relationships to us. Weather warning systems, discovering new ocean creatures, and protecting marine sanctuaries is only a small portion of what makes up NOAA’s work. 

One of NOAA’s more notable contributions is in research; specifically that of the global deep seas. NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer, (named after the Greek titan Okeanos), is a research vessel that conducts frequent and enlightening ventures that seek to discover new marine habitats, species, and find new evidence to build upon previous research. The Okeanos’ expeditions to the deep sea has yielded some pretty spectacular imagery from around the world, with a lot of it being in our own backyard! From sea star fights, shrimp battles, and even sea toads, the NOAA Ocean Explorer Youtube channel regularly broadcasts live and also edited clips of some of the footage that has been captured under the surface of the water. 

To quell the curiosity of various subjects between marine life, water cycles, weather, and more, NOAA also has a dedicated resource collection on their website. These brief but informative guides help cover basics for differing subject areas for anyone who wants to know more. In addition to these guides, there is also a section for an elementary audience as well as other resources for educators. 

NOAA provides great kid-friendly resources for younger ages to enjoy and learn from. A Good Catch: Managing Fisheries to Meet the Nation’s Demand for Seafood, is a beautifully illustrated and well-told book that explains the varying facets of ocean fishing and how NOAA contributes to help maintain a healthy ocean. With brief but informative sections from phytoplankton to fish farming, “A Good Catch”  proves to be a wonderful free resource and also serves as an example of what kind of documents are hosted through the NOAA Institutional Repository. The repository hosts many different NOAA publications and documents, including peer-reviewed articles, which makes it another great portal of information for research. The repository can also be supplemented with the NOAA Photo Library, which contains collections of photos that were taken only by NOAA employees.

Other additions that can educate younger audiences are that of a kid’s activity book; made for kindergarten to third graders, it contains facts, crossword puzzles, and even drawing activities to help them become “Official Ocean Guardians”.  To shake things up, NOAA has even put out a great video titled: The Octonauts & NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer, which gives a fantastic inside look at the research vessel guided by a host and the ship’s crew! 


Chincoteague Bay Wetlands Photo Credit: Captain Albert E. Theberge, NOAA Corps (ret.), via the NOAA Photo Library

America’s Wondrous Wetlands: A Quick Overview of Government Resources

Written by Benjamin Clanton, Government Publications

One of the greatest things about the United States is the richness of its physical landscape and environment, which many of us constantly interact with throughout our lives. Wetlands are an integral part of this intricate network, coming in many different forms and serving a myriad of purposes in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. The Clean Water Act defines wetlands as “areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas.” This in turns provides guidance to a number of federal agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in identifying and properly protecting these delicate areas.

The modern world can often be harsh on the wetlands of the United States. They provide homes to a wide variety of plant and animal life, along with migratory waystations for numerous bird species. Wetlands also serve as an integral part of a larger system of waterways, as they often provide relief during floods as temporary reservoirs and are able to help remove toxins from the waters that pass through them. However, human encroachment from things such as development and farming can cause irreparable damage to these habitats. Other threats that are mostly unpredictable include climate change and manmade disasters. A horrific example of the latter that affected this region was the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion, which caused millions of gallons of oil to dump into the Gulf of Mexico, doing immeasurable harm to wetlands in Louisiana and other areas of the Gulf coast.

For these reasons, it is vital that federal agencies continue to work closely with state and local governments to protect our nation’s wetland areas. Native American Tribal governments take an integral leadership role in this effort, working in conjunction with these organizations to preserve these landscapes that are so important to our environment’s continued survival. Here are a number of government resources that will help you gain further knowledge on these ongoing projects.


NOAA Fisheries – Huntington Beach (CA) Wetland Restoration

EPA – Wetlands and Wonder

Bill Nye the Science Guy – Wetlands (Not a government resource, but fun nonetheless!)

Agency Websites

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – National Wetland Plant List

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services – National Wetlands Inventory

Fish and Wildlife Services – Working with Native American Tribes

EPA – Wetlands Protection and Restoration

NOAA Fisheries – Five Reasons We Love Wetlands

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation – Wetlands

McWherter Government Publications eResources

Saving the Nation’s Wetlands

Wetlands: An Overview of the Issues

Wild About Wetlands *kid friendly*

Restoring America’s Wetlands

America’s Gulf Coast: A Long Term Recovery Plan After the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill


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