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Awards

Department of State Recognizes U.S. Extended Continental Shelf Project Team with Superior Honor Awards



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On April 4, 2013, the U.S. Department of State presented Superior Honor Awards to the senior agency representatives and the Integrated Regional Team leads working on the U.S. Extended Continental Shelf Project. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Department of State are the principal government agencies for this effort.

The mission of the U.S. Extended Continental Shelf (ECS) Project is to establish the full extent of the continental shelf of the United States beyond 200 nautical miles, consistent with international law. A critical part of this project relies on analysis and mapping of large areas of the seafloor around the U.S. continental margins. The data-collection aspect of the ECS effort is the largest and potentially most significant interagency marine survey ever undertaken by the United States. The Department of State recognized the senior and regional leads for these data-collection efforts with citations signed by Kerri-Ann Jones, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, Department of State.

Senior agency leads Deborah Hutchinson (USGS), Margot Bohan (NOAA), Brian Israel (Department of State [DOS]), Barbara Moore (DOS), and Brian Van Pay (DOS) received the citation, “In recognition of your leadership and interagency cooperation that enabled the Integrated Regional Teams of the U.S. Extended Continental Shelf Project to identify the scenarios and options that will facilitate delineation of the Extended Continental Shelf of the United States and international recognition of sovereign rights over more than one million square kilometers of seafloor.”

Deborah Hutchinson leads a discussion at the 2012 Extended Continental Shelf Technical Workshop
Above: Deborah Hutchinson (USGS, standing) leads a discussion at the 2012 Extended Continental Shelf Technical Workshop (http://soundwaves.usgs.gov/2012/10/meetings.html). Seated attendees include (clockwise from lower left) Elliot Lim (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA] National Geophysical Data Center), Andy Armstrong (NOAA and University of New Hampshire), Jennifer Henderson (NOAA National Geophysical Data Center), Craig McLean (NOAA), Larry Mayer (University of New Hampshire, hidden), Matt Arsenault (USGS), Barry Eakins (NOAA National Geophysical Data Center, hidden), Jim Gardner (University of New Hampshire), Chris Fox (NOAA National Geophysical Data Center), John McDonough (NOAA), Dave Balton (Department of State), Ginger Barth (USGS), and Jon Childs (USGS). Not pictured: Margot Bohan (NOAA), Jason Chaytor (USGS), Terry Holman (Department of the Interior), Brian Israel (Department of State [DOS]), Barbara Moore (DOS), Dan Scheirer (USGS), and Brian Van Pay (DOS). Photograph by Brian Van Pay. [larger version]

The regional team leads, Andrew Armstrong (NOAA, Arctic), Matthew Arsenault (USGS, Gulf of Mexico), Ginger Barth (USGS, Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea), Barry Eakins (NOAA, Central Pacific), Jennifer Henderson (NOAA, Pacific West Coast), Larry Mayer (University of New Hampshire, Atlantic), and Daniel Scheirer (USGS, Marianas Trust Territories, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) received the citation, “In recognition of your meticulous research and interagency cooperation in leading the Integrated Regional Teams of the U.S. Extended Continental Shelf Project. Through your attention to detail and thorough analysis, you and your colleagues have identified the scenarios that will facilitate delineation of the Extended Continental Shelf of the United States and international recognition of sovereign rights over more than one million square kilometers of seafloor.”

Where a nation can demonstrate that it has extended continental shelf—seafloor beyond 200 nautical miles from shore that meets criteria set forth in Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (http://www.un.org/Depts/los/)—it can exercise certain sovereign rights over seabed and sub-seabed resources there. Preliminary studies have indicated that the U.S. extended continental shelf likely totals at least 1 million square kilometers—an area about twice the size of California or nearly half the area of the Louisiana Purchase.

Data collection and analysis are critical to the ECS Project as it comes to a more definitive conclusion about the extent of U.S. extended continental shelf (http://continentalshelf.gov/). The project began in 2003 with the first of 28 research expeditions to collect multibeam bathymetric data along the deep-water portions of the U.S. margins, including its island territories. Beginning in 2007, the United States has participated in or led seven research cruises to collect seismic and geophysical data, with five of those cruises in partnership with Canada in the Arctic utilizing two icebreakers (http://soundwaves.usgs.gov/2012/02/). (For a full list of cruises and access to data, visit http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/mgg/ecs/cruises.html.) The project has supported 11 workshops that bring together regional experts in geology, bathymetry, and data management. In spring 2012, the ECS Project held a Technical Workshop at the U.S. Geological Survey Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center in Massachusetts, followed by a Scenarios Workshop in Washington, D.C., to describe the options and uncertainties associated with delineating the extended continental shelf (http://soundwaves.usgs.gov/2012/10/meetings.html). The two Department of State Superior Honor Awards recognize the large effort that brought the project to this phase of understanding.

Although several more data-collection cruises are still required, the project now moves to its next significant phase, which is to begin synthesizing the vast amount of information already gathered into a form that can be used by the Department of State to be consistent with customary international law in delineating the outer limits of the extended continental shelf. Earlier in 2013, a pilot project focused on the western Gulf of Mexico began to apply the variables in Article 76 and develop the required documentation. For the rest of the regions where the United States expects to delineate an extended continental shelf, the analysis and documentation stage is expected to continue through the end of this decade.


Related Sound Waves Stories
Arctic Expedition Reaches 88.5 Degrees North Latitude—Fourth Joint U.S.-Canada Survey for Purpose of Delineating Extended Continental Shelf
Jan. / Feb. 2012
U.S. Extended Continental Shelf Project Holds Workshop in Woods Hole, Massachusetts
Sept. / Oct. 2012

Related Websites
Oceans & Law of the Sea
United Nations
Extended Continental Shelf Project
Extended Continental Shelf Project
U.S. ECS Project Data Management
NOAA

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Research
cover story:
BOBSled Underwater Camera Records HD Video of Seafloor

Study Shows Sea Turtles Benefit from Protected Areas

Fieldwork
Seafloor Sampling off Massachusetts

Life in the Abyss

Coral Gardens: Forests of the Deep - Mission Log

Meetings
Spring 2013 Monterey Bay Marine GIS User Group Meeting

Awards
U.S. Extended Continental Shelf Project Team Receives Superior Honor Awards

USGS a Big Winner in National Association of Government Communicators Awards

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