Atlantic Offshore Wind Environmental Research Recommendations

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With support from the New York Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the U.S. Department of Energy, the Regional Synthesis Workgroup has created a database that compiles and synthesizes data gaps and research needs from existing sources relevant to the environmental effects of offshore wind energy development on the U.S. Atlantic Coast. The database allows researchers and funders to easily access, sort, and prioritize research recommendations.

The Regional Synthesis Workgroup is made up of independent scientific experts and was formed by the New York State Environmental Technical Working Group to inform and provide guidance for regional-scale research and monitoring efforts in the eastern U.S. in relation to wildlife and offshore wind energy development. The database was developed for the Regional Synthesis Workgroup by the Biodiversity Research Institute and the U.S. Offshore Wind Synthesis of Environmental Effects Research (SEER) group. The team compiled over 800 research recommendations from over 60 sources, and then condensed these into roughly 220 synthesized research recommendations. The database design and content were shaped by input from the Regional Synthesis Workgroup, as well as stakeholder input from a public meeting in September 2022 (recording) and online survey in Fall 2022.

The Database ReadMe File provides a summary of database contents, definitions of database fields, and additional information on the scope, development, and use of the database, as well as a suggested citation for the database. We strongly encourage reference to this document.

The online tool below presents a summary of the synthesized research recommendations and provides links to relevant citations. Results can be refined by selecting from the drop-down menus or entering a search term. Synthesized research recommendations are ordered alphabetically. The order does not signify the importance or priority of each recommendation.

Download the complete database as a spreadsheet here.

Download the synthesized recommendations below as a spreadsheet here.

Research Recommendation Stressor/Topic Receptor Development Phase Citations
Collect baseline information about nocturnal activity

Extract nocturnal flight activity from existing bird telemetry data to inform estimate of nocturnal collisions.

Baseline, Abundance and Distribution Birds Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021
Collect baseline information about species distribution and abundance

Collect baseline data that describes the distribution and abundance and animals offshore and how this changes throughout space and time

Baseline, Abundance and Distribution Bats, Benthos, Birds, Fishes, Invertebrates, Marine mammals, Sea turtles Pre-construction, Construction, Operations & Maintenance, Decommissioning Allison et al. 2019, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) 2022, Bonacci-Sullivan 2018, Brodie et al. 2021, Cook et al. 2021, Gitschlag et al. 2021, Gulka and Williams 2020, Hein et al. 2021, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021, Kraus et al. 2019, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries 2018, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Office of Science 2021, Abercrombie and Chytalo 2017, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) 2015, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) 2020, Petruny-Parker et al. 2015, Southall et al. 2021, State of Maine 2021, Van Parijs et al. 2021, Wildlife Conservation Society 2021
Collect baseline information about vocalization behavior

Identify baseline vocalization behavior

Baseline, Movement and Behavior Marine mammals Pre-construction Southall et al. 2021
Collect baseline information of oceanographic parameters

Measure pH, water clarity, and dissolved oxygen when conducting surveys from the surface to sea floor.

Baseline, Ecological Drivers Ecosystem/Oceanographic processes Pre-construction, Operations & Maintenance Brodie et al. 2021
Collect baseline information on underwater sounds

Characterize the ambient noise levels in the ocean for historic conditions, present day, and predicted future scenarios considering climate change.

Baseline, Noise Fishes, Invertebrates, Marine mammals Pre-construction Di Franco et al. 2020, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) 2015
Collect data on zooplankton distribution and shifts over time

Conduct modeling or sampling to better understand zooplankton distribution and shifts over time

Baseline, Abundance and Distribution Invertebrates Pre-construction Boon et al. 2018, Kraus et al. 2019
Collect information on the spatial distribution of habitat and oceanographic features

Characterize the spatial distribution of habitat and oceanographic features through mapping, measurement, and sampling. This includes characterization and sampling of benthic and fish habitat as well as the physical and chemical features.

Baseline, Ecological Drivers Benthos, Ecosystem/Oceanographic processes, Fishes, Invertebrates Pre-construction Brodie et al. 2021, Degraer et al. 2021, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries 2018, New England Fishery Management Council 2021, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Office of Science 2021, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) 2015, Petruny-Parker et al. 2015
Compare factors influencing seabed recovery

Explore recovery of the seafloor following construction-related disturbance at multiple OSW sites in relation to variables such as seabed properties, local hydrodynamics, and type of disturbance.

Habitat Change, Oceanographic/Atmospheric Change Benthos, Ecosystem/Oceanographic processes Operations & Maintenance, Decommissioning Degraer et al. 2021, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries 2018
Compare high-intensity noise exposure with OSW and non-OSW activities

Evaluate relative threat of serious injury (PTS) from high-intensity noise exposure associated with OSW and non-OSW activities

Noise Marine mammals Construction Southall et al. 2021
Compare responses to pile-driving noise using different foundations or piling technologies

Examine animal responses concurrent with measurement of underwater noise to estimate received levels and PTS ranges in relation to different types of piling activity, including comparison between sheet piling & vibro-piling, variation based on pile size, and changes in response as the use of...Read more

Examine animal responses concurrent with measurement of underwater noise to estimate received levels and PTS ranges in relation to different types of piling activity, including comparison between sheet piling & vibro-piling, variation based on pile size, and changes in response as the use of noise mitigation techniques changes.

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Noise Marine mammals Construction, Operations & Maintenance Gulka and Williams 2020, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021
Compare structural and functional ecology of various substrata

Understand the comparative habitat and community structure/function provisioning of offshore infrastructure and other forms of substrata (i.e., based on location, design, materials, and environmental factors), including the ability to provide significant habitat for ecologically- and commercially...Read more

Understand the comparative habitat and community structure/function provisioning of offshore infrastructure and other forms of substrata (i.e., based on location, design, materials, and environmental factors), including the ability to provide significant habitat for ecologically- and commercially-important species (e.g., rare or protected species; exotic or invasive species, fishery-important species) and related biological metrics (e.g., biomass, productivity, biodiversity, algal grazing, benthic enrichment) comparisons for reef-associated mobile species.

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Habitat Change Benthos, Ecosystem/Oceanographic processes, Fishes, Invertebrates Construction, Operations & Maintenance Boon et al. 2018, Carey et al. 2020, Degraer et al. 2017, Degraer et al. 2021, Fowler et al. 2020, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries 2018, Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA) 2021
Coordinate research and monitoring

Coordinate data collection and synthesis of existing data efforts at a regional scale including baseline data, population monitoring, and data collected at individual OSW project sites (e.g., post-construction monitoring data)....Read more

Coordinate data collection and synthesis of existing data efforts at a regional scale including baseline data, population monitoring, and data collected at individual OSW project sites (e.g., post-construction monitoring data). Coordination also includes linking efforts across groups (e.g., researchers, developers, state and federal agencies) and pooling data to have the statistical power to examine regional-scale effects.

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Data Management Bats, Benthos, Birds, Ecosystem/Oceanographic processes, Marine mammals, Sea turtles Pre-construction, Operations & Maintenance Allison et al. 2019, Bonacci-Sullivan 2018, Brodie et al. 2021, Carpenter et al. 2021, Degraer et al. 2021, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021
Create an inventory of all current tagging/tracking data and programs

Create an inventory of all ongoing tracking projects for seabirds and marine mammals to encourage a coordinated approach to making research results compatible, available and applicable in Marine Spatial Planning, particularly concerning OSW energy development.

Data Management Birds, Marine mammals Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021
Define site-specific wildlife and OSW assessment goals

Define site-specific wildlife and marine wind energy assessment goals for a better understanding of information needed to guide the permitting process for marine wind energy projects....Read more

Define site-specific wildlife and marine wind energy assessment goals for a better understanding of information needed to guide the permitting process for marine wind energy projects. Building on current projects and traditional knowledge, identify data gaps and research, survey and monitoring needs to better understand how OSW energy infrastructure installation, transmission, maintenance and decommission are likely to affect wildlife, including benefits to wildlife through the replacement of traditional fossil fuel energy sources.

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Technology/ Methods Development Bats, Birds, Fishes, Marine mammals, Sea turtles Construction, Operations & Maintenance, Decommissioning Abercrombie and Chytalo 2017
Define the geographic scale of fish species populations for impact assessments

Develop guidance on assessing fish population losses for impact assessments taking into consideration inconsistencies between the spatial structure of biological populations and fishery stock units....Read more

Develop guidance on assessing fish population losses for impact assessments taking into consideration inconsistencies between the spatial structure of biological populations and fishery stock units. Large fisheries management units are increasingly unlikely to provide appropriate baselines when assessing fish populations or as prey species for protected marine mammals and seabirds.

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Technology/ Methods Development, Population Dynamics Fishes Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021
Design an impact reduction decision support tool

Design an impact reduction decision support tool to assist in designing practicable mitigation strategies across different scenarios

Technology/ Methods Development Bats Hein and Straw 2021
Design studies whereby data can directly inform population models

Research studies on the impact of wind energy installations should be designed in such a way that data can directly inform population model parameters, including population consequences of disturbance (PCoD) or population consequences of multiple stressors (PCoMS) models....Read more

Research studies on the impact of wind energy installations should be designed in such a way that data can directly inform population model parameters, including population consequences of disturbance (PCoD) or population consequences of multiple stressors (PCoMS) models. This means that specific parameters for these models should be considered with each investigation.

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Technology/ Methods Development, Population Dynamics Marine mammals Kraus et al. 2019
Determine atmospheric effects associated with OSW energy

Understand atmospheric effects associated with energy removal by wind turbines.

Oceanographic/Atmospheric Change Ecosystem/Oceanographic processes Construction, Operations & Maintenance Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA) 2021
Determine biological removal rates that populations can withstand

Assess whether the number of bats at risk of collisions at OSW farms is sufficient to influence population trajectories.

Turbine collision, Population Dynamics Bats Operations & Maintenance WOZEP project team 2016
Determine cause of attraction to turbines

Determine what causes bat attraction to wind farms and how this relates to flight height, collision risk, and time spent at wind farms.

Attraction Bats Operations & Maintenance WOZEP project team 2016
Determine cumulative effects of cables at OSW farms

Assess the ecological function beneath cable protection (e.g., infilling or colonization of rock protection) for various protection measures and the effects of cables (e.g., EMF) associated with wind infrastructure

Cumulative Impacts Benthos, Fishes Operations & Maintenance Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021
Determine ecological drivers of distribution and movement patterns

Identify how ecological drivers and environmental factors influence the distribution and movement of animals

Ecological Drivers, Abundance and Distribution, Baseline Benthos, Birds, Fishes, Invertebrates, Marine mammals, Sea turtles Pre-construction, Construction, Operations & Maintenance, Decommissioning Cook et al. 2021, Degraer et al. 2021, Gitschlag et al. 2021, Gulka and Williams 2020, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) 2015, Southall et al. 2021, WOZEP project team 2016
Determine ecological impacts of artificial habitat on soft-sediment ecosystems

Assess the benthic ecological impacts of infrastructure habitat on surrounding soft-sediment ecosystems, including biodiversity tradeoffs before construction and recovery after full removal of an offshore installation.

Habitat Change Benthos Decommissioning Fowler et al. 2020
Determine how wind farm design affects avoidance/displacement

Determine how displacement and macro- to meso-avoidance of individual bird species is linked to the spatial configuration of turbines

Avoidance, Displacement Birds Operations & Maintenance Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021, WOZEP project team 2016
Determine hydrodynamic/oceanographic effects of structures

Assess the effects of multiple OSW facilities on oceanographic processes (e.g., production of turbulence, currents, temperature, seasonal stratification, sediment scour) and coupling of the hydrodynamics with water quality and ecosystems, including nutrient cycling.

Oceanographic/Atmospheric Change Benthos, Ecosystem/Oceanographic processes, Fishes, Invertebrates Pre-construction, Construction, Operations & Maintenance, Decommissioning Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) 2022, Boon et al. 2018, Brodie et al. 2021, Dannheim et al. 2020, Degraer et al. 2021, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries 2018, Miles et al. 2021, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Office of Science 2021, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) 2015, Petruny-Parker et al. 2015, Piet et al. 2021, Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA) 2021
Determine if changes around OSW infrastructure affect regional-scale biodiversity

Assess how local biodiversity on OSW infrastructure contributes to regional diversity through movement of mobile organisms or larval dispersal.

Cumulative Impacts Benthos Decommissioning Fowler et al. 2020
Determine level of disruption to spawning activities

Examine whether habitat changes from OSW development affect populations of managed species through temporary disruption of spawning behavior

Habitat Change, Movement and Behavior Fishes, Invertebrates Construction, Operations & Maintenance, Decommissioning Gulka and Williams 2020
Determine physical effects of infrastructure habitat on surrounding soft-sediment ecosystems

Assess the physical effects of OSW infrastructure habitat on surrounding soft-sediment ecosystems to inform decommissioning considerations

Habitat Change Benthos Decommissioning Fowler et al. 2020
Determine the duration of sound-related effects in relation to species mobility

Assess the potential for recovery, habituation, and adaptation to noise in relation to species mobility or other features, in order to help understand the duration/longevity of responses

Noise Fishes, Invertebrates Construction, Operations & Maintenance Di Franco et al. 2020
Develop a centralized cumulative impact assessment framework

Develop a centralized, transparent, replicable, ecosystem-based framework of information and methods for Cumulative Impact Assessments at large spatial/temporal scales that incorporates other stressors beyond OSW development (e.g., climate change).

Technology/ Methods Development, Cumulative Impacts Benthos, Birds, Fishes, Invertebrates, Marine mammals Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021, Southall et al. 2021
Develop a centralized data repository for OSW-related ecological data

Develop a centralized publicly accessible data repository for OSW-related data including baseline surveys, passive acoustic monitoring data, and benthic monitoring data to promote transparency, prevent duplication of effort, and aid in the development of collaborations....Read more

Develop a centralized publicly accessible data repository for OSW-related data including baseline surveys, passive acoustic monitoring data, and benthic monitoring data to promote transparency, prevent duplication of effort, and aid in the development of collaborations. This data can be used to inform all aspects of the decision-making process.

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Data Management Bats, Benthos, Birds, Ecosystem/Oceanographic processes, Fishes, Invertebrates, Marine mammals, Sea turtles Pre-construction, Construction, Operations & Maintenance, Decommissioning Degraer et al. 2021, Wildlife Conservation Society 2021, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021, Van Parijs et al. 2021
Develop a field site for effect-response studies

Develop a long-term, highly instrumented field research site that can be worked at year-round, has well-defined acoustics, and ideally allows (1) control of the sounds being added to the ambient soundscape, (2) tests on various authentic substrates, focal species, etc., (3) examination of...Read more

Develop a long-term, highly instrumented field research site that can be worked at year-round, has well-defined acoustics, and ideally allows (1) control of the sounds being added to the ambient soundscape, (2) tests on various authentic substrates, focal species, etc., (3) examination of particle motion and substrate vibration (not just sound pressure), and (4) behavioral and physiological response studies.

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Technology/ Methods Development Fishes, Invertebrates Popper et al. 2021
Develop a method to calculate permanent threshold shift (PTS) impact range

Develop a PTS impact range calculation for marine mammals utilizing strategic literature review.

Technology/ Methods Development, Noise Marine mammals Pre-construction Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021
Develop a sound mitigation simulator tool

Develop a tool to support decision-making around the implementation of noise-related mitigation strategies as it relates to potential cumulative impacts to help accelerate permitting.

Technology/ Methods Development Marine mammals Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021
Develop acceptable change threshold

Determine scientifically sound threshold ranges for acceptable overall mortality, habitat loss and population change, which should be investigated at the spatial scale relevant to the population of each species under consideration at the scale of the local food web....Read more

Determine scientifically sound threshold ranges for acceptable overall mortality, habitat loss and population change, which should be investigated at the spatial scale relevant to the population of each species under consideration at the scale of the local food web. Also, determine if there is an ecological bottleneck of habitat during particular periods.

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Technology/ Methods Development, Habitat Change Birds, Fishes, Marine mammals Pre-construction, Operations & Maintenance Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021, Lindeboom et al. 2015, WOZEP project team 2016
Develop and improve methods to study avoidance behavior

Improve analyses of avoidance including macro-avoidance of wind farms to micro-avoidance of turbines, including quantification of key parameters such as flight speed and height in relation to behavior.

Technology/ Methods Development, Avoidance Birds Operations & Maintenance Cook et al. 2018, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021
Develop and validate environmental impact assessment estimates of piling noise

Develop an impact assessment tool that considers impulsive and non-impulsive sound to be received by a moving animal when conducting impact assessments of multiple-pulse sources and examine the degree to which existing results validate environmental impact assessment predictions of noise during...Read more

Develop an impact assessment tool that considers impulsive and non-impulsive sound to be received by a moving animal when conducting impact assessments of multiple-pulse sources and examine the degree to which existing results validate environmental impact assessment predictions of noise during pile driving, how monitoring is undertaken and how the results are presented.

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Technology/ Methods Development, Noise Marine mammals Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021
Develop automated methods for species counts and identification

Design methods to automatically count and identify species, including data collections from digital aerial surveys, drone imagery, and benthic surveys.

Technology/ Methods Development Benthos, Birds, Marine mammals Operations & Maintenance Gulka and Williams 2020, Hutchison et al. 2020, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021
Develop availability bias correction for diving species

Develop an availability bias correction to improve abundance estimates for long-diving marine mammal species.

Technology/ Methods Development, Abundance and Distribution Marine mammals Gulka and Williams 2020
Develop better methods for collision detection

Develop better methods to measure bird collisions, including rates and the conditions contributing to variation in risk. Empirical data of collisions can be used to understand the relationship between estimated and realized risk.

Technology/ Methods Development, Turbine collision Bats, Birds Construction, Operations & Maintenance Gulka and Williams 2020, Hein and Straw 2021, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021
Develop dose-response function for pile-driving noise

Develop dose-response functions for species besides harbor seal and harbor porpoise to provide a method by which the behavioral responses of species can be predicted when exposed to varying levels of noise from impact pile-driving.

Technology/ Methods Development, Noise Marine mammals Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021
Develop exposure/vulnerability assessment

Quantify exposure and potential vulnerability at proposed development areas to inform siting and risk assessments, identify key gaps in knowledge, and ensure that research studies are focused on species of greatest potential risk.

Technology/ Methods Development Birds Pre-construction, Construction, Operations & Maintenance, Decommissioning Cook et al. 2021, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) 2015
Develop field system for rapid assessment of hearing sensitivity

Develop methods for a practical field system for rapid assessment of hearing sensitivity through the modification and validation of existing technology to inform the extent and consequences of auditory damage of marine mammals to impulsive sound.

Technology/ Methods Development, Noise Marine mammals Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021
Develop guidance for research, monitoring, and mitigation

Develop guidance to inform oceanographic, species effects, and population-level impacts research, including passive acoustic monitoring at the site- and regional scales, and baseline distribution surveys, as well as mitigation including best practices for underwater habitat restoration.

Technology/ Methods Development Bats, Benthos, Birds, Ecosystem/Oceanographic processes, Fishes, Invertebrates, Marine mammals, Sea turtles Pre-construction, Construction, Operations & Maintenance Carpenter et al. 2021, Gulka 2020, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021, Van Parijs et al. 2021
Develop methods for estimating cumulative impacts

Develop better methods to assess the magnitude of cumulative effects across multiple OSW developments and/or across the ecosystem and other pressures, building from existing models and focusing on key processes and functions rather than species-specific stressors.

Technology/ Methods Development, Cumulative Impacts Bats, Benthos, Birds, Ecosystem/Oceanographic processes, Fishes, Invertebrates, Marine mammals, Sea turtles Pre-construction, Construction, Operations & Maintenance, Decommissioning Gulka and Williams 2020, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) 2015, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021
Develop methods to apportion at-sea effects to appropriate subpopulations

Develop apportioning methodologies and test against existing methods (e.g. GPS tracking data) to ensure apportioning of at-sea effects during the breeding season to the appropriate population/s.

Technology/ Methods Development, Population Dynamics Birds Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021
Develop methods to translate individual effects to population-level consequences

Develop modelling frameworks (and further develop existing frameworks such as population consequences of disturbance (PCoD) and PVA) to allow the assessment of population-level effects from OSW impacts, including those related to collisions and displacement in birds and noise impacts for marine...Read more

Develop modelling frameworks (and further develop existing frameworks such as population consequences of disturbance (PCoD) and PVA) to allow the assessment of population-level effects from OSW impacts, including those related to collisions and displacement in birds and noise impacts for marine mammals. Directing research towards areas of greatest need will involve 1) developing robust estimates of baseline demographic parameters, 2) developing preliminary population models, and 3) conducting sensitivity analyses and other gap analyses to identify key gaps where additional data are most needed.

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Technology/ Methods Development, Cumulative Impacts Bats, Birds, Ecosystem/Oceanographic processes, Marine mammals Operations & Maintenance Allison et al. 2019, Carpenter et al. 2021, Cook et al. 2021, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021, WOZEP project team 2016
Develop models incorporating hydrodynamics and fish movement

Refine existing dynamic habitat or agent-based models coupled with hydrodynamic models to help quantify the scale of spatial and temporal effects of hydrodynamic cues on the movement of fishes and their habitats, which is not currently possible via conventional modeling, quantitative analysis...Read more

Refine existing dynamic habitat or agent-based models coupled with hydrodynamic models to help quantify the scale of spatial and temporal effects of hydrodynamic cues on the movement of fishes and their habitats, which is not currently possible via conventional modeling, quantitative analysis approaches, or field-based observational studies and surveys.

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Technology/ Methods Development, Ecological Drivers, Movement and Behavior Fishes Operations & Maintenance van Berkel et al. 2020
Develop models to better understand at-sea seabird distributions

Develop methods/models to better understand at-sea seabird distributions with robust estimates of uncertainty

Technology/ Methods Development, Abundance and Distribution Birds Pre-construction Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) 2021
Develop monitoring networks

Develop a PAM network with standardized data collection and reporting standards and with the potential for real-time sensors to inform best-practices and mitigation, so that long-term, broad-scale questions could be answered and provide information necessary for species protection in the region....Read more

Develop a PAM network with standardized data collection and reporting standards and with the potential for real-time sensors to inform best-practices and mitigation, so that long-term, broad-scale questions could be answered and provide information necessary for species protection in the region.

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Technology/ Methods Development Marine mammals Wildlife Conservation Society 2021