The 2020 State of the Science Workshop, hosted by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), was held virtually on November 16-20, 2020. The aim of the workshop was to assess the state of the knowledge regarding offshore wind development’s potential cumulative impacts on wildlife populations and ecosystems. This workshop brought together over 430 stakeholders engaged with environmental and wildlife research relevant to offshore wind energy development. Attendees included a wide range of stakeholders from offshore industry, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and academia. More information can be found at http://nyetwg.com/2020-workshop.
Following the plenary sessions in November, workshop attendees formed seven workgroups focusing on benthos, fishes and mobile invertebrates, birds, bats, marine mammals, sea turtles, and environmental change. Workgroups, under the guidance of lead technical experts, met virtually in late 2020 and early 2021 to identify scientific research and coordination needs to improve understanding of cumulative impacts from offshore wind energy development, with a focus area from southern New England to North Carolina. The goal for each group was to identify a list of studies that could be implemented in the next five years to position the stakeholder community to better understand potential cumulative biological impacts as the offshore wind industry develops in the United States. For this effort, cumulative impacts were defined as interacting or compounding effects across spatiotemporal scales, caused by anthropogenic activities relating to the development and operation of multiple offshore wind energy facilities, that collectively affect wildlife populations or ecosystems (see call-out box for definitions of "effects" and "impacts"). The intended audience for this report encompasses a range of stakeholders including researchers, state and federal agencies, offshore wind energy developers, regional science entities, and potential funding entities who might benefit from a collection of prioritized studies for future funding and planning purposes. The studies identified below should not be interpreted as research that must occur prior to any development activity. Rather, these priorities are intended to inform environmentally responsible development and to provide information toward developing means to minimize cumulative impacts over the long term, and many of these research needs are specifically directed at understanding and measuring effects as the industry progresses.
Volunteer workgroup members represented a range of perspectives from offshore wind developers, the fishing industry, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and academia, and provided key input based on their respective specialties. Workgroup meetings included presentations as well as small and large group discussions to identify and prioritize key topics of interest. Workgroup members also provided input on the relative priority of different research objectives via live polls during meetings and/or online surveys between meetings. All workgroup documents were shared with workgroup members via a document collaboration platform (e.g., Google Drive, Microsoft Teams), and workgroup members had multiple opportunities over the course of several months to provide written input on earlier drafts of this report. The report indicates a general agreement among workgroup members, unless otherwise noted; where there was stated disagreement among workgroup members on a recommendation in this report, this disagreement is noted in the text. Despite the substantial input and influence of workgroup members on the workgroup reports, final report contents were determined by the technical leads, in some cases with support from an additional small subgroup of experts within the group. More information about the workgroups can be found at http://www.nyetwg.com/2020-workgroups.
The marine mammals workgroup was led by Brandon Southall (President and Senior Scientist, Southall Environmental Associates; Research Associate, University of California Santa Cruz) and Laura Morse (Senior Environment & Permitting Specialist, Ørsted), with technical and logistical support from Kate Williams, Edward Jenkins, and Julia Gulka (Biodiversity Research Institute), and Ashley Arayas and others (Cadmus Group). The workgroup consisted of 88 participants (Appendix A), who met virtually three times in the winter and spring of 2020-2021.