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Renewable Natural Resources Foundation

Pew Charitable Trusts’ Project on Deep Seabed Mining Described at RNRF Round Table

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Nugent observed that there are currently no American NGOs participating in any major advocacy or scientific capacity in ISA discussions, in part because of the U.S.’s failure to ratify UNCLOS. The U.S.’s relative absence in the seabed governance debate is illustrated by the fact that U.S. delegates observe debates but do not publicly comment. Despite many unknowns in the policy and scientific realm of international seabed mining, prominent American environmental groups have been slow to take up the cause. There also is uncertainty about what, or to whom, they should be advocating.

Pew is an exception, and is using its ability to convene scientific and regulatory experts to provide the best available analyses to ISA during its framework-drafting process. However, as Nugent observed, scientific expertise on mining the deep seafloor, or even just on deep seafloor ecology, is sparse. ISA has no internal capacity to conduct scientific and economic analyses of the impacts of mining the deep seafloor, and there is a tremendous need for more data. While some general information can be gleaned from near-shore seabed mining and petroleum extraction, the challenges of extracting resources on the deep sea floor in international waters are utterly unique and have never been attempted before. Critical research to inform best practices is expensive to conduct, necessitating specialized ships and equipment that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a day to operate. Most research so far has come from commercial interests in preparation for potential future exploitation. Non-industry funders are scarce and limited mostly to some universities and governments. The costs of regulating and monitoring mining activities for environmental impacts will also be enormous. It is unclear how or in what way such monitoring will take place.


The specific mineral resources on the deep sea floor are not found in shallower waters. These are polymetallic nodules, polymetallic sulfides, and the mineral-rich crust of some underwater mountains, which occupy the first few centimeters of the ocean floor. While there is no doubt that mining damages ecosystems, much of the understanding of to what extent ecosystems could be impacted by gathering these resources directly, or the plumes of debris such extraction would create, is unknown. This is why Pew has been urging a strong precautionary approach to deep sea mining, and suggesting that at least 50% of possible mining area be reserved for conservation.

The ISA is working to approve exploitation guidance. Some contractors, including a Belgian company, have expressed an interest in applying for exploitation licenses as soon as possible, which means mining operations could begin as soon as 7-10 years after the rules are adopted. In the meantime, far more work needs to be done gathering scientific information and outlining conservative, cautious guidelines to extracting these novel resources            (Photo by W. Cordua)
on this largely unexplored and little understood terrain.



The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development's Regional Program on Transboundary Landscapes is the Recipient of the Outstanding Achievement Award. This award recognizes a project, publication, piece of legislation, or similar concrete accomplishment in the natural resources field.

Since 2013, ICIMOD's Transboundary Landscapes program has been advocating the use of the landscape approach, which delineates areas based on shared ecosystems instead of administrative boundaries, for managing biodiversity. By facilitating cooperation based on individual ownership of shared ecosystems between countries, the landscape approach fosters multi-stakeholder dialogue and analysis.

ICIMOD's Transboundary Landscapes program focuses on the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) area, which supports over 1.9 billion people. An ecological buffer zone, the HKH is also home to four global biodiversity hotspots. The effects of climate change and natural resource degradation have acute transboundary impacts in the HKH. Poverty, outmigration, and globalization are significant regional challenges that countries can collectively address across geographical borders. For this, an operational system that enables countries to collaborate at bilateral and multilateral levels is necessary.


"Saving America’s Broken Prairie" is the Recipient of the Excellence in Journalism Award. This award honors and encourages excellence in print journalism about natural resources. It recognizes work by an individual, group, or organization.

In "Saving America's Broken Prairie," freelance journalist David J. Unger sought to determine if delicate prairie ecosystems can be preserved even as the prairie continues to feed billions of people. To answer this question, Unger went to North Dakota to record what he thought was the region's defining story: The shale oil boom and bust that has reshaped the heartland's economy and upended energy geopolitics everywhere. But he soon discovered that oil is just one part of a great transformation now underway in North America's Great Plains and Central Lowlands, the likes of which has not been seen since the Dust Bowl.

The case study was published in Undark, a digital magazine published by the Knight Science Journalism Fellowship Program in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Please see the RNRF Awards page for more details at

Dr. Jason Gedamke speaks on Anthropogenic Acoustic Impacts on Marine Mammals at Washington Round Table on Public Policy

GedamkeJason Gedamke, director of the Ocean Acoustics Program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, hosted the RNRF Washington Round Table on Public Policy on May 30. He spoke about how marine mammals are impacted by the sounds from commercial shipping, oil and gas operations and sonar from U.S. Navy vessels.

NOAA works to understand ocean acoustics through research and data, and through the Ocean Noise Strategy Plan. The plan was released in 2016, and identifies NOAA's long-term ocean noise management goals, as well as science and policy mechanisms for NOAA to meet those goals over the next ten years. Two mapping tools, CetMap and SoundMap provide data for analysis on the impacts of sound on marine mammals. The CetMap develops visuals to capture cetacean density and distribution to provide context for impact analyses while SoundMap maps man-made underwater noise from multiple sources.

Gedamke focused his talk on chronic impacts of acoustic disturbances on marine mammals, referring to the background anthropogenic noise in the ocean that limits marine mammals’ communication range and ability to sense their environment. These impacts include: degradation of communications among whales and other sea mammals, interference with predator avoidance, and navigational difficulties. He also spoke on the cumulative effects of ocean noise in ports, especially around Cape Cod, and the implications of that noise pollution for the endangered North American Right Whale.

He noted that acute impacts of brief but intense noise events are more understood by the scientific community and are reported more widely in the media. Acute impacts create an adverse physical or behavioral change in marine mammals that affects their health and fitness, which could include physiological injury, death and the stress or confusion that could lead to stranding events. While acute, dramatic events are important to study, relatively little is known about noise impact on a broader scale, and more must be done to monitor and collect data on levels of ocean noise. While marine scientists have constructed models to analyze ocean noise pollution, empirical data collection will be key to determining their predictive accuracy and how they can be improved.

With these challenges in mind, NOAA has several flagship programs aimed at understanding the impacts of ocean noise on and mitigating harm to marine mammals. The Ocean Acoustics Program is engaged in assessing long-term trends and changes in underwater soundscapes. It also has developed the collaborative work of the NOAA Noise Reference Station Network, which establishes and collects consistent and comparable long-term acoustic data sets across the U.S. to monitor low frequency, long-term passive acoustics.

Marine mammals are experiencing new pressures from multiple environmental changes, including overfishing, ocean temperature increases and acidification, and plastic pollution. The full range and long-term consequences of anthropogenic ocean noise are still not fully understood. However, current research confidently points to negative impacts.

Gedamke’s PowerPoint presentation may be accessed by clicking here.

American Geophysical Union


AGU is proud to announce that it has added a new title to its distinguished portfolio of journals, AGU Advances.

Published in partnership with Wiley, AGU Advances will be a Gold open-access journal. It will differentiate itself from other journals by being highly selective and will focus on publishing seminal research in the form of novel, innovative full-length papers that present new and selective scientific advances across the Earth and space sciences and related interdisciplinary fields. These articles are expected to have broad and immediate implications in their discipline and also be of interest to researchers in other Earth science disciplines, the broader science community and the public.

"Over the last century, Earth and space science has advanced greatly to address the challenges and opportunities society has faced. AGU too has advanced during that time, working diligently to provide our community with the highest quality, most well-respected journals in which to share their scientific knowledge," said AGU Executive Director/CEO Chris McEntee. "Today, as we prepare to mark AGU's Centennial, society depends on Earth and space science more than ever to ensure our ability to address the challenges and opportunities of the future. AGU Advances will help us to build on the legacy and impact created by Geophysical Research Letters, AGU's leading letters-length journal, and our 19 other prestigious journals, as we accelerate scientific discovery and the exchange of knowledge, and work to inform those inside and beyond our community about the critical contributions Earth and space science makes to improving lives around the world."

Beginning with the inaugural issue in late 2018/early 2019, AGU Advances will be published online-only. Full length papers are approximately 8,000 words and include multiple figures and in-depth explanations of methods, as well as discussion. Letters are approximately 4,000 words and typically include half as many figures. Most of the papers will be further enriched by open-access commentaries to provide further context around the research. AGU Advances will aim to publish at most around 150 papers per year to allow this enrichment and complement both GRL and the rest of AGU's portfolio.

"Unlike most other highly selective journals, AGU Advances will be an open access journal. Selected content will be freely available immediately for all – including the public and policy makers – to read, download and share as soon as it is published," said Brooks Hanson, AGU Executive Vice President of Science. "Because it will focus on publishing novel, influential research that has broad and immediate implications, AGU Advances will be of interest to researchers across the Earth science disciplines."

AGU currently publishes 20 peer-reviewed scientific journals covering a great breadth of research in the Earth and space sciences;, an online news site (accompanied by a monthly magazine); and award-winning books. The journals include Geophysical Research Letters (GRL), which publishes letters-length papers that merit rapid review and high attention across the Earth and space sciences. GRL is AGU's largest journal and published more than 1400 papers last year, indicating the broad popularity of this format. GRL will remain AGU's leading letters-length journal.

"As its publishing partner, we are proud to support the expansion of AGU's high quality portfolio and Open Access journal program with this ambitious new launch," said Colette Bean, Vice President & Society Publishing Director at Wiley. "As a high-impact, Open Access journal, AGU Advances is uniquely positioned to encourage meaningful change in the world, and we believe it will serve as a powerful platform for advancing scientific discovery in the field.

AGU is conducting a search for a scientist to lead the journal as Editor in Chief. The Editor in Chief will appoint additional Editors to this new independent Editorial Board from AGU's new College of Fellows, which will include representation from each of AGU's sections. AGU will also appoint a full time Ph.D. Managing Editor to further support authors and the peer review process.

Read more here.

American Meteorological Society


The AMS Policy Program released a study in May 2018 entitled "A Reset for U.S. Natural Hazards Policy? Lessons from Harvey, Irma, and Maria."

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season inflicted heavy casualties and loss of life. At the same time, events in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico highlighted opportunities for improving U.S. natural hazards policy. In short, these involve building community-level resilience nationally and correspondingly reducing reliance on forecast-based emergency evacuations. Progress is needed in several respects: a more integrated approach toward economic development and hazard risk management; more effective and strategic public-private collaboration in risk management; a focus on reducing risk versus mere redistribution of risk; rigorous learning from experience versus rebuilding as before; and shouldering responsibility versus relying on federal bailouts. Ultimately, resilience in the face of hazards cannot be accomplished by a few. Instead it will require embrace as a shared public value.

Read the report here.

99th Annual American Meteorological Society Meeting

The American Meteorological Society has announced the 2019 annual meeting, "Understanding and Building Resilience to Extreme Events by Being Interdisciplinary, International, and Inclusive (III)."

Analyses by reinsurance companies have clearly shown the monotonically increasing cost of extreme events. There are a number of interrelated factors that have contributed to this increased vulnerability. For example, sea level rise combined with the migration of people to coastal regions exacerbates the impacts of hurricane/typhoon landfall and tsunamis, the interdependent nature of the energy grid with other infrastructure and our increasing reliance on technology would lead to a cascading negative effect if a major space weather event or other natural hazard were to occur, changes in climate have led to more frequent water extremes from flooding to drought conditions that significantly impact energy and food production, and the increasing number of wildfires has destroyed large regions of forests and buildings while also enhancing the risk of landslides and contributing to extreme air pollution events. Finally, urban-to-regional-scale air pollution episodes can be particularly hazardous under severe meteorological stagnation events.

Read more here.

American Society of Civil Engineers


Produced by MacGillivray Freeman Films and ASCE, the film Dream Big: Engineering Our World debuted on Netflix in early July.

Dream Big opened in museums and giant screens around the world in February 2017 to positive reviews. The documentary continues to show in theaters this summer.

The film aims to inspire kids of diverse backgrounds to become innovators, educators, and leaders who will improve the lives of people around the world throughout the 21st century.

"Over the past 30 years, it has been increasingly harder to get kids interested in science and engineering as a career. So firms have a tough time finding enough engineers to hire," said Dream Big Director Greg MacGillivray. "Dream Big's mission over its five-year plan is to change that by showing how adventurous, creative, and fun engineering can be – and the film and its massive campaign elements have succeeded! That message is conveyed even further with our play on Netflix."

Read more about the documentary and ASCE's Dream Big initiative here.

American Society of Landscape Architects Fund


In September 2017, the American Society of Landscape Architects convened the interdisciplinary Blue Ribbon Panel on Climate Change and Resilience. The panelists included a diverse range of practitioners, experts, and stakeholder representatives, with experience working at various scales in different geographic and technical areas. The panel was given two tasks: first, to identify the most important design and planning approaches for creating healthy, climate-smart, and resilient communities, and second, to identify specific public policy recommendations to support those approaches. A report released in June 2018 details the panel's findings.

Climate change is a threat to people and the ecosystem services on which we depend. Extreme weather events are on the rise. Flooding, drought, and wildfires are more frequent and more severe. Higher temperatures are increasing community health risks. The changing climate is causing species dislocation and accelerating the rate of species extinction. Global agricultural systems are increasingly stressed. These early effects are harbingers of the more severe consequences that science tells us we can expect in the future if we do not act.

Even without climate change, standard development patterns and practices are putting our people and our communities at risk. Natural systems that protect shorelines are removed to make way for development. Engineered stormwater systems designed to move water rapidly off buildings and pavements disrupt natural hydrology, contribute to water pollution, and weaken or destroy marine ecosystems. "Pave the planet" development replaces natural vegetation with impervious surfaces, leaving even inland communities outside floodplains prone to flooding. Development patterns emphasizing car travel isolate communities from recreation opportunities and contribute to unhealthy, sedentary lifestyles. Taken together, these practices have made our communities and people more vulnerable and set the stage for significantly greater loss of property and life in the face of inevitable natural disasters.

ASLA's interdisciplinary Blue Ribbon Panel on Climate Change and Resilience identified core principles, key planning and design strategies, and public policies that will promote healthy, climate-smart, and resilient communities.

Read the full report here.

For more information contact ASLA, 636 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001; (202) 898-244,

American Water Resources Association

AWRA'S Annual Water Resources Conference 2018

AWRA's Annual Water Resources Conference will be held November 4-8, 2018 at the Marriott Inner Harbor at Camden Yards, in the heart of Baltimore's downtown. The conference will convene water resource professionals and students from throughout the nation and will provide attendees the opportunity to learn about and engage in multi-disciplinary water resource discussions.

The program will stimulate conversations on water resource management, research and education. The 2018 conference will also include locally relevant topics such as the Chesapeake Bay, the Delaware River watershed, and eastern water law as well as globally significant issues such as coastal resilience, fire effects on watersheds, communication and outreach strategies and integrated water resources.

For more information visit here.

Geological Society of America


GSA’s governing Council approved a new position statement, Removing Barriers to Career Progression for Women in the Geosciences, at its May 2018 meeting in Denver, Colorado.

Chair-Elect of GSA's Geology and Public Policy Committee (GPPC) and Position Statement Panel Chair, Monica Gowan, noted, "Culture starts at the top and resonates through the ranks. A culture that tolerates systemic barriers and beliefs resulting in unequal access to or exclusion from career opportunities for women is unacceptable. GSA leadership saw it as vital to create a position statement stating so."

Purpose. This position statement (1) affirms the pressing need for a change in professional culture so that all people are welcomed, supported, and thrive in the geoscience profession; and for policies that aspire to the highest standards of conduct as a professional society; (2) advocates for resolving implicit and explicit biases and the elimination of harassment, bullying, and sexual misconduct in the workplace; (3) recommends elevated personal and professional responsibility and evidence-based policies that extend beyond civil and legal remedies, to promote inclusive, safe, and productive environments in the geoscience classroom, laboratory, field, and office; and (4) establishes GSA's commitment to identifying and implementing reporting procedures and clear consequences for members who practice discrimination, harassment, bullying, retaliation, sexual misconduct, or sexual violence.

Along with the position statement on Diversity in the Geosciences, GSA endorses the right for all to work in a safe, supportive, non-discriminatory, and recrimination-free environment where trust, respect, equity, fairness, accountability, and justice are honored.

"We've seen that biases and problematic behaviors by people abusing their power and privilege are present in the sciences, yet discrimination and prejudice are antithetical to the scientific method," said Gowan. "In any learning or workplace environment, one thing everyone should be able to count on is professionalism and mutual respect."

Related to this position paper, the GSA Geology and Society Division, GSA Geology and Public Policy Committee, Association for Women Geoscientists, and the Earth Science Women's Network are co-sponsoring a Pardee Keynote Symposium at the GSA Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, 4-7 November 2018, titled, "Women Rising: Removing Barriers and Achieving Parity in the Geosciences." Susan Stover and Kelly Kryc are the session conveners.

Read the full text of the position statement here.

Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry


SETAC Europe's Special Science Symposia (SESSS) will be held in Brussels, Belgium, from October 23-24, 2018. The purpose of the Symposia is to debate current scientific issues in a regulatory context, for example, the testing, evaluation, risk assessment and management of chemicals in the environment, as well as to strengthen the link between science and regulatory decision-making.

This SESSS will show a series of new developments that facilitate the extrapolation of adverse effects, caused by chemical exposure, observed in experiments amongst different levels of biological organisation. Different methodologies will be showcased, such as Quantitative Adverse Outcome Pathways, Toxicokinetic-Toxicodynamic modelling, Population models, Ecosystem/food chain models and landscape level models.

The symposium will start with the regulatory views from the European Food Safety Authority, the European Chemicals Agency, and the European Commission on the implementation of these new developments into Environmental Risk Assessment. This will be followed by a series of expert presentations on novel experimental and modeling approaches, as well as successful case studies on how these approaches could inform future Environmental Risk Assessments of chemicals.

Learn more about the program here.

International News

International Whaling Commission

Japan's Proposal to Resume Commercial Whaling Denied 

The 67th International Whaling Commission meeting (IWC) concluded on September 14th, 2018. This year, the biannual meeting promised to be heated as two opposing proposals for the future of the IWC were brought to the table.

Host country Brazil, together with Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica, Panama and Peru proposed the 'Florianopolis Declaration,' a direct opposition to Japan's 'Way Forward' proposal.

The Florianopolis Declaration consists of changing the role of the IWC from an organization focused on cetacean management of stocks to a cetacean conservation regulation body. It reaffirms the moratorium on commercial whaling and it agrees that the use of lethal research methods is unnecessary.

In contrast, Japan's Way Forward saw that the moratorium on commercial whaling was already due to end. The proposal advocated for the return of commercial whaling. The moratorium on whaling was established by this same commission in 1986. Despite this, more than 32,000 whales have been killed since then by Japan, Iceland, Norway and Russia (Russia only continued killing whales after the moratorium in 86 and 87).

Japan, Norway and Iceland have never abided by the commission's restrictions. Iceland was sitting in the plenary in Brazil making their point that commercial whaling should return as a sustainable practice. At the same time, Iceland is currently engaged in the commercial killing of endangered fin whales, including some that are pregnant. Danish Faroe Islands also continued its dolphin and pilot whale hunt as the convention went on and had a representative at the commission.

The Florianopolis Declaration was adopted by majority vote and the Japanese proposal for the return of commercial whaling lost, with 41 votes against 27. Four countries abstained from voting.

Previously, Japan, Norway, Iceland and Faroe Islands (Denmark) have shown no respect for any rules or regulations from this or any other regulating body. It is questionable whether they will respect this year’s resolution.

During Japan's speech after the defeat of their proposal, they threatened to leave the IWC, or to form a separate body that would cater to the countries that want the return of commercial whaling.

Sea Shepherd's founder Captain Paul Watson, who has spent many years opposing Japan's "scientific research" programs, stated this morning, "Following yesterday's most welcome Florianopolis Declaration, this defeat of the Japanese Proposal has made the 67th meeting of the International Whaling Commission an awesome historical event for the world’s whales."

"The Florianopolis Declaration states that the purpose of the IWC is the conservation of whales and that the commercial killing of whales is to no longer be up for further discussion," Captain Watson concluded.

Japanese Research Vessel                                                    IWC Japanese Delegation
Japanese whale 'research' vessel.                                                                                 Japanese delegation at the 67th International  
                                                                                                                                Whaling Commission meeting.

Read the press release from Sea Shepherd here.

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