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Observing Our Earth

Observe. Predict. Protect Our Changing Planet. 

NOAA works to understand the Earth's complex systems in a way that benefits people around the globe. From the depths of the sea to the surface of the sun, NOAA observes how the Earth is changing and how these changes are affecting communities worldwide. We use a variety of observational resources to gain more information about our evolving planet, including satellites, ships, planes, buoys, and on-the-ground scientists to provide vast amounts of data to better understand, and ultimately preserve, our earth.

Check out feature stories below on NOAA Fisheries' observational activities or visit to more about how NOAA observes and understands our changing Earth and find Earth Day activities happening near you.

Aerial Drones Give Scientists A New Perspective

From a rare rocky outcrop on the otherwise ice-covered surface of Livingston Island, near the end of the peninsula that Antarctica extends like a tentacle toward South America, a team of scientists from NOAA's Southwest Fishery Science Center is about to launch a whole new era in marine mammal research. They just have to wait for the wind to die down. Find out how NOAA scientists are using aerial drones to study marine mammals from high above them. Read more...


Listening for Change in the Arctic: Scientists Use
Acoustic Technology to Monitor a 
Fast-changing Ecosystem

In recent years, NOAA scientists have deployed a series of underwater listening devices in the Arctic. They are using these devices to listen for whale calls, but they are interested in much more than just the whales themselves. With the new acoustic technologies, NOAA scientists are using sound to closely monitor changes in the marine ecosystem. Read more...





Forecasting Whale Traffic: Cloudy With a Chance of Whales

New technology will enable scientists to forecast patterns of whale traffic in the Pacific. These forecasts will help ships steer clear of whales and reduce fatal ship strikes.The waters off the coast of California are heavily trafficked, not only by ships, but also by those other seagoing behemoths, the great whales. Blue, fin, humpback and gray whales all migrate up and down the West Coast. When whales and ships come into contact, however, the results can be fatal. Ship strikes are a significant cause of mortality for these species, all of which, other than the gray whale, are currently listed as endangered. Read more...



HabCam: A New Way to Survey Scallop Habitat

Traditionally, scientists surveyed with dredges that drag along the ocean floor, damaging important habitat along the way. In 2005, they started using an alternative tool called the Habitat Camera Mapping System—also called HabCam—and it has revolutionized the way we survey scallops. Snapping up to 500,000 images of the seafloor per day, the HabCam takes roughly six images per second. And what develops is significant. Read more...

CamTrawl: Camera-In-Net Technology 

Introducing Cam-Trawl—a camera-in-net technology that NOAA scientists are developing to eventually reduce, if not eliminate, the need to catch fish to verify acoustic data. Cam-Trawl consists of a pair of cameras. They are slightly offset so the result is a stereo-camera. Each camera takes slightly different pictures at the same time and allows scientists to calculate the length of the fish in the pictures. Research missions still require at least partial use of traditional methods; however, the use of Cam-Trawl significantly reduces the amount of pollock that see the fish lab of the Oscar Dyson. Read more...



Acoustic Technology to Study Cod

For decades researchers have recorded sounds from whales and other marine mammals, using a variety of methods including passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) to better understand how these animals use sound to interact with each other and with the environment. Now, for the first time, researchers report using this technology to record spawning cod in the wild. Read more...




Chesapeake Bay Buoy Systems: Gathering Real-time Weather and Environmental Information on the Water

NOAA's Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System (CBIBS) is a network of observation buoys merge the modern technologies of cellular communications and internet-based information sharing. You can pull out your cell phone and check out real-time weather and environmental information like wind speed, temperature, and wave height at any of the buoys. These "smart buoys" give real-time wind and weather information for fishermen and researchers alike.  Read more...