Participatory Processes Effectively Launch Seafloor Mapping and Characterization Initiatives: A Framework for Collaboration

Chris Caldow1, Bryan Costa2, Ryan Freedman1, Jeremy Potter3, Richard Brennan4, Tim Battista5 and Ashley Chappell6, (1)NOAA National Ocean Service, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, Santa Barbara, CA, United States, (2)NOAA, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, Santa Barbara, CA, United States, (3)Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Department of the Interior, Camarillo, CA, United States, (4)NOAA, Office of Coast Survey, Silver Spring, MD, United States, (5)NOAA, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, Silver Spring, MD, United States, (6)NOAA National Ocean Service, Silver Spring, MD, United States
The West Coast has been home to two major collaborative seafloor mapping and characterization initiatives since 2014: the Southern California Seafloor Mapping Initiative (SCSMI) and the Expanding Pacific Research and Exploration of Submerged Systems (EXPRESS) Campaign. When organizations work in proverbial ‘silos’, these types of efforts are extremely costly and vessel time difficult to obtain. To work around these obstacles, both efforts began by bringing together representatives from across multiple state and federal agencies, NGOs and academic partners thus ensuring they would meet multiple goals and mandates. In addition, both initiatives utilized stakeholder engagement processes to prioritize areas for acquisition of seafloor acoustic and visual data. This was done via a workshop in SCSMI and an online prioritization tool during EXPRESS to spatially delineate areas of highest priorities for each entity. Data obtained from these initiatives have immediately been utilized in a variety of ways including: endangered species and fisheries management; disaster response; offshore energy and mineral resource decisions; earthquake, landslide, and tsunami assessments; navigational safety; habitat mapping; and place-based management. The success of these efforts has been largely due to their inclusivity. This has enabled significant leverage of funding, vessel time, as well as personnel to achieve each of these goals. Additionally, having a quantitative and spatially explicit set of priorities readily available enables principal investigators to capitalize on short-term funding and vessel time opportunities. It is hoped that the innovative approach taken and lessons learned could provide a useful framework for similar initiatives along the west coast and elsewhere.