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Amanda with her research poster

Amanda White

Ursinus College

Research Mentor: Olivia Hauser

Project: Protecting Historically Significant Wrecks

My name is Amanda White! I’m from right outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and I’m a senior majoring in Environmental Studies and minoring in Anthropology at Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pa. I’m working at NOAA Sand Point this summer through the JISAO program! My mentor was Olivia Hauser from the PHB (Pacific Hydrographic Branch) of NOAA. The project assigned to me was called the Sensitive Survey Project and is focused on protecting culturally significant wrecks and other underwater features in the coastal regions of the United States from salvaging , looting and  other anthropogenic threats. This project was created as a result of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, which requires the federal government to protect sites that have been deemed historically significant by the public/scientists/specialists. NOAA, as a federal agency, is required to protect wrecks and other features that have been deemed sensitive, or historically significant. When a hydrographic survey (which is simply the mapping of the seafloor using sonar and other techniques) is classified as sensitive, it not immediately released to the public. The only stipulation to this is if the sensitive feature in the survey is considered to be a danger to navigation, in which the specifics of the feature are camouflaged and it is merely called an obstruction (much like a shallow laying rock would be deemed an obstruction to vessel navigation). Recently NOAA has decided that these surveys should be released to the public because they cost a significant amount to conduct, and can be used for variety of important different tasks besides navigation. The most common use of these coastal surveys is determining ocean bottom sediment types and conditions in order to create better fish habitats.

Throughout this process I use several NOAA databases/software and a GIS program called CARIS to view the extremely detailed sonar pictures of the ocean floor. One by one I have been going through all of the surveys deemed sensitive, noted all of their details found on the descriptive report (DR) from each cruise, redact any mention of the sensitive feature in reports and other correspondence, and remove details of the feature from the bathymetric layer, surface layer and correctional layer of the survey through CARIS software. From here I rename the files with the sensitive feature removed and send it to other NOAA employees to be released to the public. A copy of the files with the unaltered sensitive feature are kept and placed in archives for any future research. Overall the process I go through is very complex, and each survey takes several days to a week to completely censor. The long term goal of my internship is to perfect the process of censorship in the sensitive survey project, completely censor as many sensitive surveys as possible in order to make them public as soon as possible, and then offer any feedback to NOAA about the process in order to improve it for future interns and/or employees.