Overview of ONMS Science Needs Assessment

photo of an anemone with a kelp forest in the background

What is the ONMS Science Needs Assessment?

The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) Science Needs Assessment is an evaluation of the science and information requirements (capability, information, and products) of the ONMS as defined by the management issues facing each sanctuary in the National Marine Sanctuary System (NMSS). Information presented on this web interface defines current science needs for each national marine sanctuary and supports requirements defined in each Sanctuary Management Plan.

What is the purpose of the ONMS Science Needs Assessment?

The ONMS uses several key planning and evaluation documents to support the management of each National Marine Sanctuary. These include Sanctuary Management PlansSanctuary Condition Reports, and Strategic Science Plans.

The purpose of the ONMS Science Needs Assessment is to provide targeted information on the science requirements of the ONMS based on the management issues defined in the program documents previously mentioned. The assessment is designed to support ONMS science and management staff working to address these requirements, and to communicate these requirements to potential partners and interested organizations and individuals.

Who is the audience for the ONMS Science Needs Assessment?

The primary audiences for this assessment are potential partners and organizations, particularly those in the research community, with which the ONMS can collaborate to address the requirements defined in the assessment.

The ONMS Science Needs Assessment will also provide information to federal, state, and local legislative officials interested in the management issues and science requirements at a given national marine sanctuary or monument. For the general public, the assessment will provide information on the current management issues and science needs of national marine sanctuaries or monument and promote understanding of the challenges our nation faces in ocean conservation.

What is the format of the ONMS Science Needs Assessment?

The ONMS Science Needs Assessment is built around the priority management issues facing each national marine sanctuary or monument. For each priority management issue where the ONMS needs science support, a two page summary document was created. These documents, as well as additional supporting information, are posted on the ONMS web site (organized by sanctuary) to enable easy access to the information.

For each two page summary, the science needs are given in the context of the management issues for which the support is needed. This format highlights science needs within the context of the management issues for which science support is needed. Each document begins with a description of the management issue and concludes with a description of the management action the ONMS may take with the support of the defined scientific support and information. It is an "end to end" description of "management issue to management outcome", and the science required to complete that process. The standard components of the two page summaries are:

  1. Management Issue – a short statement defining the management issue

  2. Description – background and overview information on the management issues

  3. Questions and Information Needs – a list of the science related questions and information gaps that need to be addressed

  4. Scientific Approach and Actions – a list of possible scientific approaches and actions to address the defined questions and information gaps

  5. Key Partners and Information Sources – a list (not necessarily complete) of partners and information sources that are likely be involved in any work relating to the management issue

  6. Management Support Products – a description of the types of products needed to address the management issue. This section is intended to ensure that both the science and management communities understand what may be needed to support management actions following the planned activities

  7. Planned Use of Products and Actions – actions the ONMS may take and how the information and products may be used to support management actions

  8. Program References – a list references that further define the management issue and document their connection to ONMS priorities and mandates as defined in the National Marine Sanctuaries Act.

How are the priority management issues identified? 

Staff at each national marine sanctuary or monument (including science, resource protection, and management staff) collaborated to identify the priority management issues for which the ONMS needs the support of partners and collaborations. Primary sources of information used to identify and define the priority issues and the science and information needs were:
  • Sanctuary Management Plans
  • Sanctuary Condition Reports
  • Sanctuary Science Plans
  • Regional and local reports identifying existing and emerging issues in ocean conservation

What is the level of detail provided in the ONMS Science Needs Assessment?

The information presented in each assessment provides an overview of the management issue and the related scientific requirements. Sufficient information is provided to educate potential partners and interested parties and facilitate initial discussions on how the requirements might best be addressed. The information in this assessment is not intended to be detailed enough to develop project plans or define specific roles and responsibilities of partnering organizations. Detailed discussions regarding any partnership or collaboration will be necessary to implement plans to address defined requirements.

How often is the information updated?

The ONMS Science Needs Assessment is designed to be easily and readily updated. Throughout the NMSS, management issues and associated science needs will be updated following the revision of either the sanctuary management plans and or sanctuary condition reports, which generally take place every 5 years. Within that time line, updates may be made as specific management issues and science needs emerge at a given sanctuary, or as the identified science needs are addressed through partnerships or collaborations. Updates will be posted on the ONMS web site as appropriate.

For more information on the ONMS Science Needs Assessment, contact:

Sanctuary Research Coordinators


ONMS Headquarters, contact:
Mitchell Tartt
Technical Programs and Support Division 
NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
Office – 301.713.3125
Desk – 301.713.7284
Email – Mitchell.Tartt@noaa.gov