Texas A&M University Researcher Receives NOAA’s David Johnson Award

Recipient Uses Satellite Ocean Temperature Data to Track Whale Movements

March 13, 2008

Peter J. Etnoyer, a graduate research associate at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi, Texas, last night received the prestigious NOAA David S. Johnson Award, which recognizes young scientists for their innovative use of environmental satellite data. Etnoyer received the award at the 51st Annual Robert H. Goddard Memorial Dinner in Washington, D.C.

The NOAA-Johnson Award, first presented in 1999, is named after the first NOAA assistant administrator for NOAA's Satellite and Information Service and honors professional scientists, who create new uses for observational satellite data to better predict atmospheric, oceanic and terrestrial conditions.

For the award, Etnoyer was cited for his use of Earth observation satellite applications to characterize and identify important pelagic (open ocean) habitats for endangered marine species in the North Pacific. He used two instruments aboard polar orbiting satellites to track blue whales and sea turtles, and found prolonged residence times along subtle temperature gradients, or fronts, far offshore.

“We are proud to have an award like this to recognize the innovative work by scientists like Peter, who are using NOAA satellite data to improve our understanding of marine ecosystems and endangered species,” said Mary E. Kicza, assistant administrator for NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service.

Etnoyer has been a principal investigator, or participant, on five NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration research cruises to the Northeast Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico, using submersibles and remotely operated vehicles to characterize deep coral habitats.  He was a research associate at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, using scanning electron microscopes to illustrate new species of gorgonian corals (sea fans) occurring between 50 meters and 1,800 meter in depth.

"I'm honored to receive this award, and want to emphasize my appreciation for the contributions of my co-authors and research partners, whose support has been instrumental," Etnoyer said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 70 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.