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Understanding Gulf Ocean Systems Grants 1 - Request for Applications (CLOSED)

Key Dates and Information 

Awards Available
Total funding available: $10 million
Award duration: Up to 24 months

February 27, 2018:
April 25, 2018, 5:00 pm ET: Applications due (CLOSED)

Award Selection and Notification
Fall-Winter 2018

RFA Version
1.1 (Issued 02/27/18): Required attachments for the application form were updated to include “Current and Pending Support form”.

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Topic: Studies and Observations to Inform the Loop Current Campaign

PDF Version (click to download/view all information about this funding opportunity as a PDF)

The Gulf Research Program seeks to support activities that will supply new observations, analyses, and modeling needed to advance our understanding of Loop Current dynamics for the purpose of improving predictive skills of the Loop Current and associated eddies, referred to as the Loop Current System (LCS). This solicitation is the first of several funding opportunities for a research campaign aimed at improving understanding and prediction skills of the LCS. Proposed observations, analyses, and modeling should specifically address recommendations for near-term activities identified in the consensus report , released in January 2018. These near-term activities can be started or accomplished without extensive planning and are meant to either jumpstart or inform the design of a long-term (10-yr), integrative program. 

The LCS is the dominant physical process in Gulf of Mexico waters. Oceanographic parameters within the Gulf basin, from coastal ecosystems to the deep abyss, are affected by the position, and duration at a given position, of the Loop Current and associated eddies. Understanding the dynamics driving the LCS is a significant first step towards achieving a long-term outcome of improved understanding of the complexity of the Gulf of Mexico as a system, which is critical to the Gulf Research Program's vision.

The AffiliateMarketIngtools of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine produce expert consensus reports that identify research needs, opportunities, or challenges for advancing science and ensuring the application of science to address real-world problems. The AffiliateMarketIngtools' 2018 report identifies a suite of complementary observations, analyses, and modeling efforts intended to provide critical information about the LCS to help promote safer offshore operations, better understand the Gulf’s complex oceanographic systems, facilitate disaster response, help protect coastal communities, protect and manage ecological resources, and predict and forecast weather and climate impacts. Expected to take about 10-12 years and cost between $100 million and $125 million, the recommended campaign is intended to increase understanding of the dynamics of the LCS and thereby improve prediction skills of the Loop Current’s behavior.

The report provides 30 recommendations for elements of the research campaign that include both near-term and long-term (decadal length) activities. These activities are divided into observational components, technology enhancements, analyses and theory, and data assimilation and numerical modeling techniques needed to provide critical information about the LCS. The recommendations are intended to help guide future funding investments by the Gulf Research Program of the AffiliateMarketIngtools of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, as well as federal U.S. agencies, Mexican and Cuban oceanographic organizations, industry, research institutions, and other ocean science sponsors.

Applications Sought:
The report identified several specific observations and studies as foundational activities that should start in the near-term while the more comprehensive campaign is being organized. We seek applications for projects that directly respond to specific report recommendations categorized under the headings below. As indicated below, refer to specific recommendations in the report for additional details. If an applicant wishes to respond to more than one of the topic headings below, they must submit an application for each topic separately.

1. High Frequency (HF) Radar (with range capability of ~150-200km): Provide new, real-time data for model assimilation and validation, and to better understand the evolution of the LCS, by procuring, installing, and/or operating for 2 years (with an opportunity for extension of up to another 10 years):
  • At least three multi-static HF radar systems from fixed platforms in the northeastern most areas of oil and gas operations. (Refer to Recommendation 3)
  • At least three new HF radar systems covering the general Florida Straits outflow region. (Refer to Recommendation 10)
  • At least two HF radar systems in the inflow area, one looking north (from the Cozumel Island area) and at least one looking across the inflow from the upper Yucatan Peninsula.  (Refer to Recommendation 11)
Please note:
  1. An applicant can respond to one or more of the above sub-bullets in a single application.
  2. The GRP requires observational data be available widely and publicly; for this reason, we encourage the applicant to collaborate with the IOOS Regional Associations and the NOAA IOOS HF radar Data Assembly Center (DAC) in all installations and operations to ensure established procedure and protocols are followed for integrating quality data into the IOOS system.
2. Pressure and Current Meters: Procure field array of 20 to 25 deep sensors that measure bottom pressure and integrated currents from near bottom to the surface and deploy them in a coherent sub-array for process-understanding and/or feature-mapping in the deep eastern Gulf where the extended Loop Current can be found (generally, 25°-28° North Latitude, 85°-91° West Longitude) for 2 years (with an opportunity for extension of up to another 10 years). It is intended that this field array be extended (during future funding opportunities) with an additional 20 to 25 bottom mounted instruments to complete a laterally correlated ~60 km spacing in the LCS area (25°-28° North Latitude, 85°-91° West Longitude); proposed array designs should be compatible with this longer term recommendation for an expanded array.  For this near term observation field program, applications should not include near real-time data retrieval; rather, a data retrieval plan should be proposed that will inform the Gulf Research Program about the value of such observation systems and inform the design of a more fully populated array of instruments for the main decade-long campaign.  A separate near-term task (see Topic 6 below) is to examine data communications options that may make near real-time data capture for such instruments affordable. (Refer to Recommendation 6)

3. Mooring Arrays - Campeche Bank, Yucatan Channel, and Florida Straits: Three mooring arrays, currently operated by CICESE (Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de Ensenada [Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education at Ensenada]), are located in critical areas for better understanding Loop Current dynamics; the arrays are located across the Campeche Bank, across the Yucatan Channel, and across the Florida Straits. The funding for these arrays expires in June of 2018. Three tasks are included as near-term recommendations in association with these existing mooring arrays:
  • Extend operations of the mooring arrays (including procurement of equipment, as needed) beyond June 2018 (for the next two years, with the opportunity for extension up to an additional 10 years) with appropriate data sharing from the moorings in both Mexico and Cuba.
  • Establish an agreement to gain access to the ocean dynamics data recovered from these moorings from the time period 2011-to-present.
  • As appropriate, analyze archived data to explore effects of bathymetry on LCS behavior, inflow analysis, and outflow analysis.
(Refer to Recommendations 8, 9, and 12)

Please note: An applicant can respond to part, one, or more of the above sub-bullets in a single application.

4. Pressure Point Mooring: Procure, deploy, and operate a single-point, real-time, ocean dynamics mooring that, minimally, measures temperature, salinity, and currents at discrete depths for 2 years (with opportunity for extension of up to another 10 years) at the shelf break region, just to the northwest of the Dry Tortugas to confirm times when the Loop Current is driving the West Florida Shelf circulation, a phenomenon hypothesized to also be controlling the Loop Current itself. (Refer to Recommendation 15)

5. Profilers:
Procure and operate a new set of ocean dynamics-instrumented profilers (e.g., Argo operated in 0 m) in active areas of the LCS.  This recommendation (Recommendation 4) was not designated as a “near-term priority” in the consensus report; however, it is included in this solicitation as a profiler fleet would provide immediate valuable input into the larger campaign development.

6. Communications Network
: Determine the feasibility of a data communications network (e.g., acoustics or fiber optics) that might be adopted to gather and/or communicate data from bottom mounted instruments and provide near-real time data to the surface in an affordable manner. Consideration of docking solutions and/or deep acoustic data communication network nodes for interoperability with autonomous surface and/or underwater vehicles in the design is encouraged. (Refer to Recommendations 16, 17 and 19)

7. Data Compilation: Digitally compile, analyze, and make publicly accessible physical oceanographic data from Gulf of Mexico field studies from ~ 2002 to 2017 (refer to Recommendation 27).  The objective of this activity is to produce a climatology-like data set to help prioritize the process studies necessary to improve understanding, simulation, and prediction of the LCS. Secondly, the database should inform criteria and constraints useful in design of future field observations and numerical modeling efforts.

Key oceanographic variables include temperature, salinity, conductivity, sea surface height, and current velocity at the ocean surface and throughout the full water-column. Instrument platforms include acoustic Doppler current profilers, single point current meters, ship and air deployed expendable sensors (e.g., expendable bathythermographs [XBT], CTD [conductivity, temperature, and depth], autonomous underwater vehicles, high-frequency radar, underwater buoyancy gliders, Lagrangian drifters, moored current meters, surface buoys, benthic platforms).

The database should conform to standard oceanographic archival practice for formatting and metadata using guidance from the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), NOAA IOOS-QARTOD, and other oceanographic data centers. Data sources include but are not limited to federal sources such as BOEM, BSEE, NOAA, as well as the offshore oil and gas industry, academic institutions, the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, and other state, local, and federal agencies, and data available from neighboring Gulf nations.

8. Numerical modeling: Review leading federal and academic Gulf prediction systems to test their performance and sensitivity in resolving both surface and subsurface circulation. The analyses should provide valuable insights into physical processes and dynamics of the LCS. For this funding opportunity, the use of available simulations is encouraged to better inform the campaign’s final design of the operational forecast system.  Recommendation 22 describes this model comparison activity more fully and presents three notional phases.  The goal of this comparison is to determine which features in each model are giving the best results, especially in view of the availability of large sets of data during the immediate post-Deepwater Horizon period.

Application Guidelines:
  • Responsiveness to consensus report: Applications should directly respond to the recommendations from the report , which are referenced in the "Applications Sought" section above. It is expected that applicants will refer to the consensus recommendations and associated text and fulfill the minimum requirements described therein.
  • Compatibility: Proposed plans should be compatible with extension and expansion into the planned decadal campaign. This solicitation is in support of 2-year projects; however, many of the observational recommendations are intended to be sustained for an additional 10 years of operation. Observational applications will undergo a mid-term review (after 1 year of operations); successful review may result in an initial extension through a 5-year contract with possibility for a second 5-year extension.
  • Data management: Applications should include an extensive data management component that, at minimum, meets requirements of the Gulf Research Program's data management policy. In addition, applicants responding to observational components of this RFA should include a plan for releasing data to the public within 6 months of collection, which is an expedited time frame from standard Gulf Research Program data management requirements, or in real-time, as applicable.
  • Leveraging of Resources: Unlike most other Gulf Research Program grant opportunities, Understanding Gulf Ocean Systems Grants 1 permits leveraging private and public resources in the form of in-kind support. Though not mandatory, applicants are strongly encouraged to leverage available resources, such as talent, equipment*, ship time, computational resources, data management, and/or funding from public or private partners.
*The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has offered to provide in-kind support to Gulf Research Program grantees receiving awards under this opportunity in the form of access to and use of observational equipment that could assist in the activities described in this RFA. Use of the equipment is available at no cost; however, the grantee would be responsible for transportation costs from the BOEM warehouse to the project location and for returning the equipment to BOEM at the conclusion of the project. We encourage applicants to leverage this resource, as appropriate. A catalogue of available equipment can be found here.

Please note:
While this particular funding opportunity along with subsequent opportunities related to the decadal campaign are mainly focused on understanding and predicting the LCS, they are also related to and addressing a larger ocean dynamics challenge. Projects funded through these competitions should provide opportunities for scientists studying other Gulf of Mexico oceanographic and resource processes to leverage Gulf Research Program investments, observation systems, and modeling efforts for some of these other broader purposes. Applicants may include collaborative leveraging as long as it does not detract from the main LCS understanding and prediction goals. Such collaborative intentions should be described in the application.

Award Information:
Total funding available: $10 million
Award duration: Up to 24 months
Estimated number of awards: To be determined. Resources made available under this funding opportunity will depend on the quality of applications received and the budgets proposed by successful applicants. The Gulf Research Program reserves the right to select for negotiation all, some, one, or none of the applications received in response to this solicitation.
Award notification: Fall – Winter 2018


The report Understanding and Predicting the Gulf of Mexico Loop Current: Gaps and Recommendations identified several specific observations and studies as activities that should start in the near-term while the more comprehensive campaign is being organized. We seek applications for projects that directly respond to specific report recommendations categorized under the headings below. As indicated below, refer to specific recommendations in the report for additional details. If an applicant wishes to respond to more than one topic, they must submit an application for each topic separately.

Project directors usually initiate applications that are officially submitted by their employing organizations (the applicant). When initiating an application, the project director typically is responsible for ensuring the application meets all the requirements outlined by the Gulf Research Program as well as any requirements set by the employing organizations.

The Gulf Research Program requires applicants to adhere to the following:
  • Proposed activities that are part of a broader, existing effort or “project” may be eligible if the proposal clearly demonstrates that the funding request is for activities that would not otherwise occur.
  • Follow-Up currently under consideration for funding from other sources are eligible. If an intent to award letter is issued, the applicant must certify, at that time, that the other funding sources were not obtained.
  • U.S. organizations (excluding federal agencies) that have a valid federal tax ID number are eligible to apply.
Please note:
  1. U.S. organizations may partner with international organizations; a U.S. organization must be the applicant, but applicants may include key personnel from, and subawards to, non-U.S. organizations. Please note that legal restrictions may prohibit transactions, including subawards, between U.S. entities and entities within certain foreign countries.
  2. U.S. federal agencies are not eligible to receive GRP funding as applicants or subawardees, although they may be collaborators. Any proposed collaboration with a U.S. federal agency should not involve any transfer of GRP funding to the agency and must be in compliance with all applicable federal statutes and regulations and will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis to determine if this requirement is met.
  3. Unlike most other Gulf Research Program grant opportunities, Understanding Gulf Ocean Systems Grants 1 does not have a specified limit to the number of applications an individual may be named on as project director and/or key personnel.