The National Science Foundation-funded study that will be conducted in the coming months is designed to investigate sea level rise, a pressing environmental concern to New Jersey and the nation. This is a non-invasive study that will help scientists and policymakers understand how and why sea level changes have occurred and are occurring.

Superstorm Sandy demonstrated the vulnerability of people, natural resources and infrastructure to the extremes of weather along the Jersey shore. Matching new 3D acoustic images to existing information will provide knowledge of shoreline stability during times of sea-level change and climate variability. No other coastline on Earth, so densely developed and vulnerable, has the opportunity to anticipate its future by looking into its past just a few 10's of miles offshore.

The study will be limited to 34 days of imaging similar to a medical sonogram of the ocean floor in federal waters 15-to-50 miles into the Atlantic Ocean from the New Jersey coast. The study is scheduled so that it is in full compliance with the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act and will include the strictest of protocols to ensure that marine life is protected to the highest extent possible. To further assure compliance with the Act, five independent observers will accompany the researchers from Rutgers University and the University of Texas on this important mission. Should there be any instances where there is the potential for disruption to sea animals, those observers are authorized to bring an immediate temporary halt to any surveying until any affected animals have left the area.

The research study has been reviewed by several federal agencies including the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Marine Fisheries Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Office of Coastal Resource Management. In addition to being in compliance with the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act, the research is in compliance with the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. It was the subject of a 60-day public comment period.