that it conflicted with one of the main traditional ideas of the ICS: common terminology.

The example of communication breakdown Briggs provided was when the U.S. Coast Guard refers to "public affairs," they speak for the most part of that element within the ISC that handles media affairs.

The Canadian agencies refer to the media affairs group as the "communications" unit. That is to say the group or unit that will communicate the situation or event to the public and the media.

But in ICS lingo, the term "communications" is usually associated with hand-held radios, telephones, Internet connection and other means of "communications."

Same word, entirely different interpretations, and that's simply one example.

The use of common terms is essential in the clutch. When many people, from many groups with different agendas show up - under stress - at a spill, the need for clear interpretation is obvious and yet the likelihood for misinterpretation is high.

As it is with ecosystems, in the ICS, communication flow and a fluid exchange of information from one part to another is vital to the successful production of the whole. And although the ICS was designed to use common terminology, there still are several instances of misunderstanding.

According to Briggs, one way the U.S. Coast Guard overcomes some of the terminology challenges that arise during an ICS guided response, is through the use of scientific support coordinators.

The SSCs are representatives from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and they are, in essence, translators - translators of the language of science.

During a spill, the SSCs rise to the surface and form a bond and communication loop between the responding scientists, the on-scene coordinators, and the command.

Steve Lehmann is the SSC for New England, and is quick to etch a clear line between what the SSCs are and what they are not.

"I'm not a biologist, or an ecologist. My job is to coordinate science and to interpret science."

Like Briggs, Lehmann, works in downtown Boston. In his quiet and sun-filled office, his walls are a testament to both his love of nature and his passion to protect it. A historic and colorful collection of photographs, most of which he took, feature a blend of pristine natural landscapes contrasted by other documentary images of oil spills, vessels oozing with black sludge, and pollution disasters of the past.

Lehmann elaborated on his role of protecting the environment as a scientific coordinator.

"To a large degree we don't always try to be the smartest people in the room, but we always know who the smartest person is," he said, with a half smile. "We speak softly and carry a big Rolodex."

He is a vital link.

He said Coast Guard responders, especially those that occupy the command element, must have a clear picture of what's happened, what is still happening, and how it will effect the environment in the near and long-term future. It's the SSC's role to know which scientists can provide the most accurate information about the situation, and to relay that data back to the command.

Without a full understanding of each cause and its effect, it's possible that some command choices could be more harmful than helpful.

Briggs agrees.

He suggests hypothetically that during an ICS oil spill cleanup, after the Coast Guard boat crews have recovered all the oil from the water, a command decision is made to start cleaning oil from the shoreline.

Seems like a logical next step. Or is it?

Briggs argues that in some cases, to have cleanup crews trudging and stomping through fragile marshes or wetlands might be devastating to the