We recognize that both our work and our community at NOAA Ocean Exploration is strengthened through the diversity of voices, lived experiences, and perspectives of our staff, our partners, and the public we serve.
Given our mission to explore the deep ocean for national benefit, we recognize the importance of striving to authentically and equitably represent, engage, and empower the public we serve. As an office, we have both a role and a responsibility to take meaningful action towards creating a more diverse, equitable, inclusive, accessible, and representative ocean exploration community. We are committed to taking the steps necessary to do so, while recognizing that such an endeavor takes concerted effort, time, and learning.
Diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility have resonance throughout our community and our work. Within NOAA Ocean Exploration, the areas of work identified as the best opportunities to take concrete steps towards addressing these topics include our collaborative work with community partners, our federal grant allocations, and our work with the next generation of ocean stewards and explorers. An all-volunteer internal working group has tasked themselves with taking a holistic look at our office activities through the lens of diversity and inclusion efforts and opportunities. This group initially convened in the spring of 2020 in response to national conversations and internal requests to intentionally normalize and center such topics within the scope of our work, our office, and the broader ocean exploration community culture.
Below is a non-exhaustive overview of some of our current office efforts relevant to the topics of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. This page is a work in progress and will continue to be updated as plans, efforts, and office strategies evolve.
Supporting and broadening the next generation of ocean explorers is facilitated through a variety of mechanisms, including through a range of internship programs and other student opportunities. Recent efforts have placed specific emphasis on building more diverse and inclusive cohorts by identifying barriers to access and working to overcome them. Location-agnostic remote internships, paid internships, and concerted outreach and recruitment efforts in underrepresented communities in recent years have helped broaden our pool of qualified applicants. In addition to hosting interns directly within our office, NOAA Ocean Exploration also supports internship opportunities at partner organizations through funding agreements.
Bringing ocean exploration to the public through education and engagement efforts has been a key part of our mandate from our inception, and is a crucial component of making ocean exploration more inclusive. Anyone can be an ocean explorer, and NOAA Ocean Exploration works hard to engage everyone from armchair enthusiasts following along with our live-streamed dives, to teachers hoping to align ocean exploration topics with Next Generation Science Standards, to students wondering if this is the career path for them. Telepresence technology allows anyone with an internet connection to follow along with expeditions in real time, and also allows for real-time public engagement opportunities with scientists and other ocean explorers. Freely available educational material and professional development training expands access into classrooms and other educational venues nationwide.
Free, accessible, and publicly available data, along with telepresence-enabled exploration, all help bring deep-sea science and research within reach of the broadest number of students, researchers, scientists, policymakers, and decision makers possible. By providing individuals and institutions with access to data and opportunities to actively participate in ocean exploration, we broaden the ocean exploration community, which in turn benefits from a diverse and interdisciplinary array of expertise. Dives are livestreamed to our science channel, allowing us to engage a larger, more diverse, and more geographically dispersed group of scientists than would otherwise be able to participate. This model facilitates partnerships between groups that otherwise might not have the opportunity to collaborate due to cost, logistics, or other factors. Additionally, all NOAA Ocean Exploration data, including videos and images, are in the public domain, free for anyone to use, share, and repurpose. Publications are Section 508 compliant to ensure that they are accessible to, and usable by, individuals with disabilities, and renewed efforts are underway to translate educational materials into Spanish.
Building community through partnerships expands the breadth and reach of NOAA Ocean Exploration’s science, exploration, education, and engagement operations. Extensive resources are committed to developing and maintaining key partnerships, including through the NOAA Ocean Exploration Cooperative Institute . During expedition planning, community input is sought from state, local, and tribal governments, local communities, not-for-profit organizations, academia, and private industry. Community priorities are incorporated into campaign and expedition objectives, and staff collaborate with regional groups and programs to use technical assets to meet local and regional exploration objectives. Meanwhile, educational partnerships with aquaria, science centers, universities, and national marine sanctuaries reach new audiences and connect local networks to ocean exploration.
Incorporating diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility principles into workforce initiatives, recruitment, and funding opportunity criteria enables us to recruit, train, and retain a highly capable workforce and cohort of grant recipients. By examining and removing barriers to entry, we aim to develop an inclusive pool of the most qualified applicants possible. NOAA Ocean Exploration staff also have the opportunity and take initiative to get involved in improving pathways to success for students and early career staff through mentorship and training. On a broader level, care is also taken to highlight the diversity of career paths and interdisciplinary nature of the ocean exploration workforce in order to recruit diverse perspectives, professional, and technical backgrounds.