About the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

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Video courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. Download larger version (mp4, 103.7 MB).

The NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER) is the only federal organization dedicated to exploring the global ocean. OER works with partners to explore the ocean to make discoveries of scientific, economic, and cultural value; support innovations in exploration tools and capabilities; and encourage the next generation of ocean explorers, scientists, and engineers to pursue careers in ocean exploration and related fields. The data and information collected during expeditions and the research we support are publicly available, giving resource managers, the academic community, and the private sector the information they need to identify, understand, and manage ocean resources for this and future generations of Americans. We are also actively working with partners to expand the national ocean exploration program.


Purpose Statement: America’s future depends on understanding the ocean. We explore the ocean because its health and resilience are vital to our economy and to our lives. We depend on the ocean to regulate weather and climate; sustain a diversity of life; for maritime shipping and national defense; and for food, energy, medicine, and other essential services to humankind.

Mission Statement: Explore the ocean for national benefit.


OER Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2016 - 2020 (pdf, 72 KB)

Visit the pages below to learn more about OER.


What We Do

OER is the only federal organization dedicated to ocean exploration. By using unique capabilities in terms of personnel, technology, infrastructure, and exploration missions, OER is reducing unknowns in deep-ocean areas and providing high-value environmental intelligence needed by NOAA and the nation to address both current and emerging science and management needs. Our expertise, work products, and services generally fall into the areas outlined on this page; however, none of these areas operate independently and it is only through leveraging resources internally and externally that we can truly achieve our mission.


Who We Are

To help you find additional information about who we are and our work, we’ve listed contact information for the leads of our primary work areas on this page.



Given the immense breadth and scope of ocean exploration, it would be impossible for us to meet our mission without working closely with other federal and state agencies, academic institutions, non-profit organizations, and private industry. This is why partnerships play such a crucial role in all of the work that we accomplish within OER.


Ocean Exploration Advisory Board

The Ocean Exploration Advisory Board (OEAB) advises NOAA leadership on strategic planning, ocean exploration priorities, competitive ocean exploration grant programs, and other exploration matters as requested. OEAB members represent government agencies involved in ocean exploration, the private sector, academic institutions, and not-for-profit institutions involved in all facets of ocean exploration—from advanced technology to citizen exploration. In addition to advising NOAA leadership, NOAA expects the OEAB to play a leadership role in helping to define and develop a national program of ocean exploration—a network of stakeholders and partnerships advancing national priorities for ocean exploration.


National Forums on Ocean Exploration

Since 2013, OER and partners have held national forums on ocean exploration. The 2009 legislation that formalized NOAA’s ocean exploration responsibilities requires NOAA to hold such periodic national meetings to “establish an ocean exploration forum to encourage partnerships and promote communications among experts and other stakeholders in order to enhance the scientific and technical expertise and relevance of the national program.”


Funding Opportunities

Learn more about OER's annual Federal Funding Opportunity for Ocean Exploration.


Exploration Opportunities

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer is currently the only federally funded ship dedicated to the systematic exploration of our largely unknown ocean for the purpose of discovery and the advancement of knowledge. Learn more about ways to get involved in expeditions or how to submit a proposal for an additional project to take place during an expedition on the ship.