What We Do

The NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (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 below; however, none of these areas operate independently and it is only through leveraging resources internally and externally that we can truly achieve our mission.


Expedition Planning and Operations

At the forefront of OER's activities are research expeditions to explore previously unvisited areas of the ocean. We provide partnership coordination, funding, staff, tools, and expertise needed to develop mission plans that deliver rigorous, systematic observations and documentation of biological, chemical, physical, geological, and archaeological aspects of the ocean.


Marine Archaeology

Humans and the ocean have been intricately linked throughout history. By working with the science community to discover and characterize the vast and largely unknown repository of submerged cultural resources in U.S. waters and around the world, OER is helping to fill the gaps in our knowledge and understanding of human history and culture.


Coastal and Ocean Mapping

Even with technological advances, only a limited portion of the vast seafloor has actually been mapped. Consequently, seafloor mapping is an important part of the OER expeditions, delivering high-resolution bathymetric maps and data for previously unexplored areas.



Exploration often leads to discoveries that highlight areas, features, resources, and/or processes that are new to ocean science and need further study. Our work results in the establishment of baseline observations and characterizations in poorly understood areas of the ocean. OER's science team focuses on transitioning exploration and research results to new applications that benefit the rest of NOAA and the nation. Collected data are made available to the science and management communities, delivering the environmental intelligence needed to better understand deep-water areas and more effectively target future research efforts.



Today's technologies allow us to explore the ocean in increasingly systematic, scientific, and noninvasive ways. OER promotes the innovative use of existing technologies while investing in new technologies and state-of-the-art platforms and vehicles. We work both internally and externally, supporting technology activities onboard the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer, in partnership with government agencies, academia, and the private sector. Our work is helping to build the scope of NOAA’s observational infrastructure that is critical to sustaining the environmental intelligence our citizens and businesses rely upon.


Data Management

Since the inception of NOAA's exploration program in 2001, OER data management has been guided by the 2000 President's Panel Report recommendations which prioritized rapid and unrestricted data sharing as one of five critical exploration program components. More recently, Public law 111-11 [Section XII Ocean Exploration] reinforced and expanded OER data management objectives, continuing to stress the importance of sharing unique exploration data and information to improve public understanding of the oceans, and for research and management purposes.



OER is constantly reaching out in new ways to stakeholders to improve the literacy of learners of all ages with respect to ocean issues. We strive to engage educators and students in learning more about ocean exploration and how they can use science, modern technology, and engineering practices associated with exploring the ocean in their classrooms. This requires high-quality, effective collaborations between ocean explorers and America's teachers to provide a variety of learning and teaching tools focused on the science of ocean exploration and discovery.