Fiscal year 2014 continued a tradition of excitement and productivity for NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER). It was a year of accomplishments that advanced our understanding of the ocean. In my view, there are several ocean exploration matters of particular importance.
First, we have a national need to explore the ocean. NOAA is often described as the nation’s “environmental intelligence agency,” and exploration is the vital first step in gathering ocean intelligence. OER is the only federal organization systematically exploring our largely unknown ocean for the purpose of discovery and the advancement of knowledge. Despite the fact that it covers 71 percent of our planet’s surface and supports countless forms of life in and out of the water, much of Earth’s ocean remains unexplored.
Second, we acknowledge that OER’s exploration record is studded with accomplishments. Those accomplishments are recorded in this and past annual reports, on our website, and in scientific journal articles based in whole or in part on OER expeditions and projects. They reflect the leadership, expertise, and hard work of the OER team, but also the shared knowledge, planning, funding, equipment, technology, and staffing of our many valued partnerships, including other NOAA offices, federal, regional and state agencies, educational and oceanic institutions, industry, and not-for-profits. Exploring deep-ocean frontiers is too expensive and challenging for any single organization, and partnerships move us all forward with a sense of collaboration and community.
Third, we must always consider the value of ocean exploration and our accountability to a critical stakeholder: the taxpayer. With our partners, NOAA’s ocean exploration team acquires and shares crucial data that benefits science and the economy by enabling policymakers and resource managers to make informed decisions about how to best use and protect the ocean and all it contains.
With each technology advanced and expedition undertaken, OER fills in knowledge gaps about deep-ocean areas, stimulates research and new lines of scientific inquiry, and provides high-value environmental ocean intelligence not available elsewhere but needed to address both current and emerging needs. These are the returns on investments OER provides to taxpayers.
I begin my tenure as OER’s new director firmly believing in the vital importance of our work. This report chronicles work that OER and our partners have accomplished together, for the great benefit of NOAA and the nation. We also recognize that much work and discovery still lie ahead. Our future will be filled with new and continued partnerships and advancements in obtaining and sharing information. This includes the possibility of using telepresence in new ways to allow scientists ashore to participate virtually in research at sea.
OER is well known as a reliable partner and source of knowledge, yet it also thrives on incremental and transformational change, improvement, and innovation. This balance allows us to sail toward a future bright with potential, and I look forward to bringing you news of our progress in 2015.
Alan P. Leonardi, Ph.D.
NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research