NOAA Exploration Offices

Because ocean exploration is multidisciplinary and encompasses many aspects of NOAA’s mission, this initial collection only offers the main NOAA programs and offices that are currently or have in the past been engaged in ocean exploration activities. In some cases, ocean exploration is only a small part of the offices' mission.

Each entry provides the name of the NOAA office, Web site address, and description of the program or office.

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Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER) Office of National Marine Sanctuaries National Undersea Research Program Vents Program

By leading national efforts to explore our ocean and making ocean exploration more accessible, the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research is filling gaps in the basic understanding of U.S. deep waters and seafloor, providing critical deep-ocean data, information, and awareness needed to sustain and accelerate the economy, health, and security of our nation.

NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries serves as the trustee for a network of underwater parks encompassing more than 600,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters. The network includes a system of 13 national marine sanctuaries and Papahānaumokuākea and Rose Atoll marine national monuments. The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries also leads the National Marine Protected Areas Center, the nation's hub for building innovative partnerships and tools to protect our special ocean.

National Undersea Research Program

In 2008, the National Undersea Research Program (NUPR) was merged with the Ocean Exploration Program, forming the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. NURP's primary objectives were to provide undersea scientists with tools and expertise to work in the undersea environment. NURP's peer-reviewed science programs covered a range of undersea environments and are carried out by regional centers.

In 2013, the Vents Program was restructured into two new programs, Earth-Ocean Interactions and Acoustics, that together continue, and broaden, the scope of Vents’ pioneering ocean exploration and research to understand the impacts and consequences of submarine volcanoes and hydrothermal vents in the global ocean.

Earth-Ocean Interactions

Discovering, measuring, understanding, and predicting ecological impacts of natural chemical, biological, and geological processes between the solid Earth and Ocean. The Earth-Ocean Interactions Program contributes to NOAA’s objective of achieving a holistic understanding of marine ecosystems by exploration and research on hydrothermal vents, their impacts on the global ocean, and their unique chemosynthetic biological communities. This includes ecosystem characterization, resource assessment, environmental observation, and technology development.

Acoustic Monitoring

Develops unique acoustics tools and technologies to support the mission of NOAA as well as other federal agencies, academic institutions and international partners. The program's primary goals are [a] to acquire long-term data sets of the global ocean acoustics environment, and [b] to identify and assess acoustic impacts from human activities and natural processes on the marine environment.