NOAA Okeanos Explorer: 2017 Overview

Call for Input: Okeanos Explorer 2017 Central Pacific Exploration

Map showing general operating areas for 2017 expeditions.

Map showing general operating areas for 2017 expeditions. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research.

On behalf of NOAA, the Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER) invites members of the ocean science and management community to submit areas and sites for mapping and remotely operated vehicle investigation within our planned 2017 operating area. The information received will be used to refine our cruise tracks, and a selection of these targets and areas will be explored during 2017.

In 2017, NOAA intends to investigate and document the diversity and distribution of deepwater environments in U.S. central Pacific waters, the high seas, and waters of several Pacific Island countries and territories with NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. The primary focus area of 2017 operations is the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). However, NOAA also initiated dialog with the Republic of Kiribati, New Zealand, Samoa, and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program to identify potential opportunities for collaboration and to identify priority multinational information needs in these important areas. We also welcome your suggestions for priorities in these foreign waters. This call for input is focused on areas in the Central Pacific that NOAA and partners will investigate during the first half of Okeanos Explorer 2017 expeditions:

  • Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument units: Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll, Jarvis Island, Howland and Baker Islands units;
  • American Samoa including both the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa and Rose Atoll Marine National Monument;
  • Pacific Island countries and territories including the Republic of Kiribati, Tokelau, Samoa, and the Cook Islands; and
  • High seas locations crossed during transits to and from specified operating areas.

Target recommendations in these areas are due by close-of-business on October 14, 2016. Recommendations can be provided through this SeaSketch portal – a web-based mapping portal showing our general cruise tracks, marine protected area and state boundaries, and existing bathymetric sonar data in the region. Be sure to note the operational restrictions listed in the survey. Instructions on using SeaSketch are available here.

This marks the third year of the ‘Campaign to Address Pacific monument Science Technology and Ocean Needs’ (CAPSTONE) – a major multi-year foundational science effort focused on deepwater areas of U.S. marine protected areas in the central and western Pacific. NOAA conducts telepresence-enabled mapping and remotely operated vehicle (ROV) operations in poorly known ocean areas with NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer to support deepwater habitat characterization and spur follow-on investigations. Scientists and managers with appropriate expertise can join the expedition team and participate remotely in the expedition via telepresence.

We will host several webinars in the next two weeks to provide additional information about Okeanos Explorer capabilities and CAPSTONE priorities to help inform your input. Webinar tutorials on how to use SeaSketch to provide input will also be offered. Participation in these webinars is not required to provide input.

  • Introductory webinar about Okeanos Explorer capabilities and CAPSTONE priorities:
    1) Thursday, September 29, 2016, from 3:00 - 4:00 PM EDT.
    2) Monday, October 3, 2016, from 3:30 - 4:30 PM EDT.
  • Webinar tutorial on use of SeaSketch to provide input:
    1) Friday, September 30, 2016, from 3:30 - 4:30 PM EDT.
    2) Tuesday, October 5, 2016, from 3:00 - 4:00 PM EDT.

Following consideration of all submissions, we anticipate having a draft 2017 expedition framework available by early November. OER will notify those who submitted recommendations and provide more information about how to join the expedition as a member of the shore-based science team. Science team members participate in cruise planning meetings, ROV dives, and daily science meetings before and during the expedition as a full member of the science team.

We appreciate your help in identifying key 2017 priorities and value your input. Please don’t hesitate to contact with questions or for more information.