NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer: Get Involved

View of the Hexanchus sp. shark and ROV Deep Discoverer as seen from Seirios during Dive 6 of the 2018 Exploring Deep-sea Habitats off Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands expedition.

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. Telepresence, using real-time broadband satellite communications, connects the ship and its discoveries live with audiences on shore. This model allows far more people to participate in Okeanos expeditions than with a more “traditional” research cruise, providing many opportunities to get involved.

The Okeanos conducts two primary types of cruises during a field season – mapping exploration and remotely operated vehicle (ROV) cruises. Each type of mission offers different opportunities for involvement, as outlined below.

 

Mapping Exploration Cruises

The first phase of Okeanos exploration involves reconnaissance — acquiring seafloor mapping and water column data in order to identify features or anomalies of interest for further investigation and to create first-order landscape-level maps of unexplored areas of the global ocean. Scientists and students can become involved in mapping expeditions in several ways:

  • Professional Scientists:
    • Cruise Planning: Career scientists and natural resource managers with expertise in the region to be explored during a specified expedition are invited to contribute input and expertise to the cruise planning process. During mapping cruise planning, this includes the identification of areas with high potential for discovery that lack comprehensive mapping data from modern sonar systems. Post processing, interpretation, and regional contextual analysis of mapping data are also key areas for collaboration in the mapping exploration process.
    • Cruise Execution: Career scientists with interest in sailing are encouraged to contact the mapping department for opportunities for increased participation. Berthing is typically available onboard to accommodate mapping scientists and resources managers with interests in mapping data. Participation from shore is also possible through daily transfer of mapping products to shore through telepresence and through real-time online display of mapping data acquisition screens.
    • Scientists interested in getting involved in mapping expeditions should contact the Okeanos mapping team.
  • Students: During mapping expeditions, the “Explorer in Training” program provides several opportunities for student involvement. This program provides current or recent undergraduate and graduate students with the opportunity to gain field experience using an advanced multibeam bathymetric sonar mapping system, while contributing in a significant way to the Okeanos Explorer ocean exploration mission. For more information on current opportunities, contact the mapping team. To learn about past student experiences, click here.

 

Telepresence-enabled ROV Cruises

Mapping exploration missions set the stage for the second step in the Okeanos exploration model — conducting site characterization using remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to explore seafloor habitats.

During a typical ROV cruise, the majority of participants are on shore. This includes our science team, who participate by viewing live video feeds and other data and sharing their expert observations and guidance with other scientists via instant messaging and teleconference. The on-shore members of the science team are coordinated and led by two scientists, including the Science Team Lead, located on the ship. All scientists take part in cruise planning and daily science meetings via teleconference.

During ROV expeditions, the primary data streamed to shore in real-time is video data, augmented by mapping and CTD rosette data acquired at night. Thus, our science team is largely composed of scientists for whom these are relevant datasets, such as biologists, geologists, chemists, and archaeologists. It is not uncommon for a science team to include over 50 scientists who participate at various levels throughout an expedition.

An opportunity to take part in an ROV expedition as a member of the science team is an opportunity to participate from shore in one of several capacities:

  • Professional Scientists:
    • Cruise Planning: Career scientists with expertise in the region or disciplines to be explored during a specified expedition are invited to contribute input and expertise to the cruise planning process.
    • Real-time Cruise Participation: Career scientists with a relevant expertise are invited to share observations with the science team in real time during the cruise, based on data acquired by one of Okeanos Explorer’s mission systems (mapping, ROV, or CTD rosette systems). Examples of observations made include identifying and discussing animals and geological or archaeological features being imaged; describing and discussing the sediments, underlying geology, or other processes in the region being explored; describing and discussing oceanographic conditions impacting the region; comparing observations made to other relevant habitats or regions; and analyzing and interpreting acquired data to help inform the next steps of the exploration.
    • Scientists interested in participating in ROV expeditions from shore should review planned 2020 expeditions and contact Scott France for more information.
  • Current Students: Students currently enrolled in an academic institution and pursuing a degree relevant to the work of the Okeanos Explorer, such as oceanography, marine biology, geology, archaeology, etc., may be eligible to join the science team. Students must be sponsored by a college or university professor interested and willing to provide student oversight. If appropriate, the professor should be willing to work with the student to identify goals and objectives for mission engagement and to provide input and oversight on any data analysis and product development.
  • Current students interested in becoming involved should have their sponsoring professor review planned 2020 expeditions and contact Scott France for more information.
  • Recent Graduates: Recent graduates receiving degrees relevant to the work of the Okeanos Explorer, such as such as oceanography, marine biology, geology, archaeology, etc., who are interested in participating as a member of the science team should send an email to Scott France with a brief statement of interest and expertise and goal(s) for getting involved as a member of the science team.

 

Educators

A primary mission for the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER) is inspiring young people, to build the next generation of ocean explorers. One way to do this is by arming educators with the tools and information they need to bring the wonder, excitement, and importance of ocean exploration to students. Educators can become involved in Okeanos Explorer expeditions in a variety of ways:

  • NOAA Teacher at Sea: On occasion, educators may join NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer mapping cruises through the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program, which aims to provide teachers, kindergarten through college level, with hands-on, real-world research experience working at sea.
  • Professional Development: OER has developed Alliance Partnerships with aquariums and science centers to offer ocean science and exploration professional development opportunities to educators nationwide. These day-long professional development offerings help build regional cadres of ocean exploration teacher leaders.

 

Members of the Media

Throughout Okeanos Explorer expeditions, resources are available to members of the media, including broadcast, print, and web-quality imagery and video. Members of the media interested in learning more about the ship and its missions or scheduling interviews with the science team should direct inquiries to the contacts listed below.

NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

Email: oceanexplorer@noaa.gov


NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations

David Hall
Public Affairs Officer
(301) 713 - 7671
Email: david.l.hall@noaa.gov

 

General Public

Thanks to telepresence technology on the ship, anyone with an Internet connection can follow the excitement of Okeanos Explorer discoveries. While we do not currently have the capability to allow direct interaction between the public and members of our science team, there are many opportunities for members of the public to follow along:

  • Expedition Web Coverage: Daily updates, mission logs, images, and videos are added to our website every day during active expeditions, allowing visitors to learn about activities and findings. Catch up on Okeanos expeditions here.
  • Live Video Feeds: During expeditions, live video is streamed from the ship to shore, allowing site visitors to follow mapping and ROV dives live and watch discoveries happen along with the science team. Access the live video here.
  • Social Media: Learn about Okeanos expeditions past and present by liking us on Facebook  or Instagram  or by following us on Twitter . During expeditions, we also post updates about timing, location, and purpose of dives and alert followers of major findings.