GSO community proposes ambitious “Ocean-Shots” for the Ocean Decade

February 1, 2021

From 2021-2030, the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development will provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to forge collaborative research, create new foundations for strengthening the management of our oceans and coasts, and to weave partnerships between all nations working to study, conserve, and sustainably use the ocean and its resources.

Late last year, the U.S. National Committee for the Ocean Decade issued a call for submissions of “Ocean-Shots”, defined as ambitious, transformational research concepts that draw inspiration and expertise from multiple disciplines and fundamentally advance ocean science for sustainable development. The goal is to spark potentially “disruptive” advances that will open avenues for progress toward Decade goals.

On February 3-4, 2021, the U.S. National Committee will host a virtual event featuring a presentation of submitted Ocean-Shots, and several members of the GSO community will share their innovative proposals. Below are brief summaries of those proposals. Be sure to register for the free virtual launch event to learn more about these and other potentially transformative research initiatives!

Envisioning an interconnected ocean: Understanding the links between geological ocean structure and coastal communities in the Pacific

Mae Lubetkin (GSO alum), Ocean Exploration Trust, Sarah Gaines, Coastal Resources Center, and Nicole Raineault, OET (Download the poster)

Covering nearly one-third of the Earth’s surface, the Pacific Ocean contains many significant interconnected geologic features extending into the coastal zone. Trenches, ridges, seamount chains, faults and fracture zones are not only fundamental expressions of Earth processes but also fundamental to life. Without awareness of these features, their connection to the coast and their natural and cultural importance, marine management and global understanding will remain disjointed. 

The Ocean Exploration Trust and University of Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Center seeks to collaborate with local communities to reveal the structural significance and interconnected nature of these oceanic features, making a link to the livelihoods of Pacific islanders. 

Through two-way engagement around the connections the seafloor provides across the Pacific, and the geoheritage of this seafloor, this initiative will bridge under-represented perspectives to share the significance of geological features and explore new ways to communicate and educate. The project hopes to unearth new understandings of the values of these resources for different stakeholders, linking exploration research with coastal livelihoods.

A global network of surface platforms for the Observing Air-Sea Interactions Strategy (OASIS)

Jaime Palter, Assistant Professor, GSO (Watch the poster presentation)

The near-surface ocean stores and delivers fuel for the atmospheric engine, provides a home to productive ecosystems, and mediates the ocean uptake and release of greenhouse gases. Exchanges of heat, moisture, momentum, greenhouse gases, aerosol precursor gases, and aerosols at the air-sea interface modulate the Earth’s weather, climate, ecosystems, and the fate of marine debris. It is therefore imperative that a global Observing Air-Sea Interactions Strategy (OASIS) network be initiated for monitoring these exchange processes. 

The OASIS network will comprise drifters, moored buoys, uncrewed surface vehicles (USVs) and other types of piloted drones, research vessels, and volunteer observing ships. The network would routinely monitor at broad geographic scales, while also observing economically, dynamically, and biogeochemically important focal areas with higher resolution. The program would coordinate the network’s growth, promote/enforce interoperability and best practices, and create/maintain a publicly accessible data hub for wide-scale data dissemination.

The improved understanding of air-sea interaction and the coupled boundary layer response would be marshaled to improve forecasts of severe weather, ecosystem health, and the carbon budget, all needed to guide societal decision making.

An Ocean Science Education Network for the Decade

Gail Scowcroft, Associate Director, Inner Space Center (Lead, with several institutional partners)

The U.S. has been a world leader in ocean science education and ocean literacy initiatives. In 2002, a group of U.S. ocean scientists and education professionals initiated a collaborative and bottom-up process to develop a comprehensive framework, the Ocean Literacy Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts. This work was led by the National COSEE Network, the College of Exploration, and other partners. The principles have been adopted across the U.S., including in the nation’s museums, science centers, and aquariums as a blueprint for public education, as well as in several nations across the globe.

Since 2015, COSEE has conducted the Global Ocean Science Education Workshops, setting the stage to use the unprecedented opportunity of the Decade to meet one of the critical needs of the global ocean education community – the development of an Ocean Science Education Network for the Decade. This Network will provide support for the Decade’s challenges.

This proposal, prepared by a community of professionals who bridge the ocean science research and education communities is intended to serve as a cross-cutting Ocean-Shot, to raise ocean science education and literacy to a decadal priority for the U.S.

Transforming Ocean Science: Fostering a Network for Cooperative Science Research on Commercial Ships (Science RoCS)

Tom Rossby, Emeritus Professor, GSO (with several partners) (Download the poster)

Science RoCS envisions a future where scientific data collection on merchant marine vessels becomes the new industry standard, providing regular and repeat measurements across oceans, including of remote regions, on scales not otherwise accessible to the scientific community and society at large. This initiative seeks to design a framework that, when fully-implemented across a fleet of vessels and routes, will make scientific observations of water properties and ocean currents on commercial ships the new industry standard. 

This idea is not new: shipping companies have made their platforms available for ocean observation, but these have been the result of individual initiatives. Today, the industry’s growing commitment to good stewardship of the ocean makes this an auspicious time to develop a formal partnership between the merchant marine and the oceanographic communities. This is the objective of the Science RoCS initiative. 

An Ocean Corps for Ocean Science 

Lead by B. Arbic (U. Mich.) and involving many partners including J.P. Walsh, Director, Coastal Resources Center

Motivated by the example of the Peace Corps, this initiative proposes “An Ocean Corps for Ocean Science” as a unifying concept for inspiring sustained, long-term education and research collaborations between scientists from under-resourced nations and scientists from the US and other higher-resourced nations. Based upon experience, e.g., the Coastal Ocean Environment Summer School in Ghana, the partners submitting this proposal expect that an Ocean Corps would draw large numbers of early- and mid-career scientists into its ranks, thus “internationalizing” their outlook, molding many of them into champions for international capacity development for the remainder of their careers, and fostering true ocean science collaborations between higher-resourced and under-resourced nations.