Oceans of Opportunity

Science of the Deep

A gauge of our capacity to conduct routine scientific investigations – and further exploit and manage resources – at nearshore depths extending across the global continental shelf, is the ability to execute more expeditious missions to areas that have yet to be explored.

As I tend to do, being biased as a career diver (eh em, “Undersea Specialist”), let’s put this in the context of living and working in the sea. Given that current science priorities are increasing our scope and abilities to deeper and deeper environments, what excuse do we have for not maximizing the potential of shallower regions to further our understanding even still? To do this, the benthic scientist needs to adopt today’s tools. It is reasonable to spend an 8-hour day underwater conducting various scientific tasks. Well, let’s go to work.

With the increasing capabilities of undersea robotics, human intervention is challenged. Sensors, arrays, gizmos, and widgets are bringing back more data than most know what to do with. But there is still a time and place, as there will forever be. This data needs to be groundtruthed. Cryptic specimens need to be collected and archived. The right side of the scientist’s brain needs to experience these new worlds for creative analysis and interpretation. This situation is not unlike the age old bureaucracies of operational decision making by career administrators rather than mariners on the front line.

Today, opportunities in ocean exploration span numerous disciplines, and these multidisciplinary approaches require numerous tools to get the data necessary to tell an accurate story.

Below is an ever so brief list of expeditious science undertakings that are defining the transitional reaches of our oceans that will, in time, require people to probe deeper:

:: US Extended Continental Shelf Project

:: Law of the Sea Mapping Project

:: Shelf 7 Slope Experimental Taphonomy Initiative (SSETI)

:: Project VERTIGO

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