NOAA, Schmidt Ocean Institute team to explore and map the ocean

Partnership to boost public understanding of the ocean's value
June 9, 2020
The remotely operated vehicle SuBastian aboard Schmidt Ocean Institute's research vessel Falkor at sunset in the Marianas Trench Marine Protected Area. (2016 photo)

NOAA today announced it will formalize and expand its longstanding partnership with Schmidt Ocean Instituteoffsite link to explore, characterize and map the deep ocean and boost public understanding of the global ocean.

“We are living through a technological revolution that has opened new opportunities to more comprehensively understand the largely unknown ocean,” said Retired Navy Rear Admiral Tim Gallaudet, Ph.D., assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and deputy NOAA administrator. “To take advantage of this, NOAA is building and strengthening partnerships such as the one with Schmidt Ocean Institute, which will help accelerate our mission to explore, characterize and map the United States Exclusive Economic Zone, promote marine protection, and unlock the potential of valuable resources to power the American Blue Economy.”

Schmidt Ocean Institute was established as a philanthropically-funded nonprofit in 2009 by Eric and Wendy Schmidt to advance oceanographic research through the development of innovative technologies, open sharing of information and broad communication about ocean health.

A collaborative map demonstrating joint seafloor mapping efforts from NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration and Research vessel Okeanos and Schmidt Ocean Institute's research vessel Falkor.
A collaborative map demonstrating joint seafloor mapping efforts from NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration and Research vessel Okeanos and Schmidt Ocean Institute's research vessel Falkor. (NOAA )

Since 2013, SOI’s research vessel Falkor has supported more than 40 U.S. federal scientists on collaborative research expeditions around the globe and partnered with NOAA’s Office of Exploration and Research on expeditions to expand mapping and data collection for U.S. marine protected areas. This work included exploration and data collection in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monumentoffsite link, Marianas Trench Marine National Monumentoffsite link, Pacific Remote Islands National Monumentoffsite link, and the Phoenix Islands Protected Areaoffsite link. These projects have resulted in jointly created maps and outreach activities including public ship tours, education campaigns and live broadcasts from the seafloor. [Watch this video about the partnership.]

“By coming together, we will accelerate how quickly we learn about our ocean not only on a national scale but also internationally,” said Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of Schmidt Ocean Institute. “The ocean has been under attack for decades and we don’t want to miss our last opportunities to turn this around. We need to work together—across philanthropy, government and academia—to advance scientific discovery and educate the public about our essential dependence on a healthy global ocean. This partnership with NOAA has the potential to expand the United States’ ability to explore and map a larger area of seafloor and publicly share the discoveries.”

The collaboration could support the recent Presidential Memorandum on Ocean Mapping in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone and Shoreline and Near Shore of Alaska and the goals announced at the November 2019 White House Summit on Partnerships in Ocean Science and Technology.

The partnership could also support global ocean initiatives, including the Nippon Foundation GEBCO Seabed 2030 Projectoffsite link to map the entire seabed by 2030 and the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.offsite link

NOAA has also forged other key partnerships for ocean science and discovery with Vulcan Inc., Caladan Oceanic, OceanX, Ocean Infinity and Viking Cruises.

Media contacts

Monica Allen, NOAA, (202) 379-6693

Dr. Carlie Wiener, Schmidt Ocean Institute, (808) 628-8666