Senior Data Science Fellow, Professor, School of Oceanography, College of the Environment, School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, Department of Earth and Space Sciences
Earth & Environmental Sciences, Oceanography
Applications in Physical Sciences
Sensors and Measurement
Earth and Space Sciences
The global ocean is the ultimate life-support system of our entire planet. It substantially influences the patterns and intensity of rainfall and drought on the continents. There is more heat tied up in the upper 2 meters of the ocean than in the entire atmosphere. Nearly half of the oxygen we breathe comes from phytoplankton in the near-surface of the ocean. At once a fundamental societal resource and a constant source of devastating natural disasters like super storms and major earthquakes, the ocean basins are home to a broad ensemble of complex, ever-shifting ecosystems upon which we are all dependent and about which we know very little at the level of being able to predict potential tipping points in its behavior.
We must have new ways of studying this captivating, mysterious, dangerous, and life-giving system of systems. The coming decades will see a profound shift in the capacity humans will have to be ‘present’ throughout the ocean continuously, without actually being there. Only in this manner can we eventually come to observe, measure, sample, analyze, integrate and effectively model this planetary life support system.
I feel immensely fortunate to be involved in a program that is a key part of the revolution that is changing the ways we may ultimately be able to understand and perhaps, in time, learn to manage this crucial resource that distinguishes our planet from all others we know. NSF is investing $700 M in the Ocean Observing Initiative over the period 2009-2017, additional information at: (http://www.oceanobservatories.org/). I am PI on a component of the OOI that is responsible for designing, constructing and initially operating the first U.S. submarine electro-optically networked ensemble of off-shore experimental sites. Scheduled to go live in 2014, many of these sites will eventually consist of many hundreds of widely distributed arrays of sensors and robots that are hard-wired to the Internet allowing scientists, engineers, policy makers, educators, students, and the general public open access to real-time behavior of entire portions of the ocean. Additional insight into the OOI Cabled system may be found at:http://www.ooi.washington.edu/. Interactive cabled systems similar to this system are being planned in more than 10 countries now; without e-science these systems would simply not be possible.