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Supporting Ocean Exploration and Data Collection

Image of Okeanos Explorer cruising on surface of ocean by NOAA.
Courtesy of NOAA

We are proud to support NOAA Ocean Exploration in its efforts to catalog and provide access to data and information from NOAA’s only vessel solely dedicated to ocean exploration, the Okeanos Explorer. Our combined data management efforts deliver rapid and easy data access, facilitate efficient and effective long-term data preservation, and inspire further exploration and research.

Okeanos Explorer’s remotely operated vehicle (ROV), Deep Discoverer, collects biological, geological, and water samples during dives to help scientists understand more about the physical, chemical, and biological environment of the deep ocean.  NCEI scientists work with NOAA Ocean Exploration to assist in the collection of critical baseline information about unknown and poorly understood areas of the ocean. Our staff often work as Sample Data Managers to preserve physical data samples and enter information into the Sampling Operations Database Application—a database which NCEI developed and maintains that ties the environmental variables to the physical samples. This “data about the data” follows the physical samples throughout the data's life cycle ending at the long-term repository, such as biological samples being curated at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. 

Live Operations Map

NCEI partners with NOAA Ocean Exploration to provide the Okeanos Explorer-Live Operations Map which provides near-real-time information about the Okeanos Explorer’s current location and meteorological readings. The map also displays the compiled ship track for the current cruise and a suite of multibeam bathymetric products. This map is hosted through Esri's ArcGIS Online, using cloud technologies. The ship's location and trackline are updated multiple times each hour while the ship is on expedition.

We also partner to maintain the Ocean Exploration Digital Atlas. The Ocean Exploration Digital Atlas is an interactive map that displays the locations of NOAA-sponsored expeditions from 2001 to present. The atlas provides access to directly download unique, expedition-specific scientific data, publications, GIS tools, and even educational resources. 

Video Portal

The NOAA Ocean Exploration Video Portal makes searching thousands of hours of high-definition video easy. Since 2010, the Okeanos Explorer has collected hundreds of terabytes—thousands of hours—of video and video products. Viewers have been thrilled to follow along with the voyages of the Okeanos Explorer to catch glimpses of curious marine animals, historic shipwrecks, and amazing geological formations. To address the high demand for these underwater videos, NCEI created the self-service portal for finding, previewing, and downloading these video data.

Benthic Animal Guide

The video data collected during expeditions can be used for many purposes. A good example is the Benthic Deepwater Animal Identification Guide which was created by NCEI with the guidance of Dr. Christopher Kelley of the University of Hawaii. This guide is a collection of high-resolution images of marine animals created from video recorded during the Okeanos Explorer’s 2015-2017 missions in the Pacific Ocean. The guide is organized by major taxa, or scientific units of animals, and is a reference for scientists and anyone else interested in these fascinating deep-sea dwellers.

Water Column Sonar Data

In addition to the physical, biologic, and geologic samples collected during missions, the Okeanos Explorer captures acoustic backscatter from the near-surface to the seafloor, including multibeam and split-beam data. NCEI archives and provides access to these data with our Water Column Sonar Data Portal. These data can be used to assess physical and biological characteristics of the ocean including the spatial distribution of plankton, fish, methane seeps, and underwater oil plumes, among other things.

Together, the Digital Atlas, NOAA Ocean Exploration Video Portal, Benthic Animal Guide, and the Water Column Sonar Data Portal allow you to explore the ocean alongside NOAA’s scientists and transform your understanding of the global ocean.

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