Transforming ocean science for a better world

Linwood Pendleton
April 16, 2020
Image from iStock

We have ten years to significantly transform ocean science if we are going to ever have the ocean we want

In our new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Karen Evans, Martin Visbeck and I argue that we have ten years to significantly transform ocean science if we are going to ever have the ocean we want - one that is healthy, productive, and safe for people and nature.

Now with the pandemic upon us, the need for transformation is even more urgent than when we submitted this paper just a couple of months ago. The health hazards of oceangoing research have been brought to the fore by the COVID19 outbreak, see article.

In the future, more and more ocean research will require autonomous platforms that can operate without direct human intervention - gliders, drones, ROVs, hydrophones, and satellites will need to carry more of the research burden.  Fortunately, we are ready for this transformation.  Remotely operated autonomous research platforms are being tested and deployed around the world.  Similarly autonomous ways of monitoring and regulating fishing and ocean uses already exist, but have never been funded at a level needed to achieve their full potential.

The 4th industrial revolution is fully upon ocean research and management.  As with the 3rd industrial revolution, if scientists are prepared to adapt to these changing conditions, we could see an unprecedented surge in scientific productivity and progress - with more time spent on analysis and discovery and less time spent collecting and processing raw data.

Ocean scientists, including oceanographers, economists, anthropologists, ecologists, meteorologists and myriad others have been working relentlessly to find better ways of creating the science needed to tackle biodiversity loss and climate change. While the disruptions to ocean science caused by the COVID19 pandemic will no doubt be significant, this could be just the catalyst we need to break out of business as usual and create a once-in-a-lifetime paradigm shift that could lead to a new revolution in ocean science.  One that is badly needed if we are to get the ocean back on track to be all we need it to be.

  1. ocean science
  2. autonomy
  3. gliders
  4. ROV
  5. hydrophones
  6. satellites
  7. pandemic
  8. COVID19


Linwood Pendleton

Ocean Data Foundation

Conservation and Innovation Advisor, Global Lead Ocean Scientist (WWF), International Chair of Excellence (European Institute of Marine Studies) Brest area, France