Ocean Exploration 2020


What will Ocean exploration consist of in 2020?

NOAA and the Aquarium of the Pacific are hosting a National Forum in July to discuss just that. They've invited Eric and I to present on the maker and citizen scientist aspects of exploration, and where that might lead.

I'm curious, what do you think? What should we talk about? What do you think the future holds for citizen ocean scientists and DIY explorers over the next 17 years?


I see some impact on Ocean exploration from maker and citizen scientists; but I think that the big impact will be surveys of lakes, streams, and rivers. Maker and citizen scientists won't all have access to ocean-going vessels, so ocean exploration will be limited to "close to shore".

The initial advancements will come from forward-looking state Departments of Natural Resources. If they can organize and train maker and citizen scientists equipped with their own OpenROVs, valuable surveys can be made faster and with less expense. DNRs will be able to have a better handle on water quality, fish populations, etc. with their current budgets. Maker and citizen scientists can feel that they are contributing to their community's quality of life, they can be a part of something big.

The key will be how well the professional scientists are able to interact with we amateurs. Will we see a position at a DNR or even Woods Hole with the title of "Director of Volunteer Scientists"? With the internet and social media, how professional and volunteer scientists will interact will be exciting to experience!

By the way, since I live in Minnesota (Land of 10,000 lakes), I do have a slight bias towards lake, stream, and river exploration.


I agree with Dennis - citizen scientist/explorers will be limited to near-shore and inland waters, but when ROVs become "appliances" or even "toys", the growth in the exploration and monitoring that amateurs provide will be astonishing!

A possibly even bigger advance could come from data being stored in a shared, compatible, public repository. This would make it possible to compare trends across time and location and draw bigger insights from the results of local exploration. This pool (aquatic pun intended!) of data could be analyzed by professional and citizen scientists.


More accurate environmental analysis and modeling using crowd-sourced data = good. I don't think we can rely on the EPA and DOE to be able to handle the growing amount of data and the demand for more accurate models with the current and projected budgets. It will be interesting to see the effects of higher environmental awareness which parallels maker exploration on the current ocean eco-system.

Might we even see more DYI manned systems? I think so. As bad as a show this was, SeaQuestDSV actually made a number of interesting points (and there has been recent work to expand on these). The oceans offer expansion and resource possibilities, and once more people are equipped with low-cost exploration systems, I think we will see more marine stewardship and development in the coming decades. I would have no problem living 30, 60, 100 or more feet below the surface for extended periods of time researching and cultivating human colonization of the deep.


Here's another thought. Eco-tourism. We have SpaceX, Bigelow Aerospace, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic. I would think that more entrepreneurial makers with adequate financial backing will introduce OceanX, AquaSpace, BlueDeep, or maybe even Virgin Oceanic...