For Immediate Release: June 20, 2013
By Eric Beidel, Office of Naval Research
ARLINGTON, Va.—A long-standing partnership between the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and one of the country’s foremost oceanographers will culminate on June 21 with the launch of a 24-hour “newsroom” to track scientists’ activity aboard research ships and in the field and broadcast their findings to students and teachers around the world.
ONR and Dr. Robert Ballard—best known for discovering the wreck of the Titanic—have teamed up for Exploration Now, an initiative that uses telepresence technologies to provide students, educators and others with live-stream video of research activities and opportunities to interact directly with scientists aboard different vessels in real time.
“It’s a ‘situation room’ for ocean exploration,” said Cmdr. Joseph Cohn, ONR’s deputy director of research for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). “The ability to tune in and interact with the crews of U.S. research vessels, no matter where they are, will give an unprecedented number of students and teachers an insider’s view of the important work these scientists are doing.”
A shore-based production team at Ballard’s Center for Ocean Exploration at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography will provide mission control by coordinating feeds, creating highlight videos, arranging crew interviews and interpreting findings for audiences.
Designed in part to inspire students to pursue careers in STEM fields, the program kicks off as Exploration Vessel Nautilus begins a six-month expedition in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, where, among other activities, researchers will investigate active undersea volcanoes and study the impact of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The crew will use a new hull-mounted multi-beam sonar system to explore the seafloor and dispatch remotely operated vehicles to take high-definition video and collect geological and biological samples.
Over the course of the expedition season on board Nautilus there will be more than 150 rotating explorers—collectively referred to as the Corps of Exploration—including ONR-sponsored Navy personnel, educators and students.
“ONR’s support of our Corps of Exploration has led to numerous masters and doctorate degrees, as well as the creation of important scientific, engineering and naval role models,” Ballard said. “Exploration Now will help us advance a new paradigm of telepresence that not only will influence the oceanographic community but also future Navy operations.”
ONR has invested in Ballard’s research since the late 1960s, contributing to numerous ancient shipwreck discoveries and breakthroughs in deep-dive engineering and the study of plate tectonics. In 1985, Ballard helped lead an expedition that ended with the discovery of the wreck of the Titanic. His discoveries also include the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown and German battleship Bismarck.
In 2010, the Ballard-founded Ocean Exploration Trust in partnership with the Sea Research Foundation launched the Nautilus Live website, which has attracted nearly 200,000 viewers from 173 countries. Exploration Now will link Nautilus with other U.S. research vessels undertaking ocean exploration and eventually include live feeds from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Okeanos Explorer and ONR-owned research vessels Atlantis and Thomas G. Thompson, which have telepresence capabilities supported by the National Science Foundation.
“It’s the next best thing to being on board,” said Dr. Joan Cleveland, deputy director of ONR’s Ocean Sensing and Systems Division. “This is the kind of learning that will stick with students longer than lessons they learn through lecture and reading.”
For more information and to watch the live feeds, visit http://www.explorationnow.org/.
About the Office of Naval Research
The Department of the Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR) provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps’ technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 70 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning and 914 industry partners. ONR employs approximately 1,400 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel, with additional employees at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C.