BOX 1-1

What Is UNOLS?

  • The UNOLS mission is to “provide a primary forum through which the ocean research and education community, research facility operators and the supporting federal agencies work cooperatively to improve access, scheduling, operation, and capabilities of current and future academic oceanographic facilities.”

  • 18 UNOLS institutions operate shared-use facilities, including 22 research vessels, a National Deep Submergence Facility, a National Oceanographic Aircraft Facility, and a National Oceanographic Seismic Facility.

  • UNOLS acts in an advisory role to facility operators and to supporting federal agencies, but it is not itself a funding agency or a facility operator.

  • UNOLS supports community-wide efforts to provide broad access to oceanographic research facilities; continuous improvement of existing facilities; and planning for future oceanographic facilities.

SOURCE: UNOLS website ( and UNOLS Fleet Improvement Committee (2009).

private interests. Although the academic fleet has existed since before World War II (history provided in Appendix A), the UNOLS management structure was not established until 1971, based on a recommendation of the Stratton Commission report Our Nation and the Sea (Commission on Marine Science, 1969; Byrne and Dinsmore, 2000; Bash, 2001). From 18 original operating institutions (Byrne and Dinsmore, 2000), by 2009 membership had grown to 61 institutions representing 26 states and Panama, Puerto Rico, and Bermuda (Appendix B). UNOLS coordinates the schedules of 22 vessels berthed in 13 states and Bermuda.

UNOLS assists federal and states agencies in performing their sea-going responsibilities. The National Science Foundation (NSF), Office of Naval Research (ONR), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Minerals Management Service (MMS), and U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) support the UNOLS consortium through a cooperative agreement. Other agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and Department of Energy (DOE) support ship time on UNOLS vessels (Annette DeSilva, personal communication, 2009). State funds and private resources are also used to support the academic fleet.

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