BOX 1-1


This study will examine the scientific merit of, technical requirements for, and overall feasibility of establishing the infrastructure needed to implement a system of seafloor observatories. Recently, many seafloor observatory programs have been discussed or proposed. This study will assess the extent to which seafloor observatories will address future requirements for conducting multidisciplinary ocean research, and attempt to gauge the level of support for such programs within ocean science and the broader scientific community.

feasible in the near future. To this end, the National Science Foundation (NSF) requested a study from the National Research Council's (NRC) Ocean Studies Board (OSB) to investigate the scientific merit and technical feasibility of establishing a series of seafloor observatories. A steering committee of eight members representing major areas of oceanographic science and ocean engineering was appointed to addresses the Statement of Task (Box 1-1) and write this externally reviewed consensus report. Although the statement of task for this study states that the committee will “gauge the level of support for such programs within ocean science and the broader scientific community,” no statistical measures were used. Instead, the very positive response to the symposium over a broad range of scientific disciplines and the enthusiastic nature of the discussions that occurred were used as evidence for broad community support for this initiative.


In recent decades ocean, earth, and planetary sciences have been shifting from an intermittent, expeditionary mode of exploration and problem definition toward a mode of sustained in situ observation and experimentation. The motivation for this change is intellectually grounded and stimulated by new scientific discoveries and the unanticipated effects of earth and ocean processes on mankind. Examples of these include:

  • the detection of formerly unknown, chemosynthetically based ecosystems hosted on and beneath the seafloor;

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