Program Focus 2: Enabling Arctic Science

“The Arctic marine environment is one of the least understood regions of the Earth, especially in the high Arctic. There is a critical lack of essential data and scientific understanding necessary to improve the planning and implementation of biodiversity conservation or monitoring strategies in the Arctic…Change cannot be measured without a baseline. For many species and ecosystem processes, that baseline of knowledge does not exist.”

“Arctic Biodiversity Assessment: Status and trends in Arctic biodiversity”, Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF), Arctic Council, 2013

Vorosmarty2“What keeps coming up in our discussions about the Arctic is the need for sound baseline information about the Arctic environment. How can we take ‘snapshots’ of key dimensions and make sense of them in the larger context – then move toward a system level understanding? Time and again what we come up against are the limits to making observations and measurements in the region. Global Oceans is one example of a team that has developed a modular operational approach with MARV that could have a significant impact on our ability to collect the data we need.

“A key objective of the Arctic Futures Initiative is to develop improved models of physical and biological systems of the Arctic. Thus collaboration with groups like Global Oceans to couple data collection strategies with optimal modeling design, aligned with geospatial deployment of appropriately equipped MARVs, would represent a breakthrough approach that may provide a more reliable basis for making important decisions about sustainable management in this region.”

Charles Vörösmarty, Ph.D., Director, CUNY Environmental CrossRoads Initiative; City University of New York, New York; Co-Chair of the Arctic Futures Initiative Advisory Group (USA); Distinguished Scientist, NOAA-CREST (Cooperative Remote Sensing Science and Technology)



Global Oceans Arctic MARV: Research modules are configurable in multiple one- to six-lab clusters. Modular systems are ABS certified, purpose-built structures welded on deck for each project. Lab systems are configured to support wet labs, sample processing, chemical analytics, genomics, microbiological, data processing and visualization, and other activities. Exploration assets can be deployed mid-ships or with an A-Frame crane at stern. All project support, crane, winch and power systems are configured adaptively to the chartered platform.

“Infrastructure development, from ice-capable vessels to research stations…is moving forward, but at a pace that many consider insufficient… Are there new ways of conducting research in this challenging environment to increase understanding and to reduce escalating costs?”

“Report on the Goals and Objectives for Arctic Research 2011-2012”, US Arctic Research Commission

Grebmeier2“We’ve always had significant resource constraints in the Arctic for science and this continues to be a challenge. Global Oceans has developed an infrastructure support model utilizing private-sector supply partners which, if successfully brought on line, could significantly expand our ability to get into the field. This is an emerging solution that will help Arctic scientists do more with limited resources.”

Jacqueline Grebmeier, Ph.D., Professor, University of Maryland, Center for Environmental Science; Former Chair, Pacific Arctic Group (PAG)


Arctic3Expanding Access to the Arctic

Global Oceans’ Arctic priority is to engage with the global Arctic scientific community to explore specific opportunities to align the ability to configure and operate polar-adapted MARV platforms with critical research, observation and monitoring strategies in the Arctic Ocean and surrounding regions. The Arctic MARV configuration is illustrated in the above figure.

The GOCEPT online planning environment for scientists will support research and cruise planning within Arctic project modules. GOCEPT is designed to support integration of multiple global science teams and to maximize scientific output on collaboratively shared MARV platforms. For Arctic operations, GOCEPT will dynamically report to the planning community transect-driven operational costs and time frames associated with modeled activity scenarios, seasonal weather and other factors.

Modeling Arctic Systems

Of particular interest to Global Oceans is the capacity to model natural biophysical systems, including ecosystems. Advances in systems ecology are providing increasingly powerful tools that incorporate new hierarchy, thermodynamics and network theories, and a new understanding of the role of biodiversity as a property of stable ecosystems.

Network analysis is providing improved insight into large scale natural processes that can contribute to predicting outcomes from impact scenarios. Our ability to understand complex natural systems and to model outcomes will become increasingly important in developing viable sustainable use and conservation policies for the Arctic.

Global Oceans’ strategy for contributing to this process in the Arctic is linked to the scope, resolution and frequency of the data that is necessary to fully leverage current modeling capacity. The challenge of obtaining sufficient baselines and on-going environmental data from the Arctic is well documented – activity is constrained by limited infrastructure and cost of access to the region.

Responding to the Challenge

In response to these challenges, Global Oceans is exploring collaboration with the Arctic Futures Initiative (AFI) and other institutions and programs to discover ways that the adaptive MARV infrastructure approach in the Arctic can operationally transform our ability to conduct research and monitoring.

The objective is to develop an Arctic strategy that will align requirements for conducting baseline studies; incorporate data requirements for modeling natural systems; and the scientific and logistical requirements to sustain environmental monitoring – with a decadal-scale research and expedition strategy enabled by region-wide MARV deployment. This effort will help deliver the scientific understanding necessary to sustainably manage newly accessible resources, mitigate investment risk, and protect critical ecosystems in the Arctic.