The Global Seamounts Project

There are many aspects of seamount and deep-sea ecosystem structure and function that we do not understand, and which may in the long-term be critical for effective management. However, research is in many respects still at the stage of describing the composition and structure of seamount habitat and communities, and appreciating complex functional processes is still a long way in the future.

From: Clark MR, et al (2012) Science Priorities for Seamounts: Research Links to Conservation and Management. PLoS ONE 7(1): e29232

Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning research needs to embrace the challenge of extracting order from complexity. The greater the focus on the multifunctionality and multiple integrated dimensions of … wild nature, the more useful the conclusions that can be drawn concerning how ecological structure shapes the influence of biodiversity changes on the functioning of real ecosystems.

There is no question that we need new data, tools, and approaches to understand how growing biotic impoverishment and biotic homogenization will influence ecosystem functioning.

Naeem, S., et al. “The functions of biological diversity in an age of extinction.” Science 336.6087 (2012): 1401-1406.


Seamount-BathymetryA new international project has been proposed called the Global Seamounts Project (GSP), to intensively survey a range of 18 seamounts in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Ocean basins, over eighteen expeditions beginning in 2019 and continuing through 2023. The project will generate standardized sets of inter-calibrated, multidisciplinary field data over the survey range to develop a new ecosystem model for seamounts. The project was collaboratively developed by a team of seamounts scientists and ecosystem modelers and is inviting scientists from a wide range of disciplines and regions to participate.

Each expedition plans to survey two seamount systems, with about half of target sites surveyed over multiple seasons for temporal resolution, resulting in a total of 36 site surveys. For re-visited sites, the plan calls for a range of leave-behind instruments, moorings and gliders.

The GSP is unique in several ways: 1) it involves collaboration from the outset of the project between ocean scientists and seamount specialists from all disciplines, with ecosystem modeling experts, to jointly develop the scope and resolution of data needed to design new computer models of complex ecosystem function for seamounts; 2) the project will be run along two “tracks”, in tandem: a) the multidisciplinary field expedition and data processing work, and b) the biophysical modeling work, which will facilitate feedback and adjustments between these activities over the project duration; and 3) the MARV research vessel model of mobilizing chartered global-class vessel platforms from the offshore sector for scientific research will be utilized to provide the at-sea capacity required, when and where it is needed, for the intensive level of research and observations that are proposed (see here for more information about MARVs, Modular Adaptive Research Vessels). 

TimelineThe final phase of the project will integrate elements of three principal existing ecosystem models: Atlantis, OSMOSE and OSIRIS, that will be developed and run simultaneously with common project datasets, into a new Integrated Seamounts Ecosystem Model (ISEM), together with physical/fluid dynamics modeling, as a new tool for modeling and exploring how seamount ecosystems may be behave as complex systems to future environmental scenarios driven by climate change and human impact.

Working-GroupsA Working Group structure has been designed to include the breakouts shown in the Working Group Chart, and a workshop to support detailed collaborative planning will be scheduled in the near future. The project has a Steering Committee of seven, and a growing Science Advisory Committee.

In addition to new ecosystem models, the project will also provide a legacy of detailed biophysical data on eighteen seamount systems that will be fully mapped and documented as baselines for future monitoring. The study sites may also provide a basis for establishing future local or regional Marine Protected Areas associated with these systems, supported by improved understanding of productivity, biodiversity, potential species and community endemism, extent of important biogenic habitats such as cold-water coral reefs, and whether certain systems may be degraded or threatened.

The project proposal is accessible on the Global Seamounts Project section of the Open Science Framework (OSF) website at: The OSF is an open-access, collaborative research platform hosted by the Center for Open Science, which is partnering with this project. Scientists can sign-in on the OSF site and at the GSP Working Groups document page can enter comments, ideas and indications of interest. We look forward to hearing from interested scientists, post-docs, students and technicians from around the world to participate.

The Global Seamounts Project has been endorsed by the Steering Committee Core Group of the 2nd International Indian Ocean Expedition (IIOE-2) as a contributing project to IIOE-2 (Endorsement No. IIOE2/EP29).

Funding is currently being sought for the GSP including for workshops, field expedition operations, research, data processing and modeling, primarily but not exclusively from the private-sector (foundations and other private sponsors). Updates and project news will be posted to the OSF site as it becomes available.


The intention with this project is to leverage the collaborative, organizational and scientific framework developed and put into practice by the recently completed CenSeam initiative; focusing on lessons learned from that study to design an integrated set of sampling and analytical strategies that will more effectively fill key spatial, ecological, taxonomic and disciplinary data gaps; across geographically representative and understudied regions.

The operational framework being developed by Global Oceans will also facilitate an administratively lean and cost-efficient organizational structure for the project.

Alex Rogers, Ph.D., Chair, GSP Science Chair, Professor, Conservation Biology, University of Oxford, UK

Normally we develop a network analysis for ecosystems with existing data sets, many of which are estimates. The Global Seamounts Project takes an approach that brings these two activities together at the planning phase. This strategy, to align data gathered from the project from the outset, at sufficient resolution and scale, with collaborative modelling efforts focused on answering key questions, is very unique and will be extremely valuable for considerably increasing our predictive capability and understanding of these systems.

Ursula Scharler, Ph.D., GSP Ecosystem Modeling Chair; Professor, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa


Jim Costopulos, GSP Operations Chair, CEO, Global Oceans, New York, NY, USA

Alex Rogers, Ph.D., GSP Science Chair, Professor Conservation Biology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

Malcolm Clark, Ph.D., GSP Science Co-Chair, Principal Scientist, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), Wellington, NZ

Ursula Scharler, Ph.D., GSP Ecosystem Modeling Chair, Professor, Theoretical & Applied Ecology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

Bernd Christiansen, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Institute of Hydrobiology and Fisheries Science, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany

Paul Snelgrove, Ph.D., University Research Professor, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Newfoundland, Canada

Christian Mohn, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Denmark


Tim O’Hara, Ph.D., Deputy Head, Marine Sciences, Museum of Victoria, Victoria, Australia

Brian Fath, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Towson University, Towson, MD, USA

Patrick Halpin, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Marine Geospatial Ecology, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA

Andreas M. Thurnherr, Ph.D., Lamont Research Professor, Ocean and Climate Physics, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, NY, USA

Dawn Wright, Ph.D., GISP, Chief Scientist, Esri, Inc.; Full Professor of Geology & Oceanography, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA

Elena Rovenskaya, Ph.D., Director, Advanced Systems Analysis (ASA) Program, International Institute of Advanced Systems Analysis (IIASA), Laxenburg, Austria

David Vousden, Ph.D., Professor of Ocean Governance, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa

Richard Bailey, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Geochronology, University of Oxford; Co-Director, Oxford Martin School Programme on Sustainable Oceans; Leader, CoHESys Lab Research Group, Oxford, UK

Charles Vorosmarty, Ph.D., Director, Environmental Sciences Initiative, Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC), City University of New York (CUNY), New York, NY, USA

Javier Sellanes, Ph.D., Associate Researcher, Catholic University of the North, Antofagsta, Chile

Ben Fitzpatrick, Ph.D., Director, Oceanwise Australia, Perth, Australia

Nicholas Cassar, Ph.D., Associates Professor of Biogeochemistry, Earth and Ocean Sciences, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA

Ward Appeltans, Project Manager, OBIS, GOOS Biology & Ecosystems, IOC/UNESCO, Oostende, Belgium

Douglas Levin, Ph.D., Deputy Director & Chief Innovation Officer, Center for Environment & Society, Washington College, Chestertown, MD, USA

Jesse van der Grient, Ph.D., Post-Doctoral Researcher, CoHESys Lab at OUCE, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK