The Global Seamounts Project

The Global Seamounts Project (GSP) is an international scientific initiative that will explore and model one of the world’s largest and least understood biomes, oceanic seamounts. The project will mount eighteen deep-sea expeditions over the next four years to conduct intensive, standardized surveys of representative seamount ecosystems in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Ocean basins. Teams of ecosystem modelers will concurrently populate leading ecosystem models with expedition data as it is generated and will collaborate on the development of a new integrative model of complex ecosystem function for seamounts.

An unprecedented team of world-renowned seamount scientists, physical oceanographers, and ecosystem modelers are participating in the project. Several new approaches for mobilizing at-sea research infrastructure, new technologies, emerging modeling theory, and artificial intelligence will be leveraged to achieve this ambitious collaboration.

Most importantly, the project will accelerate the science of seamounts along a continuum: from one that is primarily descriptive, to predictive – and toward a prescriptive capacity. The development of a next-generation behavioral ecosystem model will be critical to understanding and mitigating potential future impacts from human-driven stressors, resource extraction and climate change on these highly productive ocean ecosystems.

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.

GSP-Logo_revThe GSP is unique in several ways:

1) it involves collaboration from the outset of the project between ocean scientists and seamount specialists from relevant 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 contiguous activity tracks: a) the multidisciplinary field expedition and data processing work; b) the biophysical modeling work, which will facilitate feedbacks and refinements 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 extend and frequency of at-sea research capacity required for the observations that are proposed (see here for more information about MARVs, Modular Adaptive Research Vessels).













The 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 will behave as complex systems in response to current and 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. Project outcomes 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 the international science community about the project and interest in participating.

The Global Seamounts Project has been endorsed by the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Resarch (SCOR) as an Affiliated Project; and is endoresed 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 from the private-sector (foundations and other private sponsors). Updates and project news will be posted to the OSF site as it becomes available.



















Figure 1 (above): Discipline-focused working groups are represented by the categories shown in the upper box. To fully characterize the biology, biogeochemistry, and physical oceanography of targeted sites, GSP scientists in each group will refine the sampling and analytical strategies, to be deployed across the geophysical domain of each seamount, from the surface, to the summit, down the flanks and onto the surrounding abyssal plain. An aggregated database of field data will provide inputs into a series of GSP models, collectively generating outputs that describe complex ecosystem structure and function in response to specific human and environmental impacts. 

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