Most of the global ocean remains unexplored, yet we know it supports life on our planet and that it is changing in ways that may alter the support and services it provides. These changes are caused by the compounding factors of pollution (e.g., plastics, noise, oil spills), unsustainable fishing practices, and human-induced climate change. As these changes can impact food security, public health, coastal community resilience, and the economy, our need for information on ocean patterns, conditions, and processes is growing exponentially. High-quality, interoperable data is critical for understanding our ocean systems and using marine resources in sustainable ways.
Humans have measured ocean properties for centuries using crude instruments (e.g., Charles Darwin and the Challenger Expedition). This was – and remains – no easy feat due to the vastness and depth of most of the ocean. Today, in addition to ships (e.g., R/V Sikuliaq, Okeanos Explorer, and the forthcoming RCRV Taani), scientists use sophisticated technologies including satellites, drones, autonomous underwater vehicles, radars, buoys, tide gauges, and tags on marine species. However, bringing all this collected data together for use in a standardized way has brought about a new challenge. Ocean experts in government, academia, and industry are working to address this wealth of collected data so that the value of the data can be maximized through integration and use by a growing number of stakeholders.