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Global Ocean Observatories a Major Initiative of National Ocean Conference

March 12, 1998

Global ocean observatories and the link they provide to climate prediction and education was one of the topics of discussion today at the National Ocean Conference in Monterey, CA. Dr. Robert B. Gagosian, Director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and one of the invited participants in the conference, briefed President Clinton today on conference discussion. The 45-minute private briefing was attended by Vice President Al Gore, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, and by the Conference Co-chairman, Secretary of the Navy John H. Dalton and Secretary of Commerce William M. Daley.

Dr. Gagosian was a member of a conference panel on education, exploration, and research and was asked to brief the President of that panel’s discussion, which took place yesterday. Other panels focused on global security, commerce, and environment and health. The four panels met yesterday morning and spent the afternoon in a discussion session led by Vice President Al Gore.

In his remarks at the start of the education, exploration and research panel discussion, the WHOI Director spoke about the need for a paradigm shift in how science is conducted in the United States. “Not only will academic research-intensive institutions in the United States need to form new and stronger partnerships with each other and with the federal agencies, but new alliances with our international colleagues will also be essential for success,” Dr. Gagosian said. ” The scientific and engineering community must learn to work better together and share the credit. This is not going to be easy because our system rewards individual achievement, not team efforts. We must also do a better job of convincing the taxpayers, and the Congressional and Executive branches of our government, why this is such an important priority for this country. If we cannot explain why it is important, why should they suppory it?

Gagosian said he was personally excited and optimistic about the future of ocean sciences research and education. “The reason is not just because of the exciting opportunities we face in our field. It goes deeper. We have an extraordinary opportunity in educating the public that the oceans are not just the beaches they walk on with their children and grandchildren. They are much, much more. They cover 71 percent of this earth with an average depth of two and one-half miles. These facts, coupled with the Earth’s mounting population, which is expected to double by the next century, lead to the conclusion that the oceans cannot be ignored for wise use by society. The oceans play a key role in our environmental security strategy. They will become increasingly important to us as we move through the next century. Unlocking the key of how the oceans work will result in how well we as a species will survive in the next millennium.”

Also attending the Presidential briefing earlier today were William Amaru, a commercial fishermen from Cape Cod and Jane Lubchenco of Oregon State University, who both served on the Environment and Health panel, and Admiral Donald L. Pilling, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, who served on the Global Security panel.

For Further Information contact:
Shelley Lauzon
Senior News Officer
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, 02543
Phone: 508-289-2270
FAX: 508-457-2180