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WHOI-led projects receive UN endorsement as part of Decade of Ocean Science

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June 9, 2022

Endorsed status presents opportunities for wider collaboration and enhanced ability to tackle grand challenges in better understanding the ocean

Woods Hole, MA — Four projects led or co-led by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) scientists were named on World Ocean Day by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to receive Endorsed Action status as part of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030. The four are Center for Chemical Currencies of a Microbial Planet, Deep Oceans Genome Project, Ocean Observatories Initiative, and the Ocean Twilight Zone Project. The announcement was timed to add to global celebrations of the UN World Oceans Day, which was organized this year around the theme “Revitalization: Collective Action for the Ocean.”

With the aim of achieving the Ocean Decade vision of “The science we need for the ocean we want,” the newly endorsed Decade Actions address priority issues worldwide, including marine pollution, management and restoration of marine ecosystems and the ocean-climate nexus—all with the goal of achieving a better understanding of the ocean system, and of delivering science-based solutions to inform decision-making from the international to the individual level.

“WHOI’s mission is to advance knowledge of the ocean and its connection to all life on Earth and to apply this knowledge to problems facing society,” said WHOI President and Director Peter de Menocal. “The themes and objectives of the UN Decade of Ocean Science are tailor-made for scientists, engineers, and technicians at WHOI to advance the state of our knowledge in ways that will ensure a long-term, sustainable path for society and a thriving, healthy ocean. For the coming decade and beyond, our goal is to make the ocean more transparent and to turn what we learn into meaningful, actionable information available to all.”

“On this celebratory occasion of World Oceans Day, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO is announcing the endorsement of an additional wave of 63 Ocean Decade Actions, including four transformative programs and dozens of projects, as well in-kind and financial contributions, all of which are bringing us closer to the ocean we want,” said Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary of IOC.

The four WHO-led efforts singled out by UNESCO address a wide range of research topics that attempt to illuminate critical parts of the ocean system, from atoms to ocean basins, and from the wave-tops to the deepest, darkest seafloor.

Center for Chemical Currencies of a Microbial Planet (C-CoMP)
Directed by marine chemist Elizabeth Kujawinski at WHOI and marine microbiologist Mary Ann Moran at the University of Georgia, C-CoMP was named as an Endorsed Contribution by UNESCO to reflect the center’s scope and ongoing support. C-CoMP integrates research, education, and knowledge transfer activities and supports interdisciplinary science teams to close knowledge gaps in the identities and dynamics of molecules that serve as the “currencies” of elemental transfer within marine microbial communities and between the ocean and atmosphere. These microbial processes play out across the breadth and depth of the ocean and have countless impacts on our daily lives by helping regulate Earth’s climate system, carbon cycle, and other chemical processes. The center was funded by the National Science Foundation in 2021 as one of six new Science & Technology Centers to bring rapid and transformative advances to understanding to areas of critical societal need.

Deep Oceans Genome Project
The ocean is the largest and most biodiverse living space on Earth, and the deep ocean is one of the most under-studied regions within that. WHOI marine biologist Tim Shank and University of Connecticut geneticist Rachel O’Neill founded the Deep Oceans Genome Project, which was given Endorsed Project status, to apply next-generation sequencing technologies and comparative genomics methods with the goal of obtaining fundamental new knowledge about the organization, evolution, functions, and interactions of life in ways that will benefit both society and the environment. Despite the harsh living conditions presented by the deep ocean, animals there have been able to adapt, thrive, and diversify. Learning more about the traits that make this possible will revolutionize our understanding of the limits of life on Earth as well as on other ocean worlds in our solar system.

Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI)
OOI also received Endorsed Project status, and consists of five mooring arrays set in critical parts of the coastal and open ocean that collect and transmit a continuous stream of data year-round about conditions from the seafloor to the atmosphere just above the sea surface. These arrays are equipped with some 800 instruments measuring more than 200 different physical, chemical, geological, and biological parameters. Funded by the National Science Foundation, OOI was designed as a long-term project to collect ocean data for up to 25 years or more. This longevity makes it possible to measure and directly observe both short-lived episodic events and longer-term changes occurring in the ocean. Such data makes it possible to better understand ocean processes that support society and ecosystems and how the ocean is changing. WHOI operates OOI in partnership with the University of Washington and Oregon State University.

Ocean Twilight Zone Project (OTZ)
OTZ, which received Endorsed Project status, was among the inaugural class of five visionary efforts in 2018 to receive funding from the Audacious Project, a collaborative approach to philanthropy with the potential to drive change at transformational scale. The ocean twilight zone, or mesopelagic, is a region of the ocean just at the limit of sunlight that plays vital, but little-studied role in regulating Earth’s climate system and in feeding commercially and ecologically important marine animals. By gaining more detailed information about the inner workings of the twilight zone, scientists will help inform government leaders and policymakers to think more carefully about how to protect it, while still harnessing its resources to address the increasing climate crisis and feed a growing human population.

 

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About Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is a private, non-profit organization on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930, its mission is to understand the ocean and its interactions with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate an understanding of the ocean’s role in the changing global environment. WHOI’s pioneering discoveries stem from an ideal combination of science and engineering—one that has made it one of the most trusted and technically advanced leaders in fundamental and applied ocean research and exploration anywhere. WHOI is known for its multidisciplinary approach, superior ship operations, and unparalleled deep-sea robotics capabilities. We play a leading role in ocean observation, and operate the most extensive suite of ocean data-gathering platforms in the world. Top scientists, engineers, and students collaborate on more than 800 concurrent projects worldwide—both above and below the waves—pushing the boundaries of knowledge to inform people and policies for a healthier planet. For more information, please visit www.whoi.edu

About the Ocean Decade
Proclaimed in 2017 by the United Nations General Assembly, the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) (‘the Ocean Decade’) seeks to stimulate ocean science and knowledge generation to reverse the decline of the state of the ocean system and catalyze new opportunities for sustainable development of this massive marine ecosystem. The vision of the Ocean Decade is ‘the science we need for the ocean we want’. The Ocean Decade provides a convening framework for scientists and stakeholders from diverse sectors to develop the scientific knowledge and the partnerships needed to accelerate and harness advances in ocean science to achieve a better understanding of the ocean system, and deliver science-based solutions to achieve the 2030 Agenda. The UN General Assembly mandated UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) to coordinate the preparations and implementation of the Decade.

About the IOC-UNESCO
The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO) promotes international cooperation in marine sciences to improve management of the ocean, coasts and marine resources. The IOC enables its 150 Member States to work together by coordinating programs in capacity development, ocean observations and services, ocean science and tsunami warning. The work of the IOC contributes to the mission of UNESCO to promote the advancement of science and its applications to develop knowledge and capacity, key to economic and social progress, the basis of peace and sustainable development.