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Office of Polar Programs

Ship-based Technical Support in the Arctic  (STARC)

Name Email Phone Room
Renee  D. Crain (703) 292-4482   


Solicitation  10-594

Important Information for Proposers

A revised version of the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) (NSF 20-1), is effective for proposals submitted, or due, on or after June 1, 2020. Please be advised that, depending on the specified due date, the guidelines contained in NSF 20-1 may apply to proposals submitted in response to this funding opportunity.


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This solicitation is for proposals to enhance marine science and technical services provided to NSF-supported research cruises on U.S. Coast Guard cutters Healy and Polar Sea. U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) provides basic services that will be augmented by the awardee to the level provided by the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) for supporting academic research. This solicitation is for an awardee to perform two primary functions: 1) to plan, coordinate and deliver science technical support onboard Healy and Polar Sea, augmenting the role of the USCG marine science technicians and 2) to coordinate with NSF, USCG and the academic community to provide for the operation, maintenance and upgrade of science equipment installed or used on Healy and Polar Sea. The awardee is expected to coordinate support among qualified providers as appropriate for specific cruises, utilizing the capabilities and equipment available through the UNOLS system. Ship-based science support will be planned and provided in close coordination with the research teams and USCG personnel with input and approval from NSF.



The Arctic Sciences Division supports ship-based research in the Arctic in all scientific disciplines including paleo-oceanography, atmospheric studies and all branches of marine science. Through this solicitation, the Arctic Sciences Division seeks to fund a single proposal, or collaborative proposal, to augment ship-based science support on the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Cutter Healy.


The Arctic Sciences Division has an annual call for research proposals and solicits proposals through special solicitations throughout the year. Recent research emphasis has been on the Bering Ecosystem Study (BEST), a joint effort between NSF and the North Pacific Research Board ( and The Study of Arctic Environmental Change (SEARCH) program is an ongoing effort that includes ship-based studies (

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy was commissioned for active service in 2000 and was designed to support research in the Arctic. Its capabilities are described in greater detail on the USCG website and a science support website for the USCG In conjunction with USCG and the UNOLS Arctic Icebreaker Coordinating Committee (AICC), NSF has developed the scientific capabilities of Healy. More information about UNOLS, pooled equipment, research vessels and UNOLS committees is available on the UNOLS website at

Below is a detailed overview of the types of research support that may be required by specific research projects. On occasion, NSF may request the awardee provide support for Arctic researchers on other vessels, but the emphasis is on cruises on Healy. Healy sails with two USCG marine science technicians who rotate out about every two years. The awardee will work with these technicians, with the research teams on-board and with other qualified entities to meet the science support requirements of research cruises. Through the NSF Division of Ocean Sciences, many agreements exist with organizations in the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) to provide ship-based science support. The awardee may provide support directly and/or coordinate well-qualified and equipped service providers to meet research project requirements. Additional information about science support on the USCG Healy is available from the science liaison, Dave Forcucci ( Links to research projects in the Arctic Ocean and surrounding seas can be found on the ARMAP website

Planning and Coordination

The awardee is expected to send a representative to meetings of the Arctic Icebreaker Coordinating Committee (AICC) and other UNOLS committees such as RVOC and RVTEC and to work with the engineering and operations staff for Healy at USCG. The awardee will participate in pre-cruise planning meetings with the USCG and science teams. The awardee will also have a role in defining and prioritizing program needs for maintenance and upgrades to ship-based science equipment.

Ship time requests for use of UNOLS vessels and USCG icebreakers are submitted by researchers through the UNOLS request system. The awardee will have access to ship time requests and will be invited to ship scheduling and science planning meetings. NSF will make every effort to communicate about funded research proposals, upcoming initiatives and other relevant information to facilitate coordination. The successful proposer will provide NSF with a program plan on January 15 of each year that details the science support that will be provided or arranged for NSF-funded Arctic research cruises. NSF will review and approve the plan in a timely manner.

Meritorious proposals will:

-         Describe an approach to providing an on-board science data network and required IT infrastructure for researchers.

-         Describe an approach to gathering specific requirements for cruises, coordinating to deliver required science support and providing NSF with a scope and budget estimate each January 15 for planning and budgeting.

-         Plan to have representatives participate in ship scheduling meetins, Arctic Icebreaker Coordinating Committee meetings and other relevant meetings

-         Leverage the investment NSF has made in developing the UNOLS pool of equipment, services and expertise to provide excellent science support on board.

-         Be cognizant of relevant marine environmental laws and best practices for coordinating with arctic communities and work with NSF and researchers to ensure proper documentation and permitting is acquired prior to cruises.

Ship-based Science Support includes but is not limited to:Information Technology

Currently USCG provides ship-board email addresses. Underway connectivity is limited to two hours per day with small data transmissions only via Inmarsat and Iridium. Proposals are welcome to include new approaches to provide better connectivity for science teams on board Healy or other vessels. The USCG operates and maintains an onboard science network and science data logging. Proposals should include and approach for disseminating science data to science teams immediately following cruises.

Acoustic Equipment

Proposals should address operational support of ADCP, Multibeam Sonar and Knudsen 320br sub-bottom profiler onboard the USCG Healy. These instruments typically collect measurements while underway to fill in gaps in our knowledge of the Arctic Ocean. The successful proposer should present a staffing plan for collecting and distributing underway measurements from these instruments and for real-time mapping of the ocean bottom with georeferencing. The USCG is tasked to maintain onboard instruments.

Hydrographic systems

A mainstay of arctic research includes collecting essential oceanographic data. Proposals should include an approach to operate and manage onboard hydrographic systems. These systems include Conductivity, Temperature and Depth (CTD) rosettes, thermosalinograph, salinometer, and other devices that may be required for oceanographic studies.

Meterological systems

Proposers should become familiar with the science meteorological systems available on Healy and provide a plan to maintain and configure meteorological sensors in support of research. Healy's systems include photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), long and shortwave radiation, air temperature, barometric pressure, precipitation, and anomometers.

Navigation systems

Proposals should include support to the inertial navigation system used by researchers if not provided by the ship operator. Onboard Healy, the POS-MV inertial navigation system requires configuration and maintenance from the science support provider. GPS systems are maintained by the USCG. Proposals should include an approach to operate the Terascan remote sensing satellite data receiving system. USCG supports the maintenance and configuration of the Terascan system. Proposals should include providing onboard GIS support for displaying Radarsat and Terascan satellite images, georeferencing these images to the ship's location and inputting science underway data collection and station data for the science team.


Proposals should include coordination of coring support for cruises. Coring support could include the Jumbo Piston Coring (JPC) equipment purchased for Healy and managed by Oregon State University for storage and maintenance and typically supported by OSU technicians. Similarly, proposals should address use of multicoring and box coring equipment.

Other Ship-based Support

The awardee will be tasked to provide or arrange support for all ship-based research requirements of funded research proposals. These may include assisting with mooring deployment or recovery, arranging use of general or special purpose vans, assisting with deployment of autonomous vehicles, arranging scientific diving, engineering an on-deck flow-through sea water system, coordinating helicopter support for research operations and other tasks as needed.

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What Has Been Funded (Recent Awards Made Through This Program, with Abstracts)

Map of Recent Awards Made Through This Program