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ocean water in a pipe hole with text on top The deep brought to you by NSF

Ocean Discoveries Brought to You by NSF

We live in an age of discovery. Humans may have mapped and explored much of the world’s continental terrain, but roughly 80 percent of this planet remains mysterious. Our oceans and waterways affect our weather, our atmosphere, where we live, what we eat and countless other aspects of our lives. But we still have so much to discover about the oceans and seafloor. Scientists are still trying to understand the fundamental processes that govern marine environments and the factors that can affect them. And there’s no way to learn about these deep, wonderful landscapes unless we visit them.

The National Science Foundation has funded scientists and engineers to make fundamental scientific discoveries in the oceans and the environments beneath the oceans. Piece by piece, these generations of researchers are steadily building a mosaic that reveals more about how this planet works. In partnership with other federal agencies, foundations, and institutions, NSF has sought to bring researchers to the environments they need to study and give them the ability to collect more and better data.

The research vessels NSF supports are at the heart of these efforts. NSF has 4 oceanographic research vessels and provides support to all 18 ships and 3 submersibles in the U.S. Academic Research Fleet. They serve as laboratories, launches for deep–sea submersibles and stations for collecting everything from sediment samples to images of deep–sea marine life. NSF–supported research vessels allow science to be global, from the ice–tested Sikuliaq to the deep submersible Alvin. NSF is committed to ocean discovery and is funding new ships for the next phase of oceanographic research.

For researchers, these vessels represent rare and spectacular opportunities to study areas of the Earth that would otherwise be inaccessible, with cutting–edge scientific equipment. Throughout NSF’s history of funding research expeditions in support of science objectives, the scientific community has ensured that each voyage is optimized to gather as much data as possible. The discoveries they have produced stand as a testament to the value of NSF’s investments.

large boat sailing in ocean water

Today, thanks to new NSF investments and advances in technology, researchers will get more opportunities than ever before to create new knowledge about the oceans and make it available to the public for the benefit of our planet.

NSF is working to build new and enhanced research vessels. The foundation has invested in improvements that will give submersibles like Alvin and Jason, which already have amazing records of discovery, the ability to go deeper, take higher–resolution pictures, and gather more data. Through new partnerships and better communications technology, research vessels can connect with scientists around the world, sharing findings instantaneously and allowing for remote participation.

doward view of ocean water with an anchor in the corner

Researchers supported by NSF are also working on smaller, autonomous submersibles, seeking to give these robotic explorers the ability to scour the globe remotely. These hold the promise to give researchers persistent access to oceans, lakes, rivers, and other waterways at a level that once would have been impossible to imagine.

This month, we are checking in with the researchers, vessels, and other facilities NSF supports. The scope of these efforts is impossible to depict in so little time. But with these highlights, NSF hopes to share how it helps bring researchers to the oceans — and how those scientists bring the oceans back to you.