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Directorate for Geosciences
Division of Ocean Sciences

The Division of Ocean Sciences (OCE) supports basic research and education to further understanding of all aspects of the global oceans and their interactions with the Earth and the atmosphere. OCE also supports the operation, acquisition, construction, and conversion of major shared-use oceanographic facilities needed to carry out oceanographic-related research programs.

At any given time, certain research areas within the OCE Division may be selected for emphasis on the basis of special scientific opportunities. Further information on global change research programs and other focused programs is available via the appropriate links on the OCE Division home page,

Ocean Section

In addition to these regular programs, there are occasional announcements of opportunity to participate in global change research programs and other initiatives.

1. Biological Oceanography

Supports research on ocean productivity; the distribution, abundance, physiology, and life history of pelagic, coastal, and deep-sea marine organisms and their interactions with environments; structures of pelagic and benthic food chains; primary and secondary production; interactions between deep-sea biological processes and the ocean ecosystem; the specialization of deep-sea organisms; the ecology of the Great Lakes and factors regulating productivity; and marine biotechnology.

2. Chemical Oceanography

Supports research on physical and chemical properties of seawater, including kinetic and thermodynamic equilibria of chemical species and compounds in seawater; fluxes between sea floor sediments, their interstitial waters and overlying seawater; fates of materials deposited on the sea floor; alterations and interactions of material moving through the ocean; interactions and interdependencies between chemical processes and marine organisms; air/sea exchanges of manmade and naturally mobilized chemicals; and chemical properties of the ocean surface.

3. Physical Oceanography

Supports research on the description, analysis, and modeling of oceanic circulation and transport; the effects of circulation on energy and momentum transport; physical circulation processes, eddy generation, and turbulent mixing on continental shelves; mixing processes and circulation in estuaries; wind-generated tides and surface and internal waves; small-scale transport processes such as diffusion, conduction, convection, and three-dimensional turbulence; and physical properties of seawater and circulation and mixing processes in lakes.

Marine Geosciences Section

1. Marine Geology and Geophysics

Supports research on the structure of continental margins, oceanic rise systems, and deep-sea sedimentary basins; the evolution of ocean basins; processes controlling exchanges of heat and chemical elements between seawater and oceanic rocks; tectonic and volcanic activity at midocean ridges; chemical and mineralogic variations in marine sediments; the deposition, erosion, and distribution of marine sediments; geologic and oceanographic processes controlling sedimentary systems; past oceanic circulation patterns and climates; the evolution of microfossil groups; paleoenvironmental controls on fossil groups and sediment types; and interactions of continental and oceanic geologic processes.

2. Ocean Drilling Program (ODP)

Explores, on a global scale, the Earth's crust beneath the ocean in order to learn more about the composition, structure, and history of the submerged portion of the Earth's surface. The drilling process involves collecting and logging geologic samples from the floor of deep ocean basins through rotary coring and hydraulic piston coring. The logs and samples of the cores are available to qualified scientists throughout the world for research projects.

  • ODP Operations—The drilling program has taken samples at various sites, including the North Atlantic Ocean, Norwegian Sea, Mediterranean Sea, southern and equatorial Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean off the west coast of South America, Weddell Sea off Antarctica, Indian Ocean, and western and equatorial Pacific Ocean.
    The general contractor for the overall management and operation of the ODP is Joint Oceanographic Institutions, Inc. (JOI), a consortium of major U.S. oceanographic institutions. The drilling operations are managed by Texas A&M University; logging is managed by the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University.
  • U.S. Science Support—NSF provides funding for the participation and drilling-related research performed by U.S. scientists. Activities include investigations of potential drilling regions, especially by means of regional geophysical field studies; the feasibility and initial development of downhole instruments and techniques; and downhole geophysical and geochemical experiments. In addition, NSF will consider proposals for studies that lead to a long-range definition of future drilling objectives. To be considered for support, proposed projects should be clearly relevant to the drilling plans of the international drilling community and focus on predrilling or drilling-concurrent activities. Postcruise studies should generally be submitted through other appropriate NSF programs in the areas of ocean and earth sciences and polar programs.
    Additional support for U.S. scientists may be obtained through the JOI-U.S. Science Advisory Committee (JOI-USSAC). This NSF-sponsored program consists of planning activities such as workshops to define concepts and develop problem-related drilling programs, including U.S. participation in Joint Oceanographic Institutions for Deep Earth Sampling (JOIDES); support for U.S. scientists participating on the drill ship; and support for necessary follow up studies related to initial publication of drilling results. Requests for proposals may be issued for other surveys, regional and topical syntheses of existing data, or the development of down-hole tools and instrumentation as these tasks are identified.

Other Pertinent Information

Proposals for drilling specific sites should be submitted to the JOIDES Planning Committee Chairman, c/o Joint Oceanographic Institutions, Inc., 1755 Massachusetts Avenue, NW., Suite 800, Washington, DC 20036; or contact by telephone, 202-232-3900.

Applications for scientific participation aboard a ship should be submitted to the Manager of Science Operations, Ocean Drilling Program, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-3469. Appropriate support may be provided by JOI-USSAC.

Submit requests for data and samples of core material to the Curator, Ocean Drilling Program, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-3469; or visit the ODP home page,

For information on logs and the logging program, write to the Borehole Research Group, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, NY 10964; or visit the group’s home page,

Proposals for planning activities and workshops may be submitted to the JOI-USSAC Chairman, c/o Joint Oceanographic Institutions, Inc., 1755 Massachusetts Avenue, NW., Suite 800, Washington, DC 20036.

Integrative Programs Section

Special Proposal Submission Requirements

Proposals for field programs that require the use of University-National Oceanographic Laboratory Systems (UNOLS) ships in the following calendar year must be submitted by the February 15 target date. For example, proposals requesting ship time in the calendar year 2004 must be submitted by February 15, 2003. For further information, including the UNOLS Shiptime Request Form, visit the UNOLS Web site,

1. Oceanographic Facilities (Ship Operations, Oceanographic Instrumentation, Technical Services, and Shipboard Scientific Acquisitions and Upgrades)

Support for major oceanographic facilities is concentrated at institutions that have substantial research programs in oceanography and also support the research projects of other institutions. Before submitting a proposal for support in these areas, institutions should seek advice from the relevant program officer. Specific instructions on how to submit proposals can be found in the publication Division of Ocean Sciences (OCE): Proposal Submission Deadlines for Research Ship Operations, Instrumentation and Equipment, and Technical Services Support (NSF 00-39).

2. Oceanographic Technology and Interdisciplinary Coordination

Supports a wide range of multidisciplinary activities that broadly seek to develop, transfer, or apply instrumentation and technologies that will benefit research programs supported by NSF, and enhance the conduct of basic ocean sciences research. Instrumentation and technology projects supported by this program must be broadly usable and be of benefit to more than just one particular research project. The scope of projects varies from short-term feasibility studies to the development, construction, and at-sea testing of a prototype to demonstrate that useful and applicable data can be obtained using it. If ocean research is to be undertaken, joint consideration with the relevant research program may be conducted for the instrument development phase of the project. In addition, the Interdisciplinary Coordination Program area supports a limited number of research approaches that cross the four basic ocean science subdisciplines (physics, chemistry, biology, and geology and geophysics).

3. Ocean Education Program

Provides support for programs—many of them agency-wide—emphasizing educational opportunities at all levels. The Division of Ocean Sciences has recently initiated a new program to establish a network of coordinated centers that will facilitate collaborations and communications between ocean science researchers and educators. These Centers for Ocean Science Education Excellence (COSEE) will foster the integration of ocean research into high-quality educational materials, allow ocean researchers to gain a better understanding of educational organizations and pedagogy, provide educators with an enhanced capacity to understand and deliver high-quality educational programs in the ocean sciences, and provide material to the public that will promote a deeper understanding of the ocean and its influence on each person's quality of life and our national prosperity.

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