In 2009, Congress passed legislation that formalized the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) ocean exploration responsibilities to hold periodic national meetings to “establish an ocean exploration forum to encourage partnerships and promote communications among experts and other stakeholders in order to enhance the scientific and technical expertise and relevance of the national program.” Since 2013, five National Forums on Ocean Exploration have been held around the United States.

The first forum, Ocean Exploration 2020: A National Forum, was co-hosted by NOAA and the Aquarium of the Pacific. The event brought together the most important ocean exploration stakeholders to discuss what our nation’s ocean exploration program should be and a strategy for getting there. The event concluded by encouraging members of the public to come to the Aquarium of the Pacific for a day celebrating ocean exploration.

In 2014 and 2015, the National Aquarium hosted forums focused on the connections among Ocean Exploration 2020 recommendations, ocean exploration results, and NOAA mission requirements as an environmental information services agency. Characterizing the Unknown 2015 focused on establishing a formal, dedicated national strategy and program of ocean exploration as called for in the statute authorizing NOAA’s ocean exploration program.

In 2016 and 2017, the focus of the forums turned toward exploration technologies. The Rockefeller University hosted Beyond the Ships in 2016, focusing on the tools and technologies needed to propel deep-sea exploration forward in the next decade. The following year, the University of California San Diego hosted Ocean Exploration in a Sea of Data, bringing together the data science and ocean exploration communities to develop recommendations for how we can collaborate to expand traditional concepts of ocean exploration to drive toward new discoveries, provide greater access to data, and better engage the public.

On November 7-10, 2018, the MIT Media Lab Open Ocean initiative will host the sixth National Ocean Exploration Forum, All Hands on Deck. Our goal is to convene leaders and changemakers to imagine creative new ways to make the ocean so pervasive in modern culture that everyone has a positive association with and understanding of the sea. Through panel discussions, demos, and workshops, we will consider how to connect people with the ocean and each other through play, imagination, immersion, creativity, and exploration.

Learn more about previous forums: