Current challenges and emerging issues of ocean science

, France

An Ocean Science Day was organized by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO) on 17 June 2015 to share recent developments in ocean science with representatives of its 147 Member States, networks and partners. The overall objective was to improve decision makers’ understanding and awareness of current challenges and emerging issues, through lectures and panel discussions with eminent experts. Presentations and debates focused on the linkages between ocean health and human wellbeing, the potential of the latest advancements in monitoring technology, current scientific challenges in the Artic and the legacy of the International India Ocean Expedition.

The biennial sessions of IOC-UNESCO’s governing body, the Assembly, have always provided an opportunity to foster dialogue between experts and decision makers on ocean science. This year, for the first time, a full day was dedicated to the lecture series, with additional panels, to highlight emerging issues that require international collaboration in marine science and technology, as well as the need to develop new ocean knowledge and technologies for the benefit of society.

Ocean, health and wellbeing

Not only do human impacts, such as pollution, affect the sustainability and quality of marine ecosystems, they also affect human health both directly and indirectly. In her IOC Anton Bruun Memorial lecture, Lora E. Fleming, director of the European Centre for Environment and Human Health and chair of Oceans, Epidemiology and Human Health at the University of Exeter Medical School, analysed risks and benefits in the ocean and human health dynamic. There is enormous potential to promote human health and wellbeing through interactions with marine environments, as well as to foster pro-environmental behaviours to restore and preserve marine environments. The dynamic provides insights into new areas and avenues for global cooperation, to collaboratively address the local and global challenges of our interactions with the ocean, both now and in the future. Prof. Fleming was awarded the IOC Anton Bruun Medal, dedicated to the memory of the noted Danish oceanographer and first chairman of the Commission.

Glider challenge: high resolution for 4D oceanic measurements

Autonomous underwater gliders, robotic devices used for ocean measurements such as water currents, temperature and water quality, are an example of a new, game-changing technology in ocean science. They provide a cost-effective solution to fill knowledge gaps, collecting measurements in areas that are impossible to reach, such as rough seas, regions afflicted by piracy or wars, and remote locations. The rapid development of autonomous underwater gliders as a critical component of the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) was discussed with a panel of eminent scientists. The panel stressed the need for sustained 4-D oceanic measurements, outlined the barriers to progress, presented results and discoveries enabled by ocean gliders and a vision for future international cooperation.

International expeditions: From the Indian Ocean to the World Ocean and back in 50 years

In his IOC N.K. Panikkar Memorial Lecture, Dr. John Field, emeritus professor and deputy director of the Marine Research Institute at the University of Cape Town, shared his experience on board cruise 7 of RV Anton Bruun during the first International Indian Ocean Expedition (IIOE). The IIOE was one of the greatest international, interdisciplinary oceanographic research efforts.  It was carried out from 1962 to 1965, with over 40 oceanographic research vessels participating under 14 different flags. It was a remarkable success, and began to illuminate the Indian Ocean’s far reaching influences on surrounding regions and the globe in general through tele-connected ocean/climate processes. Now, 50 years later, IOC-UNESCO is planning the second IIOE in partnership with the Scientific Committee for Oceanic Research (SCOR) and the Indian Ocean GOOS (IOGOOS), to take place from 2016 to 2020.

Dr. Field provided insights on the legacy of IIOE, and the fundamental changes that have revolutionized our understanding of the global ocean in the 50 years since the first expedition, exploring the potential of IIOE-2 in the light of new technological advances. Dr. Field was awarded the IOC N.K. Panikkar Memorial Medal.

Scientific Challenges in the Arctic

The rapid transformations occurring in the Arctic are affecting the entire Earth system, including its climate and weather extremes, through increased temperatures and the continuing loss of ice, glaciers, snow and permafrost. These rapid changes are challenging our ability to provide decision-makers with the necessary knowledge on the consequences. Sustained observations and improved understanding of local, regional and global processes are required in order to anticipate changes in the Arctic.

The panelists of panel discussion “Challenges in the Arctic” presented their views on the science needed to be able to provide decision-makers science based knowledge, and discussed issues of international law. The panel discussion was aimed at raising awareness about the global impact of changes taking place in the Arctic and creating a greater sense of urgency among decision-makers to address these issues.

Related links:

Panel 1 –             Glider Challenge: High resolution for 4D oceanic measurements

N.K. Panikkar memorial Lecture – Dr. John Field
From the Indian Ocean to the World Ocean and back in 50 years (pdf)

Panel 2 –             Challenges in the Arctic