For the first time ever, scientists are exploring the deep waters around Hawaii, finding forests of coral, an interesting crater and a staggering number of new species. You can be a part of the discovery, even if you are stuck on shore. The Okeanos Explorer, a 68-meter telepresence-enabled exploration vessel of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), invites everyone to join its current mission via live video stream. Until September 30, it will study two of the largest marine protected areas in the world: the Papahānaumokuākea and Pacific Remote Islands marine national monuments. You can join scientists as state-of-the-art remotely operated vehicles dive up to 5,000 meters into the strangely vibrant world of the deepest ocean.
The last pristine ecosystems
All of us rely on the ocean, but we have seen only a tiny fraction of it. Five percent, according to NOAA. And the marine national monuments? “These areas represent some of the last relatively pristine marine ecosystems on the planet,” said Holly Bamford, assistant administrator for NOAA’s National Ocean Service. In these unspoiled environments, the Okeanos Explorer found an abundance of new species. Of the 58 biological samples Okeanos Explorer collected in Papahānaumokuākea in August, 35 were either unknown to the area or completely new to science.
Marine protected areas are essential for protecting critical habitats. But through expeditions like this, these safe havens become natural laboratories of scientific discovery that give experts and citizens a better chance to preserve the ocean for future generations and make revolutionary discoveries that benefit humankind.
World leaders, recognizing the need to protect dwindling ocean resources, are expanding the use of marine protected areas around the globe. Following the 2014 Our Ocean conference, participants made commitments on the protection of more than 4 million square kilometers of the ocean. You can follow progress at this year’s Our Ocean conference at #OurOcean2015.