NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer: Get Involved

Remotely operated vehicle Deep Discoverer images a coral community during the second Voyage to the Ridge 2022 expedition.

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer is currently the only federally funded ship dedicated to the systematic exploration of our largely unknown ocean for the purpose of discovery and the advancement of knowledge. Through telepresence techology, which uses real-time broadband satellite communications, we are able to connect the ship and its discoveries live with audiences on shore. This model allows far more people to participate in expeditions on Okeanos Explorer than with a more “traditional” research expedition, providing many opportunities to get involved.

NOAA Ocean Exploration conducts two primary types of expeditions on Okeanos Explorer: expeditions focused exclusively on mapping operations and expeditions that invovle both mapping and remotely operated vehicle (ROV) operations. Each type of mission offers different opportunities for involvement, as outlined below. Note that we are currently seeking input for future expedition recommendations.


Mapping Exploration Expeditions

The first phase of exploration on Okeanos Explorer expeditions involves reconnaissance — acquiring seafloor mapping and water column data in order to identify features or anomalies of interest for further investigation and to create first-order landscape-level maps of unexplored areas of the global ocean. Scientists and students can become involved in mapping expeditions in several ways:

  • Professional Scientists:
    • Expedition Planning: Career scientists and natural resource managers with expertise in the region to be explored during a specified expedition are invited to contribute input and expertise to the expedition planning process. During mapping expedition planning, this includes the identification of areas with high potential for discovery that lack comprehensive mapping data from modern sonar systems. Post processing, interpretation, and regional contextual analysis of mapping data are also key areas for collaboration in the mapping exploration process.
    • Expedition Execution: Career scientists with interest in sailing are encouraged to contact NOAA Ocean Exploration for opportunities for increased participation. Berthing is typically available onboard to accommodate mapping scientists and resources managers with interests in mapping data. Participation from shore is also possible through daily transfer of mapping products to shore through telepresence and through real-time online display of mapping data acquisition screens.
    • Scientists interested in getting involved in mapping expeditions should contact the NOAA Ocean Exploration operations team.
  • Students: During mapping expeditions, the Explorer-in-Training program provides several opportunities for student involvement. This program provides current or recent undergraduate and graduate students with the opportunity to gain field experience using an advanced multibeam bathymetric sonar mapping system, while contributing in a significant way to expeditions on Okeanos Explorer and the overal NOAA Ocean Exploration mission. For more information on current opportunities, contact NOAA Ocean Exploration’s Internship Program Coordinator. You can also learn about past student experiences via our website.


Telepresence-enabled ROV and Mapping Expeditions

Mapping exploration expeditions set the stage for the second step in NOAA Ocean Exploration exploration model — conducting site characterization using ROVs to explore seafloor habitats.

During a typical expedition with ROV operations, the majority of participants are on shore. This includes most of our science team, who participate by viewing live video feeds and other data and sharing their expert observations and guidance with other scientists via instant messaging and teleconference. The on-shore members of the science team are coordinated and led by two lead scientists located on the ship. All scientists take part in expedition planning and daily science meetings via teleconference.

During ROV expeditions, the primary data streamed to shore in real-time are video data, augmented by mapping and CTD rosette data acquired at night. Thus, our science team is largely composed of scientists for whom these are relevant datasets, such as biologists, geologists, chemists, and archaeologists. It is not uncommon for a science team to include over 50 scientists who participate at various levels throughout an expedition.

There are several ways to participate from shore in an expedition on Okeanos Explorer with ROV operations:

  • Professional Scientists:
    • Expedition Planning: Career scientists with expertise in the region or disciplines to be explored during a specified expedition are invited to contribute input and expertise to the expedition planning process.
    • Real-time Expedition Participation: Career scientists with a relevant expertise are invited to share observations with the science team in real time during the expedition, based on data acquired by one of Okeanos Explorer’s mission systems (mapping, ROV, or CTD rosette systems). Examples of observations made include identifying and discussing animals and geological or archaeological features being imaged; describing and discussing the sediments, underlying geology, or other processes in the region being explored; describing and discussing oceanographic conditions impacting the region; comparing observations made to other relevant habitats or regions; and analyzing and interpreting acquired data to help inform the next steps of the exploration.
  • Current Students: Students currently enrolled in an academic institution and pursuing a degree relevant to the work of NOAA Ocean Exploration, such as oceanography, marine biology, geology, archaeology, etc., may be eligible to join the science team. Students must be sponsored by a college or university professor interested and willing to provide student oversight. If appropriate, the professor should be willing to work with the student to identify goals and objectives for expedition engagement and to provide input and oversight on any data analysis and product development.
  • Recent Graduates: Recent graduates receiving degrees relevant to the work of NOAA Ocean Exploration, such as such as oceanography, marine biology, geology, archaeology, etc., who are interested in participating as a member of the science team should send an email to Trish Albano with a brief statement of interest and expertise and goal(s) for getting involved as a member of the science team.



A primary mission for NOAA Ocean Exploration is inspiring young people, to build the next generation of ocean explorers. One way to do this is by arming educators with the tools and information they need to bring the wonder, excitement, and importance of ocean exploration to students. Educators can become involved in expedition on Okeanos Explorer in a variety of ways:

  • NOAA Teacher at Sea: On occasion, educators may join NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer mapping expeditions through the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program, which aims to provide teachers, kindergarten through college level, with hands-on, real-world research experience working at sea.
  • Education Materials: NOAA Ocean Exploration has developed a range of standards-based education materials to bring entire classrooms "on board" for deep-ocean exploration and discovery.
  • Professional Development: NOAA Ocean Exploration has developed Alliance Partnerships with aquariums and science centers to offer ocean science and exploration professional development opportunities to educators nationwide. These professional development offerings help build regional cadres of ocean exploration teacher leaders.


Members of the Media

Throughout expeditions on Okeanos Explorer, resources are available to members of the media, including broadcast, print, and web-quality imagery and video. Members of the media interested in learning more about the ship and its missions or scheduling interviews with the science team should direct inquiries to the contacts listed below.

NOAA Ocean Exploration Communications Team

Emily Crum
Communications Team Lead

NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations

Keeley Belva
Public Affairs Officer


General Public

Thanks to telepresence technology on the ship, anyone with an internet connection can follow the excitement of exploration on Okeanos Explorer . While we do not currently have the capability to allow direct interaction between the public and members of our science team, there are many opportunities for members of the public to follow along:

  • Expedition Web Coverage: Dive summaries, stories, images, and videos are added to our website throughout active expeditions, allowing visitors to learn about activities and findings. Catch up on expeditions online.
  • Live Video Feeds: During expeditions, live video is streamed from the ship to shore, allowing site visitors to follow mapping and ROV dives live and watch discoveries happen along with the science team. Access the live video through our website.
  • Social Media: Learn about expeditions past and present by liking us on Facebook  or Instagram  or by following us on X/Twitter  or LinkedIn . During expeditions, we also post updates about timing, location, and purpose of dives and alert followers of major findings.