Observations From OceanObs’19, Part 2
After returning from a week in Honolulu with over 1,500 ocean scientists, technologists, and stakeholders from around the world at the OceanObs’19 decadal conference, I am enthused and excited about “An Ocean of Opportunity” that lies before us to observe and understand the ocean like many never would have dreamed at the initial OceanObs in 1999.
This global, grassroots conference was organized by dedicated members of the ocean observing community and was the first OceanObs held outside of Europe. Organizers chose Hawai’i as the location to support easier access by Pacific nations, with the location as central as possible for such a global audience (74 countries in attendance). A diverse, international group of scientists, users, industry, policymakers, Indigenous representatives, and early career professionals came together to assess the current state of global ocean observing and to chart the course to a truly global ocean observation system in coming years that will support the crucial need for better ocean knowledge. Throughout daily plenaries and multiple focused sessions aimed at the generation of recommendations covering a wide variety of topics, attendees had the opportunity to discuss specific observational concerns and to develop priorities in a highly effective manner that is usually impossible to achieve at larger gatherings. There was harmonious agreement on many topics but also very productive disagreements and arguments — all of which will help to align our multi-national efforts going forward.
In addition to orchestrating the program development and execution for the conference, COL hosted a breakout session, Community Building and Dialogue, and a special session, Ocean Partnerships for Sustained Observing. The lively discussions in both sessions with diverse groups of panelists and participants provided keen insights and achievable, recommended actions going forward. I firmly believe actions like these, in concert with the larger portfolio of actionable outcomes and recommendations from the conference as a whole, can be driven forward effectively in the United States by COL, working with the myriad federal ocean agencies, our member organizations, and other stakeholders. A few of the insights gained from our sessions:
- Best practices for partnership and community building aren’t always best for everyone, or every nation, region, etc., but having a common, shared repository of best practices (such as the Ocean Best Practice System) would be of enormous value to the global community.
- Successful partnerships must include the often misunderstood “end users” of ocean observations as equal partners (and even advisors) early on in developing requirements and plans for ocean observation systems and capabilities. The observing community must truly listen (see photo, top) to these end users, who often include Indigenous communities who have the most to gain from enhanced observing systems and the most to lose from the impacts of an ocean that is not understood nearly as well as it should be.
- Economic expertise and associated analyses of the impact and value of observational information – including with respect to monitoring ecosystem services – are key to growing observational capabilities and capacities and should be planned for and budgeted by the agencies and organizations that operate observing systems.
I also want to recognize and praise the exemplary, tireless efforts that COL staff put into the development and execution of the OceanObs’19 program, led by Nick Rome and Kruti Desai. I salute you and thank you for your efforts that were extremely well done!
And lastly, many thanks to Eric Lindstrom of NASA (see photo, bottom) for your leadership and dedication to OceanObs’19, and for your decades of devotion to advancing ocean observations around the world. May you be accompanied by fair winds and following (well-observed) seas as you sail onward to a true ocean of opportunity following your retirement from government service.
￼Over the recent decade, total human impacts to the world’s oceans have, on average, nearly doubled and could double again in the next decade without adequate action. That’s according to a new study by researchers from the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at UC Santa Barbara. Published in the journal Scientific Reports, the study assessed for the first time where the combined impacts that humans are having on oceans — from nutrient pollution to overfishing — are changing and how quickly.
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