Okeanos Explorer 2014 Gulf of Mexico Expedition: engaging and connecting with diverse and geographically dispersed audiences

Monday, 15 December 2014
Craig W Russell1, Kelley Elliott2, Elizabeth Lobecker3, Lindsay McKenna3, Susan Haynes2, Emily Crum3 and Fred Gorell4, (1)NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Seattle, WA, United States, (2)Acentia/2020 Company, LLC, Falls Church, VA, United States, (3)ERT, Inc., Laurel, MD, United States, (4)NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Silver Spring, MD, United States
From February to May 2014, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer conducted a telepresence-enabled ocean exploration expedition addressing NOAA and National deepwater priorities in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. The community-driven expedition connected diverse and geographically dispersed audiences including scientists from industry, academia, and government, and educators, students, and the general public. Expedition planning included input from the ocean science and management community, and was executed with more than 70 scientists and students from 14 U.S. states participating from shore in real time.

Training the next generation permeated operations: a mapping internship program trained undergraduate and graduate students; an ROV mentorship program trained young engineers to design, build and operate the system; and undergraduate through doctoral students around the country collaborated with expedition scientists via telepresence.

Online coverage of the expedition included background materials, daily updates, and mission logs that received more than 100,000 visits by the public. Live video feeds of operations received more than 700,000 views online. Additionally, professional development workshops hosted in multiple locations throughout the spring introduced educators to the Okeanos Explorer Educational Materials Collection and the live expedition, and taught them how to use the website and education resources in their classrooms.

Social media furthered the reach of the expedition to new audiences, garnered thousands of new followers and provided another medium for real-time interactions with the general public. Outreach continued through live interactions with museums and aquariums, Exploration Command Center tours, outreach conducted by partners, and media coverage in more than 190 outlets in the U.S. and Europe. Ship tours were conducted when the ship came in to port to engage local scientists, ocean managers, and educators. After the expedition, data and products were archived and quickly shared with ocean managers and scientists working in the region, providing a baseline of publicly available data and stimulating follow-on exploration, research and management activities within a few months of expedition completion.