The United States federal government should substantially increase its deep ocean exploration.
1AC – First Contention
Contention One – Oceans
We know nothing about them – despite their vast size, extreme importance, and unknown potential, only a tiny fraction of the oceans has been explored
National Research Council, 2009(Ocean Exploration: Highlights of National Academies Reports, National Academies Ocean Science Series, http://oceanleadership.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/Ocean_Exploration.pdf)
The ocean is the largest biosphere on Earth, covering nearly three quarters of our planet’s surface and occupying a volume of 1.3 billion cubic kilometers. Despite the major role of the ocean in making the Earth habitable—through climate regulation, rainwater supply, petroleum and natural gas resources, and a breathtaking diversity of species valued for their beauty, seafood, and pharmaceutical potential—humankind has entered the 21st century having explored only a small fraction of the ocean. Some estimates suggest that as much as 95 percent of the world ocean and 99 percent of the ocean floor are still unexplored. The vast mid-water—the region between the ocean’s surface and the seafloor—may be the least explored, even though it contains more living things than all of Earth’s rainforests combined. Similarly, the ocean floor and sediments encompass an extensive microbial biosphere that may rival that on the continents, which is not yet understood and remains largely unexplored. The impacts of human activities on the ocean drive a growing urgency for its exploration before permanent and potentially harmful changes become widespread. Even events that occur far inland, such as nutrient runoff from agriculture and pollutants and debris carried by stormwater, have impacts. The ocean bears a double burden from the burning of fossil fuels and associated climate change; not only is it warmer, but the additional carbon dioxide dissolves in the ocean, making it more acidic. Although mariners have traversed the ocean for centuries, exploring its inky depths is no easy task. Recent technological advances now make possible scientific investigations only dreamed of 20 years ago. The development of state-of-the-art deep-sea vehicles and a host of other technologies have opened doors for finding novel life forms, new sources of energy, pharmaceuticals, and other products, and have promoted a better understanding of the origins of life, the workings of this planet, and of humanity’s past. New discoveries are being made all the time. “. . . there is still so much we do not know about the oceans that often we do not even know the proper questions to ask or an unambiguous way to test what hypotheses we do have. For that reason, I am a fan of ocean exploration.” —Marcia McNutt, president and CEO, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute In 2003, scientists made a discovery that set the telecommunications industry buzzing. The skeleton of a type of deep-sea sponge known as the Venus Flower Basket, or Euplectella, was shown to consist of thin silicon fibers, called spicules, that transmit light at least as well as commercial optical fibers.1 Unlike manmade optical fibers that will break if bent too far, the silicon spicules of the Venus Flower Basket can be tied in a knot without breaking. Marine biologists have known for decades that sponge skeletons transmit light, but until recently they hadn’t studied the light carrying properties of spicules. Even though practical applications could be decades away, this deep-sea discovery gives researchers new perspectives on how nature creates materials with nanoscale precision. There are many such discoveries. An enzyme, taken from bacteria that break down fats in cold water, has been used to improve laundry detergent. A glowing green protein from jellyfish has been widely used in medicine, helping researchers illuminate cancerous tumors and trace brain cells leading to Alzheimer’s disease—an accomplishment that garnered the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the researchers Osamu Shimomura, Martin Chalfie, and Roger Y. Tsien, who discovered and developed this technology. Each new discovery is a reminder of how little is known about the ocean environment, which is so critically important to health and life on Earth. To enable the full exploration of the oceans and seafloor and the sustainable development of their resources, the National Research Council report Exploration of the Seas: Voyage into the Unknown (2003) recommended that the United States vigorously pursue the establishment of a global ocean exploration program. Such an effort could be modeled after the federally funded space exploration program, involving multiple federal agencies as well as international participation. Ocean Exploration and Human Health At least 20,000 new biochemical substances from marine plants and animals have been identified during the past 30 years, many with unique properties useful in fighting disease. “Biodiscovery” researchers have had success in all types of ocean environments. A 1991 expedition by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Paul Jensen and William Fenical resulted in the discovery of a new marine bacterium, Salinispora tropica, found in the shallow waters off the Bahamas. This bacterium produces compounds that are being developed as anticancer agents and antibiotics. It is related to the land-based Streptomyces genus, the source of more than half of our current suite of antibiotics.3 Deep-water marine habitats constitute a relatively untapped resource for the discovery of drugs. In early 2000, Shirley Pomponi and Amy Wright from Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution explored deep waters a few miles off the shore of the Florida Keys. Using the robotic claws and high-powered vacuums of the Johnson Sea-Link submersibles, the team gathered a host of deep-water organisms. They met success with the discovery of a new genus of sponge, nicknamed the “Rasta” sponge, containing anticancer compounds.4 The promise and problems of developing novel marine chemicals into bioproducts, from pharmaceuticals to compounds used in agriculture, is examined in the National Research Council report Marine Biotechnology in the Twenty-First Century. The report recommends revitalizing the search for new products by making it a priority to explore unexamined habitats for new marine organisms. Ocean discoveries have answered critical questions about Earth’s processes and history. Since its inception in the late 1960s, the theory of plate tectonics—that heat from Earth’s interior drives the movement of plates on the surface—has revolutionized our understanding of the forces that shape Earth. This groundbreaking idea, which contributes fresh insights into disciplines ranging from earthquake science to mineral and gas exploration, could not have been developed without ocean exploration. As early as the 16th century, it was thought that the continents could once have been joined, suggested by the apparent fit of the facing shores of South America and Africa. In the early 20th century, German researcher Alfred Wegener published the hypothesis of “continental drift,” which posited that the continents had drifted apart from a single large land mass he called Pangaea. At the time, Wegener’s theory wasn’t generally accepted because there was no explanation for the forces required to drive the continents apart. The key to the puzzle lay on the seafloor at one of the ocean’s most distinctive features: a 65,000-kilometer-long (40,000 miles) underwater, volcanic mountain range that winds its way around the globe, known as the mid-ocean ridge. New seafloor mapping technologies available by the 1940s and 1950s brought many explorers to the ridge. In 1961, scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography studying the mid-ocean ridge off the U.S. northwest coast documented a distinctive pattern of magnetized rocks that resembled the stripes on a zebra. 5 In a landmark 1963 publication, scientists hypothesized that the striping resulted from shifts in Earth’s magnetic field during a period when hot magma erupted at the mid-ocean ridges and solidified to form new ocean floor.6 Other supporting evidence for this phenomenon, known as seafloor spreading, eventually developed into the theory of plate tectonics. MAPPING THE SEAFLOOR As early as the 16th century, navigators began measuring ocean depth with heavy ropes, called sounding lines, that were dropped over the side of the ship. By the 19th century, deep-sea line soundings (bathymetric surveys) were routinely conducted in the Atlantic and Caribbean. In 1913, the use of sound waves (echo soundings) to measure ocean depth was patented by German physicist Alexander Behm, who was originally searching for a method to detect icebergs following the Titanic disaster. With echo sounding, the time it takes for an outgoing pulse to go to the seafloor and back is measured and used to calculate distance based on the average speed of sound in water. The next breakthrough came with the introduction of sonar—“sound navigation and ranging”—first used in World War I. Multibeam sonar, developed by the U.S. Navy in the 1960s, uses an array of beams at varying angles, enabling much larger swaths of ocean floor to be mapped with much greater precision. A project in Tampa Bay generated continuous maps of that area from land out through the shoreline and beneath the water. The National Research Council report A Geospatial Framework for the Coastal Zone examines the requirements for generating such maps, which help show how natural and manmade forces interact and affect processes in complex coastal areas. All of the new mapping techniques have revolutionized our understanding of the topography of the ocean floor and helped to develop ideas about the fundamental processes responsible for creating seafloor terrains and modifying the oceanic crust. Ocean exploration continues to illuminate details about Earth processes. The Ridge Inter-Disciplinary Global Experiments (RIDGE) program, established in 1987 and supported largely by the National Science Foundation and other federal agencies, funded expeditions that served to broaden understanding of the global ridge system and the life it hosts. Since 2001, the new NSF-sponsored Ridge 2000 program (http://www. ridge2000.org) has conducted detailed integrated studies at three mid-ocean ridge sites in the eastern and western Pacific. Ocean discoveries have answered critical questions about life on earth. In 1977, the deep-sea submersible, Alvin, was sent to explore a part of the mid-ocean ridge north of the Galápagos Islands known as the Galápagos Rift. Alvin was following in the tracks of an unmanned vehicle, towed by the research vessel Knorr, that had detected unusually high bottom-water temperatures and had taken photographs of odd white objects among the underwater lava flows—tantalizing clues about curious, possibly biological features. The images researchers took from Alvin that day stunned The discovery in 1977 of a world of colorful tube worms, crabs, and fish living off the chemosynthetic bacteria at the hydrothermal vents surprised scientists everywhere. Photo used with permission from Richard Lutz, Rutgers University, Stephen Low Productions, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Vent organisms and DNA detection Microbes associated with hydrothermal vents have evolved enzymes that can withstand some of the harshest conditions on Earth. One such enzyme, Vent DNA polymerase, has been employed by researchers to improve the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a technique used to detect and identify trace amounts of genetic material. PCR involves many cycles of heating and cooling to separate and replicate the two strands of the DNA molecule. The heat-stable DNA polymerase from the vent microbes is a perfect fit for this revolutionary technology. This technique is widely used in biological research and in practical applications, such as DNA forensic analysis in criminal investigations, medical diagnostic procedures, biowarfare agent detection, and genetic studies of extinct species, for example, woolly mammoths. and amazed people everywhere. They revealed a rich oasis of life, teeming with never-before-seen varieties of shrimp, large clams, huge red tubeworms in white casings, and other creatures. These images attracted a flurry of attention from scientists. One of the most puzzling questions was how this assortment of creatures managed to thrive in the dark in the absence of photosynthetic algae—the base of the food web for all known ecosystems in the ocean and on land. It turned out that the ecosystem Alvin had visited, and other hydrothermal vent ecosystems like it, are supported by chemosynthetic bacteria that derive energy from compounds such as hydrogen sulfide and methane that are found in the waters emanating from the vents. At vents on the Pacific ridge system, chimneylike structures known as black smokers spew large amounts of hydrogen sulfide into the environment. Large clams and tubeworms soak up hydrogen sulfide to feed the chemosynthetic bacteria they harbor in their tissues, a symbiotic relationship so central to their biology that these animals don’t even have a mouth or a gut. More than 500 new species have been found at seafloor vents since their discovery—a rate of about one new species every 2 weeks for an entire human generation (~30 years). With much of the ocean ridge still unexplored, scientists expect that many new species await discovery. In 1991, Rachel Haymon, from the University of California, Santa Barbara; Dan Fornari, a scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI); and their colleagues working near the mid-ocean ridge in the eastern Pacific witnessed a new phenomenon— a “blizzard” of microbes and microbial debris spewing out of the seafloor7. The material rose more than 30 meters above the ocean bottom and formed a thick white layer on the seafloor. Since then, this phenomenon of rapid effusion of microbial material has been observed several times in the vicinity of undersea volcanic eruptions .Discovery of “Lost City” Reveals Vents of a Different Kind In 2000, a team of scientists led by Donna Blackman from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Deborah Kelley from the University of Washington, and Jeff Karson of Duke University (now at Syracuse), were exploring the Atlantic on a National Science Foundationsupported expedition on the research vessel Atlantis. About 2,300 miles east of Florida, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the team stumbled on an amazing sight: a hydrothermal vent field with mounds, spires and chimneys reaching18 stories high. Not only were these structures higher than the black-smoker vents discovered earlier, but they were very different in color, ranging from cream color to light gray. Kelley dubbed the find “The Lost City.” The Lost City vents were found to be made up of nearly 100 percent carbonate, the same material as limestone in caves. The fluids discharging at Lost City are very alkaline—the opposite of the acidic black smokers—and in some places as caustic as drain cleaner. The heat and chemicals at the vents come, in part, from the strong chemical reactions produced when seawater interacts with dark green rocks, called peridotites, which have been thrust up from deep beneath the seafloor. Lost City microbes live off methane and hydrogen instead of hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide that are the key energy sources for life at black-smoker vents. Kelley believes that many more Lost City-type systems may exist and study of these systems may be key to understanding the origin of life.8 These discoveries led to the hypothesis that a massive, deep biosphere may exist beneath the ocean floor and overlying marine sediments that rivals the combined biomass in the entire ocean above the seafloor—or even on the planet. These microbes might have evolved when the Earth was much hotter, potentially providing new insights into the origins of life on Earth, as well as the possibility of life on other planets. Studies of how these life forms relate to energy from the Earth’s mantle are being conducted within the NSF-sponsored RIDGE 2000 Program. Ocean exploration Answers questions about humanity’s past. In 1997, oceanographer Bob Ballard took an expedition to the Black Sea to search for the remains of ancient dwellings that might have been submerged there. Scholars agree that the Black Sea, once a freshwater lake, was flooded when rising sea levels, most likely from melting ice sheets, caused the Mediterranean to overflow. The flood was thought to have happened gradually about 9,000 years ago, but a 1997 report by marine geologists Walter Pitman and Bill Ryan at Lamont- Doherty Earth Observatory posited that the flood was sudden and took place about 7,150 years ago—a theory that could provide support for the biblical story of a great flood.9 Although the explorers found no evidence to indicate the loss of an ancient civilization, Ballard’s team did find shells and other materials. Carbon dating of these materials supported the theory that a freshwater lake was inundated about 7,000 years ago. Ballard’s team also made another serendipitous find: four ancient shipwrecks, one almost perfectly preserved because of low oxygen at the bottom of Black Sea. The expedition also saw the debut of the remotely operated vehicle Hercules, a 7-foot robot that can retrieve artifacts using high-tech pincers with pressure-regulated sensors that operate much like a human hand.10 Scientific exploration of the oceans can be traced back at least to Captain James Cook’s three Pacific Ocean expeditions between 1768 and 1779, although expeditions by Chinese explorers starting with the Ming Dynasty in 1405 had already provided many navigational clues for later expeditions.12 By the time Cook died, he had mapped much of the Pacific’s shoreline from Antarctica to the Arctic. Cook’s explorations set the stage for Darwin and his voyage on the Beagle (1831- 1836), which laid the groundwork for Darwin’s development of the theory of evolution. The influence of the discoveries associated with these early expeditions is impossible to overestimate in terms of both science and culture. The first ocean expedition undertaken purely for the sake of ocean science was the voyage of the HMS Challenger (1872-1876), which set out to investigate “everything about the sea.” With support from the British Admiralty and the Royal Society, crew members made systematic measurements every 200 miles around the globe, traversing each ocean except the Arctic. Ocean depth was measured by lowering a sounding rope over the side; specimens were collected with nets and dredges. The results were staggering, filling 50 volumes and resulting in the identification of 4,417 new species. The Challenger also discovered that the ocean was not—as had been assumed at the time— deepest in the middle, giving the first hint of the existence of a global mid-ocean ridge system. The Challenger expedition also confirmed that life existed in the deepest parts of the ocean. Exploration continues to evolve as a systematic endeavor. A recent example is the Census of Marine Life (CoML at http:// www.coml.org)—a concerted 10-year effort involving thousands of scientists from more than 80 nations who are cataloging the diversity, distribution, and abundance of marine life in the world’s oceans. Findings are collected in the Census database and will be issued in a final report in 2010. The Census has uncovered hundreds of previously unknown species— including 150 species of fish—and many new phenomena, such as a school of 20 million fish, roughly the size of Manhattan, swarming just off the coast of New Jersey. The Census is intended to help identify rare species and important breeding areas to aid in the pursuit of sustainable management of marine resources, among other goals. Currently, a substantial portion of the limited resources for ocean research is spent revisiting established study sites to verify hypotheses and confirm earlier findings. For example, researchers return to hydrothermal vent sites due to their unique environmental conditions, biological diversity, and intriguing research questions. However, it is harder to secure funding to visit places yet unexplored—missions considered high-risk in terms of return on investment. Given the continued support for and successes of oceanographic research in the United States, a new program to fund exploration, as recommended in Exploration of the Seas: Voyage into the Unknown, could provide the resources needed to systematically survey the vast unknown regions of the ocean.
Detrick, McNutt, & Shubel, 2013 (Robert, Assistant Administrator for NOAA Research, Marcia, Editor-in-Chief of Science Magazine, Jerry, President and CEO of the Aquarium of the Pacific, The Report of Ocean Exploration 2020: A National Forum, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/oceanexploration2020/oe2020_report.pdf)
There was a strong consensus—near unanimity—that in 2020 and beyond, most ocean exploration expeditions and programs will be partnerships—public and private, national and international. NOAA has been assigned a leadership role in developing and sustaining a national program of ocean exploration under the Ocean Exploration Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-11). The act mandated that NOAA undertake this responsibility in collaboration with other federal agencies. Ocean Exploration 2020 invitees felt that federal and academic programs should be more assertive in seeking partnerships with ocean industries. It was, however, acknowledged that the necessity of sharing data might pose a challenge for some industry partners as well as federal agencies with restricted missions, like the Navy’s Office of Naval Research. There was a strong feeling that the community of ocean explorers needs to be more inclusive and more nimble, two sometimes conflicting qualities. Nimbleness will require more non-governmental sources of support and a small, dedicated, dynamic decision-making group that represents the interests of the ocean exploration community and that commands their trust. A coherent, comprehensive national program of ocean exploration requires sustained core support at some predictable level from the federal government and demonstrated coordination among the federal agencies involved in ocean exploration, in order to leverage involvement of business, industry, foundations, and NGOs. Timely and effective communication among partners is necessary to build and sustain the expanded community of ocean explorers. PLAT PLAT F OR MS In 2020, a greater number of ships, submersibles, and other platforms are dedicated to ocean exploration. Ocean exploration priorities will frequently dictate the types of platforms needed for a national program of ocean exploration. Since mission priorities change, the mix of platforms needs to include a wide variety of capabilities as well as provide flexibility and nimbleness. The great majority of Ocean Exploration 2020 participants felt that the current suite of available platforms is not sufficient to sustain an evolving national program. There was a strong consensus that a more diverse and dynamic mix of platforms is needed that includes: • Dedicated ships of exploration • Ships of opportunity • A variety of submersibles—AUVs, ROVs, and HOVs—with a range of depth capabilities that include full ocean depth • Small, inexpensive ROVs that put ocean exploration in the hands of citizen scientists • Instrumented marine animals • Stationary observing networks and sensors The value of having one or more dedicated federal ships of ocean exploration was endorsed. In addition to platforms that move through the water in three dimensions, there was strong support for seafloor observatories that document changes in the fourth dimension—time. A fully mature national program of ocean exploration must have both components. In addition to greater investments in ships, better coordination among ships of exploration and other exploration assets is essential to ensure a maximum science payoff per dollar invested. In 2020, platforms will be equipped with better, more sensitive, more robust sensors that are capable of measuring priority ocean properties. CHNOLOG HNOLOG Y DEVELOP ELOP MENT B y 2020, private sector investments in exploration technology development, specifically for the dedicated national program of exploration, exceed the federal investment, but federal partners play a key role in testing and refining new technologies. Forum participants agreed that a top priority for a national ocean exploration program of distinction is the development of mechanisms to fund emerging and creatively disruptive technologies to enhance and expand exploration capabilities. In addition to significant federal government investment in ocean exploration technology over time—whether by the U.S. Navy, NASA, NOAA, or other civilian agencies involved in ocean exploration—many felt strongly that to shorten the time from development to unrestricted adoption, more of the required investment would come from the private sector. These emerging technologies will likely include the next generations of ships; remotely operated vehicles; autonomous underwater vehicles; telepresence capabilities; and new sensors. Most participants felt that continuing to develop human occupied vehicles should be a much lower priority for a national program than focusing on autonomous vehicles, sensors, observatories, and communications systems. Participants also felt that federal partners in the national program of exploration should play a key role in testing and refining these technologies as well as working to adapt existing and proven technologies for exploration. Overall, some of the most important technologies to cultivate are those that collect physical and chemical oceanographic data, biological data, and seafloor mapping data. CITIZEN SCIEN CE In 2020, citizen scientists/citizen explorers play an increasingly important role in ocean exploration. Expanding opportunities for citizens to be involved in all phases of ocean exploration will engage and energize them in efforts to support ocean exploration. Combining “citizen science,” or scientific research conducted by non-professional scientists, with the work being conducted by the professional ocean exploration community, has the potential to expand the resources available. There was a consensus among Forum participants that citizen explorers will play an increasing role in ocean exploration by 2020. These citizen explorers may follow and contribute to national expeditions online, or analyze data from past expeditions and submit their work to relevant national and international data bases. They also may use their own tools, such as small, inexpensive remotely operated vehicles equipped with cameras or measuring devices to collect data that are then quality controlled and included the same national and international databases. Opportunities for citizen explorers to participate in shipboard experiences should also be expanded. There are excellent models for engaging citizens in large scientific projects such as Citizen Science Alliance’s Zooniverse and the USGS National Map Corps. A national program of ocean exploration could provide similar opportunities for citizen participation in classifying oceanographic features or biota. Appropriate data assurance and quality control mechanisms are required for data collected by citizen scientists/explorers to be incorporated into existing relevant data repositories. Forum participants overwhelmingly agreed that with these mechanisms, crowdsourced data should be eligible for inclusion in national and international data sets. With proper protocols, citizen explorers can play an important role in advancing the objective of a broad-based, national program of ocean exploration. Forum participants felt strongly that a national ocean exploration program should establish mechanisms that not only allow, but encourage, meaningful participation of citizen explorers in a variety of ways. DATAATAATA SHAR ING In 2020, all data obtained through publicly funded, dedicated civilian ocean exploration projects are available quickly and widely at little or no additional cost to the user. Ocean exploration missions will typically collect very large amounts of data. It is through the transformation of these data into information that the full value of exploration is realized. The more people who have access to the data, the richer the opportunities are for interpretation and transformation into information that is useful to a wider variety of stakeholders from scientists to educators to policymakers. There was a strong consensus among Ocean Exploration 2020 participants that all data, including images and access to samples, resulting from publicly supported, dedicated civilian exploration expeditions should be made widely available at little or no additional cost in real time or as soon as appropriate quality assurances have been completed. Participants noted that this requirement should be a condition of a grantee’s acceptance of public funding and that any funds necessary to meet this requirement should be included in an expedition’s budget. Ocean exploration data should reside within established data repositories and their existence should be made widely known. Participants agreed that maps of the seafloor, oceanographic and biological observations, video and still images, and chemical and geochemical data were among the most important ocean data sets to share with the extended exploration community. There was also agreement that leaders of a national program should have a responsibility to synthesize data collected for ocean exploration and other purposes to identify gaps and help refine priorities. PUBL IC ENGAGE ENGAGEENGAGE MENT In 2020, ocean explorers are part of a coordinated communication network and have the tools they need to engage the public. The public clearly has a stake in federally funded ocean exploration, and their support is required to create a sustained, successful, and comprehensive national program of ocean exploration. Forum participants felt that we are falling short of effectively engaging the broader public in the excitement and importance of ocean exploration and that this needs to change. Participants were in strong agreement that we must enhance and expand existing efforts and find new ways to communicate with the public about ocean exploration. We must provide better interaction with scientists during expeditions, especially by taking telepresence beyond passive viewing and into active participation. Ocean Exploration 2020 participants agreed that we need a shared strategy to communicate effectively and engage with the public about ocean exploration. Many ocean exploration scientists need more experience and better resources, tools, and partnerships to implement this communication strategy and to build public support for the national program. Partnerships of ocean explorers with professional science communicators and with informal science institutions, including aquariums—which specialize in this domain—have the potential to expand the size of the audience and to broaden it to include a larger cross section of society. Concludi ng Remarks These characteristics of a national program of ocean exploration imply a network of universities, nongovernmental organizations, the private sector, and government agencies working together in pursuit of shared goals. Federal—and in particular, NOAA—leadership is essential to help design and maintain what might be called an “architecture for collaboration” that convenes national and international ocean exploration stakeholders regularly to review and set priorities, to match potential expedition partners, to facilitate sharing of assets, and to help test and evaluate new technologies. The program should facilitate the review and analysis of new and historical data and the synthesis and transformation of data into a variety of informational products. In this leadership role, NOAA would promote public engagement, and guide and strengthen the national ocean exploration enterprise.