Deep-sea Studies involving University of Hawaii Scientists Sponsored by UN Decade of Ocean Science

The United Nations (UN) Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (Ocean Decade) program has supported two research initiatives involving the University of Hawai’i at Manoa scientists. Bruce Howe and Justin Stopa are working on projects focusing on the deep sea, a dynamic and little-understood domain that is a large repository for biodiversity, a crucial climate regulator, and a rich supply of petroleum, mineral, and genetic resources. 

The United Nations declared the Ocean Decade to support efforts to reverse the cycle of declining ocean health and bring ocean stakeholders from all over the world together behind a common framework that ensures ocean science can fully support countries in improving conditions for long-term ocean development. 

One of the endorsed projects is the Joint Task Force for Science Monitoring and Reliable Telecommunications (SMART) subsea cables, which is chaired by Howe, a research professor of ocean and resources engineering at the University of Hawaii at Mnoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST). Environmental sensors are being integrated into commercial telecommunications cables that crisscross the globe on the seafloor, thanks to the joint task force. The project’s purpose is to link a global network of sensors that track the deep ocean environment, ocean climate, and sea-level rise. 

The SMART subsea cables task force brings together ocean science, operational oceanography, hazard early warning centers, industry, and relevant government organizations to coordinate the program. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech is funding it. Portugal is now implementing the first large SMART project, with others in various phases of development. 

A new National Science Foundation-funded initiative to execute a Deep Ocean Observing Strategy was also endorsed through the UN Ocean Decade, with Howe and Stopa contributing as co-investigators; the project is managed by the University of Texas at Austin. 

The endorsed actions were chosen for their focus on solutions and ability to accelerate the generation and uptake of ocean knowledge for sustainable development, as well as their use of innovative technology, transdisciplinary efforts to co-design solutions between scientists and users of ocean knowledge, and respect for inclusivity, including the empowerment of women, early-career professionals, and indigenous knowledge holders.