The Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER) represents a new vision and mission that will provide NOAA and the Nation with sound scientific information that accurately characterizes newly discovered ocean habitats and phenomena, and will ensure broad distribution of this information to decision-makers, scientists, educators, and the general public. The vision is to "make the unknown ocean known," and to inspire in others an interest and desire to understand more.
OER enables discovery through interdisciplinary efforts of teams of ocean scientists. OER and other agencies and programs with ocean-related missions then exploit these discoveries through focused research. Throughout these endeavors, OER increases the pace and efficiency of effort via support of the development and utilization of state-of-the-art ocean technology.
OER seeks advancement based on the founding principle of "discovery in support of future support of future NOAA ocean-related programs." Discovery of new habitats, new species, and new ocean processes facilitates both the evolution of existing NOAA ocean and Great Lakes research programs, as well as the creation of new NOAA research programs. This promises to reveal future NOAA missions and priorities.
NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) conducts and supports research, monitoring, assessments, and technical assistance to meet NOAA's coastal stewardship and management responsibilities. NCCOS was formed within the National Ocean Service (NOS) in March 1999 as the focal point for coastal ocean science. Each of its five centers has specific capabilities and research expertise in coastal and ocean issues. Three of the centers have on-site research facilities, while two centers conduct research through analyses of field data or sponsored extramural research.
The Beaufort Laboratory provides scientific information to coastal managers useful in their roles as coastal stewards and decision makers. NOAA managed marine sanctuaries and estuarine reserves, as well as estuaries and coastal waters, are areas of special emphasis. Fisheries research, conducted by the NMFS component, emphasizes development of stock assessments for commercially important species in the South Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
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Vessels are certainly the most critical element in any oceangoing venture. Once it leaves the safety of its dock, a ship is an island unto itself on the open seas. Its crew is at the mercy of the waves. Any ship, be it a 15-ft sailboat, 150-ft fishing vessel, or a 1500-ft tanker, must, at a minimum, carry all of the food, water, fuel, and equipment that its crew will need to live and work in safety for the duration of the journey.
All of the NOAA ships, from the 70-ft research vessel (R/V) Cape Fear, to the 274-ft NOAA ship Ronald H. Brown, are much more than floating vessels. They are highly advanced mobile research stations capable of transporting scientists, mariners and their equipment with some degree of safety and comfort, over the high seas. These ships provide stable platforms from which explorers can deploy equipment, divers, and submersibles. In addition, they carry state-of- the-art electronics, computers, and navigational and communications systems to analyze the data they gather, and provide the crew with up-to-the-minute information about the ever-changing ocean environments.
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NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
The Nancy Foster was originally built as a Navy yard torpedo test (YTT) craft. In 2001, the Navy transferred the vessel to NOAA, who outfitted the ship to conduct coastal research along the U.S. Atlantic/Gulf coasts, and the Caribbean. Nancy Foster is named for Dr. Nancy Foster, in tribute to her outstanding contributions in advancing NOAA's mission through her leadership within the National Marine Fisheries Service and National Ocean Service from 1986 until 2000.
Nancy Foster supports applied research for the NOAA National Ocean Service's Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, the NOAA Oceanic and Atmospheric Research's Office of Ocean Exploration, and the National Sea Grant College Program. Operations include the characterization of various habitats in NOAA's National Marine Sanctuaries, pollution assessments, and studies to improve understanding of the connection between marine habitats and estuaries. Nancy Foster's mission supports scientific data collection through bottom fish trawling, sediment sampling, side-scan sonar and multi-beam surveying, sub-bottom profiling, core sampling, diving with air and NITROX, ROV operations, and servicing oceanographic/atmospheric surface and subsurface buoys. The vessel employs state of the art navigation and propulsion systems resulting in high quality and efficient data collection.
NOAA Commissioned Corps Officers are an integral part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Officers can be found operating one of NOAA's 19 ships or 12 aircraft to provide support to meet NOAA's missions. Duties and areas of operations can range from launching a weather balloon at the South Pole, conducting hydrographic or fishery surveys in Alaska, maintaining buoys in the tropical Pacific, flying snow surveys and into hurricanes.
The NOAA Commissioned Officer uniformed services consist of approximately 299 commissioned officers. The NOAA Corps traces its roots back to the former U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, which dates back to 1807 and President Thomas Jefferson. The NOAA Corps today provides a cadre of professionals trained in engineering, earth science, oceanography, meteorology, fisheries science, and other related disciplines. Officers operate ships, fly aircraft, manage research projects, conduct diving operations, and serve in staff positions throughout NOAA.