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NOAA’s National Undersea Research Program
is now part of
NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration and Research



Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER) created through merger of Ocean Exploration (OE) and National Undersea Research Program (NURP)

NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration (OE) and the National Undersea Research Program (NURP) officially merged on October 1, of 2007, forming the Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER) within NOAA's Office of Ocean and Atmospheric Research (OAR). The mission of OER is to support NOAA and national objectives by exploring the Earth's largely unknown oceans for the purpose of discovery and the advancement of knowledge, using state-of-the-art technologies in evolutionary and revolutionary ways.


Public Law 111-11 authorizes OER and the NURP program

Public Law 111-11, signed by President Obama on March 30, 2009, authorizes both the Ocean Exploration and National Undersea Research Programs. The two programs are administered by the Director of OER.

Activities under Title XII, Subtitle A, Part 1: Exploration, include:

(1) Conduct interdisciplinary voyages or other scientific activities in conjunction with other Federal agencies or academic or educational institutions, to explore and survey little known areas of the marine environment, inventory, observe, and assess living and nonliving marine resources, and report such findings;

(2) Give priority attention to deep ocean regions, with a focus on deep water marine systems that hold potential for important scientific discoveries, such as hydrothermal vent communities and seamounts;

(3) Conduct scientific voyages to locate, define, and document historic shipwrecks, submerged sites, and other ocean exploration activities that combine archaeology and oceanographic sciences;

(4) Develop and implement, in consultation with the National Science Foundation, a transparent, competitive process for merit-based peer-review and approval of proposals for activities to be conducted under this program, taking into consideration advice of the Board established under section 12005 of P.L 111-11;

(5) Enhance the technical capability of the United States marine science community by promoting the development of improved oceanographic research, communication, navigation, and data collection systems, as well as underwater platforms and sensor and autonomous vehicles; and

(6) Establish an ocean exploration forum to encourage partnerships and promote communication among experts and other stakeholders in order to enhance the scientific and technical expertise and relevance of the national program. 

Activities to be conducted under Title XII, Subtitle A, Part II: NOAA Undersea Research Program Act of 2009 include:

(1) Core research and exploration based on national and regional undersea research priorities;

(2) Advanced undersea technology development to support the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's research mission and programs;

(3) Undersea science-based education and outreach programs to enrich ocean science education and public awareness of the oceans and Great Lakes;

(4) Development, testing, and transition of advanced undersea technology associated with ocean observatories, submersibles, advanced diving technologies, remotely operated vehicles, autonomous underwater vehicles, and new sampling and sensing technologies;

(5) Discovery, study, and development of natural resources and products from ocean, coastal, and aquatic systems. 

PL111-11 also authorizes funding levels and establishes guidance for development of program direction and competition. The authorization confirms the synergy between the Exploration and Undersea Research aspects of the OER program and provides the basis for a strong combined program.  OER is in the process of implementing all aspects of Subtitle A. 


Announcing The Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research and Technology (CIOERT): NOAA’s Newest Cooperative Institute

NOAA announced the award of a new cooperative institute to focus on ocean exploration, research, and technology development for the U.S. East Coast. The Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research and Technology (CIOERT), is a consortium led by and headquartered at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University in Fort Pierce, Fla. The University of North Carolina Wilmington is the co-managing partner and limited partners are SRI International in St. Petersburg, Fla., and the University of Miami. The Cooperative Institute is unique within NOAA in that it will work primarily with a NOAA program, OER, versus a laboratory.  CIOERT will serve as an arm of the OER program by addressing OER priorities within the research themes of:

(1) Develop advanced underwater technologies. The CI will expand the scope and efficiency of exploration and research by developing, testing, and applying new and/or innovative uses of existing technologies to ocean exploration and research activities.

(2) Explore and research the frontier regions of the eastern U.S. Continental Shelf and beyond. The CI will focus on the exploration and research of ecosystems and habitats of economic, hazardous, scientific or cultural importance within and beyond the eastern U.S. Continental Shelf as defined by OER.

(3) Vulnerable Deep and Shallow Coral Ecosystems. Priority activities will include supporting ocean exploration and research using advanced underwater technologies and techniques to improve the understanding of coral and sponge ecosystems.


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Updated: July 22, 2009