EXPRESS: Expanding Pacific Research and Exploration of Submerged Systems - Interagency Collaborative Efforts Explore Deep Ocean Areas

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As state and national interest in offshore renewable energy development and substantial commercial and recreational fishing activities grows, managing offshore habitats becomes increasingly challenging. In response, USGS and BOEM have joined NOAA and several non-Federal partners to initiate EXpanding Pacific Research and Exploration of Submerged Systems (EXPRESS), a multiyear campaign.

This article is part of the Sound Waves Special Issue on Deep-Sea Research.

Map of a coastal area showing where data has been collected offshore.

The west coast of the United States showing locations of EXPRESS ship-based multibeam surveys, ROV dives, AUV dives, and sediment samples.

(Illustration by USGS. Public domain.)

As state and national interest in offshore renewable energy development and substantial commercial and recreational fishing activities grows, managing offshore habitats becomes increasingly challenging. In response, USGS and BOEM have joined NOAA and several non-Federal partners to initiate EXpanding Pacific Research and Exploration of Submerged Systems (EXPRESS), a multiyear collaborative campaign to inform offshore activities and natural resource management decisions and improve knowledge of submarine geohazards to human health, safety, and infrastructure off the West Coast of the United States.

The EXPRESS campaign, which began in 2018, targets deep-water areas off of California, Oregon, and Washington, and collects information that will help

  1. guide wise use of living marine resources and habitats;
  2. inform potential offshore energy and mineral resource decisions; and
  3. improve offshore earthquake, landslide, tsunami, and nautical hazard assessments. 

In just two years, EXPRESS has helped coordinate 24 cruises, including a 29-day expedition aboard the NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker in fall 2019, to support multiple Federal, private, and other stakeholder information needs. From those cruises, over 25,000 additional square kilometers of seafloor have been mapped with modern multibeam sonar; 110 ROV and 70 AUV dives have been conducted; dozens of conductivity, temperature, and depth (CTD) casts have been used to collect water samples and environmental data; and hundreds of specimens have been collected, resulting in numerous data products and countless additional research questions. The campaign’s demonstrable achievements are due in part to a self-organized team composed of scientists and marine resource managers spanning numerous disciplines, as well as a willingness of multiple agencies to cost share otherwise expensive deep-water expeditions. 

Although individual EXPRESS expeditions may collect a diverse suite of data and information, the core focus of all campaign activities is the collection of spatially explicit deep-water habitat information including multibeam, backscatter, water column, and photographic and video data on continental shelf, shelf edge, and slope habitats. The data and information collected by EXPRESS expeditions will be used to inform important issues related to marine spatial planning, ecosystem assessments, geohazards, and offshore oil, gas, and renewable energy infrastructure and development.

The EXPRESS campaign is also designed to leverage this new collaboration between researchers and natural-resource management stakeholders through a combination of science, outreach, and data-management objectives by identifying common geographic priorities and data needs and aligning previously disparate field programs to address mutual priorities. By capitalizing on the complementary capabilities of Federal assets to produce integrated datasets, EXPRESS is helping to provide a foundation of publicly accessible data and information products to spur further exploration, research, and management activities in support of the recent Presidential memorandum mandating the development of a  National Strategy for Ocean Mapping, Exploring, and Characterizing the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), as well as engage a broad spectrum of the scientific community and public in interagency activities.

Learn more about EXPRESS.

EXPRESS Partnerships Expand Capabilities

Demonstrating an unprecedented level of government cooperation, USGS, BOEM, eight different NOAA offices, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, and the Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration contributed financial or scientific expertise to an EXPRESS expedition in fall 2019.

From October 7 to November 7, 2019, a team of scientists from USGS, BOEM, and NOAA embarked on a 29-day expedition aboard the NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker to explore deep-water sites along the California, Oregon, and Washington coasts, including sites within three National Marine Sanctuaries. Researchers relied on underwater robots like remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), environmental DNA (eDNA) analysis, and other advanced technologies to explore and characterize deep-sea habitats.  In addition, with the support of NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research and the nonprofit Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration, a fly-away telepresence system was used to engage scientists and the public remotely. The expedition returned to sites identified by previous EXPRESS missions and significantly expanded our knowledge of deep-water areas off the U.S. west coast.

Learn more about this expedition.

 

Illustrative map of the deep ocean off a coastal area showing depth of the water with lines and dots where data was collected.

High-resolution bathymetric data of southern Cascadia showing the BOEM Northern California Call Area for offshore wind energy, USGS/BOEM sediment coring sites, USGS geophysical survey tracks, and NOAA Lasker ROV dive sites.

(Illustration by USGS. Public domain.)

Underwater photo of a rocky outcrop with fish.

Image of the seafloor south of Santa Cruz Island, CA, taken during an EXPRESS cruise by Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration’s (GFOE’s) remotely operated vehicles (ROV) Yogi.

(Credit: Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration. Public domain.)

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Date published: June 23, 2020
Status: Active

EXPRESS: Expanding Pacific Research and Exploration of Submerged Systems

EXPRESS is a multi-year, multi-institution cooperative research campaign in deep sea areas of California, Oregon, and Washington, including the continental shelf and slope. EXPRESS data and information are intended to guide wise use of living marine resources and habitats, inform ocean energy and mineral resource decisions, and improve offshore hazard assessments.

Read the June 11, 2020...