EXPRESS: Expanding Pacific Research and Exploration of Submerged Systems



EXPRESS will improve assessments of marine geohazards including earthquakes, landslides, and tsunamis.

Hazards study



EXPRESS will map and characterize sensitive deep-sea habitats to help guide ocean management decisions.

Ecosystems study



EXPRESS's resource assessment contributions will inform ocean energy and mineral resource decisions.

Resources study

Science Center Objects

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.

Illustration of a coastal area with lines, dots, and boxes drawn on it to show where data was collected.

The west coast of the United States showing locations of EXPRESS ship-based multibeam surveys, ROV dives, AUV dives, and sediment samples. Red boxes show locations of close-up views of multibeam bathymetry in Figures 2 and 3 below.

Read the June 11, 2020 News Release from The White House, “Ocean Policy Committee Delivers on Strategies and Recommendations to Advance Ocean Exploration.”

In response to Section 2 of the Presidential Memorandum (PM) on Ocean Mapping of November 19, 2019, the National Strategy for mapping, exploring, and characterizing the United States Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) has been established. EXPRESS (Expanding Pacific Research and Exploration of Submerged Systems) activities focus on the Pacific EEZ. In particular, the unique partnership of EXPRESS allows federal and non-federal entities to collaborate in identified priority areas. These are directly aligned to the National Strategy outlined by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Council on Environmental Quality.

EXPRESS partners include NOAA, BOEM, USGS, MBARI, and USC Sea Grant.


  • Extend bathymetry and backscatter coverage to high priority areas
  • Create a seamless map with benthic habitat classifications for targeted regions
  • Locate and characterize deep sea coral, sponge, and chemosynthetic communities, including associated fish populations
  • Identify underwater geological hazards and evaluate their potential for generating tsunamis
  • Investigate deep-sea minerals of potential industry interest
  • Use the complementary capabilities of federal assets to produce integrated datasets
  • Provide a foundation of publicly accessible data and information to spur further exploration, research, and management
  • Engage a broad cross-section of the scientific community and the public


Illustration of the seafloor that shows depth, and where data was collected.

Figure 2. Colored, shaded-relief bathymetry of Trinidad Submarine Canyon northwest of Humboldt Bay in northern California. Area is in the vicinity of a potential offshore renewable energy development.

Illustration of the seafloor off a coastal area, with lines and dots to show where data was collected.

Figure 3. Colored, shaded-relief bathymetry offshore central California. Data supported management of National Marine Sanctuaries and prospective renewable energy decisions. Black ovals are locations of AUV-based multibeam surveys. Close-up views of two AUV surveys are shown in Figures 4 and 5.


Illustration of the seafloor showing depth and locations of surveys.

Figure 4. Colored shaded-relief bathymetry including submarine channels and pockmarks offshore Morro Bay, California. Map generated from AUV-based multibeam bathymetry data collected by MBARI both prior to and as a part of EXPRESS.

Illustration of the seafloor showing depth and locations of surveys.

Figure 5. Colored shaded-relief bathymetry including pockmarks offshore Morro Bay, California. Map generated from AUV-based multibeam bathymetry data collected by MBARI.



EXPRESS partners have completed several research cruises using ships from NOAA, university, and non-profit oceanographic research institutions. More cruises are planned and under discussion. Every participating organization has contributed resources including ships, instruments, and personnel.

A bar graph shows days at sea by agency and purpose for federal government fiscal years 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

EXPRESS Days-At-Sea by Agency and Purpose. This graph shows 326 days at sea across 9 vessels​:

  • > 110 ROV and 70 AUV dives​
  • 79 piston cores​
  • Actively participating organizations: ​NOAA (16); BOEM (2); USGS (2)​; MBARI
View of ship from the side, floating in the water, painted white, satellite orbs on top, and 3 small boats hanging on side.

The NOAA ship Rainier completed several EXPRESS research cruises offshore of California and Oregon in 2017 and 2018. Credit: NOAA


An offshore map shows locations of ROV dives and a star where a sediment core was collected, with photos of the core.

The figure shows the location of remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Doc Ricketts dives conducted in September 2020, plus three images of the CT scan data from one of the collected cores. In the CT scan of the upper 80 cm of the core "DR1281 VC-870," with a zoomed in section to the right outlined in red, sections of lighter colors indicate sandy sediment and suggest horizons associated with 4 turbidites.  In the lower right is a perpendicular slice through a horizon (marked in orange) showing coarse grains that are characteristic of turbidites. Previously published work identified a sand layer in a core at this same site and subbottom depth, which was determined to be associated with the January 1700 Cascadia mega-earthquake and subsequent tsunami.


Completed Research Cruises

Date Location Ship Organizations
October 2017 Morro Bay, California Rainier NOAA
October-November 2017 Channel Islands, California Rainier NOAA
April 2018 Morro Bay, California Rachel Carson MBARI
July-August 2018 Cordell Bank NMS and Farallones NMS, California Shimada NOAA
August 2018 Cascadia Margin, Oregon and California Rainier USGS
September 2018 Morro Bay, California Rainier BOEM
October 2018 California and Oregon Shimada USGS
June 2019 Cascadia Margin, Oregon and California; more info:
Observing Seafloor Methane Seeps at the Edge of Hydrate Stability
Falkor USGS
August 2019 California and Oregon Fairweather USGS
September 2019 California Bold Horizon USGS
September 2019 California Fairweather NOAA
October 2019 California Bold Horizon USGS
October-November 2019 Washington, Oregon, and California; more info:
Research Cruise to Survey Deep-Sea Corals, Sponges,
and Fish Habitat Along the West Coast
” and
Surveying Deep-sea Corals, Sponges, and Fish Habitat Off the U.S. West Coast
Reuben Lasker NOAA
September 2020 Southern Cascadia Margin, Northern California and Southern Oregon Western Flyer MBARI


A woman stands near a table with some deep-water coral samples.

EXPRESS Expedition Team hosts NOAA, USGS, and BOEM leadership on October 21, 2019, in San Francisco

NOAA, BOEM, and USGS are the primary EXPRESS partners. Other partners include MBARI and USC Sea Grant.

Federal Partners

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • National Ocean Service (NOS) – Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, Office of Coast Survey
  • NOAA Fisheries (NMFS) – Southwest Fisheries Science Center, Northwest Fisheries Science Center, Deep Sea Coral Research and Technology Program
  • Ocean and Atmospheric Research (OAR) – Office of Ocean Exploration and Research
  • National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) – National Centers for Environmental Information
  • Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO)

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM):

  • Pacific Region
  • Environmental Studies Program

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

  • Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center (PCMSC)
  • Wetland and Aquatic Research Center (WARC)
A group of men and women stand and kneel in front of a wall filled with a collection of maps and photos, everyone is smiling.

EXPRESS workshop participants, November 29-30, 2018, in Santa Cruz, California

Non-Federal Partners

Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI)

Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration (GFOE)

University of Southern California Sea Grant (USC Sea Grant)

Planning Workshop, November 29-30, 2018

Core EXPRESS participants held a planning workshop at the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center in Santa Cruz, California. Attendees discussed objectives, refined priorities for future work, and reviewed accomplishments to date.

Virtual Workshop to Identify National Ocean Exploration Priorities in the Pacific, July-September 2020

In partnership with NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER), the Consortium for Ocean Leadership organized the Workshop to Identify National Ocean Exploration Priorities in the Pacific. This workshop was hosted virtually. A virtual opening plenary was held on July 10, 2020. A series of virtual breakout sessions were held in July and August 2020, and a virtual closing plenary was held on September 21 and 22, 2020.

Woman stands in front of a large projection screen pointing to part of the image displayed there.

USGS research geologist Jenna Hill proposed new geophysical surveys at the EXPRESS workshop, November 2018, Santa Cruz, California