July 9, 2021
NSF Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE) Award 2114593
Beth Orcutt (Principal Investigator)
Andrew Fisher (Co-Principal Investigator)
Charles Wheat (Co-Principal Investigator)
Julie Huber (Co-Principal Investigator)
Randi Rotjan (Co-Principal Investigator)
The deep seafloor covers two-thirds of Earth’s surface area, but there is limited understanding of the deep-ocean ecosystems and resources and the ability of these ecosystems to withstand human impacts. Human uses such as deep-sea mining and carbon sequestration are poised to fundamentally alter physical, chemical, and biological conditions of the seafloor and surrounding environments. These activities have the potential to rival negative effects from bottom fishing and other human impacts to the deep sea, yet the science to inform and evaluate the impacts of these new industries is lacking. The Crustal Ocean Biosphere Research Accelerator (COBRA) project connects diverse stakeholders and experts – interdisciplinary academic and government scientists, private institutions, policy makers, industry experts and other stakeholders – through virtual meetings to coordinate efforts. The goal is to generate new knowledge and inform decision-making relating to emergent industrial uses of the deep ocean and decrease the likelihood of serious harm to the environment while maintaining the broad benefits that society currently enjoys.
The COBRA network of networks has nine key partners that bring access to international science and crustal ocean exploration assets (Ocean Exploration Trust, Schmidt Ocean Institute, Ocean Networks Canada, Cluster Ocean Floor at MARUM, and C-DeepSea), to experts that provide science-based recommendations to policy makers (Deep Ocean Stewardship Initiative working groups, including the Challenger 150 program), to governmental groups responsible for assessing crustal ocean resources (USGS Global Marine Minerals Group), and to experts in team science (CREDITS program). COBRA unites these partners in a common mission to accelerate research on the structure, function, resilience, and ecosystem services of the crustal ocean biosphere to inform decision making. COBRA will help to close knowledge gaps by facilitating dedicated and coordinated expedition and observatory efforts combined with emergent characterization approaches. In parallel, COBRA will train at least 50 globally distributed early-career researchers in ocean exploration, science, and policy through innovative virtual expedition leadership training and support two dozen international research exchanges that promote team science collaboration, diversity, equity, and inclusivity. COBRA will also establish a web-based search portal that points to all data types deposited in appropriate internationally accessible data repositories to promote data discovery and accelerate knowledge transfer and collaboration.