Nekton: The New Marine Science
Updated: Aug 3, 2019
Last week, Ollie Steeds hosted a launch event for the Nekton Oxford Deep Ocean Research Institute and their next mission to explore the Twilight Zone of the Indian Ocean off the Seychelles. The Twilight Zone is a region of the ocean from about 500 meters to 3000 meters. The light is dim, and the abundance of life down there is startling in its complexity and beauty, and it is rarely studied.
Ollie is a journalist, famous for a Discovery Channel show he hosted for many years.
His marine science institute has no ships, or subs, or permanent marine science laboratory. His marine scientists have full time jobs teaching at Oxford and work on Nekton missions when they are funded. Maybe Ollie wishes he had a laboratory, big ships, subs, and permanent staff like other marine science institutes and institutions. But what he's invented by necessity is a completely modern, Gig Economy, approach to marine science.
Without the burden of owning capital equipment, and sinking years into their maintenance, his missions can rent and utilize the latest technologies. Without a fixed base of operations, his missions can explore the most distant regions of the ocean that few have surveyed. And without a specific marine science background, he uses his charisma and journalism experience to generate huge media coverage, build skills and capacity in local communities, and educate the world.
His science team is top notch and they do serious marine science research, discovering new sea mounts, and documenting new species. But Nekton also puts politicians and celebrities in subs to share the beauty of the deep ocean and inspire the public imagination. This is a combination of marine and citizen science, deep exploration and public advocacy, altogether in a light-weight, data friendly, and mobile package that is inexpensive, flexible and scalable.
Check out his work. Its a fascinating example of how Marine Science is changing.