Challenger 150 and Seabed 2030 join forces to transform ocean research

Challenger 150 and Seabed 2030 join forces to transform ocean research

Challenger 150, a global initiative dedicated to mapping deep-sea life, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project. Seabed 2030 is an initiative committed to inspiring and coordinating the global effort to map the entire ocean floor by the end of the decade. By consolidating the physical and biological ocean data produced by these two initiatives, our understanding of the ocean will be significantly enhanced.

Seabed 2030, a collaborative project between The Nippon Foundation and the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO), is officially recognized as a flagship programme of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030). Its mission actively supports UN Sustainable Development Goal 14, which aims to conserve and sustainably use the ocean, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

Challenger 150, meanwhile, is a global scientific cooperative under the Deep Ocean Stewardship Initiative (DOSI). It was developed in response to the needs of the Ocean Decade, aiming to build capacity for global deep-sea research, expand biological observations, enhance understanding of deep-sea ecosystems and support their sustainable management.

Transformative understanding

Professor Kerry Howell, deep-sea ecologist at Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) and co-lead of the Challenger 150 programme, stated: “From mapping unexplored seamounts in the south Atlantic to venturing under the Arctic ice to study hydrothermal vents, Challenger 150 is rapidly expanding our observational frontiers. The increasing use of autonomous and robotic technology in ocean science and exploration is set to rapidly increase both the rate of collection and coverage (temporal and spatial) of observations made in the world’s ocean over the next decade, and will help provide the transformative understanding required to better manage our oceans.”

Dr Ana Hilario, deep-sea ecologist at the University of Aveiro and fellow co-lead of the Challenger 150 programme, said: “By combining the high-resolution bathymetric data compiled by initiatives such as Seabed 2030 with our own, we can produce unprecedented ecosystem maps and predictive habitat models. This is incredibly exciting as it means we can fill the big holes in our knowledge of the deep sea and better target where to look for key ecosystems. The collaboration will also help us produce a ‘digital twin’ of the ocean, so that we can better understand the impacts of climate change and human use.”

The collaboration between these two initiatives harkens back to the historic HMS Challenger mission, which embarked on a groundbreaking research voyage from 1872 to 1876 to map the ocean floor and its inhabitants. This pioneering expedition, which inspired the names of both the space shuttle Challenger and Challenger 150, mapped the ocean floor using a lead line lowered from the vessel to the seabed. The ocean’s depth was determined by the length of the line let out, and these point observations, or ‘soundings’, were then combined to create a basic map of the seabed.

Cold-water corals from the Bay of Biscay, a good example of a project conducted via Challenger 150's Regional Working Groups, which bring together researchers active in specific ocean basins to coordinate research and prioritize areas for study. (Image courtesy: Ifremer)
Hydrography Newsletter

Value staying current with hydrography?

Stay on the map with our expertly curated newsletters.

We provide educational insights, industry updates, and inspiring stories from the world of hydrography to help you learn, grow, and navigate your field with confidence. Don't miss out - subscribe today and ensure you're always informed, educated, and inspired by the latest in hydrographic technology and research.

Choose your newsletter(s)