About Nekton

Established in 2015, Nekton is an independent, not-for-profit research foundation working in collaboration with the University of Oxford and a UK registered charity.

We explore and conserve the ocean - aiming to support the protection of at least 30% of the ocean by 2030.

Scientific consensus calls for the protection of 30% of the world’s ocean by 2030 to create a resilient ocean and a stable planet. Nekton undertakes missions for and on behalf of island and coastal nations to gather the data needed to galvanise the protection and management of their ocean.

We undertake missions to find out how the ocean is changing and why.

A major 7-week research expedition with cutting edge technology is at the heart of each mission around which all activities are anchored.

From Submersibles to Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs), from autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), to camera and sensor systems, the expeditions are backed by 12 different world-leading subsea technology partners and deploy 21 different cutting-edge research and communications technologies to maximise productivity.


Prior to each mission, each nation commits to a marine spatial plan and to establishing marine reserves. With very little research conducted beneath 30metres, the scientific objective is to establish a baseline of marine life and ocean health to provide actionable marine data to inform these new ocean policies.

Surface to 500m Research: Depth is the most important driver of changes in biological communities in the ocean and are often virtually unexplored and likely to harbor distinct ecological communities. Systematic research across depth ranges is essential for a fuller understanding of the key ecosystems, their associated biodiversity, regional connectivity and their risk or resilience to climate change.

Robust data for marine spatial plans and management plans: In the absence of data, marine spatial plans use biological assumptions from geomorphological datasets. Our multi-disciplinary co-produced research ground-truths these assumptions providing new baseline data, defining priority areas for protection and maximising conservation and ocean management investments both locally and regionally. In addition the data provides information for the management plans which are designed to ensure zone regions are administered appropriately.

Marine Data: All marine data is owned and vested within the host nation for archiving and on-going research and is published open access.


Nekton’s award-winning communications team ensures that each mission becomes a major local, regional and international media event. Nekton’s news agency partner Associated Press estimate that 3.5billion people saw coverage of First Descent: Seychelles in the first 6months of 2019.

Inspiring positive need for conservation: the exploration of the deep ocean by our host nation Aquanauts anchors public engagement. Their journey down into the last, unknown frontier on the planet is an inspirational story of human endeavour and provides an optimistic lens through which to learn about critical ocean issues and the need for the protection of 30% of the ocean.

New Ocean Leaders reinforcing political mandates: host nation scientists, influencers and political leaders are at heart of all news, digital media and educational content. In undertaking the first descents into their national waters, they become a new cadre of Ocean Leaders helping to inspire public engagement and reinforce political mandates.

International coverage delivering economic value: Nekton’s partnerships with Associated Press and Sky serves to put each nation in the global spotlight and showcase their ocean commitments. Global exposure amplifies each nation’s marine environments, promoting them as a tourism destination, a critical pillar for their sustainable blue economies.


The global shortage of marine scientists, policymakers and ocean managers who have the resources to fully use scientific data to direct marine policy and the law is one of the most critical challenges facing the long-term sustainable governance and sustainable development of the Indian Ocean.

At a national and regional level, First Descent invests in the sharing and development of the leadership, tools, skills, knowledge and networks across marine science, conservation and ocean management.

Grants for local and regional scientists are provided to enable participation in research, support analysis, publication, policy, outreach and educational initiatives.

Fellowships for host nation scientists to University of Oxford are provided to address specific knowledge and skills gaps.

Training: from shore to sea, host nation scientists work alongside experts to develop key skills including field research with cutting-edge technologies, taxonomic identification, data analysis and publication.