Nekton and The Nippon Foundation launch major new programme, Ocean Census.
On 27 April, Nekton, together with The Nippon Foundation, the largest non-profit foundation in Japan that focuses on philanthropy through social innovation, launched the largest programme in history to discover life in our ocean. Ocean Census is a global alliance that aims to accelerate discovery and protection of ocean life. The ambitious goal is to find 100,000 new marine species in the first decade.
Scientists believe little more than 10% of what lives in our ocean has been found and there are around two million species still undiscovered. Ocean Census brings together partners from around the world with a sense of urgency because without a significant change in how organisations work together to discover what ‘lies beneath’, it will be impossible to protect the ocean, which is responsible for much of the air we breathe, regulating our climate, as well as being a vital food source for billions.
Ocean Census is an open network of science, business, media and civil society organisations, all pulling together to: undertake expeditions in biodiversity hotspots and little-explored regions; discover new species; inspire the public and decision-makers to take sustained action to protect ocean life; ensure open access and equitable use of data for the common good; and to build an inclusive network of taxonomists and biodiversity experts, particularly in low and middle income countries.
Species discovered on expeditions will be sent for high resolution imaging and DNA sequencing in a network of Ocean Census Biodiversity Centres to be established in high, middle, and low-income nations around the world. The first of these will be at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Networks of taxonomists will connect virtually to draw on what Ocean Census Science Director Professor Alex Rogers and his team call ‘Digital Life Forms’ to complete species descriptions.
The aggregated, open-sourced data will be added to a network of data centres globally and made freely accessible to scientists, decision makers, and the public.
“Ocean life makes all life on Earth possible and holds the wisdom of four billion years of our evolution on Earth. We can’t protect what we don’t know exists”, explained Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of The Nippon Foundation. “We have a race against time to discover ocean life before it is lost for generations to come. Ocean Census will create an immense wealth of openly accessible knowledge that will benefit and sustain all life on Earth, for humankind and our planet.”
Speaking of his love of the ocean, which started in childhood, he continued: “Ocean Census is full of dreams and wonder and cannot be accomplished by the Nippon Foundation and Nekton alone. We would like to unravel the mysteries of the ocean, in collaboration with ocean research institutes, businesses, governments, the public, philanthropy and civil society.”
Ocean Census builds on major programmes of the past, including The Challenger Expeditions (1872-1876, the birth of modern marine science) and The Census of Marine Life (2000-2010). The average annual number of new species found and scientifically described - a process known as taxonomy - has remained around the 2000 mark each year since the early 1800s.
Now, however, a rapid change is underway. Professor Rogers, the Ocean Census Science Director, explained that “revolutions in technologies such as digital imaging, sequencing and machine learning, are making it possible to discover ocean life at speed and at scale. It currently takes one to two years to several decades to describe a new species after it is collected by scientists but utilising new technologies and sharing the knowledge gained using cloud-based approaches, it will now only take a few months.”
Over the coming years, scientists from around the world will embark on dozens of expeditions to biodiversity hotspots to find new life from the surface to full ocean depth. Combining vessels from the philanthropic, government and commercial fleets, they will be deploying a combination of advanced subsea technologies with divers, submarines and deep-sea robots.
"The beauty and diversity of marine life in the Ocean is still beyond human comprehension, but as we explore and uncover what lies beneath the sea surface, we are constantly awed and delighted by new lifeforms,” shared Dr Jyotika Virmani, Executive Director of Schmidt Ocean Institute, one of the leading partners of Ocean Census.
“This new foundation of knowledge can help advance our understanding of fundamental science – oxygen production, carbon cycling, sustainable food production, the evolution of life on Earth and even discoveries of new medicine and biotechnologies,” revealed Mitsuyuki Unno, Executive Director of The Nippon Foundation. “Through advancing our understanding of the abundance, diversity and distribution of life in our ocean, we hope Ocean Census will catalyse global efforts to conserve our ocean.”
Oliver Steeds, Ocean Census Director and Chief Executive of Nekton, explained the urgency. “We have a short window of opportunity, perhaps the next ten years, when the decisions we all make will likely affect the next thousand or even ten thousand years. Some people are saying ‘it’s time to go big or go home’. We’ve chosen to go big, and we hope the giant leaps in knowledge we can make with the discovery of ocean life can help put us on a better track towards a positive future for people and the planet.”
Ocean Census is particularly timely. The 2022 Montreal Biodiversity Conference made the decision to protect 30% of our planet for conservation of life by 2030. Implementation of this ambitious policy in the ocean will be able to take the information provided by Ocean Census to ensure that protected areas are optimally positioned to protect biodiversity. The UN Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction treaty agreed in March 2023 means there is now a legal framework to establish such protected areas in the high seas. Lack of progress on prevention of global warming detailed in the IPCC 2023 Climate Report emphasises the urgency of action to understand the ocean and its potential responses to climate change as well as the potential to mitigate emissions and adaptation through nature-based solutions.
Scientists call for urgent conservation of deep reefs, one of the planet’s largest and least protected ecosystems.
A new study led by scientists from Nekton, the Western Indian Ocean and University of Oxford recently published in the journal, Conservation Letters, confirms for the first time that deep reef habitats, notably in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO), are largely unprotected despite being under threat from a multitude of stressors, including overfishing, pollution, climate change and, in the near future, seabed mining.
The scientific team has co-developed a new framework for conserving deep reefs including practical recommendations and specific actions for regional policy-makers, conservationists and scientists.
Ahead of the UN Biodiversity Conference, COP15, the team of scientists are urging policy makers to use the summit to protect deep reefs. Their calls follow COP27 in Egypt, where many scientists, politicians and campaigners concluded that the 1.5C climate goal died, signing the death warrant on the vast majority of shallow reefs.
Read the News Release
Download News Assets
Read the paper here
The transport and fate of Microplastics in the Antarctic
Nekton research reveals Antarctica to be sink for microplastic pollution and an airborne issue with synthetic fibres from textiles travelling by air from southern South America.
Find out more about our research using CSI forensic science and air current modelling, what is needed in the upcoming Global Plastic Treaty discussions, and how you can reduce microplastic pollution here.
Visit our newsroom to read the press release and download assets.
Memo to COP27 from the Maldives. Subject: Act Now
If your homeland is running out of fresh water and empty plastic water bottles wash up on the shore from half a world away, the stakes are high for what world leaders can accomplish at the COP27 climate summit. The message we heard on our recent Nekton Maldives Mission was clear: Act Now - before it's too late.
Memo to COP27 from the Maldives. Subject: Climate Crisis
When a young marine biologist on the frontline of the climate crisis tells you coral reefs cannot survive and neither can her native land unless world leaders at COP27 reduce carbon emissions, you stop and pay attention. Nekton met Aya Naseem on its recent mission to the Maldives - her message is stark.
Memo to COP27 from the Maldives. Subject: Global Warming
As leaders gather in Egypt for the COP27 climate summit, take a moment to listen to a voice who knows more than most what the impact will be if the world warms by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. Shauna Aminath is the Environment Minister of the Maldives - the lowest lying nation on earth.
Discovery of the Trapping Zone
“The discovery of ‘The Trapping Zone’ and the oasis of life in the depths surrounding the Maldives provides us with critical new knowledge that further supports our conservation commitments and sustainable ocean management, and almost certainly support fisheries and tourism”, explained President of the Maldives H.E Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.
“Image data, combined with the biological samples we have collected from our submersibles and extensive sonar mapping all point to megafauna predators such as sharks and other large fish feeding on swarms of micro-nekton - small swimming creatures that are trapped against the subsea landscape at that depth”, detailed Professor Lucy Woodall, Nekton Principal Scientist.
The volcanic subsea strata and fossilised carbonate reefs which form the base of Maldivian atolls combine steep vertical cliffs and shelving terraces which appear to cause these species to be prevented from diving any deeper as the sun rises. These animals typically migrate from the deep sea to the surface at night and dive back down into the deep at dawn, otherwise known as The Vertical Migration - the largest nightly migration on Earth.
The trapped animals are targeted by large pelagic predators, including schools of tuna and sharks, along with well-known, large deep-water fish including the spiky oreo (named after the biscuit) and alfonsino.
“We’ve observed sharks in shallower waters quite extensively in the Maldives before, but for the first time we’ve have been able to document an immense diversity of sharks in the deep sea”, explained Shafiya Naeem, Director General of the Maldives Marine Research Institute, which has partnered with Nekton on the expedition. Tiger sharks, six gill sharks, sand tiger sharks, dog fish, gulper sharks, scalloped hammerhead sharks, silky sharks and the very rare bramble shark have all been documented.
Marine ecosystems are defined by both the topography and ocean life. “This has all the hallmarks of a distinct new ecosystem”, explained Professor Alex Rogers who has spent over 30 hours underwater in the mission’s submersibles observing ‘The Trapping Zone’ during the expedition. “The Trapping Zone is creating an oasis of life in the Maldives and it is highly likely to exist in other oceanic islands and also on the slopes of continents”, added Professor Rogers.
Whilst a trapping effect has been associated with the biodiversity hotspots on subsea mountains or seamounts, it has not previously been linked to the different geomorphology and biological parameters of oceanic islands, like the Maldives.
“Maldives, a coral atoll archipelagic nation is facing existential threat caused by human impacts and climate change. For our very survival as a nation, we ought to look for science-based solutions that help us to mitigate and adapt to the disastrous effects of climate change.”, explained Dr. Hussain Rasheed Hassan, Minister of Fisheries, Marine Resources and Agriculture. “The evolutionary history of this beautiful coral atoll nation is written as a record on the bedrock, deposits and the fauna of the deep. This Mission is shedding light on how we may use the science to survive as a nation.”
Analysis of the video and biological data is ongoing in the Maldives, Nekton’s UK headquarters in Oxford and at partner laboratories. The discovery could have important implications for other oceanic islands and the slopes of continents, sustainable fisheries management, the burial and storage of carbon and, ultimately, climate change mitigation.
Watch the video here.
Corals in Crisis
On the tiny island of Fulhadhoo, Aya Naseem and her team from the Maldives Coral Institute are involved in a labour of love. They are painstakingly repairing and rebuilding a reef by literally growing new corals from fragments of destroyed coral heads.
Watch the video here
Maldives Minister Declares Nekton Mission Success
The Environment Minister of the Maldives says the knowledge acquired by local and international scientists on the Nekton Maldives Mission, will be vital to help policymakers manage and protect the marine environment.
Shauna Aminath was speaking on board the mothership of the Nekton mission, after herself diving to 250 metres aboard the Omega Seamaster II submersible which has been deployed as part of a joint endeavour by the Maldives Marine Research Institute and scientists from Nekton
Find out more and watch the video here
The Hunt for Satho Rahaa
A deep sea mountain off the coast of the Maldives has become the focus of a study by Maldivian and international scientists aboard the Nekton science mission.
Although the peak was marked on navigational charts in the mid-20th century and some mapping attempted since, speculation has raged over its exact depth and size.
The Nekton team from the UK is on a joint expedition with the Maldives Marine Research Institute to map and sample the waters off the lowest lying nation on earth. Painting a fuller picture of the deep sea mountain is one of their top mission goals.
Watch the video on our newsroom
Journey to the Deep
Nekton marine biologist Sheena Talma takes viewers on a fascinating journey to the deep, inside the Omega Seamaster II submersible, during Nekton’s Maldives Mission.
The 35-day expedition is a partnership with the Maldives Marine Research Institute. Scientists from the UK, Seychelles, South Africa and the host nation are gathering data and taking samples at various depths to assess the state of ocean health . The Maldives is the lowest-lying nation on earth and is on the frontline of the climate crisis.
Watch the video on our newsroom
Meet the Maldives Volleyball Star Who Switched Career to Swim With Sharks
Ever wondered what it’s like to swim with giant tiger sharks? Meet Hamna Hussain, Maldives national volleyball player turned shark guide, who spends every day with the apex predators off her home island of Fuvahmulah. It’s there scientists from the international Nekton Mission will conduct research to understand more about the behaviour of these giant creatures. If they find the shark population is healthy it bodes well for the health of the ocean.
Watch the video on our newsroom
Anticipation is building on the far-flung island of Fuvahmulah in the Maldives where the imminent arrival in its waters of the international Nekton science mission could unlock the mystery of why it has become home to one of the worlds largest, and seemingly healthiest, tiger shark populations.
The sharks – which can grow to several metres in length – are now a growing tourist attraction for diving enthusiasts, even if less popular with local fishermen who compete for the tuna the giant predators eat.
Scientists on Nekton Mission, who hail from the Maldives, Sri Lanka, India, South Africa and the UK, will use submersibles and other cutting-edge technology to map, film and sample the waters off the coast of Fuvamulah down to 1000 metres. They aim to provide answers to a range of unanswered questions about the shark habitat. If these apex predators are in good health it could bode well for the health of the rest of the marine environment.
Dive master, Hamna Hussain – a former national volleyball player,turned shark guide – has lots of questions for Nekton.
Watch the video on our newsroom
Message in a Bottle
Watch this occasional Nekton series - filmed inside the Omega Seamaster II submersible on our latest Maldives Mission. You’ll hear from prominent ocean advocates, marine biologists and data scientists who all have their own “Message in a Bubble”. In the bubble today - Sri Lankan marine biologist Dr Asha de Vos whose message is a wake up call.
Watch the video here
Maldives Issues ''Climate Refugee'' Warning
A senior Maldives government minister has warned that unless action is taken now his people will become climate refugees, forced to leave their homeland because of the effects of global warming.
Fisheries Minister Dr Hussain Rasheed Hassan was speaking as scientists from the visiting Nekton Mission and their Maldivian counterparts undertake a 35-day expedition to map and sample the waters off the low-lying Indian Ocean nation.
From the air the Maldives is a picture postcard paradise. Pilot whales cutting a graceful dash through sparkling waters.But vital reef systems have been badly impacted by global warming, fracturing natural sea defences.
Watch the video here
A Rallying Cry to ''Act Now - Protect Our Oceans'' Rings Out as Nekton Science Team Explores Maldives Waters
A rallying cry to “Act Now - Protect our Ocean” is echoing across the Maldives, where scientists aboard the international Nekton Mission are hard at work investigating the marine health of a nation on the frontline of climate change. The Maldives did not cause global warming, yet it is wrestling storm surges, dying coral reefs and mountains of discarded plastic.
Watch the video here
MALDIVES PRESIDENT SURPRISE NEKTON VISIT
The President of the Maldives has paid a surprise visit to the international Nekton Mission to offer support to ocean scientists in their quest to find answers that can help unlock the secrets of the deep.
President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih knows no maps exist of Maldivian waters beneath 30 metres - but that is changing by the hour. Four Maldivian aquanauts, who met President Solih on board, have journeyed to 500 metres below the surface in the past two days. The president saw data they collected - which Nekton marine biologists and mapping experts are now analysing. President Solih was accompanied by government ministers who explained how critical Nekton’s work is for the nation’s understanding of what lives in the deep ocean.
Watch the video here
Maldives Aquanauts Historic Maiden Dive
Two intrepid Maldives aquanauts have journeyed into the history books by becoming the first people from the world’s lowest-lying nation to descend deep into the twilight zone.
Marine biologist, Shafiya Naeem, director general of the Maldives Marine Research Institute, and research assistant colleague Farah Amjad were chosen as lead aquanauts on the maiden dive of the Nekton Maldives Mission.
The expedition is a joint initiative by UK-based Nekton and the Maldives government to map, sample and gather data on ocean health which can inform policy makers both in the Maldives and beyond as the climate crisis deepens. Virtually no images exist of marine life in Maldivian waters below 30 metres.
The aquanauts launched from the mission mothership RV Odyssey off Laamu Atoll and, in an impromptu gesture of national pride, raised the flag of the Maldives as the Omega Seamaster II three-person submersible rolled out on deck
They were piloted by American Kimly Do on a journey to investigate the wall of coral and marine life along the east coast of Lammu at varying depths from 60 metres , through a 120 metre deep survey to the darker depths of 250 metres. The scientists are especially interested in the interconnectivity between corals and marine species living near the surface and at greater depth.
The Maldives team admit to feeling the weight of expectation on their shoulders. Their nation is the lowest lying country on earth and is already experiencing storm surges and so-called coral bleaching events - when corals which act as natural sea defences are literally boiled to death by rising sea temperatures, sparked by global warming. Unless global carbon emissions are kept in check, swathes of this archipelago could become uninhabitable.
Watch the video here
Maldivian Aquanauts arrive on mothership ahead of historic dive
Two Maldives scientists will journey into the history books when they become the first citizens from the world’s lowest-lying nation to descend deep into the Indian Ocean.
Marine biologist, Shafiya Naeem, the director general of the Maldives Marine Research Institute and her research assistant colleague Farah Amjad have been chosen as lead aquanauts on the maiden dive of the Nekton Maldives Mission.
The expedition is a joint initiative by UK-based Nekton and the Maldives government to map, sample and gather data on ocean health which can inform policy makers both in the Maldives and beyond as the climate crisis deepens
The aquanauts arrived aboard the mission mothership RV Odyssey off Vaavu Atoll to undergo safety briefings and complete final preparations ahead of boarding the Omega Seamaster II three-person submersible for the first dive of the mission.
Watch the video here
Maldives Mayor's impassioned plea to world
The mayor of one of the Maldives most far-flung islands has issued an impassioned plea to the world to behave as responsible citizens and stop using single use plastic.Ismail Rafeeq leads the people of Fuvahmulah – permanent population 11,000 - where the community mounts regular beach campaigns to remove tons of plastic discarded by locals and washed up on shore from other countries.
Ismail Rafeeq, Fuvahmulah Mayor “Wherever in the world you live please ,you know, stop putting (discarding) plastics , stop throwing away waste and be a responsible citizen, develop a green lifestyle ,you know , consider the environment. If we treat the environment badly it will come back to haunt us.”
The mayor fears plastic on the beaches means microplastics are present in the sea and in the fish his people eat.
He wants Nekton scientists sampling the country‘s waters on a 35 - day mission to supply data that can change public behaviours and make them think twice before dumping plastic.
Find out more and watch video here
Climate Change above agreed threshold is "death sentence" for small island states
The Maldives Environment Minister has issued a stark warning that climate change is a “death sentence” for the Indian Island nation and other small island states if global warming rises beyond the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold set by the international community in 2015.
Shauna Aminath was speaking as a multinational science team from the UK-based Nekton Mission and their Maldivian counterparts embark on a 35-day expedition to assess the health of the seas surrounding what is the world’s lowest-lying country.
“The difference between 1.5 and two degrees for Maldives and for many small island states is a death sentence. So there's nothing more important for us as as a civilisation to address. Climate change is our biggest, single most challenging issue of our generation. And we are also the last generation to be able to make a difference”
Nekton Maldives Mission gets underway
Scientists from the UK-based Nekton Mission - who will be joined by 10 aquanauts from the Maldives - are about to go where no human has gone before.
Over the next five weeks they'll be living aboard the RV Odyssey and diving deep into the Indian Ocean, in three-person submersibles, to map and sample the waters off the Maldives - the world's lowest-lying nation.
The data they gather on ocean health from the surface down to 1000 metres will be captured using a range of cutting edge technologies and will provide vital information to Maldives policy makers, whose country is on the frontline of the climate crisis.
Maldivian Aquanauts announced
The names of ten Maldivian marine scientists leading first descents in high-tech submersibles to explore Maldives’ unknown deep ocean have been announced:
- Shafiya Naeem, Director General, Maldives Marine Research Institute (MMRI)
- Mohamed Ahusan, Senior Research Officer, MMRI
- Fathimath Hana Amir, Marine Biologist, MMRI
- Dr. Ahmed Riyaz Jauharee, Senior Scientific Officer, MMRI
- Mohamed Shimal, Marine Biologist, MMRI
- Hussain Moosa, Assistant Marine Research Officer, MMRI
- Hussein Zahir, President, Small Island Research Group (SIRG)
- Aminath Shaha Hashim, Maldives Programme Manager, Blue Marine Foundation & Chairperson of NGO, Maldives Resilient Reefs.
- Aleef Abdulla Naseem, Marine Biologist, Water Solutions Pvt. Ltd
- Further Aquanaut tbd
Find out more in the latest Press Release
Underwater expedition aims to unravel mysteries of the Maldives
Read the article here
Nekton Launch Maldives Mission
The Nekton Maldives Mission has been launched with Maldivian Aquanauts to be announced in Male on 1st September and expedition beginning on 4th September. All details available for media via Mission’s newsroom
Dr Lucy Woodall gave a hard hitting message on the Seabed 2030 panel discussion at the UN Ocean conference
The event looked at the benefits of ocean mapping from a global perspective, and explored how mapping data is essential to supporting the UN SDG 14 and Decade outcomes, as well as safeguarding our future and that of the planet.
Dr Lucy Woodall cautioned that the 2030 project would fail unless it engaged all communities with an interest in the data
Read the BBC article here
Oliver Steeds OBE on the panel discussion at the Great Blue Wall event at the UN Ocean Conference.
The Great Blue Wall (GBW) is a Western Indian Ocean (WIO)-led, African driven roadmap to achieve a nature positive world by 2030. It aims at unlocking unprecedented nature-based recovery efforts through the establishment of a transformational movement.
Speakers included Former President of Seychelles Danny Faure, Oliver Steeds OBE, Dr Diva Amon, Alexis Grosskopf and Barkha Mossae
The Explorers Club World Oceans Week
On 6th June Nekton's Science and Knowledge Exchange Programme Manager Sheena Talma took
part, alongside some phenomenal speakers, in the Explorers Club Big Ideas event
where participants were asked to shoot for the moon with creative ocean
solutions for their World Ocean's Week.
Catch up on the event here:
Photo: David Shaw
Oliver Steeds awarded the OBE on the Queen's Birthday Honours List
We are all hugely proud that our Chief Executive Oliver Steeds has been awarded the OBE on the Queen's Birthday Honours List for services to Research and Conservation of the Marine Environment. This honour is in recognition of Nekton’s achievements and especially our wonderful partners who have enabled our work over the past 6 years and contributed to what we achieved together for the ocean. Huge congratulations to all who have been recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours.
Race for the Planet
An exciting new series following Extreme E and the climate change story that underpins it, is set for release early summer 2022 on Prime Video in the UK and in Ireland featuring Nekton scientists Dr. Lucy Woodall - the Ocean Expert in Extreme E's science committee, and Sheena Talma - Extreme E's environmental advisor.
The Ocean Race Summit Seychelles
World leaders, ministers, sailors, scientists and ocean advocates gathered in the Seychelles on 21st March to call for greater global action and collaboration to protect the ocean.
Mr. Wavel Ramkalawan, President of the Republic of the Seychelles, spoke about his concern for the ocean, its vital role in sustaining all life on Earth and the need to unite in taking urgent action to protect it: “The survival of this planet depends on each one of us pulling together exactly as the participants in The Ocean Race do. It is teamwork that will ensure the survival of our planet."
Nekton CEO Oliver Steeds joined the summit for a talk on Ocean Rights, Relationships, Values & Protection, and our Nekton Science and Knowledge Exchange Programme Manager,
Sheena Talma, joined the summit for closing comments and reflections on the summit.
Catch up on the entire summit here
World Ocean Summit Virtual Week
The World Ocean Summit and Expo brought together the broadest cross-section of the ocean community, from businesses to scientists, government, investors, and civil society. Nekton CEO Oliver Steeds, joined the World Ocean Summit virtual week for the plenary panel on Ocean Literacy; the understanding of our individual and collective impact on the ocean, and its impact on our lives and wellbeing.
Watch the session here
2021 was another remarkable year on our journey to help explore and protect the ocean and we are delighted to share that 2022 is shaping up to be our most impactful year yet.
Find out more and read the newsletter here
Western Indian Ocean nations commit to co-developing a new ocean policy and strategy to achieve regional goals.
At the Nairobi Convention COP10, the ten governments of the Western Indian Ocean nations unanimously agreed to co-create an ambitious new regional ocean strategy and accompanying policies to support sustainable ocean development underpinned by science-based management.
The goal of this programme – ‘The Western Indian Ocean – Resilience & Prosperity Initiative’ (WIO-RPI) – is to define the policy and design the first five-year strategic plan to be presented for ratification at the Nairobi Convention’s COP11 in 2023.
“The WIO-RPI will be an essential part of our region’s strategic and policy framework to ensure we maintain a prosperous and resilient Western Indian Ocean that is essential to our collective sustainable economic growth, to enhance our food security and to strengthen our resilience to climate change consequences,” said Seychelles’ Minister for Agriculture, Climate Change and Energy, Flavien Joubert.
Nekton is proud to be the Technical Partner for the Western Indian Ocean - Resilience and Prosperity Initiative (WIO RPI).
Ocean Rising Fireside Chat
Dr. Jyotika Virmani - Executive Director of Schmidt Ocean Institute - and Oliver Steeds - Chief Executive of Nekton Foundation, discuss the insights generated by the "Ocean Rising" workshop, held in July 2021 to explore how the public can be inspired regarding ocean issues. Themes include the arts, broadcast media, social media, sports/gaming, business and industry - as each of these sectors play a critical role in defining our diverse cultures and shaping human behavior.
Nekton publishes the first Benthic Reef Field Guide of the Seychelles
Published in the peer-reviewed, open-access Biodiversity Data Journal, the field identification guide aims to showcase the benthic organisms that inhabit the Seychelles’ deeper reefscapes.
"Currently, there are few formalised training materials available to new marine researchers working in mesophotic and deeper reef habitats, especially for the Indian Ocean. The present benthic field ID guide will hopefully be of use to marine researchers, managers, divers and naturalists with the identification of organisms as seen in marine imagery or live in the field." Paris Stefanoudis – University of Oxford & Nekton
Nekton and Schmidt Ocean Institute kick off exciting new partnership to inspire the public
The two not-for-profit organizations released a white paper, Ocean Rising: The Quest to Inspire the Public that outlines industry actions that have brought awareness to ocean science and sustainability. The paper looks at different sectors and areas of collaboration, highlighting new opportunities to engage the arts, broadcast media, social media, sports, gaming, fashion, food and others.
A virtual workshop was held on July 7th as part of the UN Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development Labs, in tandem with the white paper release, to discuss how each sector plays a critical role in defining culture and shaping human behavior.
“Our goal is to inspire people about the ocean. This is our planet, but an unknown one, full of wonder and mystery, with incredible landscapes and alien creatures,” said Dr. Jyotika Virmani, executive director of Schmidt Ocean Institute. “This is the United Nations Ocean Decade and elevating the understanding and appreciation for our ocean is a high priority. Through this collaboration, our goal is to bring the ocean to everyone.
“We protect what we love, and we need to find new ways for people to fall in love with the ocean,” said Nekton Chief Executive Oliver Steeds. “To connect the ocean to people, we need to connect our cultures to the ocean. That’s the first key challenge we are looking to address together.”
Both Nekton and Schmidt Ocean Institute plan to collaborate on public outreach and address other marine research and ocean data challenges together during the Ocean Decade, which started in January 2021.
Nekton and Schmidt Ocean Institute - Ocean Rising: The Quest to Inspire the Public published today
Read the Paper here
The ocean is a magnificent resource that quietly gives to all, but is rarely recognized for the role it plays in planetary and human health. In order to change this status quo, we need to inspire the public about the ocean as they are inspired by space. How do we get the populace to consider the ocean and its impact on our livelihoods, and inspire the public in substantive and meaningful ways? We argue that the key to transformation is targeting established industries outside of the community by providing successful examples, identifying what is missing, and making suggestions for a way forward.
This paper will take prior recommendations on how to inspire the public and put them into an actionable framework, engaging five different industries: the arts; broadcast media; social media; sports and gaming; and business and industry. Each sector plays a critical role in defining our diverse cultures and shaping human behavior. We encourage readers to explore each section individually or read in its entirety, and to share widely with those who have not yet engaged with the ocean. Our hope is that we can familiarize the public with the ocean – not just making them aware of its plight but engaging them with innovative and inspiring solutions.
Launch of Catch Our Drift, Nekton's brand new podcast for people who love the sea
Catch Our Drift is a new fortnightly podcast for people who love the sea brought to you by Nekton working in partnership with OneOcean Flotilla. Co-hosted by marine biologist Dr Helen Scales and submersible pilot and Nekton Mission Director Oliver Steeds, it uses storytelling to promote ocean conservation. It’s entertaining and inspiring and appealing to a wide range of listeners with all that is exciting, uplifting, dramatic and concerning in the ocean. It provides news and views to engage and inform an audience of ocean experts and novices during 2021, the Ocean Super Year.
Confirmed Contributors: Actor Robert Sheehan (The Umbrella Academy and Misfits), F1 racing champion, Nico Rosberg, explorer and presenter Steve Backshall, astronaut and aquanaut Kathy Sullivan (who is also part of Biden’s transition team), World freediving champion Alenka Artnik, shark expert David Schiffman, technical diver and subject of Netflix documentary “The Last Breath” Chris Lemon, NYT journalist and author of “The Outlaw Ocean” Ian Urbina … and more….
Former President of Seychelles Danny Faure and UN Ambassador Peter Thomson join Nekton briefing
The briefing, hosted by Nekton's Oliver Steeds, discussed the Blue Economy and the critical role that business and financial institutions can play in 2021.
Billed as the Ocean Super Year, events including G7, COP26, The UN Ocean Summit, the Convention on Biological Diversity and others will see decisions made that will inform and define the future of our ocean and our planet for years to come.
Nekton invited to become a Nominator for The Earthshot Prize as the search for the first winners begins
Nekton is proud to have been invited to become a Nominator for the Prize – one of over 100 organisations from across the world invited to submit nominations, selected for our ability to identify the most impactful solutions across all sectors, from grassroots to businesses.
Together, the five Earthshots, – ‘Protect and restore nature’, ‘Clean our air’, ‘Revive our oceans’, ‘Build a waste-free world’ and ‘Fix our climate’, aim to generate new ways of thinking, as well as new technologies, systems, policies and solutions.
We will be nominating individuals, communities, businesses and organisations whose solutions make the most progress towards achieving the five Earthshots – simple but ambitious goals which if achieved by 2030 will improve life for us all, for generations to come.
Beginning today, the 5-stage prize process to select a winner for each Earthshot is as follows:
- Nominations: Our nominators will seek out solutions from across the globe that will help us reach our Earthshots
- Screening: Nominations will be screened as part of an independent assessment process run by Deloitte, our implementation partner.
- Shortlist: A distinguished panel of experts will support the judging process, making recommendations to The Earthshot Prize Council.
- Selection: Prince William and The Earthshot Prize Council select our five winners.
- Awards: The winners of The Earthshot Prize will be announced at an awards ceremony, which will take place in different cities across the world each year between
2021 and 2030.
Prizes could be awarded to a wide range of individuals, teams or collaborations – scientists, activists, economists, community projects, leaders, governments, banks, businesses, cities, and countries – anyone whose workable solutions make a substantial contribution to achieving the Earthshots.
After the awards, each winner will receive a global platform and prestigious profile, with their stories being showcased over the decade and the ambition that their solutions lead to mass adoption, replication and scaling. The £1 million in prize money will support environmental and conservation projects that are agreed with the winners. Shortlisted nominees will also be given tailored support and opportunities to help scale their work, including being connected with an ecosystem of likeminded individuals and organisations.
To find out more about The Earthshot Prize, visit www.earthshotprize.org.
Omega Seamaster Diver 300m Nekton Release
We are delighted to share the release of the OMEGA Seamaster Diver 300M Nekton Edition: a dive watch on a mission to save the seas.
Omega has a long ocean heritage, and the famous Seamaster has played a key role in OMEGA’s ocean story. A legacy acknowledged when we dubbed our research submersible Seamaster 2 in tribute to the boat skippered by the late Sir. Peter Blake. The legendary round-the-world yachtsman was a passionate advocate of ocean conservation and a close friend of OMEGA.
This fantastic timepiece is a tribute to Nekton and Omega's strong partnership, and a great way to show how innovation and ocean spirit can work together, which is exactly what we’re doing here at Nekton.
Find out more here
Nekton wins Ocean Award for Public Awareness at 2020 Ocean Awards
The Ocean Awards honour and celebrate people and organisations who work tirelessly to help address the crisis in our oceans. The Public Awareness Award recognises those who have advanced marine conservation objectives throughout the year. It is such an honour to have received this prestigious award and we are delighted to have been recognised in this category.
A huge thanks to all of our partners who made this possible.
Seychelles Designates 30% of its EEZ as Marine Protected Area
Approximately a third of Seychelles’ ocean territory, an area larger than Germany, will now be declared as protected under the National Parks and Nature Conservancy Act, totalling an area of 410,000 square kilometres. This is a result of the Seychelles Marine Spatial Plan, an output of the award-winning debt-for-nature swap co-designed by the Government of Seychelles and The Nature Conservancy.
NEKTON FIRST DESCENT MIDNIGHT ZONE HAS BEEN POSTPONED
Although there are no cases of coronavirus-Covid 19 aboard the Expedition’s research vessel the DSSV Pressure Drop, the decision was made to cancel the expedition.
Nekton, the Governments of Seychelles and the Maldives remain committed to undertaking this important research and the Expedition will be rescheduled when the situation allows.
“Due to the unprecedented global situation and overwhelming concerns about the COVID-19 virus, we have made the decision to cancel the Expedition. We are very disappointed, but we know it is the right thing to do. We remain fully committed to our work in the Indian Ocean and look forward to resuming our research as soon as the time is right.”, said Oliver Steeds, Nekton’s Mission Director.
Nekton First Descent Midnight Zone and Covid-19
We are taking the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19) extremely seriously and are closely monitoring global and local developments. We are following the guidelines of the World Health Organisation, the Government of Maldives, Seychelles and the UK. We review the situation on a daily, often hourly, basis.
We are aware this is an ongoing, changing situation and we are continuing to work at the invitation and directives of the Governments of Seychelles and the Maldives.
We recognise that as the situation changes, either in the coming days leading up to the Expedition or during, then we will respond to the directives of Seychelles, the Maldives, WHO and/or the situation aboard as required.
We have reviewed the currents risks and remain committed to the mission and are currently proceeding under the invitation and direction of the Governments of Maldives and Seychelles.
We have implemented a strict policy relating to Covid-19 for participants - they will all be screened before they board and we have established procedures for mitigating and managing symptoms and outbreak aboard. We are following the guidelines of the World Health Organisation, including related to vessels, along with recommendations from the US Academic Fleet. We have been in touch with all key partners in Seychelles and the Maldives to develop and implement procedures around the Mission and the vessel's Emergency Response Plans. We have a number of medics aboard, a dedicated hospital, additional medical supplies, 24/7 remote medical support and a range of other systems and procedures in place.
12th March 2020
First Descent Midnight Zone launch celebrated with The Commonwealth
There was a packed crowd at the stunning Marlborough House, the home of the Commonwealth Secretariat on March 4th to hear about the Nekton's Midnight Zone expedition. In front of a panel of esteemed guests including Baroness Scotland, the High Commissioner of the Maldives, Her Excellency Farah Faizal and High Commissioner of Seychelles, His Excellency Derick Ally, plans for the next expedition were presented. Nekton Mission Director Oliver Steeds, Principal Scientist Dr Lucy Woodall, and Seychellois Scientist Sheena Talma explained the science and importance of studying seamounts and talked about our knowledge exchange programme. It was an uplifting gathering of people committed to ocean protection.
Would you like to join us on a deep dive on our expedition?
The two-day online auction begins at midnight on February 26th, 2020, for adventurers from across the globe to bid on the world’s most exclusive travel experience.
The highest bidder will travel to the Maldives and board Nekton’s manned submersible alongside Victor Vescovo, diving down to 3,000 meters below sea level where biodiversity peaks to visit an unexplored seamount in the Indian Ocean’s Midnight Zone.
The experience also includes stays at some of the world’s most exclusive luxury resorts, the opportunity to conduct a live deep-sea broadcast, and the chance to help create the first maps of uncharted seamounts. The highest bidder will also receive a documentary film detailing the entire journey.
All net proceeds will be re-invested into Nekton to support their ongoing conservation efforts. Nekton undertakes these missions to galvanize the protection and management of our oceans, aiming to support the protection of at least 30% of the ocean by 2030.
Exploration Beneath the Waves
On the 19th February, our partners Project Zero hosted the Exploration Beneath the Waves ambassadors evening. Held at the Amazonico London, in a room resembling the inside of a submarine with portholes looking out into the ocean, Oliver's talk took everyone on a journey into the deep ocean and what we can find as we descend. The night also celebrated the unveiling of Harland Miller's 'Save the Penguin' artwork.
Seychelles and Maldives announce expedition to explore Indian Ocean.
First Descent: Midnight Zone is a 35 day mission to support the sustainable governance of the Seychelles and Maldivian ocean including the protection of 629,000km2. A team of 50 international scientists, technicians, media and crew will be carrying out research to gather critical data to define conservation and management priorities and the designation of Marine Protected Areas. The expedition starts in Seychelles on March 16th 2020.
Research is focussed on seamounts in the Midnight Zone. The Midnight Zone describes ocean dpths between 1000ms and 4000ms. While biomass peaks in surface waters, biodiversity peaks within the Midnight Zone. The expedition will undertake the first research of seamounts in this area under the Indian Ocean. With high levels of biological endemism, seamounts are often described as "undersea Galapagoses", home to species found nowhere else on the planet.
To support a healthy, resilient and prosperous ocean, scientists are calling for 30% of the ocean to be protected. Currently only 2% is strongly protected and 8% is designated for protection.
First Descent: Midnight Zone is one of a series of expeditions that Nekton are carrying out across the Indian Ocean documenting changes beneath the waves in a bid to catalyse 30% protection by 2030.
See the Press Release and Newsroom for more details
Nekton Lecture At The RGS
On 21st October we gave a talk at the prestigious Royal Geographical Society in London on First Descent Seychelles.
Speakers at the event included Dr. Lucy Woodall - Principal scientist of Nekton, Sheena Talma - Seychellois Marine Biologist and Oliver Steeds - Mission director and CEO of Nekton. Initial scientific observations regarding seabed surveys and the interconnectivity between shallow-water reefs and deeper habitats were outlined and discussed by Dr Lucy Woodall. Sheena Talma gave a thoughtful and emotive talk regarding her experience on the Nekton research ship and her experience of collecting samples in a submersible. Oliver Steeds gave a full rundown of the pioneering technology and equipment gathered together by the small research charity through partners to make the expedition possible, and the technical challenges that at times resembled controlling the Bolshoi ballet on strings which was required to stream live to the world from under the ocean
An audience of 650 packed the lecture hall to hear the lecture alongside President Danny Faure of Seychelles who was also a surprise guest speaker. The president has worked closely with Nekton during the past year and visited the research ship during the expedition to giving the first live subsea presidential address regarding climate change from a submersible. After visiting Nekton HQ in Oxford the previous Friday to see the scientist’s progress on the samples and seabed surveys he was incredibly excited by the progress of the team. Other notable attendees include Rt Hon Patricia Scotland, Commonwealth secretary-general and H.E. Mr. Derick Ally, Ambassador of the Republic of Seychelles.
President Danny Faure of Seychelles visit to Nekton HQ
We were delighted to welcome President Danny Faure in our lab and office in Oxford on Friday 18th October. He met the whole Nekton team and was told about our ongoing research from our expedition to Seychelles. He examined some of the samples and was shown the first 3D maps of the seabeds of the islands. He also met with Seychellois scientist Sheen Talma who is currently carrying out research in Nekton's labs.
New scientists in the Nekton Lab
Nico Fassbender has joined Nekton today working as Research Assistant. Before moving to Oxford Nico worked as a science officer for the conservation charity Global Vision International in Seychelles. Originally from Monchengladbach in Germany, Nico studied Marine Biology and Zoology at Bangor University in Wales. In spring 2019 he was a member of Nekton’s science team on our expedition in Seychelles and is delighted to have joined us in Oxford.
Sara Winter is working as an intern in our Oxford lab. She recently finished her masters in marine biology at James Cook University after studying at Zurich University. She will be with Nekton for three months and is currently busy analysing the video data from Seychelles.
Teledyne marine technology workshop, San Diego
Mission Director Oliver Steeds gave the keynote speech at our technology partner, Teledyne Marine's Technology event in San Diego on 7th October 2019. Our Seychelles expedition would not have been possible without the "sea of solutions" provided by Teledyne that enabled us to carry out our vital science research. Their technological solutions were key to our science, safety and operations.
Technology & Broadcast: We are so proud and delighted that Associated Press has been awarded the prestigious IBC Innovation Award for their undersea reporting during our First Descent Mission in Seychelles. This technical award has innovative storytelling and creativity at its heart and was made possible thanks to the partnership between AP, Nekton, Sonarydyne, Live U and Inmarsat. This partnership helped to tell the story of the ocean in a profound new way and we are hugely grateful to our partners for their faith and commitment to pioneering live submersible broadcasting.
Seychelles Mission - Building a legacy
A key part of our mission and partnership with the Government of Seychelles is to develop the skills, knowledge and networks within marine science and ocean management. The Nekton team are leading a training workshop in Seychelles from 23th to 27th of September that will include video transects, data analysis, ocean literacy and media skills, scientific writing, publication and sample curation.
Nekton on the world stage
From the Global Exploration Summit in Lisbon to WEF Africa in Cape Town and from the NYC Explorers Clubto the FT Weekend Festival, the Do Lectures, the Commonwealth ICT & Innovation Summit and London’s Science Museum it has been a busy few months for Mission Director Oliver Steeds and Principal Scientist Lucy Woodall as they have travelled the world to share word about the discoveries and successes of the Seychelles Mission and the need to protect at least 30% of our ocean by 2030. Keep an eye for upcoming talks and events including a prestigious lecture at the Royal Geographical Society on 21stOctoberand with our partners Teledyne Marine in San Diego, London Shipping Week with Inmarsat and the Marine Measurement Forum with Sonardyne.
Seychelles mission - Accelerating data analysis
To accelerate analysis and publication, we've gathered experts together for a 2-week long taxonomic workshop in Grahamstown at the South African Institute of Aquatic Biodiversity to identify organisms that were collected during our field operations. The second week was devoted to training the next generation of early career researchers to taxonomy. The workshop in numbers:
- 23 people (13 experts + 10 trainees) participated either physically present or remotely
- 9 lectures were given (including five remotely via skype)
- 4 hands-on practical sessions IDying soft corals, sponges, brittle stars and hydrozoans
- 16 institutes involved so far with 4 more that are going to be involved post-workshop
Oxford fellowships for Seychellois scientists
We're delighted to have welcomed the recipients of the AfOx-Nekton Marine Science Fellowships at Oxford over the summer. In partnership with Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT) and the Africa Oxford Initiative (AfOx), scientists from Seychelles have been in Oxford conducting ongoing research and analysis from the Seychelles Expedition.