School of fish swimming in ocean near colorful coral reef.

Areas of Focus

While anyone can discover the ocean through reading a book, booting up their computer, or even stepping outside, really learning about it requires a more orderly or systematic process. COL enhances this discovery through community-wide research programs we manage and support. These programs allow scientists to discover, in a systematic way, what the watery abyss that covers our blue planet does, needs, and supplies – and allows us to help it thrive.


One way we foster ocean literacy is through our academic competition for high schoolers, the National Ocean Sciences Bowl. Other programs and events we host help further education for everyone from educational administrators to early career scientists.

National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB)

The National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB) is a nationally-recognized high school academic competition and COL’s flagship education program. For 20 years, the NOSB has provided a forum for students to excel in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). 

Ocean Exploration

While the undersea environment holds new discoveries, the ocean should also be appreciated for its own inherent value, not just for its potential use to humanity. And there’s plenty still to learn – we’ve only discovered a fraction of what lies in the water that covers 71 percent of the Earth’s surface.

2020 Workshop to Identify National Ocean Exploration Priorities in the Pacific

COL organizes and facilitates engagement activities to improve strategic coordination and planning across the ocean exploration enterprise, such as the 2020 Workshop to Identify National Ocean Exploration Priorities in the Pacific.

2022 National Ocean Exploration Forum

In partnership with NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, COL organized the 2022 National Ocean Exploration Forum, which focused on envisioning short-term and long-term milestones to guide the ocean exploration community in identifying shared priorities over the next decade.

Ocean Observing

Discovery of the physical, biological and chemical properties of the ocean critical to supporting life on our planet.

Interagency Ocean Observation Committee (IOOC)

The Interagency Ocean Observation Committee (IOOC) oversees efforts to develop the National Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observing System. Led by three federal co-chairs, comprised of agency representatives, and supported by COL staff, the committee carries out various provisions of the ICOOS Act for implementing procedural, technical, and scientific requirements to ensure full execution of the system. 

Marine Life 2030

Marine Life 2030 will establish a globally coordinated system to deliver actionable, transdisciplinary knowledge of ocean life to those who need it, promoting human well-being, sustainable development, and ocean conservation. Marine Life 2030 will unite existing and frontier technologies and partners into a global, interoperable network and community of practice advancing observation and forecasting of marine life. This network will link technical, management and policy stakeholders to build and exchange capacity for advancing society’s grand challenges of managing activities for a healthy and resilient ocean and the vibrant and healthy society that depends on it.

Ocean Air-Sea Interactions Strategy (OASIS)

Bringing together the vast community of researchers and experts on air-sea interactions, the Observing Air-Sea Interactions Strategy (OASIS) aims to further the field by harmonizing observational strategies and developing a practical, integrated approach to observing air-sea interactions through capacity development, leveraging of multi-disciplinary activities, and advancement of understanding. OASIS will provide observational-based knowledge to fundamentally improve weather, climate and ocean prediction, and promote healthy oceans, the blue economy, and sustainable food and energy.

Underwater Glider User Group (UG2)

The Underwater Glider User Group (UG2) is a community-based coalition aimed at bolstering scientific collaboration and information/resource sharing for glider operators, data users, manufacturers, academia, and government agencies.The overarching goal of UG2 is to establish a community that facilitates sharing and cooperation.

Legacy Programs

Deep Ocean Stewardship Initiative (DOSI)

The Deep-Ocean Stewardship Initiative (DOSI) is a global network of experts which seeks to integrate science, technology, policy, law and economics to advise on ecosystem-based management of resource use in the deep ocean and strategies to maintain the integrity of deep-ocean ecosystems within and beyond national jurisdiction.

Deep Ocean Observing Strategy (DOOS)

The Deep Ocean Observing Strategy (DOOS) is an international, collaborative effort for which COL provides science and logistical support as part of a distributed program office model and with funding from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The purpose of DOOS is to improve understanding of the state of the deep ocean with respect to baseline conditions, response to climate variability, and response to human disturbance.