Past Member

Katy Croff Bell

Open Ocean
  • Research Scientist
  • Director's Fellow

Director, Open Ocean Initiative

Director, Open Ocean Initiative

From 2017 to 2020, Dr. Katy Croff Bell founded and led the Open Ocean initiative, dedicated to reimagining the future of ocean exploration and community building.

Dr. Bell is a deep sea explorer who is passionate about developing new ways to better understand the ocean and make it more accessible to everyone around the world. Bell is a National Geographic Explorer and the Founder and President of the Ocean Discovery League. She is on a mission to break down the barriers to the deep sea by combining low-cost technologies, AI-driven data analysis, and capacity building to make access to the deep sea more efficient and accessible to all, especially those historically excluded in the field. Her background in ocean engineering, maritime archaeology, and geological oceanography, and leadership of dozens of expeditions around that world uniquely position her to create efficient, equitable systems to broaden access to the deep sea.

Bell was previously the Founding Director of the Open Ocean Initiative at the MIT Media Lab, which was dedicated to developing programs for low-cost, distributed deployment of new and emerging technologies for ocean exploration and community building. As Executive Vice President of the Ocean Exploration Trust, she led the development of exploration, research, and educational outreach activities for E/V Nautilus, including management of scientists, engineers, educators, and students from 30+ countries working together to conduct telepresence-enabled expeditions around the world.

Bell was Vice Chair of the Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee in 2017-2019. She was a 2001 John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellow in the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration, 2006 National Geographic Emerging Explorer, 2014 MIT Media Lab Director's Fellow, 2017-2020 National Geographic Fellow, and 2019 AAAS IF/THEN Ambassador. Bell holds an S.B. in ocean engineering from MIT, an M.Sc. in maritime archaeology from the University of Southampton, and a Ph.D. in geological oceanography from the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island.