Seventy percent of nations have deep-sea environments within their maritime Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), yet only 16 percent of them are able to explore those environments. This is especially true for less economically developed countries. The dearth of technological capability and knowledge leads to a lack of exploration, inappropriate or inadequate management decisions, and unaware populations. Our goal is to empower countries to explore their own deep-sea backyards using low-cost technology, while building lasting in-country capacity.
Our project takes place in two small island developing states—the Republic of Kiribati, and Trinidad and Tobago. It utilizes Deep-Sea Drop Cameras developed by National Geographic’s Exploration Technology team (ExTech) and OpenROV’s Trident Remotely Operated Vehicles. Both technologies collect compelling imagery, but require minimal resources and expertise. In our pilot study during summer 2018, an engineer from ExTech and another team member traveled to each country to train a group of scientists, students, and communicators in the use of these technologies, which are to be left in-country until a scientist, a student, and a communicator from each country travel to the USA for further training in data analysis and creating outreach materials.