Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego
(UCSD), and BP America Inc.
announce the signing of a three-year, $3 million-dollar partnership, marking the beginning of a long-term research collaboration. The initial focus of the program is to develop and evaluate new technologies to image and characterize the seafloor and subseafloor. Using a wide variety of surveying techniques such as electromagnetics, fiber optics, acoustics, autonomous underwater vehicles and ocean bottom seismographs, Scripps and BP scientists will further improve our understanding of the seabed and the processes that shape it.
The seabed is a dynamic environment, shaped by tides, storms, earthquakes and other factors. This research will enable BP to understand better the magnitude of these changes, leading to the improved design of offshore facilities. The innovative instrumentation and technologies will also be useful in new academic ocean observing programs well beyond this partnership
“We need to understand better the processes that control the architecture of continental margins across a variety of spatial and temporal scales,” said Neal Driscoll, a professor in the Geosciences Research Division at Scripps and principal investigator of the project. “Continental margins are home to many ecosystems and marine habitats. How the margins and seafloor move and change impact these communities and influence how they are distributed. The geology and nature of the seafloor play important roles in governing marine biodiversity and, at present, these relationships remain poorly defined.”
“With so much of our current and future major developments occurring in marine environments and our concerns about protecting the environment, there is a clear benefit for BP to work with one of the world’s great centers of marine science,” said Steve Koonin, Chief Scientist at BP. “As our knowledge grows about that environment and how it changes, we can apply that learning to the design and operation of our facilities.
John Orcutt, the Deputy Director of Scripps for Research and the head of UCSD’s
Center for Earth Observations and Applications noted: “The seafloor technology being developed in partnership with BP will be invaluable in new long-term state and federal observing systems in the oceans.”
The partnership is part of a strategy at Scripps to work closely with the private sector in areas where there are mutual interests. Investment from BP will enable Scripps to pioneer new technological development that is very difficult to fund through more traditional federal agencies.
The collaboration broadens the base of institutional funding for Scripps, and provides educational opportunities for Scripps students interested in careers in ocean sciences. For BP, the partnership allows one of the world’s largest energy companies to collaborate with the world’s largest oceanographic institution with a breadth and depth of expertise that would otherwise be unavailable to them.
In some areas of collaboration, industrial investments have produced capabilities well beyond those found in universities. In other cases, university researchers have developed approaches that industry is eager to apply.
The project is similar in concept to other BP partnerships with Cambridge University, Princeton University and the California Institute of Technology.