Marine researchers want the U.S. government to send them where no scientists have ever gone before. A White House advisory panel last week recommended spending at least $750 million over the next decade on a new ocean exploration program that would expand research into uncharted waters.
Some areas of the ocean get repeated attention from researchers, because it's "easier to get ship time to go back to places we've already been than to explore new areas," says Marcia McNutt, head of the 15-member President's Panel on Ocean Exploration and chief of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California. The recommended program would reverse those priorities by providing scientists with the ships, submarines, sensors, and data banks they need to document unknown ocean ecosystems. Priority targets would include U.S. coastal waters and arctic and antarctic seas.
The panel's report may help push a major marine science initiative into the Administration's 2002 budget request, which is currently under discussion, says James Baker, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "We're trying to make something happen," he says. The fate of that document, however, rests in the hands of the next president.