NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research and NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer: Onward and Downward, Accomplishments and Highlights from the 2019 Field Season

Mapping Team

NOAA OER and NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer 

Friday, Jan. 24, 2020, 3:10pm
Chase 105

Over the past ten years, NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER)—utilizing “America’s Ship for Ocean Exploration” the Okeanos Explorer—has led over 100 exploratory ocean mapping missions covering a cumulative area of 1.9 million sq. km of seafloor. During the 2019 field season, the ship mapped over 175,000 sq. km. of seafloor (an area larger than the state of Florida) while revealing stunning new insights on deep sea biology, geology, and archaeology in the North Atlantic and the Caribbean. Key Okeanos highlights from the year, collaborations between NOAA OER and the CCOM community, and OER’s mechanisms to further ocean mapping will be presented. The Okeanos Explorer continues to contribute to several national and international marine research campaigns, including the Southeast Deep Coral Initiative, the DEEP Sea Exploration to Advance Research on Coral/Canyon/Cold seep Habitats (DEEP SEARCH) program, the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation, the Seabed 2030 Project, and the U.S. Extended Continental Shelf Program.


Meme Lobecker is the head of mapping operations for NOAA OER and Okeanos Explorer. She has eighteen years of international seafloor mapping experience, including ten with NOAA OER. She holds a master degree in Marine Affairs from the University of Rhode Island, and a bachelors in Environmental Studies from The George Washington University.

Derek Sowers is a Physical Scientist with NOAA OER as part of the Mapping Team that plans, leads, and executes ocean exploration missions on NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer. Derek is also a Ph.D. candidate in the UNH Oceanography program.  He has a B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of New Hampshire, an M.S. in Marine Resource Management from Oregon State University, and has participated in 26 ocean research expeditions to date.

Mike White, a native of Long Island, New York, took a deep interest in ocean science at a young age growing up in and on the water. After graduating from the State University of New York at Geneseo with a degree in geological sciences, Mike continued his education at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University. Upon receiving his master's in marine and atmospheric science and completing a graduate certificate in geospatial science, Mike started with NOAA as a hydrographic analyst with NOAA’s Integrated Ocean and Coastal Mapping team at the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping at UNH. Mike joined the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER) mapping team in 2016 and has led deep-sea mapping teams in the Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and the Atlantic Ocean. Mike now serves as an expedition manager for OER, where he will continue to lead remotely operated vehicle/mapping and technology demonstration expeditions. When not at sea, Mike loves spending time at home in the garden and with his goldendoodle, Wendy.

Shannon Hoy is a Physical Scientist with the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER). She assists in both field operations aboard the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer as a mapping coordinator and with shoreside responsibilities, such as mission planning and data archiving. She will soon complete her master’s degree in Ocean Mapping at UNH's Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping (CCOM). Shannon has participated with 15 deep-sea expeditions since 2009.

Sam Candio is a Physical Scientist with the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER). He splits his time between conducting field operations aboard the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer as an expedition coordinator/mapping lead, and conducting shoreside responsibilities at CCOM including mission planning, data QC, and data archival. Prior to signing on with OER, Sam spent four years aboard the NOAA Ship Fairweather, serving as the Chief Hydrographic Survey Technician.