Tuesday, 11 February 2003: 4:15 PM
Educational Opportunities in Operational Oceanography at an Academic Coastal Observatory
Operators of academic-based coastal observatories have maintained their systems for the last decade by piecing together numerous small research grants. The inefficiency of this approach has been echoed for just as long. All agree that the only way to effectively operate coastal observatories is to develop a new source of sustained funding well above the level of the typical research grant. One solution to the funding issue has been the rapidly growing popularity of dedicated congressional appropriations. Even these, however, are sufficient to solve only the start-up problem, leaving the question of sustainability to the operators. The recent report from Ocean.US on an integrated and sustained ocean observing system ensures us that help is on the way. They estimate that the funds available for the U.S. observatory effort will grow to $500 million per year in new money by the end of the decade. This is comparable in magnitude to the total annual federal research budget for oceanographic science.
This significant increase in new money must be paralleled by a similar increase in the recruiting and training of new people with new skills for the overall effort to succeed. The developing call is for new education programs in operational oceanography that more closely parallel the meteorological paradigm. In meteorology, some atmospheric science students are steered into Ph.D. research programs, while others find equally rewarding careers at the bachelors and masters level working in operational meteorology. While operational oceanography is already a significant part of the Navy and NOAA, the educational programs fill existing needs not specifically tied to the development and operation of a national observatory. A new generation of bachelors and masters level oceanographers with hands-on training in an academic-based operational observatory is still required.