Jody W. Deming, University of Washington, WA, USA
The ocean that defines our blue planet Earth is increasingly subject to the impacts of human activities. As atmospheric conditions have changed, the ocean has responded, changing in temperature, sea ice cover, sea level, and capacity to absorb and release gases, to acidify and to cycle nutrients. As coastal populations and commercial activities have grown, the ocean has experienced increases in eutrophication, harmful algal blooms, invasive species, dramatic pollution events, and loss of biodiversity. Marine organisms and ecosystems throughout the ocean face multiple environmental challenges; their fates impact human well being in return. Virtually none of the ocean remains pristine as human activities and impacts on its ice, water, and sediments accelerate. Effective ocean policy requires the best possible scientific foundation for understanding the ocean as it functions today, has functioned in the past, and can be expected to change in future. Innovative tools and approaches to studying the ocean bring a new pace of expanding databases to achieve this understanding. The pursuit of ocean science is thus a critical human endeavor. It is also an exciting one, with discovery always on the horizon. Part of human interaction with the ocean is to be awed by its mysteries and emerging clues to larger questions on the origins and evolution of life, the subsurface biosphere, and the physical, chemical and geological underpinnings of the ocean as we know it. Ocean scientists are both rooted in their various disciplines and uniquely skilled at advancing knowledge at the interface of disciplines. A forum is needed to foster and accelerate broad awareness of this knowledge, as it is generated and synthesized, and facilitate the incorporation of new understanding into ocean policy.