Craig McLean, Margaret Leinen, and Ariel Troisi lead UN Decade discussion.

Scripps Co-Hosts BlueTech Conference Focused on Industry Solutions

BlueTech industry leaders and scientists meet to support the UN’s 2030 sustainable development goals

The four sectors of academia, industry, government, and philanthropy are being called upon to support a United Nations initiative to explore and protect the world’s oceans in the next decade.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego will be one of the important centers of that effort, the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, through 2030. On Nov. 19, Scripps hosted blue technology professionals in the run-up to the decade to find solutions to some of the greatest challenges facing the ocean and water resources. The blue tech industry includes services, resources, and industries that utilize, protect, or manage coastlines and oceans.

The event was part of the larger BlueTech Week, an annual conference hosted by TMA BlueTech, a non-profit industry association that promotes blue tech and blue jobs through sustainable, science-based ocean and water industries.

Scripps Oceanography Director Margaret Leinen and TMA BlueTech President Michael Jones kicked off the day, discussing the ocean’s importance for the blue tech industry, economy, jobs, and national security.

“We understand the importance and impact of the blue economy, particularly in San Diego, but worldwide as well,” said Leinen. “Scripps is proud to contribute to the blue cluster here in San Diego, contributing to cutting-edge research and innovation that move the blue economy forward.”

She discussed how ocean science has become a field that’s moved beyond understanding “what’s out there and how it works” to one that solves problems relevant to the lives of everyone.

“That context of bringing ocean science to the foreground of economic development, quality of life, education, national security, and so forth really changes everything for this field,” she said. “It opens tremendous opportunities for blue tech and the blue economy.”

Dialogue throughout the day was shaped by organizations across the four sectors and featured prominent leaders who are also affiliated with the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC).

In addition to her role at Scripps, Leinen serves as a member of the Executive Planning Group for the UN Decade of Ocean Sciences for the IOC. Other speakers with IOC connections included Ariel Troisi, chair of the IOC, and Craig McLean, NOAA’s assistant administrator for oceanic and atmospheric research, who is the U.S. representative to the IOC.

The UN Decade seeks to provide a common framework to ensure that ocean science can support sustainable management of the ocean on a global scale. This effort is part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an urgent call for action adopted by all United Nations countries to meet 17 sustainable development goals. These goals aim to end poverty and other deprivations while improving health and education, reducing inequality, spurring economic growth, tackling climate change, and preserving the ocean and its resources.

Scripps Oceanography’s leading science was presented in several sessions throughout the day. Postdoctoral researcher Brooke Tozer discussed advances in seabed mapping with co-panelists from NOAA, Marine Advanced Robotics, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Marine Applied Research and Exploration.

James Behrens, manager of the Coastal Data Information Program (CDIP) at Scripps Oceanography, participated in the ocean observation applications panel alongside representatives from the U.S. IOOS Office, the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, U.K., the Dept of Energy, ESRI, and Teledyne Marine.

Nathalie Zilberman, a researcher with the Argo program, shared how technical advancements from Scripps Oceanography are expanding our understanding of the deep oceans in an afternoon panel on the Galway and Belem Statements alongside panelists from ocean instrument manufacturers Saildrone and Deep Trekker. 

The day closed with a town hall discussion about the UN Decade led by Troisi, McLean, and Leinen. The conversation provided an opportunity for the audience to engage and provide perspective for the UN Decade.

The three discussed the UN’s sustainable development goals and societal outcomes, the importance of youth in the conversation, and the challenges countries—particularly developing nations—will face when adhering to the sustainable practices outlined by the UN Decade.

McLean noted the importance of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, calling it “the one that counts.”

“This is going to be a UN Decade that people remember because it's going to have impact and results,” he said. “This is an engine to kick-start more of our ocean science for sustainable development, attaining the sustainable development goals, and attaining a global economy that is enriching people and raising the quality of lives.”

Participants discussed seven research and development priorities to reach the societal outcomes mapped by the UN Decade. The priorities include mapping the ocean floor; bolstering ocean observations in all basins; gaining a quantitative understanding of ocean ecosystems and functions; developing a data and information exchange system; establishing an integrated multi-hazard warning system for the ocean; including an ocean component in earth-system observation, research, and prediction; and strengthening capacity building and accelerated technology transfer, training and education, and ocean literacy.

All noted that in order to achieve these outcomes, the voices of youth and early-career scientists must be included in the conversation. Increasing ocean literacy and formalizing a strategic communication plan to roll out the UN Decade are also key to ensuring its success, they said.

“The goal should be that at the end of the decade, when people think about the factors that influence their lives, the ocean should be right there at the top,” said Leinen. “That would really be extraordinary.”

While implementing such large-scale sustainability goals that involve more than 150 countries will be challenging, the panelists noted that we don’t really have another option. These actions are crucial for the well-being of our ocean planet, for humanity, and for the economy, they said.

Troisi closed on a sobering note, stating, “We’re all accessories to this crime if we don’t do it.”

Co-hosting this signature event during BlueTech Week, Scripps connects its scientists and students to industry and government partners to build a community and advance collaborations for the benefit of ocean science and technology.  For more information on innovation, commercialization, and corporate collaborations on campus visit the Scripps Corporate Alliance program.

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