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Human Safety, Prosperity Depend on Better Ocean Observing System: Scientists

Tony Haymet, Director, Scripps Institution of Oceanography; D. James Baker, former Director, NOAA; Jesse Ausubel, CoML Programme Director, Sloan Foundation; Shubha Sathyendranath of the Bedford Institute of Oceanography and fellow POGO experts are available for advance interviews.

The 2007 GEO conference takes place Nov. 28-30 in Cape Town, South Africa.

Speedy diagnosis of the temper and vital signs of the oceans matters increasingly to the well being of humanity, says a distinguished partnership of international scientists urging support to complete a world marine monitoring system within 10 years.

The Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans (POGO) says warming seas, over-fishing and pollution are among profound concerns that must be better measured to help society respond in a well-informed, timely and cost-effective way.

"A system for ocean observing and forecasting that covers the world's oceans and their major uses can reduce growing risks, protect human interests and monitor the health of our precious oceans," says Dr. Tony Haymet, Director, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, USA, and Chair of POGO's Executive Committee.

"The world community resolved to construct a comprehensive, integrated ocean observing system two decades ago. The good news is we have demonstrated that a global ocean observing system can be built, deployed and operated with available technologies. Now we must move from experiment and proof-of-concept to routine use. We have progressed less than halfway to our initial goals. Let's complete the task before we are struck by more tsunamis or comparable calamities."

The cost of an adequate initial system would require a further investment roughly estimated at $2-3 billion, involving:
· a stable network of satellites surveying vast extents of the surface of the oceans;
· fixed stations taking continuous measurements on the seafloor or as floats and buoys moored in the water column and at the surface;
· small robot submarine ocean monitors, some drifting with the currents, others motoring along programmed routes;
· marine animals ingeniously outfitted with electronic tags that equip them to capture and transmit data about the environments they visit;
· merchant marine and research vessels, opportunistically observing along their routes.

Data analysis, integration with observations from the atmosphere and other sources, and assimilation into models then may produce insights and forecasts useful to the public and policy makers.

"Oceans cover a majority of our planet - 71% - yet are vastly under-sampled," says Dr. Haymet. "We have an urgent need and new technological marvels available today to complete a system by which marine scientists could authoritatively diagnose and anticipate changing global ocean conditions - something akin to the system that enables meteorologists to predict weather.

"A continuous, integrated ocean observing system will return the investment many times over in safer maritime operations, storm damage mitigation, and conservation of living marine resources, as well as collecting the vital signs of the ocean that are needed to monitor climate change."

The scientists' call for completion of the "first draft" of the ocean observing system is made as ministers and officials from the 71 member nations of GEO (the intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations) assemble in Cape Town, South Africa, Nov. 28-30. The meeting will review progress and map out next steps in a 10-year effort to build a ground-based, ocean-drifting, air-borne and space-based Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) to monitor all of Earth's environmental conditions.


"The rapid pace of technological development is opening up entirely new approaches to ocean measurement, including biological and physical observations from fish and marine mammals. The potential for exploiting the merchant marine as platforms for monitoring ocean properties, although well demonstrated, offers tremendous opportunity for further development. Molecular biological techniques are transforming the way we identify species and interpret their evolutionary development; important opportunities exist for combining biological and physical data to better understand the linkage between marine ecosystems and ocean dynamics," says David Farmer, Fellow of the Royal Society and head of the University of Rhode Island's Graduate School of Oceanography.

Among technologies deployed by ocean observers:

Diving Robotic Probes
Deployments today include some 3,000 small, drifting "Argo" probes that measure pressure, salinity and temperature at depths down to 2 km and return to the surface every 10 days to transmit readings via satellite. The instruments measure conditions driving climate change. POGO officials say up to 10 times as many floats are needed to produce a high-resolution global picture of marine conditions.

Unmanned vehicles and research vessels
Field testing is underway of so-called 'air-clippers': atmosphere and ocean surface sensors tethered to balloons. With these sensors, scientists have achieved concurrent atmospheric and ocean measurements from within the eye of a strong cyclone where the balloons become trapped.

Meanwhile, scientists using robotic submersible equipment to record life and conditions in the remote deep ocean say they have barely scratched the surface with resources available.

Aboard research ships, scientists can sample and monitor marine species distribution and abundance, and develop the next generation of observing technologies - devices, for example, that perform at-sea DNA sequencing of microbial, bacterial, and planktonic life forms, yielding real-time marine equivalents of "pollen counts".

Innovative Sonar Approaches
The naval acoustics technology of transmitting sound in all directions but detecting it with a hydrophone array and then transforming the signal into an image of objects in the ocean, has been demonstrated with spectacular success in the coastal ocean. Images covering thousands of square kilometres have revealed the presence of very large fish schools containing tens of thousands of fish and spanning many kilometres. Other sonar systems are allowing the mapping and characterization of the seafloor with unprecedented accuracy.

As part of the international Census of Marine Life (CoML), approximately 2,000 marine animals that journey into the open, deep ocean have been tagged by project TOPP (Tagging of Pacific Palagics), creating a team of animal oceanographers that reveal biodiversity hotspots, nurseries, and migratory routes that need protection and also describe the physical state of the areas of the oceans the animals inhabit.

The 22 species tagged include elephant seals, white sharks, leatherback turtles, squid, albatross and sooty shearwaters. To see a video of tags at work:

Light, depth, temperature and salinity data captured by the tags are transmitted via satellite as the creatures travel. Elephant seals, for example, spend 10 months at sea and dive up to 1.5 km below the ocean surface.

Acoustic tags deployed by another CoML project, POST (Pacific Ocean Salmon Tracking), allows researchers to follow animals that stay on the shallow continental shelves, such as salmon and sturgeon, as correspondents, creating insights into their migration and survival - where and why they die - that suggest better strategies for sustainable fisheries. Over 12,000 POST-coded acoustic tags have been released over the POST array, resulting in more than 4 million detections of the movements and survival of the tagged animals.

CoML Chief Scientist Ron O'Dor says the endorsement and support of ministers in Cape Town is being urged for the Ocean Tracking Network, recently created to expand use of these techniques into a continuous worldwide system.

CoML experts also want GEO ministers to endorse standard protocols to govern a global, low cost near-shore biodiversity monitoring system, operational within five years, to shed light on invasive species, climate change and other concerns.

Moored buoys
Across Earth's equatorial region, roughly 50 moored buoys have been deployed to measure temperature, currents, waves and winds, salinity, carbon dioxide, allowing scientists to study the signs of and predict destructive weather patterns such as El Niño. Scientists say four times as many are needed to create more uniform coverage. Some areas have no sampling stations at all.

In a growing number of places, meanwhile, pressure gauges deployed near shore and on the deep seafloor help detect both sea level rise and tsunamis. The deep-sea operation involves a surface buoy to receive the information from below and relay it to ground stations via satellite. There were six such Deep Ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART) stations, all of them deployed in the Pacific, at the time of the earthquake and devastating Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004. An additional 32 DART buoys were soon announced, including stations in the Indian, Caribbean and Atlantic oceans.

Cabled observatories
Using cables hundreds of kilometers long on the seabed at depths down to 3 km, dotted with instrument "nodes," scientists can access and control scientific sensors and remotely-operated vehicles and cameras.

The information gleaned will improve understanding of plankton blooms, fish migrations, changing ocean conditions, climate change, underwater volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and the processes that cause them, and help warn of approaching tsunamis.

The ocean observing system suffers from major gaps in the observational coverage of satellites, which provide a high-altitude window on such marine characteristics as sea surface roughness, temperature, currents, ice cover and shifting meadow-like areas where marine plants grow.

Societal benefits

Are oceans absorbing less carbon and thus losing the ability to dampen climate change? Is the flow of deep water in the North Atlantic slowing to bring a chill - the premise of Hollywood's apocalyptic film "The Day After Tomorrow"? Are reefs being bleached? Scientists envision an ongoing, integrated ocean observing system that routinely surveys and monitors conditions and offers prompt diagnoses and timely forecasts of problems - practical information of benefit to humanity in many ways:

Mitigating damage from natural disasters and bad weather
Deeper understanding of ocean behaviour will help society better forecast and protect itself from catastrophic storms such as hurricanes, typhoons and tsunamis.

Better ocean information will improve short- and long-range weather and climate prediction, thereby strengthening disaster preparedness and damage mitigation and strategies for agricultural and seafood harvests. As well, better ocean observing will improve safety of the marine transportation network - which conveys 90% of goods traded internationally - with accurate, timely information about ocean conditions.

Human health and well-being
Among the benefits offered by better ocean observing: measurement of sea surface temperatures could predict movement of fish from traditional waters, and even outbreaks of disease, which have been associated with warmer water, while monitoring pollution-induced eutrophication will help predict toxic algal blooms.

Oceans are a growing source of energy - oil and especially natural gas - as operators reach into the seafloor in deeper and deeper parts of the ocean with multi-billion dollar facilities. Offshore wind farms would also depend on timely, reliable information on ocean conditions. Better ocean observation will help harness various energy sources safely and efficiently with minimal environmental impact.

Climate and ocean acidity
A more fully developed ocean observing system will foster important new insights into how altered ocean conditions, including warmer water and increasing acidity, affect weather, climate and the role of the oceans as a carbon sink. Scientists want to know how warmer water, for example, impacts microscopic life forms that consume some 50 giga-tonnes of carbon per year, about the same as all plants and trees on land.

Water resources
As the planet's primary reservoir, oceans govern the global water cycle. Improved ocean observations will help scientists better understand precipitation patterns.

Marine ecosystems and biodiversity
A majority of life on Earth eats, swims, crawls, fights and lives in oceans. Water temperatures affect where species live and travel, as well as the distribution of nutrients, plankton and on up the food web. An integrated ocean observing system will illuminate the impact of shifting ocean conditions and pollution on marine and coastal ecosystems and the distribution, abundance and biodiversity of organisms.

Calls for Action

D. James Baker, former Administrator of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says: "The exciting progress to date also shows the size of the remaining opportunity. We have pathetically few measurements of the oceans relative to their importance to life on Earth and the extent to which we rely on them for energy, weather, food and recreation."

According to South African oceanographer John Field, chair of the Scientific Committee of the Global Ocean Observing System: "In the first few decades of this century we can develop an ocean observing system comparable in value to the system we so appreciate for our weather forecasts. If in the year 2020 ocean monitoring and prediction are much improved, we may recall the 2007 Cape Town Summit as when governments intensified the key commitments."

"People who watch and worry about each sea unite in support of a much improved, integrated global ocean observing system," says Prof. Howard Roe, Director Emeritus, National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, U.K. and past POGO Chair, who will lead the POGO delegation in Cape Town.

Finally, notes Jesse Ausubel, CoML program director for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation: "2012 will be the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic. I think Captain Smith would be disappointed by the continuing hesitation to firm up our ocean observing system."

* * * * *

Ocean United is an informal forum created under POGO leadership that brings together many organisations with interests in various aspects of ocean observations, and speaks with a common voice in support of ocean observations.


The Partnership for Observation of the Global Ocean (POGO) links much of the ocean research community. POGO was created by directors and leaders of major oceanographic institutions to focus attention on technical compatibility among observing networks; shared use of infrastructure; and on public outreach and capacity building.


GOOS is co-ordinated by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, World Meteorological Organization, the UN Environment Programme and the International Council for Science. It is being implemented by concerned partners worldwide.
Ocean United is an informal forum that was created under POGO leadership that brings together many organisations with interests in various aspects of ocean observations, and speaks with a common voice in support of ocean observations.

POGO executives are available Tues. afternoon Nov. 27, Agfa Room, Two Oceans Aquarium, Cape Town. Contact during the conference: Emlyn Balarin, Tel:+27-21-650-3283; +27-082-224 3941 (mob);



  • M.S. Geology, University of Missouri, Columbia
  • B.S. Geology, Western Illinois University, Macomb


Before landing at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Rita worked for 11 years as a Senior Project Manager in the Environmental Consulting industry at a variety of firms across the US. At Scripps, she currently provides project coordination support for the International Ocean Discovery Program Science Support Office (, HiSeasNet (, the Autonomously Deployed Deep Ocean Seismic System (ADDOSS) project, and the Ocean Bottom Seismometer Instrument Pool (

Projects and programs from her past include the Center for Earth Observations and Applications, and the Ocean Observatories Initiative - CyberInfrastructure Program ( Rita resides in the San Diego area with her husband and their two hairless dogs.

Coral reef habitat response to climate change scenarios


Research Interests

I am a post-doctoral researcher in Dr. Sandin's lab. I explore coral reef benthic dynamics and how they relate to human impacts and biophysical forcings. Undertaking original research, I develop spatially dynamic models to promote our understanding of coral reef dynamics, specifically addressing questions of coral reef resilience and management. More widely, my work has focused on the importance of complexity in ecological modeling.


  • PhD - Aix Marseille University (advisors: JC.Poggiale and M.Baklouti)
  • MSc - Aix Marseille University (advisors: Erik Muller and Roger Nisbet (UCSB-USA))
  • BS - Aix Marseille University


Originally from France, I spent my MSc years modeling the effect of UV radiation on the endosymbiotic relationship found within scleractinian corals through a collaborative project between the Aix-Marseille University and the University of California, Santa Barbara where I was advised by Erik Muller and Roger Nisbet. Because I questioned myself about the mathematical origins of modeling results, I chose to conduct a PhD thesis focused on model complexity analysis under the supervision of Jean-Christophe Poggiale and Melika Baklouti at the Aix-Marseille University.

Home sweet Villarrica!



  • BS Earth Science
  • MS Occupational Health & Hygiene/Environmental Management

Obituary Notice: Douglas Inman: Founder of Coastal Oceanography

Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego Emeritus Professor Douglas Inman, considered the founder of the field of coastal oceanography, died Feb. 11 at the age of 95.

Inman was a World War II veteran who described his roles in beach landings in the South Pacific as an informal source of his expertise in nearshore processes. He joined Scripps in 1946, the first year the institution offered a doctorate in the newly defined field of oceanography. Over ensuing decades, he made fundamental observations that explain how beaches acquire sand, how sand is transported, and how it disappears from coastlines. His work has informed the building of coastal infrastructure and management of coastal resources, including economically vital sandy beaches. A committed educator, Inman advised dozens of graduate students over the course of his 60-year career. Many of those students went on to transform the understanding of how the ocean and land interact along coasts using Inman’s founding principles as their basis.

“So much of what we know about our coasts and how the ocean interacts with land comes thanks to Doug Inman,” said Scripps Oceanography Director Margaret Leinen. “We are now in an era in which we anticipate substantial changes to coastlines in the face of sea-level rise and extreme weather events. Not just scientists but society as a whole would be at a tremendous disadvantage in attempting to cope with an uncertain future had Doug not created the foundation of our understanding of the main interface between people and the oceans.” 

Inman created the Center for Coastal Studies (now part of the Integrative Oceanography Division) at Scripps and established the Hydraulics Laboratory, a Scripps facility constructed in 1964 outfitted with wave channels and tanks for conducting fluid dynamics research. He is credited as the first researcher to extensively consider the role of land processes on coastal dynamics. He pioneered quantitative methodologies and development of electronic instruments for coastal research. He formulated mathematical models that are now considered fundamental to the study of beach erosion and wave dynamics.

Inman introduced the concept of the “littoral cell” to describe segments of coastlines that contain the sources, transport paths, and sinks of sediments. Working close to home, Inman designated the beach adjacent to the Scripps campus as part of the Oceanside littoral cell, which has its origins in Dana Point, Calif. Its terminus is the Scripps Submarine Canyon where the sand washed from beaches is lost to the deep. Inman’s work highlighted the natural processes such as cliff erosion and sediment transport from rivers that create sandy beaches and how coastal development can sometimes disrupt those processes, creating a need for costly artificial methods of beach replenishment in some areas.

Inman’s influence is apparent not only in his own research but in that of the numerous students he advised over several decades. Several generations of coastal oceanographers have made significant advances in the field using his observations as founding principles.

“The immortality of this man is really in the footprints of his students,” said Scott Jenkins, a physical oceanographer at Scripps who first joined Inman’s lab as a high school student volunteering to help with fieldwork in the summer of 1966. Jenkins received his doctorate from Scripps in 1980 with Inman as his adviser.

Robert Holman, an emeritus professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University describes himself as a “grandson” of Inman’s in that Inman served as the adviser to Holman’s adviser, Tony Bowen, himself an emeritus professor of oceanography at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“He was the leader in the field for a long time and Scripps was the institution for coastal processes,” said Holman. “When you invent a field, your influence runs pretty deep."

Inman was born July 7, 1920, in Guam, the son of a Marine Corps captain.  The family moved to the Philippines, China, and Nicaragua, following his father to various deployments. By that time, the family had returned to San Diego along with parrots, an ocelot, a monkey and other exotic animals brought from Nicaragua. After his father died when he was 14, Inman would work summers at his grandfather’s ranch in Auburn, Calif., where he participated in one of the last true California cattle drives from the American River valley to the Sierra Nevada foothills. Inman was fond of describing himself as a cowboy during his teenage years.  He, his sister Iris, and his mother lived in La Mesa, where his mother tried to introduce him to the business world by renovating and reselling homes but his interests lay elsewhere.

Inman graduated from Grossmont High School and enrolled at San Diego State University, then known as San Diego State College, and received a combined bachelor’s degree in physics and geology in 1942. Anticipating another war, he had completed platoon leader training for the Marine Corps Reserves in 1940-1941 and was called to active duty as an officer after Pearl Harbor. Misinterpreting his physics background, the Marine Corps sent Inman to learn top-secret radar technology at Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in preparation for training other radar officers.

Shortly after, he saw combat in the invasions of Peleliu and Angaur in the South Pacific’s Palau islands. As a Marine captain, his mission was to establish radar command and control on an island as it was being invaded to prove advance warning of enemy aircraft and direct artillery fire.  At one point, he spared an American aircraft from destruction by friendly fire when he informed ground units that his radar indicated it was a U.S., and not Japanese, plane.

Inman would remain affiliated with the Marines after the war, rising to the rank of major as a reservist.

When he returned home from the war, he enrolled as a graduate student in geology at Caltech but departed as a student as soon as he learned of a new oceanography graduate program starting at Scripps. Earlier, as a San Diego State student, he had been enthralled by talks that Scripps oceanographer Roger Revelle gave on campus and shared Revelle’s enthusiasm for extending concepts of geology into the study of ocean basins. After a friend told him about the new curriculum in oceanography devised by then-Scripps Director Harald Sverdrup, Inman traveled to Scripps the next day and applied in person.

Inman joined the incoming class of 1946 and received M.S. and doctoral degrees with Scripps researcher Francis Shepard as his adviser.  He joined the faculty in 1953, and became a professor in 1965.

From the beginnings of his career, Inman had served as an advisor first to the U.S. military and later to governments on beach and coastal processes, being for many years virtually the sole expert in the field. He advised the 1950 U.S. invasion of Inchon during the Korean War.  In the mid-1960s, he made several trips to Vietnam to assist the Navy in placement of harbors. During one, he survived the shooting down of the helicopter transporting him on a scouting mission.

At the same time, Inman was disseminating his research on beaches to the public. He served as science adviser to the 1965 film “Beach: A River of Sand,” an explanation of beach processes that would win an American Film Festival award in 1966 and an “Orbit Award” in 1967 as the best scientific teaching film at the International Film Exhibition.

In addition, Inman was a central player in the Scripps community of researchers and their families.  He had been named a Guggenheim Fellow in 1961 and during his associated sabbatical had drawn inspiration for design of the Hydraulics Laboratory’s equipment during his time at the National Hydraulics Laboratory in Wallingford, England. The Hydro Lab – with its distinctive wave-shaped roofline and all-wooden construction – in its earliest years was a hub for Scripps social events, hosting dances in the same confines that housed advanced fluid mechanics instruments. Inman lived on the Scripps campus as did many other researchers, at one time living in a cottage with the address “1 Discovery Way” where the Robert Paine Scripps Forum for Science, Society, and the Environment is located now.

To help his fellow academics afford real estate in tony La Jolla, Inman formed with Revelle, Walter Munk, Jeffrey Frautschy, and other Scripps scientists the Scripps Estates Associates, a nonprofit entity that purchased land north of Scripps campus and developed it into 42 homesites sold at cost to researchers at Scripps and elsewhere, including polio vaccine discoverer Jonas Salk. The entity also designated nearby Sumner Canyon as a privately protected nature reserve.

Inman also attracted other world-renowned researchers to Scripps including French explorer Jacques Cousteau.  Inman was an early adopter of Cousteau’s invention, scuba gear, and made what are believed to be the first scuba dives on the West Coast in 1948. It was in a submersible craft developed by Cousteau that Inman was able to directly observe the Scripps Submarine Canyon in 1964 and confirm it as the final repository of much of the sand in the Oceanside littoral cell.

Over the decades, Inman cemented his place in the history of oceanography as his students formed a diaspora and brought nearshore oceanography to other research centers around the world. In 1973, the editors of the journal Science invited Inman to write what would become one of his seminal papers, “The Coastal Challenge.” In it, Inman pointed out the increasing impact of human activities on coastlines and the need for improvements in technology and management to preserve them.

Inman advised local, state, and federal agencies and lectured internationally on concepts of erosion, coastal infrastructure, dam construction, and dredging of harbors among many topics. His career efforts were recognized by numerous awards including honors from the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Office of Naval Research.

In many instances, Inman’s science became an instrument of diplomacy. He helped organize a joint meeting of Israeli and Egyptian scientists in 1980 to share information on the Nile littoral cell the two countries shared. The meeting was held on the Scripps campus – a neutral location suggested by Inman – in great secrecy with security provided by the FBI because of the open hostilities between the two countries at the time.  Inman was also one of the first American scientists to visit China in the years after President Richard Nixon began the process of re-opening relations with that country during his presidency. The 1978 invitation to visit had been a gesture of gratitude from Chinese scientists who were studying at Scripps during the 1949 Communist revolution. After those students were temporarily barred from returning to China, Inman and Munk helped with efforts to reunite them with their loved ones.

Inman retired in 1991 but returned to Scripps as a research professor until 2003.

Inman died at Thornton Hospital in La Jolla, Calif. of natural causes. He is survived by his wife, retired Scripps marine archaeologist Patricia Masters; son Bryce Inman, a PhD candidate at Scripps; and sons from his first wife Ruth, who died in 1978, John Inman of Campo, Calif. and Scott Inman of Sedona, Ariz. He is also preceded in death by son Mark, who died in 1975.

A memorial service will be held on the Scripps campus at the Martin Johnson House, April 10, 2016, 2-4 p.m. In lieu of flowers, his family suggests contributions in memory of Douglas Inman go to Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, to support graduate student fellowships.  Please note that your gift is in memory of Douglas Inman F-4484.  Gifts can be sent to:

Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Attn: Stacey Loomis

9500 Gilman Drive, #0210

La Jolla, CA 92093

Click here to read the transcript of Doug Inman’s oral history of his career recorded in 2006.


Tributes to Doug Inman

"Doug was a founder (with Francis Shepard) of modern nearshore processes. His interests ranged from scales of centimeters and seconds in studies of wave boundary layer turbulence to thousands of kilometers and centuries in studies of ice age beaches. His physical intuitions about underlying processes were often remarkably accurate. Doug provided a generation of PhD students with incredible opportunties to do world-class research. He left a long-lasting and positive imprint on the field of nearshore processes." – Robert Guza, physical oceanographer, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego and former student of Doug Inman


"Of course, I knew of Doug’s towering scientific reputation but I was even more impressed with him as a human being.  He radiated the absolute personal integrity that made me proud to be part of Scripps." Charles Kennel, Director, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, 1998-2006