Public service and engagement

Support for the UN Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development

In December 2020, Schmidt Ocean Institute entered into a formal partnership with the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) to support the UN Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development ... In 2021, Schmidt Ocean Institute was involved in the formation and execution of two informal working groups. Our executive director, Dr. Jyotika Virmani, co-chairs the Ocean Decade Technology and Innovation group, and Dr. Carlie Wiener, our director of communications and engagement strategy, co-chairs the Decade Communications Advisory Group. Both working groups will continue to be co-chaired by Schmidt Ocean Institute staff in 2022. Our involvement has led to the support of several UN Decade Activities. For example, we hosted an event, Inspiring and Engaging Ocean, with our partner, Nekton, for the first Decade Laboratory in July 2021.  

Additionally, our co-founder Wendy Schmidt is a Founding Patron of the Ocean Decade Alliance, and Schmidt Ocean Institute is a Founding Member of the Alliance. Wendy is joined by six others including: H.E. Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya; H.E. Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, President of the Republic of Portugal; His Serene Highness Prince Albert II, Sovereign Prince of Monaco; Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Hasnaa, President, Mohammed VI Foundation for Environmental Protection; Ms. Inger Andersen, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme; and Dr. John Schubert AO, Chair, Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

In addition to these activities, SOI is part of five U.N. endorsed Decade Actions, which include: 

Challenger 150 - a global cooperative devoted to improving our understanding of the diversity, distribution, function, and services provided by deep-ocean biota; and devoted to using this new knowledge to educate, inspire, and promote better management and sustainable use of the deep ocean.

Marine Life 2030 - a globally coordinated system to deliver actionable, transdisciplinary knowledge of ocean life to those who need it, promoting human well-being, sustainable development, and ocean conservation. 

Ocean Biomolecular Observing Network - a global system that will utilize biomolecular technologies to monitor, research and understand life in the sea at every trophic level and scale, how life varies in response to climate and anthropogenic impacts, including fisheries, and how these changes impact society.

Ocean Practices for the Decade - a program that supports all ocean stakeholders in securing, equitably sharing, and collectively advancing methodological heritage. It works to engage diverse communities of practice and aims to transform how science and other stakeholders align their interests/capacities by creating and using practices to promote sustainable human and ocean well-being. 

Seabed 2030 Project - a collaborative project that aims to bring together all available bathymetric data to produce the definitive map of the world ocean floor by 2030, and make it available to all. The project is led by the Nippon Foundation of Japan and the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO); Schmidt Ocean Institute has a pre-existing partnership with Seabed 2030.

Pink Flamingo Society

The Pink Flamingo Society promotes the safe, efficient, and environmentally responsible operation of research vessels primarily funded through philanthropy in support of the global oceanographic scientific research ... community. Schmidt Ocean Institute first convened the group in 2019, and we have continued to engage with the 13 participating organizations and provide leadership to the group. In 2021, our senior director of operations, Eric King, chaired the group, and the communications working group was led by director of communications, Dr. Carlie Wiener. 

The Pink Flamingo Society met virtually in 2021 to discuss shared challenges and opportunities for collaboration. The group was highlighted in the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development’s report on The Transformative Role of Foundations in the Ocean Decade as a forum that will be an “excellent platform for philanthropic research vessels to engage in a collective way with the Decade.” View a video with several of the PFS foundations' offering support for the Ocean Decade here

Scientific Ocean Vehicle Alliance (SOVA)

Officially started by Jason Williams, Schmidt Ocean Institute’s lead mechanical engineer, in May 2020, the Scientific Ocean Vehicle Alliance (SOVA) is a community of operators, managers, engineers, and technicians ... involved in the development and operations of scientific ocean vehicles. Collectively, the members of this community have decades of experience, and by sharing knowledge, they will optimize overall operations of marine science vehicles, increase efficiencies, and standardize operational procedures for conducting ocean science across all their organizations and beyond.  

Schmidt Ocean Institute hosted two virtual SOVA meetings in 2021. Highlights from the meetings included presentations on virtual and augmented reality, offshore telepresence, internship strategies, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute’s AUV program, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s Alvin upgrades, and organizational updates from all groups. Plans for 2022 include several focused workshops and expanding to the international community.

Schmidt Ocean Institute in Film

In an effort to bring the deep sea to new audiences, Schmidt Ocean Institute produced a 10-minute film, “The Depths of Ningaloo,” which was submitted to several film festivals. The film features footage captured during ... a 2020 expedition in Western Australia and brings viewers along as ROV SuBastian discovers new species in this unexplored area of the deep ocean. The film was an official selection for the 2021 Silicon Beach Film Festival and 2021 Sherman Oaks Film Festival, and won Outstanding Short Film at the Sherman Oaks Film Festival.

Schmidt Ocean Institute at COP26

Schmidt Ocean Institute was invited to participate in the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) where approximately 30,000 heads of state, government representatives, business leaders, scientists, journalists, and ... environmental activists from around the world convened in Glasgow, Scotland, to discuss tackling climate change as a global priority. Schmidt Ocean Institute was honored to host the first public session in the green zone entitled “Climate and the Deep Sea World.” The event was moderated by Dr. Carlie Wiener, SOI’s director of communications, and included a panel with SOI’s executive director, Dr. Jyotika Virmani, Seabed 2030 director Jamie McMicheal Phillips, and Alex David Rogers, RevOcean science director. Schmidt Ocean Institute produced a new film, “Climate Under Pressure,” which premiered at the event and examines deep sea exploration and climate, with compelling footage from several R/V Falkor expeditions. 

By invitation from the U.N. Decade of Ocean Science, Dr. Virmani also participated in a panel discussion at the Moroccan Pavilion in the Blue Zone to discuss the Transformative Role of Philanthropy in the Decade.

Several Artist-at-Sea works were exhibited at a side-event exploring the role of arts, creativity and brands in uniting the ocean movement. 

Schmidt Ocean Institute and Schmidt Marine Technology Partners also participated on two panels in the Sustainable Innovation Forum - a three-day parallel event at COP26 where the business community discussed climate and sustainability.

Schmidt Ocean Institute First Virtual Symposium

On February 17th – 18th, 2021, Schmidt Ocean Institute held its first Virtual Symposium showcasing the ongoing impacts of past expeditions across the globe and highlighting future initiatives on technology ... , ocean research, and exploration. The Symposium was a chance for our team to engage with its community of supported scientists, partners, advisory board members, and those interested in the organization. The virtual event was held for four hours each day and welcomed more than 529 participants in a mix of moderated panels, keynote addresses, lightning interviews, and fireside chats. Check out the symposium through this story map

SOI Leadership:

Schmidt Ocean Institute ensures that our staff stays knowledgeable about the existing and novel issues and solutions in the ocean science, technology, and conservation community. By doing so, we are able to offer thought leadership through advisory, steering or leadership capacity roles. In 2021, we were delighted to serve the following organizations: 

Friends of Ocean Action – Wendy Schmidt, co-founder

Deep Ocean Observing Strategy (iDOOS) – Leonard Pace, science program sr. manager

MBARI Board of Directors – Jyotika Virmani, executive director

National Geographic Executive Committee for Research & Exploration – Jyotika Virmani, executive director

Nautilus Magazine Oceans Board of Advisors – Carlie Wiener, director of communications

NOAA Ocean Exploration Advisory Board – Eric King, sr. director of operations

Oceania Board of Directors – Carlie Wiener, director of communications

Seabed 2030 Ocean Frontiers Mapping Committee – Jyotika Virmani, executive director

Sea Education Association – Leonard Pace, science program sr. manager

The Oceanography Society Council – Allison Miller, research program sr. manager

The Ocean Race Science Advisory Committee – Carlie Wiener, director of communications

U.N. Ocean Decade Communications Advisory Group – Carlie Wiener, director of communications

U.N. Ocean Decade Technology and Innovation Group – Jyotika Virmani, executive director

US Integrated Ocean Observing System Federal Advisory Committee – Jyotika Virmani, executive director

WEF Global Future Council on Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality– Jyotika Virmani, executive director