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What we know about our oceans we have learned by going to sea in ships. From the earliest prehistoric skiffs to modern scientific research vessels, we have traveled the seas to gather observations about everything from fish to weather to current studies in biodiversity and climate change. Driven by new technologies, ocean research is moving toward a new phase in which we can rely upon in situ, unmanned instrument arrays—or observatories—for continuous interactive access to information about the oceans. The Ocean Observatories Initiative, funded by the National Science Foundation, is building the most ambitious ocean observatory to date; it will span both coasts of the United States, include global ocean installations, and will instrument the seafloor along the Juan de Fuca plate. An integrating cyberinfrastructure will bind the system together, and allow us to interact with the observatory from our homes, labs and schools. The data from the observatory will be available for analyses and modeling in near real-time, and the knowledge developed through these analyses will, in turn, be used to modify observatory operations in situ—for example, by adjusting the navigation of an autonomous underwater vehicle. The design ensures that the network is easily modified in order to include new sensors and platforms in the future. This cyberinfrastructure will be open and free to all interested users.

The OOI Program is managed and coordinated by the OOI Project Office at the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, in Washington, D.C., and is responsible for construction and initial operations of the OOI network.  Three major Implementing Organizations are responsible for construction and development of the overall program. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and its partners Oregon State University and Scripps Institution of Oceanography are responsible for the coastal and global moorings and their autonomous vehicles. The University of Washington is responsible for cabled seafloor systems and moorings. The University of California, San Diego, is implementing the cyberinfrastructure component. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, with its partners, University of Maine and Raytheon Mission Operations and Services, is responsible for the education and public engagement software infrastructure.