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Capacity and Community Building

The majority of countries have little or no ability to explore the 93% of the ocean that lies below 200 m. There is a significant capacity gap between high- and low-income countries with respect to access to tools, training, and infrastructure for deep-sea exploration and research.


We are developing a pilot Ocean Discovery Fellowship program to establish the long-term technical and human capacity for deep-sea exploration and research in locations worldwide that do not currently have the capability to undertake this critical work.

A group photo of 16 people holding a National Geopgraphic Society flag.

Traditional capacity development is a multidisciplinary approach extending beyond just training and education. It is a change process within organizations, individuals, and countries, and taking a piecemeal approach is often where capacity projects have failed in the past. We are learning from these experiences to apply new strategies to ocean exploration and research capacity development. 


The Ocean Discovery Fellowship will be the Ocean Discovery League’s flagship equity program to identify, train, and support ocean explorers and researchers from historically excluded backgrounds to foster a global demographic and generational shift that will change how we understand and care for our oceans. Our goal is to research and pilot an initial program, co-design it with individuals from representative countries, modify the program based on feedback, and scale it as a model to ultimately build sustainable infrastructure and environmental justice for deep-sea exploration and science worldwide. This fellowship will be a launching point for unlocking future opportunities for individuals and countries, changing their long-term trajectories, and creating transformative change in the field.


The Ocean Discovery Fellowship is being informed by the 2022 Global Deep-Sea Capacity Assessment, the broadest deep-sea capacity assessment ever conducted. Drawing on survey and/or research data for 186 countries and territories, it documented and established the baseline information needed to understand the gaps, priorities, and needs in countries without the capability to explore and study their own deep ocean. These global inequities not only limit our ability to explore the deep sea from a scientific perspective, but they also result in exploration and conservation agendas that are dominated by those from high-resource areas.


In addition to the capacity assessment, we have conducted a series of interviews with members of our diverse network of ocean explorers, many from marginalized communities. We are using both the assessment and feedback from our colleagues to create a flexible strategy for closing the capacity gaps in countries interested in pursuing deep-sea exploration and research, cultivating and growing local expertise. 


Equity is key to protecting the wonder and health of the ocean: we need diverse and innovative approaches co-designed by local communities to accelerate and expand our ability to explore it at scale. It's time for the next generation of ocean explorers to define and lead this work in the future.

“People just don’t know what’s beneath the water surface. If they don’t know, they don’t love it, and they won’t protect it.”

— Veta Wade, Founder & Director of Fish ‘N Fins, Montserrat

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