In February 2018, we convened 200 explorers, innovators, artists, scientists, and storytellers in collaboration with NGS at an event called Here be Dragons. Our goal was to identify the uncharted territories that still exist in ocean exploration and storytelling.
The first day of the event was dedicated to short talks and panel discussions on six themes: Exploration and Discovery; Data Analysis and Sharing; Sea Stories; Our Thriving Ocean; Platforms and Sensors; and Democratizing the Ocean. Throughout, participants were encouraged to share project ideas that could address challenges identified during panel discussions, as well as resources that they could share to solve those challenges. All panels and lightning talks were streamed live on the MIT Media Lab website and a selection of talks on Facebook Live, increasing participation from the 200 in-person attendees to 31,000 around the world.
On the second day, in-person participants broke up into teams to create projects to address challenges in ocean exploration. The teams worked all day to refine their project ideas, and pitched them at the New England Aquarium IMAX Theater that evening. Teams were then required to submit a brief proposal within two weeks of the event. Eight projects were selected for funding, four by NGS and four by Open Ocean. Additional funding was provided to two of the projects by the Inter-American Development Bank and NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration & Research. All projects were presented at The National Ocean Exploration Forum: All Hands on Deck in November 2018.
Proposals were evaluated by a team of MIT Media Lab and National Geographic representatives. They evaluated 13 proposals according to the following criteria:
Innovative | Is the project forward-looking, leading to previously unachieved outcomes?
Impactful | Will the project lead to significant impact in ocean understanding and community building?
Compelling | Will the project broaden an understanding of the challenge that it is trying to solve and engage the public?
Achievable | Can the project yield practical and concrete results in a realistic time frame?
Big Ocean, Big Data | establish FathomNet, a new baseline dataset optimized to directly accelerate development of modern, intelligent, automated analysis of underwater visual data.
Intertidal Exploration | immerse Boston-area neurodivergent youth in coastal ecosystems to learn about the ecology of rocky and intertidal systems.
Connected Coral | create a tangible, at-scale experience telling the story of coral reef bleaching and climate change that can help individuals empathize with the ocean.
Micronauts | invite visitors on a journey into the dynamic world of ocean microbes through an immersive, multisensory experience around cutting-edge scientific discoveries.
My Deep Sea, My Backyard | enable Kiribati and Trinidad & Tobago to explore their own deep-sea backyards using low-cost technology, while building lasting capacity.
Ocean Cultures | integrate modern data and indigenous knowledge as a new platform for community-led monitoring of marine microbial ecosystems in Aotearoa (New Zealand).
Project Prometheus | develop and deploy a low-cost, high-precision underwater system to quickly and beautifully map caves, coral reefs, and sunken cities.
Wheels of Poseidon | generate a living, glowing display built of bioluminescent plankton stimulated by a programmable pattern of pressure waves in the water.