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How much of the ocean has been discovered?

Asked By

William Zheng

School: Chenango Bridge Elementary School
Grade: 3
Teacher: Mrs. Shafer
Hobbies/Interests: Play games or sports
Career Interest: Doctor

Answered By

Lua Lopez

Research Assistant Professor, Biology Department, Binghamton University
Research area: Evolutionary ecology; Interests/hobbies: During my leisure time I do sports. I love climbing and almost any outdoor activity. 

The Ocean covers more than 70 percent of our planet’s surface, and it is a vital driving force for many earth cycles, such as climate and temperature regulation. Moreover, the Ocean is an important food source for humans, and it’s pivotal for commerce between countries. Finally, the Ocean has historically captured our attention as a source of inspiration, and humans have been fascinated with it since the beginning of time. 

Because of this fascination and the fundamental role that it plays for humans, we started exploring the Ocean early in human history. Despite our efforts, and even with the use of modern technology, most of this vast realm remains unmapped, unobserved and unexplored. This mainly applies to underwater surface, and some reports indicate that more than 80 percent is still totally unknown to us. For the ocean and coastal waters of the United States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that only about 35 percent has been mapped.

Nowadays, ocean exploration and research efforts focus on expeditions to investigate and document what is unknown and to increase knowledge of barely known regions. These expeditions are led by scientist-explorers equipped with the latest exploration tools, and we are discovering many new and fascinating species. We are also better understanding how known species live and how the ecosystem works, and we are mapping the Ocean to create better maps and help navigation. Finally, another very important aspect of these expeditions is to try to preserve these ecosystems. For example, many efforts are directed to reduce plastic pollution. Little by little, we are exploring more of the Ocean to both better understand it and preserve it, so that we can keep using its resources.

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