The 2016 Okeanos Explorer Field Season: Exploring America’s Remote Pacific Marine Monuments

Meme Lobecker and Derek Sowers
Physical Scientists

NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

Friday, Nov. 18, 2016, 3:00pm
Chase 130

In 2016, NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research and the crew of NOAA vessel Okeanos Explorer completed their most ambitious field season to date – mapping an ocean area almost the size of Texas, and completing 65 deep water exploratory ROV dives. 2016 was the second year of NOAA’s three-year Campaign to Address Pacific monument Science, Technology, and Ocean NEeds (CAPSTONE) project. CAPSTONE is an initiative to collect deep water baseline information in and around U.S. marine protected areas in the central and western Pacific, and provides timely, actionable information to support decision making based on sound science. This seminar will provide highlights from exploration expeditions completed within the Papahānaumokuākea, Wake Island, and Mariana Trench Marine National Monuments and discuss plans for the upcoming 2017 Okeanos Explorer field season.


Elizabeth (Meme) Lobecker is a Physical Scientist with the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER). She spends approximately two to three months per year offshore supporting the mapping efforts on the NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer.

Shoreside at the Integrated Ocean and Coastal Mapping (IOCM) center at UNH, she facilitates data archival procedures with the National Geophysical Data Center, and collaborates with other scientists on Okeanos Explorer exploration missions.

Prior to the commencement of her work in 2009 at NOAA, Meme began her career in hydrography in 2002 at Science Applications International Corporation, Inc. (SAIC) in her hometown of Newport, RI, where she spent five years mapping the US east coast, the Gulf of Mexico, and Alaska, primarily for NOAA and USGS contracts. She was also a main in-house software tester for SAIC's multibeam acquisition and processing software suite. In 2007, Meme left SAIC to diversify her survey experience through field work in Papua New Guinea, the North Sea, and the Mediterranean for various research and commercial purposes.

Meme completed her masters degree in Marine Affairs at the University of Rhode Island in 2008, where her worked focused on the recent string of Californian and US Supreme Court cases attempting to manage the potential effects of US Navy mid-frequency sonar testing in the Southern California Range Complex on marine mammals. She holds a bachelor's degree from The George Washington University in Environmental Studies, with minors in geography and biology.

Derek Sowers works as a Physical Scientist with the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER) supporting ocean mapping efforts of the NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer. This work involves overseeing sonar data collection at sea during ocean exploration expeditions, and managing data and collaborating with other scientists shore-side at UNH’s Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping Joint Hydrographic Center. Derek is also a part-time Oceanography Ph.D. student at CCOM/JHC with interests in seafloor characterization, ocean habitat mapping, and marine conservation. He has a B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of New Hampshire (1995), and holds an M.S. in Marine Resource Management from Oregon State University (2000) where he completed a NOAA-funded assessment of the “Benefits of Geographic Information Systems for State and Regional Ocean Management.” Derek has thirteen years of previous coastal research and management experience working for NOAA’s National Estuarine Research Reserve network and EPA’s National Estuary Program in both Oregon and New Hampshire. Derek has participated in ocean research expeditions in the Arctic Ocean, Gulf of Maine, Gulf of Mexico, North Atlantic, Caribbean and Central and North Pacific.