“What we need to do is look at the major economic drivers,” Cameron said. “I’ll give you an example: Food prices rising because crop yields are down because ocean precipitation isn’t there. We need to look at the ocean as a driver to our economy.”
As oceanic research funding is stretched thin, so, too, are the human resources involved in researching the vital ecosystems, Cameron said. American students finished 25th in math and 17th in science in recent studies comparing 31 countries, according to the National Math and Science Initiative.
Witnesses agreed that fostering the next generation of biologists is key to further developing oceanographic research.
“A number of us are concerned about the proposals to eliminate some of the STEM programs’ funding,” said Susan Avery, president of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, referring to science, technology, engineering and mathematics education. “In general, a lot of us in the research end of science are taking a long look at this as a long-term issue.”
The opportunity for expansion and exploration in the ocean are immense, but the witnesses agreed that without funding they would go largely untapped.
“If there is more funding directed toward our oceans, there will be more activity around that,” Newton said. “From my experience in academia, I can tell you there’s a perceived lack of opportunity in oceanic jobs. With more people looking at the oceans, more people will be inspired to explore them.”
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