NOAA -- Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR),

Funding Agency:
Department of Commerce

The NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER), also known as NOAA Ocean Exploration, is soliciting proposals to conduct or support ocean exploration resulting in outcomes that provide or enable initial assessments about unknown or poorly understood regions of U.S. waters. This funding opportunity will focus on the outcomes of the Workshop to Identify National Ocean Exploration Priorities in the Pacific hosted by the Consortium for Ocean Leadership (COL) in 2020 in partnership with OER. Proposals should support the ocean exploration topical priorities or spatial priorities in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) identified in the “Report on the Workshop to Identify National Ocean Exploration Priorities in the Pacific” (

Proposals should also support the National Strategy for Mapping, Exploring, and Characterizing the United States Exclusive Economic Zone (national strategy, Proposals for the ocean exploration and marine archaeology themes must be for projects in unknown or poorly understood areas as referenced in the national strategy’s implementation plan ( and within the U.S. EEZ in the Pacific Ocean.

The Pacific priorities workshop report stresses the active awareness of the cultural context in which ocean exploration is often conducted. Recognizing the unique and numerous Pacific communities as partners and stakeholders enhances the overall impact of the ocean exploration enterprise through wider public support, a more diverse workforce and community of practitioners, and incorporation of traditional knowledge systems throughout the process. Applicants should consider including the interests of tribal nations and Indigenous peoples within targeted exploration areas and engaging these communities in a meaningful way.

A complete, maximum two-page, pre-proposal is a requirement in order to be allowed to submit a full proposal. Pre-proposals must be received by 11:59 pm (EDT) on June 21, 2021.

Agency Website

Areas of Interest

OER is soliciting proposals focused on any one of the following three themes:

1. OCEAN EXPLORATION: Exploration of the biological, chemical, and physical ocean environments and areas to inform future characterization, research, and responsible ocean stewardship in unknown or poorly explored U.S. deepwater areas (see the definition of ocean exploration in the national strategy). Areas proposed for exploration must be at water depths of 200 m or more. OER is particularly interested in themes and/or geographic priorities identified by the COL Pacific workshop report, including proposals on deep-ocean acoustics, the water column, seafloor habitat, biology, and marine resources. The use of autonomous and other innovative technologies is an OER priority.

2. MARINE ARCHAEOLOGY. Exploration and discovery of underwater cultural heritage sites and objects to enrich U.S. maritime history and inform decisions concerning site, feature, or object preservation and potential seafloor use. Marine archaeology projects can be conducted in any water depth. OER is particularly interested in proposals focused on themes and/or geographic priorities identified by the COL Pacific workshop report, including submerged evidence of early human migration and occupation on the continental shelf and places significant to U.S. history. The use of autonomous and other innovative technologies is an OER priority.

3. TECHNOLOGY. Application of new or novel use of existing ocean technologies or innovative methods that could increase the scope and efficiency of acquiring ocean exploration data and expanding exploration data availability and use. Proposed ocean technologies must be applicable to water depths of 200 m or greater, preferably full-ocean depth (testing in shallower water or lab-based testing is acceptable). OER is particularly interested in proposals focused on innovative sensors and technologies that could increase the capabilities of autonomous seagoing systems and artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) applications that could improve ocean exploration data usability and accessibility. Consult the NOAA Artificial Intelligence Strategic Plan for information on NOAA defined AI/ML: %20Signed.pdf?ver=2021-01-19-114254-380.

Eligibility Requirements

Eligible applicants are U.S.-based institutions of higher education; non-profit institutions; state, local, and tribal governments; federal agencies; for-profit organizations; and U.S. territories. PLEASE NOTE: Before non-NOAA federal applicants may be funded, they must affirm that they have legal authority to receive funds from another federal agency in excess of their appropriation. Because this announcement is not proposing to procure goods or services from the applicants, the Economy Act (31 U.S.C. section 1535) is not an appropriate basis. NOAA and other federal agencies that possess the statutory authority to accept funding for this type of work must agree to take FY 2022 funding for proposed projects (both one and two year projects) and allocate them in FY 2022.

The DOC and NOAA support cultural and gender diversity and encourage women and minority individuals and groups to submit applications to this NOFO. In addition, DOC/NOAA is strongly committed to broadening the participation of historically black colleges and universities, Hispanic serving institutions, tribal colleges and universities, and institutions that work in underserved areas. DOC/NOAA encourages applications involving any of the above institutions.

Amount Description

OER anticipates a total of approximately $3,000,000 will be available through this announcement. Through this solicitation, OER anticipates being able to support approximately 4-10 awards with budgets ranging from $75,000 to a maximum of $750,000 total to be spent over one or two years. Any proposal below $75,000 or that exceeds $750,000 will not be considered for review and will be disqualified. The amount of funding available through this announcement will be subject to the final FY2022 appropriation/allocation for NOAA OER. Publication of this announcement does not obligate NOAA to fund any specific project or obligate all or any part of available funds. There is no guarantee that sufficient funds will be available to initiate or continue exploration activities where funding has been recommended by OER. The amount of funding that OER may recommend for a grant will be determined in pre-award negotiations between the applicant and OER. The OER Selecting Official may defer selected FY 2022 proposals for consideration for funding in the subsequent, or later, fiscal year(s).

Funding Type





Environmental & Life Sciences

External Deadline

June 21, 2021