Research Themes

CICOES and NOAA researchers represent a broad range of scientific expertise under nine major research themes.

Aquaculture science

Research under this theme is broadly focused on the development of sustainable marine aquaculture to support the commercial aquaculture industry and restoration of native species.

This includes multidisciplinary approaches to the development of aquaculture techniques for marine organisms (e.g. fish, shellfish and macroalgae) to optimize production and minimize negative ecosystem impacts of aquaculture in the marine environment.

This work includes:

  • Evaluating the effects of environmental conditions such as hypoxia, temperature and ocean acidification on life stages from embryos to adults
  • Optimizing growth in culture through genetic selection and diet development
  • Manipulating gender and reproduction
  • Assessing the genetic contribution and structure of cultured organisms for restoration activities
  • Examining interactions between aquaculture practices and surrounding ecosystems
  • Evaluating ecosystem services provided by marine aquaculture including socioeconomic studies
  • Studies will be conducted at the molecular, cellular, organismal, ecosystem and landscape levels

Photo courtesy Blue Evolution

fishermen in boat with net

Climate and ocean variability, change, and impacts

Research conducted under this theme is focused on understanding oceanic and atmospheric processes associated with global and regional climate change and variability on various temporal scales, as well as the impacts of climate variability and change.

This work includes:

  • Research to understand oceanographic and atmospheric processes relevant for characterizing and predicting climate and climate-weather interface patterns
  • Develop and study new information products and tools appropriate for evolving needs for climate and ocean studies and applications
  • Determine effective regional adaptation strategies
  • Respond to ocean and climate emergencies
earth and atmosphere

Earth systems and processes

Research under this theme will focus on understanding the interaction between the earth and aquatic systems. It includes research on the environmental impacts of various interactions between the solid earth and the oceans or other aquatic systems, including efforts to understand and characterize processes relevant for sustaining and enhancing habitat for aquatic organisms.

The research will also encompass tsunami prediction, coastal inundation research, and freshwater hydrology and geomorphology.

This work includes:

  1. Multidisciplinary exploration to discover and characterize new vents, seeps, ecosystems, and resources
  2. Research and development in tsunami modeling and forecasting
  3. Mapping of inundation areas for coastal regions and communities.
  4. Research into ocean river, stream and estuarine processes important for habitat formation and quality
  5. Research under this theme will expand our knowledge of earth systems relevant for the biogeography and biodiversity in the oceans and closely related aquatic systems, and improve our ability to sustainable fisheries and the recovery of protected resources.
earth from space

Environmental chemistry and ocean carbon

Researchers will focus on multi-disciplinary research involving atmosphere-ocean chemical fluxes, water column chemical distributions and transport, ocean tracers, ecotoxicology, atmospheric chemistry and data interpretation and modeling. Special emphasis will be placed on enhancing scientists’ understanding of the role of the ocean in sequestering anthropogenic carbon dioxide, as well as the changes that are occurring due to ocean acidification.

The research will involve using chemical tracers to study a variety of oceanic processes, biogeochemical processes, ecotoxicology, nutrient chemistry, as well as other investigations relevant to chemical and water cycling and chemical interactions within the physical and biotic system.

open water in ocean

Environmental data science

Research conducted under this theme will focus on the methodologies, organization, structuring, visualization and analysis of environmental data.

The vast amounts of data collected each day make bringing to bear the data in an efficient and organized manner through the use of emerging technologies important to NOAA.

Image: Ryzhi via Shutterstock

data science graphic

Human dimensions in marine systems

Activities under this theme include development of data management strategies and tools, data assimilation, automated quality control routines, optimized data storage, solutions to enable dynamic data access, and user interfaces to support these functions.

This theme will support the development and integration of artificial intelligence and machine learning systems into environmental data science.

This theme focuses on the full range of social sciences important for the valuation, public understanding, dissemination and policy-related use of scientific information related to marine environment and ecosystems.

This work includes:

  • Valuation of ecosystem services and scientific information
  • Developing best-practices for dissemination of scientific information
  • Improving the delivery of scientific information for policy uses
  • Understanding and predicting economic and social impacts of policy and management decisions
  • Evaluating alternative management strategies for their impact on human communities

Photo: Carolann Woody/NPS

fisherman with pollock

Ocean and coastal observations

Research conducted under this theme is associated with the collection and analysis of physical, biological, and chemical observations of the ocean and coastal environment, including the atmosphere. These observations are important for understanding global and regional processes and predictions on various temporal scales.

Spatially, they include the global oceans with emphasis on the Pacific Ocean, the tropics, the Washington, Oregon, and Alaskan coasts as well as polar regions.

This work includes:

  • Research associated with the development of new in-situ observations
  • Remote sensing platforms (including passive and active ocean acoustics and new ‘omics tools) and unmanned systems
  • Improvements to current instruments and using these improved observing capabilities in experimental monitoring and process studies

Photo: National Park Service

volcano and ocean

Marine ecosystems: Observation, analysis, and forecasts

Research under this theme will lead to improved forecasting of marine ecosystem conditions, particularly in the North Pacific and Alaska. This research includes:

  • Ecosystem monitoring and modeling
  • Characterizing and forecasting marine ecosystem processes, conditions and relationships
  • Conducting genetic, genomic, metagenomic and other -‘omic research to evaluate marine and aquatic communities and their responses to varying conditions

Work under this theme will make extensive use of current and past environmental, ecological and socio-economic data; large-scale environmental and ecological studies as well as focused process studies for understanding ecosystem functions and change, and model development, parameterization and verification and the prototype development of decision-support tools that enable improved regional ecosystem forecasting, ecosystem management and ecosystem policy decisions.

Other areas of inquiry in this theme

  • Population modeling and viability
  • Protection and restoration of marine resources
  • Harmful algal bloom monitoring

Modeling and evaluating the response of early life stages of key species to environmental conditions

Research under this theme will also identify and improve the understanding of causes and effects of climate variability and change, nutrient dynamics, acidification, hypoxia, parasites and pathogens, and invasive species on ecosystems.

Efforts will likely be interdisciplinary in nature and involve the integration of physical, natural, and social sciences to evaluate the complexity of interactions between people and natural systems at the regional and local level.

Photo: Gay Sheffield/Alaska Sea Grant

floating pieces of ice

Polar studies

This theme focuses on understanding the physical, chemical, biological and ecological systems in the Antarctic, Arctic, and Alaska regions. This theme will incorporate components of the other climate, earth system, chemistry and ecosystem themes, with a particular focus on the unique environments found at high latitudes.

This work includes:

  • Understanding of sea ice dynamics and change
  • Polar oceanography and carbon chemistry
  • Biological oceanography and ecosystem studies
  • Development of high-latitude capable technology


polar bear on ice floe