Satheesh C Shenoi

IIOE-2 to uncover the secrets of the Indian Ocean

By: Staff Reporter
Satheesh C Shenoi, Director, Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) and Chair, Expert Group, IIOE-2 speaks with the Editor about the exploratory work undertaken under the International Indian Ocean Expedition-2.

G’nY. What are the highlights of IIOE-2? Is it a ‘time series’ experiment to see how the Indian Ocean is responding—were similar experiments conducted in IIOE-1?

The major highlights of IIOE-2 are recognition of the need to advance the understanding of geologic, oceanic and atmospheric processes and their interactions in the Indian Ocean—to determine how these dynamics affect climate, marine biogeochemical cycles, ecosystems, and fisheries both within the region and globally. This understanding can predict the impacts of climate change, pollution and increased fish harvesting on the Indian Ocean as well as its influence on other components of the Earth System. New understanding is also fundamental to policy makers for the development of management strategies. The improved insight that IIOE-2 will bring to fundamental physical, biogeochemical and ecological processes also has strong relevance to the ecology and human societies of island and Indian Ocean rim communities.

G’nY. What new experiments differentiate IIOE-2 from IIOE-1?

Satheesh C Shenoi : IIOE-1 or simply IIOE conducted in the 1960s was an ‘exploration of knowing the unknown’. At that time, virtually nothing was known about the Indian Ocean. Hence, the emphasis was on surveying and documenting. But, now with IIOE-2, the situation has changed. The understanding of the Indian Ocean has increased phenomenally. However, new information has also opened up new challenges and unknowns. Hence, IIOE-2 concentrates on asking ‘why and how’ rather than just mapping the phenomena. Also, the technological developments during the last 50 years have made it possible to observe the oceans more closely than ever before.

G’nY. During the IIOE-1 just a few scientific organisations from India were involved. In the current project institutes such as—NCAOR, IISc, NIOT etc., are actively involved in IIOE 2. Is global recognition for India’s contribution to ocean sciences increasing?

Satheesh C Shenoi : Yes, that is true. The global recognition for India’s contribution to ocean science has increased phenomenally due to the increased research activities and the investments in observing systems. Representation of Indian scientists on international committees and international bodies have increased considerably due to their visibility and expertise in respective fields.

G’nY. Where is IIOE-2 headquartered and what is your responsibility?

Satheesh C Shenoi : One of the two joint programme offices (JPO) of IIOE-2 is located at INCOIS, Hyderabad. I was elected to chair the expert group appointed to write the Implementation Plan for IIOE-2 and was also appointed as one the co-chairs of the Steering Group of IIOE-2.

G’nY. How much funding has been provided to IIOE-2 and what has been India’s contribution?

Satheesh C Shenoi : No specific funding is necessary to execute projects to meet the objectives of IIOE-2 from India because almost all projects and activities taken up by the institutes in India are for enhancing the knowledge of Indian Ocean and to develop services and forecasts for the society. Several observing systems deployed and maintained by India are generating data envisaged by IIOE-2. India is fully funding the activities of JPO of IIOE-2 at INCOIS.

G’nY. When and from where was the first leg of IIOE-2 launched?

Satheesh C Shenoi : The first expedition of IIOE-2, led by Professor Vinayachandran (IISc., Bangalore), was launched from Mormugao onboard ORV Sagar Nidhi on December 4, 2015. The expedition concluded at Port Luise, Mauritius on December 22, 2015. Twelve scientists from six national research institutions and the Goa University, and 10 researchers from Mauritius, Israel, Singapore, Australia and the UK participated in the expedition.

The major goal of this multi-disciplinary scientific expedition was to understand the structure of water masses in the western Indian Ocean along 67°E longitude and to assess the difference in their characteristics with respect to observations made in the past. The water masses from Red Sea, Persian Gulf and northern Arabian Sea have been observed in this part of the Indian Ocean at different depth layers. Underwater profiles of current, temperature, salinity, oxygen, light and chlorophyll were measured. In addition, water samples were collected to a depth of 1000 m for various chemical and biological analyses. Samples of zooplankton were collected using nets towed behind the ship.

G’nY. What is the response of the scientific community to IIOE-2?

Satheesh C Shenoi : The responses of scientists from various research institutions and universities world over are very encouraging. Already, 23 projects from various countries have been endorsed by the IIOE-2 Steering Committee. In fact, Australia, France, Germany, India and USA have already set up National Coordination Committees for IIOE-2 and several others have appointed National Contacts. A grand science symposium is planned in early 2020 to discuss the new findings from IIOE-2 made during 2016-2020.

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