Symposium on Advances in Ocean Observation

July 3rd to July 7th, 2022,

Terceira Island, Azores, Portugal

The symposium comes with a novel format to bring together a small (∼30 people) yet highly motivated group of experts focusing on smarter methods in ocean observation. The aim is to generate ideas across science and technology, to advance ocean observation in novel ways. We hope for scientists to understand and leverage advances in technology and for technologists to advance their science and problem solving methods to have societal impact in solving critical scientific problems.

The symposium will take place over 4 full days, with plenty of time for discussion and interaction between attendees. We want people to present speculative and “far-out” yet grounded ideas, inter-disciplinary concepts, processes and actions.

We are aiming at a truly interactive and participatory process, so in order to allocate enough time to each presenter and to the discussions, this event is by invitation only, and attendees are expected to stay for the duration of the symposium.

We will pair each speaker with a ’commentator/critic’ from a very different field who would be expected to reach into the speaker’s ideas (shared a priori) to provide public feedback during the event. At the symposium, both the speaker and the challenger are expected to follow this format:

1) 20 minutes – Speaker presentation

2) 10 minutes – Commentator, providing feedback/critique/comments/suggestions

3) 5 minutes – Speaker response/rebuttal

4) 5 minutes - Q&A and audience participation

There will be adequate time for discussions and networking among all participants.

Ocean science is an inter-disciplinary domain. We expect a range of experts from some of these fields to participate in the symposium. It follows an inter-disciplinary symposium with a theme focused on Sampling and Control, albeit with a more conventional format, in Trondheim, Norway in 2018

The event will be on Terceira Island, Azores.


Aida Alvera Azcárate, Physical Oceanography, Ocean Remote Sensing, Belgium

Jo Eidsvik, Statistical Sampling, Norway

Kanna Rajan, Autonomous Systems, AI, United States and Portugal

FAQ (or questions you think you might want to ask)

  1. What are/is the focus area(s) for this symposium?

    • The foci are related to upper water-column bio-geophysics. In other words we are interested in the study of the upper water-column and not of the benthic environment. While the latter clearly impacts the former, in the interests of bounding what we can talk about in the time we have, we need to focus on the biology and physics of the upper water-column. The invitees, we believe, reflect the research efforts in this domain.

  2. What do I need to do to prepare for this event?

    • First, think across the traditional disciplinary lines to reach out to others especially and including computational science and robotics. Second, think of this venue as a place to safely share out-of-the-box ideas where you can feel out experts outside your comfort zone; please, do not come with work you are currently funded for. Third, to make this viable for all, ensure you are in a position to articulate cleanly and clearly what your idea is and why it will impact ocean observation in the context of the upper water column. Please remember many will have no idea of the terminology in your field that comes naturally to you.

  3. How will the critique process work?

    • Fundamentally it will work (or not) depending on all our collective participation. The objective of the talk + challenge format is to have the challenger (or opponent in European parlance) is to have her/him reach out and probe into the specifics of your idea, a priori. And to share with the author (you) and the participants (at the meeting) why the idea can be improved upon. Doing so publicly, we believe, makes the opponents biases and thoughts also subject to collective discussion and probing. The idea is to add "legs" to the concept and to strengthen it in the process.

    • The critique process is expected to be friendly and safe, if firm and pointed. The concept has been tried out by one of the organizers a few times in the US and subsequently with the marine robotics community once in 2013. This in turn is, we are told, based on an approach pioneered from the Cognitive Science community at their conferences.

    • To be clear, this is not about confrontation or 'put downs', but to engage in ways that peels the layers of a potentially promising concept/idea/thought and to expose both its strengths and weaknesses. In the process, as a side-effect, the idea could potentially pick up adherents and get shaped and moulded in ways the presenter might not have thought about. Or it gets riddled with holes that the presenter considers beefing it in ways that would help her/him make it more bullet proof for a manuscript or proposal.

  4. When you say 'upper water-column' what depth are you referring to?

    • While there are challenges in observing and understanding benthic-pelagic coupling, our focus is on the photic zone and the top 100 meters. This could include shall water benthic interactions (e.g. with corals); the aim is to look at how bio-geochemical changes interact with the physics of this upper layer and what strides we can make in terms of ideas, at this symposium to push the needle in making more synoptic measurements.

  5. We are not recording any session. However every technical session will have a note taker, who will be adding to a Google Docs page. Everyone is welcome to contribute to that. In addition, on Monday July 4th and Thursday near to the close, we will be having remote speakers for a 2-way discussion (see program). In both instances there will be cameras in the room. If you have any issues/concerns with this, let us know.

  6. On Posters:

    • Participants should bring their posters with them. There is no known facility either in the hotel nor in the city where posters can be printed. The hotel can print b/w pages if need be.

    • There are no size restrictions. All posters will be put up on the foyer's walls. This is just outside the meeting room (auditorium) where we will be. The foyer is also where the continuous tea/coffee/snack service based.

  7. At the meeting, will there be social distancing and masking?

    • Most participants will have taken the necessary steps to deal with the ongoing pandemic including requisite vaccinations. In the meeting itself, alternate seats will be blocked around a U-shaped table facing the podium. The meeting room can house 200 people in typical circumstances; so we expect more than adequate space in this ventilated environment. Those who wish to wear masks are of course welcome.

  8. Will there be tea/coffee available during the day?

    • Yes, a continuous snack and beverage service is being provided for all the participants. The snacks/beverages will be placed just outside the meeting room along with the posters for access anytime. Food will include vegetarian options.

  9. On Travel:

    • Non-EU participants flying via Lisbon's airport, should note that immigration lines are exceedingly long. Be prepared to have your next flight information handy and ask the helpers to cut the line to be able to catch your connecting flight. Here is advice from the US Embassy in Lisbon:

Unscheduled strikes by inspectors from the Portuguese Immigration and Border Service (SEF) at Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado International Airport, and other staffing issues, have caused delays of four hours or more for passengers arriving from outside of the Schengen area (including from the United States) to clear passport control.

    • Non-stop flights to Terceira are limited; there are about 10-15 flights overall to the Lajes airfield on the island. So if you miss your flight in addition to the inconvenience, you will likely be delayed for the meeting.

  1. On Recreation:

    • The hotel (see the map) is on a small and calm bay. While there are no sandy beaches nearby, the concrete "beaches" are reasonable ways to enter the waters for swimming. Note that entering the water via a ramp/ladder one has to be careful given the slickness of the algae coating it. Also note the color of the flags put up by the local lifeguards.

    • Travel within the island is best done with a rental. The hotel would be able to help you; there is also a rental agency within a 5-10 min walking radius of the hotel. Road conditions are excellent even if the drivers might be somewhat more challenging at times.

    • For non-Portuguese speakers, note that nearly everyone (not all) speak English. Like all Portuguese the Azorians are incredibly hospitable, so using sign language works just as well.