10-12 March 2026
London, Excel

A New Age of Ocean Exploration

Oceanology International speaks to Dr Jyotika Virmani, Executive Director of The Schmidt Ocean Institute, about the integrated technology advances which are revolutionizing our ability to discover and characterize new underwater sites and marine life.

Dr. Jyotika Virmani is The Schmidt Ocean Institute’s first Executive Director. With an extensive background in science and innovation, Jyotika leads the global philanthropic foundation in its work to advance the field of oceanographic science through research and technology. 

Jyotika is a committee member and speaker at Oi24’s Catch the Next Wave conference.

Announcing several awe-inspiring seafloor discoveries in 2023, including new hydrothermal vent fields, pristine cold-water coral fields and huge sea mounts, The Schmidt Ocean Institute has had an incredible year of expeditions with its new research vessel, Falkor (too). The philanthropic institute was established in 2009, operating their former research vessel Falkor and the 4500m remotely operated underwater robotic vehicle, SuBastian, with a mission to advance oceanographic research.

Executive Director Dr Jyotika Virmani envisions an acceleration in ocean exploration capabilities in the decade ahead, as technologies are honed and integrated to enable the mapping and research of unknown areas of the seafloor – an essential element of understanding our planet and its complex ecosystems.

She said: “We are in the middle of a very exciting time for ocean technology. We have really seen a huge shift in autonomous and robotic technology. Even walking around the Oceanology International floor about 5 years ago, compared to what it was last year when I last attended, there was a huge change in where the focus has been as far as robotics and autonomous technology goes.

“What I am looking forward to now is the next stage in the evolution of integrated sensors of different types onto those platforms. So not only for physics but for biological sensors. There is a lot of work going on as far as improving our biological sensing capability. What I would like, and where I think we are heading in the future, is to do bio-diversity assessments and discover marine life, that exists, but is new to us, without taking creatures out of the water - to do it all in-situ, identify everything in the water, using robotics and autonomous technology, using advanced camera systems.

“I see some fantastic advances in material science. eDNA [environmental DNA] is coming along really nicely. Then there is the integration of all of that with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. I think we have already started our journey in this new age of ocean exploration and I think that journey will just get faster and faster in the next decade.

“Underlaying all of this is a seafloor map. We still don’t know where things are – that will be another huge leap forward. For example, sea mounts are known for their biodiversity. This year alone at The Schmidt Ocean Institute, the scientists who sailed with our new vessel found four new hydrothermal vent fields, two new coral fields, three sea mounts, a new octopus nursery ground – and an entire new ecosystem – that’s just since March. On planet Earth, to find a new ecosystem is amazing! We think we’ve seen it all and know it all – not yet!”

Interested in hearing more and learning from industry experts?

Jyotika Virmani is one of the leading speakers at Oceanology International’s Catch the Next Wave conference on Thursday, 14th March, the final day of Oi24. On the headline topic of The Future Evolution of Key Enabling Technologies, Jyotika will deliver a futuristic view of the evolution of sensor technology, ranging from quantum sensors to eDNA.

Join us at Oceanology International and expand your Blue Tech and Ocean knowledge through strategic conferences.

March 12-14 2024 at ExCeL London

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