CEO of major Canadian ocean research institute to co-lead Steering Committee of the Global Ocean Observing System at a crucial time

The Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) has named its first female co-chair at a crucial time for operational ocean science.

Established in 1991, the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) is a collaborative system of ocean observations encompassing in situ networks, satellite systems, governments, UN agencies and individual scientists, which provide ocean observing data and assessments to feed global and national models for climate predictions, weather forecasting, maritime operational services, and marine ecosystem health monitoring. Ocean observations are the key to help us understand, manage and prepare for the ocean’s many impacts on human life, including as a regulator of the Earth’s climate system.

With the pandemic severely impacting traditional observing systems and networks around the world, global coordination is more than ever important to ensure our knowledge gathering continues in these unprecedented circumstances.

“Climate change won’t wait,” says Dr. Waite. “But travel restrictions are keeping scientists from retrieving important equipment. We are on the verge of losing years of essential data that will help us understand ocean changes. We need to think creatively and GOOS is just the place to do that.”

Dr. Waite will be the only Canadian on the multinational committee, and the first woman co-chair since the Committee was created in 2011. The multinational Steering Committee under her co-leadership provides oversight of GOOS activities and governance framework, including the expert panels and operational teams, regional alliances, development projects, and the coordination of oceanographic and marine meteorological observing, data provision, and services.

Dr. Waite leads the Ocean Frontier Institute, a transnational research hub, overseeing 23 large research projects studying the ocean’s most pressing issues, and delivering results and recommendations to inform government policy, community development, and industry needs. It was created in 2016 thanks to a $94-million grant from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund.

“The Global Ocean Observing System is delighted to be joined by Dr. Waite as co-chair of the Steering Committee. The energy, dedication and deep understanding of the ocean, observing system and key groups working on ocean matters will be a tremendous gain for GOOS,” says Dr. Toste Tanhua (Germany), fellow colleague co-chair. “The connection to the Canadian efforts on building a national Observing System (CIOOS) and the ground-breaking efforts by OFI in partnering with the private sector as well as the oceanographic community mainly around the Atlantic will be very important for GOOS in this new and exciting decade.”

The appointment comes at a crucial time in the context of preparations for the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), set to start on 1 January 2021 to provide the knowledge, capacities, resources and political momentum required to reverse the cycle of decline in ocean health. Activities under the GOOS framework will be key to enabling the Decade’s aim of large-scale transformation in ocean science and its use toward global sustainable development goals.

Dr Waite is well-positioned to have meaningful input into this conversation, after OFI hosted the North Atlantic Ocean Decade planning workshop in Halifax in January 2020. The workshop provided a forum to gather 150 ocean leaders/champions/key stakeholders to discuss and prioritize concrete deliverables and partnerships to meet the Decade’s societal objectives.

“Building partnerships – across scientific communities and institutions, from observing infrastructure to users, and across the globe – these are key to building a sustainable observing infrastructure,” says Albert Fischer, GOOS Office director based at IOC/UNESCO. “We’re excited to work with Dr. Waite and a renewed GOOS Steering Committee membership to build these lasting partnerships.”

In addition to GOOS, Dr. Waite sits on the boards of Canada’s Ocean Supercluster and the Marine Environmental Observation, Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR). She is on the Editorial Board of the international journal Limnology and Oceanography, co-chair of the SCOR Working Group on biological observation systems, “P-OBS” and was on the Steering Committee of the Southern Ocean Observation System (SOOS) 2017-2020.

GOOS is co-sponsored by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO, the World Meteorological Organization, the United Nations Environment Programme, and the International Science Council.