It’s time to expand the conversation about the ocean and sustainability to include more diverse voices—which is why Slack has joined forces with the Ocean Discovery League (ODL). Founded by oceanographer Katy Croff Bell, a National Geographic Explorer, the nonprofit aims to remove barriers to deep-sea exploration through AI-driven data analysis, low-cost deep-sea technologies, and capacity building with historically excluded communities.
The partnership is a natural extension of Slack for Good’s mission to increase the number of historically underrepresented individuals in tech, and it ties into Slack’s broader sustainability effort. We view this as an opportunity to support work that makes a meaningful difference for the planet while empowering the people most affected by climate change to have a voice on ocean issues.
Expanding the conversation on ocean exploration
The ocean covers 71% of the Earth’s surface, but more than 99% of it remains unexplored. This is largely because deep-ocean exploration requires expensive robotic vehicles deployed and piloted by large research vessels. These tools primarily benefit those who can afford access to them and leave out the smaller coastal communities directly affected by climate change.
This imbalance extends to the labor force, too. In the U.S., underrepresented minorities form only 15% of the workforce in environmental sciences, even though 48% of the U.S. workforce is non-white. In the words of Bell, “We need to bring in as many people and perspectives as possible to accelerate our progress and create a truly global community of explorers.”
Through a multipronged approach, the ODL is opening the field to more diverse leaders and participants. The organization plans to recruit, train and enable new communities of people to explore and contribute to global ocean discovery.
A partnership for driving diverse voices
As a founding partner, Slack will fund a machine-learning engineer position. The newly hired engineer will support the development of Ocean AI, the ODL’s platform for holistically analyzing deep-ocean video and environmental data to expand our understanding of global ocean biodiversity.
Additionally, Slack employees are already volunteering their time and expertise to help the ODL achieve its goals, including creating website content and providing translation services. And more than 50 Slack employees participated in a volunteer event to perform research for the Global Deep Sea Capacity Assessment, a critical first step to assessing coastal communities’ capacity to do their own ocean research.
To launch the partnership, Slack hosted an employee town hall with the ODL and other experts who spoke about how fresh voices and perspectives create new opportunities for climate action. As panelist and National Geographic Explorer Lehua Kamalu of the Polynesian Voyaging Society said, “When we expand the conversation and expand who’s included … we really don’t even know where that can take us.”
Watch the video below to learn more.