Once oil seeker, now deep-sea researcher: Mapping the unknown with OceanXplorer

The vessel will scour Southeast Asia’s marine environment to gather data and support local conservationists.


For Mattie Rodrigue, science programme director at non-profit OceanX, discovering new marine species is just one of the perks of her job.

Coordinating with local scientists, governments and ocean conservationists, Rodrigue conceptualises new expeditions for OceanXplorer, a vessel originally designed for oil surveying but later refitted for deep-sea research and science communications.

For the team of researchers, scientists, and crew onboard the OceanXplorer, each expedition is a chance to foster a deeper understanding of why the oceans are important and need urgent protection. 

Docking into Singapore as part of the Philanthropy Asia Alliance (PAA) Philanthropy Asia Summit 2024, the 87-metre long OceanXplorer is set to research Southeast Asia’s unique marine ecosystems.

On board the OceanXplorer are two small crewed submersibles and a drone, allowing scientists and filmmakers to observe and collect data at depths of up to 6,000 metres. There are also wet and dry labs for research into deep-sea species and environmental DNA sequencing.

The data collected through OceanX’s missions will help to build public repositories to support local conservationists, and in Rodrigue’s words, “bring science back to the world”. 

OceanX also has a focus on educating young ocean conversationists. Their signature Young Explorers programme allows youths aged 18 to 22 to embark on an exploration onboard the vessel, where they will have the opportunity to acquire foundational knowledge and skills in marine science and storytelling.

In Southeast Asia, OceanX also looks to build relationships with educational institutions across the region, engaging with local youths during its expeditions to countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia.

OceanX’s mission in Southeast Asia comes as Philanthropy Asia Alliance launches a new “Communities” initiative to galvanise collective action for conservation and inclusive education, with S$40 million (US$29.70 million) of funding committed as a start.

Initiative partners include Dalio Philantrophies, Tsao Pao Chee, Golden Philanthropies, Jollibee Group Foundation, and the Tanoto Foundation.

This story has been edited to correct a naming error, and to clarify the funding amount for the Communities initiative.


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