NERC invests £22M in major new research programme focused on the Atlantic Ocean

CLASS programme announced

A new five-year marine research programme called 'Climate Linked Atlantic Sector Science' (CLASS) has been commissioned by NERC, to be delivered in partnership by the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), Marine Biological Association, and Sea Mammal Research Unit.

This ambitious multi-disciplinary programme aims to provide data, models and technology to help understand impacts of climate change and human activities on Atlantic Ocean environments, from the sea surface to the deep seabed. CLASS will underpin a wide range of actions including UK commitments to international observing programmes. The programme will also involve development and deployment of world-leading equipment including cutting-edge marine robotic platforms and sensors, combined with state-of-the-art ocean modelling and satellite remote sensing.

CLASS underwent rigorous peer review by NERC Science Board and forms part of NERC’s National Capability Science - Single Centre (NCS-SC) portfolio. The programme has already hit the ground running, and this summer has delivered large-scale research expeditions to the Porcupine Abyssal Plain (PAP) and the Haig Fras and The Canyons Marine Conservation Zones off southwest UK.

'Combined expertise'

Prof Angela Hatton, NOC Director of Science and Technology and Chair of NERC’s Science Board, is Principal Investigator of the CLASS project. She said: “The changes occurring in the Atlantic have a significant influence on global climate and a direct impact on the UK. CLASS will bring together the combined expertise from key UK marine science institutes, and build on their contribution to global ocean observing systems, to deliver an integrated programme evaluating the impact of climate change, the effectiveness of conservation measures, and predicting the future evolution of marine environments."

As part of the CLASS external engagement strategy there will be Town Hall meetings at key community events including the 2018 Challenger Society conference, where there will also be a CLASS project stand. This will provide opportunities for the UK marine research community to develop collaborative projects and benefit from the opportunities provided by CLASS. Prof Hatton added: “We will create effective engagement activities ensuring academic partners have transparent access to NERC marine science capability through graduate training partnerships and access to shipborne, lab based and autonomous facilities, and modelling capabilities.”