The worldwide growth in human population and standard of living is leading to ever increasing human pressure on the oceans: as a source of resources, a transportation/trade pathway, and a sink for pollutants. Yet we have relatively little knowledge of how our expanding activities will impact the oceans in the long-term. The globe-encircling nature of the ocean, with most resources and impacts of human activities extending beyond areas of national jurisdiction, means that management of the oceans must be at least multi-national and ideally international. Despite this, our use of the oceans is not presently guided by any over-arching management plan at either national or international level. Marine science and technology provide the necessary foundation, both in terms of system understanding and observational and modeling tools, to address these issues and ensure that management of ocean activities can be placed on the best-possible scientific footing.
Our aim is to train the next generation of researchers in the key scientific areas critical for responsible resource utilization and management and to give them in-depth experience of their "local ocean" - the North Atlantic. The North Atlantic is in many respects the ideal location to attempt ocean system understanding. It is one of the major driving sites of global climate dynamics, hosts large and threatened fish resources and possibly the largest living cold water coral reefs on Earth, experiences the largest phytoplankton spring bloom causing natural CO2 draw-down and is also an area of intense uptake and storage of anthropogenic CO2, has important offshore accumulations of hydrocarbons, contains explosive and hazardous ocean island volcanoes linked to the thickest present day oceanic crust, and is highly impacted by maritime transport.