Technology Changing Exploration's Paradigm

11/16/2011 03:18 pm ET | Updated Jan 16, 2012

For those who may believe that the concept of exploration is long past, nothing could be further from actuality. Although the majority of the earth's crust has been accessed, little is known about what lays beneath its surface. In fact only a very small percentage of the world oceans have been explored even though these make up the majority of the planet. Today the exploration realm is replete with a wide technological and scientific roster of tools. It is these new capabilities that are enabling novel forms of discovery. Technological advancements have enabled us to venture to places previously inaccessible and acquire new information relating to regions previously considered as "explored". At times it is the technology itself that takes the place of the explorer and will venture in our stead to where it is as yet not physically possible and gather realms of new information, such as the work being done by the Mars Rovers. Our new array of capabilities are helping explorers not only learn new things about places and species that at one point or another were believed to be fully understood, such as new means of evaluation are even helping to overturn previously culled data considered until recently as "fact".

Exploration and technology have often enjoyed something of a symbiotic relationship. At times it has actually been exploration which has led to or enabled a number of the new tools that were developed as a consequence of discovery. A number of discoveries have yielded information or acquisitions that science and technology can in turn use to hone or develop new technologies which later allow for new forms of exploration. It was a geologist for example, who while exploring, stumbled across the remarkable metals that exhibited magnetic and electric properties classified as "rare earths" or "lanthanides". It was these that opened the door to the invention of a multitude of new capabilities now used for computers, cell phones and cordless devices, employed by the majority of explorers today. These and other devices couple with new discovered knowledge have allowed explorers to venture well beyond what was previously not physically possible and gather realms of new information, importantly often with minimally invasive disturbance of natural environments. Not only are these developments changing how and where we explore, technology is also transforming the expectations of field research by providing unique opportunities to communicate directly with a realm of relevant expertise, findings from remote regions in real time.

Those who may think that the primary contributions of exploration are behind us have not considered the enormous, constantly evolving changes in present methods of field research as well as the tremendous and oftentimes immediate contributions that discovery today can bring. Exploration and the discovery process will remain at the forefront as we struggle to find ways to balance and manage our natural world while providing for its peoples. More and more exploration and field research will serve to provide information critical to the understanding of the state of health of the natural processes of the planet, as well as aid in the monitoring and maintaining of environmental equilibriums, providing analytical evidence to help pinpoint where natural buffers and balances might have broken down, effecting ecological landscapes. As we continue to probe and explore new astonishing discoveries are being made and questions we never even knew existed, are being solved. Today science and exploration go hand in hand and these cannot be considered as luxuries but rather as necessities. Going forward, discovery may still embody a personal journey, it cannot represent a personal exploit, today's discovers are overcoming risk and uncertainty tackling concerns relating to planetary survival relevant to all.