Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI)?

    The mission of MBARI is to achieve and maintain a position as a world center for advanced research and education in ocean science and technology, and to do so through the development of better instruments, systems, and methods for scientific research in the deep waters of the ocean. MBARI emphasizes the peer relationship between engineers and scientists as a basic principle of its operation. All of the activities of MBARI must be characterized by excellence, innovation and vision.

    —David Packard, MBARI Founder

  • How did MBARI start?

    MBARI was founded in 1987 by David Packard, an engineer and co-founder (with William Hewlett) of Hewlett-Packard Company, a maker of computers and peripheral equipment. David Packard established MBARI as a private, not-for-profit oceanographic research center. In 1989, MBARI constructed a dock and marine operations facility at Moss Landing, a small fishing community 20 miles north of Monterey. Science, engineering, and administration facilities were added in 1995. The laboratory facilities were expanded in 2001 to include a 10-meter-deep tank used for testing equipment, sensors, and underwater vehicles. Mr. Packard died in 1996, but the laboratory continues to operate under the principles he established, and continues to be funded by the Packard Foundation.

  • What specific types of research does MBARI do?

    Institute scientists, engineers, and support staff collaborate on a wide range of cutting-edge marine research projects enabled by innovative technology. The projects span the interdisciplinary fields of ocean science, including marine biology, geology, chemistry, and physical oceanography. MBARI also develops new oceanographic research tools and techniques, as well as technology related to ocean observatories

  • How does MBARI conduct its research?
  • MBARI operates two oceanographic research vessels (Western Flyer and Rachel Carson) and two remotely operated vehicles (ROVS)—ROV Ventana and ROV Doc Ricketts. These vessels allow researchers to explore and perform experiments in the deep sea. The institute also uses autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), scientific moorings, and other instruments for gathering data from the ocean surface to the deep sea floor.

    MBARI maintains science, engineering, and operations facilities in Moss Landing that support laboratory experiments, technology design, and equipment manufacturing as needed for ongoing research. We use a wide array of computer technology to develop and support systems for collecting, transmitting, and analyzing data from the marine environment. MBARI also collaborates with researchers from other organizations to share facilities and data.

  • What are ROVs and AUVs?

    ROVs and AUVs are basically robot submarines. Neither ROVs nor AUVs are designed to carry people. Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) are underwater robots that are tethered to a mother ship and are controlled from onboard that ship. MBARI's ROVs are about the size of small cars, and are used to collect samples, video images, and data, as well as to perform experiments and install and maintain underwater instruments.

    Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) are undersea robots that are not tethered to a mother ship. An AUVs is programmed at the surface, then navigates through the water and collect data under the control of their own internal computer system. When an AUV's mission is completed, it returns to the surface (or to an underwater docking station) where its data can be retrieved.

  • Why is MBARI located at Moss Landing?

    Monterey Bay is one of the most biologically diverse bodies of water in the world. The Monterey Canyon, which bisects Monterey Bay, is one of the deepest underwater canyons along the continental United States. MBARI's facilities at Moss Landing are located within meters of the head of Monterey Canyon, allowing researchers to reach waters 3,600 meters deep within a few hours of leaving port.

  • Is MBARI part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium?

    The Monterey Bay Aquarium and MBARI both were set up through the generosity of the Packard family. They are separate entities, but maintain close ties, and their missions of education and research complement each other. MBARI supports many activities at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, including exhibits and educational programs.

  • Is MBARI open to the public?

    As a private research institute, MBARI is not open to the general public. Each year, however, MBARI holds a public open house, which is advertised on our web site and also via local media prior to the event.

  • Are videos from MBARI ROVs available?

    The primary purpose of MBARI’s video footage is for scientific research. MBARI does not sell videotapes to the general public. However, MBARI images are included in many educational videos for sale at our sister institution, the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

  • How is MBARI funded?

    The David and Lucile Packard Foundation funds at least 80 percent of MBARI’s annual budget for operations and research, which is typically between 35 to 45 million dollars per year. MBARI scientists also receive funding from additional sources such as the National Science Foundation.

  • Who is on the MBARI board of directors?

    The MBARI board of directors includes members of the Packard family and representatives of the oceanographic community and private industry.

  • How many people work at MBARI?

    About 220 people work at MBARI, including researchers, engineers, marine operations personnel, technicians, and other support staff.

  • How can I find out about work positions at MBARI?

    All current job openings at MBARI are posted on our web site, along with application instructions.

  • How can I find out more about MBARI?

    The most complete and up-to-date information about MBARI can be found on our web site ( It includes the latest news and discoveries, as well as information on MBARI's current research projects, the locations of MBARI’s ships, and links to other ocean science and technology sites.

  • Last updated: Dec. 03, 2012