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Introducing: OceanLab!

September 9, 2020


If you've been following OLLIE for years, you'll notice things are a little different around here. If you're just learning about our work, we've recently made some changes, and you can learn more about our backstory here.

What's the reason for this change? Well, there's a couple.

Over the last five months, I’ve been reckoning with what to do about OLLIE. I started this project to help people connect with the beauty of the ocean and the importance of research and conservation, but I didn’t see solutions that were sufficiently engaging or equitable. I knew the best way to reach more folks and change hearts and minds was to combine four powerful tools:

  • Emotionally resonant, immersive experiences

  • Collaborative, shared exploration

  • Engaging, multisensory, hands-on learning

  • Mobile education that brings the ocean to the people.


That’s why I founded OLLIE, and built the prototype mobile virtual submarine. And after several successful events in 2019, this year was shaping up to be a fantastic one. We brought on a new team member, we were connecting with new partners, planning big events, and even organizing a cross-country road trip.


But, it turns out, the four things that make OLLIE great for spreading ideas also make it great for spreading airborne viruses!


As the pandemic shut down museums, schools, businesses and events across the country, we had to cancel all our programs planned for the rest of the year. Our cross-country road trip was scrapped. Our conferences were postponed. And one of our partners, hosting our most exciting and high-profile event of the year, went out of business.


And so, with a mobile virtual submarine sitting in my driveway and no end to this pandemic in sight, I’ve been wondering whether OLLIE would survive. Whether it was just a good idea for "The Before Times," and I should retire it and get into YouTube videos and Zoom classes like everyone else.


But in that reckoning, I realized something: This pandemic will pass (it may take a lot longer in this country, but it will), and once we reach the other side, 

  • We'll still need to work together to solve climate change. We'll have even less time, and more work to do

  • We will still need to understand and explore our ocean, which allows for and shapes life on this planet

  • We'll still need to find sources of wonder, hope, and motivation through powerful and unique experiences

  • We’ll still need to disrupt old paradigms to create real change, including solving the inequities that keep more communities from participating in ocean exploration, research, and conservation.


So I’ve been taking this downtime to make some changes. To pivot to something different. Something with greater impact. And in so doing, I'm letting go of the mobile virtual submarine on a trailer.


It's time to say goodbye to OLLIE, and hello to a new approach. 

Welcome to OceanLab.


Over the last four years as this project has grown, I've been lucky to meet and work with people from all over the world. Along the way, I've encountered a phrase over and over that is simultaneously inspiring and frustrating: “That’s amazing! I wish I could have that in my country!” 


People everywhere are excited about this idea, and want it in their communities. Not just in Boston, San Francisco or Tulsa, but in Bermuda, Seychelles, and Taiwan. In Portugal. Norway. Uruguay. New Zealand. Amazing places, full of current and future ocean lovers, where a submarine-in-a-trailer just can't go. 


Climate and ocean change is a global problem. Humanity is a global community. Let's create a global solution, designed to transcend borders and continents.


Our new model takes the best elements of OLLIE and expands them into a scalable, international network of immersive spaces. Rather than one virtual submarine on a trailer, we’ll create a fleet of simulated underwater research stations inside modified shipping containers. As we distribute them around the world, we’ll grow, connect and empower the global community of ocean advocates.


We've learned a lot from building and running the prototype mobile virtual submarine. Based on those insights, we're working on designs for a new style of space that:

  • is larger, modular, and designed to safely welcome more visitors

  • is even more immersive and emotionally impactful

  • has a lower carbon footprint

  • can be efficiently built at scale

  • makes it easier to create and share new content

  • can be shipped anywhere on the planet


This is OceanLab. We’re putting together an amazing team, committed to creating a solution that not only disrupts the way that people connect with our ocean, but also redefines the way a progressive, multicultural, equitable organization looks and runs.


We plan to launch the first OceanLab in 2021, or as soon as people can safely come together again. In the meantime, you can learn more about our plans and follow the journey through our brand-new website, newsletter, and social media.


I'm so grateful to have had your support for this project over the last four years, and I'm excited for you to join me on this new phase of the journey. 


Let's go change the world.



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