The Office of Ocean Exploration and Research was formed in 2007 as the result of the merging of the National Undersea Research Program (NURP) and the Office of Ocean Exploration (OE). OER has an emphasis on discovery through exploration of and research on the global ocean; other goals are developing innovative technologies, transitioning research to applications, and educating the public. Areas of scientific interest include coastal and ocean mapping, marine archaeology, and baseline observations of understudied areas of the ocean. The NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer conducts regular expeditions. OER includes five product lines of business: Advancing Technology, Exploration, Catalyzing Research, Information Management, and Education.
The National Undersea Research Program was established in 1982 and structured primarily around extramural research conducted by scientists outside NOAA. Developing innovative underwater technologies and research on fisheries, corals, climate and the ocean carbon cycle were some of the primary goals in NURP's work in the oceans and Great Lakes.