We are honored to have assembled a set of judges of this caliber. These leaders in their fields are contributing their expertise to the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE to ensure maximum scientific rigor in guiding this competition.

Dr. Victor Abbott


Lecturer in Hydrographic Surveying, School of Marine Science and Engineering, University of Plymouth
United Kingdom

Victor was educated as a land surveyor and moved across to hydrographic surveying, working for more than 10 years on charting (lakes, rivers, and seas), routeing (cables, pipelines, and clearance surveys), precise positioning (offshore drilling rigs), and other associated activities (tidal and tidal stream studies, ship trials, support of geotechnical surveys, and support of seismic surveys). He recently completed 30 years as an academic (most recently at Plymouth University, United Kingdom), where he designed and taught on short courses, first degrees, and Masters’ programmes, and advised doctoral students. He examined in Plymouth, the wider United Kingdom, Europe, and the West Indies. He is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Victor is a Fellow of the Hydrographic Society, acting in honorary roles for them since 1988. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST) and has worked in various honorary roles for them (and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) in the UK and abroad. He has undertaken quality reviews directly with universities in the UK and the Caribbean.

His qualifications include the Final Entry Examinations of the RICS (an FIG/IHO Category A course in Hydrographic Surveying), and a Master’s and a doctorate in Coastal Management. During his field and academic career, he has undertaken various courses to upgrade his Continuing Professional Development. He has raised more than £527,000 in research funds and supervised seven fully funded doctorates.

Dr. Aida Alvera-Azcárate


Researcher, Department of Astrophysics, Geophysics, and Oceanography, University of Liège

Dr. Aida Alvera-Azcárate is a researcher at the GeoHydrodynamics and Environment Research (GHER) group of the University of Liège (Belgium). Her research interests include the development of reconstruction methods for missing data in oceanographic data sets, like DINEOF (Data INterpolating Empirical Orthogonal Functions) and DIVA (Data Interpolating Variational Analysis). Other topics include the implementation and validation of 3D hydrodynamic models, data analysis using EOF decomposition and Wavelet Transforms, and multiple-platform, multivariate data analysis for their use in broad oceanographic applications, such as modelling, search and rescue, and ecological studies.

Selected Publications:

Aida Alvera-Azcárate, Alexander Barth, Gaëlle Parard, Jean-Marie Beckers. Analysis of SMOS sea surface salinity data using DINEOF. Remote Sensing of Environment. 180 (2016) 137–145. 2016.

A. Alvera-Azcárate, Q. Vanhellemont, K. Ruddick, A. Barth, and J.-M. Beckers. Analysis of high frequency geostationary ocean colour data using DINEOF. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 159:28–36, 2015. 

A. Alvera-Azcárate, D. Sirjacobs, A. Barth, and J.-M. Beckers. Outlier detection in satellite data using spatial coherence. Remote Sensing of Environment, 119:84-91, 2012. 

A. Alvera-Azcárate, C. Troupin, A. Barth, and J.-M. Beckers. Comparison between satellite and in situ sea surface temperature data in the Western Mediterranean Sea. Ocean Dynamics, 61(6):767-778, 2011.

Douglas Au


Director of Engineering, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI)
United States

Douglas Au came to MBARI in 1994 as a software engineer to work on the remotely operated vehicle Tiburon. He led the sea trials and operational engineering effort for this vehicle, MBARI’s first major engineering initiative. Doug has worked on ROV and AUV software, and has specialized in real-time and embedded systems design and development.

In 1999, Doug was selected to lead the newly formed Support Engineering group at MBARI. The group’s prime responsibility is to provide sustaining engineering, manufacturing, and technician support for the institute’s engineering developments as they transition to research use and marine operations.

Doug now serves as the director of Engineering and has been a member of MBARI’s senior management team since 2006. His duties include oversight and management of the Engineering Department and coordination of all MBARI projects, offices, and laboratory space.

Doug serves on MBARI’s Intellectual Property Committee, the employee retirement investment committee; and is the chair of the Export Compliance Committee. He has also served on numerous external committees, including advising the National Science Foundation’s Polar Programs and chairing NSF’s Ocean Observing Initiatives Engineering Advisory Committee.

Doug holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from California State University, Hayward.

Dr. Catherine Ball


Founder, Remote Research Ranges; Co-Creator and Technical Convener, World of Drones Congress; Co-Founder, She Flies

Dr. Catherine Ball is a business owner, advisor, director, author, co-founder, and ethics advocate working across global projects where robotics and new technology meet environmental protection and empowerment of communities.

A sought-after voice in industry, Dr. Ball is now working with the application of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS)—a.k.a., drone technology—across remote communities, schools, industry, and citizen scientists.  Dr. Ball’s biggest passion is found working on projects that have a humanitarian aspect, ranging from the use of RPAS for emergency response, to recording cultural heritage, and agricultural assessments. Dr. Ball has traveled and worked globally on cutting-edge projects that combine science, entrepreneurship, empowerment, education, and training.

Dr. Ball’s latest passion project is #SheFlies (www.sheflies.com.au; www.facebook.com/shefliesau) whereby women and girls get a chance to fly and try drone technology. #SheFlies aims to reach over 10,000 Australian women and girls in 2017 with global expansion already in the planning stages.

Dr. Ball holds a B.Sc. Honours (Environmental Protection) and a Ph.D. (Spatial Ecology, Descriptive and Predictive Statistics) from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the United Kingdom.

Some of the awards Dr. Ball has won include:

  • Westpac 100 Women of Influence 2016 (Innovation)
  • National Telstra Business Woman of the Year 2015, Corporate and Private Award
  • Queensland Telstra Business Women's Awards Winner 2015: Queensland Business Woman of the Year, Queensland Corporate and Private
  • 2015 BOSS Magazine Young Executives of the Year (Winner)
  • Innovator of Influence at Innovation Week 2015
  • Q Magazine: Queensland 50 Best and Brightest, 2015

Dr. Christina Kellogg


Research Microbiologist, United States Geological Survey (USGS)
United States

Dr. Christina Kellogg is a Research Microbiologist at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the sole science agency for the U.S. Department of Interior. Dr. Kellogg joined the USGS as a Mendenhall Fellow, characterizing the microbial communities in aerosolized African desert dust, beach sediments, seagrass beds, and coral reefs.

Currently, she leads an environmental microbiology laboratory specializing in coral microbial ecology. Her research on tropical corals has taken her to the Florida Keys, Caribbean, Hawaii, and American Samoa, leading her friends to say that she specializes in “resort microbiology.” Dr. Kellogg has been working in deepwater coral ecosystems since 2004 and considers herself extremely lucky to have had the privilege of visiting them personally during one dive in the Delta submersible and eight dives in the Johnson-Sea-Link. She has also spent time at sea working with the remotely-operated vehicles JASON and Kraken 2, and participates from shore during telepresence cruises on the exploration vessels Okeanos Explorer and Nautilus.

She has authored more than 30 peer-reviewed papers as well as a number of book chapters and has given invited keynote talks on both her aerosol microbiology and deep-sea coral microbial work. In 2015, Dr. Kellogg served as a judge for the $2 million Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE competition.

Dr. Kellogg holds a Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography from the University of South Florida and a B.S. cum laude in Biology from Georgetown University. Other interests include photography, science fiction, fried pickles, colored gemstones, and the music of 80s big hair bands.

David L. Mearns


Marine Scientist and Deep Water Search and Rescue Expert, Blue Water Recoveries
United Kingdom

David L. Mearns OAM, MSc, is a chartered marine scientist, historical researcher, author, and expedition leader of deep ocean projects. He is one of the world’s most experienced and successful deep-sea shipwreck hunters, having located 24 major shipwrecks with an overall success rate of 89%.  His formidable reputation has been built on a career finding notoriously difficult wrecks that others predicted would never be found or their mysteries solved. David’s most important discoveries include MV Lucona, MV Derbyshire, HMS Hood, the Portuguese East Indiaman Esmeralda, HMAS Sydney, HSK Kormoran, AHS Centaur, and Rio Grande, the Guinness World Record for the deepest shipwreck ever found at 5,762 metres. David was also a key member of Paul Allen’s team that located and filmed the iconic Japanese battleship Musashi in 2015, based on the research and search area analysis he conducted.

In 2010 David was awarded an honorary Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to Australia for locating the wrecks of HMAS Sydney and AHS Centaur. In addition to his honorary OAM, David has been awarded a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of South Florida, a prestigious Maritime Fellowship by the UK-based Maritime Foundation for an outstanding lifetime contribution, the 2015 Sir Robert Craven Award from the Britannia Naval Research Association, and a Seatrade Award for a highly commended contribution to Safety at Sea in relation to finding the wreck of the Derbyshire.

David has worked in all the world’s oceans, and has travelled to more than 50 countries.  He is a long-standing fellow of the Explorer’s Club and the Royal Geographical Society.

Shah Selbe


Engineer, Conservation Technologist, and National Geographic Emerging Explorer
United States

Shah Selbe, an Explorer at the National Geographic Society, is an engineer and conservation technologist who works with communities, NGOs, and developing countries to identify and deploy technologies that can help with their greatest conservation challenges. His projects have integrated crowdsourcing, smartphone apps, drones, satellite data, and sensors to address conservation issues, including illegal poaching and the monitoring of protected areas. He founded Conservify, which uses open source technology to empower local communities to bring innovative tools into how we change our planet’s’ future.

He is Principal Investigator for SoarOcean, a grant project funded by National Geographic Society and Lindblad Expeditions to use low-cost conservation drones for coastal monitoring. He is also Principal Engineer/Technologist for the National Geographic's Okavango Wilderness Project, an ambitious effort to create an open-source environmental monitoring mesh network to monitor Botswana’s pristine Okavango Delta. He is also a National Geographic Society Fellow, New England Aquarium Ocean Conservation Fellow, and PopTech Social Innovation Fellow.

Over the next year, he will be deploying live-data sensor systems in Angolan wildernesses, glaciers in Alberta, reefs in Belize, and along a boiling river in Peru. He is currently developing an open source hardware and web open science platform called FieldKit (fieldkit.org) that will help field researchers share live environmental and field data on an interactive site similar to IntoTheOkavango.org. He is building an extensive library of open source sensor systems that can be used in science and conservation research.

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