NOAA'S Adopt A Drifter Program
Our Mission:
to establish scientific partnerships between schools around the world and engage students in activities and communication about ocean climate science.


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Climate Observation (OCO) established the Adopt a Drifter Program (ADP) in December 2004 for K-16 teachers from the United States along with international educators. This free program provides teachers with an educational opportunity to infuse ocean observing system data into their curriculum. A drifting buoy, or drifter, is a floating ocean buoy equipped with meteorological and/or oceanographic sensing instruments. Buoys are linked to transmitting equipment where the observed data are sent to collecting centers. A global array of 1250 drifting buoys was successfully completed in 2005. In order to maintain the array at its complete level, ongoing deployment of drifting buoys is necessary to replace those that eventually expire.

Mary Cook (on right), a middle school science teacher from Southside Middle School, Batesville, Arkansas, deployed the first adopted drifting buoy in the Pacific Ocean from the NOAA ship RONALD H. BROWN. The buoy was released off the coast of Chile in December 2004. Mary’s students adopted this buoy and nicknamed it "Bob". A children’s science book was written in conjunction with Mary’s cruise on the RONALD H. BROWN. The book, entitled Teacher at Sea: Miss Cook’s Voyage on the RONALD H. BROWN, highlights the scientific work conducted on board. You can access the book at

The ADP invites schools from the United States to collaborate with international schools in mutually adopting a drifter to be deployed from a ship at sea. A teacher from each school may be on board the ship during deployment, although this is not a prerequisite for participation in the Program. An educational sticker or drawing from each school is adhered to the drifter before deployment and photos are taken to document the activity. The teachers receive the WMO number of their drifting buoy in order to access data online from the school’s adopted drifter. Participating teachers develop lesson plans to encourage their students to analyze and apply the drifting buoy data. Students in the teachers’ classes receive a drifter tracking chart to plot the coordinates of the drifter as it moves freely in the surface ocean currents. This enables teachers and students to more easily make connections between the data accessed online and other maps showing currents, winds, etc.

The Data Buoy Cooperation Panel (DBCP) is an international body with a mission to coordinate deployment of drifting and moored buoys worldwide. This map shows the current status of the drifting buoys as part of the ocean observing system. See for another view of the current status of both drifting and moored ocean buoys.

Since drifter data are used to track major ocean currents and eddies globally, ground truth data from satellites, build models of climate and weather patterns, predict the movement of pollutants if dumped or accidentally spilled into the sea, and assist with the forecast path of approaching hurricanes, it is important to understand how the data are measured, how often data are downloaded, and what data are available for schools and the general public to access. Students have full access to drifting buoy data (e.g., latitude/longitude coordinates, time, date, SST) in near real-time for their adopted drifting buoy as well as all drifting buoys deployed as part of the Global Drifter Program. They can access, retrieve, and plot various subsets of data as a time series for specified time periods for any drifting buoy (e.g., SST) and track and map their adopted drifting buoy for short and long time periods (e.g., one day, one month, one year).

Educators and students from all countries are invited to participate.
If interested, please contact