on the Seven Seas: International Ocean Science Web Resources [Part 2]
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In general, the news about the state
of the world's oceans continues to be gloomy, with
occasional glimmers of brightness. From the Global
Conference on Oceans and Coasts at Rio+10 (World
Summit on Sustainable Development, August 26 to September
4, 2002, South Africa) http://www.udel.edu/CMS/csmp/globaloceans/index.html to the Dalhousie University study led by Ransom Myers
and Boris Worm on the global depletion of predatory
fish stocks reported in Nature (May 15, 2003;
http://www.nature.com) and Newsweek (July 14,
2003; http://www.newsweek.com) to the United States Pew
Oceans Commission report released on June 4, 2003
[http://www.pewoceans.org], it looks as though some
kind of collapse in the marine ecosystem is imminent.
On the positive side, good-news stories and announcements
have emerged, such as the formation at the Rio+10 summit
of a Global Forum on Oceans, Coasts and Islands [http://www.globaloceans.org],
which held a follow-up Global Conference on Oceans,
Coasts and Islands (November 10-14, 2003, UNESCO, Paris).
The International Whaling Commission set up a conservation
committee at its June meeting in Berlin [http://www.iwcoffice.org/2003_meeting.htm].
On July 18th, Australia announced a draft plan to better
protect its southeastern coastal and ocean zones [http://ens-news.com/ens/jul2003/2003-07-21-04.asp].
In part one of this article, I surveyed high-level
tools Web guides, portals, data sources along
with prominent U.S. and European Union satellite systems
for ocean observation. I also highlighted the work
of key oceanographic research institutes and the large-scale
international efforts to standardize, collect, and
analyze ocean observation and climate change data.
In this second part, I look at three further areas
of international cooperation in ocean science research:
the physical and chemical ocean, meteorology, and marine
in Studying the
While satellite data gets a lot of public attention,
it represents only one component in scientific instrumentation
for ocean study. As Robin Brown at the Institute of
Ocean Sciences, Sidney, BC, noted, satellites do not
reach beneath the ocean surface. The insides of the
oceans are essentially black from space. To learn more
about the relationship between satellite altimetry
data (ocean height and depth) and shipboard measurements
using acoustic instruments, visit the National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Geophysical
Data Center's Global Seafloor Topography from Satellite
Satellite data, gathered by radar, optical, and other
electromagnetic spectrum instruments, help oceanographers,
biologists, and climatologists learn about ocean surface
dynamics through its optical and kinetic properties.
The International Ocean Colour Coordinating Group [http://www.ioccg.org],
founded in 1996 under the IOC and based at the Bedford
Institute of Oceanography, coordinates ocean color
sensor activities and also sets standards.
The NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)
Goddard Space Flight Center's Distributed Active Archive
Center offers two sites on global ocean color data: Ocean
Color Panorama [http://daac.gsfc.nasa.gov/oceancolor] and Ocean Color Data & Resources [http://daac.gsfc.nasa.gov/
Goddard's SeaWiFS sensor (Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view
carried by the ORBIMAGE's SeaStar satellite, launched
from an aircraft in 1997, is one of at least three
orbiting sources of ocean color data. Japan and Germany
have also developed orbital ocean color sensors.
You can access SeaWiFS data, along with links to
other ocean properties research projects, via the NASA SeaBASS system
(SeaWiFS Bio-optical Archive and Storage System) [http://seabass.gsfc.nasa.gov].
As of August 2003, only data collected prior to January
2000 was available to the general public. According
to the SeaBASS site, the data comes from 14 countries.
The U.S. Office of Naval Research's Worldwide Ocean
Optics Database (WOOD) [http://wood.jhuapl.edu],
hosted by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics
Laboratory, also offers a variety of data from surface,
water column, and remote sensing devices going back,
for some parts of the world, to at least the late 1900s.
Sound is the primary remote sensing tool for studying
and mapping the deep ocean. For background information
on the history of acoustics in oceanographic research,
I recommend the 1999 article "Sounding Out the Ocean's
Secrets" [http://www.beyonddiscovery.org/content/view.asp?I=219] in the National Academy Press series Beyond Discovery.
The article covers major international experiments
of the 1990s and is available in Chinese, English,
and Spanish. Acoustic oceanographer Brian Dushaw's Acoustic
Thermometry of Ocean Climate [http://faculty.washington.edu/dushaw/atoc.html] will provide you with a broader overview of this field,
including links to current experiments such as CLIVAR.
Sensing devices for examining ocean temperature, salinity,
and other aspects of its chemistry involve a variety
of ingenious strategies, including satellite observation.
In partnership with the International Council for
Science, the United Nations Environment Programme,
and the World Meteorological Organization (a U.N. agency),
the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission manages
the permanent Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS)
[http://ioc.unesco.org/goos] with implementation by
national and international bodies such as EuroGOOS [http://www.eurogoos.org] and Ocean.US (National
Office for Integrated and Sustained Ocean Observations) [http://www.ocean.us].
You can access GOOS data, along with records from the Global Climate Observing
System (GCOS) and the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS), via the Global
Observing Systems Information Center
[http://www.gosic.org or http://www.gos.udel.edu/default.htm].
The Global Ocean Data Assimilation Experiment (GODAE)
[http://www.bom.gov.au/bmrc/ocean/GODAE/] is one of
the most ambitious international real-time ocean observation
projects underway. It consists of a number of independent
systems operating at the regional or multinational
level. Begun in 1996 and scheduled for full operation
by 2005, France's MERCATOR [http://www.mercator.com.fr/en] will provide live data for forecasting and analysis
of ocean conditions.
Created in 1986, the International Geosphere-Biosphere
Programme (IGBP) [http://www.igbp.kva.se] coordinates
several core research programs involving the oceans
and interactions between the oceans, atmosphere,
and land. The programs, all of which accumulate and
distribute data, include the following:
Joint Global Ocean Flux Study [http://www.uib.no/jgofs/jgofs.html],
based in Norway and underway since 1987 with the participation
of more than 20 countries, JGOFS linked up with the
IGBP in 1989.
Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics (GLOBEC
International) [http://www.globec.org or http://www.pml.ac.uk/globec/home.htm],
started in 1991 and hosted by the U.K.'s Plymouth
Marine Laboratory, is "responsible for understanding
how Global Change will affect the abundance, diversity,
of marine populations."
Global Analysis, Integration, and
Modelling (GAIM) [http://gaim.unh.edu] works
on the synthesis of data to create a unified model
of global natural systems. One of GAIM's most ambitious
planned projects is a peer-reviewed Earth System
Atlas that would function as "a well-known, single
source of global change information."
International Global Atmospheric (IGAC)
Land-Ocean Interactions in the Coastal
Surface Ocean-Lower Atmosphere Study (SOLAS)
[http://www.solas-int.org or http://www.uea.ac.uk/env/solas/welcome.html]
and Ocean Biogeochemistry and Ecosystems [http://www.jhu.edu/~scor/obe.htm] are among the newest Global Change research projects.
The Global Change program is one of four international
programs sponsored by the International Council for
Science (ICSU) to investigate environmental and climatic
change. The other three International Human
Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP)
Climate Research Programme (WCRP) [http://www.wmo.ch/web/wcrp/wcrp-home.html],
and the international biodiversity project DIVERSITAS [http://www.icsu.org/diversitas/] also
study some element of our planet's life-sustaining
These three programs manage a few projects that complement
one another. For example, IHDP runs the Global Carbon
Project [http://www.globalcarbonproject.org], which
connects to the Joint Global Ocean Flux Study in examining
the carbon cycle. The World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE)
[http://diu.cms.udel.edu/woce/index.htm], as part of
the WCRP, recorded observations between 1990-1998,
and will eventually eventually distribute data compilations
on DVD and through online data centers. For a visual
look at WOCE data, go to the Electronic Atlas of
WOCE Data (eWOCE)
Another source of WOCE data, the WOCE Hydrographic
Program Office (WHPO) [http://whpo.ucsd.edu/index.htm],
is managed by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography
and assembles and standardizes data gathered from water
sampling (hydrographic) sources.
Floating and other kinds of instrumentation for monitoring
sea-level and other physical processes in the ocean
are coordinated by the IOC and the World Meteorological
Organization through its Joint WMO-IOC Technical
Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology
in-situ Observing Platform Support (JCOMMOPS) [http://www.jcommops.org].
Here are four research programs and physical-chemical
ocean data sources coordinated by JCOMMOPS:
Argo [http://argo.jcommops.org] (official information center with data sources) and
[http://www-argo.ucsd.edu (background)], a global array
of floating temperature/salinity sensors which complement
ocean height data from the Jason-1 satellite. Coriolis [http://www.coriolis.eu.org/coriolis/cdc/],
a live oceanographic data reporting system operated
by France for the European Union, is one of two centers
for Argo data.
Data Buoy Cooperation Panel [http://www.pol.ac.uk/psmsl/programmes/gloss.info.html]
Global Sea Level Observing System (GLOSS)
itself a component of the Global Ocean Observing System
(GOOS), includes the Permanent Service for Mean
Sea Level [http://www.nbi.ac.uk/psmsl/index.html] dating back to 1933 and hosted by the U.K.'s Proudman
Ship Of Opportunity Programme (SOOP)
[http://www.brest.ird.fr/soopip/index.html], a program
that coordinates the use of commercial vessels to gather
water column and biological samples.
OCEANIC, the Ocean Information Center at the
University of Delaware [http://oceanic.cms.udel.edu] maintains an authoritative site on international ocean
research vessels. You can find information about the
operations of U.S. oceanographic research vessels in
international waters, including cruise schedules back
to 1999, at the University-National Oceanographic
Laboratory System [http://www.unols.org].
The International Association for the Physical
Sciences of the Oceans (IAPSO) [http://www.olympus.net/IAPSO],
one of seven organizations within the International
Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) [http://www.iugg.org],
itself part of the ICSU, offers an overview of major
international studies of the physical ocean through
its Research Activity, Models, and Data Sources page
The Scripps Institution of Oceanography Library maintains
a comprehensive directory to Tides and Tide Prediction [http://scilib.ucsd.edu/sio/tide/],
including tide prediction software. As an example of
the commercialization of ocean observation data, Norway's
OCEANOR company, which acquires its own and purchases
other data, sells a World Wave Atlas [http://www.oceanor.no/products/software/wwa/index.htm] database.
The Ocean Is the Climate:
The Global Integration
of Meteorological and
Anyone who has experienced the impact of El Niño
weather events knows firsthand how the ocean affects
global weather patterns. [For more in-depth coverage
of the interaction between climate and ocean, see Barbie
E. Keiser's "Weather, Climate, and Global Warming:
A Web Review," Searcher, February 2002, pp.
If you want to see some basic ocean observation data
for most areas of the world, Oceanweather Inc.'s Current
Marine Data [http://www.oceanweather.com/data/] provides daily, but not archived, imagery at no cost.
You can animate the data through a Java applet or view
a static image of data for wave height and direction,
wind speed and direction, and surface temperature,
along with a table for each of the marine observation
areas that lists the data source, location, and timestamp.
For tables covering U.S.-monitored locations, hyperlinks
exist to NOAA's National Data Buoy Center (NDBC)
[http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov] with further information.
The NDBC site also links to non-U.S. data buoys, mainly
in Caribbean and European waters.
The mother lode of global change (earth sciences)
data sources, essentially a catalog, is NASA's Global
Change Master Directory (GCMD) [http://gcmd.gsfc.nasa.gov].
Monica Holland's May 2002 conference presentation, "Online
Data Portals: Organizing Ocean Data for the Scientific
provides background on the GCMD and its use of special
subject directories (portals) for GOOS [http://helium.gsfc.nasa.gov/Data/portals/goos/],
and DODS [http://gcmd.gsfc.nasa.gov/Data/portals/dods/index.html]
data. You can search the GCMD by keyword or browse
the subject directories. An advanced search screen
includes a map-based query tool. An e-mail subscription
service for catalog updates is available. One of the
newer subject directories lets you find Earth Science
Data Tools and Services.
Another large-scale research project connected to
the World Climate Research Programme with extensive
links to international and regional oceanographic data
is Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR)
[http://www.clivar.org]. You can query the CLIVAR SPRINT
(Searchable Program Information Network) database to
locate current and historic data.
Some other interesting research projects cover physical-chemical
oceanography and climate change with near real-time
access, including the Global TemperatureSalinity
Profile Program (GTSPP) Database
led by Fisheries and Oceans Canada's Marine Environmental
Data Service (MEDS)
the Global Eulerian Observatories (GEO) or Time
Series Stations [http://www.oceantimeseries.org],
which use moored stations to sample a water column
at fixed intervals, and TAO (Tropical Atmosphere
Ocean Project) [http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/tao], also
part of the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS)
and the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS). TAO data
comes from moored buoys in the Pacific and helps predict
El Niño and La Niña weather.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
[http://www.ipcc.ch], created in 1988 by the World
Meteorological Organization and the United Nations
Environment Programme, established a Data Distribution
[http://ipcc-ddc.cru.uea.ac.uk] in 1997
that includes data acquired from ocean observation
The International Marine Past Global Changes Study (IMAGES)
[http://www.images-pages.org], based at the Institut
für Geowissenschaften, University of Kiel, Germany,
and part of the IGBP PAST (Past Global Changes)
[http://www.pages.unibe.ch] core research project,
compiles data from marine sediments based on coring
samples back to 1995 in order to learn more about past
climatic changes. IMAGES is another example of an interdisciplinary
inquiry into the global climate, in this case historic
(paleo) geological data. You can discover more information
on paleoclimatology through the World Data Center
for Paleoclimatology [http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/paleo/paleo.html] and marine geology data sources through the World
Data Center for Marine Geology & Geophysics [http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/wdc/wdca/wdca_mgg.html].
Operating for more than 2 decades, Oak Ridge National
Laboratory's CDIAC (Carbon Dioxide Information
Analysis Center) [http://cdiac.ornl.gov] maintains
two data integration programs: the Global Ocean
Data Analysis Project [http://cdiac.ornl.gov/oceans/glodap/index.html],
with data integration from international experiments
such as the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE)
and the Joint Global Ocean Flux Study (JGOFS), and CDIAC
CO2, which provides data from WOCE and
other sources about carbon dioxide in the oceans.
NOAA and the University of Colorado's Cooperative
Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES)
jointly operate the Climate Diagnostics Center
[http://www.cdc.noaa.gov], which provides extensive
current and historic weather information, including
ocean observation data. Graphs and maps are the main
tools offered to help users extract and understand the data. The CDC's I-COADS project
(International Comprehensive Ocean-Atmosphere Data Set) [http://www.cdc.noaa.gov/coads] offers a historic archive of "surface marine data" at various levels of detail
and coverage around the world from 1784 to 1997. The project expects to have
data up to 2002 by the end of 2003.
in Studying Maritime
Part of oceanography's roots lies in our exploitation
of the ocean as a food resource. Understanding and
protecting the life cycle of marine species are among
the most important scientific objectives of marine
biology research. Wholesale failures of fish stocks,
such as what happened to Canada's Atlantic cod fishery
in April 2003, continue to demonstrate the imprecision
of our ecosystem models, even with gigabytes of data.
Aquaculture, the more accurate term for fish farming,
is a controversial, politically charged issue in many
areas of the world. This section will cover biodiversity
and aquatic species databases, along with endangered
species, invasive species, and grand attempts to create
a universal catalog of life-forms.
Created in 2000 by the U.N. Environment Programme,
the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre [http://www.unep-wcmc.org] likely contains the largest concentration of free statistical
and qualitative data on endangered life-forms and their
habitats. Its Marine Programme sponsors research projects,
gathers statistics about ocean habitats, and maps aquatic
habitats and life-forms, including coral reefs, with
this data integrated into ReefBase. You can search
some of the maps, along with others pertaining to specific
bodies of water, through the Interactive Maps Service
(IMapS), developed in partnership with the International
Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association
(IPIECA). The UNEP-WCMC Species Database does not permit
searches by marine life-form or ocean name, and limits
searches to the biological classification system (from
phylum to species, or common name), or by country.
The UNEP-WCMC conducts extensive work with other partners,
such as Greenpeace International and the World Wildlife
Fund, into monitoring the status of marine mammals
and plans a digital atlas on these animals. Polar regions
are covered by a separate program area.
The Convention on Biodiversity [http://www.biodiv.org],
an international treaty adopted in 1992, incorporates
a Clearing-house Mechanism [http://www.biodiv.org/chm/default.aspx] through which you can locate organizations and data
sources on biodiversity. The NFP-CHM link [http://www.biodiv.org/chm/nfp.asp] takes you to a table of "national focal points" or
government agencies responsible for environmental issues.
International Thematic Focal Points describes four
areas and the organizations responsible for maintaining
and providing access to data for the success of biodiversity
issues as defined by convention members: bird life
(BirdLife International) [http://www.birdlife.org/];
invasive species (the Global Invasive Species Programme)
[http://www.cabi-bioscience.ch/wwwgisp/gtc2b1.htm] with a list of databases relating to invasive marine
organisms; taxonomy (see elsewhere); and habitat and
species identification and protection (NatureServe) [http://www.natureserve.org/],
covering North and South America, along with Alaska,
the Caribbean, and Hawaii). The convention's clearinghouse
database of Biodiversity Related Organizations [http://www.biodiv.org/links/biolinks.asp] lets you display a list of those concerned with or
responsible for marine and coastal biodiversity.
The Global Biodiversity Information Facility [http://www.gbif.org],
an initiative started in 1996 by the Organisation for
Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), works
with the Convention on Biodiversity and regional information
networks. Select the Nodes link to view existing biodiversity
information nodes maintained at the international and
national level, as well as by private organizations.
For a customizable, working example of a national biodiversity
information node, see the U.K.'s GIS-enabled NBN
part of its National Biodiversity Network. Aquatic
coastal zone species are part of the database.
Originally established in 1993 as the Mexican Biodiversity
Information Network, the World Biodiversity Information
Network (REMIB) [http://www.conabio.gob.mx/remib_ingles/doctos/remib_ing.html] incorporates biodiversity data in over 6 million records
from nearly 150 countries.
Several global taxonomical research programs and
databases cover marine life (animals and plants). The
international Species2000 [http://www.species2000.org] project's goal is to name and classify "all known species
of organisms on Earth (animals, plants, fungi and microbes)
as the baseline dataset for studies of global biodiversity." Begun
in 1996 with U.N. support, Species2000 started with
18 taxonomic databases, four of which cover only marine
life. Each Species 2000 database covers a specific
group of organisms. The primary thrust of Species 2000
is the integration through standards and new software
of existing taxonomic databases. Species 2000 works
with the North American-based Integrated Taxonomic
Information System (ITIS) [http://sis.agr.gc.ca/itis,
or individually at http://www.itis.usda.gov; http://www.agr.gc.ca/itis;
and http://siit.conabio.gob.mx] and the Global Biodiversity
Information Facility (see elsewhere). Nifty linked
features incorporated into the U.S. and Canadian versions
of ITIS include a Google Images search, the "BioBot" (U.S.
ITIS only) that calls up the U.S. National Biological
Information Infrastructure site for additional searches,
and, on Canada's ITIS site, links to other specialized
Internet databases, including Scirus and the U.S. National
Center for Biotechnology Information's Taxonomy Browser
(part of GenBank).
While Species2000 appears to have thrived, a comparable
effort started as an international effort in September
2000 by the ALL Species Foundation [http://www.all-species.org] suffered a setback in the fall 2002 due to lack of
funding. Kevin Kelly, one of several illustrious board
members, explained in an e-mail message that when the
foundation started, the Species 2000 group had yet
to compile a Web-accessible database of species names.
The ALL Species group has built the ALL Species Toolkit
Search Engine [http://www.speciestoolkit.org], the
source code which you can download at SourceForge [http://speciestoolkit.sourceforge.net/],
and the database architecture used in the California
Academy of Sciences' AntWeb site [http://www.antweb.org].
Now down to one staff member, ALL Species continues
to raise funds and develop new projects, such as digitization
of type specimens. The National Science Foundation,
with whom ALL Species and the Sloan Foundation co-funded
the Planetary Biodiversity Inventories, also financed
an interdisciplinary, multimillion-dollar, multiyear
program called Assembling the Tree of Life [http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2003/nsf03536/nsf03536.htm],
whose purpose is "to construct a phylogeny for the
1.7 million described species of life." New taxonomic
database work on individually funded projects is supposed
to be coordinated with the ITIS and Species2000.
The BiologyBrowser [http://www.biologybrowser.org] from BIOSIS combines a browsable/searchable subject
gateway, a discussion forum, and links to specialized
search tools found, such as the Index to Organism Names
and the Zoological Record Thesaurus. The Guide
to the Animal Kingdom for Students and Educators describes
the animal world by scientific and common names with
links back to BiologyBrowser.
Here are some other useful taxonomic guides:
EcoPort: The Consilience Engine [http://www.ecoport.org],
a U.N.-U.S. partnership conceived by Tonie Putter of
the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, is a user-contributed
search engine and knowledge repository for species
Tree of Life Web Project [http://tolweb.org/tree],
which I coordinate and edit, combines taxonomic and
biodiversity data in a user-friendly design similar
to the well-known WWW Virtual Library system
Taxonomy Browser [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Taxonomy/tax.html],
maintained by the National Library of Medicine's National
Center for Biotechnology Information, includes marine
life-forms used for biological experiments.
Natural Science Collections Alliance [http://www.nscalliance.org],
an international organization based in Washington,
D.C., and formerly known as the Association of Systematics
Collections, maintains an excellent set of links to
global Biodiversity Informatics, including databases
and biodiversity sites.
For two other sources on aquatic invasive species,
take a look at the World Conservation Union Invasive
Species Specialist Group's Global Invasive Species
Database [http://www.issg.org/database/welcome] and the International Maritime Organization's GloBallast (Global
Ballast Water Management Programme) [http://globallast.imo.org],
which identifies other data sources on marine invasive
IOC and SCOR established the GEOHAB (Global
Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms) [http://ioc.unesco.org/hab/GEOHAB.htm] to monitor, study, and predict the occurrence and impact
of these toxic marine events. Several databases are
available, among them the downloadable Harmful Algae
Event Data Base (HAE-DAT).
The Census of Marine Life [http://www.coml.org] includes some component databases such as the Ocean
Biogeographic Information System [http://www.iobis.org], "an
online, open-access, globally distributed network of
systematic, ecological, and environmental information
systems." The marine life-form databases to which OBIS
provides access include CephBase [http://www.cephbase.utmb.edu], FishBase [http://www.fishbase.org/home.htm],
and FishNet [http://habanero.nhm.ku.edu/fishnet/].
The International Union for Conservation of Nature
and Natural Resources, better known by its shorter
name, IUCN, the World Conservation Union, operates
a Species Survival Commission [http://www.iucn.org/themes/ssc/index.htm],
which includes marine life. The 2002 IUCN Red List
of Threatened Species [http://www.redlist.org] database documents endangered species. The basic search
query page lets you isolate species by three biomes:
terrestrial, marine, and freshwater. You can also pick
from a list of specific marine regions, with some of
the listed oceans and seas divided into compass quadrants.
One of the most publicized forms of endangered marine
life-forms monitored through an existing observation
system linked through GOOS is the Global Coral Reef
Monitoring Network (GCRMN) .,
part of the International Coral Reef Initiative [http://icriforum.org].
The Australian Institute of Marine Science [http://www.aims.gov.au] oversees the network that helps watch over the health
of these fragile and important organisms. ReefBase:
A Global Information System on Coral Reefs [http://www.reefbase.org] represents GCRMN's official database on the state of
coral reefs. Started under a European initiative and
maintained by the World Fish Center [http://www.worldfishcenter.org] in Penang, Malaysia, ReefBase is also supported by
the International Coral Reef Action Network [http://www.icran.org].
Finally, NOAA maintains a gateway to its own and international
coral data through CoRIS (Coral Reef Information
System) [http://www.coris.noaa.gov]. As with many other
oceanographic data sources, you can query the data
through a text-based or a GIS (interactive map) search.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Fisheries
Department [http://www.fao.org/fi/default_all.asp] portal is the most authoritative source of data on
commercial fisheries, including aquaculture. The
department provides Windows software to use with
its Fishstat Plus statistical databases. The FAO Fisheries
Global Information System (FIGIS) [http://www.fao.org/fi/figis/index.jsp],
called a "work in progress," represents the FAO's
contribution to the economic and biological impact
of commercial fishing and aquaculture. You can also
use the FAO's World Agricultural Information Center (WAICENT)
[http://www.fao.org/waicent/index_en.asp] to browse
or search for many other kinds of fisheries information.
Information on fishery markets is tracked by the
FAO's GLOBEFISH system [http://www.globefish.org].
Regional organizations that advise, manage, and study
fisheries are tracked through the Regional Fishery
Bodies site [http://www.fao.org/fi/body/rfb/index.htm].
Some of these organizations maintain their own fisheries
databases. The FAO's Support Unit for International
Fisheries and Aquatic Research (SIFAR) has also developed
a user-driven portal, oneFish Community Knowledge
Directory [http://www.onefish.org], which will "net" you
an incredible array of information on fisheries research.
The Fisheries Centre at UBC [http://www.fisheries.ubc.ca] is one of the consortium partners that assists with
FishBase. One of the center's research efforts honors
Rachel Carson: The Sea Around Us Project [http://saup.fisheries.ubc.ca] studies the impact of fishing on marine ecosystems.
Hosted by the University of Rhode Island, the Large
Marine Ecosystems of the World (LME) [http://www.edc.uri.edu/lme] is the major international database here, and you can
use it with or without a GIS component. The LME Modules
section breaks down coastal zones by region and provides
extensive background data on each LME.
The International Organization of Biological Field
Stations [http://www.iobfs.org] and the Organization
of Biological Field Stations [http://www.obfs.org] contain links to all such research facilities. While
a number of these are inland, many are concerned
with coastal zone and open-ocean facilities.
The oceans are life, and, as marine biologist Rachel
Carson ominously concluded in the preface to the 1961
edition of The Sea Around Us, life cannot survive
without the ocean, yet the ocean will go on without
the life which evolved from its darkest depths. The
oceans have yielded a wealth of scientific observations
over the past half-century. Recent models of ocean/climate
interaction, studies of and ongoing publicity about
fragile marine ecosystems, along with international
marine conservation efforts, including enforceable
international law, may help save the seas and us. Like
many of you, I admire, respect, and am fascinated by
the ongoing, remarkable coordinated odyssey of scientific
discovery and interpretation made possible by governments,
organizations, oceanographers, meteorologists, marine
geologists, biologists, and technologists around the
world for more than a half-century to provide us with
answers to the mysteries of the sea.
Oceans of Knowledge in My Backyard
Out on the Saanich Peninsula on Vancouver Island,
near the Victoria International Airport sits
a remarkable Canadian government research facility
that houses the Institute of Ocean Sciences (IOS)
the Canadian Hydrographic Service, Pacific Region,
and the Pacific Geoscience Centre. The IOS and the
Canadian Hydrographic Service operate under Fisheries
and Oceans Canada, while the PGC forms part of Natural
Resources Canada. The North Pacific Marine Science
Organization (PICES) [http://www.pices.int],
a multinational body, also has its office at the
The IOS and PGC celebrated their 25th anniversary
in June 2003. Up until April, I had never visited
the complex in person. The IOS lies in the flight
path of the Victoria International Airport, and
many of the offices, along with the large cafeteria,
enjoy tranquil views of Patricia Bay. Adapted
to their setting by the sea, the buildings are
low to the ground with lots of windows and wide,
public corridors. The IOS librarian, Pamela Olson,
and Robin Brown, head of the IOS Ocean Science
and Productivity Division, answered many questions
from this neophyte science writer. I also visited
with Bodo de Lange Boom of the Canadian Hydrographic
Service, who works in the unit responsible for
creating nautical charts from hydrographic surveys.
Science data collected by the IOS includes
real-time and forecast data on currents in the
Strait of Juan de Fuca, an international body
of water between Washington State and British
Another live data source requires a software download
in order to access data transmitted by offshore buoys.
The public pride and joy for the IOS library, itself
part of a network of a dozen Fisheries and Oceans
Canada libraries, is its bilingual WAVES/VAGUES catalog [http://inter01.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/wavesdocs/en/].
WAVES contains more than a quarter-million records,
including electronic resources such as departmental
reports. Accessible since April 1999, the WAVES OPAC
runs on the BASIS Web server from the Open Text Corporation.
The Fisheries and Oceans Canada libraries manage
their technical services with Techlib, also from
the Open Text Corporation, and implemented in 1994.
The WAVES catalog was the first Canadian government
database released on CD-ROM in 1990, a stopgap measure
while an OPAC solution remained under study. The
WAVES catalog, while non-MARC, includes a thesaurus
feature for more precise searching, something I wish
other library OPACS would offer.
Gather Data Local, Migrate to Global
Robin Brown, head of the Institute of Ocean
Sciences' Ocean Science and Productivity Division,
Sidney, BC, provided this statement on the challenges
of managing vast quantities of scientific data
over time. The strategy adopted since the International
Geophysical Year (1957-1958) is to maintain a
system of redundant data centers around the world.
Paraphrasing and quoting some of his e-mail communication:
Data from the IOS are migrated to the World
Ocean Database [http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/WOD01/pr_wod01.html] via
Canada's Marine Environmental Data Service
With the increased interest in climate change,
the oceanographic community has placed extra
effort of assembling historical and contemporary
ocean observations. In order to carry out global
analyses, it is necessary to combine data from
This is a nontrivial process. Some of the challenges
locating and decoding original records
(paper records, printed data reports, logbooks,
punch cards and legacy data storage media/formats).
reducing to common formats.
dealing with duplicates. Data are
often reported through a number of paths and
due to differences in the way that key variables
(time, latitude and longitude) are coded (and
rounded), it is often a nontrivial exercise
to get rid of duplicate profiles.
quality control. How do we know these
data are correct? If they are very different
than we expect, is this an important discovery
or some sort of error in measurement, transcription,
or calibration? Data centers put quite a bit
of effort into this and will often assign quality
code "flags" to describe their confidence in
appropriate metadata. This is closely
linked to the quality control issues. We like
to know who made these measurements (country,
institution and scientist). Sometimes, this
is the best indicator of quality. It also may
provide a means to check or confirm suspect
data. Other important metadata include description
of instruments used, calibration techniques
and analysis methods.