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Technical Announcement:
New One-Stop Source for Scientific Information about U.S. Oceans and Waters

Released: 1/28/2010 4:57:15 PM

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
Mark Fornwall 1-click interview
Phone: 808-984-3724

John Mosesso 1-click interview
Phone: 703-648-4079

Ron Sepic 1-click interview
Phone: 703-648-4218

A one-stop source for biogeographic information collected from U.S. waters and oceanic regions is now available from the National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) Program.

The OBIS-USA website offers a unique combination of tools, resources, and biodiversity information to aide scientists, resource managers and decision makers in the research and analyses critical to sustaining the nation’s valued marine ecosystems.

OBIS-USA was established in 2006 in cooperation with the U.S. National Committee for the Census of Marine Life a committee composed of renowned marine community leaders. OBIS-USA – a partnership of state, federal and scientific organizations -- is the United States’ contribution to the International Ocean Biogeographic Information System, an effort led by the Census of Marine Life to provide “open access” to global biodiversity data on the myriad of marine life that inhabits the ocean.

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Sea angel (Clione limacina), the most common shell-less pteropod of arctic waters. Courtesy of the census of Marine Life Arctic Ocean Diversity project, © Kevin Raskoff. (Full size image)

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Green sea turtle, Hawaii. Photo by Paul Wang. (Full size image)

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Nardoa rosea sea star as seen from the underside. Photographed during Census of Coral Reef Ecosystems (CReefs) research, Heron Island, Australia. Gary Cranitch © 2008. (Full size image)

“The world’s ocean is critically important, not only because of how it influences the climate, but also because it provides the resources for commercial, recreational, cultural, scientific, conservation, and national security activities,”” said John Mosesso, OBIS-USA co-lead. “At the same time, the ocean is threatened by a variety of changes, including warming temperatures, increasing ocean acidity, invasion by non-native species, overharvesting, and loss of habitat for species of concern.”

OBIS-USA provides data and functional tools to address key questions and information needs related to scientific understanding of sustainable and resilient ecosystems, marine spatial planning, climate change, ocean acidification, invasive species, and managing the nation’s fisheries. To address these ocean threats requires access to critical information on marine biodiversity, Mosesso noted.

OBIS-USA data holdings comprise millions of individual records supplied by marine data sponsors from across the nation. The site provides a work space for visitors to search and manipulate that data. This is accomplished in collaboration with data providers to produce a compilation of data in a common format. Data are interoperable and can be consistently viewed and applied by researchers, decision makers and resource managers.

Users can search and download data and metadata describing when and where species were observed or collected. The site’s offerings are available through an atlas (where users can review and select specific data sets). Individual or composite data sets (user-created selections from the entire holdings) may be viewed through several functions, including:

  • data dashboard - provides a pictorial view of data attributes that lets users assess their utility;
  • data richness - assesses how well the data are populated for selected elements;
  • data quality - provides key data collection information;
  • duplication status - indicates if a data set may contain duplicate records;
  • general metadata – displays the Federal Geographic Data Committee data record;
  • geographic coverage – displays data collection sites spatially;
  • participants - names OBIS-USA participants, with the option to connect back to the atlas, dashboard, and metadata functions; and
  • taxonomic depth - table shows the levels of taxonomic hierarchy for each organism.

OBIS-USA goals this year include an increase to over 10 million total data records and expanded functionality to address needs such as integration with non-biological data and further capability regarding species distributions.

To learn more about OBIS-USA, including growing its list of data and exploring partnerships, contact the NBII’s Mark Fornwall or John Mosesso.

Coordinated by the U.S. Geological Survey, the NBII is a broad, collaborative program to provide increased access to data and information on the nation's biological resources.

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OBIS-USA screen shot showing 396 observations of sea angel (Clione limacina). (Data set searched: ArcOD - the Census of Marine Life Arctic Ocean Diversity project) (Full size image)

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