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One-Stop Online Source for Biogeographic Information About U.S. Oceans and Waters

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Sea angel
Above: 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. [larger version]

A one-stop source for biological information collected from U.S. waters and oceanic regions is now available from the National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) Program, on its Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS) - USA Web site.

The OBIS-USA Web site offers a unique combination of tools, resources, and biodiversity information to aid scientists, resource managers, and decision makers in the research and analyses critical to sustaining the Nation's valued marine ecosystems.

The new and improved Web site (it replaces an earlier, demonstration version) brings together biogeographic data collected from U.S. waters and oceanic regions—the Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans, the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Great Lakes. It provides access to data sets from numerous partners documenting where and when species were observed or collected, and allows users to examine each data set to assess its applicability for various uses.

OBIS-USA was established in 2006 in cooperation with the U.S. National Committee for the Census of Marine Life, a committee composed of distinguished individuals from research institutions, industry, resource management, and nongovernmental organizations. 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.

"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 and Program Manager for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Biological Informatics Program. "At the same time, the ocean is being subjected to a variety of changes, including warming temperatures, increasing ocean acidity, invasion by nonnative species, overharvesting, and loss of habitat."

OBIS-USA provides data and tools to address key questions and information needs related to scientific understanding of ecosystems, marine spatial planning, climate change, ocean acidification, invasive species, and management of the Nation's fisheries. Addressing ocean stressors requires access to a wide range of information on marine biodiversity, Mosesso noted.

OBIS-USA screen shot, showing 396 observations of sea angels (Clione limacina).
Above: OBIS-USA screen shot, showing 396 observations of sea angels (Clione limacina). (Data set searched: ArcOD - the Census of Marine Life Arctic Ocean Diversity project.) [larger version]

OBIS-USA data holdings comprise millions of individual records supplied by marine data sponsors from across the Nation. The site provides a workspace for visitors to search and manipulate those data. Collaboration with data providers produces a compilation of data in a common format. Data are interoperable and can be viewed and applied consistently by researchers, decision makers, and resource managers.

Data and metadata describing when and where species were observed or collected 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 whether 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—shows, in table form, the levels of taxonomic hierarchy for each organism.

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

To learn more about OBIS-USA, to help grow its list of data, and (or) to explore partnerships, contact the NBII's Mark Fornwall ( or John Mosesso (

Coordinated by the USGS, the NBII is a broad, collaborative program to provide increased access to data and information on the Nation's biological resources.

Related Web Sites
National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII)
National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII)
managed by the USGS Biological Informatics Office
USGS Biological Informatics Program
U.S. National Committee for the Census of Marine Life
Consortium for Ocean Leadership
International Ocean Biogeographic Information System
Census of Marine Life

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cover story:
New Study of Pacific Sea Otter Populations and Nearshore Ecosystems

Investigators Calibrate Tripod-Mounted Underwater Sonars

Meetings USGS and U.S. Department of State Assist in the Mekong Delta

Publications New Web Site Provides Map-Based Links to USGS Map Publications with Digital Data

One-Stop Online Source for Biogeographic Information About U.S. Oceans and Waters

Journal of Coastal Research Highlights Lidar Applications in Coastal Settings

March 2010 Publications U. S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
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Updated May 06, 2014 @ 02:13 PM (JSG)