Ocean Biogeographic Information System


The concept of OBIS was first developed at a conference sponsored by the Census of Marine Life (CoML) in 1997. At the time, a comprehensive system for the retrieval of ocean biological data did not exist. The databases that did exist to distribute ocean biological data failed to "usefully summarize known distributions and abundance of marine life nor are they organized to encouraged frequent use or intercomparison of datasets". The problems generated by this disenfranchisement of marine data from the frequent user are very serious ones: if scientists cannot efficiently collect and effectively share data about the oceans with each other, how will anyone be able to generate new, comprehensive hypotheses about our oceans? If new findings about the oceans remain localized and hidden from the rest of the marine science community, then the data fails to have an impact on research in the marine science community at large.

Not long after the initial meeting, OBIS was established as a project of the Census of Marine Life to help facilitate global enfranchisement of data within the scientific community. The goal of OBIS was simple: to create "an online, user-friendly system for absorbing, integrating, and accessing data about life in the oceans". The system would stimulate taxonomic and systematic research and generate new hypotheses concerning: - evolutionary processes - factors related to maintainance of species distributions - roles of marine organisms in marine ecosystem function.

For the last decade, the OBIS community has worked tirelessly to make sure that all data contributed to OBIS from hundreds of providers is available to the public through its search interface. In many ways, the OBIS database has become the database that the OBIS community envisioned at its creation.

But OBIS is still evolving: OBIS hopes to become even more user friendly, appealing to both the scientific community and the common internet user. The OBIS community promotes an open access policy and believes that data collected about the oceans should be easily accessible to a diverse set of users.


OBIS allows users to search marine species datasets from all of the world's oceans.

With an evolving OBIS database repository, users can identify biodiversity hotspots and large-scale ecological patterns, analyse dispersions of species over time and space, and plot species' locations with temperature, salinity, and depth.

Users can search the database and see overview maps of OBIS content and derived information.

OBIS strives to document the ocean's diversity, distribution and abundance of life. Created by the Census of Marine Life, OBIS is now part of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO, under its International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE) programme.

Ocean Biogeographic Information System

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