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New online portal merges vast data on Gulf of Maine ecosystem

A new online portal consolidates decades of rich marine data, much of it available for the first time, enabling resource managers and scientific researchers to combine and analyze information in unprecedented ways, creating new insights into the Gulf of Maine's ecology.

Launched today by the Gulf of Maine Area program of the Census of Marine Life, the Dynamic Atlas of the Gulf of Maine, online at http://gmbis.iris.usm.maine.edu, will enhance current understanding of the complex marine ecosystem off New England and Canada's southeast coast.

With the collaboration of the Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing System, the first-in-the-nation marine buoy system that reports ocean conditions in real time, and the Gulf of Maine Ocean Data Partnership, the alliance of 20 agencies and organizations providing marine data, new portal offers up decades of work by agencies and scientists dedicated to understanding the Gulf of Maine ecosystem and its species.

For decades, a vast and growing storehouse of knowledge about the Gulf of Maine has been out of reach for most scientists and researchers. Although research capacity has grown by leaps and bounds as a result of computer and sensor technology, valuable collections of biological, oceanographic and geologic data from public and private institutions have, in large part, remained in isolation from each other. For the first time, the Dynamic Atlas brings this information together in one place.

"This new tool will enhance our understanding of biological patterns in the Gulf of Maine, across space and time, and illuminate critical trends related to this important international resource," says Evan Richert, program director for the Gulf of Maine program. "The new portal is the door to a treasure of data, much of it essentially inaccessible before now. Modern technologies allow us now to access these data in far more meaningful ways. This is a very big step toward understanding the diversity and distribution of life in the Gulf."

Over the coming months, the website will be made even more dynamic by allowing users to visualize the data in even more interesting ways. But for now, access to the data will be an invaluable resource for scientists seeking to understand marine ecosystems.

Dr. Lewis Incze, chief scientist for the Gulf of Maine program explains: "Knowledge of biodiversity and the relationships of life in the Gulf of Maine to the surrounding environs is fundamental to ecosystem-based management. The Dynamic Atlas creates the opportunity for credible gains in our knowledge about how the patterns of life in the Gulf are unfolding."

For example, the Atlas can be used for simple analyses, such as calculating the rate at which fish species are being first identified in the various regions of the Gulf, or the prevalence of different species of fish in the different areas of the Gulf, and how abundance and distribution is changing over time. And the data can be mined and combined to examine more complex relationships, such as the way the abundance of one species may vary with another, or how species may be affected by variations in temperature and currents.

To illustrate, one can quickly see changes in the abundance and distribution of Atlantic Cod over the past 30 years without poring through pages of data. To see the type of visual analysis the website can offer at this time, follow this quick guide:

1- Go to: http://gmbis.iris.usm.maine.edu/home.asp
2- Click on: "Take a look at our products"
3- Click on: The map next to "Annual Atlantic Cod Abundance & Distributions: 1963?003."

(For more info, contact Nick Wolff, 207-228-8069, or nwolff@usm.maine.edu)

The Dynamic Atlas will serve as a pilot for a truly integrated ocean observing system, called the Gulf of Maine Biogeographic Information System. Over time the Census of Marine Life will work with the Gulf of Maine Ocean Data Partner ship to take the Atlas and other portals (including the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans Centre for Marine Biodiversity, Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing System and others) to new levels of dynamic data sharing and data aggregation and mapping.


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Source:Census of Marine Life


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