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USGS and NOAA have partnered through the Ocean Biodiversity Information System-USA and National Centers for Environmental Information to streamline ocean data collection and make sure it's available for decades to come.

Where are the nation’s coral reefs located? How many fish were seen in the Gulf of Maine in 1996? These may seem like abstract questions, but they help scientists and natural resource managers study and responsibly manage our marine environments. To be able to answer these questions, we need data that researchers have been collecting over decades. But merely having these data is not enough; we need everyone to be able to access these data in web-accessible ways. Finally, we need them to be archived to ensure future generations have access to this information yes, even decades from now.

Underwater photograph of a fish with others in the background.
Many species of fish in the Piti Bomb Holes Marine Preserve off Piti, Guam.

The Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS) is one way that marine biodiversity information is being shared in web-accessible ways. OBIS, created as part of the 80-nation Census of Marine Life, is an international network of data providers and data managers that have been integrating and sharing key information on marine species for over 20 years.

Recently, the U.S. node to OBIS, USGS’s OBIS-USA, has taken a significant step to ensure that the marine data we contribute is not just web-accessible, but also properly archived by partnering with NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, as well as NOAA’s Integrated Ocean Observing System.

Sea turtle
Endangered green turtle (Chelonia mydas)

This archival guarantee is a vital step forward for OBIS-USA. Prior to NCEI’s involvement, scientists or institutions that shared data with OBIS-USA did not have a guarantee that their data would still be accessible long-term. Now, they can rest assured that their data and all the rest of the data held by OBIS-USA will still be accessible decades down the line. These data can be accessed through the NCEI archive accession page for the record.

Finally, this collaboration makes it easier for U.S. data providers that may want to share their data with OBIS, but also archive at NCEI. With this new pipeline and partnership in place, data that are shared through the OBIS-USA IPT are archived quarterly at NCEI.

Image: California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus)
California sea lions on a platform.

This achievement is a shining example of government agencies working together to achieve more together than would have been possible alone. It also represents key U.S. organizational units to the United Nations International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange working together to ensure marine biodiversity data are accessible and preserved. The collaboration between NCEI and OBIS-USA provides the pipeline and methods for U.S. marine species observations to better meet the FAIR guidelines of Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability, and Reuse of digital assets. Working together, NOAA and USGS are making sure marine biodiversity data are available to researchers not only now but also for future generations.

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