Press Archive

SDSC Participates in First 'Census of Marine Life'

10-Year Project among 80 Nations is World's First In-Depth Study of Sea Life

Published 10/04/2010

CenSeam biologists process samples on a seamount expedition of the Macquarie Ridge, near southern New Zealand. This was one of many expeditions that gathered data for the Census of Marine Life.
Courtesy: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Australia.

After a decade of joint work involving 2,700 researchers from 80 countries, the world's scientists - as well as the general public - can now access the Census of Marine Life, which provides the first in-depth look at the more than 120,000 diverse species which inhabit our oceans.

The Census of Marine Life initiative, started in 2000, is the result of one of the largest scientific collaborations ever conducted, the result of more than 540 expeditions and 9,000 days at sea, plus more than 2,600 academic papers published during that period.

The just-released census paints an unprecedented picture of the diversity, distribution, and abundance of all kinds of marine life in the world's oceans, from microbes to whales, from the icy poles to the warm tropics, from tidal shores to the deepest depths.

Moreover, the census will serve as a baseline to measure any changes during the 21st century, be it from global warming trends or man-made disasters such as the Gulf of Mexico oil spill that occurred earlier this year. A full press release describing the CoML initiative can be found here.

Participating in the global research was Karen Stocks, a biological oceanographer and deep sea ecologist with the San Diego Supercomputer Center at UC San Diego. Stocks has been developing the SeamountsOnline database since 2001, which supports the data analysis efforts for CenSeam, a project launched in 2005 to determine the role of seamounts, or underwater mountains, in the biogeography, biodiversity, productivity, and evolution of marine organisms, and to evaluate the effects of human exploitation on seamounts. CenSeam joined the Census of Marine Life in early 2005.

"By uniting the global seamount research community, CenSeam has been able to explore unknown regions, discovered new species, and document how humans are impacting these systems," said Stocks, one of the co-leads of the CenSeam project, a collaborative effort between SDSC and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) in Wellington, New Zealand.

An elevation image of the Brothers seamount chain, northeast of New Zealand's mainland. NIWA researchers mapped this area in 2002.
Courtesy: NIWA



The overall goals of the CenSeam project are to:

  • coordinate existing and planned programs for maximum benefit through encouraging community networking
  • catalyze new seamount sampling activities
  • offer mini-grants to expand the scope of surveys/data collection/analysis
  • align research approaches and data collection
  • ensure that opportunities for collaboration between programs are maximized
  • integrate and analyze incoming information to create new knowledge, and
  • consolidate and synthesize existing data e.g. historical data that to date has been functionally inaccessible to the scientific community

"It is this final goal where the expertise and resources of SDSC have been able to contribute most meaningfully to the recently completed Census of Marine Life project," said Stocks. "We could bring together, for the first time, data from seamounts all over the world into a single system to look at their global patterns, and understand how seamounts contribute to the patterns of life in the oceans in general."

About SDSC
As an Organized Research Unit of UC San Diego, SDSC is a national leader in creating and providing cyberinfrastructure for data-intensive research, and is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year as one of the National Science Foundation's first supercomputer centers. Cyberinfrastructure refers to an accessible and integrated network of computer-based resources and expertise, focused on accelerating scientific inquiry and discovery. SDSC is a founding member of TeraGrid, the nation's largest open-access scientific discovery infrastructure.

Comment:
Karen Stocks, SDSC
858 534-5009 or kstocks@sdsc.edu

Media Contacts:
Jan Zverina, SDSC Communications
858 534-5111 or jzverina@sdsc.edu

Warren R. Froelich, SDSC Communications
858 822-3622 or froelich@sdsc.edu

Related Links

SDSC: http://www.sdsc.edu/
Seamountsonline: http://seamounts.sdsc.edu/
CenSeam: http://censeam.niwa.co.nz/home
Census of Marine Life: http://www.coml.org/
UC San Diego: http://www.ucsd.edu/