Atlantic Canada's

Biological Data for Ecosystem Planning and Decision-making:

Opening Access and Increasing Reuse

The Atlantic Coastal Zone Information Steering Committee (ACZISC) applied for, and secured funding from Environment Canada's Atlantic Ecosystem Initiatives to fund a project called Atlantic Canada's Biological Data for Ecosystem Planning and Decision-making: Opening Access and Increasing Reuse. The Project took place in Atlantic Canada between April 1 2015 and March 21 2016

The project's objective is to define the state of biological data accessibility for estuaries in Bras d'Or, the Bay of Fundy and the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. To determine the current state of biological data accessibility, and find data gaps, the project will use data previously uploaded to the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS).

Project Goals and Objectives

  • To prepare a State of Biological Data Accessibility Report based upon a data accessibility assessment of baseline species occurrence information in estuaries of the Bay of Fundy and Bras D’Or Lake using existing estuarine biological data sets and existing data management infrastructure. State of Biological Data Accessibility Report Appendices
  • To develop customized geospatial products and services to contribute to the State of Biological Data Accessibility Report.
  • To prepare a cookbook for data rescue and preparing species occurrence data for the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) Guidelines for Data Rescue Projects: The OBIS Canada Cookbook
  • To provide training for early career scientists. In collaboration with the Atlantic Canada Coastal and Estuarine Science Society, a workshop, Data Management for Research with Special Focus on Species Occurrence Data was held in Montreal in May 2017. The presentation used in the workshop divided into Modules can be viewed through the links below:
  • To gather, document, track, and upload estuarine biological data for Atlantic Canada to Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) with a focus on data that will support AEI program priorities in habitat and biodiversity and ecosystem based management in Atlantic Canada.
  • To establish a partnership (the Atlantic Marine Biological Data Partnership) of organizations holding estuarine biological data committed to sharing their data using OBIS. The partnership will be an ongoing collaborative to support future uses of the data to support AEI and other ecosystem objectives.
  • To identify further partnerships and potential habitat and biodiversity case studies to mobilize the newly accessible data and contribute to existing or new strategies or plans related to ecosystem based management.

Project in context of COINAtlantic goals

This project will make biological data accessible through the establishment of the Atlantic Marine Biological Data Partnership with the coordination of the ACZISC. Additionally, the ACZISC will develop custom geospatial products, to support the Data Accessibility Report, using data from OBIS. The first workshop for the project was 21 May 2015 in Moncton during the ACZISC # 75 Meeting. 

The mission of the ACZISC as expressed in its strategic plan is “to promote, facilitate and influence information management, policies and programs that enhance integrated coastal and ocean management in Atlantic Canada”. This project directly ties into the ACZISC mission. With the use of OBIS and the establishment of the Atlantic Marine Biological Data Partnership, biological information about the estuarine habitats will be more accessible. Accurate and accessible information is the foundation for informed decisions and good environmental management. The ACZISC looks to promote better ecosystem based management in the Bay of Fundy, Bras d’Or Lake, and Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence estuarine habitats by improving the knowledge of species occurences and associated environmental conditions. Building a better understanding of environmental conditions in these areas will promote more sustainable and effective use of the estuaries.

This project also fits specifically under Priority 2 of the ACZISC Strategic Plan: “Collaborative sharing of data and information between members and with the wider ICOM CoP on the ICOM issues of priority to members”. In addition, the two strategies associated with that priority: “Reducing barriers to access to data and information” and “Facilitating the commitment and investment of data providers to inter-organizational and public access to data and information”.

This project has made progress through its first workshop in May 2015 and will continue through the second workshop coming up in fall 2015. Students have been hired this summer (2015) to work on the project with our partners. The partners and locations include: the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History in Halifax; Cape Breton University in Sydney;the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence Coalition on Sustainability in Charlottetown; and the Atlantic Reference Centre in St. Andrews. Students are working to prepare datasets not previously shared with OBIS for upload to the system.

The Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) is a global federation of organizations working to promote the free use and accessibility of international marine biogeographic data on the internet. OBIS provides users with a portal to datasets containing information on where and when marine species have been recorded. OBIS integrates all of the global datasets to illustrate a realistic and dynamic view of marine species location.

OBIS Canada is the Canadian node of the international OBIS system. The OBIS Canada database archive is hosted by Fisheries and Oceans Canada at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. The OBIS Canada website is hosted by Dalhousie University and the Centre for Marine Biodiversity in Halifax Nova Scotia. OBIS Canada is responsible for the data related to Canadian biodiversity. OBIS Canada was organized as part of the Census of Marine Life Program. OBIS Canada is also the information component of the Canadian Center for Marine Biodiversity. OBIS Canada is described as “a one-stop shop for data on marine species found in areas of interest to Canada or collected by Canadian scientists that: provides a stable location for future data access; reduces OBIS Canada development costs by leveraging the existing information infrastructure; and facilitates integration with freshwater and terrestrial biodiversity data within a national framework using data standards and protocols”.

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