Marine Data News Issue 43
January 2020
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In this issue of Marine Data News...
MEDIN provides valuable services
The Marine Environmental Data and Information Network (MEDIN) is pleased to report results from a recent analysis of the benefits and costs that MEDIN provides to the UK economy. A team of experienced environmental economists from eftec and marine consultants from ABPmer carried out the independent analysis, which found that the benefit to cost ratio of MEDIN’s services is approximately 8, indicating that “the benefits far outweigh the cost of providing the service”.

The financial and societal benefits that MEDIN brings the UK come from efficiency gains because of easier access to data; reduced duplication of marine surveys; improved data management; improved community working and better decision-making. The report concludes that MEDIN is a very valuable service, which enhances the ability of marine-focused organisations to effectively conduct their activities and support their aims. A suite of recommendations within the report will help to inform MEDIN’s work over the next few years.
MEDIN would like to thank its users, drawn from across government departments and agencies; commerce and industry; academia; charities and conservation bodies, who took the time to respond to the survey that informed the analysis. The full report is available on the MEDIN website. 
DASSH Goes Global! 
Since January 2018, DASSH, the Marine Environmental Data and Information Network (MEDIN) for species and habitats Data Archive Centre (DAC) has been accredited as the UK Node of the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS).  As part of IOC-UNESCO’s International Oceanographic Data and Information (IODE) programme, OBIS aims to provide the most comprehensive gateway to the ocean biodiversity and biogeographic data and information.  Through a network of more than 31 regional, national and thematic nodes, connecting 500 institutions from 56 countries, the OBIS network provides access to more than 57 million observations of nearly 127,000 distinct species, from bacteria to whales.

The first week in November 2019 saw the commencement of the 8th OBIS Steering Group, in Santa Marta, Columbia, hosted by the Marine and Coastal Research Institute (INVEMAR).  This event provided the opportunity for the OBIS community to share best practice and highlight the achievements of the past year, in particular the contributions to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Global Assessment, the 2nd World Ocean Assessment and in the development of a legally-binding instrument on Biodiversity in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ).

As the UK OBIS node, DASSH and the Marine Biological Association (MBA) have an opportunity to influence policy and strategic development at the highest level, with OBIS having a key role supporting the development of the biological suite of Essential Ocean Variables (EOVs) and in the provision of evidence to meet UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 and the relevant Aichi Targets of the Convention for Biological Diversity.  

Closer to home, the standards, tools, and services developed and promoted through the OBIS network are being actively integrated into the DASSH infrastructure to facilitate access to the highest possible volume of open and interoperable biodiversity data.  The recent redesign of the underlying DASSH data systems has enabled species and habitat data to be transformed between MEDIN Guideline and OBIS formats, reducing duplication and streamlining data publication to a wide range of endpoints in a scalable and future-proof schema.

For more information on the work of DASSH, the MBA, or our role as the UK OBIS Node, please contact Dan Lear.

Seasearch data and occupancy models

The UK has a fabulous, diverse marine environment, which is spatially and temporally variable and subject to a wide variety of anthropogenic activities and threats.  These threats can influence the abundance and distribution of marine species.  Knowledge of these changes is vital if, for example, we are to harvest resources sustainably or to protect them effectively or to prevent non-native species gaining a foothold. 

Where data on populations are collected following strict protocols (e.g. farmland birds, fisheries stock assessments, bat surveys), we can be confident that they allow robust determination of trends in population size and distribution and can then begin to ask questions about any changes that are observed.  In many other cases, particularly in the marine environment, we simply don’t have these data.  Biological records from citizen scientists can provide an attractive alternative.  Seasearch is a partnership of organisations led by the Marine Conservation Society that collects data on seabed species and habitats, using volunteer divers and snorkellers.  Seasearch celebrated its 30th  anniversary last year and now has well over 700,000 records distributed under a CC-BY licence via the NBN Atlas.

Figure 1. European spiny lobster or crawfish (Palinurus elephas). Photo copyright: Martin Davies.

Seasearch divers are trained on how to collect records and use a standard recording form to create semi-quantitative (SACFOR - S=Superabundant, A=Abundant, C=Common, F=Frequent, O=Occassional, R=Rare) observations, but because such records are often opportunistic and divers vary in their knowledge, issues remain, such as ambiguous non-detection (i.e. was it really not there or just not seen). This means it is not always straightforward to use these data to identify robust trends. Occupancy models can help overcome some of these limitations and are used broadly for terrestrial species (e.g. in the ‘State of Nature’ report). 

To try and make more effective use of Seasearch data, we have recently used an occupancy model to investigate trends in the population of the European spiny lobster (Palinurus elephas; Figure 1) in South West Britain. This valuable species was over-harvested and experienced severe declines towards the end of the last century, but now appears to be showing signs of recovery.

An occupancy model using the ‘Presence’ software package shows that when probability of detection is combined with probability of occurrence (Figure 2, black line), the apparent trend is indeed one of increase (particularly since 2014) and provides a more positive (and correct) pattern than does the naïve estimates based simply on the proportions of sites where spiny lobsters were seen (Figure 2, blue line).  Resource managers can use the output from models like this to target conservation efforts or to apply restrictions to harvesting, thereby helping prevent any repeat of historic collapse in stocks.

Figure 2. Trends in probability of occurrence at sites surveyed by Seasearch volunteer divers based on naïve estimates of proportions of site occupieds (blue line). Estimates  ± 95% confidence intervals from an occupancy model run using the ‘Presence’ software package (black line), that include probabilities of detection show a stronger recovery.

Seasearch staff have recently joined the Marine Environmental Data and Information (MEDIN) standards working group and are working with DASSH, the MEDIN Data Archive Centre for species and habitats data, to allow ingestion of Seasearch data to MEDIN.

Dr Angus Jackson

Seasearch data officer

Marine Conservation Society

BODC celebrates a decade of glider data management!
In 2019, the British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC) marks 10 years of supporting the UK ocean glider community.

BODC supports one of the largest fleets of ocean gliders in the world.

Ocean gliders are autonomous profiling instruments, capable of harvesting a wealth of near real time environmental information from the world’s oceans.

Gliders traverse the water column in a saw-tooth fashion, driven by simple adjustments of their internal weight distribution and buoyancy. Whilst at the surface and in-between dives they send bursts of data, via satellite, back to shore, in exchange for new waypoints and commands from a pilot overseeing their overall mission.

Although the ocean glider concept has been around since the 1980s, it is only in recent years that advancement in technology, have made ocean gliders a cost effective and reliable means of sampling our seas. Ocean gliders are typically measuring an increasingly wide range of parameters and staying in the water for longer durations at a time. This presents a marked challenge to data managers who are required to safeguard and disseminate observations to a wide range of stakeholders, which often include weather forecasting agencies where timely acquisition is paramount.

BODC have been championing glider data management best practices since 2009, when it first collaborated with scientists at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS). Their first glider deployment involved a Seaglider named ‘Talisker’, which undertook a five-month long mission along the Extended Ellett Line in the North Atlantic Ocean – a line traditionally surveyed by annual research cruises at the time.

In the past decade BODC, as the UK glider Data Assembly Centre (DAC), has gone on to handle over 180 individual deployments and delivered 7 years of near real time glider data to operational ocean models. BODC provide UK scientists and agencies with secure long term archive capability and a focal point from which to service data requests. Data management capability within BODC is currently being enhanced as part of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funded Oceanids programme.

Beyond our shores, BODC is committed to driving ocean glider best practices on the international stage, aligning with the Everyone’s Gliding Observatories (EGO) framework and thereby ensuring a pipeline of UK glider data to Europe and into the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS).

For further information please contact

OceanWise has provided data & expertise to Blue Marine Foundation's "Big Marine Data Project"

The Blue Marine Foundation, a charity dedicated to creating marine reserves and establishing sustainable models of fishing, has completed a “Big Data” project which sought to investigate how data can be used to support safety in inshore waters.

The focus of the project “has been the current lack of collated and integrated data to effectively inform safety and risk at the coast and inshore waters”

OceanWise, who are marine data experts and provide a range of intelligent marine data (mapping) products have provided the mapping data for situational awareness and to allow multiple sources of data to be integrated using location as the common link.  The assembly of disparate datasets into a 'spatial data infrastructure' will inform safety and risk assessments and allow preventative measures to be established and resources used in emergency response to be more effective.

Tim Glover UK Projects Director from the Blue Marine Foundation comments: “We were delighted to have OceanWise working with us on this ground-breaking Big Marine Data project. Together with the University of Southampton and Plymouth Marine Laboratory, they added huge value to extending the collection, modelling and application of data to better understand risk of life and property at sea…
Dr Mike Osborne, OceanWise Managing Director, commented “Projects like those that the Blue Marine Foundation undertake are essential as the volumes, variety and velocity of data expands and presents us regularly with new dynamic challenges. Marine data has often been forgotten in the past behind its terrestrial counterpart, but now we are seeing more interest and focus on our Oceans than ever before.

The Big Marine Data project has shown that better use of big data and a focus on marine data, can contribute to addressing the many safety and environmental challenges in the world’s oceans. OceanWise are proud to have worked with the Blue Foundation and contributed to this important project. We believe that overcoming these challenges can be supported by a modern approach to data management and governance”.

OceanWise have produced a variety of free white papers and online resources which provide information and guidance on marine spatial data infrastructures and marine data management. Please visit OceanWise here for your free copy /more information or  Oceanwise courses for details on their marine specific training courses.

More information on the Blue Marine Foundation and the Big Marine Data Project can be found here

More information on OceanWise products and services can be found at:

Underpinning the UK Marine Strategy Part One - the UK Marine Assessments

The UK Marine Strategy Part One, launched in October 2019, summarises the UK assessment of our seas and sets objectives, targets and indicators for the UK achieving Good Environmental Status (GES). 

The assessments and science underpinning the UK Marine Strategy Part One have been published by Cefas via the Marine Online Assessment Tool (MOAT) to enable the UK to meet reporting and policy obligations toward GES. The tool provides interactive access to the UK integrated and indicator assessments with scientific evidence collected over six years by the UK monitoring authorities including evidence on commercial fish and shellfish, biodiversity, food web interactions, pressures from human activities including contaminants, litter, noise, non-indigenous species, eutrophication, hydrographical conditions, ocean processes and climate, marine protected areas and cumulative effects assessments.  

Photo below: Acknowledgements © CEFAS.

Over 100 organisations including Defra, devolved administrations and all UK marine agencies were involved in the preparation of the scientific material with extensive scientific reviews and editorial efforts carried out, in addition to the publishing of the source evidence data by numerous data stewards.

MOAT has been used as the example to follow for future publications of marine assessments and scientific evidence, to support policy and the UK’s 25 Year Environment Plan.

More Events!

MEDIN Workshop 19th February, Plymouth

New to marine metadata standards? Or just fancy a refresher?

Discovery metadata is a list of information that accompanies a dataset and allows other people to find out what the dataset contains, where it was collected and how they can access it. 

Learn all about the MEDIN discovery metadata standard, data guidelines and controlled vocabularies at our free workshop at the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth on 19th February 2020.
To book your place, please email Sean Gaffney. For more information, see our website

Coastal Futures, January 2020
MEDIN are sponsoring and presenting at Coastal Futures 15-16th January 2020. The annual Coastal Futures conferences have been running since 1994 and over 460 delegates from 170+ organisations attend.  

The conference provides the most effective review, briefing and pointer to future trends in the coastal and marine environment of the year. 

The programme is now published and tickets are still available! 
UKEOF Conference, February 2020
Environmental Monitoring: meeting evidence needs
  • Date: 27 February 2020
  • Times: 10:00 - 16:00 (registration from 9:00)
  • Registration fee: £36
  • Aimed at: Public sector providers and analysts of long-term data; researchers;  stakeholders with interests in environmental change
  • Twitter hashtag: #UKEOF2020
To secure your place at the conference, please register here.
NRW's Marine and Coastal Casework Guidance Project

Natural Resources Wales (NRW’s) Marine and Coastal Casework Guidance (MCCG) project provides consistent and proportionate guidance to help ensure the sustainable management of the marine and coastal environment and give information to help with your project, development or activity.

Guidance developed so far can be found here and includes:

  • Guidance to assist applicants in preparing the information required for environmental assessments e.g. guidance on datasets that NRW holds, benthic survey and seaweed harvesting; and
  • Guidance on the application of the new regulations that govern Environmental Impact Assessment.

We want to ensure our guidance is useful by being as suited to our stakeholders’ needs as possible.

Therefore, if there is something you would like our steer on, please get in contact

Alternatively, give us your feedback and ideas via our short survey:

English or Welsh

UN Decade of the Ocean Newsletter
The United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development have published it's first newsletter. Including inputs on recent developments in the preparatory phase. Read the publication here and don't forget to subscribe for more updates on the website here .
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