Advancing global marine biogeography research with open source GIS software and cloud computing

Session Type: 
Academic Session
Mr Jesse Cleary, Duke University
Mr Ei Fujioka


Across many scientific domains, the ability to aggregate disparate datasets enables more meaningful global analyses, with parallel computation and GIS challenges.  Within marine biology, the 10-year Census of Marine Life served as the catalyst for such a global data aggregation effort.  Under the Census framework, the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS, was established to coordinate an unprecedented aggregation of global marine biogeography data.  The OBIS data system now contains 30 million observations, representing 120,000 marine species, freely and openly accessible through a public database and online geospatial portal.  OBIS data have been used for analysis and conservation efforts worldwide.
The challenges of storing, querying, disseminating, and mapping a global data collection of this complexity and magnitude are significant.  After several years of declining performance and expanding requirements, a redevelopment of the OBIS data system was undertaken.  Following an open source philosophy, the OBIS technology stack was rebuilt using PostgreSQL+PostGIS, GeoServer and OpenLayers.  This approach has markedly improved the performance and online user experience while maintaining a standards-compliant and interoperable framework. 
Previous OBIS system development focused on self-contained application stacks housed at participant research institutions.  Due to the distributed nature of the project and increasing storage needs, a more flexible hardware plan was implemented during this re-engineering effort.  The Amazon EC2 cloud provided the deployment flexibility and scalability to allow the system to expand within a commonly accessible environment.  Cloud technology helped to centralize OBIS development and will support future instantiation tools, scripts, and APIs for system researchers.
Techniques to address the scale of the data system and diverse demands on data exploration, as well as challenges and lessons learned from the OBIS portal redevelopment and Amazon cloud implementation will be presented.  Improved cooperation on FOSS4G approaches to eco-informatics challenges will also be discussed.


Speaker Bio: 

Jesse Cleary is Research Analyst in the Marine Geospatial Ecology lab at Duke University.  He has a diverse GIS background encompassing the geospatial web, spatial analysis, database design, and programming for terrestrial, meteorological, and oceanographic applications.

Schedule info