oceans and data

Social networks to help the world's oceans

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Ocean ecosystems are in decline. In a new relationship published in late April in the Journal of Marine Sciences of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), marine conservationists and data professionals from IBM reveal new ways in which technology and social networks could change the way ocean data is shared to transform ocean management practices.
 
Cow can we reduce the waste of data to help manage the world's oceans? Knowing that the three main barriers to data sharing and use are downloading, aggregation and navigation. There are technical and cultural solutions that could break down these barriers and be implemented in the context of a combinatorial machine (shown as a wheel below) that itself provides a platform for discovering and accessing data from many different tools and applications.
The future health of the oceans and the planet depends on the ability to coordinate effective action to address the causes of environmental degradation. Improving access to and use of data will greatly enhance the ability to plan, implement and monitor the impacts of management policies, while enabling the scientific community to continue its studies of our environment.
 
Ilustration: © Vanessa González-Ortiz

Declining ocean ecosystems

Conservation and management of the oceans is not keeping pace with the rapid evolution of our planet. (1). Many marine mammals are struggling to survive (2), Fish populations continue to decline and coral reef ecosystems are dying. (3). Hypoxic zones are spreading (1) and plastics have infiltrated almost all parts of the marine environment (4). Climate change and local stressors have profound impacts on ocean socio-ecological systems. (5).
Evidence-based solutions are needed to address these ocean issues to better manage a rapidly changing ocean. (6). In developing such solutions, the best use of available data is needed to understand the causes and trends of changes in the physical, ecological and social components of ocean systems, but also to inform models of ocean change and its effects on ecosystems and populations, to evaluate scenarios associated with proposed actions, and to assess whether policies are effective. (7). The global and dynamic nature of the ocean and its ecosystems means that data acquisition and sharing must occur on an unprecedented scale and at a faster rate. The rapidly changing global environment means that we must constantly reassess and update what we know. Time is of the essence.
 

Disordered data

Fortunately, there are more ocean data and data portals available to better observe them than ever before. (8). Remote sensing platforms continuously collect petabytes of Earth observation data (e.g. Landsat and Sentinel programs). Thousands of scientists are hard at work collecting data in the field. (9). Dozens of online platforms are emerging where scientists can share and access data. Yet we still need more data to effectively manage the oceans. Although satellites, buoys and other technical approaches have helped map and monitor the physical and chemical properties of much of the ocean, as much as 90 % of the seabed remains unmapped and unmonitored.
 
Fifteen percent or less of the ocean is as well mapped as the earth's land surface. (10). Our lack of understanding and regular monitoring of the biological and human dimensions of the ocean is probably even more data poor. Many habitats, including the deep ocean floor, ocean trenches, icy waters, methane seeps and even coral reefs, remain poorly studied on a global scale.
The geographical gaps in biodiversity data are particularly acute for many parts of the world ocean, including the coastal areas of the Indian Ocean, the southern and eastern Mediterranean, the polar seas and most of the South American coastal ocean. (11). The proportion of undiscovered marine species is estimated at 80 % (11), Many invertebrate taxa are particularly poorly documented and monitored. (11). Even organisms as large as whales and dolphins are constantly under-evaluated and monitored; 52 % of all cetaceans listed by the IUCN are considered Data Deficient (12). Data on many of these places and organisms exist, but they are hidden in laptops and notebooks and are not available for the new analyses needed for ocean management.
 
Although disordered, these data may nevertheless contain important information, particularly where there are significant gaps in the "good data". New ways of using these data must be found, even if data collection, management and archiving are expensive. (13). If this data is not passed from producers to users, the result can be missed opportunities to inform science, decision-making and management, and costly duplication of data collection efforts, both of which represent a "waste of data". There is much to be gained by finding new ways to reduce data waste to help manage the world's oceans.
 

A data framework to understand data sharing and use

Effective ocean management decisions, particularly in the face of global environmental change, require the ability to make the best use of these data. There are technical and cultural solutions that could remove barriers to data flow. The key is to combine technical and cultural approaches to create solutions and to draw on other sectors to learn how to do so.
 
Three categories of challenges to data sharing and use were identified: downloading, aggregation and browsing. Although considerable progress has been made in improving the operability and transparency of oceanographic data, the effect has been largely incremental. ICES proposes a range of technical and cultural solutions to overcome these challenges, including the use of natural language processing, automatic data translation, ledger-based data identifiers, digital community currencies, data impact factors, and social networks as a means of overcoming these barriers.
One way to exploit these solutions could be a combinatorial machine that would include technology and social networking solutions to aggregate oceanographic data and allow researchers to discover, browse and download data, as well as connect researchers and data users while providing an open source for new data tools.
 
Linwood Pendleton, Professor at UBO in the AMURE laboratory of IUEM, Global Head of Ocean Science at the World Wild Foundation, Australian Institute of Marine Sciences, a renowned scientist, is the main author of this study. "You wouldn't run a business without real-time inventory, but that's exactly how we try to manage a large part of our ocean. "he says. « The vast majority of oceanographic data remain locked up in notebooks, on laptops and stored on websites. Ocean and coastal managers cannot use data they cannot find. "
 
Also, since August 2018, seven IBM data professionals have joined ocean conservation scientists from WWF, the University of Queensland and the Australian Institute of Marine Science for an intense brainstorming workshop to identify ways to unlock, organize and make accessible the ocean data that conservators and managers need to ensure the survival of marine ecosystems in a world where climate change and economic growth are threatening ecosystems.
 
Lyndon Llewellyn said that the Great Barrier Reef is one of the best studied ecosystems in the world: "The management of all the data generated by these studies is mind-boggling and the flow of data is growing, accelerating and diversifying as more and more scientists, organizations and citizens strive to understand and protect them.
Thanks to recent advances in data collection technology, we have more oceanographic data than ever before. But the main challenge remains storing and making it accessible.
"Getting data out of the scientific realm and into the hands of ocean professionals is not so different from getting products from artisans to consumers. ", according to Guillermo Olmedo, an IBM Argentina senior executive in Latin America.
"By using advanced methods of data collection and sharing, the oceanographic community could pave the way for a new paradigm of global collaboration, and technology could also help people put their data into the virtual marketplace of ideas, adds Rahul Jain, an IBM India consultant.
 

Technology and social networks for the oceans

The ICES report breaks new ground with proposals on data impact factors, web interfaces that use artificial intelligence to automate data downloads, and even the creation of a "combinatorial machine" that would provide a one-stop shop and social network for data producers and users.
Combinatorial machines (CMs) are technology platforms that can combine aggregation and navigation technologies with social networks. Amazon.com, Alibaba, TripAdvisor and other commercial CMs have solved many of the same problems faced by the ocean data industry, but applied to consumer products, markets and travel.
 
"Unlocking data means first getting people to share their data, which requires a change in culture. Creating ecosystems that will give credit and recognition to scientists who share data is one way to encourage this."notes Lynette Seow, a consultant with IBM Singapore.
Ove Hoegh Guldberg, one of the co-authors of the report, reflects on the findings: " We hope this document will provide a roadmap to find ways to transform the way we use science to manage our oceans. The United Nations has proclaimed the next ten years as the Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development and this is our first contribution to this great endeavour."
 
Advances in data science and social networking offer hope and opportunity to revolutionize the way ocean data will be collected and used, but only if research builds on collaboration outside the ocean sector to make the most of what others have accomplished.
 
 
 
Sources The University of Queensland: Oxford academic - ICES / IBM Corporate Service Corps (CSC), WWF- Global Science, WWF-US and the University of Queensland's Global Change Institute (CGI).

 
  1. WWF, 2018
  2. IUCN, 2018
  3. Hoegh-Guldberg et al, 2018; FAO, 2018 ; WWF, 2018
  4. Jamieson et al, 2017; Haward, 2018; Munthe and Jensen, 2018 ; WWF, 2018
  5. Poloczanska et al.2016; Hoegh-Guldberg et al. 2018.
  6. Sutherland et al, 2004 Fisher et al, 2014; Science 20, 2019
  7. Sutherland et al, 2004 ; WWF, 2018
  8. Visbeck, 2018; WWF, 2018
  9. COI-UNESCO, 2017
  10. Sandwell et al, 2003
  11. Costello et al, 2010
  12. Parsons, 2016
  13. Arzberger et al, 2004; Tenopir et al, 2011; Michener, 2015; Pisani et al, 2016; Rockhold et al, 2016

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