Victoria is home to a unique marine ecosystem. Due to geographic remoteness and ocean currents, the animals and plants in the state’s waters have evolved in relative isolation from the rest of the world. It is globally recognised as a hotspot of marine species diversity. For decades, marine scientists have been using a range of methods to collect information on the nature and extent of Victoria’s seafloor habitats and the enormous variety of life they support. The difficulties and costs associated with operating in the deep and wave-swept environments of Bass Strait and the Southern Ocean makes any data collected there especially valuable, albeit sparse.
Recent advances in marine survey technology such as new generation sonar systems, airborne laser scanners and video-equipped autonomous vehicles have finally begun to lift the veil on the seafloor environment. Highly accurate, 3D computer models of reef systems and sandy plains that extend many hundreds of kilometres along the coastline - and seaward to the edge of the continental shelf - provide a framework to connect existing observational datasets.
The Victorian Marine Habitat Mapping project, led by researchers from Deakin’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences and staff from Deakin University Library and Deakin eResearch, brings together data on Victoria’s marine habitats from around the state, making it available to current and future researchers through the Victorian Marine Data Portal.
The project has resulted in the collation and cataloguing of a significant body of spatial marine datasets which collectively represent a 20 year time-series of the physical and biological diversity of Victoria’s marine ecosystems. Prior to the project, data were stored in often inconsistent formats on closed institutional servers at universities, state, and federal government bodies. In many cases, no records were associated with the data, which meant that those without pre-existing knowledge of the data were excluded from access. Data accessibility was further limited by the time available to specialist institutional staff, who were required to manually retrieve and deliver data requests on a case by case basis.
Project partnerships have led to enduring links between the Deakin project team and technical experts from the Australian Observation Data Network (AODN) and the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies(IMAS) at the University of Tasmania.
Staff from AODN were instrumental in installing the necessary software infrastructure at Deakin, while IMAS provided support for database and metadata integration. Going forward, this collection will be managed as a cross-team internal collaboration. It will use the expertise of the Library to hold and maintain it, while the Deakin eResearch team will provide the technological integrations to assist discoverability.
Article originally published for ANDS.