Advancing Global Marine Biogeography Research with Open‐source GIS Software and Cloud Computing
Across many scientific domains, the ability to aggregate disparate datasets enables more meaningful global analyses. Within marine biology, the Census of Marine Life served as the catalyst for such a global data aggregation effort. Under the Census framework, the Ocean Biogeographic Information System was established to coordinate an unprecedented aggregation of global marine biogeography data. The OBIS data system now contains 31.3 million observations, freely accessible through a geospatial portal. The challenges of storing, querying, disseminating, and mapping a global data collection of this complexity and magnitude are significant. In the face of declining performance and expanding feature requests, 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. Due to the distributed nature of the project and increasing needs for storage, scalability and deployment flexibility, the entire hardware and software stack was built on a Cloud Computing environment. The flexibility of the platform, combined with the power of the application stack, enabled rapid re‐development of the OBIS infrastructure, and ensured complete standards‐compliance.
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