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SCOR Working Group 118: New Technologies for Observing Marine Life

  2000, Canada
  2001, Argentina
  2002, Peru
General Information
Terms of Reference
Working Group Members
Front Page

Census of Marine Life logo
Funding provided by
the SLOAN Foundation's
Census of Marine Life
(CoML) initiative

2002 Working Group Meeting
(28-30 October 2002, Lima, Peru)

Discussion and Conclusions

Scroll down the page to view contents or use the following links to go directly to a topic:
Centres of excellence || Training || Funding || Technology || Links with OBIS || Website || Use of CoMLís name

The main discussion concentrated on ways of finding support for collaborative work in developing countries. This followed the structure suggested in David Farmerís preamble, which suggested the foundation of regional Centres of Excellence (CoE) coupled with a major training initiative that could also help develop the scientific and technical infrastructure in these countries. CoEs could act as a focus for selected topics, develop links with other institutes, both regionally and world wide, and co-ordinate bids for international funding. Visiting scientists could leave instruments behind for subsequent use by newly trained staff in developing countries and could also demonstrate the benefits of collaborating with local university engineering departments to develop new equipment. Both initiatives ought to encourage scientists from temperate regions to work in tropical waters, share their expertise with developing countries and gain experience of different ecosystems, an initiative already underway via the Smithsonian Institute in the USA.

Centres of excellence
Mariano Gutiérrez Torero agreed to lead a small sub-group that would identify suitable subjects (e.g. acoustics, biotechnology, optics, taxonomy) for the proposed CoEs and investigate where they might be located and how they might be constituted. To do this, it would be necessary to find out what facilities were already available in university departments and government institutes in various countries, and identify the range of available skills. Involving specialists (e.g. physicists & engineers) with complementary skills would be an important task for nascent CoEs, as would solving the problem of accessing literature, which required a two-way link between developed and developing countries.

It was agreed that Mariano Gutiérrez Torero should select colleagues from South America and other parts of the world to form the sub-group. A brief statement and background notes would be needed for the SCOR report, followed later by a fuller proposal for action.

At David Farmerís invitation, Bill Karp agreed to co-ordinate a sub-group to develop a training initiative for developing countries, with particular reference to South America. Carlos Robinson also agreed to join the group. It was agreed that this group should work in close conjunction with Mariano Gutiťrrezís group, from which they would be able to get details of the skill sets currently available in the developing countries. Bill Karpís group would need to identify sources of funding, as well as institutes and agencies (e.g. UNESCOís International Ocean Colour Group) able to provide suitable training. One initiative might be to set up a SeaWifs station in South America via the University of South Carolina. This would provide valuable data (ocean colour & SST) for the region and should be quick and easy to set up, although three people would be needed to manage the station. Funding might be available from national governments or international aid programmes (e.g. from the EU).

Training in taxonomic skills was a major priority and one aim could be to set up teams of specialists within regional CoEs. This approach had worked very well some years ago when an expert team had been created in Poland to identify ichthyoplankton from temperate seas. In addition to supporting Polandís own needs for biological oceanography, this initiative had resulted in an influx of taxonomic work from research institutes in developed countries. Institutes that could offer training in taxonomy included UNESCO, the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, the British Museum of Natural History in London, Musee in Monaco and the Smithsonian Institute and California Academy of Sciences ( in the USA. Ken Sherman (CMER Program Director, National Marine Fisheries Service, Narragansett, RI 02882, USA) had contacts with both US institutes and also experience of getting funding for plankton programmes from the World Bank and similar agencies. Contact will be made with Ken Sherman to seek advice.

In addition to training taxonomists, regional CoEs would be good places in which to provide both general and specific training, which could also be used as a way of developing collaborative research programmes with institutes in developed countries. Given the necessary funding through scholarships and similar schemes, training could also be provided by sending scientists to work on projects in developed countries, where they could register for higher degrees. Practical drivers of this sort were required to develop collaboration between the developed and the developing countries, which needed to be a two-way process.

An approach to the World Bank would undoubtedly be needed and David Farmer agreed to discuss tactics with Ken Sherman (see also previous section). Private foundations could also help and the Sloan Foundation, which was sponsoring CoML, was particularly adept at using its funds to leverage money from major sources around the world. The most appropriate approach would therefore be to frame any case for financial support in terms of CoMLís needs. The Lima meeting had shown that were strong regional needs in South America.

Picking up from earlier discussions, it was agreed that considerable benefit would accrue to CoML, if LIDAR and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles could be brought into routine use. Despite their great potential, neither technology was at the level at which it could be used as standard equipment and there was, as yet, no commercial version of LIDAR. An initiative was needed to define CoMLís needs and accelerate the transition to routine use and this could entail setting up another sub-group. Nanotechnology, an area of future interest, was a speciality of the Center for Ocean Technology at the University of South Florida, which was involved in the application of microelectromechanical systems (mems) and nanotechnology in harsh environments. Further information is available from http// using the MEMS link listed under Projects.

Links with OBIS
Whilst data fusion and data visualisation had been funded in other areas of science, these topics still presented a great challenge for marine science, where there were so far few examples. One exception was Larry Meyer (University of New Hampshire), who was analysing 3-D images of fish schools and might be able to provide advice. Visualisation, which was an important first step prior to quantification, was an area in which OBIS could be expected to offer a solution, if it had the appropriate tools. So far, however, OBIS had not been able to implement acoustic data, which was disparate in nature, and this was an area that required mutual discussion in the context of the future development of OBIS.

CoMLís ultimate goal was to offer Spanish, French and Japanese versions of the items on its web sites. As a first step, it was agreed that WG 118 needed to produce its material in both English and Spanish and, in response to a request for help, Jorge Castillo offered to co-ordinate the production of translations.

It was suggested that the WG 118 site should have links to those of the other CoML working groups and this was agreed. A primer about plankton diversity should also be provided and Jan Rines offered to identify a suitable location that dealt with marine biodiversity. She subsequently provided links to two National Research Council publications entitled Marine Biodiversity ( and Perspectives on Biodiversity (

Use of CoMLís name
In response to a question from Emmanuel Boss, David Farmer agreed to enquire if CoML would be prepared to lend its name to relevant activities, such as RV cruises.