The Census of Marine Life is an international science program with a growing global network of researchers in more than 70 nations engaged in a ten-year initiative to assess and explain the diversity, distribution and abundance of marine life in the oceans. The program is basically aimed to answer three questions: What lived in the oceans? What lives in the oceans? What will live in the oceans? It seeks to design and implement innovative biological sampling techniques for the marine environment and to incorporate a multitude of geo-referenced species and habitat information into a digital framework for visualization and analyses.
The program has three major components which are historical (History of Marine Animal Populations or HMAP), exploratory (Field Realm Projects) and modeling (Future of Marine Animal Populations or FMAP), all of which are integrated into an open source database (OBIS: Ocean Biogeographic Information System) for visualization and analysis.
The goals of the program are:
- To assess and explain the changing diversity, distribution, and abundance of marine species from the past to the present, and project future marine life.
- To design and implement innovatory techniques to sample biodiversity in the marine environment.
- To incorporate a multitude of species and their habitats in a georeferenced digital framework for visualization and analysis: OBIS.
- To inform and involve the public about its potential and contributions to knowledge.