Portal to our marine environment

A nationwide collaboration underpinned by AARNet is making vast quantities of Australia's ocean and climate data freely available online, helping scientists to make important discoveries.

Portal to our marine environment

Photo credit: Clive McMahon

Elephant seals fitted with sensors have collected data in Antarctica that is helping scientists understand how melting ice shelves are affecting the global climate system. Data collected by gliders is tracking warming in the Great Barrier Reef. And ocean current data has been used to predict speeds for the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

Hundreds of organisations collect vast quantities of ocean and climate data during research projects such as these. To help scientists make important discoveries about weather, climate and marine ecosystems, the data — gathered along our coastline and in open waters — are consolidated and made freely available in an online portal: the Australian Ocean Data Network (AODN).

The AODN exists thanks to a nationwide collaboration led by the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS), a national collaborative research infrastructure, supported by sophisticated information architecture and underpinned by the AARNet network.

IMOS is currently funded under the Australian Government’s National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) and enables the collection and collation of marine data from instruments operated by a range of organisations, including the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). These instruments could be ships, underwater robots, satellites or, as the seal research demonstrates, even animals.

These instruments use sonars, radars and other sensors to collect data on 169 different parameters — for example, temperature, salinity and current velocity. Their data are sent to IMOS either manually or automatically, depending on the device: real-time satellite streams can transmit automatically, for example, whereas mooring devices must be extracted from the ocean before the data is removed, formatted and sent.

IMOS then collaborates with a further six government agencies that collect coastal data, plus universities, state based agencies and the private sector to make their combined resources available via the AODN portal. 

Peter Blain, Information Systems Architect at IMOS, explains more about the architecture underpinning the tool.  

“In order to share their data with AODN, contributing organisations typically host their collections remotely and feed them into the portal using webservices and ISO 19115 compliant metadata.

“The metadata is harvested from contributors and stored in a GeoNetwork instance that sits behind the AODN Portal. The data is then served via the AODN portal, where anyone can search, aggregate, subset and download it.”

Via the University of Tasmania, the AODN portal is connected to AARNet’s high-speed research and education network. With almost all the contributing organisations and researchers also connected to AARNet, the service relies on high-speed, high-quality broadband to transfer massive amounts of data between the observing devices, the organisations that process the data and finally on to the AODN to be delivered to scientists and researchers.

“Single data collections can be large – up to 1 TB – and on the other side, scientists can download terabytes of data at a time,’ explains Blain. “Without access to AARNet, this data transfer would be costly and slow.” 

What our customers are saying

“Without access to AARNet, this data transfer would be costly and slow. ”

Peter Blain, Information Systems Architect at IMOS