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About OBIS Canada

OBISCanada is a Regional OBIS Node

OBIS Canada is the Canadian Regional Node of the International Ocean Biogeographic Information System (iOBIS). We are an alliance of people and organizations who share a vision to make marine biogeographic data freely available on the World Wide Web.

We work with data contributors to understand the best practices to both transfer and review data sets prior to their release to the general public. Public access to OBIS data allows data contributors to distribute and share their data in a standardized format, without the need for maintaining individual web sites and databases.

OBIS Canada seeks to absorb, integrate, and assess isolated datasets into a larger, more comprehensive picture of life in our oceans. The system hopes to stimulate research about our oceans, and to generate new hypotheses concerning evolutionary processes, species distributions, and roles of organisms in marine systems on a global scale. The overview maps generated by OBIS provide a comprehensive, collaborative, world-wide view of the oceans.



OBIS Canada is the Canadian regional node of the International Ocean Biogeographic Information System (iOBIS). International OBIS is a global organization composed of a series of regional and thematic nodes that collaborate to provide access to marine biogeographic data. OBIS follows international data standards and operational protocols to facilitate access to, and interoperability of, data sets. The OBIS program is included under the International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. OBIS is the main contributor of marine data in the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF)

Regional OBIS nodes are organizations that have committed to a continued support of iOBIS within a geographic and/or national region using local resources. This includes serving data online, developing data providers and developing end-user communities.

OBIS Canada was organized as part of the Census of Marine Life Program. The data repository is housed at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia and the website is hosted by the Centre for Marine Biodiversity and Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

OBIS Canada’s theme is ‘Three Oceans of Biodiversity’ and its mission is to coordinate the development of our understanding of national and regional biological resources. Data providers include provincial and federal government departments, universities and museums.

OBIS Canada documents where and when marine species have been observed or collected by bringing together marine biogeographic data from highly distributed data sources. These data are then available for use in better understanding species distribution and abundance in addition to monitoring, evaluating, and forecasting change in our oceans.

By locating OBIS Canada within DFO Science Data Management, the nation gets a one-stop shop for data on marine species found in areas of interest to Canada or collected by Canadian scientists that:

  • Provides a stable location for future data access;
  • Reduces OBIS Canada development costs by leveraging the existing information infrastructure; and
  • Facilitates integration with freshwater and terrestrial biodiversity data within a national framework using data standards and protocols.


OBIS Canada Today

We work with data holders (participants) to understand the best practices to both transfer and review data sets prior to their release to the general public. Public access to OBIS data allows data participants to distribute and share their data without the need for maintaining individual web sites and databases and data are delivered in a standardized format. Security concerns are alleviated since the public do not access the original data sets directly. The processes of bringing data into OBIS Canada have been designed to fully capture data quality while minimizing the burden on data providers.

OBIS Canada provides access to a set of data that is as spatially, taxonomically, and temporally comprehensive as possible. Users may search OBIS holdings for individual data sets, or records of interest at Users may search the online data collections and may select datasets of interest and navigate to the GCMD metadata page as well as the iOBIS web site for additional information.

The OBIS Canada site also provides access to the Canadian Register of Marine Species (CaRMS), a World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) recognized regional species database CaRMS originated from a register of marine species compiled by the Atlantic Reference Centre of the Huntsman Marine Science Centre, St. Andrews, New Brunswick. CaRMS contains detailed distribution records for taxa found in Canada’s three oceans.


Future for OBIS Canada

The world’s oceans are critically important as they provide food and recreational opportunities; contribute to economic growth and national security; and influence our climate. Supporting sustainable development and integrated management of Canada’s resources in or around our aquatic environment ensures healthy and productive aquatic ecosystems.

Involving researchers and the public in ocean stewardship requires access to a growing variety of data types that provide information about our oceans, as well as services, tools, and complex data analysis systems to further our understanding of these challenges. OBIS Canada’s mission includes providing legacy and up-to-date data on biodiversity and to assisting in providing data for the investigation of changes in ocean biodiversity in response to environmental instability or anthropogenic impacts. OBIS Canada is being developed to provide data and tools to meet the challenges of better understanding, monitoring, and predicting changes in marine biodiversity and ecosystem dynamics.


OBIS and the IODE

OBIS was adopted by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO in 2009 as an activity of the International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE) programme. We expect that this association will foster increased publication of biological oceanographic datasets through OBIS Canada.


For More Information

To learn more about OBIS Canada, please email us at

Click here Google Earth tour of OBIS Canada Metadata ...

Click here for How To video tours of OBIS Portal ...

Click here or on the logo to go to OBIS Portal ...

The OBIS Canada Information Sheet

About OBIS Canada PDF Document


OBISCanada is hosted by:


OBISCanada ensures data are:

  • Authoritative- describing specimens and observations using reliable species names and hierarchical classifications.
  • Discoverable- listing data collections and their characteristics in a searchable catalogue system.
  • Accessible- serving data as part of a global geo-referenced ocean information system on marine species.
  • Interoperable- visualizing and analyzing data from several different sources and disciplines.
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