The MEOP portal: an access point for marine mammal data

The MEOP portal, launched today, is making freely available for the first time years of data on the remote and harsh parts of the planet, which are virtually inaccessible to man. Creatures such as the seals, naturally inhabit icy, remote seas - places which can be very difficult for human beings to visit and monitor. Seals have helped creating one of the world’s largest databases of information on some of the harshest environments on the planet. More information on the Coriolis website.

For more than a decade, the information collected by sensor-equipped seals has allowed researchers to collect information about their whereabouts, and oceanic conditions in winter in the Southern Ocean, for example. The information is periodically uploaded in short messages- akin to “tweeting” detailing information about the seal’s immediate physical environment. A small army of sensor-equipped seals has produced nearly 400,000 environmental profiles, in the process, creating the largest oceanographic database describing the winter conditions in the remote Southern Ocean.

Since June 1, 2015, national oceanographic data centres and researchers are able to access data collected by marine animals via the MEOP (Marine Mammals Exploring the Oceans Pole-to-pole) Portal. The MEOP international consortium formed during the International Polar Year in 2008-2009, with participants from ten countries (Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Greenland, Norway, South Africa, United States, United Kingdom).

Data provided by MEOP consists of vertical temperature and salinity profiles collected with the help of marine animals that travel throughout the World‘s oceans, and especially within the polar oceans where there is a real observational data deficit. The data is freely available through the MEOP Portal and, critically for its general usefulness, have been processed to consistent quality standards so that the data may be seamlessly incorporated into oceanographic models.