Nekton's Launch of First Open-sourced Global Ocean Data Portal

Published : Monday, May 14, 2018, 8:00 am

OXFORD, England, May 14, 2018 /PRNewswire/ --

OCTOPUS (The Ocean Tool for Public Understanding and Science) launched today by Nekton to begin a new era of collaborative marine research and improved ocean governance.

OCTOPUS provides a single source to freely access the latest global marine data. OCTOPUS dynamically harvests and harmonises open-access marine data including oceanographic observations, biodiversity and human stressors on the ocean. Its objective is to support scientific study and decision-making for the improved management of the ocean.

Despite having collected more data on the ocean in the last two years than in all previous years combined, the sustainable governance of the ocean is still being hampered by both a lack of critical data, and inadequate access to existing data. Where information exists, databases at national and international level are fragmented, and often incompatible and difficult to access without a high level of computational or scientific skill.

OCTOPUS Founder, Professor Alex Rogers, Nekton Science Director, University of Oxford considers OCTOPUS to be a critical contribution to global ocean data infrastructure: "OCTOPUS enables scientists, policy makers and the general public to have open-access to a wide variety of current and high quality marine data to inform and catalyse their activities. In effect, it is a gateway to knowledge on marine ecosystems. We hope it can become the data brain to inform and accelerate the sustainable governance of the ocean," he says.

One of the first applications is to identify proposed Marine Protected Areas in the High Seas to inform the negotiations on a new implementing agreement for the United Nations Law of the Sea.

OCTOPUS is created as an open-access portal for the scientific and ocean governance communities to utilise freely and develop new applications using its analytical tools.

How it works 

OCTOPUS currently gathers 98 billion data points from 25 open sources to create 30 different thematic layers related to biodiversity, administration, oceanography, human impact and ecosystem services.

Ocean Data Explorer is the central gateway for users to access, analyse and visualize ocean state including related to:

  • Ocean biodiversity: species distribution and occurrence, habitat suitability, deep-sea and coastal ecosystems.
  • Oceanography: bathymetry, water (temperature, salinity, oxygen, nitrate), currents, turbidity.
  • Ecosystem services such as net primary production.
  • Human impact: ship traffic density, coral bleaching, ocean acidification, fishing activity, marine mining licenses.
  • Administration: Exclusive Economic Zones, Marine Protected Areas, Regional Fisheries Bodies, Marine Ecoregions.

The OCTOPUS server is constantly updated. As new datasets become available from any sources, they are harvested, preprocessed and ingested into the database. Where applicable, data are served at different spatial (original, 0.09°) and temporal (1 month, 1 year, 10 years, 50 years) resolutions, at standard depth levels, spanning up to 50 years.

Sources currently include the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS), Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), European Union (EU), International Seabed Authority, Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). Additional sources will be added as the platform develops.


With the ability to draw on data stretching back 50 years, OCTOPUS enables scientists, policy makers and the general public to quantify the past and present state of the ocean at a local, regional or international level.

Users can undertake large-scale macro-ecological modelling or human impact studies to support scientific study, policy and decision-making for improved management.


OCTOPUS was built and developed in collaboration between the Oxford Martin School and the Zoology Department at the University of Oxford. The Nekton Oxford Deep Ocean Research Institute ('Nekton') lead the development and management of OCTOPUS.  

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