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An Ocean View

We now live in an ocean of data.

Scientific advances today, whether in economics, medicine, homeland security or earth science, all rely on the collection and analysis of mountains of data. The technological and communications revolutions of the last few decades have made it easier to monitor and collect data from every facet of society and the environment. The challenge for the next generation of scientists will be to make sense of all this information.

Along with this shift has come the simultaneous realization that our impact on the planet has been profound. The climate is changing, ecosystems are shifting and the vitality of ocean as our grandparents and even our parents knew it is no more. It is up to us to use our new-found technologies to observe, understand, restore and protect the environment we all live in.

But the challenge, like the data at hand, is vast. Oceanographers now have at their disposal gigabytes of new data every day from networks of satellites, moored buoys, underwater robots, HF-Radars, floats, drifters and ship observations. And yet, most of this data only scratches the literal surface of the ocean. We know so little about the vast open ocean and deep water areas that cover most of the planet. So oceanographers have also developed complex numerical models into which they assimilate all the data they have in attempt to fill in the missing gaps. These models help us decipher the natural and not-so-natural processes of the world we live in.

As we look to solve these more complex problems, we will need new tools to help us mine, synthesize and visualize this ocean of data, tools that will help us parse out the important individual interactions in highly integrated systems. By digging through large datasets, scientists and students will be better equipped to develop the intuition they will require to seek out innovative new solutions.

In this blog we will explore these new tools, including the sensors that collect the data and the myriad of ways the data can be visualized to help us understand the Ocean planet we live on. This is no small feat, and includes areas as diverse as scientific visualization, interface design, usability, information aesthetics, and learning theory. Ultimately, we hope to be a resource for scientists, programmers and especially educators, on how all this new data from the ocean, much of it flowing in real-time, can be translated, understood and put into action but researchers, students and the public.

This will be the story of data from the Ocean… told in pictures.


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