As planning for the Simons Collaboration on Computational Biogeochemical Modeling of Marine Ecosystems (CBIOMES) took off in January 2017, one need quickly became apparent: a database with tools that would allow the project’s participants to sift through the mountains of oceanographic data collected from their own work and by other initiatives.
Oceanographic data come in all shapes and sizes: Satellites and numerical models generate enormous datasets, cruises collect water samples of microbes, and sensors measure things such as temperature and salinity across a wide swath of the planet’s oceans. Combined, these datasets offer rich possibilities for new discoveries and hypotheses.
But as of early 2017, many of the datasets were not combined. Oceanographic datasets were scattered across a wide range of sources, and using them often required enormous downloads. And each dataset had its own unique internal organization, making the task of comparing information across different datasets a confusing and laborious process.