Enhancing the Study of Marine Life with Data

In today’s technology-inundated world, it’s not surprising that technological tools such as data collection and analytics are being applied to just about everything. The process of ecological study is no exception. Just like many areas of scientific research, the study of marine life can be highly complex and detailed.

Applying data collection and analysis techniques can significantly enhance its quality, results, and efficiency. Because of this, many marine life studies and efforts are implementing data capture and analysis in their procedures.

How Can Data Be Applied to the Study of Marine Life?

If you are not familiar with the idea of data and how it can be used and applied, it’s important to first gain an understanding of how data works. Data processing refers to transforming raw information into valuable or actionable insights. Data comes in a wide variety of types, formats, and mediums that range substantially according to the type of application and industry.

It can be collected via a variety of mechanisms ranging from pen-and-paper surveys to censuses to ecological sensors and instruments. Many types of data are collected automatically in today’s world, and others are still obtained quite manually.

Given this wide breadth of data applications, types, and resources, marine life scientists have a plethora of data options to choose from when implementing data strategies into their studies. Though data usage can vary widely even within a relatively narrow niche like the study of marine life, some data strategies can be particularly relevant for meeting the needs of this field and are useful to be aware of if you are interested or engaged in studying marine life.

Data’s Uses Within Marine Life Studies

Marine science professionals and academics across the board are implementing data techniques to enhance their results. In fact, Marine Data Science has established itself as a critical area of professional application and development for the field. Thought leaders within this space believe that marine biologists and other professionals involved in the study of marine life will increasingly need to be well-versed in skills such as computer programming, data visualizations, statistical modeling, and analytics in order to keep up with advances in standard practice within the field that incorporate these elements.

Marine study utilizes a range of data sources and types. Datasets are often collected from watercraft. These data types might include metrics such as air and water temperatures, wind speeds and directions, cloud natures and intensities, weather conditions, water conditions such as surface temperature and salinity, wave height and direction, and more.

They may also include sub-surface information such as water temperature at various depths, nutrient contents, information about currents, water depth, and more. Other areas of data collection capture information about marine life and species, including specimen occurrence and abundance via trawling, net sampling, grab samples, or visual counts. Collected data can also include imaging data or hydroacoustic readings below the surface of the water. Finally, data sources can originate beyond that which is captured on sea vessels. Shore instruments and data collection mechanisms can provide useful data in some cases.

Floating sensors or scanners can be placed in locations to transmit data back to a collection point in cases when the location is difficult to get to or requires more constant surveillance than a crewed craft can facilitate. Motion-activated photo or video cameras can be mounted and left to capture data over periods of time then collected later to retrieve any captured media. Each of these data techniques and more contribute to a wealth of potential datasets that can be applied to reach study objectives.

A few common strategies exist for engaging with these datasets within marine life studies. Marine professionals and scientists might apply data modeling to mine for insights that wouldn’t have previously been possible to uncover without the ability to analyze large amounts of information at once. They may also use collected data to develop predictive models or analysis, attempting to plan for future phenomena more accurately.

Data can also be used to hone in on very specific areas of interest or study to deepen understandings of specific phenomena or elements within marine ecosystems. And these are just the beginning. Data’s uses continue to be expanded and developed via creative advances and innovative techniques that further their applications within the field.

How Data Use Within the Field of Marine Life Study Will Continue to Advance

There are a few forces that will dictate and expand data’s presence within the study of marine life.

First, data best practice concepts can often be transferable between various industries and application areas. Data is becoming an increasingly vital part of a number of industries that span across academic, public, and private sectors. From answering public health questions to solving transportation infrastructure conundrums to overhauling traditional methods of advertising, data is taking the world by storm and has applications in every conceivable industry and setting.

Though these strategies often require adaptation before they can be readily applied in the study of marine life, the innovative ideas behind many of today’s cutting-edge data usage techniques in other industries can often be utilized in a wide variety of ways. Because data is being used everywhere, its sophistication and application is developing rapidly. Its use, specifically within the study of marine life, will benefit from data practice advancements made in other spheres.

Second, the availability and ubiquity of computers and other electronic devices will only continue to increase as time goes on. As hardware becomes more available and less expensive, new opportunities to capture, analyze, and apply data insights will become more attainable. Strategies that would have been unfeasible or too expensive even five years ago are quickly entering the realm of possibilities for many marine life scientists and research operations. This trend will continue to increase the data possibilities available for marine life study.

Third, new and developing technologies not yet applicable to the field will continue to be refined and could eventually give way to entirely new ways of studying marine life. Developing technologies in this category currently include Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning, nanotechnology, robotics, 3D printing and matter manipulation, new power sources, and more. As these technologies develop to the point of reliable use and application, they will make entirely new possibilities attainable for every conceivable area, including that of marine life study.