Observational time series and research projects often justify their activities by suggesting that data may be used by agencies for decision making or to provide indicators of ecosystem health. The Santa Barbara Channel Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (SBC MBON) is developing a scalable network to integrate data relevant to the status of marine biodiversity over large temporal and spatial scales, and to act as a ‘broker’ for data to be used for regional decision making, e.g., by a National Marine Sanctuary. SBC MBON employs a variety of data sources: ad hoc research data, opportunistic sightings, routine surveys and monitoring programs, that cover essentially all taxonomic or marine functional groups. Likewise the data types and their properties are heterogeneous, and in addition to traditional manual surveys, include genomics data, aerial counts and remote sensing. During integration, SBC MBON applies quality control measures and standardized formats, with datasets deposited in public archives for use for demonstration software (e.g., maps, web catalogs or decision-support tools). Ideally MBON activities are transferable, as it matures from a research project to a system capable of brokering data between the research community and a client organization.
The SBC MBON data management system addresses the challenges inherent when handling diverse, heterogeneous data formats and sources, including the need to support initiatives such as the GEO BON Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs). SBC MBON demonstrates the level of attention in specific areas of data management - namely, integrity, archive, standardized measurement vocabularies, and consistent delivery - that are necessary if ad hoc research data are to be reused or integrated with larger observatory-oriented missions. This level of attention is essential for data that are considered highly valuable, such as observations of populations and communities spanning long time periods. Our data management solutions are not specific to marine systems; the principles can be applied to any class of data with potential for reuse. Costs can be controlled with a modular approach, collaboration, and by leveraging open source, community-vetted components. An overview of the SBC MBON data management modules and lessons learned are presented, including concomitant priorities, decision points and remaining barriers.