& Patrick Michaud
A new database, the
Biodiversity of the Gulf of Mexico (BioGoMx), has been
launched on HRI’s GulfBase.org, a web portal on Gulf of Mexico (GoMx)
research. The BioGoMx database was developed by
HRI’s Dr. Fabio Moretzsohn,
Dr. Wes Tunnell,
Dr. Tom Shirley, GulfBase.org’s
Dr. Patrick Michaud, and The Nature Conservancy’s
Dr. Jorge Brenner
(formerly a Postdoctoral Research Associate at HRI).
has been in development since 2008, and is based on the massive
volume on the Gulf of Mexico biota (Felder and Camp, eds., 2009).
That volume, part of HRI’s Gulf of Mexico book series, was the
result of collaboration of 140 experts from 80 institutions in 15
countries. Together, they compiled a list of 15,419 species
living in the Gulf of Mexico; it is one of the most comprehensive
biotic inventories of a large marine ecosystem.
The distributional and taxonomic data have been available since
January 1, 2010, through the
Information System (OBIS),
Global Change Master Directory
and National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII)
of the U.S. Geological Survey. The new BioGoMx at GulfBase provides additional information not previously
available online: besides updated taxonomy, global distribution and GoMx range, now users can also find information on habitat, biology,
bathymetric range (minimum and maximum depth), conservation status,
reference to relevant literature and endnotes. The database offers
analytical tools to query across taxonomic groups, habitats and
regions. It also has links to Google searches, Google Images,
Encyclopedia of Life, World Register of Marine Species and OBIS.
The database was developed by converting the original checklists in
Felder and Camp (eds. 2009), from MS Word into MS Excel, and then
into GulfBase.org. Only four of the 140 authors were able to do the
conversion of their chapters; all of the crustacean chapters were
converted by Fernando Alvarez and Gema Armendáriz, from the
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) in México City. Moretzsohn converted the remaining 57 chapters. To increase
spatial resolution, the Gulf was divided into eight octants and six
depth classes, thus resulting in 48 polygons. Then each species was
restricted to those polygons with potentially suitable habitats
within the species bathymetric and geographic range. After a query,
a mapping application displays the polygons where the species
potentially occurs. Among the several researchers who assisted with
the database development, Brenner was responsible for
the GIS component and Michaud for the database and web services in GulfBase.org.
The BP Deepwater Horizon blowout and oil spill in 2010 prompted the
need for the information to be made available to Gulf of Mexico
scientists for research on the impacts of the oil spill on the
biota. The Felder and Camp (2009) book and now database represent a
comprehensive biodiversity baseline prior to the oil spill and will
become useful resources to assess the impact of the oil spill and
recovery of the species affected.
Funding has been provided by USGS, NOAA, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation,
Northern Gulf Institute (Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative) and
the Houston Advanced Research Center.
Felder, D.L. and D.K. Camp, eds. 2009. Gulf of Mexico–Origin,
Waters, and Biota. Vol. 1. Biodiversity. Texas A&M University Press,
College Station, Texas. 1393 pp.
Moretzsohn, F., J. Brenner, P. Michaud, J.W. Tunnell, and T.
Shirley. 2010–2011. Biodiversity of the Gulf of Mexico Database (BioGoMx).
Version 1.0. Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies (HRI),
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMUCC), Corpus Christi, Texas.