Biodiversity is critical from the perspective of ecosystem services such as food, oxygen, and socio-economic benefits that support human livelihoods. The Census of Marine Life, which concluded in 2010, greatly enhanced our understanding of the status of marine biodiversity. It also made clear the importance of clear-cut, systematic and sustainable approaches to observing and monitoring biodiversity across different levels and at a national scale.

In May 2010, NOAA co-sponsored – with six other federal agencies and the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP) – a workshop of experts to develop a plan and recommendations for attaining an operational marine biodiversity observation network (MBON) for the nation. The full workshop report is available on the NOPP website or as a PDF.

As an outcome of this workshop, in 2014, NOAA, NASA, and BOEM initiated a series of projects towards development of a US MBON.  Since then, US MBON project information and news items are available on  The vision of US MBON has been to address the need for systematic collection and sharing of marine life information in ways that ensure the information is available for practical application in decision making from local to national levels, taking direct measurements of life to document status and trends in the face of human- and climate-induced change using a range of technologies and approaches.

US MBON partners actively contribute to development of a global MBON and a global biological observing capability, working closely with the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network, the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) Biology and Ecosystem Panel, and the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS), among many other network partners. The three groups signed a letter of agreement in Fall 2016 committing to coordination of a global MBON.

US IOOS and MBON have since joined forces with a large global consortium to launch the Marine Life 2030 program of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. The Marine Life 2030 vision is that by 2030 and beyond, anyone, anywhere, will have access to information on marine species and ecosystems important to local fisheries, culture, health, and livelihoods. We will be able to diagnose how species are shifting with climate change and management interventions, to achieve a sustainable future for nature and people.


Current U.S. MBON Projects

US MBON projects, partners and data play an important role in enabling the science, observing and management communities to document the relationships among biodiversity, organism abundance, system productivity, ecosystem health and ecosystem services. Since 2014, US MBON projects have been supported through the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP) with core funding from NOAA, NASA, BOEM, and ONR, with significant support from the US Geological Survey on data standardization and mobilization and overall coordination provided by the US Integrated Ocean Observing System (U.S. IOOS) Program Office.

In Fiscal Year 2022, on behalf of the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP), NOAA and partner agencies, including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), and the Office of Naval Research have awarded several new proposals that: (1) build upon the foundation established by the US Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (MBON), the US Animal Telemetry Network (ATN), and the US IOOS Regional Associations to work across sectors and disciplines towards an integrated, sustained marine life observing capability for the U.S. ocean, coasts and Great Lakes, from estuaries to the deep ocean; (2) advance technologies for efficient and/or automated collection of species and associated habitat observations; (3) enable open access to biodiversity data and information; and (4) utilize these observations, technologies, and data to address place-based (e.g., sanctuaries, reserves, protected areas, leasing blocks, etc) management, conservation and restoration needs. 

The Principal Investigators and project titles are as follows:

Francisco Chavez, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

The CeNCOOS MBON: Marine biodiversity information in support of a healthy Blue Economy in the central California Current

This project will integrate remote sensing products, in situ data and models in support of a healthy Blue Economy in the Central California Current (CCC). Targeted users include NOAA California Current Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (CCIEA), National Marine Sanctuary Programs, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and the State of California. The goal is to quantify relationships between climate, the ocean environment (physics, chemistry) and marine food webs (from microbes to fish and top predators), with the aim of providing predictive understanding of marine ecosystem responses to environmental change. 

Nathan Furey, University of New Hampshire

Quantifying marine biodiversity through movements and feeding: Assessing

coastal marine ecosystem dynamics near estuary mouths

This project will integrate powerful technologies (acoustic telemetry, environmental DNA [eDNA], and acoustics) with traditional fisheries sampling to quantify impacts of changes in local and regional water conditions on individuals, populations, and community structure. The team will study the impacts of forage species and environmental conditions on Atlantic cod and common terns in both New Hampshire and southern Maine (Casco Bay) coastal waters.

Cassandra Glaspie, Louisiana State University

Louisiana Deltaic Estuaries MBON: Sea Level Rise Sentinels

This project will establish a new MBON effort in coastal Louisiana, focusing on highly productive and diverse estuarine ecosystems as sea level rise sentinels.

Katrin Iken, University of Alaska Fairbanks

AMBON (Arctic MBON) – linking biodiversity observations in the Arctic

The Arctic Marine Biodiversity Observing Network (AMBON) is designed to provide high-quality biodiversity data from the Arctic Chukchi Sea across trophic levels, from microbes to whales. This project will continue efforts to collect biodiversity data across trophic levels and in relation to environmental conditions; to use biodiversity data to detect changes in species composition, including invasive species; and determine effective in situ observing designs through modeling.

Frank Muller-Karger, University of South Florida

The Southeast US Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (MBON): Toward Operational Marine Life Data for Conservation and Sustainability

This project will serve as a regional collaboration hub of US IOOS to address needs for marine biodiversity information in the Gulf of Mexico and Southeast US EEZ. The effort focuses on the needs of resource managers of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and other federal and state jurisdictions spanning Biscayne Bay, the Florida Keys, the West Florida Shelf, and deep corals.

More information is available at