The Ocean Tool for Public Understanding and Science (OcToPUS) is a research initiative at the University of Oxford located at the Department of Zoology and initiated through the Oxford Martin School Programme on Sustainable Oceans. We aim to support scientific study, monitoring, policy and decision-making related to the management of the oceans.


OcToPUS relies on established free and open-source geospatial technology to provide interactive access to dynamically updated, multi-dimensional data on the marine environment. A retrospective approach to big data archives allows us to present information on temporal trends and variability in ocean phenomena and to identify hotspots of change in the oceans.


OcToPUS dynamically harvests open data from a large variety of sources. Our servers are constantly being synchronized and in case new datasets become available at any of the sources, they are being harvested, preprocessed and ingested into the OcToPUS database and analysis engine. Preprocessed datasets are presented with harmonized spatial and temporal specifications and unified metadata to allow for direct usability in analysis. Whenever possible datasets are preprocessed "on-the-fly" upon request.

All datasets are served with global extent (bounding box: -180, 180, -90, 90) using a unified coordinate reference system (WGS84), with a resampled spatial resolution of 0.09 degrees (approximately 10km), at various temporal resolutions (1 month, 1 year, 10 years, 50 years), 137 standard depth levels (if applicable) and spanning over a time range of up to 52 years (1964 – present). Metadata are ingested into the file headers and a unified coastline is applied to all datasets. Vector datasets are provided with an adaptive scale-dependent coastline.


The OcToPUS database is build on PostgreSQL with PostGIS spatial extension. An information lifecycle management keeps track and reports changes being made to any of the datasets. Metadata support is provided in line with best practices (Climate and Forecast Metadata Conventions) and industry standards (ISO 19115) for geospatial data. A Geoserver instance takes care of publishing the datasets via OGC Web Services as styled maps (WMS), raster (WCS) or vector (WFS) data. A Thredds file server provides an additional access channel to gridded dataset via OpenDAP and HTTP.


OcToPUS is more than just a single access point to harmonized marine data. It also provides a toolbox of scientific algorithms that can be applied to any combination of datasets. Currently supported tools are related to explorative data analysis and time series analysis as part of the Ocean Data Explorer application. The amount and variety of supported analysis tools will grow over time as more applications are being added to OcToPUS. With the Habitat Suitability Modeller application we will soon add a toolbox dedicated to machine learning for habitat suitability modelling.


OcToPUS finally aims to create a framework to build user-centric applications. Applications allow to combine, explore and analyse the datasets within an adaptable web-mapping interface in a targeted and topic-specific manner. A toolbox of scientific algorithm that can be applied to the data layers complements the applications and allows to analyse data and produce new layers interactively. The OcToPUS database and analysis engine is, therefore, designed to be highly customisable and extendible with respect to data sources, formats, analysis and visualisation tools. Get in touch with us, if you are interested in a customized application for your particular purposes!


OcToPUS enables us to undertake large-scale macro-ecological, modelling and human impact studies by providing a centralized access point to ready-to-use datasets and a framework to easily implement and use scientific analysis tools. Conversely, we can use OcToPUS to publish data and algorithms along side publications in peer-reviewed journals in order to foster reproducible and transparent research and to turn results into value-added information products and applications.

We are particularly interested in identifying hot spots and their changes over time in the world’s oceans that show both high marine biodiversity in terms of species richness and high cumulative human impacts. Comparing this with existing management interventions and their evolution over time provides us an insight into past and present marine conservation efforts and can give indications about future management priorities. This is of major importance since marine populations have experienced large declines in abundance in recent decades, but still only little is known at a global scale about where management interventions may support the protection of marine biodiversity.

In order to prioritize regions where investments could best sustain marine biodiversity in the future, it becomes essential to have open access to an interactive tool and a continuously updated database that allows the scientific community to quantify global change of the marine environment, its biodiversity and the human impacts.


Please contact us if you are interested in customized solutions for marine data management and analysis, partnering for research activities or if you wish to learn more about OcToPUS and any of its components. We are also thankful for any feedback regarding datasets, data access, usability and feature / data requests.

University of Oxford
Zoology Research and Administration Building
11a Mansfield Road
OX1 3SZ Oxford, United Kingdom

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