February 20, 2018 - Nina WambijiOBIS training Kenya

African OBIS training course, 12-16 February, 2018 at KMFRI, Mombasa, Kenya

A training course under the auspices of the Ocean Teacher Global Academy (OTGA) on Marine Biogeographic Data Management (Contributing and using OBIS) was organized, by the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) and the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) and hosted by KMFRI, Mombasa which is a Regional Training Centre for OTGA from 12th to 16th February 2018. The aim was to build and maintain a global alliance that collaborates with scientific communities to facilitate free and open access to, and application of, biodiversity and biogeographic data and information on marine life. The workshop was sponsored by VLIZ, KMFRI and IOCAfrica. The participants were drawn from the Indian Ocean countries of Kenya (Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, Kenya Wildlife Service, CORDIO East Africa and COMRED), Tanzania (Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute -TAFIRI), Madagascar (Reef Doctor) and Comoros (Moheli National Park), Mauritius (Shoals Rodrigues Research, Training and Education Centre), Democratic Republic of the Congo (Centre de ContrĂ´le et Surveillance de la Pollution Marine), Namibia (Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources) and Nigeria (Nigerian Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research). The training was officially opened by Dr. James Mwaluma on behalf of the Director of KMFRI Prof James Njiru. It was conducted by five trainers: from the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) in Oostende, Belgium - Leen Vandepitte and Daphnis De Pooter and Dr. Nina Wambiji, Mr. Noah Ngisiang'e and Mr. Harrison Ong'anda from KMFRI. The course looked into the expertise and potential the group had in being the regional data managers and providers. Mr. Mika Odido (IOC Africa, Nairobi, Kenya) impressed upon the participants the opportunities under IOCAfrica and subject areas earmarked for research (ocean acidification, harmful algal blooms, marine biodiversity). He also mentioned the 2nd International Indian Ocean Expedition (IIOE-2) (2015-2020) that had been launched by UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) as a major collaborative research programme that will further advance understanding of Indian Ocean processes. The 1st International Indian Ocean Expedition (IIOE) was conducted in the early 1960s and celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015. The course provided an introduction to the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) which has over the years invested in collating geographic, taxonomic and temporal marine biodiversity data through a global framework. This includes best practices in marine biogeographic data management, data publication, data access, data analysis and data visualisation. With the numerous datasets being generated through various projects and some old data yet to be captured in the database, this training provided an opportunity to manage this wealth of scientific knowledge. OBIS has built capacity in the observation of the ocean, and trained critical mass of stakeholders with different disciplines on biological data and information management e.g. through the Global Ocean Observing System. In particular, the participants were trained about OBIS, installation and management of the Integrated Publishing Toolkit (IPT) which facilitates publishing and sharing biodiversity datasets through the OBIS & GBIF network, the use of Darwin Core standards for species occurrence records, taxonomy, and additional biological and environmental parameters, how to quality control data using OBIS and LifeWatch QC tools and how to harvest or upload data and metadata in Global (OBIS and WoRMS) and regional (AfrOBIS and AfReMAS) data analysis and online visualisation tools using Quantum GIS and CartoDB. It was clear from the training that quality control and data standards are necessary and the key to data sharing with respective databases. The participants discussed opportunities and challenges as upcoming data managers in the WIO region such as reaction of awareness on importance of data management to all stakeholders with marine datasets. For web developers to work with scientists to make it easy to provide systems that that are easy to use for data mining and archiving, National oceanographic data center's set up under IOC-UNESCO along the Africa coastal states should be the best avenues where data can be channeled through.

Furthermore, the joint discussions analysed the challenges in data management such as lack of poor/weak institutional data policies, lack of data archiving programs, unaware of options of data publishing, fear of data being stolen once shared, poor collaboration limits data sharing in coastal and marine research in the WIO regions as well as other regions of the African coast. These efforts are in full support of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission's (IOC) agenda whereby Member States are urged to manage the national ocean and coastal resources by acquiring ocean biogeographic data and understanding the ocean's biodiversity and its importance to national and global environmental issues.