Using big data in marine science

A University of Aberdeen scientist co-authored a report commissioned by the European Marine Board to investigate recent advances, challenges and opportunities for using big data to support marine science.

The term big data refers to digital data that are high volume, high velocity, and high variety and they enable enhanced decision-making, insight discovery and process optimisation. Big data offer the potential to transform the way we understand the ocean through more complex and transdisciplinary analyses and novel approaches to the dynamic management of marine resources.

The report covered several case studies where a big data approach had been applied including climate and marine biogeochemistry, habitat mapping for marine conservation and food provision from seas and the ocean.

Dr Tara Marshall, from the University’s School of Biological Sciences, summarised how the big data approach was being utilised in aquaculture to manage sea-lice outbreaks in Norway.

Dr Marshall said: “Sea-lice are external parasites that kill young salmon and reduce disease resistance in both juveniles and adults. Infection rates increased as global salmon farming expanded throughout the 1980s and 1990s, and while the use of biopesticides provided a short-term solution, their efficacy declined due to increasing resistance.

“Currently, sea-lice pose a significant challenge to the growth of the global salmon farming industry. Big data are becoming a part of industry-led solutions for combating sea-lice by taking advantage of the wealth of environmental and production-level data being collected and shared in real-time. These data can be used to predict when and where outbreaks will occur such that measures can be introduced to limit spread of sea-lice.

“The European Marine Board report makes a number of recommendations for how marine science can scale-up the use of big data in aquaculture. For example, by creating effective collaborations across government, industry, universities and the digital sector to deliver real-time operational data analytics for forecasting sea-lice outbreaks. The development of smart sensors, camera-based sea-lice counters, automated fish welfare monitoring systems and improved automated environmental monitoring systems will also expand the information base available to marine scientists.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the report was officially launched at an online event last month. More than 300 delegates attended the webinar, at which several of the case studies were presented. Dr Marshall was a panellist at the event.

She continued: “I was delighted to be part of the team commissioned by the European Marine Board to investigate the use of big data in marine science. We often hear of big data in relation to other disciplines, however, it can – and I am sure will – play an important part in the future development of marine science including applications to seafood production.”

Dr Marshall’s participation in the report writing was funded by Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS).

The full report is available from the European Marine Board:

Notes for Editors

Notes for Editors

Issued by: The Communications Team, Directorate of External Relations, University of Aberdeen, King’s College, Aberdeen

Phone: +44 (0)1224 272014

Contact: Laura Graham

Issued on 20 May 2020

Press release:

Photo by NOAA on Unsplash


PublishedWednesday May 20th, 2020