FixO3 Project: Key outputs at half way and how to access them

OBSEA-1 - the observatory OBSE  A operated by UPC ­ Universidade Politecninca de Catalunya, courtesy of Joaquin Del Rio

Luisa Cristini (NOC)

The Fixed point Open Ocean Observatories (FixO3) Network project is an European project coordinated by the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), which objective is to integrate 23 in situ platforms operated by European organizations and to improve access to data and services they provide for the broad ocean community. Started in September 2013, FixO3 is now at half way and has produced several outputs useful for scientists, industry and policy-makers beyond the project partners.

FixO3 is an international project that involves 29 partners from academia, industry and research institutions from 12 European countries. The network includes the 23 fixed-point open ocean observatories operated by European organisations and is funded by the European Commission with 7 million Euros over four years.

The three overarching objectives of the project are:

  1. to integrate the observatories, located throughout the Atlantic Ocean from the Arctic to the Antarctic and in the Mediterranean Sea
  2. to improve access to installations for the broader community
  3. to provide multidisciplinary observations from the sea-surface to the seafloor

The programme is structured in 12 work packages (WPs) that carry out three different types of activities:

  1. Coordination activities (COORD) to integrate and harmonise the current procedures and processes
  2. Support actions (SUPP) to offer free access to observatory infrastructures and open data services and products
  3. Joint research activities (RTD) to innovate and enhance the current capability for multidisciplinary in situ ocean observation.

The work of the various WPs is directed and supervised by a Steering Committee (SC) composed of 17 members including the WP leaders and other key individuals representing related programmes. The Advisory Board (AB), an international panel of 12 experts, advises the SC ensuring that the project outcomes are of high quality and relevant for the wider community. The SC is also in direct contact with the European Commission (EC). The outcomes of the project are directed to scientists, industry, public and policy makers beyond the project partners.

The project made significant advancements in the first half of its lifetime, most of which are publicly available and can be found on the project website. The website is the first and most complete source of information on the project as it includes a variety details and material, such as all the project documentation (e.g., Description of Work, project information pack, deliverables and reports), all the observatory information, data and documentation, news & events, partners list and links to their websites, full description of each WP and its plan of work, information on special actions (e.g., Transnational Access) as well as training opportunities, and a rich glossary of terms in operational oceanography.

One of the main aims of FixO3 is to harmonize technologies and procedures. A major achievement in this direction has been a detailed review and complete synthesis of the current operational status of all observatories included in the network. Now all the information related to each FixO3 observatory is available directly on the website. Each observatory has a dedicated page with details on the study area, the platform status and maintenance, information on data provided, hardware and software, and a list of all sensors mounted on the platform.

An inventory of new sensor developments and their applicability has also been carried out within the technological harmonization (D2.4) and is available to project partners. The inventory includes sensors for pH, pCO2 & pH/pCO2, ADCP, CTD, tide recorders, hydrophones, current meters and underwater technologies (mass spectrometer, HD camera, acoustic modem). This inventory constitutes an update of the ESONET Yellow Pages, a public database of all available sensors along with their specifications.

The available documentation related to the observatory is collected in a searchable database. The library of instrument-specific preparation, deployment & calibration techniques (D2.7) is an extremely useful catalogue for all the data managers and instrument developers and technicians who need to access quickly the reports and manuals related to an observatory in the network. The library is available to all project partners and is continuously updated with new documentation.

Another useful resource for all the scientists and technicians working on the observatories is the handbook of best practices for observatory operations. This document (D3.2) has been compiled to gather all common methodologies and protocols on pre-deployment, deployment and recovery and post-deployment within the network and to provide recommendations on sampling, calibration, the latest anti-fouling measures, Q/C methods for high quality products. The first version of the handbook id available to project partners and will be updated towards the end of the project and made public.

Data harmonization and accessibility is paramount for the FixO3 community and a lot of effort is going into bridging the data providers and users communities. Open access to data & visualization of available parameters from all the observatories is made available through EarthVO (Earth Virtual Observatory), a powerful and versatile tool that enables users to easily view and compare parameters and observatories on a variety of fixed and mobile devices.

Two more essential tools have been made publicly available to facilitate data and metadata availability: a standards & services registry complying with GEO to enable effective interoperability among FixO3 data archives and a searchable metadata catalogue that collects and indexes the metadata of data hosted within the several data archives used by the FixO3 community.

FixO3 has also a tight link with the industry and identified the main commercial sector needs for the upcoming 5-10 years through direct interaction with a wide spectrum of companies (D5.2). It also helped identify five innovative products developed within the FixO3 community that have been released, or will soon be, to the public (D5.5). Both analysis as well as several other outputs outcoming from the collaboration with industry are publicly available as deliverables on the project website.

A cost-benefit analysis has been carried out to justify Eulerian observations. The report, publicly available from the project website, summarises the rational behind sustained open ocean observatories monitoring the Essential Ocean Variables (EOVs), provides an estimate of the costs to operate a typical fixed-point observatory and assesses the type of data and services provided and their value for society.

The FixO3 project is heavily engaged in outreach, training and dissemination activities. Lots of material about the project is available to partners on the project website to download and distribute. Two fully funded training workshops have been organized for less experienced users of data (Bremen, April 2015) and infrastructures (Trieste, September 2015). Both courses were oversubscribed and received excellent feedback. A third course on acquisition, validation, quality control and access to biodiversity data is being organized for July 2016 by FixO3 partner NIOZ and will include lectures on theory, practical examples, and hands-on sessions. More information on training opportunities is available on the project website.

Within the FixO3 project Service Activities (SA) give access to fully-process multidisciplinary data services and products. This includes the entire oceanic environment, from seafloor to the air-sea interface. The SA’s comprise high quality data services and products from 18 fixed-point multidisciplinary open ocean observatories included in the FixO3 network. They demonstrate direct applications, such as maps of ecosystem indicators over European seas, or model validations with respect to in-situ data. In addition, FixO3 provides highly derived information products such as regional trends in ecosystem function and diversity.

Through a targeted action for transnational access to infrastructures (TNA), FixO3 supported external users by providing fully coordinated logistical and financial support to 13 of the 23 observatories included in the network. 24 project applications from research institutions and private companies responded to two international calls in 2014 and 2015 to access top-class platforms for research and testing.

Two work packages within FixO3 are devoted to research & development to advance observational methodologies and capabilities for high quality observations. An inter-comparison experiment has been carried out at a test site in a coastal environment to evaluate the performance of pCO2 sensors and compare 10 instruments. The full report (D12.2) is available for project partners to consult.

The FixO3 project is due to end in August 2017 and more data and tools will be available for the scientific community to use and apply in other contexts and projects. FixO3 main result will be the data and data-derived products, which will be freely available on a single portal. The handbook of best practices will be publicly available for observatory managers to implement the recommended procedures. Recommendations on how to optimize ocean-observing capabilities will also be provided. The commitment to sustained fixed-point observations in the water column and at the seafloor will be ensured by implementation of the EMSO programme.

FixO3 is an international community of people who are committed to share expertise and work together to address the many challenges of today’s ocean observations. More information on the project can be found on the website and following our Twitter account (@FixO3Project) or writing to our Project Office at NOC:

Thank you for your interest in FixO3!