Arctic Marine Biodiversity Network (AMBON)

The Arctic Marine Biodiversity Network (AMBON) is a new project supported by the National Ocean Partnership Program with funding provided from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, NOAA, and Shell Oil, with a first field season planned for August 2015 in the Chukchi Sea. Katrin Iken of the University of Alaska Fairbanks is the lead principal investigator and we are contributing expertise in benthic ecology and biogeochemical drivers of biodiversity. The goal of the Network is to demonstrate and build an operational biodiversity observation network from microbes to high trophic levels in the context of climate change and anthropogenic influences. AMBON has four goals: To close current gaps in taxonomic and spatial coverage in biodiversity observations on the continental shelf; to integrate and synthesize past and ongoing research programs into an Arctic biodiversity network with publicly accessible data; to demonstrate how a sustainable observing network could be developed for this and other regions and ecosystems; to link with international biodiversity programs on the pan-Arctic level.

AMBON is one of four pilot projects funded under the Biodiversity Network (BON) program, which is a component of the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS).


Chukchi Sea Offshore Monitoring in Drilling Area (COMIDA)

COMIDA is a Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) research program we are participating in. Field sampling in an earlier phase was started in July-August 2009 and July-August 2010. ¬†Goals of this open-water season sampling included anthropogenic chemicals associated with offshore oil and gas exploration in the Chukchi Sea, evaluation of changes in benthic biota, sediment chemistry analysis, and providing for geostatistical modeling of spatial and temporal trends using geographical information system technology. Besides the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, our other partners include scientists from the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Rhode Island, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Florida Institute of Technology, Old Dominion University and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. More information about the research project is available at:

We have now finished the second field phase of the project that started in 2012 and continued with additional fieldwork in August 2013. This work used the USCGC Healy in the Hanna Shoal area of the Chukchi Sea with continued support from BOEM. Hanna Shoal is an important walrus foraging area and an area where remnant ice often remains late into the summer. Our contributions to the project include documenting benthic biological communities that may be important to walruses and other apex predators. Scientific results from our project work were included within the decision-making process that was used by President Obama in January 2015 to exclude Hanna Shoal from future oil exploration (White House press release). Final cruise reports from the Healy 12-01 and Healy 13-01 cruises are available as a .pdf file at these links: 2012 and 2013. Project collaborators include: Old Dominion University, The University of Alaska Fairbanks, The University of Texas Austin, The University of Texas Marine Science Institute, University of Rhode Island, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. The project website is available at:

A synthesis meeting to plan additional scientific publications was held outside Austin, Texas in May 2015, and plans are moving forward for a special issue documenting the project in this final year of data synthesis.

Other links of interest for the project: JC Parks Elementary School (Indian Head, Maryland) teacher Deanna Wheeler returned with us on the August 2012 cruise on Healy. Access her blog from sea here.

Video clips from the first phase of various Chukchi seafloor biological communities have been posted at the following link (free Apple Quicktime software required from


Distributed Biological Observatory (DBO) noaa dbo

One of the pressing needs for evaluating climate change impacts on biological systems in the Arctic (and globally) is the need for sustained observations of changes in biological systems. Biological observations cannot be automated to the same extent as many physical measurements can (e.g. salinity on moorings, etc.). As a result, there is much less scientific documentation of how biological systems are changing and/or adapting as a result of environmental change. We have been involved in a science planning process supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, the international Pacific Arctic Group, and the International Arctic Science Committee, to initiate more systematic biological observations in the Pacific Arctic sector as part of a Distributed Biological Observatory (DBO) taking advantage of increased multi-national interest in the larger Bering Strait region. A workshop held in Seattle in May 2009, a town hall forum at the 2010 Ocean Sciences Meeting in Portland Oregon, and the feature article published in EOS, (the Transactions of the American Geophysical Society) on May 4, 2010 are part of the larger initiative. In 2011 two DBO open science community workshops were held, one during Arctic Science Summit Week in Seoul, Korea (March) and prior to the fall Pacific Arctic Group meeting in Sidney, BC, Canada (November); see workshop reports at A DBO pilot field program was held during 2010-2012, with multiple cruises occupying two DBO stations and transect lines in the SE Chukchi Sea and Barrow Canyon (see preliminary results at the DBO website). Jackie Grebmeier ( is the key contact for this effort and further information on the DBO effort can be found at the DBO website,

The DBO effort for improving observations of the changing Arctic ecosystem has grown in attention among several US federal agencies. The concept is being incorporated into the Strategic Action Plan for "Changing Conditions in the Arctic" that is an objective of the National Ocean Council's effort for formulation of a National Ocean Policy for the United States, as directed by President Obama.

Initiation of the Distributed Biological Observatory concept aired on the Alaska Public Radio Nework on April 14, 2011. Click here to listen.

With support from the National Science Foundation, we have moved forward since 2013 with the DBO concept as a project incorporated into the Arctic Observing Network. Our annual work uses the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Sir Wilfrid Laurier and will continue annual long-term water column and benthic sampling through 2017, together with efforts to coordinate international sampling in areas of biological interest in the Bering and Chukchi Seas. The project summary of the proposal to support this effort is hosted on a National Science Foundation webpage and the work includes collaborators Bob Pickart (Woods Hole) and Karen Frey (Clark University).

Findings from the DBO effort were presented as part of the 2011 NOAA Arctic Report Card, pg. 84-87 ( in an essay entitled "Marine Ecology: Biological Responses to Changing Sea Ice and Hydrographic Conditions in the Pacific Arctic Region" and the 2012 Arctic Report Card highlights international efforts in the Barrow submarine canyon. Also, a 2012 paper on biological change observations in the Pacific sector by Jackie Grebmeier, entitled "Shifting Patterns of Life in the Pacific Arctic and Sub-Arctic Seas", is available as a free .pdf download from the Annual Review of Marine Science 4: 63-78, at:

Recent publication:

Grebmeier, J.M., B.A. Bluhm, L.W. Cooper, S. Danielson, K.R. Arrigo, A.L. Blanchard, J.T. Clark, R.H. Day, K.E. Frey, R.R. Gradinger, M. Kedra, B. Konar, K.J. Kuletz, S.H. Lee, J.R. Lovvorn, B.L. Norcross, and S.R. Okkonen. 2015. Ecosystem characteristics and processes facilitating persistent macrobenthic biomass hotspots and associated benthivory in the Pacific Arctic. Progress in Oceanography SOAR Special Issue 136:92-114. 10.1016/j.pocean.2015.05.006

Data obtained during the DBO effort is available at:

The 3rd DBO Data Meeting was held March 9-10, 2016 in Seattle, WA. Links to the the workshop report and selected presentations will be provided soon.

Presentations from the 2014 2nd Distributed Biological Observatory (DBO) Workshop as well as the 2014 Pacific Arctic Group (PAG) Meeting ( are posted below:

2nd Distributed Biological Observatory (DBO) Workshop
October 29th - 31st, 2014; Seattle, WA
Click here for presentations

Pacific Arctic Group (PAG) Meeting
October 28th - 29th, 2014; Seattle, WA
Click here for presentations

Dr. Monika Kedra from the Institute of Oceanology, Polish Academy of Science, is an international collaborator in the DBO, working with Dr. Jackie Grebmeier on benthic taxonomic issues. She has prepared a benthic taxonomic portal for organisms collected in the Pacific Arctic region. To access the site, see:

US-Russia Census of the Arctic (RUSALCA)

RUSALCA is a NOAA-sponsored program, now housed within the Climate Observations Division of NOAA that is documenting the long-term ecosystem health of the Pacific Arctic Ecosystem, particularly as changes are observed in climate forcing. A center-piece of the work are periodic research cruises that visit both US and Russian waters to provide for comprehensive sampling irrespective of political or exclusive economic zone boundaries. Our work is particularly focused on benthic biological communities and associated sediment chemistry. Work by researchers at other US and Russian institutions is studying other components of the ecosystem.

The most recent full-scale ecosystem cruises were in September 2009 and September 2012 in the Chukchi Sea aboard the M/V Professor Khromov, with University of Maryland participants Jackie Grebmeier, Monika Kedra and educator Betty Carvellas. Reports from the cruise on research activities and photos are available for both the 2009 and 2012 cruises through NOAA's Ocean Exploration program. The Reuters News Agency also reported/blogged from the ship in 2009. Betty Carvellas has provided a blog of research activities, including images of the research effort in both 2009 and in 2012, under the umbrella of the PolarTREC teacher program.
We will start a new phase of the RUSALCA program in 2015-2016, with details of future cruises and efforts being worked out now. In the meantime, a special issue of Oceanography Magazine is being prepared to highlight results from the first decade of the program, including contributions we have jointly written with our Russian colleagues.


Selected Completed Projects (with archived information saved as a public service. Use caution with possibly outdated information, addressess, links, etc...):

Shelf-Basin Interactions---SBI    

Russian American Initiative for Land-Shelf Environments (RAISE)

Bering Sea Project ( )

Selected Cruise Reports
Cruise report from Healy 08-01 (.pdf file) 
Cruise report from Healy 09-01 (.pdf file)
Cruise report from Polar Sea 10-01 (.pdf file)