Program Description

The Census of Marine Life (CoML) is a growing global network of researchers in more than 80 nations engaged in a ten-year initiative to assess and explain the diversity, distribution, and abundance of marine life in the oceans — past, present, and future. The world’s first comprehensive Census of Marine Life-past, present, and future-will be released in 2010.

  • What lived in the oceans?
  • What lives in the oceans?
  • What will live in the oceans?

These fundamental questions guide the work of more than seventeen projects around the globe that are part of the international CoML.

Our Study Area

Our Study Area - Gulf of Maine

The Gulf of Maine Area (GoMA) Census of Marine Life was selected as the ecosystem pilot study for CoML. The Gulf of Maine is a comparatively well-studied region, however, much remains to be known about its biodiversity and the role that biodiversity plays in shaping and sustaining the ecosystem. The GoMA program will advance knowledge of biodiversity patterns and ecological processes over a range of habitats and species, from microscopic plankton to whales. This growing knowledge base will be synthesized and used as a foundation for ecosystem approaches to management in the Gulf of Maine. Ultimately, this knowledge can be used to improve our stewardship and use of the oceans and their coastal margins.

The Gulf of Maine area is bordered by the New England coastline of the United States (Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts) and the eastern maritime provinces of Canada (New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) to its north and west. This program focuses on marine life in the Gulf of Maine and surrounding area, including the Scotian Shelf, Georges Bank, adjacent slope sea, and the western New England Seamounts.

The Gulf of Maine research program seeks to coordinate, advance and synthesize scientific knowledge throughout the region. The Gulf of Maine team and our research contributors will utilize and demonstrate the latest research technologies to perform an integrated study aimed at understanding both the biogeography of the Gulf and the processes affecting it. A broad suite of instruments and sensors will be used to collect data on the physical and biological characteristics of the Gulf of Maine.

The Gulf of Maine Ocean Data Partnership will work with existing efforts in this well-studied region, such as the Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing System and others working toward a better understanding of the Gulf and use of this information. GoMA has created a portal for many existing databases. As part of the international COML effort, GoMA will eventually merge its databases with the global Ocean Biogeographic Information System.

As the GoMA team works with ongoing efforts in the Gulf of Maine to synthesize what is known, it will identify gaps on which to focus further study. It will continue field studies, as well as recommend a system of ongoing monitoring beyond 2010. Our unique contribution to the larger CoML effort will be to demonstrate how to assemble the partnerships, data systems, scientific knowledge and public support necessary to construct a framework toward ecosystem-based management of a regional and bi-national resource.


The Gulf of Maine program is run by American and Canadian teams who work together to create an integrated bi-national program. The US team is led by Chief Scientist Lewis Incze, and the Canadian team is led by co-PI Peter Lawton.

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