The Global Tagging of Pelagic Predators (GTOPP) program is an international, multidisciplinary collaboration among biologists, engineers, computer scientists and educators, which allows users to view and interact with animal tracking data, as well as oceanographic datasets, enabling marine life observation. By combining data from a diverse number of highly migratory species, and overlaying them with oceanographic data, the GTOPP system helps users to glimpse the processes that influence how open ocean ecosystems work. Our objective is to understand the factors that influence animal behavior in the blue ocean and to build the tools required for protecting their future. In addition, animals carrying tags quickly become animal ocean sensors and can contribute millions of data records that can help climate scientists build a better understanding of planet Earth
The GTOPP program builds on the accomplishments of the Tagging of Pacific Predators (TOPP) program, one of the original field research projects of the global Census of Marine Life. We are utilizing the tracking tools and techniques developed over the past decade for gathering, processing and displaying tracking data, and we are making these approaches and datasets accessible to a global research and educational community.
A key enabling technology of the GTOPP program is the integration of ocean visualization into Google Earth and Google Maps, as well as the release of these systems as “application programming interfaces” (api’s) that has allowed us to integrate these tools into the GTOPP website. Because of their robust design and widespread use, these tools provide a powerful but intuitive way for users to interact with animal tracking data, as well as associated oceanographic layers – even if they have little training or expertise. And for more sophisticated users, the GTOPP system will soon support more elaborate query tools – allowing researchers to explore their data in a variety of different ways, and to download datasets or portions of datasets to be used elsewhere.
We are now in the process of integrating more datasets into the GTOPP system, both from our own projects in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as from collaborators working on animals from around the globe. We are also leveraging the development work we have done on GTOPP for special programs, such as the ongoing effort in the Gulf of Mexico, utilizing biologging science to help asses the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.