Original Paper

Marine Biodiversity

, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 545-554

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

The Census of Marine Life—evolution of worldwide marine biodiversity research

  • Vera AlexanderAffiliated withSchool of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, University of Alaska Fairbanks Email author 
  • , Patricia MiloslavichAffiliated withDepartamento de Estudios Ambientales, Universidad Simón Bolívar
  • , Kristen YarincikAffiliated withCoML International Secretariat, Consortium for Ocean Leadership


This paper discusses the origin and development of the 10-year Census of Marine Life, describing the way in which a visionary idea developed into a program involving over 80 nations. The time was ripe to engage in a large-scale marine biodiversity program incorporating the newest technology for exploration, along with the traditional approach of reviewing and synthesizing the known. We discuss the planning workshops, the development of the suite of projects as well as the management and support structures. The result was a international program with globally distributed responsibilities, but supported by a strong secretariat, national and regional organizations, an highly interactive outreach and education program, and the database, Ocean Biogeographic Information System. Scientific results are highlighted in 2,600+ publications, and the program, now completed, is expected to promote and influence biodiversity research and conservation for the long-term future.


Marine ecology Biodiversity research International program Census