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Ocean Bitemap is a global experiment to map top-down processes in coastal ecosystems. It is coordinated by the Smithsonian’s Marine Global Earth Observatory and we need your help!

fishpopSatellite data have provided a high-resolution map of the distribution of plant biomass across earth’s surface on both land and sea (see map). As a result we understand in great detail the “bottom-up” control of ecosystems by light and nutrients. In contrast, no such map exists of the equally important “top-down” control of ecosystems by predators and grazers. Predators are threatened everywhere and their decline can strongly influence productivity, habitat structure, and invasive species establishment. The distribution of predator feeding is fundamental to ecology and conservation. Yet our understanding of the geography of predation is surprisingly primitive—experts still argue about whether or not predation is stronger in the tropics.

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Heat map of primary production.

We intend to fix this problem and we need your help. Bitemap is an ongoing, crowd-sourced project to develop the first global map of “top-down” control, or feeding activity by fishes, in marine habitats. It consists of two research activities: (1) a simple, inexpensive field measurement of fish feeding intensity using “Squidpops”, and (2) a standardized census of fishes using a seine net. The map part of Bitemap will be built by partners conducting these activities at sites around the world, coordinated by the Smithsonian. We estimate conducting the Bitemap protocol at one site will take 2-4 people about five consecutive partial days of work.

The first coordinated Bitemap campaign is scheduled for (northern hemisphere) summer 2016 in shallow seagrass beds. We expect this campaign will produce a peer-reviewed article in a scientific journal and the leader from each site will be eligible to be a co-author. Our goal is to recruit partner teams from each of the major ocean basins and seas (Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Southern, Mediterranean, Gulf of Mexico, Arctic, etc) and from every continent to develop the first version of the map. Please join us!

Other tabs along the top of this site provide additional information: Background, Protocols, Results to date,  a Map and list of the partners that have signed up so far, Resources for participants, a form to enter your own Bitemap Data, and detailed Contact information.

Download the Ocean Bitemap Manual Here.

For more information, please contact us at: MarineGEO@si.edu