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Website of the Week — Census of Marine Life

Time again for our Website of the Week, when we showcase interesting and innovative online destinations. Our web guide is VOA's Art Chimes.

The world's oceans cover about three-quarters of the Earth's surface, and it's often said that we know more about the surface of the moon than we do about the bottom of the sea.

At the Census of Marine Life,scientists from 83 countries are trying to change that by cataloging the astonishing diversity of ocean life and publishing the results online.

The website features detailed scientific information for specialists, but also gorgeous images, videos and information written for the rest of us. Census outreach team leader Sara Hickox recommends one part of the education section.

"The Marine Life Discoveries is a place where people can find out an overview of some of the new species we've found, like the Yeti crab, which was a very hairy looking little crab that was found at hydrothermal vents. What is happening at hydrothermal vents and sea mounts? What are these deep water oyster banks that no one ever really knew were there?"

The Census of Marine Life began eight years ago. The 2,000 or so researchers working on the project have now catalogued more than 120,000 species, from octopi to bugs on the sea floor to reefs made of bacteria.

The census is made possible by advances in the tools that ocean scientists use to get an unprecedented picture of life in the world's many underwater marine habitats.

"And by using new technologies and by going places we never ever looked before," Hockox explained, "we're able to find more species and more diversity, more abundance, and learn more about the distribution of these animal forms around the world."

Those new technologies include robot submersibles and research submarines, but Sara Hickox said they're also using what she called "animal oceanographers" - elephant seals, for example, that wear tags which report the location and environment where they're swimming.

The Census of Marine Life will be published on paper in a couple of years, but it will probably reach a broader audience online.

"So by making all of this information available on the Web, we really are servicing not only the scientific community around the world but also the public and students around the world, too."

Learn more about the oceans near you and around the world from the Census of Marine Life at, or get the link to this and more than 200 other Websites of the Week from our site,