AOV was born from a recognition that various Arctic Observing networks needed a tool – beyond project tracking systems and data catalogs – to strategically assess status and progress for long-term monitoring programs.  A new, intermediate level of “granularity” (between project-level information and dataset-level information) was needed in a portal that focused on locations, activities, and resources.  These are encapsulated in this mapping application as “data collection sites.”  AOV is evolving and growing, founded on the principle that collaborative information sharing can provide a comprehensive – and therefore useful – perspective.


Arctic Observing – spread as it is among various national and international initiatives – could benefit from an improved cyber-infrastructure that facilitates further integration, discovery, and analysis between funding bodies, PIs, data centers, users, etc.  One piece of that vision is to have an observing activity for the observing program – beyond individual projects, datasets, and individual agency or initiative efforts – to enable strategic assessment. 


Funded initially by the U.S. NSF Arctic Sciences Section, the viewer is becoming broadly interagency for U.S. efforts.  Information exchange with international entities is welcomed. The viewer is circumpolar, and includes sites for marine, terrestrial, and atmospheric observing activities.  AOV is primarily for policy makers, program managers, science planners, logistics planners, and data management specialists.  It also may be of interest to researchers, students, the media, and the public.

For the programmatic and strategic assessment of Arctic Observing efforts, an intermediate level resource is needed.  This should not be a data portal, because details such as sensor names, serial numbers, etc. – and the datasets themselves – are more appropriately maintained at the data archives.  And it should not be a project tracking system, which would lack the “spatial granularity” needed for tracking specific data collection activities.  

Rather, this resource should focus on “data collection sites," with a bare minimum of metadata fields for ease, comprehensiveness, timeliness, and interoperability.  Agencies and organizations tied to Arctic Observing can take advantage of the new application, and can use the collaborative and distributed web services as a tool for their own purposes, to systematically and comprehensively assess progress, to optimize sampling designs, and to know where to invest in new deployments.

Data Collection Sites in AOV

AOV encompasses active or previously deployed cruise tracks, moorings, buoys, towers, boreholes, sampling sites, sensor locations, climate and weather stations, shoreline surveys, repeat vegetation plots, stream gauges, etc.: wherever repeat Arctic Observing data have been collected.

The viewer currently contains thousands of instrumentation and data collection sites, including:

  • 10,800+ sites funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the Arctic Observation Network (AON)
  • 5,581 sites from the International Tundra Experiment (ITEX)
  • 1,907 boreholes associated with the international Thermal State of Permafrost (TSP) project
  • 1,067 vegetation plots recovered as part of the NSF-funded Back to the Future (BTF) project to recover and resample old sites dating back to 1964
  • 715 meteorological towers from FluxNet: A Global Network
  • 410 permafrost sites from the Circumpolar Active Layer Monitoring (CALM) program
  • 344 geophysical sites from EarthScope
  • 251 locations for mass balance measurements and ice cores from the Seasonal Ice Zone Observing Network (SIZONET)
  • 239 sites associated with the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna’s (CAFF) Arctic Terrestrial Biodiversity Monitoring Program
  • 104 monitoring locations associated with the Circum-Arctic Lakes Observation Network (CALON)
  • 54 measurement sites from SnowNet
  • 39 USGS Permafrost and Climate Monitoring Network sites on Alaska’s North Slope
  • and more, including Arctic-GRO, GLISN, GNET, ICECAPS, and OASIS.

The viewer also displays information for scientific cruises and drifting buoys:

  • Nearly 500 sampling sites from NOAA’s Russian-American Long-term Census of the Arctic (RUSALCA), contributed by AOOS.
  • 234 drifting buoys from the International Arctic Buoy Programme (IABP)
  • 132 ship tracks dating from 2007 for the Healy, Knorr, Louis S. St-Laurent, Marcus G. Langseth, Thomas G. Thompson, and other research vessels
  • 37 buoy tracks for the NPS Autonomous Ocean Flux Buoy program

For each site or track, details include:

  • Project title, funding agency, award number, and contact information
  • Discipline, type of measurement, GCMD keywords, location, start and end dates
  • Links to more information, whether data are archived, and links to datasets and websites

And last, but not least, AOV includes major Arctic research facilities:

  • 44 field stations from the International Network for Terrestrial Research and Monitoring in the Arctic (INTERACT)
  • 40 observatories and facilities from the the International Arctic Systems for Observing the Atmosphere (IASOA) initiative


AOV is founded on collaborative efforts among many groups that support information exchange and interoperability.

The AOV database and web map viewer are development efforts shared among: Craig Tweedie, a postdoc, and students at the Systems Ecology Lab at the University of Texas at El Paso; Allison Gaylord with Nuna Technologies; William Manley with the INSTAAR QGIS Laboratory; and Robbie Score with CH2M HILL Polar Services. AOV provides a real-world test bed for student-driven cyberinfrastructure activities -- ranging from systems architecture and programming to application design.  

Photos for the banner images are courtesy of Sarah Das (WHOI), Faustine Bernadac (Polar Field Services), Bill Schmoker (PolarTREC 2010; ARCUS), Roy Stehle (SRI), Doug Kane (INE, WERC, UAF), and Chris Larsen (UAF GI).  Thank you.  The icons on the Home page are courtesy of  

This website is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Contract No. NSFDACS11C1675. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


Please cite as:

Manley, W.F., Gaylord, A.G., Kassin, A., Villarreal, S., Cody, R., Barba, M., Dover, M., Escarzaga, S., Habermann, T., Kozimor, J., Score, R., and Tweedie, C.E., 2016, Arctic Observing Viewer (AOV): Englewood, Colorado USA, CH2M HILL Polar Services. Digital Media.

See Also


12/2017 – The AOV Team will present a poster at the 2017 Fall AGU meeting.  Stop by on Friday morning, Dec. 15, in Poster Hall D-F.

11/2017 – A new prototype Viewer has been released, with much improved Search and Filter tools.  Please try it out and let us know your thoughts.

11/2017 – AOV has been updated to provide hundreds of new sites.  Furthermore, many site details – such as Initiative and much more – have been “backfilled” to be better provide more complete information for all sites.

09/2017 – The AOV Team gave a presentation on both AOV and ARMAP to the IARPC Arctic Research Support and Logistics Working Group.

06/2017 – Work has begun in earnest on a new AOV Viewer with various refinements. 

05/2017 – The AOV Team gave a presentation to the IARPC AOSST about brainstorming an inventory of networks.

05/2017 - The AOV Team is collaborating with WMO and GCW on interoperability with the WMO WIGOS metadata standard, as well as the possibility of including a set of WMO sites in AOV.

04/2017 - The ARMAP Team has begun collaboration with the NSF Arctic Data Center toward information exchange and improved interoperability.

03/2017 - The ARMAP Team is participating in the revamped IARPC teams for Arctic Data, Arctic Observing Systems, and Environmental Intelligence.

02/2017 - The AOV Team has continued collaboration with the IASC/SAON Arctic Data Committee.

12/2016 - AOV has been updated to provide over 13,000 collection sites with hundreds of new sites for NSF AON, IABP, ITEX, and other networks.

12/2016 - An abstract, poster, and demos were given at the Fall AGU meeting: “The Arctic Observing Viewer (AOV): Visualization, Data Discovery, Strategic Assessment, and Decision Support for Arctic Observing”.

11/2016 - The AOV Team participated in the Polar Connections Interoperability Workshop, with a talk on the project-data life cycle and overview of data discovery and metadata.

10/2016 - Our Guide to Interoperability has been updated -- with new use cases, template ISO XML’s, a template spreadsheet, pick lists, and a data dictionary -- to better demonstrate our hierarchical and distributed approach to metadata sharing.

10/2016 - Numerous improvements have been made to the AOV Database, incorporating new details and keywords, as well as hundreds of new data collection sites for NSF AON, ITEX, and other networks.

10/2016 - The AOV Team continues to participate in coordination through the IARPC Arctic Data Collaboration Team as well as the IASC/SAON Arctic Data Committee.

10/2016 - Our older flash-based viewer has been retired, and our prototype Viewer with a clean and modern interface has been officially launched.

09/2016 - The AOV Team has further collaborated with the PermaData project (involving GTN-P, the Arctic Portal, and NSIDC) toward improved interoperability of information related to permafrost boreholes and more.

09/2016 - AOV releases a Guide to Interoperability, with examples of how to implement ISO metadata and hierarchical web services to benefit the Arctic Observing community.

09/2016 - A poster on AOV, ARMAP, and the Project-Data life cycle was presented at SciDataCon 2016.

09/2016 - Collaboration with ADIwg continues with adoption of ISO 19115-3 for data collection sites.

08/2016 - Many additional drifting buoys from the International Arctic Buoy Programme (IABP) have been added.

07/2016 - Legacy information has been added for sites from the International Tundra Experiment (ITEX).

07/2016 - A presentation on AOV and ARMAP was given to the IARPC Arctic Observing Systems Collaboration Team.

03/2016 - The website was refreshed with many new details in the "Data Collection Sites in AOV" section on the About page, as well as a new data contribution spreadsheet on the Collaborate page.

03/2016 - An abstract and poster were presented at the 2016 Arctic Observing Summit.

12/2015 - An abstract and poster were presented at the 2015 Fall AGU Meeting.

11/2015 - An abstract and poster were presented at the 2015 Arctic Observing Open Science Meeting.

10/2015 - An abstract and poster were presented at the Polar Data Forum II.  The poster won first place!

10/2015 - A presentation on ARMAP and AOV was given to the IASC/SAON Arctic Data Committee.

10/2015 - A new AOV Viewer is released with a clean, fast, and modern interface.  This prototype app — based on HTML5, javascript, and hierarchical ISO metadata — includes an advanced Search tool, and is mobile friendly while being intuitive and more informative.  Try it out, and let us know what you think!

10/2015 - An abstract has been submitted for the Arctic Observing Summit 2016.

10/2015 - An abstract has been submitted for the 2015 Arctic Observing Open Science Meeting.

09/2015 - NASA ABoVE became a Partner.

09/2015 - Progress has been made with community-based ISO standards, and with AOV’s implementation of hierarchical metadata, such that project-level information is linked to details on data collection sites, and vice versa. 

08/2015 - A new AOV Viewer is nearing completion to deliver improvements in functionality with a clean, fast, and modern interface. A prototype will be released before the Fall AGU, and will undergo usability testing prior to formal launch. Using HTML5, javascript, and hierarchical ISO metadata, the new Viewer will be mobile friendly, intuitive, and informative.

08/2015 - An abstract has been submitted for the Fall AGU Meeting.

07/2015 - More data collection sites were added, existing sites went through additional quality control, additional ship tracks were added, and improvements were made to the application interface.

05/2015 - A peer-reviewed journal article about AOV has been published in the journal Arctic.

04/2015 - Collaboration continues with the SAON/IASC Arctic Data Committee (ADC), and has begun with SAON's new Committee on Observations and Networks (CON).

03/2015 - GTN-P became a Partner.

03/2015 - Collaboration picks up speed with NSIDC on the PermaData project, with planning and information exchange related to permafrost datasets, boreholes in the GTN-P network, and other data collection sites.

03/2015 - Collaboration has begun with the IARPC Arctic Data Collaboration Team.

01/2015 - Collaboration has begun with the NASA Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE) toward interoperability and information exchange.

12/2014 - Poster and demos were given at the Fall AGU meeting: “The Arctic Observing Viewer: A Web-mapping Application for U.S. Arctic Observing Activities”.

12/2014 - AOV has begun to implement use of the ISO 19115-1 metadata standard for improved interoperability, following ongoing collaboration with ADIwg.

12/2014 - Collaboration has begun with a new SAON/IASC Arctic Data Committee (ADC).

11/2014 - Enabled a SOLR engine, coupled to the AOV database, for enhanced search and filtering.

10/2014 - Peer-reviewed manuscript on AOV accepted for publication in a special issue of the journal Arctic.

07/2014 - The AOV systems architecture has been upgraded with virtual servers, and ArcGIS Server was updated to version 10.1.1.

04/2014 - Team participation at the 2014 Arctic Observing Summit (see the poster).

04/2014 - The AOV Team completed security compliance for NSF’s Information Assurance Working Group.

04/2014 - Multiple improvements made to the database and viewer (additional site information, refined Map Layers tool, enhanced Search tool, and an imagery basemap from GINA.)

04/2014 - Over 800 data collection sites added, with contributions from CAFF, CALON, USGS, SIZONET, and others.

01-03/2014 - a2dc, CAFF, and GINA became Partners.

03/2014 - Sampling sites contributed by AOOS for the NOAA RUSALCA surveys in 2004, 2007, 2009, 2012 and 2013.

12/2013 - Improvements made to the viewer, now with ship tracks, observatories & field stations, a faster Time Slider, a better basemap, expanded metadata, and more.

12/2013 - New website launched.

01-11/2013 - ACADIS, ADIwg, AOOS, IASOA, INTERACT, and NSIDC became Partners.

05-09/2013 - Brainstorming and collaboration begun or continued with ACADIS, ADCN, ADIwg, ALCC, AOOS, ARCUS, GINA, IARC, IASOA, NSIDC, NSSI, SEARCH, USGS, and others.