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 “observing 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 observing 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.

Observing 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 observing 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 Naomi Whitty 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., Cody, R., Vargas, S.A., Barba, M., Dover, M., Escarzaga, S., Habermann, T., Tweedie, C.E., Villarreal, S., and Whitty, N., 2018, Arctic Observing Viewer (AOV): Englewood, Colorado USA, CH2M HILL Polar Services. Digital Media.

See Also


08/2019 - Over 6000 sites have been added to the AOV Viewer across multiple networks, including more from NEON and NASA ABoVE, as well as buoys from the O-buoy project, CRREL-DMBBP, and WHOI. The AOV Viewer now has over 32,000 observing sites – doubled over the last year!

07/2019 - Based on user feedback, we have added a map layer for 24 stations from the Network for the Detection of Atmospheric Composition Change (NDACC), helping broaden AOV with inclusion of this important global initiative.

06/2019 - The team has continued collaboration with the Arctic Landscape Conservation Cooperative (ArcticLCC), this time specifically to pull observing sites from a JSON feed from the Umiq database for inclusion in AOV.

06/2019 - The team gave a presentation to the IARPC Field Operations Working Group, entitled "Apps for Arctic Science Planning: ARMAP & AOV", also summarizing similar portals, as well as the challenges and opportunities for giving such resources a more comprehensive perspective (at both multiagency and international levels) to better assess status, coordinate logistics, find overlap or shared assets, fill gaps, and clarify directions.

05/2019 - Through additional data wrangling and new collaborations, the AOV database is expanding rapidly! Over 7,000 new sites have been added across multiple networks, especially with yet more from NEON and some from NDACC. In concert, many existing records were QC'd to improve database content. The AOV Viewer now has over 26,000 observing sites!

05/2019 - The team has participated in discussions toward what may become a revitalized Alaska Data Integration Working Group (ADIwg).

05/2019 - Additional ship tracks were added to the Viewer, including 2018 tracks for the Healy, Louis S. St-Laurent, Oden, Sikuliaq, and Sir Wilfrid Laurier.

04/2019 - The team gave a presentation to the IARPC Arctic Data Subteam, entitled "Metadata Interoperability beyond the Dataset Level – for Networks, Projects, Observing Sites, Etc.".

03/2019 - The team communicated with INTAROS with discussion of potential collaboration toward common goals.

02/2019 - The team has continued to collaborate with spinoff working groups focused on particular challenges for the Arctic Data community, including the Polar Federated Search Working Group (POLDER) and the ADC-IARPC Vocabularies and Semantics Working Group, working toward white papers, completion of "the matrix", and substantive improvements to information sharing and interoperability.

02/2019 - The team continues to participate in various IARPC teams, particularly the Arctic Observing Systems Subteam and Arctic Data Subteam.

01/2019 - The ARMAP/AOV Team has begun to collaborate with the Toolik Field Station, particularly with their team on GIS and Remote Sensing, toward compatible means of sharing project-level and asset-level metadata. Some of the documentation on interoperability that we've released has helped them expand their own databases. They, like other portals and organizations, have begun to access and incorporate information through our public-facing web services. Plans are underway to include more detailed site-level information for the Toolik area in our Viewers.

12/2018 - The AOV Team presented a poster at the 2018 Fall AGU meeting. View the abstract.

12/2018 - The team participated in the AOS Observing System Implementation and Optimization Working Meeting that immediately preceded the Fall AGU meeting.

12/2018 - Over 4,000 new sites have been added to AOV across multiple networks, especially NEON.

11/2018 - The team gave a lightning talk at the Polar Data and Systems Architecture Workshop.

11/2018 - An alert system has been established to detect unexpected server downtime, improving reliability of our web services and Viewer.

11/2018 - NEON has become a Partner. A fruitful collaboration has added thousands of sites to AOV via their JSON API. We are working on adding thousands more, and to further refine harmonization of their site-level metadata.

11/2018 - The Viewer now has an additional filter — “NSF AON?” — to quickly identify >10,000 sites funded through the NSF Arctic Observing Network.

11/2018 - A total of 491 new sites have been added to AOV across four networks: NEON, NASA ABoVE, and IABP. Also, backfilling and normalizing was accomplished for existing site records in the database, as part of an ongoing QC effort to improve Search and the overall user experience.

10/2018 - A new AOV Map Gallery page has been created, with summary maps that can be easily downloaded for presentations etc. Please let us know if you'd like to see other maps featured there.

10/2018 - Our database and Viewer have shifted to new servers for better speed and stability. At no cost to the project, we have moved away from an aging systems architecture to a cloud-based solution offered by the University of Texas El Paso. There will be less effort spent by the Team on server maintenance, and users will benefit from better performance overall.