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


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

12/2018 - Over 4,000 new sites have been added to AOV across multiple networks, especially NEON. The Viewer now has over 19,000 observing sites!

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.

10/2018 - The Team continues to contribute to various planning and coordination activities, including the IARPC Arctic Observing and Arctic Data subteams, the IASC/SAON Arctic Data Committee, and related working groups focused on federated search, semantics, and data interoperability, with direct and indirect benefits to ARMAP and AOV.

09/2018 - An article in Nature Ecology & Evolution, which cites ARMAP, highlights the need for strategic inventories such as ARMAP and AOV to better assess gaps and avoid sampling biases in Arctic Observing.

09/2018 - New observing sites were added to the Viewer for the Beaufort Lagoon Ecosystems LTER, as well as all Arctic stations within NOAA's U.S. Climate Reference Network (USCRN). Also, backfilling and normalizing was accomplished for existing site records in the database, as part of an ongoing QC effort to improve the user experience.

09/2018 - The AOV Team gave a demo to the North Pacific Research Board (NPRB) and will explore options for collaboration.

09/2018 - The AOV Team has ramped up collaboration with NOAA across multiple fronts, with demos and progress toward inclusion of additional sites from several NOAA networks.

09/2018 - More than 200 new observing sites have been added to AOV in the latest refresh, with additional buoys and moorings across multiple networks: IABP, DBO, BGEP, NOAA NDBC, NOAA EcoFOCI, and NOAA AOP. Many of these networks are new to AOV.

08/2018 - The AOV Team has started collaboration with NEON to get all of their sites into the Viewer by harvesting from their web service.

08/2018 – ARMAP and AOV continue to prepare the next generation of innovators through cyberinfrastructure training for graduate students. Lead developer Ari Kassin, PhD Comp. Sci., will further his career as a GIS Analyst and Database Programmer with the City of El Paso. Mauricio Barba, MSc Elect. & Comp. Eng., has stepped into the lead programming role.

08/2018 - The AOV Team has continued to work closely with Isaaffik on interoperability and information exchange.

07/2018 - A big update was made with additional sites for the EarthScope IRIS network.

07/2018 - The “Observatories and Stations” map layers have been greatly expanded to highlight facilities including YOPP, NEON, LTER, an all encompassing “Arctic Research Stations” layer, and a revamped “US Logistics Hubs” layer.

06/2018 – More than 1800 new observing sites have been added to AOV across multiple networks: NEON, YOPP, GLISN, GNET, EarthScope, LTER, RUSALCA, NASA ABoVE, and more.  AOV now contains almost 16,000 sites with related details to better assist network planning and Arctic observing. 

06/2018 – The AOV Team participated in the Arctic Observing Summit 2018.

06/2018 – A new set of overview slides about ARMAP and AOV has been posted to the website.  Take a look!

06/2018 – To assist with sharing of project-level information, an ARMAP Data Dictionary has been released on the AOV Interoperability page, with a listing of relevant fields and their definitions, etc.  Also, the project-level ISO template XML was updated slightly.

05/2018 – Team member Ted Habermann has published an article in a special issue of the journal Geosciences about metadata interoperability, with a focus on the distributed and hierarchical metadata web services for ARMAP and AOV.