Field Research Protocol (GOSSIP)

The General Ocean Survey and Sampling Iterative Protocol (GOSSIP) is a new standard method for conducting ocean research that aims to help transform understanding of the distribution patterns of deep sea life – and the environmental factors that influence them.

It will mean that scientists can gain a more accurate picture of trends in ocean biodiversity, and how human activity is influencing them.

Download GOSSIP.


“For sustainable management of the ocean to be improved, we need actionable data. GOSSIP enables marine scientists to measure standardised physical, chemical and biological indicators and generate comparable data on the function, health and resilience of the ocean. This will help catalyse improved ocean governance.”

PROFESSOR ALEX ROGERS, Somerville College, University of Oxford

From remotely operated vehicles to seabed mapping systems, from DNA sequencing libraries of marine life to ocean sensors, technological developments are unlocking extraordinary new research that can galvanise sustainable ocean development and governance. In the past two years, scientists and governments have collected more ocean data than all previous data put together.

But until now, there has been no standardised multi-disciplinary approach for understanding the patterns of marine life across the world.

With scientists using different sampling techniques to address different research themes, it has been difficult or impossible for them to accurately compare life and environments from place to place. This has hampered scientific productivity, especially when trying to ask large scale questions and the provision of actionable data to inform decisions on ocean management.

The knowledge gaps within deep-sea and mesophotic ecosystems present a tremendous opportunity for discovery. But the exploding array of sampling approaches creates a challenge for producing standardised, comparable data. There is need to identify a set of variables that are scientifically important, robust and readily transferable among diverse environments.

General Ocean Survey and Sampling Iterative Protocol [GOSSIP]

The new GOSSIP protocol creates a structured approach, setting down a list of ocean variables (for example, ocean floor composition, dissolved oxygen, chemical pollutants), why they are important, sampling methods, processing methods and other requirements.

It provides a standardised framework for measuring the factors that can shape the diversity, distribution and abundance of marine life.

Developed by 16 leading marine scientists and building on existing research standards, it is designed to be used by all disciplines – in ocean chemistry, geophysics, biology, ecology – so that the information they measure and record about deep sea marine life and environments is easily comparable from project to project, from area to area.

The protocol has been created using technical best-practice guidelines to support the optimal use of advancing research technology.

It was field tested during the XL Catlin Deep Ocean Survey, conducted by Nekton in 2016 in Bermuda and the North-west Atlantic. This involved scientists from 12 research institutes and research tools including manned submersibles, a remotely operated vehicle, seabed mapping and biological sampling. 40,000 biological specimens and multi-disciplinary data have been analysed across a network of nine participating laboratories in the UK, the US, Canada, Puerto Rico and Ireland.

In March 2017, 16 leading marine scientists representing all major disciplines (see below) finalised the protocol at a workshop at Somerville College, University of Oxford. Specific unique and complex habitats such as mesophotic coral reefs, seeps and seamounts have also been identified with additional guidelines. The protocol has been designed to be updated as new sampling and analysis technologies become available.

“This is an important opportunity to advance the standardisation of marine research. These protocols can be used by scientists and agencies globally as best practice and a consistent standard. When such data are collected from different oceans and at different times, we will be able to combine and compare the data sets, thereby delivering far greater power to our global analyses and better information for improving regional management.”

DR. MALCOLM CLARK, National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research, NZ, Co-author of GOSSIP


LEAD: PROFESSOR ALEX ROGERS: Alex is Professor of Conservation Biology at the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Scientific Director of REV Ocean and the International Programme on the State of the Ocean. He has led and participated in 20 major marine expeditions including coordinating technical dive teams. His marine policy work includes projects for the UN International Seabed Authority, UN Division of Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea, IUCN, Global Ocean Commission, and the G8+5 Global Legislators Organisation for a Balanced Environment (GLOBE).

  • DR DOMINIC ANDRADI-BROWN: World Wildlife Fund
  • PROFESSOR ANDREW BRIERLEY: St. Andrew’s University, UK (pelagic ecology, acoustics)
  • DR MALCOLM CLARK: National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research, NZ, Leader of the Census of Seamounts Project, Advisor to IUCN, International Network for Scientific Investigations of Deep-Sea Ecosystems (INDEEP) (seamount ecology and deep-sea fisheries).
  • DR DOUGLAS CONNELLY: Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), (marine chemistry, chemical sensors)
  • DR KERRY HOWELL: University of Plymouth, UK (deep-sea biology)
  • DR KATRIN LINSE: British Antarctic Survey, UK (benthic ecology of polar regions)
  • DR ROBERT HALL: University of East Anglia, UK (physical oceanography)
  • DR VEERLE HUVENNE: Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), UK (seafloor and habitat mapping)
  • DR REBECCA ROSS: Institute of Marine Research, Norway (predictive ecology, benthic ecology
  • PROFESSOR PAUL SNELGROVE: Census of Marine Life, Deep Ocean Stewardship Initiative (DOSI), Memorial University, Newfoundland & Labrador University, Canada (deep-sea benthic ecology)
  • DR PARIS STEFANOUDIS: Post Doctoral Researcher Nekton Oxford Deep Ocean Research Institute (benthic epifauna and infauna)
  • DR TRACEY SUTTON: Nova Southeastern, USA, Deep-Pelagic Conservation Working Group; Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative (mesopelagic ecology)
  • DR MICHELLE TAYLOR: Essex University, UK (deep sea benthic ecology)
  • DR TOM THORNTON: University of Alaska South East, USA (anthropologist - indigenous ecological knowledge)
  • DR LUCY WOODALL: Oxford University, Nekton Principal Scientist, UK, Advisor to IUCN, OSPAR Commission, UK Government, Natural England (deep-sea ecology and plastic pollution)