CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A new and improved version of the successful Gulf of Mexico Species Interaction Database website (GoMexSI), at http://gomexsi.tamucc.edu/, has launched this summer. The updated website includes a larger volume of data than in the previous version of the site released more than two years ago. The website is also now available in Spanish.
From fish, to birds, to marine mammals and crustaceans, the GoMexSI project, out of the Center for Coastal Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, is a priceless database for fisheries managers, educators, students and researchers to gather information about species interactions in the Gulf of Mexico. It was the first, and remains the only database of its kind that catalogues Gulf species interactions.
“Access to these data, and thus information, is not just for the scientist,” said Dr. James Simons, GoMexSI project leader. “We are planning easy access for anglers, teachers and anyone else who wants to know more about Gulf species interactions. Imagine a fisherman being able to access a list – and links to pictures – of all the organisms his/her favorite game fish had ever consumed in their favorite bay. GoMexSI is a game changer.”
The GoMexSI project, which is an application of Global Biotic Interactions (GloBI), now has more than 74,000 accessible digital records of species interactions. The data comes from a variety of sources including abstracts, contributed datasets, proceedings, unpublished manuscripts, peer-reviewed literature, theses and government reports.
In addition, GoMexSI, which has been updated to be more user-friendly, contains a new bilingual video, has a re-organized and updated menu, exhibits query pages with enhanced functionality and has a new logo.
“A large portion of the land bordering the Gulf is inhabited by Spanish speaking people in Cuba and Mexico, so it is vitally important that the GoMexSI webpage be in Spanish as well as English,” said Simons.
The geographical scope of the database includes the estuaries and coastal waters of Cuba and Mexico, and the United States, and all of the Gulf waters to the deepest realms. Simons says that programs such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA) and Marine Fisheries Initiative (MARFIN) have proven valuable to the database development, and various research projects that are using fish diet data to aid in construction of fishery ecosystem models are benefitting from having access to a rich source of data found in GoMexSI.
“These data we are collecting define the network structure of an ecosystem which is vitally important to understanding how the ecosystem functions,” said Simons. “But finding, collecting and extracting these data is extremely time consuming and laborious. With our storage and serving these data at this one-stop-shop website, we are saving researchers and others a lot of time to freely obtain some very valuable data, and finding funding to continue the operation is a never-ending challenge.”
The effort has also enabled the detection of data gaps that will help to direct future data gathering efforts. In fact, this gap analysis led to the initiation of the Texas Coastal Fish Gut Round-up in the summer of 2015 that allowed Simons to shore up some fish diet data gaps along the central and south Texas continental shelf.
Simons began collecting Gulf of Mexico species interaction references in 1987, but it wasn’t until around 2002 that he came up with the idea of an online database. Simons first used the data for a Gulf of Mexico Alliance project that sought to understand the movement of mercury through Gulf food webs. The data that Simons collected was used to construct diet composition graphics for king mackerel at six locations around the Gulf. Those graphics are currently displayed on NOAA’s Gulf of Mexico Data Atlas website. More recently, he used the data for a Coastal Management Program project looking at mercury in the food webs of three game fish from three Texas bays.
“Our goal is to complete all historical interaction data and have an active community of species interaction ecologists contributing to and using the GoMexSI database,” said Simons. “We are always seeking partners and collaborators who are experts on differing taxa in the Gulf, especially bird, crustacean, and parasite taxa.”
Recent funding will allow Simons and his team to work with the Texas State Aquarium to conduct a teacher workshop to develop content on the website for educators, and Simons is also currently working with staff from FishBase and SeaLifeBase to build bridges between GoMexSI and these two internationally known databases. Simons and his team are currently working to collaborate with the US Marine Mammal Commission to jointly collect, extract and record historical marine mammal diet data for Gulf and US waters. Future plans include developing a page devoted to helping fishermen examine the dietary habits of their favorite game fish.
If you have collected species interaction data over the years, and have not yet cataloged that information online, please consider contributing data to the GoMexSI project. Learn more at http://gomexsi.tamucc.edu/.