The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) uses high-resolution video equipment to record hundreds of remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dives per year. In the first 20 years of ROV diving since 1988, over 16,000 hours of video tapes have been archived and managed as a centralized institutional resource. This unique video library contains footage of the biological, chemical, geological, and ... physical aspects of the Monterey Bay submarine canyon and other areas including the Pacific Northwest, Santa Barbara basin, Central California seamounts, Northern California, Oregon, Hawaii, and the Gulf of California. MBARI has developed a software and hardware system, Video Annotation and Reference System (VARS), to facilitate the creation, storage, and retrieval of video annotations based on ROV dive tapes. The VARS components reference a knowledge database of over 4,000 biological concepts as well as relevant descriptive, geological and technical terms. This hierarchical information allows for consistent and rapid classification, description, and complex querying of objects observed on video. Over three million observations, along with ancillary data from the time of collection, exist in this database.
After decades of collecting, cataloguing, and analyzing these data MBARI has amassed a unique, visual time series that supports a growing number of internal and external research publications and projects. The resulting database represents an evolution of knowledge and serves as a tool for studying descriptive and quantitative attributes of the ocean environment and ultimately measuring biodiversity deep in the Monterey Bay and extended regions of study. Recognizing the intellectual value of the extensive collection of the video captured by ROVs, MBARI continues to develop applications for internal and public access to this video database.