The Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) grew from a series of workshops funded by the Sloan Foundation to explore the feasibility and goals of a Census for Marine Life. During the workshop that focused on the benthic environment, an online digital atlas of species distributions and associated marine habitats was envisioned (Ausubel, 1999). This atlas could be used to “guide sampling designs for a ‘Census of Marine Life’ and generate hypotheses concerning the origin and maintenance of diversity of life in the oceans” (Grassle and Stocks, 1999). An information system to provide centralized access to existing datasets and to incorporate new data created by the Census of Marine Life was also proposed. This Ocean Biogeographic Information System would provide Web access to global data and information on marine species, such as occurrence, abundance, distribution, and related physical and chemical information.