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Open-File Report 2009–1266

Constructing Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) for Searching the Marine Realms Information Bank

By Guthrie A. Linck, Alan O. Allwardt, and Frances L. Lightsom


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The Marine Realms Information Bank (MRIB) is a digital library that provides access to free online scientific information about the oceans and coastal regions. To search its collection, MRIB uses a Common Gateway Interface (CGI) program, which allows automated search requests using Uniform Resource Locators (URLs). This document provides an overview of how to construct URLs to execute MRIB queries. The parameters listed allow detailed control of which records are retrieved, how they are returned, and how their display is formatted.


The Marine Realms Information Bank (MRIB; was developed in 2001 by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Coastal and Marine Geology Program (CMGP) in partnership with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). The MRIB is a distributed digital geolibrary of worldwide coastal and marine scientific information, created with the desire to provide an alternative to a standard Web search engine. MRIB serves the needs of a diverse audience, including scientists, public servants, advocacy groups, educators, and concerned citizens. For a more complete description of MRIB, see Lightsom and Allwardt (2007; 2009).

The MRIB is an online catalog of Electronic Index Cards (EICs), in which the cards contain many metadata parameters that describe the content of the referenced information resources. Multiple methods of searching for information are offered and are designed to be intuitive and effective in allowing the user to obtain relevant results.

Many of the metadata fields, or facets, provided in the MRIB are hierarchical in nature and indexed using controlled vocabularies of standardized terms; one of these facets is a dictionary of place names, or gazetteer. The MRIB faceted classification provides users with guidance in searching and encourages them to find information using a top-down approach. An analogy that demonstrates the advantage of such a search system would be a sequential key system that guides the user with a series of questions to determine the species of a particular animal instead of having the user type descriptive keywords of the animal into a standard Web search engine. The unguided Web search requires the user to try many combinations of keywords, visit the retrieved Web sites, and wade through irrelevant results. The descriptive keyword approach is inefficient because there are so many ways to describe the same entity. The sequential key, in contrast, is structured to provide guidance and allow the user to more effectively make the determination.

First posted January 2010

For additional information contact:
U.S. Geological Survey
Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center
384 Woods Hole Road
Quissett Campus
Woods Hole, MA 02543

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Suggested citation:

Linck, G.A., Allwardt, A.O., and Lightsom, F.L., 2009, Constructing Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) for searching the Marine Realms Information Bank: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2009–1266, 13 p., available at




Why Construct Search URLs?

The MRIB Search URL Structure

What is CGI?

Parameter Types

Tables of Parameters

References Cited

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