Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Video Annotation and Reference System (VARS) 
About VARS

The Video Annotation and Reference System (VARS) is a software interface and database system that provides tools for describing, cataloging, retrieving, and viewing the visual, descriptive, and quantitative data associated with MBARI's deep-sea video archives. Information about VARS is available on the pages listed below (or from the navigation bar at left).

News about VARS

Publications That Use VARS Data

The VARS database provides invaluable qualitative and quantitative data that have been used in hundreds of peer-reviewed publications. Some examples can be viewed here:

Image Classification and Identification Workshop (March - April 2009)

An very successful taxonomic image analsyis workshop co-sponsored by MBARI and CenSeam was held in the Spring of 2009. Please see the following website for further information:

VARS Software release

The VARS system software was made available to users outside of MBARI as of November 2005. Researchers and institutions can use VARS for cataloging and analyses of large or complex observation data sets. The software is available as open source code that can be adapted and improved for specific research needs. Downloads and associated information are available at this web site:

MBARI provides software "as is", with no warranty, express or implied, of the software quality or consistency. Software is provided without support and without obligation on the part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute to assist in its use, correction, modification, or enhancement.

VARS Software Technical Workshop (December 2005)

A two-day technical workshop was held at MBARI to provide user and support training for the VARS system. The workshop focused on science capabilities, operational use, and technical support of the VARS application. Participants were expected to have a basic understanding of Java and databases and brought their own laptops for the workshop activities.

Technical content of the workshop (now available on the SourceForge website

  • VARS source code for downloading
  • Design of the VARS software and underlying database
  • Guidelines for modifying and re-submitting your open source code
  • Instruction on how to adapt and install VARS software for use by other researchers or institutions

Logistics of the past workshop


For help with using the VARS Query, contact Video Lab administrators
(videolabadmin at mbari dot org) or call (831) 775-1829. 
For help with technical issues, contact Brian Schlining: brian at

Last updated: Oct. 22, 2013