NCEAS operates on the premise that much is already known about the environment, and that major breakthroughs in basic and applied ecology will come from the analysis and synthesis of ecological information that already exists. The scope of information needed to understand ecological systems is enormous, with data highly dispersed and often poorly documented. Conservation and management decisions commonly rely on integrating data as diverse as climatological records, changes in biodiversity over space and time, genetic structure of populations, and much more. Because this synthetic, collaborative approach is relatively new in science, technological barriers can frustrate the process. Common technological problems that are addressed in ecoinformatics include:
- How do I find data sets that are relevant to my question?
- How can I merge data sets that contain different types of data?
- How can I automate my work to be more efficient and replicable?
- How can I communicate effectively with a large group of collaborators?
- What analytical tools are appropriate and available for my data analysis?
- How do I archive my data and analyses in a way that others can access or at least understand them?
NCEAS’ Ecoinformatics Program is dedicated to the research, development and dissemination of technological tools that facilitate analysis and synthesis in ecology. Many of our ecoinformatics programmers and scientists have a background in ecology, and are intimately familiar with both the challenges and exciting opportunities that accompany the analysis of large ecological data sets from start to finish. While much of the ecoinformatics group’s energy is focused on externally-funded research and implementation projects, the group is enthusiastic about engaging with resident and visiting scientists to help solve specific problems in ecoinformatics and scientific computing, and to provide technical training to the ecological community.
Data sharing and access to technology are crucial elements in arriving at new frontiers in ecology and new solutions to environmental problems. Many of NCEAS’ ecoinformatics projects and tools are focused on facilitating data sharing, and all of the tools developed at NCEAS are freely available. In addition, we maintain a public data repository, which houses thousands of freely accessible data sets, generated at NCEAS and elsewhere. The KNB (Knowledge Network for Biocomplexity) search engine will search our repository as well as others maintained by our collaborators.
NCEAS’ Ecoinformatics Program has become a leader in developing collaborations to conduct ecoinformatics research. Advances in ecoinformatics enhance our ability to discover, access, integrate, and appropriately apply the growing body of ecological and other data that are needed to facilitate analysis and synthesis in ecology. Ultimately, these advances will have a large impact on our knowledge and understanding of ecosystems.
Read more about our mission and approach to ecoinformatics.