NCEAS Project 2840

A Knowledge Network for Biocomplexity: Building and evaluating a metadata-based framework for integrating heterogeneous scientific data (Hosted by NCEAS)

  • O. J. Reichman
  • James W. Brunt
  • John J. Helly
  • Matthew B. Jones
  • Michael R. Willig

See the project web site for research results, software downloads, and more...

Original Project Proposal -- The proposal for this project, in Acrobat PDF format.

Interested in getting involved? We're interested in collaborating on many aspects of this project. Information on getting involved is available from our project handout (you'll need Acrobat Reader 4 to view it) and from our PowerPoint presentation describing project opportunities.

ActivityDatesFurther Information
Working Group25th—27th October 1999Participant List  
Working Group11th—16th January 2000Participant List  
Working Group20th—21st February 2000Participant List  
Working Group21st—26th May 2000Participant List  
Postdoctoral Fellow1st June 2000—30th June 2001Participant List  
Postdoctoral Fellow1st June 2000—31st August 2001Participant List  
Working Group10th—14th July 2000Participant List  
Working Group6th—13th September 2000Participant List  
Working Group16th—19th October 2000Participant List  
Working Group9th—17th March 2001Participant List  
Working Group2nd—4th April 2001Participant List  
Undergraduate Intern4th April—30th June 2001Participant List  
Working Group14th—18th May 2001Participant List  
Working Group9th—12th September 2001Participant List  
Graduate Student17th September 2001—31st July 2002Participant List  
Working Group5th—9th November 2001Participant List  
Working Group11th—11th January 2002Participant List  
Undergraduate Intern1st February—15th June 2002Participant List  
Working Group8th—10th February 2002Participant List  
Distributed Graduate Seminar17th—25th May 2002Participant List  
Postdoctoral Fellow10th June 2002—31st December 2003Participant List  
Postdoctoral Fellow17th June 2002—31st December 2003Participant List  
Postdoctoral Fellow17th June 2002—20th August 2003Participant List  
Working Group14th—24th August 2002Participant List  
Working Group25th—27th October 2002Participant List  
Working Group16th—22nd May 2003Participant List  
Working Group9th—11th October 2003Participant List  
Working Group21st—23rd June 2004Participant List  
Working Group28th—30th September 2004Participant List  
Working Group2nd—4th February 2005Participant List  

Members Only Area

Complexity is an inherent property of living systems that arises from direct and indirect interactions among the earth's physical, chemical, and biological components. Biocomplexity includes the structural and functional attributes of dynamic systems that arise at all levels of biological organization, including individuals, populations, and communities. Importantly, ecological components of biocomplexity (e.g., biodiversity, ecosystem services) are in crisis, and are undergoing potentially irreversible changes in the face of rapid human population growth and economic development. Wise stewardship, based on all available scientific knowledge concerning these natural systems, is essential. Data Catalyzed by these societal concerns, and facilitated by technology advances, scientists focused on complex ecological systems have generated an explosion of ecological and environmental data. When integrated with data from other disciplines (e.g., meteorology), these data have the potential to greatly enhance understanding of biocomplexity. However, broad-scale and synthetic research is stymied because these data are largely inaccessible due to their spatial dispersion, extreme structural and semantic heterogeneity, and complexity.

Knowledge Networking
We propose to integrate the distributed and heterogeneous information sources required for the development and testing of theory in ecology and its sister fields into a standards-based, open architecture, knowledge network. The network will extend recent advances in metadata representation to provide conceptually sophisticated access to integrated data products drawn from distributed, autonomous data repositories. In addition, the knowledge network will include advanced tools for exploring complex data sets from which multiple formulations of hypotheses can be tested.

The existence of such a network will lead to broadened understanding of biocomplexity and ecological systems, and allow the application of that understanding to societal issues. In developing this network, we will create a new community of environmental scientists who will be able to focus on complex, multi-scale problems that, to date, have proven to be intractable. We will perform foundational research in computer science and informatics to create new tools for discovering, retrieving, interpreting, integrating, and analyzing data from these diverse sources. Our prototype network will be useful across a variety of disciplines and will provide a basis for the growth of multidisciplinary research groups focused on biocomplexity.

To accomplish these goals, we have created an intellectual consortium that comprises the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), the Long-Term Ecological Research Network (LTER) and the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC). Our partnership has a successful history and includes (1) advanced expertise in ecology, informatics, and computer science, (2) a comprehensive understanding of the critical obstacles that data heterogeneity and dispersion create for advancing synthesis and understanding, and (3) strong commitments to addressing those obstacles that deter broad-scale and synthetic analyses. Impact The results of the proposed research will have broad implications for our ability to understand and manage sustainably the complex ecological systems and biological resources on which all humans depend. Information on biocomplexity is voluminous and complex, but currently is inaccessible to research scientists and policy makers. The intellectual advances in information science that we propose will, for the first time, provide an accessible infrastructure for identifying, integrating, managing, and, ultimately, synthesizing the nation's ecological and biodiversity information resources.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DEB99-80154. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recomendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation (NSF).

TypeProducts of NCEAS Research
Journal Article Andelman, Sandy J.; Willig, Michael R. 2004. Networks by design: A revolution in ecology. Science. Vol: 305. Pages 1565-1567.
Journal Article Andelman, Sandy J.; Bowles, Christy; Willig, Michael R.; Waide, Robert B. 2004. Understanding environmental complexity through a distributed knowledge network. BioScience. Vol: 54(3). Pages 240-246.
Presentations Chalcraft, David R. 2002. Strength of top-down effects on herbivores is dependent upon the identity of the top predator present. Ecological Society of America Annual Conference.
Presentations Chalcraft, David R. 2003. Consequences of species turnover in aquatic and terrestrial communities. Department of Biology, University of Central Arkansas.
Presentations Chalcraft, David R. 2003. Consequences of species turnover in aquatic and terrestrial communities. Department of Biology, East Carolina University.
Presentations Chalcraft, David R. 2003. Consequences of species turnover in aquatic and terrestrial communities. Department of Biology and Environmental Sciences, Georgia College and State University.
Journal Article Chalcraft, David R.; Resetarits, W. J. 2003. Mapping functional similarity of predators on the basis of trait similarities. American Naturalist. Vol: 162(4). Pages 390-402.
Journal Article Chalcraft, David R.; Resetarits, W. J. 2003. Predator identity and ecological impacts: Functional redundancy or functional diversity?. Ecology. Vol: 84(9). Pages 2407-2418.
Journal Article Chalcraft, David R.; Resetarits, W. J. 2004. Metabolic rate models and the substitutability of predator populations. Journal of Animal Ecology. Vol: 73. Pages 323-332.
Journal Article Chalcraft, David R.; Williams, John W.; Smith, Melinda D.; Willig, Michael R. 2004. Scale dependence in the species-richness-productivity relationship: The role of species turnover. Ecology. Vol: 85(10). Pages 2701-2708.
Journal Article Cleland, Elsa E.; Smith, Melinda D.; Andelman, Sandy J.; Bowles, Christy; Carney, Karen; Horner-Devine, M. Claire; Drake, John M.; Emery, Sarah; Gramling, Joel; Vandermast, David. 2004. Invasion in space and time: Non-native species richness and relative abundance respond to interannual variation in productivity and diversity. Ecology Letters. Vol: 7. Pages 947-957.
Journal Article Cox, Stephen B.; Bloch, Christopher; Stevens, Richard D.; Huenneke, Laura F. 2006. Productivity and species richness in an arid ecosystem: A long-term perspective. Plant Ecology. Vol: 186. Pages 1 –12.
Journal Article Drake, John M.; Cleland, Elsa E.; Horner-Devine, M. Claire; Fleishman, Erica; Bowles, Christy; Smith, Melinda D.; Carney, Karen; Emery, Sarah; Gramling, Joel; Vandermast, David; Grace, James B. 2008. Do non-native plant species affect the shape of productivity-diversity relationships?. American Midland Naturalist. Vol: 159. Pages 55-66.
Journal Article Edwards, M.E.; Anderson, P. Mark; Brubaker, Linda; Ager, Thomas A.; Andreev, A. A.; Bigelow, N.H.; Cwynar, L. C.; Eisner, W.R.; Harrison, Susan P.; Hu, F. S.; Jolly, D.; Lozhkin, A. V.; MacDonald, Glen; Mock, C. J.; Ritchie, J. C.; Sher, A. V.; Spear, R. W.; Williams, John W.; Yu, G. 2000. Pollen-based biomes for Beringia 18,000, 6000 and 0 C-14 yr BP. Journal of Biogeography. Vol: 27. Pages 521-554.
Journal Article Grace, James B.; Anderson, T. Michael; Smith, Melinda D.; Seabloom, Eric; Andelman, Sandy J.; Meche, Gayna; Weiher, Evan; Allain, Larry K.; Jutila, Heli; Sankaran, Mahesh; Knops, Johan; Ritchie, Mark; Willig, Michael R. 2007. Does species diversity limit productivity in natural grassland communities?. Ecology Letters. Vol: 10. Pages 680-689.
Presentations Jennings, Michael D. 2004. Techniques for classifying and understanding vegetation alliances. Joint Statistical Meeting. Toronto, Canada.
Journal Article Jennings, Michael D.; Williams, John W.; Stromberg, Mark. 2005. Diversity and productivity of plant communities across the Inland Northwest, USA. Oecologia. Vol: 143. Pages 607-618.
Report or White Paper Jennings, Michael D. 2005. Techniques for classifying and understanding vegetation alliances. Proceedings of the American Statistical Association: Statistical Computing [CD-ROM]. American Statistical Association. Alexandria, Virginia. Pages 2936-2940.
Data Set Jennings, Michael D. 2006. Multisource field plot data for studies of vegetation alliances: Northwestern USA. (Online version)
Journal Article Knapp, Alan K.; Fay, Philip A.; Blair, John; Collins, Scott L.; Smith, Melinda D.; Carlisle, Jonathan D.; Harper, Christopher W.; Danner, Brett T.; Lett, Michelle S.; McCarron, James K. 2002. Rainfall variability, carbon cycling, and plant species diversity in a mesic grassland. Science. Vol: 298. Pages 2201-2205.
Journal Article Knapp, Alan K.; Smith, Melinda D.; Collins, Scott L.; Zambatis, Nick; Peel, Mike; Emery, Sarah; Wojdak, Jeremy; Horner-Devine, M. Claire; Biggs, Harry; Kruger, Judith; Andelman, Sandy J. 2004. Generality in ecology: Testing North American grassland rules in South African savannas. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. Vol: 2(9). Pages 483-491.
Journal Article Mancera, J. E.; Meche, Gayna; Cardona-Olarte, P. P.; Castaneda-Moya, E.; Chiasson, Rebecca; Geddes, N. A.; Schile, Lisa M.; Wang, H. G.; Guntenspergen, Glenn R.; Grace, James B. 2005. Fine-scale spatial variation in plant species richness and its relationship to environmental conditions in coastal marshlands. Plant Ecology. Vol: 178(1). Pages 39-50.
Journal Article Michener, William K.; Baerwald, Thomas J.; Firth, Penelope; Palmer, Margaret A.; Rosenberger, James L.; Sandlin Vise, Elizabeth; Zimmerman, Herman. 2001. Defining and unraveling biocomplexity. Bioscience. Vol: 51(12). Pages 1018-1023.
Journal Article Schaefer, Jacob; Gido, Keith B.; Smith, Melinda D. 2005. A test for community change using a null model approach. Ecological Applications. Vol: 15(5). Pages 1761-1771.
Journal Article Smith, Melinda D.; Wilcox, Julia C.; Kelly, Theresa; Knapp, Alan K. 2004. Dominance not richness determines invasibility of tallgrass prairie. Oikos. Vol: 106. Pages 253-262.
Journal Article Smith, Melinda D.; van Wilgen, Brian W.; Burns, Catherine E.; Govender, Navashni; Potgieter, Andre; Andelman, Sandy J.; Biggs, Harry; Botha, Judith; Trollope, Winston. 2012. Long-term effects of fire frequency and season on herbaceous vegetation in savannas of the Kruger National Park, South Africa. Journal of Plant Ecology. Vol: 6. Pages 71-83. (Online version)
Journal Article Williams, John W.; Seabloom, Eric; Slayback, Daniel; Stoms, David M.; Viers, Joshua H. 2004. Anthropogenic impacts upon plant species richness and net primary productivity in California. Ecology Letters. Vol: 8. Pages 127-137.
Journal Article Williams, John W.; Webb, Thompson III; Richard, Pierre H.; Newby, Paige. 2008. Late quaternary biomes of Canada and the eastern United States. Journal of Biogeography. Vol: 27. Pages 585-607.
Journal Article Wilsey, Brian J.; Chalcraft, David R.; Bowles, Christy; Willig, Michael R. 2005. Relationships among indices suggest that richness is an incomplete surrogate for grassland biodiversity. Ecology. Vol: 86(5). Pages 1178-1184.
Journal Article Wilson, Will G.; Lundberg, Per; Vazquez, Diego P.; Shurin, Jonathan B.; Smith, Melinda D.; Langford, William T.; Gross, Katherine L.; Mittelbach, Gary G. 2003. Biodiversity and species interactions: Extending Lotka-Volterra community theory. Ecology Letters. Vol: 6. Pages 944-952.