Beyond the Spreadsheet: Data Integration and Informatics for the Next Century of Ecology
Thursday, August 13, 2015: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM
337, Baltimore Convention Center
Ramona L. Walls, University of Arizona
Christine Laney, NEON
Annie Simpson, United States Geological Survey (USGS)
Data have always been the foundation of ecological research, but how we collect, share, and use them is changing rapidly. It is now common for data for a single study to be collected by many individuals across multiple sites and for analyses to depend on previously published data from data repositories or the literature. At the same time, many of today’s most pressing ecological questions -- such as how global climate change will affect species distributions and ecosystem processes or how to manage natural resources such as international fisheries or the Amazon rainforest -- depend on integration of data from many sources. Unfortunately, our training as scientists does not always prepare us for how to generate, find, and use data in this new landscape. This session will bring together ecologists from a diverse set of academic and federal organizations who focus on integration and re-use of data -- both big and small -- to discuss opportunities and challenges in data integration. Talks will follow three main themes: 1) the current state of data integration and how to make it better, 2) tools for finding, managing, sharing, and visualizing ecological data, and 3) reports on research using integrated data. The goal of this session is to raise awareness of the importance of informatics in ecology, which we will do in two ways. First, we aim to demonstrate the utility of informatics to a broad range of researchers by offering talks that educate ESA members about the many options available for data integration, the larger visions and technologies under development by national informatics organizations, and research that leverages those resources. Second, we hope to distill an understanding that informatics is an innovative research discipline within ecology in its own right, not just a support service (although its role as a support service is substantial), by presenting new research on the development of informatics and data integration tools. No ecologist should be uncomfortable with phrases like “big data”, “bio-informatics”, or “data sharing” and we hope this session will help overcome lingering fears.