In 2006 ESA hosted a conference in Mexico titled “Ecology in an era of globalization: challenges and opportunities for environmental scientists in the Americas”. The conference was one of the first to challenge the assumption that the environmental impacts of globalization are nearly always negative. Instead, participants were encouraged to seek opportunities to exploit the growing opportunities to rapidly, efficiently and effectively address environmental questions and challenges by exploiting the increasing opportunities to connect scientists with each other, with the public, and with solutions. Workshops addressed development of an ecological restoration network, and education and outreach opportunities for traditional ecological knowledge. The conference also foreshadowed the development of internet and smartphone-based systems for collecting and sharing ecological data, information, knowledge and, ideally, wisdom. The objectives of this paper is to provide an overview of current knowledge and information systems and how they are being used for data collection and integration, including through the use of increasingly user-friendly and powerful data analysis and visualization tools, and to identify potential future trends and opportunities.
The paper will highlight a wide variety tools being used in ecology and other fields such as health, anthropology and disaster management. Two systems will be highlighted. The first is an interactive map of recovery classes for Mongolia, which allows the public to access and interpret site-specific knowledge about ecosystem dynamics in both Mongolian and English. This system is being applied at multiple levels, from herder groups to national policymakers. A key benefit is that it provides a framework for asking questions, and questioning assumptions, about what is possible at a particular location, and the types of management that might achieve the desired management or restoration outcome. The second is the Land-Potential Knowledge System (LandPKS), a suite of mobile apps and cloud-computing tools for supporting land management decision-making based on site/soil-specific assessment potential productivity and erosion risk. These tools can also increasingly be used to crowd-source ecological and agronomic knowledge and information. The paper will conclude with a vision for the future of integrating scientific and local knowledge based on the possible future of technology, access to increasingly diverse data sources, and emerging technologies.