Data collection to publication: infrastructure for ecological monitoring and decision making

Tooling to support simple, efficient and accurate end-to-end field data collection, curation, archiving and publishing is now available for ecologists working across the Australian outback, thanks to TERN’s data infrastructure.

At the start of the TERN data continuum, the TERN AusPlots Field Survey App, called AuScribe, helps ecologists by facilitating data entry in the field, which saves time and money, and increases accuracy. AuScribe creates consistent, complete, and clean data that can be readily published with minimal curation, allowing researchers to spend more time analysing and synthesising the data and producing useful outcomes for the science and management communities.

Using AuScribe, researchers can collect plant and general site measurements in accordance with the methods described in the AusPlots Rangelands Survey Protocols Manual, which anyone can download from the TERN website.

AuScribe, the AusPlots Field Survey App, helps ecologists enter field data using the AusPlots survey modules, including ‘vegetation vouchering’ via a barcode reader (above), and links to storage and curation facilities including the ÆKOS data portal

TERN’s unique end-to-end data infrastructure offers ecologists simple, efficient and accurate data collection, reduced curation costs and shorter data publication timelines. The continuum is not just a linear process, rather one that’s driven by feedback cycles linking all of the stages in the continuum, just some of which are shown above.

Following data collection in the field, the data are transferred from the app to AusPlots’ cloud-based server infrastructure where it can be curated and linked to TERN Eco-informatics’ Advanced Ecological Knowledge and Observation System (ÆKOS).  ÆKOS provides a secure place where the data can reside, be retrievable and citable, become of great value to many researchers, and persist beyond the career of an individual.

ÆKOS stores important contextual information about data, which increases the chances of other researchers finding and understand them, significantly improving their value and enabling re-use.

Access via ÆKOS gives ecologists and managers the observations, data records and metadata at their fingertips—enabling fast, upfront and intelligible assessment of the data’s reuse potential. It also provides a direct link to international data portals, including DataOne’s OneSearch, increasing the data’s discoverability and likelihood of reuse.

Open-access to harmonised and well-described data facilitates new science by allowing researchers to ‘scale-up’ the data and combine and compare them to other ecosystem studies.

TERN’s end-to-end data collection methods and publication infrastructure is not only making life easy for ecosystem scientists, but thanks to open-access, new, positive biodiversity outcomes all over the continent are generated as others model, analyse, synthesise the data and use it for informed policy and management decisions.

  • AuScribe is available to registered researchers via Google Play. If you would like to collect AusPlots field data with AuScribe, please contact Andrew Tokmakoff to discuss your project and to gain access.
  • A paper on TERN’s end-to-end data infrastructure has recently been published in the journal Future Generation Computer Systems and can be viewed here.

TERN AusPlots system architecture and technologies, including links to the storage and curation facilities of the ÆKOS data portal

Published in TERN newsletter April 2016

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