People using TERN: Margarita Goumas

A project officer in Parks Australia’s Biodiversity Science and Knowledge Management section is using TERN’s data infrastructure to make national environmental data openly accessible.

Over the past year Margarita Goumas has been working on an exciting project: her brief was to find the best way of publishing her agency’s ecological data and making sure that others could find them easily.

Now this was no small task as Margarita works for the Director of National Parks, the agency responsible for managing some of Australia’s most iconic and ecologically important national parks and marine reserves, including Kakadu, Uluru–Kata Tjuta, Christmas Island, and a number of marine reserves encircling Australia.

‘I needed to find a system that satisfied all our requirements, including having an appropriate metadata standard for ecological datasets, a mechanism for metadata entry and a repository that could both host our data and provide a search portal to allow our datasets to be easily discoverable,’ Margarita says.

To find a tool that could meet all these needs, Margarita researched the metadata standards of many national and international data repositories. But, in the end, ‘after extensive investigations, our best option became apparent,’ reflects Margarita.

Based on Margarita’s analysis and advice, Parks Australia decided to submit its data into TERN Eco-Informatics’ Australian Ecological Knowledge and Observation System (ÆKOS).

A number of factors influenced this choice. Among them were ÆKOS’s rich and highly structured metadata indexing, which is designed to deal with ‘plot-based’ ecological data; and the fact that the ÆKOS system is supported by the Australian Government’s National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS). Another factor was the ability for Parks Australia to self-submit datasets into ÆKOS via Eco-informatics’ complementary tool called SHaRED (submission, harmonisation and retrieval of ecological data).

‘Being able to submit the data using a web-based tool means that our parks staff, some in very remote locations, can upload their park’s datasets themselves. The metadata questionnaire also enables us to thoroughly document our datasets to ensure that potential users can find our data and also make an assessment of whether the data is fit for their purpose,’ Margarita says.

The other thing about SHaRED that suited Parks Australia’s needs was the fact their data received an Australian Creative Commons licence on submission. As well as protecting the data under Australian law, publishing under Creative Commons is in line with the Australian Government’s move towards greater open access to its information.

Since their first data submission earlier this month, Parks Australia has been finalising another 45 projects from across their terrestrial reserves for submission through ÆKOS, and expects to have several of these published in the coming weeks.

It’s been a long and involved task, Margarita says, but the work has already triggered some positive outcomes for Parks Australia and the science community as a whole.

‘This project has been great in focussing our attention on data management and strengthening our internal processes regarding data publishing and licensing. As the custodian of a wealth of fantastic ecological data it’s great to be able to share it with the wider science community and be in a position to facilitate positive outcomes for science, education and environmental management,’ says Margarita.

‘We are hoping that publishing our data will create linkages and collaboration with other national environmental monitoring projects, and increase opportunities for complementary research.’

Margarita Goumas of Parks Australia at Uluru – just one of the iconic parks her agency manages. Based on Margarita’s analysis and advice, Parks Australia are now submitting its data into TERN Eco-Informatics’ Australian Ecological Knowledge and Observation System (ÆKOS).

Published in TERN newsletter July 2014

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