Video shows you how to drive the ÆKOS data portal

Eco-informatics has launched a video that shows users how to drive the ‘alpha’ release of the Australian Ecological Knowledge and Observation System (ÆKOS) data portal.

The portal delivers in a ground-breaking way plot-based environmental data that are inherently complicated in technical terms and need to be displayed in a more sophisticated way than the popular atlas or geospatial portal allows.

Visitors to the portal will notice that it builds on the best of the traditional website portals with some 21st century technology for searching and displaying ecological information.

Eco-informatics Director Craig Walker said that, because the first release of the portal required a secure login, due to licensing constraints, the instructional video was a ‘great way to sneak a peek at its functionality and general “look and feel”.

‘It’s an application of our national information framework and demonstrates three key concepts for ÆKOS. They are semantic searching; the intelligent display of complex ecological data; and informative, structured descriptions of the methods used to collect the data, as reported in the October issue of TERN e-Newsletter.’

Complex ecological data are systematically collected data from different types of plots such as transects, grids and quadrats. The information collected often describes compositional, structural and genetic information about plants and animals; environmental attributes such as climate and soils; and land-use information, such as fire practices, weeds and grazing history. These data are usually collected from one location to the next and the collection repeated during many visits by researchers.

The information about the composition of plants and animals starts with the naming of individuals encountered in the field, so a variety of taxonomic classifications are used. To be able to represent these different but inter-related types of data in a useful way, the ÆKOS software needs to include intelligent display. To achieve this, the portal uses a new way of displaying this complexity with a network or ontology diagram of all the data collected and its context.

The portal also provides structured descriptions that detail processes such as collection methods used. Over time the descriptions will generate an ‘encyclopaedic’ method catalogue that provides information for interpreting existing data and will be searchable via the portal. It will also aid experimental design in the future.

Craig said: ‘Our approach extends the richness of ecological information so that it can be used and re-used over the long-term. It enables the ecosystem science community to assess relatively easily how useful the data is for any specific purpose that advances ecological science, policy and decision-making – a functionality not presently provided by existing ecology-based atlases and geospatial portals anywhere in the world.’

The six-minute video introduces you to Eco-informatics’ conceptual approach for making Australia’s complex ecological data discoverable and accessible for re-use. For more information, including how to register to test the alpha version, contact the team.

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