Short Grass Steppe SiteBytes 2007

LTER Site: Shortgrass Steppe (SGS)

Contributor: Nicole Kaplan and Bob Flynn (Aug 01, 2007)

Site Byte:

1. Annual Site Byte

The SGS-LTER Information Management System archives extensive amounts of data, metadata, and other information. We have made significant revisions to our relational database management system to more efficiently organize, relate and deliver information, data and metadata. Our new schema also contains metadata content to generate level 5 EML, which defines each attribute within each dataset and the associated measurement units or code definitions. Implementation of EML level 5 will begin with long term studies consisting of 30 datasets, (15% of our entire database) which supports both legacy and current studies. Perl scripts have been developed to generate EML from our database and store it on our web server for harvest by the LTER Network metacat catalog. This level of metadata and our participation in the communitywide metacat will facilitate data discovery, data integration and synthetic research.

We are contracting with a web development team at our home institution, Colorado State University, to implement our newly designed website that queries, joins, and publishes information from the revised database. The benefits of using the database to drive the website content include delivery of information that is more dynamic, connections between different types of information within the relational database management system, and increased ease of use for our end users with the latest web features. An example of related information that can be delivered within just a few clicks of the mouse includes a publication citation with the supporting data and the authors’ e-mails. The SGS-LTER website is large in scope, presenting an impressive amount of information that requires unique tools compared to other projects on the CSU campus. The tools we will build can be maintained and expanded by SGS-LTER Staff and may be passed along to other LTER sites. Implementation is planned for Fall of 2007.

We are also providing data, metadata and expertise to integrate datasets with other LTER sites. For example, researchers working at the SGS, SEV, and JRN, as well as the TRENDS project are interested in determining drivers of Net Primary Productivity (NPP). The Grasslands Data Integration Project (GDI) brings together ecologists, computer scientists, and information managers to address the challenges of integrating diverse datasets and produce analyses from the integration product. Unfortunately, integrating NPP data over time and over regions is not a straightforward problem. Issues of ecological synthesis and data integration arise from questions of methodology (e.g., sampling, plot sizes, etc.), data semantics (e.g., changing taxonomic information), and straightforward but messy data transformations. These datasets represent a core area of research within the LTER community, and an integrated databank would create a powerful resource for ecologists from several sites to perform cross-site analyses.

Our staff provides support for SGS-LTER researchers and students in various aspects of GIS including gathering data with GPS equipment and imagery, assisting with GIS model development for their particular research, and providing GIS data and maps for field work and modeling. We have also extended existing GIS programs for analysis of SGS-LTER data.

We also continue to participate in planning future activities for the LTER IM committee. Nicole serves as co-chair of the IM Committee, which establishes priorities and strategies to facilitate network-level and synthetic research that requires greater integration of information and interoperability of systems.