The Tropical Data Hub: A Virtual Research Environment for Tropical Science Knowledge and Discovery

By Trina Myers, Jarrod Trevathan and Ian Atkinson.

Published by The International Journal of Sustainability Education

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Tropical regions support some of the world’s most diverse and unique ecosystems. However, these sensitive areas are under increasing pressures that significantly threaten their future sustainability. To help better manage tropical regions, a need exists for more informed environmental monitoring procedures. Currently, data is collected in disjoint repositories that are not visible or accessible for reuse. As data is not being publicised, there are missed opportunities for the holistic discovery of trends that influence tropical ecosystems. This paper presents the Tropical Data Hub as an e-research infrastructure to congregate significant tropical data sets for cross-domain analyses and knowledge discovery. The Hub serves as a focal point for the amalgamation of disparate data sources to facilitate data reuse, integration, searching, and correlation by environmental researchers and government departments for discovery and decision making. More suitable environmental management practices may then be devised via cross-disciplinary data that depicts a more accurate representation of the status. The system automates the data capture process and incorporates semantic technologies to provide knowledge discovery. We present two successful visualisation applications that demonstrate the Hub’s capacity to enhance tropical environmental research. The first assesses land space use, and the second assesses potential impacts of climate change on global biodiversity.

Keywords: Virtual Research Environments, Environmental Monitoring, Semantic Technologies, Tropical Biodiversity, Knowledge Discovery

International Journal of Sustainability Education, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp.11-27. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 4.436MB).

Dr. Trina Myers

Lecturer, School of Business (Information Technology), eResearch Centre, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia

Dr. Trina Myers is a computer scientist and lecturer in information technologies at James Cook University of Australia. She holds a Master of IT, Master of Business Administration, and Ph.D (computer science) from James Cook University. Her research interests focus predominately in semantic web technologies. Her dissertation articulates the Semantic Reef Project, which is an eco-informatics use case that applies semantic technologies in the marine biology domain. To assist in research on climate change and the Great Barrier Reef, the project aimed to enable observational hypothesis-driven research by employing semantic inference over disparate marine and ecological datasets. Her other research interests include visualisation technologies, distributed computing, geo-informatics, and tropical environmental planning and sustainability.

Dr. Jarrod Trevathan

Deputy Director, eResearch Centre, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia

Dr. Trevathan is the deputy director of the eResearch Centre at James Cook University and is currently completing a post-doctoral fellowship. He holds a BSc Hons (computer science) and a Ph.D (computer science) from James Cook University. His post-doctoral research is on the Smart Environmental Monitoring and Analysis Technologies Project, which is a multidisciplinary effort that revolves around constructing “smart” sensor networks. These networks can be deployed in aquatic settings for the purpose of monitoring and studying marine environment. The system allows for real-time access to remotely sensed data and two-way communication between the observer and the sensors, as well as between the sensors themselves. He has research experience in online fraud and security issues, and regularly contributes to social commentary on emerging issues that affect society through the increasing use of technology. Some of his research interests include e-commerce security, biometric security, and wireless sensor networks (security and environmental monitoring).

Prof. Ian Atkinson

Director, eResearch Centre, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia

Professor Ian Atkinson is the director of the eResearch Centre at James Cook University. He has a background in computational chemistry that led him to the world of supercomputing. More recently, he has been engaged in e-research and grid computing service development focused on serving the Australian research community. He has a long-standing interest in e-research methods, tools, scientific data management, and user interfaces for HPC tools. His current interests are grid-mediated access to data sources, sensor technologies, and visualisation methods. He has been CI on a range of high profile projects, including the DEST Archer eResearch Project focussing on data grids and data collection from instruments and sensors.