CyberShARE Subproject 2: Advancing the utility of Cyberinfrastructure in Environmental Science
Investigators: Craig E. Tweedie, Vladik Kreinovich
Funding Agency: US National Science Foundation HRD 0734825
Project Length: September 2007 – August 2012
Web sites with more information on this project: www.cybershare.utep.edu.
Intellectual Merit: In light of dramatic environmental change that is affecting the sustainability of ecosystem goods and services globally, there is an urgent need to predict the future state of the Earth System and understand how humans will need to adapt. This urgency is driving paramount programmatic and operational changes in the ecological and environmental sciences. Increasingly, the environmental sciences are: (1) Shifting towards more data driven science, where researchers are needing to trust the integrity of data collected by other researchers and multidisciplinary scientific networks to answer ‘BIG’ picture questions such as, how are global biogeochemical cycles being impacted by climate change or how does seasonal climate variability impact the virulence of infectious diseases; (2) There is an increased utilization of advanced field based instrument technologies such as advanced instrument towers, sensor arrays, and autonomous vehicles; and subsequently, (3) The need for optimizing data streams, quality checking procedures, and managing, archiving and integrating large volumes of multivariate data from field based and other instrument platforms (e.g. satellite) has increased dramatically. Clearly, significant advances in the environmental sciences will be made through interdisciplinary collaborations with the computer and computational sciences, adapting cyberinfrastructure (CI) from established efforts in other disciplines such as the geosciences, and training a new generation of CI-savvy environmental scientist. Through the partnership of this subproject with the proposed Cyber-ShARE Center at UTEP, the next generation of environmental scientist will be educated in cyberinfrastructure and ecoinformatics research using novel case-driven approaches that meet key challenges in the environmental sciences.
Project Activities. Four case-driven research components will develop CI tools and establish an optimized end to end cyberinfrastructure for environmental data collection, transmission, optimization, archival, visualization and discovery. Research activities will develop: (1) Quality Assurance and optimization tools for static field based instrumentation that improve characterization of environmental tipping points and stochastic events whilst minimizing real-time data transmission; (2) Tools for integrating voluminous data streams from movable sensor platforms such as autonomous robotic carts; (3) Customized back-end tools that link, spatially extrapolate, and animate real time and archived data with established interactive Internet Map Server information portals; and (4) Tools for optimizing spatio-temporal data collection in sensor arrays and environmental observatory networks. All of these research activities require CI development approaches based on optimization, provenance, trust and uncertainty computation to inspire improved user-confidence in data streams. This research foci is a primary objective of the Cyber-ShARE Center to which this subproject is partnered.
Broader Impacts. A doctoral student will be tasked to each of the four use-case studies outlined above (4 in total). The Cyber-ShARE Center will facilitate the interaction among scientists, students, and staff at UTEP in order to advance CI tool development and the improved utilization of CI in environmental science through dedicated workshops, meetings, and facilities and human resources. In particular, the Center will serve as a focal point for the integration of data and ideas from multiple disciplines to solve problems, and will team experts in environmental science, geoscience, computer science, and computational science from the Colleges of Science and Engineering at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). The Cyber-ShARE Center will conduct quarterly meetings plus a series of annual full-day workshops/training for team scientists to understand each other’s terminology (e.g., ontologies) and scientific workflows (defining, generating, using). The workshops will be held at the Cyber-ShARE Center and will include faculty, students, and technical staff from UTEP that will enhance the Center’s education and outreach components. Novel frameworks, tools and methods for CI development and data optimization will be developed, made freely available and transferred to projects within and outside the Cyber-ShARE Center. At UTEP, one of the largest Hispanic-serving institutions in the US, the Cyber-ShARE Center will specifically engage students from underrepresented groups. Thus, the Cyber-ShARE Center and this subproject has the potential to contribute significantly to the production of Hispanic professionals, to develop the future Hispanic leadership of this country, and to contribute to the NSF’s commitment to increasing participation of underrepresented populations, especially in the environmental sciences.