Jul 272012
Eastern Bluebird Map

New search software from DataONE helps map predicted occurrences of the eastern bluebird in August 2008. (Photo submitted by ORNL)

A team that includes researchers from Oak Ridge National Laboratory has released a search engine that provides easy access to environmental data.

Called ONEMercury, the “one-stop” search engine can be used by environmental researchers who investigate climate change, invasive species, infectious diseases, and other data-intensive topics, an ORNL press release said. It queries data centers around the world for relevant earth science information.

“This search system enables researchers to discover, access, and explore data that exist at many different repositories around the Internet,” ORNL’s Robert Cook said. “Previously there’s been no ‘federation’ of all these different data centers that would allow someone to come in from one place and search of all these resources.”

Cook is a member of the  10-institution team that collaborated on the newly released software. Supported by the National Science Foundation, that team is called the Data Observation Network for Earth, or DataONE. ORNL’s John Cobb, Line Pouchard, and Giri Palanisamy are also part of the team.

“At the heart of the new software is an advanced search engine developed by Palanisamy and colleagues at ORNL,” the press release said.

The release said understanding broad and complex environmental issues increasingly relies on the discovery and analysis of massive data sets. But the amount of collected data–from historical field notes to real-time satellite data–means that researchers are now faced with “an onslaught of options to locate and integrate information relevant to the issue at hand.”

Researchers have already used the tool to help bird ecologists. A DataONE working group has joined a database of amateur bird sightings with environment data layers about land use, weather, and vegetation to predict bird migration patterns, the release said.

“That’s one example of how having data available lets people look at new and important issues,” Cobb said.

The tool, which is publicly available at http://www.dataone.org/find-data, provides access to data from sources such as the U.S. Geological Survey, the Ecological Society of America, ORNL’s Distributed Active Archive Center, the National Science Foundation’s Long Term Ecological Research Network, South Africa National Parks, the Knowledge Network for Biocomplexity, and the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans, among others.

DataONE partners expect more organizations to join in the coming months, the release said.

DataONE is led by the University of New Mexico and includes partner organizations across the United States, Europe, Africa, South America, Asia, and Australia.

In East Tennessee, others participating in DataONE are the University of Tennessee, led by Bruce Wilson who has a joint UT-ORNL appointment, and the U.S. Geological Survey’s Core Science Analytics and Synthesis program, led in Oak Ridge by Mike Frame.

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