Protecting the environment is among the biggest challenges facing our society. As the effects of environmental degradation, global warming and climate change continue to grow, there is an increasingly urgent and critical need for research and education in biological diversity, ecological modeling and environmental sustainability. On one hand, professional and citizen scientists need ready access to large-scale biological, ecological and environmental data for modeling, simulation and analysis. On the other, college teachers and students in biology and ecology need to access large-scale data in a form meaningful to them. The various audiences will engage with big data in different ways and so a variety of knowledge-building tools are needed. This project brings together two dozen scientists from a dozen institutions in academia, government and industry to address the problem of translating big data into meaningful knowledge in support of research and education in environmental sustainability.
Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) is the world's largest database of biological species and other biodiversity information. EOL also works closely with scores of other biodiversity datasets such as BISON, GBIF, and OBIS. This project seeks to make EOL and related biodiversity data sources accessible, usable, and useful, by integrating extant artificial intelligence tools for information extraction, modeling and simulation, and question answering. The focus of this project will be on the data engineering required for this integration and construction of a resulting EOL+ system. The project team will provide access to EOL+ such that users can build their own tools and services on top of EOL+. The team will work with the NSF South Big Data Hub to organize yearly workshops for building and supporting a community of users of EOL+. Professional and citizen scientists, and teachers and students alike, will be able to access EOL+ through NSF's South Big Data Hub webportal, and use it for modeling and analysis, explanation and prediction, as well as education and workforce development in biological diversity, ecological modeling and environmental sustainability.