The project's mission is to address issues of data acquisition, management, analysis and exchange relating to canopy studies at all stages of the research process. We develop informatics tools for canopy scientists, document and publish datasets that demonstrate use of these tools, characterize and formalize fundamental structures of the forest canopy, and relate those structures to functional characterizations for retrospective, comparative, and integrative studies.

We also aim to generalize the tools we develop to the larger discipline of ecology and to articulate where current information technology is not adequate for implementing tools for these scientists. We communicate these needs to other researchers in the database and information technology communities.

The project has three foci:

  1. Informatics Tools and Information Artifacts for Canopy Scientists. We develop software to help canopy scientists design databases, publish forest structure and functional data, and analyze scientific data:
    1. A database design tool (DataBank) presents our vision of how ecologists design, archive, and mine field databases.
    2. An online data warehouse for publised canopy research datasets, the StudyCenter.
    3. A visualization tool (CanopyView), creates data visualizations from DataBank datasets.
    4. An Internet reference site for canopy research, the Big Canopy Database, consolidates information of interest to forest canopy researchers.
  2. Data acquisition and database development for collaborating researchers. We conducted fieldwork on forest structure and function for eight sites in a 1000-year chronosequence (50- to 950- years old) in the western Cascades of Washington State (1kcs ). Other canopy research datasets, and LTER ecology datasets, have also been represented as DataBank databases, with several publicly available from the StudyCenter.
  3. Conceptual and theoretical ecology. To develop useful informatics tools we need general conceptual structures, and have formulated generalized spatial categories and associated database components (templates) for forest canopies. Our conceptualization of canopy structural space is based on 500 canopy and forest structure papers.

Our efforts to create database tools for the canopy research community will push forward the emerging field of canopy science. Our efforts can be viewed as a model for other emerging areas of ecology where data-integration and sharing can help integrate results from different studies. We seek input from researchers in the field of canopy studies to contribute to the database, and from those outside the field who may have insights into making this process efficient and productive.

The project is funded by the National Science Foundation NSF DBI 04- 17311, CISE 01-31952, BIR 03-19309, 99-75510, 96-3O316, 93-07771, DEB05-05123(OPUS).