Successful maintenance and accessibility of ecological data enables comprehension of the nature and causes of ecosystem change and makes informed action possible. However, much valuable data are not in institutional hands, and there are many pitfalls of non-institutional ecological data conservation. Interruptions to custodianship, outdated media, lost knowledge and the continuous evolution of species names makes conservation of such data challenging.
I shall use a case-study of the ‘rescue’ of a compiled set of continent-wide vegetation survey data that, although the analyses had been published, the raw data had not (*Specht et al., 2018). In the original study, publications containing plot data collected from the 1880s onwards had been collected, interpreted, digitised, and integrated for the classification of vegetation and analysis of its conservation status across Australia. These compiled data form an extremely valuable national collection that demanded publishing in open, readily accessible online repositories such as the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network and the Atlas of Living Australia, the Australian node of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. This webinar will take you through the workflow from the original data collection in which the presenter participated as a young student, to the present-day deposition of the data in a modern repository. It is hoped that the lessons learnt from this project will trigger a sober review of the value of endangered data and the importance of suitable and timely archiving so the initial unique collection investment enables multiple re-use in perpetuity.
* Specht A., Bolton M.P., Kingsford B., Specht R.L., Belbin L. (2018) A story of data won, data lost and data re-found: the realities of ecological data preservation. Biodiversity Data Journal 6:e28073. doi: 10.3897/BDJ.6.e28073
Alison Specht (BScHons, PhD UQ) is an environmental scientist with broad expertise in research, teaching, and community engagement. From 2009 to 2014 she was the director of the Australian Centre for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, a facility of the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network, based at the University of Queensland. She has been a member of the DataONE Usability and Assessment Working Group since its inception in 2010, and has interests and expertise in data management and the preservation of archival data. She initiated the formation of the International Synthesis Consortium, whose mission is to increase the effectiveness and recognition of the value of synthesis centres. Between September 2015and the end of 2018 she was the Director of the CEntre for the Synthesis and Analysis of Biodiversity, CESAB, a facility of the Foundation for Research on Biodiversity in France.