The ÆKOS system is primarily focused on systematically collected terrestrial ecosystem data using plot-based collection methods (Fig. 1). These data are essential for reliable testing of fundamental ecosystem hypotheses. ÆKOS stores the plot-based data and Information that describes the data and its collection context. This information can be obtained from field manuals, notebooks, scientific papers, and reports.
The combination of these two complimentary data types provides researchers with the ability to assess the fitness of data for new purposes. Understanding the collection context is essential for data re-purposing, analysis and synthesis activities.
Figure 1. Examples of systematically collected data.
a) Wheelpoint sampling of chenopod (‘saltbush’) shrubland vegetation at 1 m interval in a 10 x 10 m plot north of Lake Eyre, South Australia.
b) Unique ‘colour-coded’ marking on the tail of a small ground marsupial for assessment of recaptures of individuals over a 6-day sample session that was repeated eight different times at the same location for the duration of the research project.
Major vegetation datasets
As the cornerstone of terrestrial ecosystems, vegetation is the primary focus of the ÆKOS ingestion process at this stage. Major vegetation/pastoral datasets, consisting primarily of systematic survey data from State/Territory agencies and other TERN facilities, are among the first datasets to be included in the ÆKOS system. Along with the actual collected data, contexual information is also part of the ingestion process, this includes data collection context (e.g. sampling methods, units and others) as well as temporal and spatial context, including appropriate spatial layers.
Silo data is data held outside of major database systems, usually distributed throughout agencies and various collaborative partnerships associated with active projects, and often exists because of resource constraints, ad-hoc project status, or because the data does not fit easily into those systems. Where appropriate these are being targeted for inclusion in the ÆKOS system, sometimes via ingestion by the Eco-informatics data analysts, or more commonly via the Data Submission tool. Silo data may become orphaned, e.g. isolated physically on DVD or CD-ROM storage, or sitting on local PC’s, laptops, shared folders, etc...
Major non-vegetation datasets
There are a range of other desirable datasets which will become the focus of the ingestion process at a later date, including those related to vertebrates, macro Invertebrates and historical vegetation.