SFMN GeoSearch: An interactive approach to the visualization and exchange of point-based ecological data
data sharing, Geobrowser, Geographic web portal, Spatiotemporal visualization, Virtual globes
Recent advances in computer networks and information technologies have created exciting new possibilities for sharing and analyzing scientific research data. Although individual datasets can be studied efficiently, many scientists are still largely limited to considering data collected by themselves, their students, or closely affiliated research groups. Increasingly widespread high-speed network connections and the existence of large, coordinated research programs suggest the potential for scientists to access and learn from data from outside their immediate research circle. We are developing a web-based application that facilitates the sharing of scientific data within a research network using the now-common "virtual globe" in combination with advanced visualization methods designed for geographically distributed scientific data. Two major components of the system enable the rapid assessment of geographically distributed scientific data: a database built from information submitted by network members, and a module featuring novel and sophisticated geographic data visualization techniques. By enabling scientists to share results with each other and view their shared data through a common virtual-globe interface, the system provides a new platform for important meta-analyses and the analysis of broad-scale patterns. Here we present the design and capabilities of the SFMN GeoSearch platform for the Sustainable Forest Management Network, a pan-Canadian network of forest researchers who have accumulated data for more than a decade. Through the development and dissemination of this new tool, we hope to help scientists, students, and the general public to understand the depth and breadth of scientific data across potentially large areas.