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Harnessing the Power of Coastal and Marine Data for Science and Society: The Knowledge Management Workshop

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For centuries humans have collected scientific data to better understand their world. Today's technological advances are making it possible to gather increasingly more precise data in staggering amounts, causing even nonscientists to quickly assimilate such terms as kilobyte, megabyte, gigabyte, terabyte, and beyond (peta-, exa-, zetta-, and yotta-, for those of you who like to look ahead). The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is part of this trend, with scientists gathering data in myriad studies around the country. Among the agency's unsung heroes are those who focus on how best to organize, preserve, and serve those data to maximize their usefulness to scientists, managers, and the general public. In the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program, this task is performed by the Knowledge Management Project.

USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program Coordinator John Haines addresses participants on the final morning of the Knowledge Management Workshop.
Above: USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program Coordinator John Haines (far right) addresses participants on the final morning of the Knowledge Management Workshop. Composite of photographs by Chris Polloni. [larger version]

To share ideas and brainstorm improvements in data handling, members and associates of the Knowledge Management Project held a workshop on March 16-18, 2010, at the USGS Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Participants included USGS employees from offices in Woods Hole; St. Petersburg, Florida; Santa Cruz and Menlo Park, California; Denver, Colorado; Reston, Virginia; and Kahului, Hawai‘i; as well as a partner from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Invited talks updated workshop participants on Data.gov, a Web site designed to increase public access to datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government (presented by David Govoni); the National Biological Information Infrastructure Ocean Biodiversity Information System (NBII/OBIS) USA, a one-stop source for biogeographic data collected from U.S. waters and oceanic regions (Philip Goldstein and Mark Fornwall); data management at the USGS Central Energy Resources Science Center (David Ferderer and Greg Gunther); the 2010 USGS Data Integration Development Project (Sky Bristol); options for an information-management system to support the National Framework for Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning (Sky Bristol); and the USGS Geology Discipline's National Policy and Procedural Manual for Sample Collections Management (Brian Buczkowski). The agenda also included a poster session and an optional field trip to view coastal change at Cape Cod National Seashore.

Dave Govoni and John O'Malley post-meeting field trip on coastal change
Above left: Participants broke into small groups to discuss different data types. Here, Dave Govoni (left) and John O’Malley discuss Data.gov and the "Open Government Directive." Also present were Dennis Krohn, Florence Wong, and Chris Polloni. Photograph by Chris Polloni. [larger version]

Above right: During a post-meeting field trip on coastal change at Cape Cod National Seashore, Ted Keon, Director of Coastal Resources for the town of Chatham, explains tidal-inlet-formation processes at Chatham Harbor. Holding the map is Graham Giese, Director of the Land-Sea Interaction Program at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies. Holding the USGS quadrangle is undergraduate Meghan Grady, and to the right of Grady is her advisor Mark Borrelli, a coastal geologist at the center. In foreground with back to camera is Barbara Dougan, Cape Cod National Seashore Education Specialist. All were presenters at the field trip. Photograph by Chris Polloni. [larger version]

A recurring theme during the workshop was the creation of "Data SPAs," single points of access (SPAs) for the major data types created and used by coastal and marine scientists. Groups of data specialists discussed requirements and options for Data SPAs for each data type. Web services were considered for making the Data SPAs accessible and useful for Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning, as well as for USGS data integration. Data SPAs were also discussed as a component of the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program's Web presence, along with other information services and Web-site features.

Jon Childs and Chris Polloni Rex Sander's Layer Cake Model
Above left: Jon Childs (left) and Chris Polloni are ready to enjoy 3D imagery on the Geowall (a computerized visualization system) at Tuesday evening's poster session. Photograph by Ann Tihansky. [larger version]

Above right: Rex Sander's Layer Cake Model for structuring single points of access to data (Data SPAs). [larger version]

USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program Coordinator John Haines addressed workshop attendees on Thursday morning. Haines emphasized the importance of a comprehensive national information system for responding to the critical demands of the National Framework for Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning, as well as the Ocean and Coastal Mapping Integration Act. He advised data managers to be prepared to address high-priority but short-deadline data requests that can be expected throughout the development of a comprehensive information system.

The workshop ended with a recommendation from Rex Sanders that Data SPAs be constructed in a modular fashion (a.k.a. "Rex's Layer Cake Model"), with appropriate standards-based interfaces between services that (a) store data, (b) select and subsample data to match requests, and (c) present data to meet the requirements of customers or software clients. These modules could be reconfigured relatively quickly in response to short-deadline requests, while also constituting a comprehensive information architecture for coastal and marine geologic data at the USGS.

Several of the program-wide groups that convened during the workshop are continuing to work together on modular Data SPAs for USGS coastal and marine data.

Related Sound Waves Stories
"Knowledge Management for Coastal and Marine Geology" Workshop Held in St. Petersburg, FL
May 2005

Related Web Sites
Coastal and Marine Geology Program

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cover story:
Coastal Erosion at Cape Hatteras, NC

Geological Impacts of the Feb. 2010 Tsunami in Chile

USGS Tracks Sediment on Molokai's Reef

ResearchSignificant Natural-Gas Potential in Nile Delta

Outreach Girl Scouts Explore Geology

Earth Science Day in Menlo Park, CA

Meetings Knowledge Management Workshop

Awards David Rubin to Receive Pettijohn Medal

Staff Students Contribute to Modeling Morphologic Change

Publications July 2010 Publications

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