I attend an intriguing meeting at the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh today, a meeting combining astronomers and tropical ecologists and satellite remote sensing specialists. The meeting is the kick-off the ASTROTROP programme (www.astrotrop.org), a three-year project. Its overall aim to create a common language and infrastructure for the tropical forest community to share and access data, so that all databases around the world are readily accessible. For example, it would be become straightforward to overlay satellite data and climate data into field data, and vice versa. The idea is not to create a new database, but to create a language, interface and standard for all databases to talk to each other. The astronomy community has developed such a Virtual Observatory, called ASTROGRID, and the aim of this project is to try out some feasibility studies to see if it can be adapted for the tropical forest science community. In an analogy to the world wide web, which “put every document in the world inside your PC”, this would “put every database inside the world inside your PC”.
I'd been keen to try out our GEM datasets in these feasibility studies.
Yadvinder Malhi is an ecosytem ecologist and Professor of Ecosystem Science at Oxford University