Information Management at the Virginia Coast Reserve Long-Term Ecological Research Project


The Virginia Coast Reserve Long-Term Ecological Research (VCR/LTER) project was initiated in 1986 with a large multi-institutional set of researchers collecting a wide array of data types.   The information system has evolved from a single PC to a multi-server LAMP (Linux, Apache web server, MySQL database, PHP language) system managing nearly 200 datasets and approximately 200 GB of raw data.  Technologies used include automated workflows and field wireless networks for streaming data, a web-enabled meta-database which is used to generate Ecological Metadata Language (EML) metadata, an EML-based data catalog, and web services which produce user-ready programs for analysis.  Automation is widely employed to allow a relatively small staff (~1 FTE) to manage and update a wide array of data products.  Underlying software tools include the Drupal content management system, MySQL databases, and PHP, PERL, Python, SAS, SPSS and R scripts. In addition to data, the VCR/LTER web page hosts a wide array of additional information resources including research descriptions, proposals, personnel and publication lists, images of research sites and activities, and interactive maps.  A key to making the system operate has been the selection of technologies that remain stable over long-time periods so that automated applications and workflows require relatively little maintenance.  Similarly, archival data is typically maintained as text files (most frequently comma-separated-value files), in order to assure that data will remain readable far into the future.

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Name: John Porter
Organization(s): LTER