The long tail of hydroinformatics: Implementing biological and oceanographic information in hydrologic information systems

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Center for Research in Water Resources, University of Texas at Austin

Hydrologic Information Systems (HIS) have emerged as a means to organize, share, and synthesize water data. This work extends current HIS capabilities by providing additional capacity and flexibility for marine physical and chemical observations data and for freshwater and marine biological observations data. These goals are accomplished in two broad and disparate case studies–an HIS implementation for the oceanographic domain as applied to the offshore environment of the Chukchi Sea, a region of the Alaskan Arctic, and a separate HIS implementation for the aquatic biology and environmental flows domains as applied to Texas rivers. These case studies led to the development of a new four-dimensional data cube to accommodate biological observations data with axes of space, time, species, and trait, a new data model for biological observations, an expanded ontology and data dictionary for biological taxa and traits, and an expanded chain-of-custody approach for improved data source tracking. A large number of small studies across a wide range of disciplines comprise the “Long Tail” of science. This work builds upon the successes of the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc. (CUAHSI) by applying HIS technologies to two new Long Tail disciplines: aquatic biology and oceanography. In this regard this research improves our understanding of how to deal with collections of biological data stored alongside sensor-based physical data. Based on the results of these case studies, a common framework for water information management for terrestrial and marine systems has emerged which consists of Hydrologic Information Systems for observations data, Geographic Information Systems for geographic data, and Digital Libraries for documents and other digital assets. It is envisioned that the next generation of HIS will be comprised of these three components and will thus actually be a Water Information System of Systems.

hydrology, hydrologic information system, HIS, aquatic biology, oceanography, Chukchi Sea, Texas rivers, long tail, water information management, GIS, digital libraries