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Collaborative Research: Neotoma Paleoecology Database, a Multi-Proxy, International, Community-Curated Data Resource for Global Change Research


The recent geological record can offer useful insight into how species adapt (or fail to adapt) to large and rapid environmental change. Understanding past global changes necessitates the assembly and analysis of many individual records, collected by many scientists, from many parts of the world. This project will continue the support and development of the Neotoma Paleoecology Database, a community data resource in which experts contribute their data, curate these data to meet community standards, and freely access and use the data in research and teaching. Examples of research that uses the Neotoma resource include understanding the causes and consequences of past extinction, assessing the sensitivity of species to large environmental changes that accompanied past ice ages, and measuring how quickly species adapt to past rapid environmental changes. Neotoma?s open data access will also facilitate new forms of education and outreach, by giving students and teachers direct access to research-quality data and empowering them to run their own analyses of past climate and biodiversity dynamics. This will help train the next generation of the scientific workforce, with crossover skills in both geological and data sciences.<br/><br/>Neotoma has become a research resource in paleoecology, paleoclimatology, macroecology, biogeography, and environmental archaeology, with rapid growth in data volume, kinds of data supported, and active third-party and externally-supported research projects. Gathering thousands of site-level records into high-quality, global-scale, data networks requires substantial effort. Datasets must be carefully checked, taxon names harmonized, age-depth models updated, and uncertainties quantified. Neotoma will continue to address these challenges through a model of centralized infrastructure and distributed data governance. Priorities for this project are: 1) establishing international coverage for data types and research communities that now have critical masses of trained data stewards and data volumes in North America (pollen, diatoms, ostracods, testate amoebae, vertebrates), and 2) establishing critical masses of data and data stewards for recently added data types (specimen-level stable isotopes, organic biomarkers). Cyberinfrastructure improvements will include: 1) a web-based interface for bulk-uploading metadata and data from many sites, 2) better support for specimen-level isotopic measurements, 3) better visualization and analytical support for micropaleontological species-environment calibration datasets, and 4) a rebuild of Neotoma?s home webpage. Sustainability priorities include: 1) support for the recently launched non-profit EarthLife Consortium Foundation, and 2) a workshop in which leaders from Neotoma and other community data resources will receive training in building strategic sustainability plans, learn tools to manage finances and plan for the future, develop strategies to diversify their funding base, and enhance communication skills. These updates and improvements to Neotoma will enhance the existing data resource for current users, and will help early-career researchers, for whom data availability and data-science training can open new career pathways.<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Luchansky, John; Simon P W
University of Wisconsin - Madison
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