Biodiversity data import from historical literature assessed in an EMODnet Workshop Report

While biodiversity loss is an undisputable issue concerning everyone on a global scale, data about species distribution and numbers through the centuries is crucial for adopting adequate and timely measures.

However, as abundant as this information currently is, large parts of the actual data are locked-up as scanned documents, or not digitized at all. Far from the machine-readable knowledge, this information is left effectively inaccessible. In particular, this is the case for data from marine systems.

This is how data managers who implement data archaeology and rescue activities, as well as external experts in data mobilization and data publication, were all brought together in Crete for the European Marine Observation and Data network (EMODnet) Workshop, which is now reported in the open access journal Research Ideas and Outcomes (RIO).

“In a time of global change and biodiversity loss, information on species occurrences over time is crucial for the calculation of ecological models and future predictions”, explain the authors. “But while data coverage is sufficient for many terrestrial areas and areas with high scientific activity, large gaps exist for other regions, especially concerning the marine systems.”

Aiming to fill both spatial and temporal gaps in European marine species occurrence data availability by implementing data archaeology and rescue activities, the workshop took place on 8th and 9th June in 2015 at the Hellenic Center for Marine Research Crete (HCMR), Heraklion Crete, Greece. There, the participants joined forces to assess possible mechanisms and guidelines to mobilize legacy biodiversity data.

Together, the attendees reviewed the current issues associated with manual extraction of occurrence data. They also used the occasion to test tools and mechanisms that could potentially support a semi-automated process of data extraction. Long-disputed in the scholarly communities matters surrounding data re-publication, such as openly accessible data and author attribution were also discussed. As a result, at the end of the event, a list of recommendations and conclusions was compiled, also openly available in the Workshop Report publication.

Ahead of the workshop, curators extracted legacy data to compile a list of old faunistic reports, based on certain criteria. While performing the task, they noted the time and the problems they encountered along the way. Thus, they set the starting point for the workshop, where participants would get the chance to practice data extraction themselves at the organised hands-on sessions.

“Legacy biodiversity literature contains a tremendous amount of data that are of high value for many contemporary research directions. This has been recognized by projects and institutions such as the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), which have initiated mass digitization of century-old books, journals and other publications and are making them available in a digital format over the internet,” note the authors.

“However, the information remains locked up even in these scanned files, as they are available only as free text, not in a structured, machine-readable format”.

In conclusion, the participants at the European Marine Observation and Data network Workshop listed practical tips regarding in-house document scanning; suggested a reward scheme for data curators, pointing out that credit needs to be given to the people “who made these valuable data accessible again”; encouraged Data papers publication, for aligning with the “emerging success of open data”; and proposed the establishment of a data encoding schema. They also highlighted the need for academic institutions to increase their number of professional data manager permanent positions, while also providing quality training to long-term data experts.


Original source:

Faulwetter S, Pafilis E, Fanini L, Bailly N, Agosti D, Arvanitidis C, Boicenco L, Capatano T, Claus S, Dekeyzer S, Georgiev T, Legaki A, Mavraki D, Oulas A, Papastefanou G, Penev L, Sautter G, Schigel D, Senderov V, Teaca A, Tsompanou M (2016) EMODnet Workshop on mechanisms and guidelines to mobilise historical data into biogeographic databases. Research Ideas and Outcomes 2: e9774. doi: 10.3897/rio.2.e9774

PostDoc Project Plan invites collaborators to study how plant lice cope with variability

While Climate change steadily takes its toll, promising to raise temperatures around the world by at least 1.5 °C within the next 100 years, organisms have already started defending their species’ existence in their own ways. Possibly, such is the case of plant lice, which evoked the curiosity of PhD student Jens Joschinski with their reproductive strategy, which shifts from sexual to asexual as the days grow shorter in the autumn.aphids

Entomologist Jens Joschinski, currently studying at the University of Würzburg, Germany, is interested in finding out to what extent this advanced reproductive strategy is affected by variable and unpredictable conditions. Do plant lice spread their risks to reduce their losses (like investors that buy hedge funds), or do they put all their eggs in one basket? If plant lice manage their risks, does this adaptation compromise fitness?

By formally publishing his research idea as a PostDoc Project Plant in the open access journal Research Ideas and Outcomes, he hopes to find fellow scientists to collaborate with, as well as a host institutions.

Plant lice reproduce asexually during summer, which means that the mother give live birth to offspring by cloning herself. Then, as the days become shorter, indicating the approaching winter, the plant lice begin to produce eggs, since only they tolerate low temperature and can overwinter. However, there is a transitional period when a fraction of the same species still produce asexual offspring, which is what made Jens Joschinski wonder if this is an intended evolutionary response to climate change.

In order to assess the link between variable climates and the transition to sexual offspring, the PhD student plans to study at least 12 plant lice clones from different environments across Europe, and induce reproductive switches under controlled laboratory conditions. Afterwards, he is to assess the fitness and the ‘cost’ of this microevolution phenomenon.

The PostDoc Project Plan is to build on Jens Joschinski’s research done as part of his doctoral thesis, which is to be submitted for publication later this year. Then, while also being trained in evolutionary biology, he concluded that the plant lice are active during the day, which explains why they suffer fitness constraints related to the shorter days.

“The intended methods leave room for collaborative side-projects beyond the study question (e.g. molecular control of photoperiodism, or sharing aphid lines from throughout Europe), so this article might be of interest to anyone working with aphids”, he points to his fellow entomologists. “In addition, I would be happy to receive feedback from experts in bet-hedging theory, phenotypic plasticity and photoperiodism.”


Original source:

Joschinski J (2016) Benefits and costs of aphid phenological bet-hedging strategies. Research Ideas and Outcomes 2: e9580. doi: 10.3897/rio.2.e9580

Additional information:

Funding was provided by the German Research Foundation (DFG), collaborative research center SFB 1047 “Insect timing“.

Open Science environment Unicorn allows researchers and decision makers to work together

Given that the most important societal needs require multidiscipli­nary collaboration between researchers and decision makers, a suitable environment has to be provided in the first place. A proposal, prepared by a Finnish consortium and published in the open access journal Research Ideas and Outcomes, suggests a new, open virtual work and modeling platform to support evidence-based decision making in a number of areas, while also abiding by the principles of openness, criticism and reuse.

The Finnish consortium, led by Prof. Pekka Neittaanmäki, University of Jyväskylä, and bringing together Timo Huttula and Janne Ropponen, Finnish Environment Institute, Juha Karvanen and Tero Tuovinen, University of Jyväskylä, Tom Frisk, Pirkanmaa Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, Jouni Tuomisto, National Institute for Health and Welfare, and Antti Simola, VATT Institute for Economic Research, acknowledge that, “it is not enough that experts push data to politicians.”

“There must be practices for mutual communication: experts must answer policy questions in a defendable and useful way; decision makers must more clearly explain their views using evidence; and there must be ICT tools to support this exchange,” the authors explain. “The focus is on end-users.”

Unicorn is to combine shared practices, tools, data, working environments and concerted actions in order to aggregate open information from multiple databases, and create tools for efficient policy studies.

The consor­­tium have already developed and tested prototypes of such practices and tools in several projects, and insist that they are now ready to apply their experience and knowledge on a larger scale. They are also certain that open data and models are deservedly the “mega trend” nowadays.

“Unicorn directs this trend to paths that are the most beneficial for societal decision making by providing quick, reliable and efficient decision support,” they say.

“Significant saving of resources will be mani­fested with improved data collection, analyses and modeling. Also, the quality and amount of assessments that can be done to support work.”

“The major challenges related to evidence-based decision making actually are about changing the practices of researchers and dec­­ision makers,” according to the authors. Therefore, they see their project as a demonstration of the needed shifts.

Although the approach is applicable in all areas, the researchers are to initially implement them in environment, human health, and regional economy, “as they are com­plex and chal­lenging enough to offer a good test bed for general development.”

Having already been submitted to the Strategic Funds of Academy of Finland in 2015, the Unicorn environment proposal has been rejected due to overambitiousness and low commercial potential. However, the authors are confident that the Unicorn environment along with its growing community of developers can, in fact, meet a great success. They are currently looking for further funding suggestions and forming new consortiums.


Original source:

Neittaanmäki P, Huttula T, Karvanen J, Frisk T, Tuomisto J, Simola A, Tuovinen T, Ropponen J (2016) Unicorn-Open science for assessing environmental state, human health and regional economy. Research Ideas and Outcomes 2: e9232. doi: 10.3897/rio.2.e9232