The Quest to Find the Ring (Data)
Abstract:There are many reasons why “Dark Data” needs to be brought into the light. Sometimes a scientist embarking on a research project in a particular area needs access to any and all data (ecological and environmental) that have been recorded from that area previously. This is especially true for studies of the impact of climate change on ocean community biogeography and biodiversity. Recent work in the Slope Water south of New England and in the Red Sea to study the distribution and abundance of euphausiids (krill) in these distinctly different habitats stimulated the need to “rescue” data collected in the 1970’s and 1980’s during multidisciplinary projects to study Gulf Stream rings in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean.
A number of volumes of papers resulted from those studies, but the original biological and ecological data about which the papers were written are unavailable digitally online. Residing primarily in notebooks in a back room and on Commodore computer disks in a box, these data can be truly considered 'dark'. Digitizing them is a massive data rescue effort that has initially involved zooplankton tow metadata, animal counts, and biomass from 312 tows (most with multiple sample depths) deployed during 35 cruises in the 1970s and 1980s.
The data are being uncovered and extracted from cruise and laboratory notebooks and related documents, and, working closely with data managers from the Biological and Chemical Oceanography Data Management Office (BCO-DMO), they are being transcribed by hand into a spreadsheet in a format that will be easily servable online. Associated data, like volumes filtered that enable the raw animal count data to be useful, and other biological data derived from the samples such as biovolumes, are also being digitized. This data rescue will expand to include a compilation of the associated environmental and ecological data, including temperature, salinity, and nutrients (CTDs and bottle samples) from the cruises as well. The final product will be one or more data publications, complete with digital object identifiers (doi).
The vast majority of this rescue effort is being done by one of the original projects' Principal Investigators (always a bonus), and we will present details of the recovery project, including successful strategies that have accomplished the results to date.