EarthCube-funded Team Makes Progress with Paleobiology Project Coined eODP
eODP repositories showcase an area of past ecosystems such as this collection of half a million year old planktic foraminifera from a Caribbean sediment core (Sample U1396A, 3H-5, 77-79cm). Credit: Andrew Fraass
For more than 50 years, research vessels have been collecting data from worldwide oceans - providing insight into both present and past ecosystems. While many repositories exist to house these data, it has proven challenging for some scientists to access pertinent information related to their specific research endeavors.
Andrew Fraass and his international team recently developed a unified database to help with this challenge. Fraass, principal investigator of EarthCube’s eODP (Extending Ocean Drilling Pursuits), has led the development of eODP, which is a collaborative repository encompassing information from multiple sources - both large and small.
“We are taking data from a gigantic program, called the International Ocean Discovery Program and its predecessors, and bringing it to databases with their own communities,” said Fraass, who has a dual appointment at University of Bristol as a Vice Chancellor’s Fellow and at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University as a research associate. “At the bottom of the ocean lives some of our best fossil and rock records, which hold an incredible amount of information about life, climate, and our oceans - extending back into the Jurassic.”
“Luckily, ships have been traversing the ocean for decades, taking cores to recover these records, but typically the information has been stored in diverse forms, sometimes in a few databases, but commonly excel spreadsheets, publications, and supplemental data,” continued Fraass. “Our project has built the foundation of a system to house a great deal of this information, with an eye towards making the system as scientifically useful and accessible as possible.”
According to Fraass, these records are fundamental to understanding both modern and past climate change. For example, paleobiologists have recently been examining an array of factors between past versus present climate systems and how they can boost or limit warming; meanwhile, additional scientists have been studying how evolution is affected by changes in climate. By putting these data into a more searchable and accessible form, such as eODP, scientists will be able to do broader and more integrated studies into climate and its effects on life. “I am especially excited to bring awareness and accessibility of these data to the broader geological and paleobiological communities and beyond” says Jocelyn Sessa, one of the co-PI’s on eODP, and assistant curator and assistant professor at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.
“We’re also working with FlyOverCountry, a popular app that presents geological and fossil information to iOS and Android devices,” said Fraass. “A group of researchers - as well as students - at Texas A&M have been working on these efforts while others from Drexel University and the University of Wisconsin have been working with Whirl-i-gig, one of our developer teams on making eODP as user-friendly as possible.”
eODP also had several undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Drexel, the University of Bristol, and Texas A&M assisting with the project.
“Most paleoceanographers generally don’t work with large databases, as we’re still primarily keeping our data in individual data repositories, so EarthCube funding is opening up a new avenue for our research,” concluded Fraass. “I know the community has been clamoring for the possibility to do more summative analysis easily!”
The eODP project, funded through the National Science Foundation’s EarthCube award 1928362, seeks to facilitate access to and visualization of these large microfossil and stratigraphic datasets. To achieve these goals, eODP will be linking and enhancing two existing database structures: the Paleobiology Database (PBDB) and Macrostrat. eODP aims to accomplish the following goals: (1) enable construction of sediment-grounded and flexible age models in an environment that encompasses the deep-sea and continental records; (2) expand existing lithology and age model construction approaches in this integrated offshore-onshore stratigraphically-focused environment; (3) adapt key microfossil data into the PBDB data model from OCD; (4) develop new API-driven web user interfaces for easily discovering and acquiring data; and (5) establish user working groups for community input and feedback. This project is targeting shipboard drilling-derived data, but the infrastructure will be put in place to allow the addition of other shore-based information. The success of eODP hinges upon interaction, feedback, and contribution of the scientific ocean drilling community, and we invite anyone interested in participating in this project to join the eODP team.
eODP collaborators examine a sediment core at the International Ocean Discovery Program facilities at Texas A&M in College Station, Texas. Participants are, from R to L; Leah LeVay, Reed McEwan, Shanan Peters (front), Brian Huber (rear), Brian LeVay, Seth Kaufman, Jocelyn Sessa, Daven Quinn. Credit: Andrew Fraass
EarthCube is a community-driven activity sponsored by the National Science Foundation to transform research in the academic geosciences community. EarthCube aims to create a well-connected environment to share data and knowledge in an open, transparent, and inclusive manner, thus accelerating our ability to better understand and predict the Earth’s systems. EarthCube membership is free and open to anyone in the Geosciences, as well as those building platforms to serve the Earth Sciences. The EarthCube Office is led by the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) on the UC San Diego campus.
Kimberly Mann Bruch, San Diego Supercomputer Center Communications, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lynne Schreiber, San Diego Supercomputer Center EarthCube Office, email@example.com
San Diego Supercomputer Center: https://www.sdsc.edu/
UC San Diego: https://ucsd.edu/
National Science Foundation: https://www.nsf.gov/