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Vol. 1, No. 2 December, 2002
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This newsletter and the Mangrove Biocomplexity project are made possible in part by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 99-81309.
How much data would a data manager manage if a data manager could get your data?

Who is my NSF Project Officer?

Enquiring PIs want to know.
Recently, we have had the need to contact NSF in order to see what needs to be done in order to support the EASy project using project funds. The University of Illinois, at least, claims that since no Software Development was specified in the budget, special dispensation will be needed. Joanne Roskowski has, however, left DEB, making contact difficult, and I guess I am just not good enough at FastLane or the NSF page to find the answer. So... in case you are similarly impaired, I have now received word from NSF that our officers are Nancy Tuchman and Knute Nadelhoffer. Here is Tuchman's contact information:

Nancy C. Tuchman, Program Director
Ecosystem Studies Program
Division of Environmental Biology
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Blvd, rm 640
Arlington, VA 22230

phone: (703)-292-8061
fax: (800)-292-8980
LAFAYETTE – Last month, John Cheeseman became the data manager for the mangrove biocomplexity project. “I must admit, I was frustrated,” he/I said, “and perhaps I spoke a bit compulsively when I volunteered… sort of like Marilyn Fogel volunteering to weigh all the snails on Twin Cays.”
    Nevertheless, this is a part of the project in which Cheeseman truly believes. Data, to him/me are much more than simple steps on the way to writing a paper. They are the treasure trove from which the long sought “emergent properties”, or at least the explanations for them, will, well, emerge.
    And, he/I continued, they are much more than excel spreadsheets labeled “metadata tables of contents.” In fact, if done right, the TOCs are the last thing that should come of it. Metadata, he explained again, are simply the explanation of what is in a data set, how it got there and how to get it out. The real problem every time is the data sets themselves.
    So if data management is not just a matter of satisfying some legal mandate, it if is really part of science, how should we go about it?
    “Good question,” he/I said. “First, I need your data.” Knowing that right there he/I risked asking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, I/he explained, “In order for me to help you figure out what metadata is for your data set, and in order for your data set to be useful to anyone – especially you – 5 years from now, it has to be clean, complete and orderly. Looking at my own notebooks, I know that is not a simple request, so I want to help you through the process.”
    “Based on what I have seen so far,” I/he continued, “it isn’t all that simple. Without poking fingers at Texans or anyone,” … he gave an example.
    “One data set that was shared with me, and I admit it wasn’t for the purpose of archiving, but it is an example, was an excel spreadsheet. The columns were unlabeled. The ones that contained the GPS data were so mixed they were useless. Some were deg,min,sec.xx format. Some entries were just the seconds. Some were just the .xx part. Some were just waypoint numbers with no cross references. There were at least 10 embedded graphs on one sheet with no axis labels or titles. Clearly, this was a sheet that was being used by its creator, but it would be useless, even to her, in a short time.”
EASy developers provide answers
Jacobson no longer to be targeted for extraneous quotes

With the mangrovellers being asked to support software development of a new GIS visualization program, the Erratic Crab thought it was time to ask some direct questions of the developers. Dale Kiefer, the lead program developer, had this to say last week:

EC - So, tell me... what is EASy... Like, you know, why is it spelled so funny, and what does the name mean?
DK - EASy stands for Environmental Analysis System...the y is small because it is not the first letter of a name.

EC - What is EASy for? What can we expect it to do?
DK - It is a geographic information system, a means of producing interactively maps and other graphics of diverse types of environmental data. The software can be run on a PC under Windows operating systems, and it can also be run remotely using Internet Explorer. It will provide a home for the data produced by your product and the tools to visualize and communicate your data/information.

EC - Cool. What kinds of hoops do I have to jump through to put my data in the right form for this?
DK - It isn't that hard, and that is key. In order to do thisEASy requires 7 fields of information (latitude, longitude, depth (height), time, measurement name (e.g. temperature, nitrate),measurement value, and measurement units. This information can be imported into EASy from spreadsheets, relational databases, ASCII files, and imagery.

Columns and Features
Mangrove progapules stand up for themselves!
Rhizophora propagules fall from the trees and impale themselves in the mud. So, what happens when the poor babies miss?
How do they do that?
Mandy Joye and Rosalynn Lee make measurements of photosynthesis on the microbial mat. This article is the first in a series (hopefully) explaining, in terms the editor can understand, what we do and how. continued...

Such an incredible treasure trove of information!
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