Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Training Prepares Visitors from South Africa and Rwanda to Open the First World Data Center in Africa

From February 23 to March 6, 2009, the NBII conducted a biological informatics infrastructure training course for eleven participants from South Africa and Rwanda at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Headquarters in Reston, VA. The primary objective of the training was to provide participants with the data, information, and technical knowledge needed to begin to develop and implement the first World Data Center (WDC) in Africa, the International Council for Science’s (ICSU) sponsored World Data Center for Biodiversity and Human Health (WDC-BHH). Participants included experts in biodiversity and informatics from the following organizations: South African National Research Foundation (NRF; host for the new WDC-BHH), South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON/NRF), University of Pretoria, South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), University of Rwanda, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, and Rwandan Institute of Scientific and Technological Research. The first week of training was designed to expose participants to a wide range of topics, including informatics, spatial data management, biodiversity, ecology, and wildlife human health. Presentations were made by representatives from a variety of organizations, including the NBII. Among the presenters was Roger Sayre from the USGS’s Geographic Analysis and Monitoring Program (GAM), who presented some of the latest geospatial data sets of the African continent as well as a new initiative to map the ecosystems of all of Africa. Another presenter was Cris Marsh of the NBII Wildlife Disease Information Node, who offered an in depth look at obtaining and making available national and global wildlife and zoonotic disease information. Mark Becker of Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network’s(CIESIN) WDC for Human Interactions in the Environment introduced participants to a wide array of Africa-specific geospatial and associated human health data and initiatives. During one of the two course-associated field trips, participants visited the National Library of Congress, where they received a behind-the-scenes tour that included observing the latest document digitization techniques and east African collections. Additional technical subjects covered during the first week of training included: biological informatics; infrastructure design, maintenance, and support; data standards, collection, processing, integration, and security; biodiversity; ecology; conservation management; pollinators; and invasive species. These additional topics were presented by experts from the following organizations: NBII (i.e., Invasive Species Information and Infrastructure Nodes and Digital Image Library), Gap Analysis Program, Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), WDC for Biodiversity and Ecology (hosted by the NBII); Smithsonian Institution; Encyclopedia of Life; Catalog of Life; and Barcode of Life. The second week of training included a three-day hands-on workshop on metadata standards and creation, including a train-the-trainer component, which was conducted by experts from the NBII and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). According to participants, the experience was invaluable, particularly in relation to lessons learned in the execution of biological informatics programs. As stated by Heila Pienaar of the University of Pretoria, “Although I’ve had a good grasp of data management, I still experienced specific gaps in terms of implementation. The two week training course at the USGS filled those gaps very adequately.” For more information on the WDC-BHH or the informatics training, contact Christine Fournier or Thomas Hermann.

(Photo: Participants in the biological informatics infrastructure training course, including trainees from South Africa and Rwanda and the metadata instructors.)


Post a Comment