Databases for Collaborative Ecology Research,
Role of the Internet in the Canopy Science Database

Judy Cushing
The Evergreen State College


Scientific collaboratories -- virtual places where scientists collaborate over the internet -- have received much interest recently, with the current pervasive use of internet by scientists and strong pressure on scientists to collaborate across disciplines and institutions to addres pressing problems. However, scientific inquiry rests strongly on data, and unless collaboratories have underlying common "data ground" on which to collaborate, posting datasets on the internet (while certainly helpful) will still be time consuming.

I have been working with canopy scientists to build databases that can be used for collaborative work. Our vision is to build databases of structure information and for particular shared research sites that can be made available to the community both for incluson in function studies and for further structual data. The internet plays a powerful role here for the scientists, as it is the medium by which we hope to help scientists download database tools and templates that will help them build common ground for structure-function studies. We have built two web-accessible information sources: 1) data profiles for the DOE Western Region Global Environmental Change Project researchers working at the Wind River Canopy Crane Research Facility, and 2) a metadata registry system (in informix, with their web datablade), based on the H.J.Andrews Long Term Ecological Research Site metadata design. This work has led to the proposal for the canopy database project described above.


Judith Bayard Cushing came to the Evergreen Faculty in 1982, after 13 years working in various capacities as an information systems software engineer for both large companies such as IBM and TI, small startup ventures, state and national government, and universities. She thus has extensive experience in a wide range of software engineering endeavors. She designed Evergreen's year-long, full time undergraduate software engineering curriculum and has taught it every other year since she came to the college (with the exception of her four-year research leave). The program "Student Originated Software" incorporates object technology and recent computer science research results into its team-oriented project-based curriculum; its graduates are sought after by "those in the know" in Seattle and Portland's high-tech industry.

For 1989 through 1994, she was in residence at the Oregon Graduate Institute (OGI). There she worked with David Maier on how object technology could be used to support interoperability for high performance scientific applications (ab initio computational chemistry), research that was joint with the Environmental and Molecular Science Laboratory at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). She earned her Ph.D. in 1995 from OGI.

Since returning to Evergreen, she started up a scientific database laboratory and has continued to teach the software engineering curriculum. The "Evergreen SciDBLab" aims, not only to conduct meaningful research towards improving the usability of databases and application interoperability in the sciences, but also to raise the level of undergraduate software "capstone" development projects. Domains of activity in the lab have included molecular biology, and geology and environmental science. The lab has ongoing collaborations with scientists and computer scientists at PNNL, OGI, University of Washington and University of Oregon.