Environmental Informatics

Lead Research Organisation: NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology


Over the next five years CEH will deliver its strategy, Meeting the Challenges of Environmental Change, by Science Areas underpinned by Monitoring & Observation Systems and Environmental Informatics, through Business and Policy Innovation, and Public Engagement. Understanding today’s environmental challenges requires the marshalling of world-wide information and data. Scientific, commercial and societal objectives depend on high quality data and analysis tools. CEH has decades of experience in collection, analysis and dissemination of environmental information. We possess unique long-term, large-scale datasets that describe the state of the environment and, together with modelling expertise, help to predict the future. CEH’s Environmental Information Data Centre (EIDC) works with the terrestrial and freshwater sciences community to ensure these datasets are secure and accessible. Alongside our data management role, we are continually advancing our informatics capabilities to address major societal and environmental issues. CEH’s standing as a world-class research centre requires world-class environmental information services. Such services support integrated analysis and assessment of environmental issues through access to high quality data and informatics tools. CEH has developed discipline-leading data management capabilities through its Environmental Information Data Centre (EIDC). Building on this, Environmental Informatics activities will underpin CEH’s science excellence and impact by increasing capability to exploit available information and data.


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Wood C (2016) Ecological survey of the native pinewoods of Scotland 1971 in Earth System Science Data

Description Update March 2020
The infrastructure developed for the data centre now forms part of the NERC Environmental Data Service led from NCAS Leeds.
Update March 2017
Developments over the last year have focussed on delivering the role of the Environmental Informatics Data Centre (the NERC data centre for the Terrestrial and Freshwater Sciences) and building infrastructure for users to access datasets and tools through the CEH Environmental Information Platform. We are have been putting in place data infrastructure for support environmental sensor networks.

For further info See Narrative Impact
Exploitation Route See Narrative Impact
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Energy,Environment,Transport

URL https://eidc.ac.uk/
Description Environmental Informatics 1. Research highlights (31/10/14) 1.1 Highlight 1 - Promoting access to data through external portals CEH created the new UKEOF Environmental Observation Activity Catalogue, which was launched in April 2014. Users can access over 1000 records of environmental observation activities undertaken and funded by public and third sector organisations. The EOF is the national catalogue for monitoring and observations in the UK. CEH is now leading work on the NERC Environmental Research Workbench, a £1M development. This will allow scientists access to large compute and storage facilities in the cloud through an easy to use interface for scientists to access a range of cloud based tools, models and data to carry out their research. CEH and partners delivered 3 major web-based platforms for data and information delivery: the South West Portal, the UK Soils Observatory and the UK Environmental Observation Forum monitoring catalogue. At the South West portal launch in May 2014, CEH together with BGS presented new data products to benefit the economy, businesses and the environment in South West England. The event attracted around 100 stakeholders including the local mining industry, independent surveyors and environmental consultancies, local councils, archaeologists, nature conservation agencies and universities. The project was a partnership of the BGS, CEH, BAS and University of Exeter Camborne School of Mines. CEH delivered a set of new data products and surveys including LiDAR Digital Terrain and Surface Model, new indicator of ecological status using volunteer-collected species records and changes in soil characteristics over the past 30 years. The UK Soil Observatory was launched by CEH & BGS working with other research bodies across the UK jointly. This provides a focus for accessing UK soils data, both free and commercial for novel research, public and private decision making and general interest groups. It has been shortlisted for the AGI Award for Excellence with Impact for 2014. 1.2 Highlight 2 - Supporting the Terrestrial and Freshwater Research Community CEH continues to deliver the Environmental Information Data Centre (EIDC), the NERC Data Centre for the Terrestrial & Freshwater Sciences, providing secure storage and access for datasets generated through CEH's own activities and those of NERC funded projects run from HEIs. EIDC is now the lead data centre for NERC programmes including BESS, MNC and Human Tropical Forest. There are over 3000 users registered to download datasets from EIDC; the most popular datasets relate to Land Cover Map, but a new entry to the top 10 is the LiDAR based Digital Terrain Model data for SW England developed for the SW Tellus project (see highlight 1). CEH has the 9th highest number of published datasets of the 1221 publishers on data.gov.uk. New datasets are now published on social networking sites via the EIDC Twitter account (@CEH_EIDC), and the EIDC Hub homepage has been reworked to showcase new datasets (see image). NERC/TSB Call - Solving Problems with Environmental Data call. 11 of the 33 successful bids in the £4M call will use data held by CEH. Two of the projects involving CEH staff have developed sufficiently as feasibility studies that they are now looking at the next step of how to move to market CEH is taking in active part in the international community developing approaches to Data Citation. CEH has been working with the wider community in data citation (e.g DataCite, Research Data Alliance, Thomson Reuters, Nature Data, Elsevier). CEH staff ran a workshop on this issue at the British Library for Research Data Alliance (RDA) and the report was presented at the RDA plenary meeting in Amsterdam. The report has been influential within the RDA and members of the dynamic data citation working group will be following a similar approach in the USA, China Australia and France. 1.3 Highlight 3 - Developing new tools for working with data CEH staff are currently working on a variety of activities to enable users to access datasets and models and carry out analysis workflows. The Ecomaps tool uses statistical model-based approach to enable researchers and policy makers to produce maps of state and trend in natural capital. The initial development is a Web application producing 1 km datasets and maps. It has delivered output datasets for the UK Soils Observatory and the SouthWest Portal, and will be particularly valuable for generating maps based on monitoring data for the current Glastir Monitoring and Evaluation Programme and the next Countryside Survey. The methods and maps proposed are described in a paper published in Ecography . The Ecomaps approach was presented to the Annual Meeting on Analysis and Experimentation on Ecosystems (ANAEE) in Antwerp, and received broad interest as a tool for EC Member States to meet requirements to report on Ecosystem Services. It will be presented at the Natural Capital Initiative summit "Valuing our Life Support Systems 2014" in London. The new CEH Land Water Information System (LWIS) portal will enable a series of themed portals, applications, models and tools including Ecomaps. For example an application has been built on web-services which provides access to drought statistics for regular or expert users. This would provide information to the public as well as to expert users such as the Environment Agency, Defra and water companies. This is underpinned by a new Gridded Data Store that enables users to easily manipulate, transform and select sub-sets of gridded datasets. CEH has been developing its linked data capabilities; CEH staff have developed a thesaurus for environmental datasets and implemented it within a Laboratory Information Management System to enable automated tagging of environmental chemistry data, thus enabling interoperability between tagged data. This was published in the journal Earth Science Informatics . Other linked data developments are being taken forward with NERC partners, particularly BODC and BGS, including development of a NERC prototype for data discovery using linked data approaches to identify where common environmental phenomena have been measured. Proposals for building a linked data model for tagging environmental datasets have been made to LTER Europe and included in an H2020 bid. CEH linked data developments were presented at the EXPEER conference in Paris, and collaborative developments with Cardiff University will be presented at a BioVeL meeting on implementation of LifeWatch biodiversity research needs, also in Paris, in November. 2016-17 Update A visualisation portal has been produced to present the results of hydrological climate predictions across Europe for the Copernicus EdGE programme. This has enabled users to browse many millions of data point easily and compare the strengths and weaknesses of different climate modelling scenarios to provide long term projections for water management and planning. This was demonstrated at the COP22 in Marrakesh. The Atmosphere portal provided by the Environmental Information Platform (http://eip.ceh.ac.uk ) provides visualisation tools to explore the daily data of 12 pollutants produced by the EMEP4UK modelling framework. EMEP4UK is an atmospheric transport model that simulates the composition of pollutants over time. It is used to underpin research and develop policy through the UNECE convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution. 2017-18 Update Virtual data labs have been piloted using STFC JASMIN computing cloud to provide greater access to EIDC environmental data alongside analytical tools and computing capacity from the STFC facilities. This development is designed to lower the barriers for environmental scientists to use HPC and large-scale data facilities to produce innovative new analytical methods. These pilots have developed new methods for national scale mapping of land cover and biodiversity trends in the UK over the past 20 years.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Environment
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic

Title CEH Data Catalogue 
Description The CEH Data Catalogue enables users to easily search and download data holdings of CEH and the Environmental Information Data Centre, including datasets and models from terrestrial and freshwater research. It includes sufficient metadata to reuse datasets and enables DOIs to be issued for datasets. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact Over 5000 active users of the catalogue to find and download datasets. 
URL https://catalogue.ceh.ac.uk/documents
Title CEH Environmental Informatics Platform 
Description The Environmental Information Platform provides enhanced access to CEH's key data holdings via web-based tools, programming interfaces and a data catalogue. It enables users to visualise and interrogate the diverse environmental datasets held by CEH. The infrastructure behind the EIP enables rapid development of portals and web tools designed for specific user needs. Current portals include: UK Rainfall, Ecological Status Viewer, Drought portal, Land cover mapping, CHESS explorer and the UK Lake Portal. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact The use of a standard infrastructure framework has saved costs and enabled rapid development of web tools and portals for specific user needs. 
URL https://eip.ceh.ac.uk/
Title Drought Portal 
Description The drought portal enables users to explore over 50 years of drought statistics for the UK. It can help understand the severity and magnitude of drought at different spatial scales across the UK over the past half century. Droughts can be visualised and explored through interactive maps and graphs. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact Datasets are freely available for research purposes and the web tools make them easy to understand and analyse. 
URL https://eip.ceh.ac.uk/droughts
Title Ecological Status Viewer 
Description The Ecological Status Viewer enables users to explore the Ecological Status of Great Britain's 10km squares. Users can select an environmental zone from a map tool and view a measure of ecological status for the 10km square. Ecological Status is a biodiversity index developed by the Biological Records Centre from national plant and animal observations. It is calculated for each 10km square of Great Britain and is relative to the Environmental Zone that that square occurs in. An Environmental Zone is a region of broadly similar environmental characteristics and is used here to control for non-biological factors that affect biodiversity (e.g. geology and climate). 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact Enables simple access to simple summary information built on citizen science. 
URL https://eip.ceh.ac.uk/apps/ecostatus/
Title UK Lakes Portal 
Description The UK Lakes Portal is a new online gateway to discover the lakes of the United Kingdom, linking data from many institutions into one national hub. With more than 40,000 lakes represented, a third of those with detailed information on their catchments, the scale of this new portal hosted by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology is unprecedented for freshwater research in the UK. The portal includes physical, environmental, and water chemistry data compiled from an extensive set of sources over many years. In addition, integration with the National Biodiversity Network displays biology data, while anyone can observe and record species observations at any lake in the UK, using iRecord to contribute new information. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact Professor Rosie Hails, Director of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Science at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, said,"The UK Lakes Portal is a product of excellent collaboration between the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, University College London and the UK conservation and environment agencies. This is one of many natural capital portals that we hope to develop in the future as an evidence base to support policy and decision making." 
URL https://eip.ceh.ac.uk/apps/lakes/