Making climate and biodiversity models accessibile

Making climate and biodiversity models accessibile

About the project

QRIScloud helps Dr Jeremy VanDerWal make climate and biodiversity models accessible. 

Dr Jeremy VanDerWal at James Cook University’s Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change, creates models to study how climate change will affect bird and animal populations in Australia and around the world.

QRIScloud has helped him make these interactive models available to researchers globally, to conservation managers and decision makers, and to the general public.

One initiative is Edgar, which combines climate modelling with bird observation records from the Atlas of Living Australia to allow users to explore how climate change will affect bird populations. Birdwatchers and other experts can add information to improve the accuracy of the projections.

CliMAS, a second initiative, lets visitors examine current patterns of Australian vertebrate species and how models project biodiversity to change in the future. The Wallace Initiative provides similar information for species worldwide.

Until recently, Dr VanDerWal struggled both in using the tools and data himself, and in making them available to others who could benefit from them.

One issue was finding enough storage space on live disk. The response time using tape storage made the data intensive map tools unusable. 

Another issue was making the tools and data publicly accessible. Previously Dr VanDerWal was using high performance computing facilities at JCU to run the models. This worked for his own research, but he was not able to expose them outside of the university firewall.

“I started working more with the eResearch Centre at JCU, and I asked them how I could make this data available to others,” says Dr VanDerWal.

“They told me, we can’t with this system because it's behind firewalls. So I started having to compress my data, minimising what I could show out there and putting it on external servers.

“ANDS, the Australian National Data Service, heard about what I was trying to do, and they funded me to create a robust version of Edgar. But we quickly found out storage was going to be limiting.

“At the same time, QRIScloud was coming online, and with the help of QCIF and the eResearch Centre here we migrated to QRIScloud storage and the NeCTAR Research Cloud so that we could make these services available.

“It’s been a progression of working closely with the eResearch Centre and continuing to expand what I do. Marianne Brown from QCIF and Wayne Mallet from JCU have made the whole process painless for me."

Interest is growing rapidly in the tools and data since they have become publicly available. Dr VanDerWal has developed several new collaborations with researchers who want to use the underlying climate data that is now accessible.

The Australian Government’s Natural Resource Management Regions (NRMs) are also keen users of CliMAS.

“The adaptation plans they have to put in place need to include information about how climate change is going to impact biodiversity in their regions. I’ve spoken with a few NRMs and they love CliMAS,” Dr VanDerWal says.

"It lets them generate reports about how climate is going to change in their region and how biodiversity is going to change—how many species they’re going to lose, how many they might gain—and it’s in plain English. CliMAS is now informing which species are prioritised for conservation action in their regions."

A group of eight of the NRMs have found it so beneficial they are funding Dr VanDerWal’s group to extend CliMAS to include fresh water species information.

With QRIScloud storage and the Australian Research Cloud from NeCTAR, Dr VanDerWal can continue to expand his research and collaborations in understanding how climate change will affect species populations.

“Previously my thinking was limited by the small amount of storage and computing that was available to me. I always had to summarise down and minimise the data,” he says.

“I don’t have to do that now. I don’t have to worry about the live disk limitation or the compute resources. Now I can focus on how I can make the sites more effective for people to use. I can keep doing the research as I’d like to see it be done."

Published in Case Studies
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About QRIScloud

QRIScloud is a large-scale cloud computing and data storage service.  It is aimed at stimulating and accelerating research use of computing across all disciplines. 

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