The Wallace Initiative: influencing climate change policy

The Wallace Initiative: influencing climate change policy

About the project

QRIScloud’s fast and accessible data storage is making a positive difference to a global climate change research project involving Queensland’s James Cook University.

The Wallace Initiative, named after ecologist Alfred Russell Wallace, is investigating which areas, species and crops are likely to be the most and least affected by climate change in the future.

The project involves researchers from JCU, Sydney’s Macquarie University and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at England’s University of East Anglia.

Associate Professor Jeremy VanDerWal has taken advantage of the 1.3 petabytes of QRIScloud storage allocated to JCU’s Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change.

Over the last two months, he and his research team have generated more than 800 TB of data consisting of climate change impact models for more than 90,000 species globally at a 20km resolution given nine greenhouse gas emission scenarios.

The Wallace data helped QRIScloud’s Townsville node hit a milestone in late October 2015 with 1 PB of collections data ingested.

The QRIScloud Townsville team—Prof Ian Atkinson, Jay van Schyndel and Wayne Mallett—worked closely with researchers, such as Dr VanDerWal, to accelerate the data ingest in the Townsville Tropical Hub node.

Dr VanDerWal says, “The Wallace Initiative started six years ago but for the first version, we were limited by storage capacity. With QRIScloud we can now do the research as we want to do it.”

Before using QRIScloud, much of the data was offline on tape. “It was painful to interrogate the data—it could take 30 seconds to 30 minutes to retrieve a file—and we weren’t getting uptake with it by other researchers. We had to have everything so compressed and store a reduced subset of the model outputs,” says Dr VanDerWal.

QRIScloud involves live disk storage, not tape files: “The speed is a huge benefit for us, we’ve got immediate access to everything. The ease of access has made it 1,000 times better. All of my JCU team and external colleagues can run different analyses and access the data all at the same time—it has that capacity.”

“We’re starting to see an increased interest and uptake by other researchers of this data. We’ve got more people interrogating this data in novel ways and interpreting the outputs in new ways. This is what this data is fit for—it’s now a resource we can be mining information from.”

Wallace Initiative researchers plan to produce eight papers based on the data over the next year, as well as a number of policy reports, including for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

While this data is only two months old, QRIScloud supported JCU’s climate change research outputs that have influenced Queensland Government policy and on-ground actions that are protecting biodiversity resources for the future.

For Dr VanDerWal, reaching new audiences and impacting policy is the most exciting aspect of this research. “That’s where I see the benefits, going beyond Australia and trying to influence policy globally. I’m passionate about that—influencing how people see climate change.”

Published in Case Studies
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