eAtlas extension: Data management for environmental research

Eric Lawrey

Led by: Dr Eric Lawrey, AIMS


Project Summary

The eAtlas is a web-based knowledge and data management system for environmental research data. Its systems ensure that data is discoverable, publicly accessible and preserved for the future. The eAtlas is the primary data repository for the NESP TWQ hub and in this project we will continue working with all NESP TWQ projects to ensure their research data outputs are preserved, documented and made publically accessible via the eAtlas.

This project will also work closely with the GBRMPA: Reef knowledge team on the development of a prototype information delivery system for the Reef 2050 Integrated Monitoring and Reporting Program (RIMReP).


Project Publications






Project Description


Much of science is built on the foundation of the prior work of others and this requires reusing datasets. In environmental research much of the data collected now represents an important baseline for the future. With a rapidly changing environment due to climate change it is often not possible to recapture data. It is therefore vital that we ensure that data developed by the NESP TWQ projects is preserved for the future and made readily available for reuse by management and future researchers.

Having access to the best available scientific research and monitoring data is vital for evidence based environmental management. Unfortunately managers often don’t have ready access to this information in a form suited to question at hand. Often research project results only provide a small piece of the puzzle and monitoring results are not available in an accessible manner.

How Research Addresses Problem

This project addresses these problems by assisting and supporting the NESP TWQ research projects with their data management, public delivery and permanent archiving of their new data products and by working with environmental management agencies to develop improved information systems that integrate monitoring, research and reference information together.

Outputs of existing NESP 2.3.5 project:

During the last 2.5 years the NESP TWQ 2.3.5 project team have worked with each of the existing NESP TWQ projects to have one-on-one data management discussions, assist them in the development of data management plans, coordinate the collection of photos from projects and publish completed project datasets on the eAtlas. Each dataset is subjected to an editorial review to ensure that they are sufficiently documented to enable their reuse by others. Submitted spatial datasets are visualised and made publicly available via the eAtlas mapping system allowing end users to quickly access the scope of these datasets. The eAtlas now contains over 3,600 map layers, 220 datasets, 2,700 photos and 100 articles, forming an extensive library of reference and research data.

The eAtlas team has also worked with the Australian Ocean Data Network team to establish a process for making relevant NESP content available via the AODN portal.

Outcomes of existing NESP 2.3.5 project:

Through the efforts of the eAtlas team the data management of all NESP TWQ hub projects has been integrated much earlier into their project life cycle, as compared with previous research programs (MTSRF and NERP TE). This ensures that all projects clearly understand the program expectations on data management and will ensure that all valuable datasets produced by the program are captured, preserved and accessible. The eAtlas project provides the infrastructure and support needed to ensure that NESP TWQ hub projects meet the NESP Data Management Guidelines.

The accumulated content on the eAtlas continues to be used broadly by the public, the science community and environmental management. For the 2017 calendar year there were over 120,000 visitor sessions and 240,000 page views to the site.

During the 2 year extension we will:

Hub data management and publication

Continue to provide data management support and publication services for all NESP TWQ projects. This includes:

  • Working with researchers to assist them with meeting the NESP data management guidelines. Coordinate project milestone submissions to the eAtlas.
  • Ensuring that NESP TWQ data products submitted to the eAtlas are discoverable and publicly accessible. In addition to public delivery the datasets are preserved in a archival curated data library.
  • Providing an editorial quality control process on all data submissions to ensure that published data and associated documentation is of the highest quality.
  • Visualizing spatial datasets through the eAtlas mapping system so they can be viewed in relation with existing data in the eAtlas catalogue. This allows their immediate use by management and researchers without any specialized desktop GIS software.
  • Ensuring the eAtlas integrates with national data management initiatives such as Australian Ocean Data Network, Research Data Australia.

Support the development of the RIMReP information portal prototype

GBRMPA is developing a prototype information portal that integrates the data and information needs of RIMReP. In this project we will work in collaboration with GBRMPA to provide technical and design assistance in the development of this prototype. We will assist by developing design mockups, data preparation and prototype elements of the site utilising existing capabilities of the eAtlas platform combined with work from a range of additional information processing and visualisation projects including the Australian Marine Parks Science Atlas (with Parks Australia), the GBRF Reef Resilience Program, the Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership Report Card System and the AIMS eReefs visualisation portal.

The goal of this work is to assist in the design process, not to produce a final implementation of the system or for the design to be tied to any particular technology. The aim is to help ensure that the design elements work well and that the GBRMPA team has additional access to technical support in the development of the prototype.

By utilising and adapting a mashup of existing technologies this will allow a cost efficient development of elements of the prototype site.

The long term benefits of this collaboration are that the RIMReP information portal prototype can draw upon a more diverse set of technologies to implement the information needs of the RIMReP community and lessons learnt in this process will inform future eAtlas developments and help determine how NESP TWQ project content can best be presented in a form that integrates with environmental management agency requirements. It will help ensure that these two activities (eAtlas and RIMReP information portal) are complementary.

This component of the project represents only approximately 20% of the total project.

Related prior research

  • NESP TWQ 2.3.5 eAtlas – Data Management for environmental research (NESP TWQ)
  • eReefs: Routine Indicators and Trends (GBRF)
  • GBRF Reef Resilience Program – Web Integration Portal
  • ISP-009: Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership Data and Information Management System. (GHHP)
  • Australian Marine Parks Science Atlas (Parks Australia)

eAtlas long term support

AIMS has made a commitment to maintain and host the eAtlas and its content in the future as a valuable data repository for the community. This commitment ensures that the eAtlas will remain operational after NESP should no further external funding be sourced. Future external projects will however be needed to support advancing the platform and help ensure the systems remain modern and integrated with new and changing state and national data platforms.

Supporting with external data initiatives

The goal of the eAtlas is to curate research data and make it broadly available in various forms. As such a key goal of the project is to ensure that state and national data initiatives are supported by ensuring appropriate content and services are made available in a form that is compatible with these initiatives. This project will continue to work with the Australian Ocean Data Network and Research Data Australia to make eAtlas data and metadata available to these services. We will also work closely with GBRMPA to ensure that relevant eAtlas content is prepared in a manner suitable for integration with RIMReP and with data initiatives of the OGBR.


NESP 2017 Research Priority Alignment

The Hub data management component of this project provides support for all the hub projects and is not a research project in itself. This component facilitates each of the hub projects meeting the NESP Data Management Guidelines.

Supporting the development of the RIMReP information portal will lead to the design of new ways of combining, displaying and communicating existing indicator and monitoring programme results. This work aligns with the priority 3.3 of the NESP research priorities for 2017:

Combine existing indicators and monitoring programmes to develop a cost-effective integrated monitoring programme to support natural resource management, evaluate results and communicate trends (3.3).


Project Keywords

Data management; Metadata; Knowledge systems; Mapping; Data access.


Project Funding

This project is jointly funded through AIMS and the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Program.