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“Biological field stations represent the premier facilities in North America where the most pressing environmental challenges facing science and society can be directly confronted and understood through research and education” (Michener, 2002).

The multidisciplinary research performed at NRS sites, along with species inventories, and monitoring data, contributes information valuable to the sound long-term management, protection, and use of our natural resources. Such information, when pooled with that from many other sites, helps to assess the health of our planet’s ecosystems.

The NRS maintains a bibliographic database [http://www.ucnrs.org] and a metadata database, or Data Registry at [http://knb.ecoinformatics.org/knb/style/skins/nrs/index.html], which can also be accessed through [http://www.ucnrs.org]. The latter is a cooperative effort of the University of California's Natural Reserve System, and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS). The Data Registry is based on software developed by the Knowledge Network for Biocomplexity (KNB), and houses metadata that are compliant with Ecological Metadata Language (EML) [http://knb.ecoinformatics.org/software/eml/].

These databases are particularly valuable resources for current users of the NRS and for the scientific community at large. The information they contain is essential for the management of the NRS. They also provide critical documentation needed to assure continued University and extramural support for the NRS, so that the reserves will continue to be available in the future to users from within UC and elsewhere.

Why Share Information and Data at Field Stations?

The NRS is the world’s largest, organized set of University field stations. Hundreds of ecological data sets reside at NRS sites but are often difficult to find. As emphasized above, the goal of creating bibliographic and metadata databases is to help make the information from studies done at NRS field stations available to the scientific community and to policy makers.

Data management is fundamental to the continued existence of field stations. For example, ecological data can be used to answer many of the most pressing issues of our time. Policy makers want information on ecological problems: how serious, how certain and how soon? Field stations are in a unique position to provide answers to many questions, but only if we can compare our current situation to the past. Some of the pressing issues that can be addressed with information from field stations include documenting declines in species diversity, global climate change, changes in ecosystem function and services, invasive species, diseases, and determination of sustainable land uses.

There are many compelling reasons for those who work at field stations to share data and metadata. First, one can do better science if past data sources can be found and included in ongoing research. Sharing data is ethically correct - there should be public access to work supported by the public. Archiving and making data available on line is practical because it is efficient, and provides the safety net of archiving multiple copies of data. Finally, sharing data can be individually rewarding to a researcher as a means of advertising and demonstrating the work done at field stations. Synthetic studies can be done at much higher levels using and comparing many data sets; this means more and new publications for each contributor. Shared data sets increase the value of field stations as repositories of ecological data, provide a real-world basis for teaching analysis and methods, and improve research, as advances in other fields often find legacy ecological data invaluable for entirely new, and unpredicted, purposes.

Requirement for Reserve Users to Deposit Bibliographic Data

For work utilizing wholly or in part an NRS reserve or its facilities, researchers will need to provide the NRS Information Management System (online) with the full bibliographic citation (whether for a report, thesis, book, research paper, or conference proceedings, etc.) within six months of publication. In addition, individual researchers are required to provide paper copies of published articles or an electronic version (PDF file) to the appropriate resident reserve director. We ask that individual researchers include the NRS reserve name as one of the “key words” in every manuscript prepared.

Requirement for Reserve Users to Deposit Metadata

Compilations of metadata are now routine across all disciplines [see, for example, http://dublincore.org/documents/dcmi-terms/]. For datasets based on work at NRS sites, we are requesting that individual researchers fill out a form that describes their data set. Such metadata can be entered online at the NRS website [http://www.ucnrs.org/]. The metadata listing does not raise any issues of ownership of intellectual property, as we are only requesting descriptions of such data sets.

For ongoing multi-year studies, researchers need to submit a metadata database entry at the end of the second year of such a study and, again, upon completion of the study.

As indicated above, compliance with these requests is important to both the future of the NRS and to society at large. Failure to deposit both the bibliographic and metadata information as requested may lead to automatic denial of future Use Applications.


Michener, W.K. and J.W. Brunt. 2000. Metadata, Chapter 5 In: W. K. Michener and J. W. Brunt (eds.) Ecological Data: Design, Management and Processing. Blackwell Science, Oxford, UK. 180 pp.

Michener, W. B. 2002. Resource Discovery Initiative for Field Stations. DBI - Research Coordination Network in Biological Science NSF Proposal No. 0129792.

Olson, R. J. and R. A. McCord. 2002. Archiving ecological data and information. Chapter 6 In: W. K. Michener and J. W. Brunt (eds.) Ecological Data: Design, Management and Processing. Blackwell Science, Oxford, UK. 180 pp.

For a broad general background on metadata, see the following Internet resources:

“The Value of Metadata,” Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) Secretariat.


“Geospatial Metadata.” National Spatial Data Infrastructure, Federal Geographic Data Committee. April 2003.


“Introduction to Metadata: Setting the Stage,” A.J. Gilliland-Swetland, July 5, 2000.


Dublin Core Metadata Initiative http://dublincore.org/resources/faq/

Page last updated February 22, 2014

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