Collaborative Research in Geoinformatics: Building a Cyberinfrastructure for the Critical Zone Exploration Network

Project: Research project

Project Details


Doug Miller


This award will initiate a cyberinfrastructure to promote interdisciplinary research investigating the zone defined by the outer limits of vegetation and the lower boundary of ground water, identified by the National Research Council as the Critical Zone. A complex interplay of physical, chemical, and biological reactions controls processes within this Critical Zone and has become the focus of research among a community of scientists derived from ecology, soil science, biology, geochemistry, hydrology, and geomorphology. An interdisciplinary team of scientists from these disciplines created the Weathering System Science Consortium (WSSC) in 2003 specifically to advance study of the Critical Zone. In an NSF-sponsored meeting in 2005, this consortium proposed a program the Critical Zone Exploration Network (CZEN) to study four broad research questions targeting the Critical Zone. CZEN is envisioned as a network of sites, people, tools, and ideas, which will investigate the response of the Critical Zone to global change, will promote systematic data and sample collection, will provide databases and sample storage facilities, and will train the next generation of Critical Zone scientists. The CZEN cyberinfrastructure must meet the needs of scientists from an array of disciplines and institutions. Many of these disciplines have their own conceptualizations, nomenclature, and methodologies for weathering processes. This research project will develop an integrative language (an ontology) for Critical Zone Science that will serve to bridge discipline boundaries. Building this ontology through a community-based effort will not only produce a focused, highly integrative communication standard for advancing the science of the Critical Zone, it will foster new collaboration and partnerships among groups that have not traditionally interacted. The development of this cyberinfrastructure will centralize Critical Zone data and metadata and increase usefulness of Critical Zone studies. A web-based knowledge-management environment to facilitate collaboration and sharing of data collected world-wide will be created to meet these goals. This project will contribute directly to the developing CZEN initiative by fostering interaction among the wide range of scientists and scientific disciplines that study the earths Critical Zone.

Effective start/end date4/15/069/30/09


  • National Science Foundation: $250,000.00


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