VISTAS Presentation at H.J. Andrews Symposium

The VISTAS team presented a poster on the initial progress of our project at the annual symposium for the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, held on the campus of Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon. We were genuinely excited to hear all the feedback and comments from our fellow presenters and attendees, and are looking forward to some future collaborations.

Cushing, J., Bailey, M., Bolte, J., Bond, B., Lach, D., Smith, A., Stafford, S., Stavely, S., Stevenson-Molnar, N., Stieglitz, M., Thomas, C. From Data to Knowledge in Grand Challenge Environmental Science Research: the VISualization of Terrestrial-Aquatic Systems (VISTAS). Poster presentation, H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest 12th LTER Symposium (2011)

View a pdf of the VISTAS poster here.


In this Petabyte Age, digital information increases at a prodigious rate – due to new remote sensing, national environmental observatories, research networks such as Long Term Ecosystem Research sites, etc. Increasingly, scientists use massive data sets to predict natural phenomena. The sheer amount of data presents challenges, but this data deluge is but one complicating factor. Grand challenge environmental science problems such as climate change, lack of species diversity, and reduced ecosystem functioning, have complex, highly distributed, and heterogeneous data spanning time and spatial scales.  Because cross-scale analytical methods are not well understood, visualizing natural phenomena might help scientists develop intuition and hypotheses – helping formulate and communicate insights about patterns and processes in complex systems.

The VISTAS Project develops software and visualizations to enable better understanding and communication about Grand Challenge Environmental Science. It will:

  1. Conduct Ecology Informatics research to enable visual analytics and implement proof of concept software, devising visualizations and animations where the same natural phenomena are seen at different spatial and temporal scales.
  2. Co-develop VISTAS with environmental scientists at the HJ Andrews LTER who will use VISTAS in studies spanning spatial and temporal scales from plot (m2) to basin (64km2).
  3. Apply social science methods to study the co-development and usability of VISTAS – devising social science methods for developing scientific software and for determining which visualizations work, for whom, and why.

We also convene The Northwest Computer Science Consortium to Enhance the Study of Climate Change to advise grantees and enlist the CS community in R&D to enable Environmental Science Grand Challenges.

If successful, the project’s greatest impact will be in environmental science research, but our long term vision includes using visual analytics to improve evidence-based practice of natural resource management.

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