The IDEA Consortium is an open science initiative in systems ecology, conducting the basic scientific research needed to build use-oriented simulations (avatars) of entire social-ecological systems. Islands are the most scientifically tractable places for this, and we begin with one of the best known: Moorea, French Polynesia (Moorea IDEA).
The Moorea Avatar is a digital representation of the island today, while other versions—simulated in silico—draw on the best-available scientific knowledge to show what it looked like in the past and to predict how it might look in the future. Therefore, a key task is to develop the place-based data science infrastructure and associated computational platform needed to support scenario-based planning.
With the IDEA Data Science Working Group, we are initially focusing on the following:
Island Interactome: We build on long-term ecological research (e.g.,CRIOBE and NSF’s Moorea Coral Reef LTER) and the Moorea Biocode Project, which inventoried all the animals and plants on the island, to map species interactions and model them under different scenarios of rising sea levels and changing precipitation patterns. This will require the integration of highly heterogeneous data and the coupling of models across scales and disciplines.
Ethno-Avatar: How will this international, multicultural, and multidisciplinary scientific consortium organize itself and use data science tools? How do these tools help connect the traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) of local people? We define “ethnocoding” as the digitization of TEK, and IDEA translational partner Te Pu Atitia is building the Polynesian Ethno-Avatar of Moorea.
Virtual and Augmented Reality: The capacity to visualize places (including social and ecological processes) in three spatial dimensions over time and across multiple scales is crucial to scientific understanding, public awareness, and sustainable development. We will migrate the web-based avatar to emerging virtual reality and holographic computing platforms to explore applications in basic scientific research, university field courses, and community outreach.
For more details about the Moorea IDEA, see the 2016 paper in Gigasience "Simulating Social-Ecological Systems: The Island Digital Ecosystem Avatars (IDEA) Consortium" and a presentation of the project given at BIDS in April 2016 at the ETH meets California week.