Like other field sciences, soil ecology research requires detailed and consistent monitoring of natural conditions. The more researchers can monitor natural environments, the more they can discover – but long-term widespread studies can be prohibitively expensive. Automated data collection programs can help reduce the burden, and can allow researchers to concentrate on the most scientifically interesting problems.
SciServer grows out of such a program – the Life Under Your Feet wireless sensor network. With this network, researchers from the JHU Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences have deployed temperature and soil-moisture sensors for long-term environmental monitoring at field sites all over the world.
By mid-2015, SciServer will host the entire Life Under Your Feet dataset, and will have developed some additional tools, including ways to integrate sensor network data with reference datasets of climate, land cover, and other topics from remote sensing. SciServer will also extend its framework to store visualize datasets of local in situ observations from thousands of researchers and citizen scientists, which will enable consistent and detailed long-term monitoring on a global scale. The extended framework will also include social media tagging and sharing tools to encourage worldwide collaboration around these datasets.