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International LTER Information Management Workshop

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Issue: 
Spring 2001

- John Porter (VCR)

Köszönöm! There, now that I have dispensed with my knowledge of the Hungarian language (it means “Thanks!”) I can tell you about the Information Management Workshop Kristin Vanderbilt (SEV) organized along with Peter McCartney (CAP) and myself. Our local host was Dr. Edit Kovácsné Láng who did an excellent job in providing us housing and food at the “Weekend Panzio” (“Panzio” is Hungarian for “hotel”) and excellent computational and network facilities at the nearby Botanical Institute. The workshop was aimed at providing some training in information management techniques for participants from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. Interestingly, discussion groups incorporating members from different countries all needed to use English, as it was the only language spoken in common by the entire group.

During five intensive days (8 AM until 6 PM each day), the workshop covered a wide variety of topics (Concepts in Ecological Information Management, Distinctive Characteristics of Ecological Information, Developing Good Collaborative Relationships Between Scientists and Information Managers, Information Management Policies, Using Microsoft ACCESS, Developing World-Wide Web Pages, Database Design and Modeling, The Data Cycle, Quality Control and Quality Assurance, Techniques for Connecting Databases to the WWW, Administration of WWW servers, Ecological Metadata and the Global Terrestrial Observing System [GTOS]) in lecture, discussion and laboratory formats. The text for the course was the new “Ecological Data: Design, Management and Processing” book, edited by William Michener and James Brunt of the LTER Network Office. Material in the form of Powerpoint slides were also obtained from William Michener of the LTER Network Office and Ray McCord and Dick Olson of Oak Ridge National Laboratories. During laboratory exercises, workshop participants designed databases, practiced simple QA/QC procedures, ran database queries and created web pages.

However not everything was work! We discovered the pleasures of sausage, cheese, rolls and paprika (mild green peppers) for breakfast, and a variety of meat and cheese dishes for lunch and dinner. It was also a good opportunity to learn about the challenges faced by information managers at LTER sites in Eastern Europe. Not surprisingly, the idea of integrated, project-based information management was relatively new to many of the participants. Similar to the U.S. when LTER was initially started, there is no existing pool of information managers. They also face the challenge, similar to the U.S., that there is not a clear “career path” for information managers. They must also contend with having fewer resources than those provided by the National Science Foundation for U.S. LTER sites.

Participants in the workshop set up a home page containing all the workshop training materials at: http://www.krnap.cz/lter/, and photos of the workshop are available at: http://www.vcrlter.virginia.edu/images/lter_network/ILTER_Hungary_2000/IM_Training/

Following the workshop, Kristin spent an additional several weeks in Hungary helping to establish soils research plots at the Síkfökút deciduous forest LTER site near Eger, Hungary in association with Dr. János Attila Tóth . I stayed an additional week and made one-day visits to each of the Hungarian LTER sites. Edit andher colleagues at the Kiskun LTER site provided a deluxe tour of the sand dunes, grassland and shrublands at their site. János, along with Kristin, provided a tour of the Síkfökút deciduous forest site (like many U.S. LTER sites, it is an old IBP site). I also drove down and circled Lake Balaton, a large (70 km long) clear-water lake. As with U.S. LTER sites, there were interesting ecological challenges associated with each of the sites. The Kiskun site has experienced fires, which are a novel phenomenon in a generally human-dominated landscape. At Síkfökút, one of the two main oak species has experienced a major die-off in the last decade. Lake Balaton is a major tourist destination, with all the challenges that brings. Photos from each of the sites are available at: http://www.vcrlter.Virginia.EDU/images/lter_network/ILTER_Hungary_2000/ and detailed videos of the tours are available on request.