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GCE and CWT Host Successful Workshop to Demonstrate, Improve, and Promote the Adoption of the GCE Data Toolbox for Matlab

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Spring 2013

John Chamblee (CWT), Wade Sheldon (GCE), Richard Cary (CWT)

As the volume and diversity of ecological data grows, scientific discovery demands ecological scientists and anthropologists develop common tools to solve common problems so that data, as well as published literature, can be used to frame and envision next-generation research. From November 27-30, 2012, the Coweeta (CWT) and Georgia Coastal Ecosystems (GCE) information managers pursued this goal by leading a workshop on the GCE Data Toolbox for MATLAB. At this workshop, information and data managers from 11 universities and federal agencies were provided a potentially critical step in meeting the need for a common set of tools. The workshop was organized so that attendees were offered time for hands-on instruction that not only provided an introductory framework, but also a considerable amount of unstructured time in which information managers could interact with the software and its developer using their own data to solve their own problems.


GCE Data Toolbox for Matlab Participant Group Photo

Workshop Participants, Back Row (L-R); Wade Sheldon (GCE), Vincent Moriarty (MCR), Sven Bohm (KBS), Dominik Schneider (NWT), Aaron Stephenson (NTL), Kristin Vanderbilt (SEV), Chris Gotschalk (SBC), Margaret O'Brien (SBC), John Porter (VCR), Richard Cary (CWT). Back Row (L-R): Adam Sapp (GCE), Marty Martin (HBR), M. "Gastil" Gastil-Buhl (MCR), Hope Humphries (NWT), Inigo San Gil (MCR), Stephanie Laseter (USDA FS), Adam Kennedy (AND), John Chamblee (CWT)

The workshop was co-led by Wade Sheldon (IM at GCE), John Chamblee (IM at CWT), and Richard Cary (Assistant IM at CWT). Sheldon provided the vast majority of the instructional support, with Chamblee providing logistical support, instructional assistance, and an instructional workspace at the CWT IM Office, which is housed in the UGA anthropology department’s Sustainable Human Ecosystems Laboratory (SHEL). Cary and Sheldon produced a step-by-step manual for many Data Toolbox core functions.

LTER information management staff from AND, HBR, MCM, MCR, NTL, NWT, SBC, SEV, and VCR attended the meeting, as did additional IM staff from GCE and the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory. The workshop consisted of about 2 half-days of formal presentation, followed by half-days of one-on-one work in which attendees used tutorials and sample data sets (on the afternoon) and their own data (on the second afternoon) to explore and test the Data Toolbox as a means for meeting their needs. The final morning of the workshop included an intensive discussion about potential drawbacks of the toolbox and on gathering data for adding functionality and making improvements.

This final discussion resulted in the collection of several key suggestions, some of which have already been implemented. These include a listserv for GCE Data Toolbox users that, since its inauguration, has proven an active and valuable source of community input. A post-workshop survey suggested that most of the attendees plan to integrate the toolbox into some aspect of their site information management activity and that, in areas where the toolbox will not prove to be useful, this is often the case because good solutions are already in place. The survey also demonstrated the success of a mixed-format approach to instructional presentation and highlighted the importance of presenting tools that were mature enough to allow users to test them with their own data.

As Sheldon continues making technical improvements based on feedback from the workshop and the LTER community, the presenters plan to expand the print-based tutorial materials to accompany these changes and to release short tutorial videos.

All of the instructional materials from the workshop are available on the GCE Data Toolbox Documentation Page ( Users who wish to join the GCE Data Toolbox listserv can email any of this article’s authors. The workshop was primarily funded through a contract received from the LTER Network Office using funds designated from American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009. Mathworks, the maker of MATLAB, also supported the workshop and its goals by providing consultation and short-term licensing support. A final report on the workshop and associated software development efforts will be publicly available some time shortly after July 1, 2013.