Google Earth shows marine “landscape of fear” visible from space

In a major step for open access to scientific research, Nature Publishing Group’s free, peer-reviewed Creative-Commons-licensed online journal Scientific Reports has just launched, and its inaugural “edition” contains an article on marine predator-prey behaviour, Landscape of fear visible from space, that uses Google Earth imagery as a primary source of evidence:

A Google Earth image survey of the lagoon habitat at Heron Island within Australia’s Great Barrier Reef revealed distinct halo patterns within algal beds surrounding patch reefs. Ground truth surveys confirmed that, as predicted, algal canopy height increases with distance from reef edges. A grazing assay subsequently demonstrated that herbivore grazing was responsible for this pattern. In conjunction with recent behavioural ecology studies, these findings demonstrate that herbivores’ collective antipredator behavioural patterns can shape vegetation distributions on a scale clearly visible from space.

The accompanied imagery is a screen grab from this location is Google Earth/Maps:


View Larger Map

Animal-created habitat transformations visible from space! That is always cool. (For another recent example, see the world’s largest beaver dam in Canada.)

If you want an easy-to-read version of the results, both Monga Bay and Tree Hugger write up the article. Disappointingly, neither of these news sites manages a link to the original research report on which their story is based — thus missing the entire point of open-access scientific research.


LOC Launches Major Metadata Initiative

This week the Library of Congress announced a new initiative that will look at the “wider bibliographic framework” beyond MARC21 and RDA. As their announcement states:

Spontaneous comments from participants in the US RDA Test show that a broad cross-section of the community feels budgetary pressures but nevertheless considers it necessary to replace MARC 21 in order to reap the full benefit of new and emerging content standards.  The Library now seeks to evaluate how its resources for the creation and exchange of metadata are currently being used and how they should be directed in an era of diminishing budgets and heightened expectations in the broader library community.

The Library of Congress will address these issues:

  • Determine which aspects of current metadata encoding standards should be retained and evolved into a format for the future.  We will consider MARC 21, in which billions of records are presently encoded, as well as other initiatives.
  • Experiment with Semantic Web and linked data technologies to see what benefits to the bibliographic framework they offer our community and how our current models need to be adjusted to take fuller advantage of these benefits.
  • Foster maximum re-use of library metadata in the broader Web search environment, so that end users may be exposed to more quality metadata and/or use it in innovative ways.
  • Enable users to navigate relationships among entities—such as persons, places, organizations, and concepts—to search more precisely in library catalogs and in the broader Internet.  We will explore the use of promising data models such as Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) in navigating relationships, whether those are actively encoded by librarians or made discernible by the Semantic Web.
  • Explore approaches to displaying metadata beyond current MARC-based systems.
  • Identify the risks of action and inaction, including an assessment of the pace of change acceptable to the broader community: will we take incremental steps or take bolder, faster action?
  • Plan for bringing existing metadata into new bibliographic systems within the broader Library of Congress technical infrastructure—a critical consideration given the size and value of our legacy databases.

This is a Good Thing. A REALLY Good Thing.