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Friday, September 2, 2011

The vertebrate cloud

Introducing VertNet, a cloud based data collection of everything you could want to know about every vertebrate on Earth.  Okay, Vertnet isn’t quite that comprehensive yet.  But researchers hope it soon will be.

The idea is to have curators around the world upload their data into a universal computing cloud that can be accessed from anywhere.  The initial format will be a compilation of four previous incarnations of database networks: MaNIS (for mammals), ORNIS (for birds), HerpNET (for reptiles and amphibians) and FishNet (one guess what that’s for).  As more institutions join the network, the amount of data will increase tremendously.

Not only will Vertnet be an important tool for researchers interested in vertebrate anatomy, but also for those studying such diverse fields as climate change and migratory patterns. For example, VertNet coordinator David Bloom suggests that the cloud database would have been invaluable to researchers trying to assess the ecological impact of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. 

Biological cloud databases won’t just be for professional scientists.  Interested amateurs will be able to access the data, read field notes, and even participate in some studies.

If all goes according to plan, VertNet will be up and running by next summer.