Gladys Cotter, Assistant Chief Biologist for Information at the USGS, joins with Bonnie C. Carroll of Information International Associates to direct the AAAS session that examines methods of opening international information access on questions of biological diversity.
USGS has taken the lead in establishing the National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII), a cooperative effort aimed at increasing access to data and information developed and maintained by local, state, and federal government agencies, including the USGS; private sector organizations; and other partners around the nation and the world.
"Where once it was difficult for people on a single university staff to share field work on a day-to-day basis, now we can reach out worldwide," Cotter said. "With the NBII and companion programs such as the Inter-American Biodiversity Information Network, we have virtually instantaneous global reach."
Cotter oversees the USGS Office for Biological Informatics and Outreach, which makes the research efforts of her own organization and others available to a worldwide audience through technical innovations and publications. NBII is a core element of that program. Co-leader Carroll is president of Information International, based in Oak Ridge, Tenn.
"We strive," Cotter said, "to ensure that everyone has access to the broadest possible array of knowledge on the diversity of nature's living creatures and the forces that affect them. NBII democratizes environmental science in ways that were impossible even in recent times."
At AAAS, Carroll and Cotter will lead a session that will help participants develop an understanding of the structure and use of NBII and other tools that augment the work that can be accomplished in field and laboratory settings.
"Increasing access to existing information makes more quality information readily available. This enables users to make better-informed decisions regarding the future uses of natural resources across this nation -- and the globe," said Dr. Dennis B. Fenn, Chief Biologist of the USGS.
The AAAS session's focus on global information sharing will examine both the successes and the barriers to integrated information sharing.
As the nation's largest water, earth and biological science and civilian mapping agency, the USGS works in cooperation with more than 2000 organizations across the country to provide reliable, impartial, scientific information to resource managers, planners, and other customers. This information is gathered in every state by USGS scientists to minimize the loss of life and property from natural disasters, to contribute to the conservation and the sound economic and physical development of the nation's natural resources, and to enhance the quality of life by monitoring water, biological, energy, and mineral resources.
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