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Theme 2: Long-Term Watershed Research

Watershed science depends on good quality data. Innovative modelling and collecting data methods provide new ways to test hypotheses, extend information and understand systems. Advances in collection techniques allow researchers and others to collect massive amounts of data; however, long-term datasets are especially important to understanding natural variability and trends. These datasets are often simple meteorological and hydrological information collected to understand trends in time, space and under different conditions. Collecting these data is expensive and labour intensive and the Water Program cannot support all research sites in the province. The Water Program can, however, provide innovative solutions to archive datasets, build innovative science-based tools and seek partnerships to assist in funding applications for data collection.

Watershed research data are highly variable and collected for different research objectives.  Regardless of the original objectives changing landscapes and climate may make these data invaluable for current and future scientists. These datasets make up the basis of the scientific discovery and many researchers value these specific datasets above all else. Often researchers are reluctant to share data outside of close groups because there is the possibility of losing scientific gains and unintended misuse of data can lead to wrong conclusions. Some of these datasets span an academic’s career, resulting in massive scientific resource investment. Other jurisdictions (e.g. US) have developed systems to ensure that research sites are coordinated and datasets are maintained. However, like many parts of Canada, Alberta is in a situation where many long-term sites were discontinued in the 80s. In the last 10 years there has been an emergence of new long-term sites, generally in partnership between academics, industry and/or governments.

Over the last few years many systems have been developed to store, share and analyse data. The hope is that new insights can come from the new technologies for sharing and analysing massive amounts of data. However, there remains an issue that this valuable data may not be properly understood if the information is not captured for future needs – this is especially true if researchers are reluctant to share data in the first place. There is an opportunity to build on the trust that current partners have in FRI to ensure we do not follow the same examples of our predecessors.

The project theme objectives are to:

  • Determine if data management systems can be designed to archive watershed research data while still respecting unique privacy issues and at the same time foster researcher collaboration and preserve research investment.
  • Determine the location and research value of historical datasets.
  • Determine if the potential research value can be captured by archiving datasets with the intent of making them accessible for future research projects.
  • Explore the history of forest hydrology research in the Province of Alberta and determine how it relates to current and planned future initiatives.
  • Determine if the coverage of long-term research sites is adequate to address potential future needs of the FRI partnership.
  • Determine if the researcher and practitioner capacity is adequate to support long-term research sites and to respond to changing knowledge needs.

This theme is inspired by:
Walter W. Jeffrey
from The Forestry Chronicle, 1969, 45(6): 491-492, 10.5558/tfc45491-6

 

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