ERI launches platform to boost accessibility of environmental change data

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Environmental change data takes many forms—land use maps, tree canopy imagery, species distribution charts, and more. Now, researchers in Indiana and beyond can sift through it all in one place.

This fall, Indiana University’s Environmental Resilience Institute (ERI), part of IU's Prepared for Environmental Change Grand Challenge initiative, launched the ERI Data Platform, an open-data tool that allows users to explore environmental change data in new ways. The platform gives users the ability to overlay national, global, and Indiana-specific datasets, add new data, and navigate to geographic areas of interest.

ERI Data Manager Justin Peters introduced the platform at the institute’s Fall 2020 Data Summit, a meeting where ERI-affiliated researchers shared updates on the research being conducted to help Indiana prepare for environmental change.

“From the early days of the Grand Challenge, ERI has been committed to creating new data tools to better investigate the effects of environmental change,” Peters said. “The Data Platform is the latest fulfillment of that pledge. It’s like a sandbox for researchers, where scientific data spanning  the land, climate, plants, animals, and more collide in oftentimes surprising ways.”

Launched this fall, the ERI Data Platform gives users the ability to overlay national, global, and Indiana-specific datasets, add new data, and navigate to geographic areas of interest.

Within the platform, users can access data layers from a wide range of sources, including near real-time satellite imagery of the state, public maps derived from federal and state agencies, and datasets curated by institute staff. Additionally, users can add their own data to the platform and run custom analyses.

As additional ERI data is produced and partner data is identified, new tools and datasets will be integrated into the platform to expand its usefulness for environmental change research along with its utility for interdisciplinary research.

“With this Data Platform, we are really starting to see the impact of both the interdisciplinary collaboration within the university and the communication of information to broader audiences,” said ERI Director Janet McCabe. “Environmental change research is so broad that it can be difficult for researchers from different disciplines to connect the dots. A tool like the Data Platform has the potential to shrink the space between scientific disciplines, giving climate scientists, ecologists, biologists, and others a shared tool for collaboration.”

In addition to unveiling the Data Platform, the ERI Data Summit also featured presentations on major ERI research initiatives.

Abraham Lauer, a graduate researcher working with Ben Kravitz in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, presented his team’s efforts to project future climate scenarios for Indiana, starting from global climate models and downscaling them to provide useful data to local communities. The research will inform Hoosier decision-makers about how temperature and precipitation patterns in the state are likely to change in the decades to come, including potential changes to extreme weather events.

Michelle Graff, a Ph.D. candidate at the O’Neill School of Environmental Affairs working with Sanya Carley and David Konisky, discussed a study evaluating energy insecurity—the uncertainty that a household can pay its energy bills—in Indiana and the nation. The team is conducting surveys to estimate the prevalence of energy insecurity for at-risk populations during the COVID-19 pandemic and working to understand what factors affect a household’s likelihood to become energy insecure.

At the summit’s conclusion, researchers shared brief updates on ongoing projects spanning ecology, sociology, public health, and more. For more details, view the Data Summit recording below or contact ERI for a copy of the slide deck.

Learn more about the data resources available at ERI