Sanparks Scientific Services has been involved with research on various topics in the Kruger National Park since the 1950s. These valuable research projects collect data in the field or in the laboratory on subjects ranging from geology to tree population dynamics.
Called the Kruger National Park Data Repository, this data collection, and in particular the long-term game counts for elephants and plains game, are infinitely valuable for researchers and managers. Making this information available to people was the driving motivation in developing the current KNP data repository.
This data repository is an innovative and user-friendly way for people to access these vast sets of data. The data repository is still in the development phase and as new datasets are added, the system will be upgraded to suit user and supplier needs.
This data access system has been developed over the last five years with the emphasis being on the ease of access to various data sets. The data repository has been structured to work on universal internet systems such as Yahoo! or Google search engines, so a user can simply type in the keyword of the dataset they are looking for and, if it is available, they will find it.
The system that was developed especially for ecological data by NCEAS (National Centre for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis) in Santa Barbara, USA, was selected as the platform to use for the KNP data repository.
The scientists at NCEAS have considerable experience in managing, developing and storing long-term data sets in the USA and this expertise was essential in constructing a similar access system for the Kruger National Park.
The NCEAS staff have been working with Scientific Services to fine tune the system, over the last three years, so that is can accommodate all the Sanparks and Kruger data requirements. This system has been adopted by the Long Term Ecological Research Network (LTER) in the USA and other ecological bodies.
Members of the International Long Term Ecological Research network (ILTER), like China and Taiwan, have also started using this system. This means that a person will be able to do inter-continental searches by searching only one of these data catalogues and obtaining all the data from the different continents.
This system is going to be expanded in South Africa to also include data from the SAEON (South African Environmental Observatory Network) sites. The data repository has been constructed to protect sensitive data by using a login/ password system.
This means that data can be restricted to a few users who are working with that particular dataset. Data that has not been published will be lead-time protected with only the metadata (information that describes the data) made available until the data is clear for public circulation. The KNP data repository will continue to provide data to the people who need it.
Managing and archiving data correctly as it accumulates is essential to maintaining the integrity and validity of the data. Making it easily accessible assists researchers in streamlining their work, while also providing scope for the development of comparative work and related datasets and will also avoid potential duplication of research efforts.
The data repository can be accessed at https://dataknp.sanparks.org.
By Michele Hofmeyr and Judith Kruger