Advancing an Information Model for Environmental Observations (Invited)
Abstract IN32A-03 presented at 2011 Fall Meeting, AGU
Observational data are fundamental to hydrology and water resources, and the way they are organized, described, and shared either enables or inhibits the analyses that can be performed using the data. The CUAHSI Hydrologic Information System (HIS) project is developing cyberinfrastructure to support hydrologic science by enabling better access to hydrologic data. HIS is composed of three major components. HydroServer is a software stack for publishing time series of hydrologic observations on the Internet as well as geospatial data using standards-based web feature, map, and coverage services. HydroCatalog is a centralized facility that catalogs the data contents of individual HydroServers and enables search across them. HydroDesktop is a client application that interacts with both HydroServer and HydroCatalog to discover, download, visualize, and analyze hydrologic observations published on one or more HydroServers. All three components of HIS are founded upon an information model for hydrologic observations at stationary points that specifies the entities, relationships, constraints, rules, and semantics of the observational data and that supports its data services. Within this information model, observations are described with ancillary information (metadata) about the observations to allow them to be unambiguously interpreted and used, and to provide traceable heritage from raw measurements to useable information. Physical implementations of this information model include the Observations Data Model (ODM) for storing hydrologic observations, Water Markup Language (WaterML) for encoding observations for transmittal over the Internet, the HydroCatalog metadata catalog database, and the HydroDesktop data cache database. The CUAHSI HIS and this information model have now been in use for several years, and have been deployed across many different academic institutions as well as across several national agency data repositories. Additionally, components of the HIS have been modified to support data management for the Critical Zone Observatories (CZOs). This paper will present limitations of the existing information model used by the CUAHSI HIS that have been uncovered through its deployment and use, as well as new advances to the information model, including: better representation of both in situ observations from field sensors and observations derived from environmental samples, extensibility in attributes used to describe observations, and observation provenance. These advances have been developed by the HIS team and the broader scientific community and will enable the information model to accommodate and better describe wider classes of environmental observations and to better meet the needs of the hydrologic science and CZO communities.