Indian NGO starts centre for eco-informatics

Indian NGO starts centre for eco-informatics

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Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), a non-government organisation in Bangalore, has launched an eco-informatics centre and a website to disseminate information on conservation of natural resources.

ATREE aims to bring together expertise in IT and knowledge of ecological sciences, to foster conservation and “wise management” of India’s natural resources, it said in a release. The centre will also promote collaborations in applied research and capacity building in eco-informatics, the release said.

The trust sees “an urgent need for an umbrella mechanism” to bring together scientific information from different fields needed for natural resource management and conservation issues.

The website, www.ecoinfoindia.org, hosts a web-enabled GIS facility, built on software from MapInfo, a vendor of GIS software products vendor. This system allows interactive querying and mapping of spatially referenced information. The website was started with the grant of a computer server and workstations from the US-based IT firm Hewlett Packard.

The main purpose of the website is to deliver free of cost geographic information on conservation and the environment, allowing users to “visualise, analyse and integrate” various types of data.

For instance, a forest department official could map all the districts with a population density of more than 200 people per square kilometre and a minimum specified level of forest cover, or a student of wildlife management could map the probable distribution of an endangered species, the release said.

The website will also provide information xon the Western Ghats, a globally significant biodiversity hotspot, in the form of value added, published maps that have resulted from “almost a decade of ecological and environmental research at ATREE and its partner agencies,” the release said.

ATREE also announced two related initiatives: First, it has also signed an MoU with the National Chemical Laboratory, Pune to build institutional collaboration and data sharing for conservation and natural resource management. Second, it has been awarded a grant by MapInfo to establish an internship programme which will allow a select group of national and international students to work on development of webGIS-related tools and applications using JAVA technology.