Big data and the future of ecology



The need for sound ecological science has escalated alongside the rise of the information age and “big data” across all sectors of society. Big data generally refer to massive volumes of data not readily handled by the usual data tools and practices and present unprecedented opportunities for advancing science and informing resource management through data-intensive approaches. The era of big data need not be propelled only by “big science” – the term used to describe large-scale efforts that have had mixed success in the individual-driven culture of ecology. Collectively, ecologists already have big data to bolster the scientific effort – a large volume of distributed, high-value information – but many simply fail to contribute. We encourage ecologists to join the larger scientific community in global initiatives to address major scientific and societal problems by bringing their distributed data to the table and harnessing its collective power. The scientists who contribute such information will be at the forefront of socially relevant science – but will they be ecologists?