Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas (2013)
Atlantic Forest Information System
For the grant that funded the first phase of this project, click here.
Despite the availability of a considerable amount of scientific information about Atlantic Forest biodiversity, there are no systems that compile data to facilitate access by decision makers and restorationists. In 2011, IPÊ built a successful online database system that provides information in a format and language accessible to general public, one which they continue to maintain. This follow-on grant seeks to build on these accomplishments, connecting the information to users, with the goal of improving restoration and management efficacy
Key Objectives and Activities
The online system now needs to be publicized to potential users, including nursery producers (who need information about species appropriate for restoration), teachers (to use in educational activities), and government agents (for decision making). The second phase of the project aims to facilitate stakeholder access to the system, and will use new funding opportunities to expand the adoption of the system.
The objectives of this project are:
1. To publicize the system with user groups through targeted outreach: curriculum workshops for educators, informational visits to nurseries, and individualized meetings with decision makers.
2. To increase interoperability of data in system by building an API to enable users to more easily search and retrieve specific information
3. To produce a report on potential applications of the system, and lessons learned in the process of constructing it, intended for an audience of researchers and decision makers. The publication will also transfer knowledge to other organizations and institutions undertaking this kind of project.
- New partnerships to foster database use both in forest restoration projects and in public policies
- A bilingual (Portuguese/English) booklet to disseminate concepts of the projects and to illustrate current and potential uses
- Educational visits to nursery producers
- Two workshops for educators demonstrating the educational uses of the system and to enabling them to use it as a tool in their classes for secondary schools
- Participation in meetings with representatives of government and other organizations with the purpose of catalyzing partnerships.
The project envisions that these efforts will lead to increased use of the system by targeted user groups. The workshops will enable teachers to include the Flora Regional in their curriculum, and consequently their students will also be aware of the resource. Nursery producers will have a larger toolkit of native species with which to conduct restoration and landscaping, and more ecologically-informed choices about which species are appropriate in which environmental conditions. This will lead to a measurable increase the diversity of local species used in reforestation and landscaping, and ultimately, to greater success in restoring this threatened habitat. Local government agents will employ the system to plan urban forestry that incorporates local native tree species.
Primary Software Platforms
IPÊ recommends using free and open source software as much as possible, also releasing new code under the same conditions. Here’s what this project used:
- Programming language: Python
- Framework: Django
- Relational database: PostgreSQL
- Software repository: GitHub
Results to Date
The project has completed all of the major objectives. Currently IPÊ’s Flora Regional is visited about 600 times per month, and has 35% retention rate, indicating a group of core users will contribute to the ongoing importance and utility of the resource. Other metrics of success include:
- Release of the web service interface to facilitate targeted queries of the system.
- Conducting outreach to 13 nurseries involved in restoration. Each nursery was visited twice, initially to introduce growers to the resource, and a follow up visit allowed growers to provide feedback on the system and dialogue about other challenges they face in increasing the diversity of plants used in restoration practice.
- Leading two workshops for educators to engage them in using the system in their classes. Following a broad outreach workshop, the IPÊ team invited 62 participants to return to a second workshop in curriculum development. A partnership between 5 M.Sc. students and educators from local schools generated a curriculum module and games that draw on information in the system.
- Several dozen meetings with local and state government representatives that resulted in a number of new partnership and contract opportunities. For instance the Nazaré Paulista city will be using the Flora Regional to plan for afforestation of revitalized urban areas. The group also took the educational module to a conference in Malaysia in August 2015, and engaged in a curriculum exchange with a Malaysian primary school.
- Publication of the bilingual booklet providing case studies of how the Flora Regional can be used, intended to enhance awareness of the system, and encourage other groups to undertake similar data awareness efforts.
One of the strengths of this project was the commitment to individualized and targeted outreach. By strategizing and troubleshooting each intended audience separately, IPÊ was able to reach those groups more effectively, ultimately contributing to durable connections with user groups. For instance, one challenge in the efforts to engage educators was that not all of the teachers had the technical skills to easily access information in the Flora Regional system. To address this need, the IPÊ team targeted the second workshop toward the teachers with the greatest interest in using the system in their classes. By focusing on a smaller group of teachers, IPÊ could provide individualized training in the skills necessary for these teachers to meet their goals. The group also created a work-around, by adding QR codes to signs on the species. Because there are more cell phones than computers available to students, this allows students to directly access the relevant information on the species of interest, bypassing the need to query the system.
Project Director Biography
Patricia Paranagua is a researcher at IPÊ with a Bachelor degree in Forest Engineering and Environmental Science. Her primary interest is in promoting diversity of species composition in reforestation practices. Presently, Paranagua supervises a team of seven professionals at IPÊ, including 2 biologists, 1 forest engineer, and 1 specialist in history. Along with the Brazilian Center for Conservation and IPÊ, she has coordinated capacity building in conservation for approximately 7 years, including the Capacity Building Program for Protected Areas Management in the Amazon Region. Paranagua has been involved in several vegetation surveys that contributed to the creation of 30,000 hectares of protected areas and the information system she developed with JRS support in 2011 has been incorporated by the official program of conservation of Native Forests of the government of São Paulo State.
Notes from JRS
From the JRS perspective, this project is unique in our portfolio as a great example of “community level biodiversity informatics”. As compared to many of our grants which are focused on certain species over large geographic areas or within national boundaries, this project focuses on many tree species in the area near São Paulo city. The project staff are engaging directly with local policy-makers, tree nurseries and educators to increase understanding of the value and availability of local trees for reforestation, landscaping, urban planning and conservation. Our continued funding of the project aims to secure the adoption and use of the system as well as to develop the data tools to integrate IPÊ’s data with local and global datasets. This project concluded successfully in 2015 with the system fully embedded in IPE’s work. The project team brought a user-centered view to the work and designed a platform that serves use cases as diverse as the municipal planning authorities, teachers, and nursery owners – while adhering to data standards and principles of interoperability. We hope to follow this great example in future grant investment.
Last Updated: February 28th, 2017