Forskningsprofil

The research of the Ecoinformatics & Biodiversity (ECOINF) group is focused on two broadly overlapping lines of research:

  • Ecoinformatics , i.e., informatics-based research on ecology and environmental science.
  • Biodiversity studies , spanning and integrating ecoinformatics, molecular phylogenetics, systematics and taxonomy, classical ecology, and conservation biology and ethno-ecology to further our understanding of species diversity, its determinants, and the ecosystem services it provides to society.

We take advantage of the recent exponential gains in computing power and data storage capacity, advances in statistics and mathematics, and dramatic increases in availability of environmental, ecological, and biological data to tackle complex, often large-scale problems in ecology and environmental science. Our research involves the application of advanced techniques from computer science and statistics to manage and analyze large amounts of biological, environmental and geographical data. Our ecoinformatics research is part of a broader change from an experimental paradigm to a computing paradigm that is happening across science (see Nature’s 2006 “ 2020 computing ” and 2008 “ Big data ” special features). The data often come from large digital data-bases and data portals (e.g., The Global Biodiversity Information Facility , www.gbif.org , to which we also contribute a large dataset), but also often involves the usage of these data source in integration with field-collected data (e.g., vegetation inventories).

Our ecoinformatics research has a strong focus on the great question of “ What determines species diversity? ”, one of 25 knowledge gaps that Science magazine ( 125 th Anniversary issue, 2005 ) highlighted as targets for science over the next 25 years. We take a broad, synthetic view on this issue, with our research involving geospatial environmental modelling , biogeography , macroecology , species distribution modelling , phylogenetic s, evolutionary biology , landscape ecology , and community ecology (including metacommunity ecology and studies of community phylogenetic structure). Our research often has a strong emphasis on the role played by climate and implications of anthropogenic climate change for biodiversity. We also often have strong focus on nature conservation and the human-biodiversity interaction , e.g., assessing and modelling human impacts, or developing geospatial conservation planning.

Our biodiversity research extends beyond ecoinformatics, although informatics plays an increasing role in all our research: field-based plant diversity studies , molecular phylogenetic studies , systematics and taxonomy of focal groups (especially palms, Arecaceae ), and field-based ethno-ecological studies . In terms of organisms our group has build-up long-term expertise in plants, but our research increasingly involves other macroscopic groups of organism as well, e.g., mammals.

Our ecoinformatics research likewise and increasingly goes beyond biodiversity studies and increasingly involves the application of geospatial modelling to other topics, notably ecosystem services (e.g., carbon stocks) and other ecosystem properties.

Our research is geographically unconstrained and often covers whole continents or global-scale studies. Our field-based research component is nearly as global in scope, covering not only Denmark and Europe, but also with a strong focus on the tropical regions of America, Asia, and Africa, involving highly successful, long-term collaborations with local universities, as well as frequent expeditions to collect biodiversity data in remote areas of Amazonia, the World’s largest tropical rain forest region. Our research is often interdisciplinary and at Aarhus University involves many other groups within the department of Bioscience and the Department of Computer Science.