I should start by saying that I come from a background of writing applications for various industries but mostly finance (mainly investment banking) and insurance. The switch to environmental work here at Gaia Resources has been quite a change for me.
Something I’ve personally never really understood is why organisations like OZCAM (http://www.ozcam.gov.au) exist. OZCAM’s goal is to collate all of the fauna collection data in Australia and become a portal for anyone trying to access it. This data comes from museums and other similar organisations.
OK, great, but the nagging question at the back of my mind has always been: “Why would anyone be interested?”.
Yesterday, I finally understood.
Yesterday, Piers and I performed the final functional test of HermesLite, a new open source product that we will be releasing shortly for organisations to easily publish their data ready for harvesting by OZCAM. HermesLite sits inside an institutions firewall and securely sends out data from collections databases, files or whatever to a central server owned by Gaia Resources. The data is processed and put into a PostgreSQL database with MapServer and TAPIRLink on top.
So Piers, at the institution we are testing with, pressed the “Go” button, and I sat in the office and watched the server do its stuff. Suddenly, 50,000 records were pouring into the database each with taxonomic information, dates, spatial locations etc. Whilst the data was processing I kept refreshing the map that MapServer was generating from the database and sure enough points were popping up all over Australia with the species that was found there.
What I realized suddenly, is the power of this information. For environmental surveyors it’s invaluable reference data, for mining companies that need to ensure they are not destroying species as they dig up the Pilbara, again invaluable, for the man (or woman) in the street it’s a fascinating look at the fauna of Australia.
From my previous work, one of the most important factors was ensuring that very precise mathematical calculations produce the right numbers on the screen for a trader in an investment bank. Something that’s only visible to a small group of people. Here, my code (hopefully) will help a huge number of people in a cross section of the community and work force.
Yesterday was a good day.