One of the grand challenges facing humankind in the 21st century is understanding and sustaining the natural world--its biological diversity, natural capital and life itself. This challenge is critical to science and society: for managing natural resources, for sustaining human health, for ensuring economic stability, and for improving the quality of human life. This challenge is also complex--it encompasses the composition, functions and patterns of biodiversity and the ecological and evolutionary processes that generate them. Components and processes in these disciplines interact to yield profoundly complex results that are difficult to analyze and understand.

Answering this challenge will require the mining and integration of massive quantities of diverse data and information from scientific and sociological disciplines across earth and human systems. Specifically, it requires seamless access to these data from many locales that are highly heterogeneous in content and format and span enormous scales of space and time. The need for such an informatics solution is increasingly urgent as researchers continue to amass critical data and information about the natural world that lack the broadest degree of availability, interoperability and archiving.

Therefore, the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS); the Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center, University of Kansas (KU-BRC); the Network Office of the Long Term Ecological Research Program (LTER); and the University of California's San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) and California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Cal-(IT)2, a joint venture of UCSD and UC Irvine) have formed a Partnership for Biodiversity Informatics (PBI) to help meet this challenge. The goal of PBI is to enable scientists and other users to deploy the vast amount of ecological, biodiversity and environmental information in research, education and public service in order to help society achieve the means to safeguard our future and a sustainable planet.

We are on the threshold of a technological revolution in ecological, biodiversity and environmental, which entails the management of information along the entire data stream--from data acquisition through distributed access and knowledge discovery to maintenance of persistent archives. Knowledge discovery of the natural world will increasingly be linked to a new generation of technologies that deliver data and information to a host of potential users including researchers, educators, policy makers, and natural resource managers.


PBI Web site design by Ben Tolo, San Diego Supercomputer Center