Deputy Director for Informatics at the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) in Copenhagen, Donald Hobern, has been appointed the inaugural Director of the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA).

Deputy Director for Informatics at the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) in Copenhagen, Donald Hobern, has been appointed the inaugural Director of the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA).

Building an online encyclopaedia of Aussie life

Reference: 07/216

The current Deputy Director for Informatics at the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) in Copenhagen, Donald Hobern, has been appointed as the inaugural Director of the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) – a web-based encyclopaedia of Australian life.

  • 29 October 2007

“Mr Hobern will take up his position early next year,” says the Chair of the ALA Management Committee and Group Executive CSIRO, Dr Joanne Daly. “I am delighted that a person of Mr Hobern’s qualifications and experience will be taking on the role.”

Mr Hobern says leading the ALA project is an exciting proposition.

“We now have the tools to build an interesting and flexible online encyclopaedia of biodiversity and I believe that Australia is uniquely positioned to make this a reality and to benefit from the wealth of its past investment in this area,” he says.

Dr Daly says the ALA will pull together the information held in biological collections around Australia.

“This single portal access to biological information will support decision making on issues such as biosecurity, global change management and conservation, and underpin research in these areas,” she says.

“We now have the tools to build an interesting and flexible online encyclopaedia of biodiversity and I believe that Australia is uniquely positioned to make this a reality and to benefit from the wealth of its past investment in this area,”
he says.

After working in software development at IBM for 16 years, Mr Hobern is currently responsible for GBIF’s software architecture and approach to data sharing, and developing its data portal. He has also been an active member of many working groups on standards and protocols for exchanging biodiversity information and will soon take on the role of Chair of the executive committee of the Biodiversity Information Standards group, (formerly the Taxonomic Database Working Group).

Dr Daly says the ALA is a truly national initiative involving more than 60 biological collections from State Museums and Herbaria, State Departments, Universities and microbial collections and the project will unlock over A$1 billion worth of biodiversity resources held around Australia.

“The Atlas will use the latest technology to link these data to broader ecological data about species to assist in the conservation of biodiversity. It will also be part of a network of international initiatives that use the power of the Internet to make information about global biodiversity accessible,” she says.

The National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) will provide funding over five years to support the establishment of the ALA with the organisations involved making significant in-kind contributions.

NCRIS is a major initiative under the Australian Government’s ‘Backing Australia’s Ability - Building our Future through Science and Innovation’ initiative. It aims to provide researchers with access to the infrastructure and networks necessary to undertake world-class research.

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