Understanding how quickly environmental reactions take place is the goal of EarthKin, a geochemical database focusing on the rates of geochemical reactions. EarthKin scientists from University of Maine, Penn State, Columbia, and Saint Francis University will compile existing reaction rates into a one-stop database that will allow access to researchers working on a diverse range of projects ranging from removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and permanently storing it beneath the ground to cleaning up contaminated environmental sites. When completed EarthKin will be available to scientists free via the web at www.earthchem.org. Not only will we compile existing data, but we will also encourage new researchers to become involved by uploading their new results into the database.
Recent advances in geoinformatics (the subdiscipline of developing technological and computation tools to facilitate information dissemination in the geosciences) have drastically increased access that researchers have to geological information. Many recent endeavors have focused on online publishing of large data sets in order to make data available to the wider community. EarthKin is especially interesting in that it is one of the first attempts to include experimental data in a web-based data management platform. To do this, we will need to build new tools and data structures that will allow the existing EarthChem platform to incorporate a new type of data.
The development of an environmental biogeochemical kinetics database (namely EarthKin DB) is a collaborative research among Penn State University (PSU), University of Main (UM) and Saint Francis University (SFU). The major tasks for the PSU team are to develop the EarthKin DB schema and to assist populating the database with biogeochemical kinetics data compiled by other two groups from experiments and literatures. In this study, we (the PSU team) first developed an experimental data ontology (EDO) to describe variables and terms commonly used in the environmental chemical kinetics data. Based on the EDO, we then developed a relational database schema of the EarthKin DB, which consists of a total of 18 inter-related tables. Further, we have implemented the EarthKin schema with the MS Access relational database management system, and successfully populated the database with sample datasets provided by other two groups. In order to facilitate data preparation, we have developed a user friendly MS Excel template file for easy data entry. Tools/functions/forms are also created (within the EarchKin_FrontEnd file) for data manipulation, data exchange (importing/exporting) and data searching. As of date (November, 2012), the stand-alone MS Access version of the EarthKin DB is available with limited data populated (www.czen.org). More data are expected to be available at the end of one-year project extension requested by UM and SFU groups (end of 2013). In the future, upon the availability of funding, a web-based EarthKin DB may be available online through the EarthChem portal (www.EarthChem.org).