February 26 – March 3 , 2017, Dagstuhl Seminar 17091

Computer Science Meets Ecology


Benjamin Adams (University of Auckland, NZ)
Gustau Camps-Valls (University of Valencia, ES)
Thomas Hickler (Senckenberg Research Centre, DE)
Birgitta König-Ries (Universität Jena, DE)

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List of Participants
Shared Documents
17091-Description [pdf]
Dagstuhl Seminar Schedule [pdf]


In his pioneering work, Jim Gray identified the 4th scientific paradigm, arguing that modern science needs computer supported research. Recent developments in many scientific disciplines suggest this new paradigm to be powerful: Huge amounts of heterogeneous, unstructured and multisource data of different modalities can now be collected routinely, sometimes in a fully automatic manner and be processed to extract knowledge and make inferences.

A discipline that shows great potential but also the challenges of this 4th scientific paradigm is Ecology. Ecology is the study of the interactions amongst organisms and with their physical environment. For a long time, ecological analyses have been primarily realized locally both with respect to the geographical and phenomenological areas of investigation. Today, scientists are increasingly interested in quantifying ecological relations at larger scales or globally and can consider multiple dimensions of interactions between atmospheric, oceanic, and terrestrial processes. Due to the possibilities to record, store and process data ubiquitously, the increase in data resolution and quality as well as the international efforts to document the global distribution of biodiversity, new opportunities arise. These data will enable us to answer questions that are of fundamental importance for the future of our planet.

The aim of the Dagstuhl Seminar is to establish links between (geo-)ecologists, ecoinformaticians and computer scientists in order to leverage computer science expertise for ecology and to identify avenues of future research in computer science of particular importance to ecology.

Based on three concrete use cases regarding automated long-term monitoring of biodiversity, Global Change and Macroecology, and modelling ecosystem and Earth system processes, which we have identified together with researchers working in the field of Ecology, we want to explore particular challenges with respect to

  • obtaining and preserving data (Use case: automated long-term monitoring of biodiversity)
  • pattern-recognition in highly dimensional and geo-tagged data sets (Use case: Global Change Ecology), and
  • model development and model-data-confrontation (Use case: Modelling ecosystem and Earth system processes)

More detailed information about the use cases and relevant areas of computer science can be found here.

The seminar has two main objectives:

  1. Joint authoring of a book on the state of the art and challenges in the intersection of computer science and ecology. This book shall be based on the results of the working groups. Based on the example scenarios it will introduce three important classes of problems in Ecology. For these, it will provide an introduction to available tools, and will outline challenges for future research. Such a book can serve as a handbook for ecologists wanting to leverage computer science in their research but also as a roadmap for future research activities.
  2. Define project ideas for cooperation between Computer Scientists and Ecologists and identify suitable funding schemes.

Together, these two objectives will serve to intensify cooperation between the disciplines involved.

  Creative Commons BY 3.0 DE
  Benjamin Adams and Gustau Camps-Valls and Thomas Hickler and Birgitta König-Ries


  • Computer Graphics / Computer Vision
  • Data Bases / Information Retrieval
  • Modelling / Simulation


  • Biodiversity
  • Earth System
  • Earch Observation
  • Remote Sensing
  • Ecology
  • Big Data
  • Modeling
  • Data Integration
  • Semantics
  • Society
  • Citizen Science
  • Mobile Computing

Book exhibition

Books from the participants of the current Seminar 

Book exhibition in the library, ground floor, during the seminar week.


In the series Dagstuhl Reports each Dagstuhl Seminar and Dagstuhl Perspectives Workshop is documented. The seminar organizers, in cooperation with the collector, prepare a report that includes contributions from the participants' talks together with a summary of the seminar.


Download overview leaflet (PDF).


Furthermore, a comprehensive peer-reviewed collection of research papers can be published in the series Dagstuhl Follow-Ups.

Dagstuhl's Impact

Please inform us when a publication was published as a result from your seminar. These publications are listed in the category Dagstuhl's Impact and are presented on a special shelf on the ground floor of the library.