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)

For support, please contact

Dagstuhl Service Team


Dagstuhl Report, Volume 7, Issue 2 Dagstuhl Report
Aims & Scope
List of Participants
Shared Documents
17091-Description [pdf]
Dagstuhl Seminar Schedule [pdf]


Ecology is a discipline that shows clearly the potential but also the challenges of computer supported research described as the 4th scientific paradigm by Jim Gray. It is increasingly data driven, yet suffers from hurdles in data collection, quality assurance, provenance, integration, and analysis.

We believe that ecology could profit from modern computer science methods to overcome these hurdles. However, usually, scientists in ecology are not completely aware of current trends and new techniques in computer science that can support their daily work. Such support could consist in the management, integration, and (semi-)automatic analysis of resources, like experimental data, images, measurements, in the generation of useful metadata, cloud computing, distributed processing, etc. Ecoinformatics is regarded as an important supporting discipline by many ecologists. However, up to now, very few computer scientists are involved in this discipline; mostly ecoinformatics (or biodiversity informatics) is done by people with a strong background in e.g. ecology and a long (mostly self-taught) experience in data management. It lacks a strong connection to cutting-edge computer science research in order to profit from the results of this area. On the other hand, computer scientists know too little about the domain to be able to offer solutions to relevant problems and to identify potential research avenues.

Motivated by our belief that a stronger bond between the disciplines that goes beyond viewing computer science as a “service provider” is of vital importance, we proposed this Dagstuhl seminar. The aim of the Dagstuhl seminar was to establish such links between (geo-)ecologists, ecoinformaticians and computer scientists.

The seminar: perspective and self-evaluation

Before the seminar. It turned out that it was not an easy task to motivate non-computer scientists to attend the seminar. For many, travel costs were a hurdle ultimately preventing attendance. This resulted in an unusually large number of declined invitations (often accompanied by “I would love to attend, but…” emails.

Despite these initial problems, we believe that the aim to start building links among the communities was reached at the seminar: We had fruitful discussions in numerous working groups resulting in some very concrete plans for future work.

Organization of the seminar. A total of 27 attendees gathered at the seminar. The wide variety of expertise and backgrounds constituted an initial challenge for the organization. The agenda considered a first round of presentations of the individuals and their research groups with a clear outline and items to treat (personal background, Research Areas/Interests, prospective links to „Computer Science meets Ecology“ seminar). After this, the main topics of interest for a wide audience were designed: essentially, three breakout groups were set up in the very first day of the meeting. Over the course of the seminar, these groups were adjusted, split up, or merged, several times. This resulted in quite a number of topics being touched upon with concrete results ranging from a working example for the application of a new method to a modeling problem to concrete plans for publications, a proposal and follow-up activities. Reports on these groups were given in the plenary session, and can be found in this report.

Broad results of the seminar. Results from the seminar can be categorized in three types: (i) collaborative and networking, as new joint works on specific topics came out of the meeting; (ii) knowledge transfer between fields, as computer scientists learned about the main problems in ecology involving data, while ecologists became aware of what kind of problems data scientists can solve nowadays; and (iii) educational, as several young PhD students and postdocs attended and participated in high level discussions.

Conclusions. The seminar brought together top scientists in the fields of ecology and computer science. The group of individuals was largely interdisciplinary, with a wide range of interests and expertises in each community too: from botany and animal science, to machine learning and computer vision. The seminar was organized in two main types of sessions: plenary and working group sessions to better focus on particular topics. Interesting developments and discussions took place in both, and a high level of cross-fertilization and future collaborations was initiated. On top of this, there was a broad consensus among the participants that the seminar should be the start of a series of yearly or bi-yearly meetings. We hope that the success of this first seminar will encourage broader participation in follow-up activities.

  Creative Commons BY 3.0 Unported license
  Gustau Camps-Valls, Joachim Denzler, Thomas Hickler, Birgitta König-Ries, and Markus Reichstein


  • 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.

NSF young researcher support