26. Februar – 03. März 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)

Auskunft zu diesem Dagstuhl-Seminar erteilt

Dagstuhl Service Team


Dagstuhl Report, Volume 7, Issue 2 Dagstuhl Report
17091-Description [pdf]
Programm des Dagstuhl-Seminars [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.

Summary text license
  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


In der Reihe Dagstuhl Reports werden alle Dagstuhl-Seminare und Dagstuhl-Perspektiven-Workshops dokumentiert. Die Organisatoren stellen zusammen mit dem Collector des Seminars einen Bericht zusammen, der die Beiträge der Autoren zusammenfasst und um eine Zusammenfassung ergänzt.


Download Übersichtsflyer (PDF).

Dagstuhl's Impact

Bitte informieren Sie uns, wenn eine Veröffentlichung ausgehend von Ihrem Seminar entsteht. Derartige Veröffentlichungen werden von uns in der Rubrik Dagstuhl's Impact separat aufgelistet  und im Erdgeschoss der Bibliothek präsentiert.


Es besteht weiterhin die Möglichkeit, eine umfassende Kollektion begutachteter Arbeiten in der Reihe Dagstuhl Follow-Ups zu publizieren.