The increasing availability of massive volumes of scientific data requires new synthetic analysis techniques to explore and identify interesting patterns that are otherwise not apparent. For biodiversity studies, a “data-driven” approach is necessary because of the complexity of ecological systems, particularly when viewed at large spatial and temporal scales. Data-intensive science organizes large volumes of data from multiple sources and fields and then analyzes them using techniques tailored to the discovery of complex patterns in high-dimensional data through visualizations, simulations, and various types of model building. Through interpreting and analyzing these models, truly novel and surprising patterns that are “born from the data” can be discovered. These patterns provide valuable insight for concrete hypotheses about the underlying ecological processes that created the observed data. Data-intensive science allows scientists to analyze bigger and more complex systems efficiently, and complements more traditional scientific processes of hypothesis generation and experimental testing to refine our understanding of the natural world.
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