National parks serve so many purposes. Expanding our knowledge about the natural world is just one role they fill.
Through scientific research in the parks we learn more about the world around us, are able to monitor the health of ecosystems, and possibly even find cures to diseases.
Failing to track what we learn, though, can be just as crippling as not knowing what exists. So imagine my surprise the other day to learn that the National Biological Information Infrastructure is being shut down January 15 due to budget cuts.
The program has been operated by the U.S. Geological Survey's Biological Informatics Office.
The NBII "is a broad, collaborative program to provide increased access to data and information on the nation's biological resources. The NBII links diverse, high-quality biological databases, information products, and analytical tools maintained by NBII partners and other contributors in government agencies, academic institutions, non-government organizations, and private industry. NBII partners and collaborators also work on new standards, tools, and technologies that make it easier to find, integrate, and apply biological resources information. Resource managers, scientists, educators, and the general public use the NBII to answer a wide range of questions related to the management, use, or conservation of this nation's biological resources."
With help from federal agencies such as the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state natural resources departments, international partners, universities, and others, the NBII has provided a rich, and easily searchable, database of information on the nation's biological resources.
Fortunately, the National Park Service has its own inventory and monitoring program and website to track science in the parks. But the impending loss of the NBII reduces the depth of science readily available to the public and researchers alike.