From VoCamp Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

1 General[edit]

This will be a virtual session with people collaborating for part of their day on a common vocabulary/ontology problem.

We have now run a number of successful, physical meeting VoCamps in the past. These are relatively informal workshops to develop semantically sound vocabularies. One problem is that not everyone interested can attend. A number of us have decided to try an online version of these, somewhat in the Hackathon style of working intensely on a problem for a confined space of time.

Here is some background on VoCamps and our experience. VoCamps are organized on an unconference style employing the idea of free flowing but facilitated, participant-driven meetings. People assemble for meetings with the bulk of time typically organized around one topic of interest. Work groups are made up of an integrated team of domain experts, group facilitators and people with semantic/ontological experience. While informal, the ingredients for a successful workshop start with a brief overview of methods, goals and schedule, past work that can be leveraged or reused and overview presentations on the topic by a proponent. Proponents are usually a domain expert but often assisted by a facilitator or ontologist to cover the full range of ideas. Background material may include domain vocabularies and even extant ontologies that relate to the problem area. All of this might be incorporated into a virtual session and this proposed VoCamp will be an opportunity to try an online session with interested parties around the globe working on 1 particular day, using a “non-traditional” engagement, on one particular problem of interest. In some sense this will be a Hackathon style effort - a deep dive into particular data-sets, problems, and concepts as part of a "hack day".

As is generally true of hackathons, people and groups may come with different skills, experience and expectations. We will try to organize these in an effective manner starting with definitions of the problem area, examples of previous work, some discussion of tools we can share/use together and how to sequence work across different groups and time zones.

Currently we have proponents in London, Ottawa, Maine, DC area, Rolla MO, and Toronto with others likely in Bolder, Co.

2 Where, When and How[edit]

2.1 Where[edit]

This is a virtual VoCamp so we will be using the Internet and associated applications to work on our topic of interest.

2.2 When[edit]

We are aiming at a Friday in February. So far February 16th looks good, but we will access this as we go forward.

2.3 How[edit]

As we organize further in Oct. and Nov. we will providing details on our operational plan, how to call in, tool choices, collaboration space/document (for example some combination of Google docs, wiki pages, a GitHub repository and/or a Slack channel), scheduling etc.

We expect to have some coordinating calls in Dec. and January as we firm up details.

Our Hackathon-inspired Vocamp can expect to include work on vocabulary clarification, conceptual model and ontology development and data application as an illustration. Past results with GeoVoCamp products provide examples of targets.

We hope that our session/project will be useful to field and eventually actually have positive professional and social impact. It is part of the motivation for VoCamps and Hackathons.

3 Our Topic - Glaciers[edit]

Torsten Hahmann has drafted a preliminary wroteup of our Proposed Topic: Glaciers and other Solid Water Bodies

Rationale: Water is one of the most important resources on Earth, requiring careful management. Much progress has been made on the semantic representation of where water is stored and flows as part of a number of ongoing standardization efforts. However, one of the most significant stores of freshwater, namely glaciers, ice sheets and related entities (e.g. permanent snow, icebergs, etc.), is not well represented despite them containing more than 68% of all freshwater and covering more than 10% of the Earth’s landmass (ref:


The proposed GeoVoCamp focuses on semantically modeling glaciers as part of the larger water infrastructure. This includes identifying how glaciers and related entities are consistent with existing semantic data representations of surface water and terrain, such as HY_Features, HyFO (the Hydro Foundational Ontology) and the Hydro Ontological Square, and ontology design patterns developed from previous GeoVoCamps (e.g. surface water network, depression landforms). Some of the questions that need to be addressed are:

  • Delineation of solid water bodies made of snow and/or ice from liquid ones (made of water):
    • how do they differ,
    • what do they have in common?
    • When is a solid water a glacier?
    • What is the relationship to permanent snow, icebergs, permafrost, sea ice, icepack, etc.
  • Glaciers (and related entities), their physical geography and relationship to landforms:
  1. mountain glaciers,
  2. valley glaciers,
  3. tidewater glaciers,
  4. Piedmont glaciers,
  5. ice sheets,
  6. ice caps,
  7. ice streams,
  8. icefields,
  9. ice shelves,
  10. rock glaciers,
  11. cirque glaciers,
  12. hanging glaciers,
  13. ice aprons,
  14. icepack, etc.

Boundary issues:[edit]

water bodies that are partly liquid, partly solid (e.g., a lake with permanent or temporary ice cover, permafrost)

  • Are there entities closely linked to glaciers, such as accumulation zone?

Addressing these questions would yield a first model for better understanding glaciers in the context of semantic water data standards. The main concern is to develop a well-founded taxonomy of glaciers and other kinds of solid water bodies. It is not expected to comprehensively study all the processes and changes affecting glaciers over time, such as snow melt (although we recognize that snow melt is a source of water, so could be considered an essential part of the glacier systems as a water source), growth/shrinkage of glaciers, movement (within a glacier), temporary/permanent disappearance, icebergs breaking off of larger glaciers, snow turning into ice, etc.

However, some of these changes may be identified as crucial for better classifying, delineating or characterizing glaciers and thus be discussed to some extent. For example icebergs have been discussed as a potential water source and could be included as part of considering the mass balance of the glacier system. One could argue that one central issues regarding glaciers is their role as sources of water. Questions then become:

  • what is the total volume of ice and
  • what is the mass balance
    • i.e. mass accumulation via deposition via direct snow fall and avalanches less mass loss through ablation via melting/sublimation and calving

Since there is limited time, some groups may consider these related issues more than others and make progress depending on resources and the difficulty of the problem. Scope issues like this are best handled in organizing calls before the workshop so that some focus is provided to the early hours of work.

Our experience in past VoCamps has been that some sub or related problems come up and are often the subject of subsequent workshops or papers that are generated based on the workshop.

Some existing sources of glacier related vocabulary:[edit]

4 Preliminary Results[edit]

Some output of our meeting is at:

Contact Gary Berg-Cross ( if you would like to know more.

5 Organizers[edit]

  1. Gary Berg-Cross (Ontolog Forum)
  2. Torsten Hahmann (U of Maine)
  3. Brandon Whitehead (CABI -Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International)
  4. Dalia Varanka (USGS)
  5. Boyan Brodaric (NRCan/RNCan)
  6. Ruth Duerr (Ronin Institute)
  7. Siri Jodha Khalsa (NSIDC)
  8. Mike Gruninger (U. of Toronto)

6 "Registered" to Participate[edit]

A preliminary list includes:

  1. Gary Berg-Cross (Ontolog Forum)
  2. Torsten Hahmann (U of Maine)
  3. Brandon Whitehead (CABI -Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International)
  4. Dalia Varanka (USGS)
  5. Boyan Brodaric (NRCan/RNCan)
  6. Ruth Duerr (Ronin Institute)
  7. Pier Buttigieg (Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology/HGF-MPG Group for Deep Sea Ecology & Technology, Bremen)
  8. Kai Blumberg
  9. Samanthan Arundel (USGS)