rOpenSci | When Field or Lab Work is not an Option - Leveraging Open Data Resources for Remote Research

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted all of our lives in a very short period of time. Spring and summer are usually very busy as students prepare to go the field to engage in various data collection efforts. The pandemic has also disrupted these carefully planned activities as travel is suspended and local and remote field stations have closed indefinitely. A lost field season can be a major setback for a dissertation timeline and students will have to improvise. One promising opportunity to continue research efforts during these unprecedented times is taking advantage of the massive amounts of open scientific data that are freely available. Open data can form the basis of a review, synthesis, or new research.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Arctic researchers, you can always access the Arctic Data Center’s
catalog of data for new synthetic projects! Search for data here or create a portal here

Any questions, reach out to!


Ethan White, Assoc Prof of Ecology & Informatics, University of Florida shared via Twitter examples of how his lab uses open data in their research.

We use opendata in combination with field work on a regular basis. This includes combining @NEON_sci remote sensing and vegetation data with data on trees collected in the field (by the awesome @sj_graves)

We also use satellite and weather data from @NASA & @NOAA for modeling and forecasting rodent abundances collected by @skmorgane’s group (currently the fantastic team of @bleds22e & @diaz_renm soon to be joined by @patdumandan)

And we also do work based purely on opendata including using @VertNetOrg to understand how organisms respond to temperature (by @KristinaRiemer) and @USANPN to model and forecast plant phenology (by @dataEcologist).


Anton Van de Putte, Royal Belgian Institute for Natural Science, an author on this post, shared this:

…For those interested in marine biodiversity data check out the obis and obistools two great R packages from the @OBISNetwork the Ocean Biodiversity Information System OBIS · GitHub

OBIS provides access to nearly 60 million marine biological observations.

For Antarctic biological data there is a Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) data laundry Slack workspace where people can ask questions about how to clean data.

Question on Twitter from Ahmadou Dicko:

Is there any package with global hydro data and do you know the most accurate source of hydro (rivers, water bodies, etc) data at the global level?

Louise Slater, an author of this post responded:

If it is not too blatant horn tooting, my package, elevatr provides access to global elevation data via the AWS terrain data. Access to USGS point elevation data are also available. SRTM access is in the dev version and other goodies should be added soonish (3-6 months)

Also, I have been making very liberal use of FedData in a project , nsink, that will soon have some products to share. Would not have been possible without FedData!


On weather /climatology we’ve started to evaluate rgee (Google Earth Engine client) and cds (ECMWF CDS API client). Nudge to the authors, great efforts.