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Meet the BioFresh team: Astrid Schmidt-Kloiber

July 7, 2011

Jhomolhari, (c) A. Schmidt-Kloiber

This is the first in a series of interviews where BioFresh partners discuss their work for the project, scientific inspirations, share stories of memorable research and outline their future plans.

Our first interview is with Astrid Schmidt-Kloiber (PhD).  Astrid is a river ecologist at the  Institute of Hydrobiology and Aquatic Ecosystem Management (IHG) at the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences (BOKU) in Vienna, with expertise in database design, set-up and management of (web-based) databases.

Her main task during the last years was the establishment of, a Europe-wide trait database for macro invertebrates, fish, diatoms and macrophytes. She has a background on river benthic invertebrates and experiences in multivariate statistics. She is editor of the book series “Distribution and Ecological Preferences of European Freshwater Organisms”

* 1 What is the focus of your research for BioFresh, and why?
ASK: One of the main aims of BioFresh is to establish a biodiversity information platform and data portal. In BioFresh I am responsible for the quality control of the incoming databases that feed into this data portal. One of my major tasks is the establishment of a so-called metadatabase where all databases that are part of the BioFresh portal are registered.

This sounds a bit abstract, but usually metadata are loosely defined as “data about data”, that means the general characteristics of each database are collected and stored as e.g., its content, the covered regions, the provided organism group(s), information on the data holder and related intellectual property rights as well as any environmental information. The BioFresh metadatabase is available as questionnaire for data providers and as a query tool for scientists to find relevant data.

* 2 How is your work relevant for policy makers, conservationists and/or the general public?
A metadatabase as described above helps data providers to document their data and make them visible to the public (and future users), and on the other hand, for the data consumers it has the advantage to facilitate discovering data and assessing their appropriateness for e.g. scientific analyses. Thus, the BioFresh metadatabase can be a useful tool for easily detecting relevant information needed to support conservation priorities or policy decisions. Both the BioFresh portal and the metadatabase also have relevance for future generations as research on a long-term scale and sustainable policy starts with the documentation, storing and providing of data.

Trichoptera, (c) W.Graf/A. Schmidt-Kloiber

* 3 Why is the BioFresh project important?
Apart from its scientific outcomes, BioFresh is important as it hopefully raises public awareness and consciousness about biodiversity. As long as there are still people around who say that it does not matter, if one more species goes extinct, there is still promotional and educational work for us to do.

Regarding freshwater biodiversity policy I do hope that BioFresh will contribute to entrench basic research more effectively into EU funding programs. Imagine, that in Central Europe still every year new freshwater species are described! Environments as for example springs and sources of rivers are still poorly investigated, but seem to be biodiversity hot-spots (of invertebrates). Only if we have the basic knowledge, we can develop the right conservation policies.

* 4 Tell us about a memorable experience in your scientific career
One of my most memorable experience in my scientific career so far was a visit to Bhutan during the ASSESS-HKH project. We went there to assist our Bhutanese partners with the sampling of rivers. Both the beauty of the landscape with its unimpaired rivers and high mountain ranges as well as the attitude and respect towards nature of the people there impressed me deeply and has further influenced my thinking and every day life.

Punakha Dzong, (c) A. Schmidt-Kloiber

* 5 What inspired you to become a scientist?
Both having a scientific background within my family as well as my interest and love for nature from an early age seemed to be the logical prerequisites to become a nature scientist.

* 6 What are your plans and ambitions for your future scientific work?
Together with my colleague Dr. Wolfram Graf we intend to establish and publish a Red List of Endangered Trichoptera (caddisflies) according to the IUCN criteria. This enormous undertaking is partly funded by BioFresh, but very much relies on the help and willingness to contribute of an extensive number of private working caddisfly experts from all over Europe. We are very grateful for their work which will help to successfully manage this challenging task.

Trichoptera larvae, (c) W. Graf

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