GCE and CWT LTER Programs Enhance Data Processing Toolbox


9 September 2013

The Georgia Coastal Ecosystems and Coweeta Long Term Ecological Research Programs are pleased to announce the completion of major upgrades to the software and documentation supporting the GCE Data Toolbox for MATLAB. Environmental scientists are under increasing pressure from funding agencies and journal publishers to release quality-controlled data in a timely manner, as well as to produce comprehensive metadata for submitting data to long-term archives (e.g. DataONE, Dryad and BCO-DMO). At the same time, the volume of digital data that researchers collect and manage is increasing rapidly due to advances in high frequency electronic data collection from flux towers, instrumented moorings, and a wide variety of terrestrial and aquatic sensors and sensor networks. However, few pre-built software tools are available to meet these data management needs, and those tools that do exist typically focus on part of the data management lifecycle or one class of data. The GCE Data Toolbox provides a data management solution that can be used as either a comprehensive solution or a provider of modules or “micro-services” that can be integrated with other workflows and management software. It has proven effective for environmental data management in the LTER Network.

The GCE Data Toolbox is a software library for metadata-based processing, quality control, and analysis of environmental data. It is designed and maintained by Wade M. Sheldon, Jr. of the UGA Marine Sciences Program and is available free of charge for anyone with a MATLAB license. The Data Toolbox has been in production at the GCE LTER for twelve years and the CWT LTER has been using the software steadily since 2009. Coweeta contributes to development through both software testing and documentation development.

The software is available from a University of Georgia-based subversion repository and development wiki,


There are also several instructional products at the site, including a documentation page containing user manual and training guide, along with accompanying sample data. Links to these resources are as follows for the document page,


for the manual and training guide,


and for the sample data,


The wiki also provides a podcast site with links to about 45 minutes of instructional content. These podcasts guide users through an initial MATLAB installation, give them a basic understanding of Toolbox’s look and feel, and explore some basic Toolbox operations. Several more podcasts are planned before the end of 2013 and all Podcasts can be found at


The GCE Data Toolbox is highly modular and built on native MATLAB functions. It can be used as a complete, light weight solution for environmental data and metadata management, or in conjunction with other cyber infrastructure. Once a user has a basic understanding of the Toolbox, it is relatively easy to integrate code for custom work. For example, newly acquired data can be retrieved from a Data Turbine or Campbell LoggerNet Database servers for quality control and processing, then transformed to CUAHSI Observations Data Model format and uploaded to a HydroServer for distribution through the CUAHSI Hydrologic Information System.

The Data Toolbox can also be leveraged in analytical workflows developed using Kepler or other systems that support MATLAB integration or tool chaining. The function list and a detailed explanation of the data model are available to help users integrate function calls from the Toolbox into their own scripts. Function call and data model links are


, respectively.

The Toolbox is designed around the idea of Metadata-based processing, so there is a built-in, automated capability to keep track of the lineage of one's data by tracing the sources of derived data sets. In sum, the GCE Data Toolbox for MATLAB can be leveraged in many ways to help researchers manage, analyze and distribute the data they collect. Moving forward, the development team plans to encourage opportunities for future enhancements by growing the user community and encouraging that community to suggest improvements and additional features. For more information please visit the development wiki using the links above. To get more deeply involved and join the GCE Data Toolbox User Group Listserv, please email gcelter@uga.eduor cwtim@uga.edu.