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Name of Collaboratory :




URL :  

Collaboratory Status :

Operational   Start Date : 2003 End Date : Info Last Updated : Sun, Dec 5 2010 9:01am PST

Primary Collaboratory Function :

  Community Infrastructure Development  

Secondary Collaboratory Functions :

  Community Data Systems, Virtual Community of Practice, Virtual Learning Community  

Domain(s) :

  Earth Science, Geology, Paleontology, Oceanography  

Brief Description of the Collaboratory :


CHRONOS is a team of geoscientists and information technology specialists creating a cyberinfrastructure that will deliver open access to a global federation of Earth history databases, tools, and services, thus providing:

 For academic, government, and industrial scientists – access to multiple, disparate
databases on Earth history; data evaluation and conversion services; and powerful
analytical tools.
 For autonomous databases, affiliated science initiatives, and data and tool
contributors – a larger user community, greater visibility and acknowledgment, and access to tools and best practices, without the cost and burden of reproducing interoperability.
 For educators, students, and policy makers – a convenient source of Earth history data, visualization tools, expert opinion, and educational materials.

CHRONOS is a growing network of hosted and federated relational databases and data files containing mainly published sedimentary rock data pertaining to Earth history and collected from globally distributed marine cores and terrestrial outcrops. These data sets are fully attributed and include paleobiological, geochemical, geochronological, lithological, and magnetostratigraphic data with related temporal and spatial information.

They have integrated eight databases (as of January 2006) - Neptune (hosted), Mesozoic Planktonic Foraminifera Database (hosted), HERMES (hosted), PaleobiologyDB, PaleoStrat, ODP/JANUS, FAUNMAP, and MIOMAP. Additionally, two data repositories, Pangaea and, have been connected into the search system via web service.

CHRONOS (or CHRONOS System) is a cooperative arrangement among geoscientists, information technology specialists, graduate and undergraduate students who are working together to build a cyberinfrastructure for paleontological, paleobiological and sedimentary geochemistry research. Its activities are led by an Executive Director and an Internal Coordinating Committee, who are in turn advised by an External Advisory Board, an Educational Advisory Board and various continuing and ad hoc working groups. Further details about their management structure are given in a document on their Website.

They also have educational resources available for K-12 teachers, college instructors, and scientists on their Website.


Chronos is working with the Earth science community to develop a dynamic, interactive and time-calibrated network of databases and visualization and analytical methodologies for sedimentary geology and paleobiology. The Chronos System provides a platform for modern, innovative Earth history research, hosts and develops educational resources, and gives access to the general public to new knowledge of Earth science facts and issues.

The Chronos System is a community-based effort to develop a comprehensive information network related to the evolution and diversity of life, climate change, geochemical cycles, paleoceanography, geodynamical processes, and other aspects of the Earth system. The system gives access to networked relational databases and data sets pertaining to sedimentary geology and paleobiology. Data can be accessed through a GIS-like interface, through a TIS (geologic time scale) interface, or can be queried using keywords, types of data, or taxon names. A growing toolbox of visualization and analytical applications complete the resources provided by the CHRONOS System.

At present the project has 122 participants from 85 institutions in 18 countries. (for a full list of the paticipating institutions please refer to
One of the more formal collaborations is between and which seeks to create a facility that can address the geoinformatics needs of virtually the entire range of sedimentary geology and paleobiology including:

- Stratigraphy & Basin Analysis
- Chemostratigraphy / Sedimentary Geochemistry
- Paleobiology/biostratigraphy
- Radioisotope geochronology
- Magnetostratigraphy
- Geologic time scale

The entire project is summarized in the following 6 year plan (2003 - 2009):

- Establish and interlink critical thematic database networks
- Establish central Chronos portals to access and analyze data for researchers and the general public.
- Develop advanced tools and visualization capabilities.
- Assemble a high precision "Standard Geological Time Scale" under the aegis of the International Commission on Stratigraphy.
- Coordinate an outreach program with educational modules and informative demonstrations of the Chronos system.
- Study 4 critical time-slices of Earth History as "test-bed" investigatons using the expanding capabilities of the IT infrastructure and toolkits of the assembled Chronos system.
develop distributed nodes and a global central hub for Chornostratigraphic data.

The organizational structure of Chronos:
- An advisory board meets once a year to keep track of the development process, provide advice, help with the collaboration with different groups, extend internationally, work with industry, museums, academics, etc.
- A steering committee which meets twice a year to decide on issues such as coordinating all the activities, the working groups, organizing the workshops, working with the developers and the education outreach activities, administration. The steering committee is elected by the project participants and serve a term of between 2 - 3 years.
- Working groups which are made up of domain scientists and volunteers who would like to be involved, usually by sharing data answering questions, or testing the system.

The project has managed to garner funding from the NSF which is then distributed to the participants according to the manner in which they contribute to the project. The proposal was funded such that each individual person who was funded had a specific task for example PIs are getting funded for database work, taxonomic dictionary work etc.

The project also has people who participate in the workshops and then become part of the working groups but are not funded. These individuals are involved in the sense that they contribute their ideas, their data and their expertise. These individuals also have opportunities to submit proposals for parts of the work that theyíre doing thatís somehow related to Chronos.


Access to Instruments :

  Central Chronos Portal:
- Chronos is developing an initial set of tools for the community to use. Several of these tools are currently under active development and initial use. As they become available to the public they will be hosted at this location. Some of the tools already developed for use are:
-- CDAC: The CHRONOS Data Analysis Client

-- ADP: The CHRONOS Age-Depth plotting program.
A Java re-implementation of the ADP program written by Dave Lazarus for the Macintosh ( Lazarus, 1992, Lazarus, 1995). It reads paleontological age-depth data from files in the same format as the original ADP program, plots those data, and allows interactive fitting of a line of correlation or age model.

Access to Information Resources :

  Federated Database Network using IBMís Information Integrator to network databases:
- Neptune database:
Developed at the ETH Z¸rich, currently hosted by CHRONOS. A relational database of microfossil occurrences of about 8,800 plankton species names (nanofossils, foraminifera, diatoms, and radiolarians) in Cenozoic samples of 165 DSDP and ODP drillholes from all ocean basins up to Leg 135. Neptune can be queried by using Chiron, a web interface the enables users to to search for information. (See image below)

A GIS interface allows users to extract data from the GIS system for use with services located at CHRONOS and other locations and in other programs. This ensures the interoperability of systems via standards bases GIS methods (WMS, WFS, etc) and the ability to connect the GIS data with time based and other data sources.


Access to People as Resources :

  Domain scientists are directly involved in the development of Chronos in collaboration with CHRONOS IT team and specifically to:

(1) help design and review specific aspects of database schemas, metadata categories, and visualization and computational tools;
(2) serve as experts to answer queries from IT specialists; and
(3) enlist community support for populating and using CHRONOS.

As such Chronos is organized into the following Working Groups to connect with these domain scientists who volunteer their time. The working groups are:

Geochemical Cycles/Paleogeochemistry
Coordinators: Ethan Grossman, Texas A and M University, and John McArthur, University College London

Paleobiology and Biostratigraphy
Coordinators: Vladimir Davydov, Boise State University; Brian Huber, Smithsonian Institution, and Mark Leckie, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Radioisotope Geochronology
Coordinators:Sam Bowring, MIT, Paul Renne Berkeley Geochronology Center, and Mark Schmitz, Boise State University

The CHRONOS Education and Outreach working group
(Coordinator: Cinzia Cervato, ISU) helps coordinate, develop, and promote formal and informal educational and community involvement activities that focus on Earth history and paleobiology.

Also, a once-a-year workshop with all the scientists plus the developers is conducted.

All funded PIs, ICC members, members of the IT development team,
representatives from the advisory board and federated database
meet at least once a year. The CHRONOS annual retreat is advertised and open to anyone interested in attending.

Funding Agency or Sponsor :


Notes on Funding Agencies/Sponsors:
NSF has provided the project with $3 million initial funding for 2 years in order to develop the architecture and the framework for this network, as well as develop partnerships with other groups that might have a different data sets.

Organizations with Funded Participants:
Organization name:
Approx # of participants:
Description of organization's role(s):
Iowa State University
Cinzia Cervato, Douglas Fils(IT programmer), Xiaoyun Tang (IT programmer)
Johns Hopkins University
Linda Hinnov
University of Kansas
   Kansas Geological Survey
Lee Allison, Geoff Bohling (IT programmer)
Purdue University
James Ogg
University of California, San Diego (UCSD)
   Scripps Institution of Oceanography (UCSD)
Anthony Koppers
   San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC)
Chaitan Baru, Douglas Greer (IT programmer)
Smithsonian Institution
Brian Huber
Texas A&M University
Ethan Grossman
United States Geological Survey (USGS)
Bruce Wardlaw
University of Massachusetts System (UMASS)
   University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst)
Mark Leckie

Notes on Participants/Organizations:
Partner Organizations:
- GEON: Geosciences Network(
- Neptune database (
- PaleoStrat (
- EarthRef (
- ISES: Intergrated Solid Earth Sciences (
- CSIRO Australia: Ecploration & Mining, Computational Geoscience
- (
- Geosystems (
- Carnets de Geologie (
- Geological Survey of Canada
- New Zealand Institute of Geology and Nuclear Science


Communications Technology Used :

  - Developers Mailing Lists:
Used to disseminate newsletters, every month where we summarize the progress on data, on tools, the various meetings, upcoming workshops, personnel changes, new work groups, etc
- Instant messaging (Java)
- Chronos forums
- Chronos Directors Wiki
- Chronos AlphaWiki (Developers)

Technical Capabilities :

  Management of technical resources
Access control/login facilities
Summarization services, Data mining, Simulation, modeling, visualization
Asynchronous object sharing
Index/metadata, Centrally controlled knowledge base
Asynchronous conversation
Threaded discussion, Email
Synchronous conversation
Instant messaging/chat
  Key Articles :    

Project-reported performance data :

  Images of the Collaboratory:  
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