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The Need for a Clearinghouse

The Mono Basin is a uniquely spectacular landscape located in California’s Eastern Sierra. Relatively undeveloped, the basin has numerous geological, cultural, and ecological resources, all of scientific interest. The Mono Lake ecosystem itself is vital to millions of migratory and nesting birds. Mono Basin streams provide critical riparian habitat in the dry Great Basin, and other Mono Basin habitats are valuable for a variety of wildlife. As a result, the Mono Basin is often used as a educational laboratory to investigate environmental change and human impacts on the landscape within one relatively compact location.

Past human actions have threatened the health of these landscapes and ecosystems, and extensive work has gone into understanding the resources and into protecting them. Today, much restoration work is proceeding on the damaged Mono Basin streams and is designed to adapt to changing results, thus requiring access to detailed monitoring information. The lack of a central gathering point for this and other accumulated scientific knowledge about Mono Lake and the Mono Basin impedes top quality resource management and leads to duplication of effort. The Mono Basin Clearinghouse will solve this problem by gathering in one place all the relevant Mono Lake and Mono Basin reports, data, observations, oral histories, photographic records, and chronologies.

Additionally, the clearinghouse will serve as a central point for discussion and the exchange of ideas on this information by both scientists and the interested public. We expect the Clearinghouse to deepen people’s understanding of the Mono Basin, enhance the quality of the many educational programs conducted in the area, and lead to new and innovative scientific work. The clearinghouse will be Internet based for maximum accessibility and effectiveness.

Clearinghouse Materials

The Mono Basin Clearinghouse will gather a wide range of materials. The design of the project will be flexible so that new types of information--GIS data and technology for example--can be easily incorporated in the future.

There will be two thrusts to information gathering in the clearinghouse. First, we will go back through existing materials to catalog and convert them to digital format. Second, we will set up systems to capture relevant materials as they are released in the future.

Clearinghouse Startup

The Clearinghouse will be launched with the following types of materials, all of which currently exist in Committee archives:

  1. Scientific reports and studies
  2. Scientific field notes
  3. Scientific data
  4. MLC-gathered restoration monitoring data (e.g. piezometer, stream observations)
  5. Transcripts of hearings and other legal proceedings
  6. Photo sequences taken over time documenting environmental change
  7. Oral histories from local residents
  8. Chronology of events relating to environmental change (e.g. restoration activities, court proceedings)
  9. Catalog of links to relevant documents found on other public websites (e.g. real time hydrology info)

Two items will form the core of the Clearinghouse when it is launched:

1. An electronic version of the multi volume, 20 appendix, draft and final Environmental Impact Reports on Mono Basin Water diversions and
2. A keyword searchable database of 450 scientific reports and studies conducted in or relevant to the Mono Basin

All materials in the Clearinghouse will be available digitally over the Internet. Additionally, all materials will be indexed in databases so that they are easily searchable by date, topic, author, and other relevant fields.

Clearinghouse Expansion

The Clearinghouse will grow as new materials (reports, transcripts, etc.) are released and incorporated into the Clearinghouse database. Other areas for expansion of the Clearinghouse include:

  1. A public interface to the photo archive, so that individuals could contribute their own photo sequences to the collection
  2. Forums for discussion of various topics. Some would be hosted by scientists, others would be unmoderated.
  3. "Guest scientist" feature, where a particular researcher and project are extensively documented with photos, narrative text, special reference collections, and discussion opportunities.
  4. Incorporation of GIS map layers in web-friendly interface.

Clearinghouse as a Tool for Science Education

The Mono Basin Clearinghouse offers the Committee a unique method of serving as a communicator between scientists and scientific research, and the interested public. As a condition of funding, many scientific grants now require that researchers include public outreach and education as part of their project. Through the Clearinghouse, the Committee will be in a unique position to partner with researchers to fulfill these requirements by making the research work and results accessible to a wide variety of audiences. This not only assures that researchers will be interested in participating in the Clearinghouse project, but also offers a method of finding partial continuing funding for the project.

Already, the Committee has committed to working with researchers from the Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory on the public outreach component of a major, multi-year grant from the National Science Foundation. The Committee’s ability to help fulfill the education components of science grants will be a major attraction for researchers and will expand the organization’s contacts and involvement with science in the Mono Basin.

Clearinghouse Technology

The Clearinghouse will be operated by the Mono Lake Committee in Lee Vining using rented high-speed server space on the Internet. Website creation is done with Microsoft Frontpage, PHP3 scripting language, and Macromedia Flash. Database creation locally is in Microsoft Access, and will utilize ODBC linking to MySQL databases on the server, allowing flexible updating of information. If requirements demand, the possibility exists of switching from UNIX to Windows NT servers and utilizing Access on the actual web server. Reports and other final documents will be formatted in HTML but available for exact download as uneditable PDF files. The Clearinghouse will have its own domain name.

1. Scientific reports and studies 2. Scientific field notes 3. Scientific data and MLC-gathered restoration monitoring data (e.g. piezometer, stream observations) 4. Transcripts of hearings and other legal proceedings

5. Photo sequences taken over time documenting environmental change

6. Oral histories from local residents 7. Chronology of events relating to environmental change (e.g. restoration activities, court proceedings) 8. Catalog of links to relevant documents found on other public websites (e.g. real time hydrology info)

Two items will form the core of the Clearinghouse when it is launched:

1. An electronic version of the multi volume, 20 appendix, draft and final Environmental Impact Reports on Mono Basin Water diversions

2. A keyword searchable database of 450 scientific reports and studies conducted in or relevant to the Mono Basin

Sample entries in the database:

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