Mercury (Hg) Research Ontology: Employing Informatics in Geochemistry
Mercury (Hg) monitoring in the United States has spanned three decades, but the diverse nature of Hg research makes comparison across studies difficult. The ability to measure whole ecosystem changes in Hg contamination in response to policies regulating Hg is often limited, and researchers have difficulties comparing results or utilizing the wealth of legacy Hg data more broadly. Commonly, there are several methodological and contextual barriers to comparing disparate monitoring efforts. For example, the differences in study design between sampling and monitoring projects may be in scale, duration, or intensity of sampling. Likewise the sampling methods, laboratory procedures, and reporting further complicate the evaluation of multiple monitoring efforts. For Hg contamination, there is often an assumed common understanding of some terms, assumptions about relationships, implicit, or different specification of the landscape settings, and imprecise or ambiguous spatial context specification of observation units that hinder the ability to make logical linkages between study results. These relationships and supporting data connections to these relationships can benefit from more formal definition. A Hg Research Ontology will provide a way to explicitly capture knowledge about the specific domain, and support consistent and unambiguous representations of entities and relationships within the field. In this research, we are developing ontologies to facilitate disparate data integration, dissemination and comparison for Hg monitoring in freshwater ecosystems. The developed ontologies will allow Hg data to be placed in the context of the Hg biogeochemical cycle and linked to contextual characteristics of the observation settings.