Chronos (www.chronos.org) is a community facility funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and initiated in 2001 by a group of paleobiologists, stratigraphers, database developers, and information technology (IT) specialists as part of the geoinformatics initiative, a revolution that is migrating geoscience information to more readily retrievable electronic formats. Chronos addresses the geoinformatics needs of sedimentary geology and paleobiology, emphasizes global correlation and time-series analysis, and directly supports cutting-edge research on topics that include the evolution and diversity of life, climate change, geochemical cycles, paleoceanography, and many other aspects of the earth system.
Chronos provides an open, community-based geoinformatics platform for storing, accessing, and analyzing sedimentary geological, geochemical, and paleobiological data. By augmenting and connecting community databases and giving them an unprecedented level of interoperability, Chronos is working to realize a virtual, online, electronic stratigraphic record—a means to boost the pace and enlarge the scope of integrative geoscience. The full Chronos system includes a core IT facility and hosted databases, a global network of federated databases, tools, targeted development projects, and education and outreach activities. Chronos and its partners cooperate to: (1) link existing databases and other geoinformatics components into a single interoperable network, (2) provide primary databases to capture relevant data types, (3) offer tool sets for data analysis, and (4) create working groups and organize workshops to ensure that the needs of the community are met. Whereas no single facility can encompass all the data types needed for all of the earth sciences, nor provide all the analytical tools necessary to work with and synthesize these data, we are developing a facility that addresses many of these needs, that interoperates with other data collections, and is connected to a national geoinformatics and computational grid (GEONGrid).
Chronos sponsored a thematic session at the 2004 Geological Society of America Annual Meeting in Denver, Colo., titled “Geologic time and Chronos: Databases, tools, outreach, education, and the geoinformatics revolution,” which included 30 oral and 17 poster presentations. Four keynote speakers introduced the session and presented examples of geoinformatics applications such as deep-sea seismic reflection and drilling (W.B.F. Ryan,Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University), paleontology (Michael J. Benton, University of Bristol), provocative thoughts on radiocarbon dating (Kenneth J. Hsü, Nanjing University), and NSF's view of the community challenges to Chronos (Margaret Leinen, NSF). Volunteered presentations included overviews of the 2004 geologic time scale, examples of science initiatives partnering with Chronos, national and international geoinformatics projects, education and outreach projects involving Web-based technology, and three-dimensional visualizations showcasing the Geowall. Pre-sentations also included examples of Chronos-related science projects and databases, networks, and tools developed during the first year of funding by developers and undergraduate students supported by the Chronos project.
Many of the presenters have contributed manuscripts to Geosphere on a variety of geoinformatics projects and education studies and initiatives with geologic time and stratigraphy as the common thread. This issue of Geosphere marks the beginning of a series of issues that include these papers.