Enhancing collaboration between ecologists and computer scientists: lessons learned and recommendations forward
In the era of big data, ecologists are increasingly relying on computational approaches and tools to answer existing questions and pose new research questions. These include both software applications (e.g., simulation models, databases and machine learning algorithms) and hardware systems (e.g., wireless sensor networks, supercomputing, drones and satellites), motivating the need for greater collaboration between computer scientists and ecologists. Here, we outline some synergistic opportunities for scientists in both disciplines that can be gained by building collaborations between the computer science and ecology research communities, with a focus on the benefits to ecology specifically. We also identify past contributions of computer science to ecology, including high-frequency environmental sensor technology, advanced supercomputing capacity for ecological modeling, databases for long-term and high-frequency datasets, and software programs for ecological analyses, to anticipate future potential contributions. These examples highlight the power and potential for further integration of computer science technology and ideas into the ecological research community. Finally, we translate our own experiences working together as a team of computer scientists and ecologists over the past decade into a conceptual framework with recommendations for supporting productive collaborations at the interface of the two disciplines. We specifically focus on how to apply best practices of team science for bridging computer science and ecology, which we advocate will substantially benefit ecology long-term.