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BLE LTER's Information Management System

Our philosophy

The BLE IMS uses modular components and relies on external APIs and open source resources to minimize development burden and promote reusability. We welcome discussion and feedback on our system, and we love collaborating with other information managers on improving the state of IM in LTER. We also make sure to follow LTER guidelines and best practices for our website, our metadata, and document all our practices in a BLE Information Management Handbook. See what we're up to on GitHub, and take a peek into our information management system below.

Managing Data Packages

Collecting Metadata

Our researchers use a spreadsheet metadata template to supply metadata with data submissions. The spreadsheet includes validation and other forms of guidance to help the user supply rich metadata.

Metadata Template

Storing Metadata

We store data package information in a Postgres database using the LTER Core Metabase schema. This schema is designed to be simple and extensible while supporting the creation of EML metadata.

Core Metabase

Making EML

We created an R package called MetaEgress to generate Ecological Metadata Language documents from our Core Metabase. We plan to eventually tie this into the EML Assembly Line.


Our Website

Our static HTML website is built purely with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and costs us $0 to operate annually (yes, zero). You can literally download our website on GitHub and double-click index.html to run it from your local computer. We gladly take advantage of the following technologies.

Data Catalog

Using our PASTA client, our Data Catalog taps into the Environmental Data Initiative where we archive our data. This ensures that our website stays in sync with the official archive. Sites that archive with DataOne nodes such as the Arctic Data Center may be interested in our Solr client.

PASTA Client


We use Zotero as our reference manager. With our Zotero JavaScript client, we call upon the Zotero API to feed our bibliography into our Publications page. When a new publication comes out, our team can seamlessly update the Zotero bibliography and website.

Zotero Client

We use Algolia for Netlify for searching content on our website. We like that Algolia works seamlessly with Netlify to provide instant search and fuzzy search capacity.

Going Serverless

By relying on external APIs and sticking with static HTML, we can implement our website without having to maintain any servers. This means we don't incur the operating cost of a dynamic server (unlike WordPress or Drupal sites for example), and we aren't plagued by dynamic CMS security flaws.

There are lots of free hosts for static websites. We like Netlify the best. They minify our assets to improve page load times, provide HTTPS, and host our site on a content delivery network with servers distributed around the world to maximize uptime and speed, among other benefits. As soon as we make a new commit to our site on GitHub, Netlify picks it up and distributes it across their network. They also support forms, functions, and secure logins, though we haven't played with those features yet.

Eventually we may adopt a static site generator to assist with page creation and website redesign. For now we use a simple script to update headers, footers, and navigation across the entire site when needed.

We Love Our Team

Our Information Management System would be nothing without the skills, dedication, and enthusiasm of our team, both on the IM side and the domain science side. This system works because our scientists are willing and able to incorporate information management into their workflows up front, and because there is open, friendly, and regular dialog between scientists and information managers within BLE.

Our IM team enjoys extending that dialog into the broader LTER community. If you are facing an IM challenge involving GIS, Python, or any part of the stack described above, feel free to contact us.