EOL Field Catalog

The EOL field catalog is a suite of tools that provide support for the documentation of observational field project operations, mission planning, cross-project collaboration, real-time situational awareness, communication with and direction of remote instrument platforms and post operations product review and playback, and is developed and maintained by EOL's Data Management & Services Facility.  

The field catalog is identified as https://doi.org/10.5065/D6SQ8XFB. See the citation recommendation below for more information.



The field catalog is one of the most heavily used services that EOL provides to the scientific community. A majority of the facility requests EOL receives each year include a petition for field catalog support. Recent years have seen an average of 6 field catalogs per year deployed in support of various programs. Through 23 years of use across a broad range of research topics, the major strengths of the field catalog have been its comprehensive collection of field project related documents and images, ease of use and adaptability. As technology and the way people use it changes, the field catalog, as a tool for supporting scientific research in the field and at research institutions, must continue to evolve to stay relevant. Because project operations have become critically dependant on the field catalog tools and related services for real-time situational awareness and decision-making, it is also extremely important to improve the reliability and robustness of the system for field campaign support as well as for collaboration with other research groups outside NCAR.



Each Field Catalog is customized as needed for each campaign. Each Field Catalog also continues to be available on-line long after the field campaign has ended so they can be used for post-project analysis. Every Field Catalog produced continues to be on-line and can be found at: http://catalog.eol.ucar.edu


Project Documentation

The Field Catalog provides reporting tools for documenting project operations. These tools allow the user to write reports in their web browser and include special formatting, in-line images, URLs, instrument status and event-specific information. These reports can be generated as frequently as is necessary and can be edited to correct errors or include additional information. The report forms themselves can be customized to meet the needs of the users and can be passwd-protected to limit their distribution only to the project team. If a user prefers to write and format reports in their own style they can also upload their reports to the Field Catalog in pdf form. A typical Field Catalog includes daily operation plans, weather forecast/summaries and instrument status tables. Other reports that are generated on an as-needed basis may include flight plans, debrief reports, instrument/platform mission summaries, operations summaries, instrument logs, chemical forecasts/discussions and nowcasts. If multiple teams are providing forecast support for a specific project, individual reports can be set up for each so each team may include its own input into the decision-making process. Finally, a Mission Table summarizes all of the major events and operations that occurred during the field campaign. This is often the best place to start looking when considering a case study or event specific research. 


Supporting Products

The EOL Data Management Team works with the project PIs to determine beforehand a list of necessary products that should be collected and available in real-time for the field campaign. This list includes necessary information for real-time decision-making as well as for documentation of conditions in which the research data was collected. Project PIs should give serious consideration to both factors well ahead of the field campaign so there is ample time to set up procedures for collecting all of this information. These "products" generally consist of plots or images and sometimes text reports or messages. These products may be from operational as well as research sources. EOL will ask for help obtaining these products, particularly those originating from research models or specifically customized products for a campaign. Product latency is minimized when the product can be uploaded directly from the source rather than us try to write script that guess when a product will be available. For product that are pushed to the Field Catalog, a specific naming convention must be applied. This naming convention and details on where to upload the files can be found in the "Tools & Links" section for the particular Field Catalog.


Of course, EOL welcomes any and all research products generated in the field that the project participants might be willing to provide. These also can be password-protected to limit their distribution. We strongly recommend at a minimum that you provide rapidly updating information on the location of your instrument platform to us if it is mobile. This will allow us to include its movements in the Catalog Maps display tool which is described below. If you have imagery or products that are best mapped, we will work with you to incorporate those into the Catalog Maps tool. For imagery, its works best if your product is in a commonly accessible web image format such as png, jpg or gif and is plotted in the Spherical Mercator projection, using the equator as the standard latitude. The Catalog Maps tool also easily handles files in json, kml or kmz formats as well. 


Mission Planning

The Field Catalog provides a number of features to assist in Mission Planning. First, we encourage the use of a Forecast Report to include all of the information for the daily briefing. This allows others who may only have a voice connection to follow along with the forecast briefing and allows those nt present to browse it later. After a meeting where decisions are made regarding project operations, the Project Operations Director or Chief Scientist will fill out or update the Ops Plan of the Day report. This report can be automatically emailed to the project mailing list if the author chooses and the specific operations schedule included in this report is automatically published to the Field Catalog front page. An instrument status report is also usually a part of every Field Catalog. This report allows each instrument operator or platform manager to report the status of their instruments in a simple color-coded manner and include some optional text to give further information when necessary. Usually updated before the planning meeting, this status report allows all participants to view the project-wide status of major instrument systems and decide whether the team is ready. The supporting products mentioned in the preceeding section are obtained in real-time and also provide a basis for planning whether conditions are right for operations to commence. The Field Catalog contains a number of tools for viwing individual products or looping them to observe trends. The Field Catalog also contains a GIS tool - Catalog Maps which allows users to overlay various product on top of each other. Frequent planning scenarios include flight plans for the upcoming operation and relevant products for targeting sampling opportunities. Everything can be played back in Catalog Maps as well as viewed real-time so some comparison can be made with situations on previous days.


Situational Awareness and Real-Time Decision-Making

As mentioned above, the Field Catalog contains a GIS based tool called Catalog Maps which allows any user to overlay various products with instrument locations, flight plans, etc. This tool provides excellent situational awareness and is also available on NCAR Aircraft. Catalog Maps provides rapid updating of instrument locations, for NCAR aircraft, this update rate is currently at 5 seconds. It can show mobile vehicle locations, dropsonde locations, aircraft tracks, satellite radar and lightning imagery, model forecast and other graphics. Update rates are variable depending on the source. Like everything else in the Field Catalog, the Catalog Maps tool is customized to include relevant layer for the campaign of interest. It can include reference layers with wind farm or power plant locations, FIR boundaries, VORTAC locations or an interactive site map for mobile instrument deployment as was built for the recently completed PECAN campaign. If mobile users are willing to purchase DeLorme inReach GPS devices (~$300 + usage) EOL can display those locations as well.   


Real-Time Communications

EOL routinely provides IRC Chat support for field campaigns. This service allows users to communicate between various ground-based and airborne locations in real time with instant messaging. EOL provides multiple room depending on the project and its needs to help separate and organize the conversations. These rooms are described in advance of the campaign and are logged. These logs are sanitized after the campaign to remove any inappropriate remarks or security concerns, like passwords, key locations, etc. Users are able to spontaneously open a non-logged room at any point and invite others to it. This is recommended for information that has to be passed securely. The Field Catalog includes a web client for connecting to theis service called mibbit. Users only need click on the link, enter a chat name for themselves and a common password and they are in. All text commuications are timed stamped and users can playback messages from an early time to catch anything they might have missed.


In-Field Data Sharing

Typically, EOL also sets up a preliminary data sharing area via ftp. This site can be anonymous or password-protected and is for the sharing of preliminary data collected during the campaign. Assuming there is sufficient bandwidth during the campaign, these data are mirrored back to Boulder and security is maintained so off-field-site users can acess the data. After the campaign is concluded this ftp area is removed and users are referred to the Data Archive instead. 


Post Mission, Post Campaign Review

The Field Catalog remains online prior to, during and long after the field campaign ends. Products, reports and instruments status can be viewed for any date/time. The Catalog Maps tool likewise allows any user to playback and manipilate layers from any date/time during the project. As mentioned above, the Mission Table is a good place to start for post campaign review.



When referencing the EOL field catalog in publications or proposals, please use the identifier link https://doi.org/10.5065/D6SQ8XFB . For example as a citation:

UCAR/NCAR - Earth Observing Laboratory, 1995-present. EOL Field Catalog. https://doi.org/10.5065/D6SQ8XFB

or as a footnote:

UCAR/NCAR - Earth Observing Laboratory Field Catalog, https://doi.org/10.5065/D6SQ8XFB

Please be careful of linebreaks and punctuation when cutting and pasting the above text, and feel free to reformat to fit your document. Additional example citation styles are available at ReFindit. The identifier and citation above apply to the field catalog software system as a whole. If you would like to additionally cite aa specific catalog "product", please contact us for the details.