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Duke's Choice: ECOCEAN Whale Shark Photo-Identification Library

May 18, 2012 By: Tori Wieldt

We decided to drop in on some past Duke's Choice Award winners to see where they are now.

The ECOCEAN Whale Shark Photo-identification Library is a multiuser, web-based, research application for studying whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) and was a Duke's Choice Award winner in 2005. The aim of the ECOCEAN Library is to prevent individual “silos” of whale shark data and to promote a global, cooperative approach to whale shark research using the Web as a communications and research platform. The library went on-line and began collecting whale shark encounter data from the web in January 2003. Today, ECOCEAN is still growing, with the bulk of data contributed by the general public. ECOCEAN currently reports over 180,000 sightings, 41,000 photos collected, and 3,300 data contributors. It is now integrated with the IVEC supercomputer in Western Australia, allowing them to bring supercomputing to shark research using Java!

We asked Jason Holmberg, the application designer, about his choice of using Java. "The decision to use Java is still serving us well. As a platform, Java is still current and very relevant. I am always able to find new and updated libraries to bring in additional functionality," he told us. The project, a Java EE web application, is now open source as Project Shepherd, allowing for its cross-application to other species, including manta rays and polar bears. Currently, they are adding molecular ecology functionality, allowing the to use the Shepherd Project to study humpback whale genetics in the Pacific.

A 10-year old tradition in the Java community, the Duke's Choice Awards awards are granted to the best and most innovative projects using Java. Entries are now being accepted for the 2012 Duke's Choice Awards. Nominate via the easy online form at Nominations are open until June 15, 2012.

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