EcoData Retriever

Finding data is one thing. Getting it ready to use is another.

The EcoData Retriever does all the work so that you can focus on doing science.

Most ecological datasets do not adhere to any agreed-upon standards in format, data structure or method of access. As a result acquiring and utilizing available datasets can be a time consuming and error prone process. The EcoData Retriever automates the tasks of finding, downloading, and cleaning up ecological data files, and then stores them in a local database. The automation of this process reduces the time for a user to get most large datasets up and running by hours, and in some cases days. Small datasets can be downloaded and installed in seconds and large datasets in minutes. The program also cleans up known issues with the datasets and automatically restructures them into standard formats before inserting the data into your choice of database management systems (Microsoft Access, MySQL, PostgreSQL, and SQLite, on Windows, Mac and Linux).

Find out more at:


I'm unclear on what I should be specifying for Connection Info. I specified MS Access early on, so here it appears to be wanting an Access database file. This window could use a sentence of explanation. I get an error just using the default filename : "There was an error with your databae connection .... Not a valid filename."

Ok, so I take pride in being your quintessential idiot end user. For idiots like me, I would have to say that it is still unclear how exactly the Toolkit is supposed to work. It is providing me with a way to connect to the datasets that you are hosting? It is a way of downloading and pre-processing the data and storing a copy on my own machine? I guess it's unclear to me what I'm supposed to have done prior to running dbtk.exe. I created a blank Access database. Does it matter what the "Data file directory" is? This is just where raw data files are going to get stored right? Is there some specific directory structure I'm supposed to be using here? I tried leaving it as the default, as well as creating some new folder. At any rate, after specifying the directory and connection info, clicking on any of the datasets results in a "There was an error with your database connection."

Thanks for the feedback Allen (FYI I still don't have notifications set up for this part of the site so you might want to ping me via email if you'd like a quick response). I think Ben just rolled out an update that at least instructs the user to create the MS Access file before proceeding, but we've clearly got a long way to go in this area.

To answer your questions briefly:

  1. The idea of the system is that it is storing a copy of all of the data one your machine. This circumvents all of the complexities related to hosting other people's data.
  2. You are right about the "Data file directory" and the default should work, but I'm wondering if this is something that should be removed or at least hidden in an advanced tab to avoid confusion since most users won't care.

You shouldn't be getting an error if you created a blank Access database and then selected that file when asked for your connection information. Can you give us a detailed run down of the steps you took so that we can track down the problem. Thanks.