Bringing biodiversity information to life

The inaugural GBIF Ebbe Nielsen Challenge aims to inspire scientists, informaticians, data modelers, cartographers and other experts to create innovative applications of open-access biodiversity data.


For the past 12 years, GBIF has awarded the Ebbe Nielsen Prize to recognize outstanding contributions to biodiversity informatics while honouring the legacy of Ebbe Nielsen, one of the principal founders of GBIF, who tragically died just before it came into being.

The Science Committee, working with the Secretariat, revamped the award for 2015 as the GBIF Ebbe Nielsen Challenge. The first round of this open incentive competition sparked the creation of 24 innovative entries from individuals, teams and organizations around the world that sought to use of the species occurrence records mobilized through GBIF’s international network. Evaluating the submissions on their innovation, functionality and applicability, an expert jury from the biodiversity informatics community selected six finalists who are now competing for two prizes—€20,000 for first place, €5,000 for second place. 

View full rules


The Challenge is open only to those individuals and teams of individuals selected as finalists during Round One of the Challenge.

If participating in a team, the team must select one representative under whose name it will participate. The representative shall act on behalf of the team to assume all rights and responsibilities regarding the challenge. If a team entry is selected as a winning entry, GBIF will pay the full prize money to the representative. It is the responsibility of the representative to distribute the prize money to team members.


Participants must create a submission that includes the following components.


The Submission must be accompanied by a short description in English of approximately 200 words.

Submission types

The submission can be anything that provides new representations or insights using GBIF-mediated data. This could likely involve a range of results: websites, stand-alone or mobile applications, or outputs of analyses. Likewise, the submission could seek to improve any number of issues or processes, including (but not limited to) data analysis or visualization, data workflows, uploading, or annotations. The judges must be able to access the submission at no cost or perform the same analysis/visualization using comparable alternative sources of data.

If the submission is a stand-alone application then it must operate on hardware readily available to the judges.

If the submission is a mobile app then the submission must enable the judges to access the solution, either by making it publicly available in an app store, by sending the .apk file (Android), or making it available using TestFlight (iOS)

If the submission is the output of an analysis then the analysis must be repeatable, with the submission including sufficient detail for repetition.

Video or screenshots

All submissions should be accompanied either by a video that demonstrates the submission, or screenshots of the submission. If the video is uploaded to an external site such as YouTube or Vimeo, then the submission must include a link to that video. A package of screenshots should be made available for the judges through a zip archive posted on Dropbox, OneDrive, or some other cloud-based file-sharing service.


Roderic Page

Roderic Page
Professor of Taxonomy / University of Glasgow

Tanya Abrahamse

Tanya Abrahamse
CEO / SANBI: South African National Biodiversity Institute

Arturo H. Ariño

Arturo H. Ariño
Professor of Ecology / University of Navarra

Lucas Joppa

Lucas Joppa
Scientist, Computational Ecology and Environmental Sciences Group / Microsoft Research

Mary Klein

Mary Klein
President & CEO / NatureServe

Judging Criteria

  • Innovation
    How novel is the submission? A significant portion of the submission should be developed for the challenge. A submission based largely (or entirely) on work published or developed prior to the challenge start date will not be eligible for submission.
  • Functionality
    Does the submission work and show or do something useful?
  • Applicability
    Can the GBIF and biodiversity informatics communities use and/or build on the submission?