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Director’s Update – August 2022

Welcome to the August 2022 TERN eNewsletter featuring six diverse stories. The stories on the launch of a new camera trapping community (WildObs), and the involvement of TERN’s Citizen Scientist expert birders as beta testers of a new bird survey app, highlight the necessity for partnerships between communities and TERN’s national research infrastructure in developing a deeper understanding of ecosystems. We are also delighted to provide a summary of Dr Anna Hopkins’ popular presentation at our May Agriculture and Ecosystems webinar about the abundant life found in soils and how this is important for agriculture. And the launch of EcoAssets by ALA, IMOS and TERN is another success story about the power of partnerships.

A fabulous researcher-written article this month by TERN’s STEM Superstar, Dr Sam Monroe, showcases how use of ground survey, climate, and remote sensing data have produced Australia’s first vegetation ‘isoscape’, which will have wide application, including the study of animal migration, food web patterns, spatial and temporal variation in plant productivity and habitat structure, carbon exchange, and the impact of water stress on plant communities.

Our Advisory Board continues to apply caution in the face of the continuing infectiousness of COVID and flu this winter by holding its second meeting of the year online. At the recent 28 July meeting, we virtually met new members – Dr Paul Bertsch, Science Director/Deputy Director, CSIRO’s Land & Water and Professor Stuart Phinn, Director, Remote Sensing Research Centre from the University of Queensland. Paul and Stuart have replaced Dan Metcalfe and Joe Shapter, respectively. Newly nominated Advisory Board member, Dr Steve Hill, Chief Scientist from GeoScience Australia, will hopefully join TERN’s Advisory Board at its next meeting, a strategic planning workshop to be held in Adelaide in early December.

We thank Ms Dan Donegan, Assistant Secretary, Research Policy and Programs Branch, National Research Infrastructure Program, Australian Department of Education, for attending the TERN Advisory Board meeting as an observer and generously answering questions about implementation of the 2021 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap. It was also timely to have Dr Ian Cresswell, former Advisory Board member and co-Chair of the national State of the Environment (SoE) 2021 report, join an item of the meeting to give feedback on TERN’s contributions to the SoE report, which was launched on 20 July 2022. 

The major business items discussed by the Advisory Board centred on strategies to improve engagement with data users, and particularly, industry, to achieve more translation outcomes and impacts.  A report from consultants at Fiftyfive5 found that TERN users are highly educated and experienced. The majority are based in Australia, but around 1 in 3 are outside of Australia. Overall, most people engaging with TERN are using TERN data as part of their professional capacity. Interestingly, while TERN was originally designed for use among a mainly academic researcher audience, that group now only makes up one quarter of users with other users spread across a range of industries including government and commercial organisations.

The market research report tied in well with the Advisory Board’s discussion of an industry engagement and impact report provided by consultant Tim Moltmann, who joined the meeting to present final recommendations. If comparing the report’s consultation results with TERN’s 2016 strategic framework, it is easy to see that there has been a marked change in the environmental observation data needs of industry, as climate change, net carbon and good environmental stewardship become more highly prioritised.   Based on the Moltmann Report, TERN will revise its strategy to articulate how its comprehensive, national capability can be used to produce research outputs at space and time scales relevant to industry decision makers, and to State and Territory Governments.

Also in late July, TERN was pleased to host to three researchers representing the Korean Ecological Society. Prof. Hun-Bok Lee (Forest Ecology), Prof. Hyun-Seok Kim (Tree Physiology), and Prof. Jaeil Cho (Biometeorology), were visiting Australia and then NEON in the USA on a fact-finding mission which hopefully will lead to greater national research infrastructure for ecologists on South Korea.

Dr Beryl Morris, TERN Australia Director
Dr Beryl Morris, Director - TERN Australia

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