Directors Update – April 2021

Welcome to our mid-Autumn newsletter. We are particularly excited to share with you our story on predicting and regulating soil carbon in a warmer world. It is a very timely story with Earth Day having been celebrated on 22 April. In Australia, our National Soils Advocate, the Hon. Penny Wensley AC marked the day by hosting a forum:  Soil Organic Carbon – Realities and science for policy advisers and decision makers (Digging deep into soil organic carbon on Earth Day | Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet).

In launching the event, the Hon. Penny Wensley AC said, “As the government finalises a new National Soil Strategy, and is also directing greater attention to the issue of soil carbon sequestration and to soil carbon policy, it is important that there be a good understanding of the science involved”. The soil paper featured in our newsletter, which draws upon TERN data, contributes strongly to the agenda of delivering the necessary science with findings that demonstrate the pivotal roles played by the physical and chemical properties of soil in controlling carbon and nitrogen stocks.

On another topic, in the five years since the 2016 Roadmap, which led to funding until 2022-23 of the current mix of national research infrastructure projects and capabilities, much has changed in Australia. For a start, just think of national bushfires, floods, droughts, the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic and economic fluctuations. This year, Australia is once again on the threshold of preparing a five-year national research infrastructure roadmap with the consultation phase due to commence imminently. We expect to see a draft roadmap near the end of 2021, ready for government response and investment decisions to be made in 2022 about which research infrastructures will be funded for the 2023-2028 period.

The economic impacts of a pandemic and extreme environmental events etc. are already being discussed as the major drivers shaping the next round of investment in research infrastructure. We understand that the goal of the roadmap will be to ensure national benefits are obtained from Australia’s research and innovation system with commercialisation impact and jobs creation being maximised through strategic research infrastructure investment.  

In response to this forecast of priorities for the next roadmap, TERN is preparing its engagement in the consultation phase. We want to demonstrate that in this changing world, it is imperative for Australia to maintain its environmental monitoring program and continuity of long-term accessible, quality data on changes in our ecosystems. Maintaining such infrastructure will contribute to a more sustainable national innovation system, providing industries with quality data critical to environmentally sustainable operational decisions. This then protects the value of the environment by ensuring economic decisions reflect the full value of resources and take account of cumulative impacts of proposed and ongoing development.

It is with great sadness that TERN shares with you the passing of two titans in the ecosystem community who were friends of TERN. First, Dr Peter Fox, who died in the US last month helped TERN in fine-tuning some of our thinking in the semantic web and provided his encouragement in our use of semantic web for data integration. Peter, who was a key supporter of linkages between the Australian and North American earth science informatics communities over a number of years, was part of the panel to review TERN AEKOS in 2013 and extremely helpful with his insights and direction the project would take.

And on 28 April, Prof Bob Scholes, Director of GCI and Wits Distinguished Professor, died in Namibia. Bob was a generous advisor to TERN and last visited us during the 2018 ESA conference in Brisbane, taking part in some TERN talks and events as well as a field trip to the TERN Samford Peri-urban SuperSite. There is no way to describe the gap Bob leaves in the world with respect to both his fun of life and his amazing insight into the field of ecosystem science. Our thoughts are with the families, friends and colleagues of these two amazing humans.

Before I sign off to allow you to continue reading the newsletter, let me draw your attention to our invitation to join us at the TERN Science Symposium on 5-6 July. While it is a virtual event, we are looking forward to ‘seeing’ you – and do register and forward us a short abstract soon if you wish to give a five- or ten-minute presentation. Happy newsletter reading.


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