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Directors Update – February 2021

Welcome to our first newsletter for 2021.  We were delighted to learn in January this year that the co-lead of TERN’s Landscapes platform, Dr Alex Held, was recognised with an international award by the prestigious international Committee on Space Research (COSPAR). Alex received the COSPAR Massey Award for outstanding contributions to the development of space research, interpreted in the widest sense, in which a leadership role is of particular importance. From the TERN project perspective, Alex was one of the visionaries working to establish TERN more than a decade ago and he has continued to show leadership as a member of the TERN Executive Group and by spear-heading development and implementation of TERN’s remote sensing capabilities. Extraordinarily, being recipient of the COSPAR Massey award means that the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has named a minor planet for Alex, namely, planet 8479. We are proud of you Alex- congratulations. 

We are saddened at the news that our remarkable colleague, Vanessa Haverd, passed away on 19 January.  Vanessa was an integral part of the TERN community and we featured her work in both our newsletter and the TERN 10th anniversary book, produced in 2019. There is a beautiful tribute to Vanessa’s accomplishments in the January OzEWEX newsletter written by Helen Cleugh.

 Sadly, we also note the passing of Emeritus Professor Raymond Specht on 13 February at nearly-97 years of age. We featured Ray in the June newsletter just last year after he was awarded an Order of Australia for his lifetime contributions to botany, plant ecology, conservation and the environment.

Our thoughts are with family, friends and colleagues of both Vanessa and Ray.

The TERN team has been busy this year mapping out its future strategy and activities. One of TERN’s most important aims for 2021 is to forge ahead with a meaningful and respectful engagement with Indigenous people and in particular, work towards inclusivity of traditional knowledge in our ecosystem database.  In TERN’s history, we have not had a one-TERN approach to Indigenous Knowledge, placing responsibility in the hands of our operating partners, which are the universities and CSIRO contracted to deliver parts of the TERN project.  This seemed sensible given that TERN is not a legal entity and also, each of the operating partners of TERN carry out their contributions to TERN within the guidelines of their respective institutional Reconciliation Action Plans (RAP).  However, the RAPs are specific to each institution and we believe it is now time to have a consistent TERN national approach.  We realise there are no instant answers on what best suits TERN and thus, we will be learning and improving continuously, responding positively to feedback and adaptively managing our practices. In 2020, our explorations of best practice, resources and networks were assisted greatly by advice from CSIRO and our NCRIS colleagues, particularly Atlas of Living Australia. We are also appreciative of the work undertaken by the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand (EIANZ), which in October 2020, amended its Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, providing a practical approach to recognising, including and acknowledging the rights and interests of Indigenous Peoples of Australia and NZ.  Given that TERN’s data comes from Australia and New Zealand, we have found the EIANZ Code very relevant.  A significant first step for TERN is to ensure that our definition of ‘environment’ is broadened to include the concept of culture. With that change, there is a cascade of actions and values that become relevant to the way TERN monitors and reports on change to Australia’s terrestrial ecosystems.  I would be happy to hear from anyone with constructive suggestions or experiences – TERN is always eager to learn from its community.

From February to late October, TERN will be focused on the 2021 Research Infrastructure Roadmap consultation process due to be launched imminently by the Australian Department of Education, Skills and Employment.  Roadmaps are prepared every five years and outline Australia’s research infrastructure needs to help maintain its established reputation as a global leader in world-class research. Roadmaps are prepared by an expert working group after consulting with the research and broader community. Although there are the distractions of a vaccine roll-out and national economic woes, TERN hopes its ecosystem community will nevertheless engage strongly and generously with the 2021 Research Infrastructure Roadmap consultations to set the national priorities for Australian research infrastructure over the next decade.  We will keep you posted through our social media pages with details of how to become involved and you can also reach out to our state-based TERN Regional Ambassadors if you need information about the Roadmap or work of TERN.

Beryl-Morris

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