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Directors Update – March 2021

Welcome to the March TERN e-newsletter, which coincides with fresh challenges for our field monitoring programs. Last year, our University of Adelaide-based survey teams were grounded for extended periods, first by widespread bushfires and then travel prohibitions, both within-state boundaries and across borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  This year it is flooding – and the continuing battle to control COVID-19 spread.

In March, our teams were meant to undertake detailed soil and vegetation monitoring and sampling in southern and northern NSW, but widespread flooding saw them regrouping to visit alternative sites or change the sequence. One of the two teams had a profitable time at our Tumbarumba Wet Eucalypt SuperSite – the worst affected TERN site in the 2019-2020 bushfires. The other headed north into Queensland to establish new plots at Samford Peri-urban SuperSite and to spend valuable time at the site showing the University of Queensland-based TERN Data Services Team & Analytics team how the measurements that produce the data are undertaken. And then a Brisbane COVID-19 lockdown was announced!  The field crew parked their vehicles and flew home immediately to Adelaide but not soon enough to avoid now spending two weeks in self-isolation where they will be sorting field samples etc. It is never dull in TERN.

Further north in Queensland, the weather has been more benevolent to TERN programs. As a result, we are pleased to update you in this newsletter on the first instrumentation to be installed by TERN at its new site, Fletcherview Tropical Rangelands SuperSite, in the Burdekin on James Cook University’s Fletcherview Station, inland from Townsville.

We also bring you news of TERN’s forthcoming Biennial Science Symposium, to be held 5-6 July. Where past TERN symposia focused on TERN’s achievements, our new-look Symposium program is a forum for your research achievements.  The Symposium will be one of several approaches TERN will be using to understand and identify investment needs over the next decade for research infrastructure in the ecosystem science area. Indeed, what we learn about current and planned research at the Symposium will be taken into account during TERN’s strategic planning throughout the rest of the year and become part of our responses to the 2021 Research Infrastructure Roadmap consultations led by an Expert Working Group that includes Australia’s Chief Scientist. While an in-person Symposium was our preference, we are accepting the reality of 2021 and pushing ahead with a digital event. We hope you follow the links in the newsletter and register immediately and then get cracking on an abstract, due by 15 May.

TERN’s Advisory Board has just held its first meeting for 2021 in March and it marked the official commencement of Professor Hugh Possingham FNAS FAA as the Chair. As usual, the discussion was both productive and insightful across many issues. One important topic tackled by the Advisory Board members was related to security of access to sites for repeat monitoring and surveillance activities.  This is an issue that plagues most of the world’s ecosystem observatories and we are surveying best practice among them and any NCRIS-enabled research infrastructures that have distributed sites and equipment.  TERN either surveys or deploys its terrestrial ecosystem research infrastructure at something like 1000 locations across the country with the intention of revisiting those sites and infrastructure to continue collecting data over years to decades. But what assurance does TERN have that access will continue to be willingly provided to the sites if land ownership or land-use changes over the years?  This could have implications for TERN’s quest to secure its long-term data streams. A few tactics will now be explored by TERN, ranging from legal agreements to seeking more co-location with conservation groups that own or control land for the long-term. Whatever we do in monitoring Australia’s diverse ecosystems, maintaining the goodwill of custodians, landowners and partners is paramount to TERN’s ongoing activities.

Do not forget to register for the first of the Lyn Beazley AO Ecosystem Observations webinars for 2021 – it is on 7 April. There are three outstanding speakers presenting on topics related to the theme of monitoring coastal ecosystems. Issues related to coasts are becoming more important to our future lives all the time – this is an important topic for all Australians.  Do participate and in the meantime, happy reading.

Beryl-Morris

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