Field Survey Apps & Protocols

Protocols are a step by step set of instructions that are clearly written and provide the person in the field with all the detail they need to complete the task of recording information on a particular characteristic of an ecosystem.

Following the agreed protocols in a standard way ensures data collected on revisits or by different surveyors are obtained in a consistent manner and are comparable across time, sites and projects. TERN provides users of its protocols with information on how to decide which protocol is applicable to their project – the level of detail, survey intensity, mandatory and optional components will vary, but essentially the ‘same’ data types are collected by multiple users and hence when aggregated over time and space, can be used to build a picture of what is changing in an ecosystem, how much is it changing and in which direction is the change occurring.

An example of a protocol is photography. Photos are a key component of environmental surveys that provide a visual reference of the study site at the time of the survey. They complement site descriptions and can help record and monitor environmental change over time. Photos can also be used to create a 3D reconstruction of the plot. TERN has three protocols which it considers: photo-panoramas (DSLR) – taken at 3 photo-points located around the centre of a survey plot; photo-panoramas (mobile-device) – taken at a photo-point located at the centre of the survey plot; and static photo(s).

In addition to nationally consistent standardised monitoring methods, TERN develops and provides additional resources and tools for the research community to undertake monitoring in a cost-effective manner. These include innovative approaches to data collection, analysis and access. Gone are the days of handwritten notes and cumbersome field equipment. Instead, researchers can now rely on mobile technology to gather data in the field quickly, easily and most importantly, accurately.

Field survey apps are a necessary tool for precise and efficient field-based data collection. Field survey apps and standardised ecological monitoring protocols assist scientists, land managers and environmental consultants to collect consistent and comparable monitoring data. The open-source data are curated and managed by TERN and are available through the TERN Data Discovery Portal. TERN data adheres to internationally agreed principles of FAIR, supporting better access to, and re-use of, the data for multiple purposes, including research, environmental assessments and policy-making.

On this page:

1. Remote Sensing Cal/Val Handbook

TERN’s Effective Field Calibration and Validation Practices handbook provides detailed information for calibrating and validating remote sensing derived products in a consistent manner to ensure they can be used for science and management applications. The handbook collates effective calibration and validation practices that link closely with internationally agreed protocols, such as those set by the Committee on Earth Observations (CEOS) Working Group on Cal/Val.

  • International best practices for calibration and validation of remote sensing products
  • Detailed and practical guide to getting the most from your data
  • Helps you meet the high standards demanded by science and management applications
  • Covers a range of topics from sensor calibrations through to product validation

2. AusPlots Survey Protocols Manual

The TERN AusPlots Survey Protocols Manual provides a simple agreed method for anyone undertaking research or monitoring in the rangelands. The manual divides the method into a series of modules and respective collection protocols that can be undertaken as individual investigations or in combination with others. There is also an accompanying app, currently available for Android operating systems, that allows users to enter data in the field and then upload this to a server as soon as a network connection is available.

  • Provides a simple, agreed-upon method for anyone conducting research or monitoring in the rangelands.
  • Divides the method into a series of modules and respective collection protocols that can be undertaken as individual investigations or in combination with others.
  • Comes with an accompanying app that allows users to enter data in the field and then upload this to a server as soon as a network connection is available.

2.1 New national monitoring protocol projects

TERN is collaborating with the Australian Government to standardise environmental monitoring and data systems and standardise pest fauna monitoring protocols for improved data collection and decision making. We are making it easier for natural resource managers, ecologists, and researchers to collect standardised ecosystem data.

Read more about the new NRM Protocols being developed for the Australian Government. 

For more information please contact TERN Ecosystem Surveillance

3. Field Survey App

TERN has developed an Android app to assist with data collection in the field. The app makes data collection quicker, removes time entering data at a later date along with associated errors, and uploads data to our server, making the data collection process streamlined.

  • Reduces time and errors associated with data entry.
  • Streamlines the data collection process.
  • Uploads data to a secure server.
  • Assists with field surveys.

For more information please contact TERN Ecosystem Surveillance

4. Ant Protocol

Ants are readily sampled for monitoring purposes using pitfall traps. TERN developed a draft ant monitoring protocol in 2014.

5. Drone protocols

 5.1 Drone Data Collection Protocol

The Drone Data Collection Protocol was developed for the DJI Matrice 300 RTK (M300) drone platform. The protocol includes flight planning and data collection procedures to cover a 100 x 100 m (1 ha) area using RGB, multispectral and lidar sensors. Procedures include equipment and pre-field checklists, field task lists, and recommended settings for imagery and lidar missions:

  1. RGB and multispectral imagery capture using M300 with two sensors simultaneously: DJI Zenmuse P1 RGB mapping camera and MicaSense RedEdge-MX/Dual multispectral sensor.
  2. Lidar mapping using DJI Zenmuse L1 sensor on M300. The aim is to achieve consistent and robust data collection of vegetation structure to facilitate ecosystem monitoring.

5.2 Drone RGB and Multispectral Imagery Processing Protocol

This protocol describes the data processing workflow developed for simultaneously collected RGB and multispectral imagery (Drone Data Collection Protocol). The workflows outlined in this document are designed for use with RGB imagery acquired with DJI Zenmuse P1 camera and multispectral imagery from MicaSense RedEdge-MX or Dual sensors. All descriptions assume the use of the Matrice 300 (M300) RTK drone platform. This protocol describes two approaches to processing RGB and multispectral imagery using Agisoft Metashape Pro:

  1. Automated processing using a Python-based workflow
  2. Step-by-step processing using the Metashape graphical user interface (GUI)

The main data products from this workflow are co-registered RGB and multispectral orthomosaics. The protocol also includes instructions on post-processing the raw GNSS data from the M300 D-RTK2 base station. These steps can be used to refine the position of the base station.

5.3 Drone Lidar Processing Protocol

This protocol describes the workflow to generate point clouds from the raw lidar data collected using DJI Zenmuse L1 sensor with Matrice 300 (M300) RTK drone platform (Drone Data Collection Protocol).