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.

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

Download the handbook

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.

Download the manual


TERN has developed a protocol for taking photo-panoramas that has been implemented at all TERN Ecosystem Surveillance plots, and selected TERN Ecosystem Processes sites.

The photo-panoramas’ method enables their use as traditional photo-points (static photos) and seamless site panoramas (360o panoramas from three locations within the plot). With the application of algorithms, the panoramas can be processed to generate a 3D reconstruction of the plot, which provides measurements of basal area and biomass.

  • Provide a much more complete view of an ecosystem than traditional static photos.
  • Can be processed to generate 3D reconstructions of ecosystems, providing measurements of basal area and biomass.
  • Easy to produce, requiring only three photos from different locations within the plot.
  • A cost-effective way to collect data on ecosystems.

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

Ant Protocol

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

Download the draft 2014 protocol

Try TERN Field Survey Apps and Protocols in Your Research Project

We are making it easier for researchers to collect data. TERN enables researchers with access to innovative applications and nationally consistent field methods, making data collection easier than ever before. If you are interested in trying out TERN’s field survey apps and protocols in your next research project, we encourage you to do so.

Exciting 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.

Contact us to find out more.