Investment in TERN delivers for Australian industry

Federal investment in TERN, via the NCRIS programme, is bearing fruit for Australia’s industry sectors.  TERN is facilitating science that is enabling sustainable and enhanced productivity of our food, fibre, fuel and natural resource based industries and is offering greater efficiency and effectiveness in environmental assessment and management. Our work benefits industries including agriculture, forestry, mining, environmental management, insurance, eco-tourism, health and education.

TERN’s shared resources connect ecosystem scientists and managers, and enables them to collect, contribute, store, share and integrate data across disciplines. Our infrastructure is also positioning ecosystem science and management communities to address Australia’s major environmental challenges in ways that were not previously possible.

The industries/industry sectors which have been identified as gaining the most benefit from the TERN services include: agriculture (especially food production) (>300 data collections), forestry (> 200 forest data collections) mining (>16 directly related to mining), environmental management (>1000), insurance (>7 related to hazard management), eco-tourism (>300 related to National Parks) and international education (>2000 research many of which are also suitable for curricula delivery).

Click here to download a copy of TERN’s Industry Engagement Plan

Primary Industries

TERN’s national infrastructure is being used to strengthen Australia’s primary industry sector. TERN has infrastructure, investments and activities in diverse types of production landscapes throughout rural and regional Australia and we are delivering outcomes that are helping to create more competitive and innovative agricultural and forestry sectors.

The ultimate beneficiaries of new and improved primary industry policies are all Australians, and to this end TERN and its partners are delivering vital soil and landscape information for a wide range of users including farming groups, regional planners and scientists. TERN’s Soil and Landscape Grid delivers easy access to consistent, comprehensive nation-wide information about soil and landscape attributes like never before. This is the result of a large collaborative effort across a range of our partners including the CSIRO, University of Sydney, and numerous government agencies.

Ensuring the sustainability of our production landscapes to safeguard the continued delivery of vital ecosystem goods and services, including fertile soil, clean air and fresh water, continues to be a great challenge.  TERN and the research it is facilitating at long-established monitoring sites in production forests is helping make this challenge a great deal easier. Our research is shedding new light on the interactions between logging practices, carbon stocks and biodiversity protection and leading to more sustainable forestry practices.

TERN is also at the forefront of efforts to improve the usefulness and availability of intelligence gathering technologies that can be used to help farmers make decisions about fertilising or harvesting crops, moving livestock, and other typical economic and land-management decisions.

We are also conducting research that is helping find cheaper and easier ways for landowners to manage introduced pest animals and control their costly impacts on rangeland grazing operations.

In addition to our work in soil science, agriculture, silviculture and grazing TERN is also working with the Australian viticulture industry.  Two collaborative TERN projects are developing technology to provide grape growers with earlier and more accurate yield and quality predictions.

We’re not doing all this by ourselves, rather in collaboration with a range of partners.  One such long-time partner of TERN is the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES), who we work with to provide Australia with detailed information on ground cover and forests via our data portals.

Environmental Management

In 2010/11 Australian Governments spent $1.8 billion on environmental protection.  The total investment in environmental protection in that year was $34 Billion.  Australia has a history of making big-ticket expenditure in the environment but not putting the requisite funding in to gauge the efficacy of such programs. Whilst not the only factor, TERN capabilities can greatly enhance the ability to demonstrate the impact of this investment an issue that has dogged previous major NRM programs.

Environmental managers all over the country are using TERN infrastructure to better observe, understand and manage the challenges of environmental change.

State government environmental management agencies are utilising TERN survey methodologies as a way to monitor the land and document fauna and flora.

Data provided by TERN’s facilities are being used in practical applications that assess, model and predict ecosystem change across the Australian continent. Moreover, long-term environmental data collected and made openly available by TERN infrastructure is helping answer important questions about the ecology of Australia’s vegetation and the changes grazing and climate change have on ecosystems.

Our infrastructure is being used to conduct important research on extreme weather events such as fires, cyclones, droughts and floods – research that is not only important for the environmental management industry but also the insurance industry.

We facilitate and support collaborative projects that further strengthening the management capacity of Indigenous rangers though knowledge exchange and skills training. In just one such collaborative project, scientists, park rangers, and Aboriginal custodians are using TERN’s infrastructure to develop more environmentally sustainable fire management in northern Australia and help us understand the benefits of carbon emission abatement projects.

To cope with such challenges of environmental change, and thereby to deliver on the Commonwealth Science Council intent under the new National Science and Research Priorities, Australian ecosystem scientists need to learn to work across scales and integrate across scientific disciplines. This vital capacity for collaboration and integration is at the heart of what we do here at TERN. Our nationally-networked, collaborative approach to ecosystem science is demonstrably delivering for Australia’s environmental management industry. 


TERN’s infrastructure is relevant to 95% of the 39 members of Universities Australia. Seventeen have been directly involved in TERN’s planning, construction and implementation. A further 13 have participated indirectly, and another seven stand to benefit from TERN’s infrastructure because they run undergraduate or postgraduate courses in ecosystem science.

Our facilities and products are becoming so recognised in an educational context that we were recently featured in an article in Nature magazine alongside analogous organisations overseas.

TERN infrastructure and data products are being used by some of Australia’s most successful ecosystem scientists, spread across many universities and institutions. Our facilities are being used to teach undergraduate courses at multiple Australian universities; and more than $4.5 million worth of the ARC Discovery projects funded in 2014 and 2015 rely on components of the collaborative research infrastructure delivered through TERN.

Of course TERN’s value for education in Australia extends well beyond the university and research sectors. For example, scientists working on long-term projects in different parts of the country form a strong connection with local communities, which can be at least as educational for the scientists as it is for the locals. We also have a number of citizen-science programs, including an exciting project in South Australia in which the general public can contribute to studies of ecosystem recovery after fire. And Victorian high school students are using our infrastructure to monitor the success of rainforest revegetation.

Four snapshots of how TERN is facilitating science that is enabling sustainable and enhanced productivity of our food, fibre, fuel and natural resource based industries and is offering greater efficiency and effectiveness in environmental assessment and management. To read more about this work download TERN’s Industry Engagement Plan.

Whilst the focus has and will continue to be on these industries; this has been by no means exclusive with other, sometimes unexpected, industry relationships emerging across the TERN infrastructure journey. For example, our data services are now being used in the Health industry. Also, any industry using spatial data may potentially use the data services available through TERN.

To ensure that our infrastructure and the science it produces continues to support Australian industry; last month we launched the TERN Industry Engagement Plan. The plan identifies a number of specific industry engagement activities that we plan to undertake in the 2015-16 period aimed at demonstrating the value of TERN infrastructure, and the science that supports our key industries.

The plan sets out in the table below the: (i) key industry engagement activities; (ii) actual and potential benefits of engagement activities; and (iii) evidence of engagement with partners and networks.

IndustryKey Industry Engagement Activities
Actual and Potential Benefit
Evidence of Engagement
Environmental management

Environmental impact assessments/statement, data provision

Streamline and improve quality of EIA processes

Data downloads by environmental consultants

Agriculture, food productivity

Promotion of data tools, promotion of access, workshops, webinars, user reference groups, key stakeholder meetings

Ground cover improves information available to Agriculture department. Net Primary Productivity, crop forecasting

Successful meetings with agriculture groups. Joint collaborations. NASA – SMAP. Australian soil and landscape grid. Remote sensing products, landcover monitoring for food security. Modelling products.

Spatial Data dependent industries

Promotion of data tools, promotion of access, workshops, webinars, user reference groups, key stakeholder meetings

All data freely available allowing applications like Google to complete data layering which enhances tools available to researchers.

Liberating data sets that would otherwise be inaccessible, ensuring usability and reuse.

Insurance (especially flood and fire).

Data service provision

Efficiency gains, reduced costs, greater accuracy

Meetings with insurance underwriters


Participation in National Forest Inventory processes.

Improved forest mapping, growth, environmental management credentials

Incorporation of TERN forest data into national and state reporting


Maintain priority partnerships, provide data, tools and applications

Offer opportunities for engagement and participation

Improved visitor experiences through better information, improved protection of natural heritage.

CLPM – EarthWatch / NAB campaigns at field sites, planning 2-3 per year.

Attendance and further engagement planned


Mine site rehabilitation best practice

Reduced costs to industry, improved outcomes for community, effective and efficient rehab

Workshops with mining companies, education packages, training


Australian Pollen Aerobiology data portal

Improved air quality information e.g. for Asthma suffers. Reduced cost burden to health care system.

Access to Australian Pollen Aerobiology data

Published in TERN newsletter September 2015

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