Networked approach delivers for Australian ecosystem research

TERN is working to transform the Australian ecosystem science community from one in which effort was frequently fragmented, inefficient and short-term to one that is national, multi-disciplinary, networked, collaborative and delivering for Australia’s future. This kind of approach is necessary in order to respond to the significant environmental challenges Australians face.

CSIRO Chief Executive Officer Dr Megan Clark highlighted this point in her recent address to the National Press Club saying, ‘The most important and overwhelming priority for Australia’s innovation system is building trust, collaboration and connectivity. One researcher can make a breakthrough. But if you want to have a profound impact on the significant challenges that face this nation and humanity, it takes a team.’

TERN’s Multi-Scale Plot Network (MSPN) facility exemplifies this collaborative approach: it works with a range of researchers, institutions and agencies that collect ecological and environmental data at different spatial, temporal and information scales across a wide range of Australia’s ecosystems. The synthesis and integration of these data across the MSPN as a whole will allow researchers to address novel ecosystem questions, and meet policy and management needs.

As part of the demonstration of these principles in action, more than 30 MSPN researchers from around Australia gathered at a workshop in South Australia’s Barossa Valley for three days in late August. Attendees were encouraged to discuss their work and consider questions such as:

  • What data on Australia’s ecosystems are currently available?
  • What new data are MSPN researchers collecting and what methods are they using?
  • What common approaches are used across the MSPN?
  • How can MSPN researchers use their localised data to scale up and address broader ecosystem questions?

As a result, workshop attendees identified opportunities for greater collaboration and synergy across the wide scope of their work. The workshop was also an invaluable opportunity for researchers to consider some of the challenges they face in their work and collectively brainstorm solutions to these.

TERN Associate Science Director Professor Andy Lowe was at the workshop, where he observed the value of the meeting.

‘This has been an incredibly productive forum that is strengthening the working relationships amongst some of Australia’s leading ecosystem researchers and identifying further opportunities for collaboration,’ he says.

The workshop has helped to reinforce the relationships of the people that make up the MSPN, thus enabling it to continue grow into a highly collaborative and coordinated network.

‘Thanks to the workshop the MSPN is better equipped to continue its work, which will ultimately result in a better understanding and capacity to manage ecosystems across Australia,’ Andy says.

Published in TERN e-Newsletter September 2012

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