New skills and practical inspiration: TERN plot-based ecological monitoring training a big success

Current and next generation ecosystem scientists, managers and volunteers from around Australia were recently trained in TERN’s field survey protocols, acquiring skills and practical inspiration that will support a number of ongoing research, management and community projects.

TERN has successfully completed yet another iteration of its highly regarded field methods training course. In late April, 22 people took part in a week-long workshop at TERN’s Calperum Mallee SuperSite, on Calperum Station near Renmark, South Australia. The purpose was to provide an overview, and hands-on experience, of the field survey apps & protocols used by TERN to monitor soil and vegetation at over 700 field plots across Australia.

Participants spent four days day learning all about the practical and theoretical aspects of plot characterisation, using a range of technologies and recording and collecting vegetation specimens, leaf tissue samples, and soil samples. After an initial theory component on the first day, the focus shifted to a different field aspect each day, allowing for in-depth discussions and practice with a variety of techniques.

Participants came from across Australia and were diverse, with representatives from state government agencies, current postgraduate researchers, environmental volunteers, and recently graduated students (above: L-R Christina Macdonald, Andrea Stiglingh, Sara Weir, Matt Shaw, Rebekah Crawford, Kim Khuyen, Maarten van Helden, Trisha Moriarty, Balaji Seshardi, Nick Gellie, Daniel Sheehan, Max Rush, Adam Toomes, Sam Munroe, Nikki Francis, Ben Sparrow, Brock Hedges, Annie Kraehe, David Summers, Andrew Tokmakoff, Jamie Kohler, Luke Ragless, Sam Bywaters, Tony Vincent, Georgia Koerber, Billy-Jo Brewer, Michael Starkey, Katie Irvine)
Participants learning the fine art of using a basal wedge to measure a plot's vegetation density, volume and growth over time
Learning about soil texturing and types and how to take soil samples using the TERN AusPlots field survey protocols

The feedback TERN received supports what was observed during the days out and about – that participants enjoyed the opportunity to be in the field, observing the landscape with different lenses and building their knowledge of environmental assessment techniques.

“Congratulations to the TERN staff for organising a comprehensive and state of the art Rangelands Survey course last week at Calperum,” wrote one participant.

“It was an amazing experience and I am both inspired and enthusiastic about the work that is done at TERN and would like to be a volunteer,” said another.

TERN Ecosystem Observation staff were on hand to assist in demonstrating each aspect of the sampling methodology and ensure everyone had an interactive hands-on experience.

“Calperum Station, a property of internationally recognised Ramsar wetlands, is a great site for such an exercise, given it encompasses a range of landscape types, including red sand dunes, riverine floodplain, mallee woodland, open forest, samphire flats and chenopod shrubland,” says TERN’s Sally O’Neil.

“Groups rotated around three plots so that by the end of the training all aspects had been recorded for all sites.”

TERN would particularly like to thank the Australian Landscape Trust, which manages Calperum Station, for making available their excellent facilities, and the station staff for providing firewood for relaxing evening fireside discussions.

Keep an eye out in the TERN eNewsletter and on our Twitter and Facebook feeds for announcements on upcoming training opportunities with TERN.  We look forward to welcoming you to one of our research infrastructure sites in the near future.


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