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Putting Australia’s vegetation on the map

60 photos of Australian vegetation captured at TERN monitoring sites have been added to the Global Vegetation Project’s open-access map. The new pics will enrich the experience of students and educators around the world.  Find out more about this exciting project and take look at the images.

Late last year (Oct 2020) the University of Wyoming Biodiversity Institute launched the Global Vegetation Project – to enable visual and interactive experiences that link vegetation and climate at the global scale.

 

The mission of the Global Vegetation Project is to inspire and empower people of all ages to learn about the diversity of vegetation on our planet and to provide educators with a resource for teaching online.

 

The project is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation and the main partners are University of Wyoming and the Eurasian Dry Grassland Group.

Bringing the field into the classroom

The project’s leader is Associate Professor Daniel Laughlin, whose lab at the University studies “how plants function, to understand where they grow, how they interact, and how they change the world.” The Biodiversity Institute’s work integrates population ecology with ecophysiology to predict community dynamics and restore wild landscapes in a changing world.

 

Daniel and his team have built an open-access database for vegetation photos set in their global climatic context, bringing the field into the classroom in a way that was previously impossible. The Global Vegetation Project differs from iNaturalist by focussing on communities of plants (i.e., vegetation) rather than individual species.

 

The interactive website arrives at an opportune moment given that since March 2020, it is more challenging than ever to teach ecology.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, and possibly for some time yet, it was/is not possible to fly to far off places and take students into wild places. That is why this interactive R Shiny App, developed as an open resource available, could enrich ecology classes around the world.

 

The goal is to host photos that represent all 800+ ecoregions on our beautiful planet Earth. To submit photos, the info required is photographer credit, vegetation type, accurate location info, and some dominant species names. The photo is then set in a global context by linking it to biomes, ecoregions, and monthly climate diagrams.

 

There are plans to add filters and search features for specific vegetation in a later release.

60 TERN field plots representing all of Australia’s major vegetation types and assembled species data, site information and a photo, are now available.

Photos of Australia’s major vegetation types

TERN sees the database as an additional way to make information about Australia’s ecosystems more accessible to researchers and students around the world.

 

To get the ball rolling for TERN, Emrys Leitch from TERN Ecosystem Surveillance selected about 60 TERN field plots representing all of Australia’s major vegetation types and assembled species data, site information and a photo.

 

“We were so excited to receive more than 60 photos of Australian vegetation to share with the world through our online map.  These photos will no doubt enrich the experience of students and educators around the world as they explore our map of open-access vegetation photos.”

 

Associate Professor Daniel Laughlin, University of Wyoming

 

Project success depends on you too!

Daniel is keen to keep momentum going on this project and welcomes comments and suggestions for improvement via email.

 

“We want to amplify the special and unique vegetation that you call home. We are very interested in photos from regions in the world that are underrepresented in science. If you teach ecology, consider giving extra credit to students who contribute photos from your local ‘neck of the woods’.”

 

Associate Professor Daniel Laughlin, University of Wyoming

 

Look at the interactive website to see what you can learn from the photos and other data layers, and to possibly contribute more – it is open to anyone.

 

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