TERN present and future

With the halfway point of TERN’s current NCRIS grant upon us and the next Australian national research infrastructure roadmap fast approaching, we take the opportunity to briefly reflect on where TERN is at and get the thoughts of the TERN Advisory Board on the future direction of Australia’s terrestrial ecosystem observatory.

The present

Now is an exciting time in ecosystem observation, research and management. TERN is one of a number of continental-scale ecosystem research infrastructure (ERI) initiatives working collaboratively via the Global Ecosystem Research Infrastructure (GERI) towards greater harmonisation of the collection, coordination, and delivery of ecosystem ‘health’ data services and e-tools for research users and decision-makers. The Big Data from TERN and others in GERI ultimately underpin understanding of and sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems at local, regional and global scales. To find out more about the TERN infrastructure, data and services that are helping to achieve this, watch our new video below. video

The future

With a view to the next decade of Australian ecosystem science research infrastructure, we asked the Chair of the TERN Advisory Board, Professor Lyn Beazley AO, and Professor Joe Shapter, the Advisory Board’s representative from TERN’s host institution, The University of Queensland, to share their thoughts on some of the key scientific issues, technologies and engagement activities that could be addressed using TERN infrastructure.
Advice to TERN:

Be nimble and responsive

TERN’s involvement in the recent National Environmental Prediction System (NEPS) scoping study provided the opportunity to venture beyond TERN’s current remit of providing nationally significant equipment, systems and services needed to support leading-edge terrestrial ecosystem research and innovation.

It was able to look at ways to enhance and integrate infrastructure to widen the application and develop the predictive capacity expected across the NCRIS investments around forecasting possible environmental scenarios for Australia.

We found a clear willingness, confidence and readiness within TERN’s community to step up to the challenges of evolving our infrastructure to allow TERN observations and models to connect with other NCRIS facilities and provide the national predictive capacity envisaged in the 2016 Roadmap.

TERN, along with other NCRIS projects, is already fulfilling our part of the bargain – to provide the data, platforms, collaborations and rigour to reduce uncertainties that have, in the past, been an obstacle to optimal decision-making for the environment.  We’re proud that TERN infrastructure is, often for the first time, helping to bring insights for mitigating against  the pressing environmental challenges faced by Australian communities and industries.

Embrace new technologies and ecological forecasting

TERN recognises that better uptake of ecosystem observation data into environmental models is critical to our ability to understand, predict and address complex global sustainability challenges and realise significant societal benefits.  That is why we are committed to providing model-ready data and engaging with Australia’s leading modellers to continually refine our data and metadata.

Conversations amongst data providers, modellers and remote sensing scientists are essential for identifying which measures are essential for models and which can be obtained with high levels of accuracy to reduce uncertainty.  

These relationships will be an integral part of a future National Environmental Prediction System (NEPS), which will enable more integrated models to forecast likely environmental futures at different scales more rapidly than is possible with current technology and networks.

Create jobs and help grow Australia

TERN currently provides around 80 jobs.  Thanks to co-investment in NCRIS-enabled TERN from the Queensland Government, an additional four positions will initially be created in 2020.  Additional co-investments from the Western Australian, New South Wales and South Australian state governments are expected to enable TERN to further expand its workforce in the 2020-21 financial year with impact in regional Australia. 

Push boundaries and collaborate to be the World’s best

TERN is a founding member of the Global Ecosystem Research Infrastructure (GERI), a network of cognate national or continental-scale ecosystem observatories.  As the current Chair of the GERI Coordinating Committee, TERN has the unique opportunity to lead Australia and the world towards the creation of standard monitoring methods and interoperable data systems for more efficient collaboration and global-scale scientific analyses.

Australian ecological science research is already well-respected internationally and TERN sees that reputation growing with the continuing application of this science for healthy, productive and valued terrestrial ecosystems. As a relatively well-developed country, that is home to globally unique flora and fauna assemblages and landscapes, we have both responsibility and a unique opportunity to develop and implement scientific solutions to issues of sustainable resource use, biodiversity conservation and climate change responses (mitigation and adaptation).

Underpin the big decisions for Australia

Due to Australian and state government investments in TERN, for the first time in the history of Australian ecosystem science, infrastructure exists that enables ecosystem scientists to collaborate and share data efficiently and effectively across disciplinary and geographical boundaries, locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. Most of the ecosystem science problems we face are simply too big and too complex to deal with in any other way.

TERN’s collaborative infrastructure and networks are not only transforming the way Australian ecosystem science has traditionally been done; we are delivering better returns on investment in ecosystem science for this country. 

What has been achieved to date is only part of a longer journey; one that is engaged in fully will allow Australia to take a global leadership role in ecosystem management for multiple benefits.

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