Shaping the future of ecosystem surveillance

Ecosystem scientists and managers from around Australia gathered recently to participate in a wide consultation process that will frame the directions and priorities of TERN’s Ecosystem Surveillance monitoring capabilities.

In late March, 25 ecosystem scientists—representing a range of disciplines, organisations, and career stages—gathered in Adelaide for a workshop to develop the future priorities of TERN’s Ecosystem Studies platform.

The purpose of the workshop was to seek input from a representative group of current and potential users to enhance the delivery and impact of TERN’s plot-based ecosystem monitoring infrastructure.  The workshop is a key component of TERN’s ongoing activities to engage with our community more often; deliver more data products and tools; provide the training courses you ask for; and welcome more researchers to our field sites.

Front row (L-R) Fiona Dickson, Kristen Williams, Alfredo Huete, Pete Lyon, Glenda Wardle, Jean-Francois Bastin, Samantha Munro, Graeme Finlayson, Andy Lowe, Margaret Byrne, Belinda Medlyn. Middle/back row: Andrew Hoskins, Arif Malik, Ben Sparrow, David Summers, Aaron Greenville, Nick Gellie, Andrew Tokmakoff, Stephen van Leeuwen, Alan Andersen, Colin Ahrens, Oscar Perez-Priego, Sam Andrew, Maurizio Rossetto, Luke Mosley, Ashlea Doolette, Greg Guerin, Sally O’Neill.

“The workshop was a great opportunity to have a constructive discussion about TERN Surveillance, ecological monitoring and building Australian capability—as well as learn from Australia’s leading scientists and practitioners about their work areas and interests,” said participant Fiona Dickson of the Australian Government’s Department of Environment and Energy.

“Being totally new to TERN I knew only a little about the samples that were collected,” said early career researcher Arif Malik from Flinders University. “The workshop not only taught me what samples were available but how much effort went into gathering them. It was easy to have casual chats with people about their work and it was great to see everyone really engaging and having fun in their collaborations.”

The number of disciplines, organisations and perspectives represented at the workshop reflected the diversity and complexity of ecosystem science as a field, and led to comprehensive discussion around questions such as:

Always looking for new ideas from our community

The workshop started with some fantastic presentations by participants on their current research, often using TERN infrastructure, and their roles and potential contributions to the workshop.

Participants then started shaping the future of ecosystem surveillance monitoring in Australia.  A key component of this was an entertaining project development activity in which participants formed working groups and brainstormed potential R&D-type applications using TERN data.

Five exciting new integrated projects were presented, ranging from soil analyses, ecology, and genomics through to landscape-scale spatial data linkages and modelling. Participants then used pretend bank cheques to ‘fund’ the project they thought was most needed by the research community.

‘Funds’ were reasonably evenly spread but the eventual winner was ‘ReTERN of the GEDI’, which proposed linking vegetation height measures from TERN Surveillance plots with Terrestrial Laser Scanning and biomass data collected at other TERN sites to improve the calibration and validation of data from NASA’s Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) mission.

The other popular project was ‘Sensor-ative New Age Plots Initiative, or SNAPI’, which proposed using phenocams at TERN Ecosystem Surveillance plots to build metrics or time series of cover that can be up-scaled across biomes.

“I hope that participants follow through with their proposed projects,” says TERN Ecosystem Surveillance’s lead Associate Professor Ben Sparrow of the University of Adelaide.

“We are always very happy to receive new ideas from the research community and I encourage more people to reach out, collaborate, and help shape the future of TERN’s ecosystem surveillance monitoring infrastructure.”

L-R, Glenda Wardle, Alan Andersen, Graeme Finlayson, Stephan van Leeuwen, Oscar Perez-Preigo and Aaron Greenville
L-R, Jean-Francois Bastin, David Summers and Alfredo Huete

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