Universities turn to TERN for undergraduate curriculum

In a boon for TERN, Charles Darwin University (CDU) and Macquarie University (MQ) are looking to TERN’s infrastructure, data and research techniques when developing their undergraduate course curriculums.

At CDU in Darwin, a number of undergraduate courses have been utilising TERN’s infrastructure for at least three years. A vital component of the university’s remote-sensing-related units is the ability to conduct field studies at the Litchfield Savanna SuperSite, part of TERN’s Australian SuperSite Network.

At the site, students are taught the same field data sampling techniques as those used by TERN researchers, enabling the students to play a role much greater than simply collecting data needed for their studies. Using standard methods on permanent transects means that the data the students collect at the supersite can be added to the site’s data compendium. The more data researchers have, the greater their understanding is of the complex ecological processes occurring there. Course coordinator and lecturer, Dr Karen Joyce, and her colleague, Associate Professor Stefan Maier, see mutual benefits for researchers and students.

‘Not only do researchers obtain more high-quality data, but the students can get a real sense of worth and meaning through their direct involvement in numerous nationally significant ecosystem science research projects,’ says Stefan.

Karen currently takes a mix of undergraduate and post-graduate students from three subjects to the supersite, and says that the students always find their time away from the lecture theatres incredibly rewarding.

‘Our yearly trips to the supersite allow the students to work together in an interactive, semi-social environment, and give them the opportunity to gain real-world skills and contribute to the long-term ecological research at the site. My colleagues and I definitely plan to continue our association with the supersite and hopefully even expand our involvement to spend more time at the site in the future,’ says Karen.

Further south, at Macquarie University in Sydney, lecturers from the department of biological sciences are also looking into ways of incorporating TERN’s field-based data-validation techniques into their undergraduate programs.

Dr Linda Beaumont of Macquarie University is working with Dr Brad Evans, the Director of TERN’s e-Mast facility, to work out how best to integrate and utilise TERN infrastructure, techniques and data. Linda’s aim is to develop programs so that the ecological data collected on annual undergraduate field trips can complement TERN research projects.

‘We’re aiming to incorporate TERN’s data collection and validation techniques into our field work so our students have the opportunity to become part of bigger-picture, real-world ecological research,’ says Linda.

From undergraduate students to course conveners, TERN is successfully enabling Australia’s tertiary science education community to investigate, explore and discover by providing access to its national network of facilities.

By continuing to provide access to high-quality data and research infrastructure, TERN is increasing the capacity of Australia’s ecosystem science community to advance science and deliver outcomes that benefit the nation and underpin the sustainable use of our ecosystems. Moreover, it is enabling first-rate science education in Australia by supporting and nurturing our future scientists.


Students of Charles Darwin University use the permanent transects at Litchfield Savanna SuperSite to develop their skills and collect ecological data that will be added to the site’s data compendium, thus aiding further research at the site. (Photos courtesy
of Karen Joyce)



Published in TERN newsletter November 2013

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