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CeRDI Newsletter Summer 2020

Message from the Director

Associate Professor Helen Thompson  

Associate Professor
Helen Thompson


Welcome to our first newsletter for 2020. 

Federation’s Research and Innovation Strategic Plan 2019-2023  focuses around a number of cross-disciplinary research priority areas (RPAs), where effort will be combined across multiple schools and centres to embark upon scaled and world leading projects that identify and solve society’s challenges.

The research CeRDI proposed in our recent application for continued designation as a Federation Research Centre aligns strongly with the RPA for Society and the Environment and for Virtual, Digital and Computational Environments. CeRDI is renowned for its engagement with external organisations, the impact of its research and for its track record and leadership in data interoperability and data federation. Future research efforts will be directed towards leading digital transformation and practice change through collaboration with industry, government, academic and community organisations. 

Over recent years CeRDI’s contribution to higher degree research training has expanded significantly. We congratulate Alison Ollerenshaw on the recent submission of her PhD thesis for examination. Alison’s research with Melton City Council and Western BACE as industry partners explored the relationship between business incubator services and the psychological capital of tenants. We welcome Peter Weir to the expanding cohort of PhD students and wish Elissa Ashton-Smith all the best with her upcoming confirmation of candidature seminar.

CeRDI research findings are being disseminated via conference presentations and publications and also through our regular newsletters. In this issue we profile a number of projects which reflect our strategic approach and contribution to new insights around digital transformation and practice change.


Visualising Australasia’s Soils

Visualising Australasia’s Soils (VAS)  

Visualising Australasia’s Soils (VAS)


Extensive research engagement during 2019 on the Visualising Australasia’s Soils (VAS): A Soil CRC cloud based research data federation culminated in the December-launch of the pilot data portal and release of the Governance and Data Stewardship guidelines.

VAS provides research collaborators and the general public an opportunity to examine and explore comprehensive soils data, most of which comprises public sector data that is generally brought in ‘on the fly’. The pilot data portal offers initial insights into capabilities of the portal, with work still to be completed on the design of portal tools, to be developed in consultation with end users.

Latham's snipe project: Successful summer capture

Latham's snipe project: Successful summer capture  

During early January 2020, CeRDI’s Dr Birgita Hansen and the intrepid team for the Latham’s Snipe project including researchers, ornithologists, volunteers and visitors from the Wild Bird Society of Japan, braved the heat and smoke of Canberra to catch and deploy satellite transmitters on three Latham’s Snipe.

Despite numerous challenges including the dry conditions in Canberra and the smoke from surrounding bushfires, the project team had their most successful satellite transmitter catch to date. Seven birds were caught, three being large enough to be fitted with PinPoint Argos 75 satellite transmitters. These tags collect location data using global positioning system (GPS) and are pre-programmed to collect GPS positions at different frequencies throughout the period of the birds northern migration. During the first week of transmission, signals were received twice daily from the three birds - one fix at midnight and one at midday. This provides information on daytime roost sites and night time foraging areas, which are usually different habitats.

C4NET: Energy data roadmap

C4NET: Energy data roadmap  

Federation University’s School of Science, Engineering and Information Technology and CeRDI are collaborating on research funded by the Centre for New Energy Technologies (C4NET). The Energy Data Roadmap will involve conducting research to understand the availability of energy data (consumption data) in Victoria. Electricity will be the focus of the project with energy data landscapes to be mapped and opportunities for improved energy data access documented.

The Victorian electricity industry is a complex system where some, but not all, energy data is shared between industry stakeholders, which include distributors, the national market operator, and the energy retailers among others. This research will involve documenting data arrangements for energy consumption in Victoria by seeking insights from industry stakeholders and other organisations associated with the energy sector in Victoria and elsewhere.

Southern Farming Systems - National Landcare Program

Southern Farming Systems - National Landcare Program  

Southern Farming Systems - National
Landcare Program


During February CeRDI participated in the annual partnership workshop meeting for the Southern Farming Systems, National Landcare Program Smart Farming partnership project ‘Building the resilience and profitability of cropping and grazing farmers in the high rainfall zone of Southern Australia’. The workshop brought together consortium members including farming groups, industry bodies, private enterprise, CeRDI and the Victorian Government over two days to share information, present progress updates and plan activities for 2020.

The four-year project, which is coordinated by Southern Farming Systems, involves two distinct components. The first addresses soil acidification, with the overall aim of improving the precision (timing, rate, location) for when lime is applied on cropping and grazing farms and to develop cost effective ways of rectifying subsoil acidity. This project will unlock value by actively engaging all parties involved in the lime supply chain.

Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal and Fire Fight Australia

FRRR Website  

FRRR Website


Long-term CeRDI partner, the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR), has seen a significant increase in donations since the start of 2020 as a result of the Australian bushfire crisis.

FRRR is a not-for-profit organisation that harnesses collective investment between government, business and philanthropy to improve the lives of those living in rural, regional and remote Australia. CeRDI has hosted the FRRR website since early 2012, and during this time has supported FRRR and JAW Communications in its management and evolution.

In January 2020, CeRDI was asked to assist FRRR to respond to a significant increase in donation activity, which required urgent changes to existing online processes. The peak of this demand happened on Sunday 16 February when FRRR was one of the major charities to benefit from the Fire Fight Australia concert for National Bushfire Relief. All other FRRR donation funds were paused for the weekend to route donations to the Bushfire Recovery Fund.

University Research Centre application

In January, CeRDI responded to the University’s call for University Research Centre renewals and applications. The Research Centre Application required CeRDI to outline its future vision and strategic plans to enable it to transition into a major multidisciplinary eResearch centre.

A strong body of evidence was compiled to support CeRDI’s application, including the documentation of successful projects that have been achieved in data interoperability, data federation, spatial mapping and the application of eResearch to inform digital transformation and practice change. The strength of CeRDI’s work was evidenced through its partnerships and research activities with industry, government and academia.

A range of objectives were outlined in the application including increasing the Centre’s research staff and expanding its interdisciplinary research collaborations. Growing post graduate student numbers will further develop the Centre’s research focus. Plans are also underway to develop early career research staff to grow their knowledge and skills through designated pathways programs and mentoring. A visiting fellowship program will contribute to the knowledge sharing and will expand the Centre’s reputation and profile. Other priorities were linked to increasing research collaborations and research income as well as growing research publications and postgraduate completions.

Decisions on Federation University Research Centres are expected mid-2020.

Visualising Victoria’s Groundwater

Visualising Victoria’s Groundwater Website  

Visualising Victoria’s Groundwater Website 


CeRDI’s award-winning project Visualising Victoria’s Groundwater (VVG) is set to benefit from updated data sharing arrangements with two of its primary custodians. This will result in more timely and integrated groundwater data for the state. These latest advances will have implications for the VVG application broadly, while providing a use-case that will inform the important work that CeRDI is contributing to the Second Environmental Linked Features Interoperability Experiment (SELFIE ) as a collaborative and contributing member of Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC).

VVG was launched in 2012 to provide easy access to all of the groundwater bore data for Victoria. The portal directly links the repositories of data that are managed by various government departments, agencies and research institutions. VVG provides access to data that is available for display as bore holes on a map, with links to the individual data for each bore. The benefit for water managers and groundwater users is easy access to current data that can assist in the consumptive use and environmental water flows.

Researching kangaroo grass for agricultural gain

The Dja Dja Wurrung Aboriginal Clans Corporation has received a $1.82 million federal government grant to research the viability of growing kangaroo grass. Kangaroo grass is a native plant that is of cultural significance to the Dja Dja Wurrung people. The grass is found in central Victoria and it has the potential to help the agriculture industry adapt to climate change.

CeRDI is a partner on this project which is a collaboration between La Trobe University, Goulburn Murray Water, Victorian Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP). CeRDI’s role will involve supporting the Dja Dja Wurrung Aboriginal Clans Corporation and wider collaborators in capturing data, and in supporting appropriate governance of the cultural and scientific information from this research in a way that enables knowledge transfer and reporting that is appropriate to Dja Dja Wurrung’s existing and future aspirations.

Staff Profile: Dan Ferguson

Dan Ferguson, CeRDI Technical Assistant  

Dan Ferguson
CeRDI Technical Assistant


Dan Ferguson joined CeRDI in 2019 and provides technical assistance on CeRDI projects while studying for a Bachelor of Computer Science at Swinburne University in Hawthorn.

Dan is passionate about technology and has a particular interest in technology development and operations, including the application of technology to increase quality. He is also interested in machine learning and data sciences technologies. This interest has led to his involvement in a number of key CeRDI projects, including Visualising Victoria’s Biodiversity . For this project, Dan is working with others in the CeRDI team to refresh the website and mapping platforms to create a more intuitive user interface to help promote engagement with the community.

Dan has also provided substantial technical assistance over an extended period of time on WaterbugBlitz  and the Central Highlands Integrated Family Violence Committee. For both projects, Dan contributed to the implementation of technologies to enhance the data formats and decision making for improved website formatting and functionality.

Student Profile: Derek Walters, PhD Candidate

Derek Walters  

Derek Walters
PhD Candidate


Derek’s journey as a geologist commenced in 2003 when, at the age of 31, he returned to school to complete Year 11 and Year 12 science subjects. Achieving very high academic grades at school enabled Derek to start his tertiary studies in 2005.

An exhaustive schedule of travel and study then ensued with a weekly commute from Hamilton to Ballarat to study at Federation University while concurrently supporting his young family and running his own business. In 2009, he completed his degree, receiving a number of awards, scholarships and high distinctions. A highlight was being awarded a Rio Tinto scholarship, which included a four-month placement in WA. Derek was then offered work with the South Australia Department of Water in Mount Gambier. He subsequently gained employment at the Stawell gold mine where he worked in exploration, underground production and project management.

In 2013 Derek returned to study to complete his honours degree and dissertation entitled ‘Facies analysis of the Bridgewater Formation along the coast line of Warrnambool’ under the supervision of Dr Stephen Carey.

CeRDI news snippets

Recent publications by CeRDI staff members: The following co-authored manuscript involving CeRDI researchers have been recently published.

Benke, K.K., Norg, S., Robinson, N.J., Chia, K., Rees, D.B., & Hopley, J. (2020). Development of pedotransfer functions by machine learning for prediction of soil electrical conductivity and organic carbon content. Georderma, 366. Doi:

Conference presentations:

Derek Walters recently presented a conference paper at the 32nd Victorian Universities Earth and Environmental Sciences Conference held in Melbourne on 27 February. Derek’s presentation was entitled ‘Port Phillip Bay - The Real Value’.

CeRDI postgraduate news

Commencing PhD students

Peter Weir commenced his studies in February 2020. Peter’s provisional research topic is In-paddock variability of plant available water’ and he will be supervised by Associcate Professor Peter Dahlhaus (principal), Dr Nathan Robinson (associate) and Associate Professor Peter Vamplew (associate).

Further information about the research to be undertaken by Peter will be featured in upcoming issues of the newsletter.

The Centre for eResearch and Digital Innovation (CeRDI) is a research centre at Federation University Australia focused on:

  • the application of information and communications technology (ICT) and the development of innovative, world class knowledge management systems;
  • significantly advancing the digital literacy and knowledge management capabilities of partner organisations;
  • fostering partnerships for the development and implementation of eResearch with industry, government and academia; and
  • measuring the impact of eResearch and digital innovation through longitudinal research.

Contact CeRDI

For further details about CeRDI’s diverse portfolio of research please visit our website:

or contact Director, Associate Professor Helen Thompson:

Mailing Address
Centre for eResearch and Digital Innovation
Federation University Australia
PO Box 691
Ballarat Vic 3353

Office Location
Suite 15, Greenhill Enterprise Centre
Ballarat Technology Park
University Drive
Mount Helen Vic 3350

Phone: +61 3 5327 9314

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