CeRDI Newsletter Winter 2021
Soil CRC funding success for CeRDI researchers
Three newly funded soil research projects will assist Australian farmers to better manage their soil for more profitable and productive farming. The projects are funded by the Cooperative Research Centre for High Performance Soils (Soil CRC) , a national centre which facilitates solutions for Australia’s underperforming soils by bringing together scientists, industry representatives and farmers.
Over $1.5 million in funding has been granted to three projects in which CeRDI is leading or collaborating on. This includes $1 million in funding over three years to extend ‘Visualising Australasia's Soils’ (VAS). VAS is a successful, cloud-based research data federation for soils with spatial mapping (see: Visualising Australia’s Soils ). The latest funding will see the expansion of VAS as an independent and enduring soil research data federation that is self-sustaining and meeting the needs of end users and providing value for research and education. The project will be led by Associate Professor Peter Dahlhaus.
The Soil CRC awarded $250,000 in funding for a project involving the ‘Matching soil performance indicators to farming systems’. Led by CeRDI Senior Research Fellow Dr Nathan Robinson, the project involves conducting research with growers to explore and understand their information needs in relation to soil properties, soil health and soil performance.
Another $300,000 has also been awarded for another two-year project to examine ‘Knowledge-sharing for good soil stewardship’. This project, which is led by Dr Hanabeth Luke and researchers at Southern Cross University researchers, is supported by CeRDI researcher’s Associate Professor Peter Dahlhaus, Associate Professor Helen Thompson, and Dr Alison Ollerenshaw. CeRDI will contribute to the online analytics to assess the use and impact of digital and online tools identified by researchers and grower groups and to enable and facilitate data sharing for the industry.
In commenting on these projects and the contribution they will make for the industry, Assoc Prof Dahlhaus said: “This work is so important because soil data is currently kept in a million different places – it could be anywhere from a government website to old soil tests sitting in a shoebox. A lot of this data collected through satellite imagery, sensors on tractors and soil moisture probes in paddocks – the big challenge is getting it all together, which is our area of expertise.”
CeRDI Director Assoc Prof Helen Thompson was delighted with the latest funding news and for the opportunity to further expand CeRDI research and expertise in soils data by using technology to facilitate this: “This means we can deliver these kinds of projects that require bringing together huge volumes of data and which can have a significant impact on the profitability of Australia’s farming industry. Because we have been working in this data space for a long time, we have the trust of everyone from farming groups to governments and other universities”.
Lucas Girls Avenue of Honour: Audio tour
A series of audio tours focusing on the men and women from Ballarat and surrounding districts who served during WW1 was recently launched. The eight audio tours, which are available via the Avenue of Honour website , commemorate the substantial involvement of the employees (the ‘Lucas Girls’) from E. Lucas & Co textile company, who planted many of the trees along Ballarat’s Avenue of Honour.
Dr David Waldron, local Historian and senior lecturer in History at Federation University’s School of Arts successfully led this project. David conducted extensive research to inform each of the stories he wrote and that have since been narrated for the audio tour. CeRDI worked with David on this project providing the technical support for the inclusion of the stories on the website.
Each of the eight stories represents an important ‘episode’ in the history and lives of people from Ballarat who served during World War I. Combined they provide a unified collection of experiences that reflect the challenges and the strength of character exhibited by local men and women and their families during the Great War. The stories include a commemoration of the Garden of the Grieving Mother, diary excerpts from the experiences of being on the front-line during WWI, Ballarat’s Chinese ANZACS, Ballarat’s young people who enlisted in the War, Prisoners of War, the Nurses at War, and the Lucas Girls involvement in the Avenue of Honour.
The Lucas Girls audio tour is an important record of the Avenue’s construction. It highlights the integral role that Mrs Tilly Thompson, Director of the E. Lucas & Co textile company, and the company’s employees (the ‘Lucas Girls’) in fundraising and organising the tree plantings along the Avenue of Honour. The Avenue was officially opened in 1920 following three years of extensive tree plantings. It was the first of its kind in Australia and, at 22km in length and comprising nearly 4,000 trees, it is one of the longest Avenues in the Southern Hemisphere.
In commenting on the project, Dr Waldron said: “In an era when stories of war are often deeply partisan and politicised, I found it quite profound to get back to our common humanity. These were ordinary people from diverse backgrounds who found themselves in extraordinary and often horrific experiences. There is the tragic experience of those left at home, who often knew very little, just fragments, of what was facing their loved ones overseas. I feel quite privileged to be part of that experience."
Funding for this project was received from the Veteran’s Branch, Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (Veterans Branch) through the Victoria Remembers Minor Grant Program. Additional support was also received from Federation University and the Ballarat Mechanics Institute with input and support from members of both the Ballarat Arch of Victory/Avenue of Honour Committee and the Lucas Past Employees Association.
Visitors can also find this content via the ‘Avenue Audio Tour’ link on the home page of the ‘Honouring our ANZACs’ website: https://honouringouranzacs.com.au/
Recent research highlight on Ramsar wetlands
New research recently published by Dr Birgita Hansen has shown that while significant amounts of monitoring data exist for shorebirds using Ramsar wetlands and other wetland environments in Australia and New Zealand, the amount of information actually available to understand Ramsar ecological character is surprisingly low.
Dr Hansen, along with her colleagues Dr Judit Szabo, Professor Richard Fuller, Dr Rob Clemens, Dr Danny Rogers and the late David Milton have undertaken a review study Insights from long-term shorebird monitoring for tracking change in ecological character of Australasian Ramsar sites , published in Biological Conservation, to look at what can be learned about the current ecological state of Ramsar sites from the viewpoint of shorebird monitoring. Shorebird monitoring has a relatively long history in Australia and New Zealand, with over half a century of data is now available from the collective monitoring efforts of citizen scientists and professionals. Across all individual ecological components of Ramsar sites, shorebirds are probably the best monitored.
Photo taken by Dan Weller
The Ramsar Convention on the Wise Use of Wetlands was established in Iran in 1971. Australia and New Zealand are two of 171 signatories to the Convention. Signatories to the Convention are obliged to manage and protect wetlands to ensure the maintenance of ecological character and ecosystem services to the people that live off those wetlands. Wetlands are nominated based on nine criteria, of which two (Criteria 5 and 6) are focused on waterbirds (www.ramsar.org ).
Of the 73 Ramsar sites in Australia and New Zealand, 31 and four, respectively, were originally nominated on the basis of one or more shorebird species under Criterion 6. The review focused on searching for information on shorebird populations in the peer-reviewed, grey and unpublished literature. There were more listed species declining than increasing at sites where information was available, and 22 species at 13 sites no longer reached the threshold for Ramsar designation under Criterion 6. Furthermore, 10 species at six Australian sites had exceeded the Limits of Acceptable Change (https://www.environment.gov.au/water/wetlands/publications/factsheet-limits-acceptable-change ).
While there is extensive monitoring data contained within national repositories, e.g. Birdata (BirdLife Australia), it was challenging to locate published site-based information for shorebirds. The indication from this review is that there may be changes occurring across the Australasian Ramsar network which herald potentially broader issues with ecological character. But without dedicated monitoring across the Ramsar site network, which should include complementary monitoring of other ecological components, it is difficult to determine to what extent declines in shorebird populations might also indicate local declines in ecological character.
Chronicling Aboriginal heroism: Fire, flood and food
According to researchers from Federation University, hundreds of colonists in 19th century Victoria were rescued from bushfires, flooded rivers or from being lost in the bush by Aboriginal people. A new project has commenced at Federation University to document the stories of Aboriginal heroes in shaping Victoria’s history between 1800 and 1930.
Leading the ‘Aboriginal Heroes of Fire, Flood and Food’ project are Associate Professor Fred Cahir and Dr Dan Tout, historians from the School of Arts. Through this project the researchers will consult and collaborate with Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, historians and historical societies to create the first comprehensive map to highlight Aboriginal acts of heroism.
Already the project has uncovered over 100 reports of Aboriginal people saving non-Aboriginal people from bushfire, drowning and the tracking of lost people and their livestock in the period 1800 - 1930. Examples of Aboriginal rescue efforts include Aboriginal people saving the lives and homes of people in Rutherglen in Victoria’s north-east, by warning them about large and devastating bush fires engulfing the region during the 1870s.
In Gippsland’s Orbost district, an Aboriginal man rescued a sick colonist during floods. He made a canoe out of a sheet of bark, placed the sick man in it and swam through the turbulent waters by towing the canoe and the man to safety.
The project will bring together stories like these in an accessible format using digital maps. Researchers and technical staff from CeRDI are collaborating on the project to support the technical requirements by mapping Aboriginal heroism and the retelling of stories. Documentary film-makers Wind and Sky Productions will produce a documentary film for the project and a book will also be written.
The outputs from the research, which have multiple uses, will be broadly available. They will be used for curriculum development in schools, and to promote cultural heritage tourism. The resources will also be available publicly to engender broader community knowledge about Victoria’s shared history and acts of heroism.
In commenting on the project, Associate Professor Cahir identified the important and unique cultural perspectives that will be explored and shared: “The significant contribution of Aboriginal people to Victoria’s history isn’t well known within the broader Victorian community and we are confident this project will change that.” The project will expand the current limited narratives that have prevailed through a history which have been largely retold from a colonial-settler perspective. According to Associate Professor Cahir the project will “assist in rewriting the dominant narratives and understandings of Australian history, revealing and celebrating a shared history that reflects stories that are culturally sensitive and important.”
For more information about this project, visit the following website - www.aboriginalheroesmatter.org.au
The project’s outcomes will be launched in December 2021.
The project has been funded by the Telematics Trust.
Rating Curve and Water Balance Model Development for the Winton Wetlands
3D image of wetlands extent
CeRDI’s Rick Pope and Associate Professor Pete Dahlhaus, together with Associate Professor Andrew Barton from Federation University were recently involved in the development of a digital terrain model (DEM) for the Winton Wetlands. This work involved developing a rating curve and subsequent water balance model which was commissioned by the Winton Wetlands Committee of Management.
The Winton Wetlands is located in north east Victoria, near Benalla. The wetlands represent the largest restoration project in the southern hemisphere.
The DEM model includes data available from a LiDAR survey when the wetlands were dry for the larger water bodies. The model contained approximately 190 million points in a GeoPackage. The LiDAR across the whole site was used to develop the model and establish a rating curve (depth, volume, surface area relationships) for the Wetlands. Open-source software, QGIS was used with two plugins, QSWAT+ (Soil & Water Assessment Tool) for flow and catchment delineation and Hypsometric Curves for the development of the Rating Curve.
Image of the DEM at the weir of the wetlands
Future development of the DEM, incorporating a full set of rating curves and an associated water balance model, is currently being considered. These advances would further enhance the DEM and aid future operations and support planning.
Project Update: Southern Farming Systems National Landcare Program Smart Farming
Example of Dashboard moisture probe display
In 2018 Southern Farming Systems (SFS) received funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program for the project ‘Building the resilience and profitability of cropping and grazing farmers in the high rainfall zone of Southern Australia’. The four-year project is focused on increasing the ability for farmers and agronomists to make better on-farm management decisions.
One of the key activities associated with the project is focused on resilient farm businesses and strengthening farm decisions. This involves combining the highly successful decision matrix process developed by Cam Nicholson for the Decision Wizard tool with four key pieces of vital real-time information: soil water, pasture availability, commodity prices and climate data.
CeRDI has been working with SFS and partners on the design and development of the data and decision support platform. The new web-based dashboard compiles and summarises key climate, pasture, soil moisture and commodity price information. Connection to the required data services has been established with prototype web interfaces to support the four key decision components undergoing development, testing and refinement.
The interactive and customisable dashboard will provide on-demand access to information automatically summarised for a farm location. This includes:
- Climate observation and forecast information: Connected to CSIRO’s Seasonal Forecast API and SILO climate data, it provides weather observations and seasonal forecasts for 300 locations within the project area.
- Pasture biomas: High-resolution satellite derived pasture biomass estimates for farms and individual paddocks at high frequency intervals.
- Soil moisture: A soil moisture and weather station web interface automatically summarises daily and historical plant available water levels and weather observation values.
- Commodity Price Data: Automated commodity price data updated through data services such as the Meat and Livestock Association’s statistics database API.
The dashboard will be launched later this year. Further details about the launch will be included in a future issue of the newsletter.
For further information about the project visit: www.cerdi.edu.au/NLPSmartFarming
CeRDI news snippets
Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hubs: Video overview
The Victorian Drought Resilience Hub recently commenced operations. Federation University is a consortium partner on the Victorian Hub led by the University of Melbourne and is supported by $8M funding over four years from the Commonwealth Government’s Future Drought Fund. The vision for the hub is for an innovative and profitable Victorian agriculture sector with sustainable landscapes, and resourceful and adaptable regional communities. Through the hub, farm businesses will be better informed, more productive, and more profitable when future droughts occur. Introductory videos about each of Australia’s eight Drought Hubs were screened during the Science to Practice Innovation Forum . The video about the Victorian Drought Resilience Hub is available at: https://www.youtube.com/embed/arlaWp_LnNw.
Further information about the Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hubs was included in the Autumn 2021 CeRDI newsletter.
How Well Are We Adapting
The CeRDI technical team completed upgrades to the How Well Are We Adapting (HWAWA) website. The HWAWA framework which underpins the website, was developed in partnership with the RMIT’s Centre for Urban Research and Net Balance Foundation and the Western Alliance for Greenhouse Action (WAGA) councils. The framework outlines the monitoring, evaluation and reporting on climate adaptation performance of the WAGA member councils. CeRDI has been involved with the project since 2016, providing technology developments and research support. The recent upgrades included incorporation of new content, including the Adaptive Capacity Checklist:https://adapt.waga.com.au/cb_pages/adaptive_capacity_checklist.php and enhancements to the home page and menus.
HWAWA website: adapt.waga.com.au
Soil CRC: Webinars and Panel Discussions
The Soil CRC regularly delivers webinars and panel discussions. Facilitated by the Soil CRC program leaders and senior staff, these events showcase research and findings from current and completed projects being supported by the CRC. In early August, Dr Hanabeth Luke from Southern Cross University delivered a webinar entitled ‘Future Farmers: What drives their decisions’. Hanabeth shared findings about the research into farmers and what drives their decision making. Hanabeth used extensive research methods to survey farmers from Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. The research findings offer a range of insights about the ways in which the values, beliefs, norms and behaviours influence on-farm decisions.
Hanabeth recently received funding from the Soil CRC to further this research with farmers into ‘knowledge-sharing for good soil stewardship’. CeRDI researcher’s Associate Professor Peter Dahlhaus, Associate Professor Helen Thompson, and Dr Alison Ollerenshaw will be collaborating with Hanabeth on the project.
Associate Professor Peter Dahlhaus from CeRDI recently participated in a panel discussion through the Soil CRC. Held on 17 August 2021, Pete who is leading the Soil CRC Project Visualising Australasia’s Soils joined other expert panellists to consider some of the opportunities, challenges and complexities for the collection, management and retrieval of soil data.
The Soil CRC webinars are available at: https://soilcrc.com.au/webinars/
Recent staff publications and conference presentations:
Bahlo, C., & Dahlhaus, P. (2021). Livestock data – Is it there and is it FAIR? A systematic review of livestock farming datasets in Australia. Computers and Electronics in Agriculture, 188, 106365. doi.org/10.1016/j.compag.2021.106365
Clemens, R., Rogers, D., Minton, C., Rogers, K., Hansen, B., Choi, C., & Fuller, R. (2021). Favourable inland wetland conditions increase apparent survival of migratory shorebirds in Australia. Emu - Austral Ornithology, 1-12.
Shackelford, N., Paterno, G.B., Winkler, D.E…Wong, M., et al. (2021). Drivers of seedling establishment success in dryland restoration efforts. Nature Ecology and Evolution. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-021-01510-3
Wong, M., MacLeod, A., Simons, B., Robinson, N., Gillett, H., Neyland, A., Milne, R., Corbett, J., & Dahlhaus, P. (2021, July 5-6). Enabling soil data re-use for ecosystem management and decision making: A standards-based approach [Conference presentation]. TERN Science Symposium, Online.
Wong, M., MacLeod, A., Simons, B., Robinson, N., Gillett, H., Sexton, A., Medyckyj-Scott, D., Thompson, H., Neyland, A., Milne, R., Corbett, J., & Dahlhaus, P. (2021, July 19-23). Maximising the value of soil data: Challenges and solutions we employed. Focus: User cases of farming grower groups and Catchment Management Authorities [Conference presentation]. ESIP Summer Meeting, Online.
Article in The Conversation
An article written by Dr Birgita Hansen was recently published in The Conversation. The story highlights the remarkable migration of the Latham’s Snipe shorebird between Japan and Australia, and explores the impact that diminishing wetland habitats in Australia is having on the survival of the species. The article was one of the most viewed stories on the day it was published.
To view the article, visit: https://theconversation.com/this-birds-stamina-is-remarkable-it-flies-non-stop-for-5-days-from-japan-to-australia-but-now-its-habitat-is-under-threat-165964
For further updates about Birgita’s conservation and research work with the Lathan’s Snipe visit: https://lathamssnipeproject.wordpress.com/
CeRDI postgraduate news
PhD data collection underway
Dr Basharat Ali, CeRDI PhD candidate, is currently recruiting participants to his study. Basharat is investigating the roles of data, digital agriculture and resilience in agricultural performance. The principal method of data collection for this research is an online survey. Participation in the research is open to anyone with an understanding of the importance of digital agriculture and resilience in agricultural performance.
This project has received approval from the Federation University Australia Human Research Ethics Committee (project number: A20-130).
For more information about Basharat’s research and/or to complete the survey, visit:
Food Agility presentations
Three CeRDI PhD candidates recently showcased their research in short YouTube videos. Facilitated by the Food Agility Cooperative Research Centre, the videos provide an overview of the research being undertaken by Rekha Attanayake, Rob Clark and Basharat Ali. The videos are available via the following links:
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.
For further details about CeRDI’s diverse portfolio of research please visit our website: www.cerdi.edu.au, or contact Director, Associate Professor Helen Thompson: email@example.com
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