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CeRDI Newsletter Winter 2021

Message from the Director

Associate Professor Helen Thompson  

Associate Professor
Helen Thompson


Welcome to the latest CeRDI newsletter. 

In this issue, we’re shining a spotlight on some of the research activities undertaken in CeRDI with researchers from across the University. Consistent with Federation University’s Strategic Plan 2021-2025, these projects strengthen and enhance our shared vision and contribute impactful research that enables people and communities to prosper.

The Lucas Girls Avenue of Honour and the Aboriginal Heroes of Fire, Flood and Food are two exemplars. The ‘Lucas Girls project’ was recently completed by historian and senior researcher in the School of Arts, Dr David Waldron. David worked tirelessly to bring a period of local history to life through extensive archival research culminating in a series of audio recordings focusing on the Lucas factory employees and their significant contribution in establishing Ballarat’s Avenue of Honour. 

Associate Professor Fred Cahir and Dr Dan Tout, also from the School of Arts, are working on a unique historical project to identify and document the stories of Aboriginal heroes in shaping Victoria’s history between 1800 and 1930.

In other news, CeRDI has enjoyed recent success in the latest funding round from the Cooperative Research Centre for High Performance Soils (Soil CRC). Over $1.5 million dollars was awarded across three projects that CeRDI is leading or collaborating on. Each of the projects involves research that will support Australian farmers to improve the management of soil for greater farming profitably and production.


Soil CRC funding success for CeRDI researchers

Soil CRC funding success for CeRDI researchers  

Visualising Australia’s Soils


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.

Lucas Girls Avenue of Honour: Audio tour 

Lucas Girls Avenue of Honour: Audio tour  

Avenue 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.

Recent research highlight on Ramsar wetlands

Recent research highlight on Ramsar wetlands  

Source of figure: Biological Conservation


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.

Chronicling Aboriginal heroism: Fire, flood and food

Chronicling Aboriginal heroism: Fire, flood and food  

Share your stories contact Fred Cahir


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.

Rating Curve and Water Balance Model Development for the Winton Wetlands

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.

Project Update: Southern Farming Systems National Landcare Program Smart Farming

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. 

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:

Further information about the Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hubs was included in the Autumn 2021 CeRDI newsletter. 

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.

About CeRDI

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
Fax: +61 3 5327 9895

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