Issue 2 | December 2017

 A view from the helm

A lot has happened since our first newsletter in April. The BioNet systems have undergone two additional production releases in August and December, the third for 2017, in support of land management and biodiversity conservation reforms.  These changes were focused on strengthening the rigor and transparency of biodiversity data underpinning government decision making processes. Importantly the opportunity allowed us to expand our range of open, well structured BioNet Web Services to facilitate innovative access and use. These web services now deliver data live to a growing list of private sector and government business applications, including the Biodiversity Assessment Method (BAM) Tool.

The downside is BioNet re-tooling has consumed much of our time over the past 18 months, causing some delays in our roll out of the BioNet Advisory Council and three year rolling road map. Rest assured, the BioNet team remains committed to the BioNet Road Map process including establishment of an Advisory Council to establish an active voice for stakeholders in our plan, build, run cycle

In response to user requests, we have streamlined the naming of BioNet systems and data products in a newly published naming protocol. These names are now reflected in legislation and will be reflected in other content as they are renewed and updated. 

We have also made significant progress in establishing and promoting standardised vegetation mapping in NSW. BioNet Vegetation Type Map Data Standard is now published, as one of the integrated BioNet data standards supporting linked data. This standard supports mapping at regional, local government and property / off-setting levels. If you are a manager involved in the commissioning of new vegetation maps you may be interested in this initiative.
Ron Avery | BioNet team leader

 > August 2017 saw the Biodiversity Conservation Act and Local Land Services Act come into force. To support these reforms and the Biodiversity Assessment Method (BAM), a number of major enhancements were made to BioNet data and systems.  For more information on these changes, read more here.

> In relation to the August enhancements, we undertook a significant revision of BioNet product and service naming to unify and simplify our naming structure.  The objective of this revision was to make it more intuitive and easy to understand what data we hold and how to access it.  Read more here.

> The data standard for vegetation maps has now been published and is available for your use.  See the main story here.

> A new release of BioNet was deployed in December 2017 which focused on resolving a number of issues discovered post go-live.  This included a new release of the BioNet Web Service.  While the publication of the documentation associated with this release is ongoing, for our newsletter subscribers we have a copy of the draft Web Service 3.1 Release Notes available here.
A community approach to creating and sharing environmental data! 

SEED - the portal for Sharing and Enabling Environmental Data is a central place where you can find out about the environment in your area and see data that is being used to make environmental decisions.

Take a look as some of our products including Bionet Species Sightings, and new State Vegetation Type Maps.
Access SEED here.

If you are already a SEED user take 10 mins to complete the SEED usability survey here:
Did you know?
A number of consultants have been asking us for the ability to compare the features of similar PCTs side by side in a table when trying to select best fit PCT. You can now do this using BioNet Web Services directly in Excel.  For more details on how to access our Web Services via Excel, see the Quick Guide

As a result of the classification of vegetation becoming more data driven, the CMA based BioMetric Vegetation Types (BVTs) have been removed from the BioNet systems. However, to support you in this transition these archived datasets can still be accessed. Access this data here
Data alive
In the second of our series looking at how BioNet data is being mobilized to benefit the people and biodiversity of NSW, the BioNet team had the pleasure of speaking with Doug Reckord, Principal of Bournda Environmental Education Centre (EEC)

Hi Doug, thanks again for taking the time to share your work time with us.  To kick things off, can you tell us a little bit about the Bournda EEC and what you do?
Sure.  We are part of a network of 25 environmental and zoological education centres in NSW, part of the Department of Education.  The centre itself is located in Bournda National park on the far south coast of NSW in a region you could describe as a biodiversity hot spot.  We work in partnership with schools and a range of government agencies, NGO's and community organisations to provide a real world, authentic context for students to learn about the environment. This includes students from kindy all the way through to year 12.

How do you use biodiversity data in this setting?

Teachers and students look to us for support with resources and activities that really get them engaged with questions about how we manage and protect our biodiversity, and what impacts humans are having on biodiversity in our local area.  We want to have examples that are not just textbook examples, but real world applications of science to their area.

Open, freely available biodiversity data is becoming more and more important in this setting, particularly to support the high school curriculum.  If we look at the stage 6 science syllabus there is a real focus on students undertaking depth studies, which includes data analysis as part of their investigation.  Students are required to undertake construction and analysis of graphs and tables, and analyse using data from a number of different sources.

With appropriate skill development, students can access an amazing range of information.  Not just from their local area, but across NSW so they can compare what they find out about their local ecosystems with contrasting areas throughout the state.  I think having that range of information at your fingertips, being able to see understand how your region is different to others, illuminates some of the factors that underlie the differences in biodiversity.

What is the role of data from BioNet in this?

When I first saw how the open data web services you have produced could be so easily accessed by students [via Excel], and the heat map that was produced looking at threatened species sightings, I immediately saw the link with the depth studies.  Students are not only required to create visual presentations, but to seek novel ways to present data and to investigate emerging technologys.  The whole idea of online data being available to all highlights the power of bringing big data to bear on problems we need to solve.

A platform like BioNet means that students have equitable access to data no matter where they are, so that they are not dependant on having a local scientist in their area to access data.   At the same time, I see the potential for something like BioNet to provide a common platform for collaborative learning.  A platform that engages students and teachers and through which they can connect with biodiversity scientists in NSW.

How will all this activity make a difference to biodiversity in NSW?

I'll try not to sound too radical! One of the main thrusts of education is to have active and informed citizens.  If you have people in your community that understand how to source biodiversity data and understand what it means, if people know and understand what is in their local community, they will act positively to protect it.  They are not relegated to depending on a government department to know what is there and understand it.  In the end, we are skilling students to help them, and the community, understand and look after the environment.

Data standard for vegetation maps released

A new data standard for vegetation maps was finally published in 2017, in response to calls over many years for a better guidance and more coordinated investment in vegetation mapping in NSW.  If you are commissioning, creating, or updating vegetation maps please consider using this new standard. 
Why do we need a data standard?
  • to improve efficiency and cost effectiveness of mapping effort through improved alignment, integration and re-use
  • to ensure maps meet minimum requirements needed to serve business needs, including alignment with planning & assessment tools
  • to establish a predictable data structure and language to assist data use and application development
  • to support the linking of related data types to enhance utility and innovation
How is the data standard being used?
  • The data standard is currently informing the design of a new state vegetation type map database that will support seamless vegetation mapping at regional, local and property scales.  The database will be linked with and updated by Bionet Web Services (using the Vegetation Classification and Threatened Biodiversity data collections). 
  • Release 1 of new (regional level) state vegetation type map web map services published last month partially align with the standard. Release 2 of these web services will be delivered from the new data base, will fully align with the data standard, and will incorporate linked data. Release 2 is expected to be in place by June 2018.
Who needs to know?
  • Managers responsible for commissioning of vegetation maps
  • National park planners and land managers
  • Managers of private land conservation programs
  • Managers of conservation assessment and offset programs
  • Local Councils
  • Local Land Services
  • Ecological consultants
What should I do?
  • If you are a manager commissioning vegetation maps, include conformance to the data standard for vegetation maps as part of your contract and program deliverables.
  • If you are a data user or data custodian seeking to retro-fit existing vegetation maps to the Plant Community Type classification, follow the data standard as closely as your existing data will allow.
Copyright © 2017 DPIE BioNet, All rights reserved.
Banner photo: The vulnerable Dusky woodswallow (Artamus cyanopterus cyanopterus), photo credit Michael Todd

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