Issue 5 |  April 2019

 A view from the helm

Hello everyone,

In this edition of the Biodiversity Information Systems newsletter we will be focussing on the benefits of Power Queries.

Unfortunately we have had to temporarily take the BioNet Vegetation Classification System offline for some important maintenance. We know this is an important and popular part of the BioNet system so we have created alternative means for you to access information during the offline period. This will draw on the high performance BioNet Web Services via customised Power Queries. We are confident that users will not be disadvantaged during this time.

We have also commenced a repeat of the Biodiversity Information Systems Customer satisfaction survey. Some of you may have contributed to our first survey and we are keen to see whether we have improved our services and finding better ways to meet your needs.

Jeremy Black | Director Native Vegetation Information Science
System outage 

> The BioNet Vegetation Classification (Public and Edit) applications are currently offline for some essential system maintenance. We have set up a number of Power Queries so that you can still access PCT and NSW Landscapes data during this time. Read more here.

> The new BioNet Atlas user manual has been published. This major revision combines instructions for all modules in the BioNet Atlas application (Species sightings, Flora survey, Fauna survey, Threatened Biodiversity and Admin), whilst also capturing important redevelopments from 2016 and 2017. Read more on the application changes here.

Are OEH's Biodiversity Information Systems meeting your needs?

The OEH Biodiversity Information Systems Customer Satisfaction Survey 2019 is now available for your input, and we'd love to hear from you to help improve our systems. 

The survey is open until 31st May 2019.
Did you know?

An alternative way to access data from BioNet databases is via Excel spreadsheets with embedded Power Queries which extract data directly from the BioNet databases via BioNet Web Services.

We have provided five preformatted Power Queries to get you started: PCT descriptions and % Cleared data; PCT Vegetation Condition Benchmarks data; PCT-Threatened Ecological Communities (TEC) associations data; NSW Landscapes data; Native Species by Growth Form data. You will find these on the BioNet resources page here.

To run the pre-built BioNet Power Queries, or build your own queries, you need to first ensure you have the latest version of Power Query installed. Refer to 'Section 1 (Before you begin)' in the Power Query Quick Guide. Note:
  • If you have Excel 2010 or 2013, you will need to install the Microsoft Power Query plugin version 2.24 from here
  • Excel 2016 already incorporates Power Query into a new set of features called 'Get & Transform' available in the 'Data' ribbon. If you are a user of Excel 2016, please see Get & Transform in Excel 2016
  • If your version of Excel is older that 2010, then you can only use the Power Query spreadsheets as static (non-refreshable) spreadsheets
For further information and assistance please email the BioNet team.
Data alive
In this series of looking at how BioNet data is being mobilised, we had the pleasure of interviewing environmental consultant, Ariane Weiss, about her experience with using Power Queries to extract data stored in the BioNet Vegetation Classification database.
Hi Ariane, thanks for your time. To start, can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I've spent 10 years working in hotel management and 10 years as a computer programmer and project manager. Since 2005 I've worked in environmental consulting. During my Masters in Environmental Science I specialised in remote sensing and GIS. I love the challenge of combining my IT skills with environmental consulting.

What information are you generally trying to extract from BioNet Vegetation Classification and why?

I have been an accredited Biobanking assessor since 2009. Biobanking assessments and GIS comprise the majority of my work. Most of my data requirements are therefore linked to Biobanking assessments such as PCT identification, benchmarks and TECs.

Have there been any hurdles to obtaining this information?

Before Web Services, obtaining data was time consuming and tedious. I kept forgetting my password (since it is autogenerated only), got timed-out all day and had trouble finding the data I was looking for. As an example, % cleared values are buried deep at the bottom of a scrollable list within a scrollable page.

How have you overcome this?

I have created my own BioNet Power Queries, accessing all available Web Service databases, depending on the purpose. The most common ones are PCTBenchmarks, PCTGrowthForms, SpeciesNames and ThreatenedBiodiversity_Species. 

How have you found using the Power Queries?

Fabulous! I cannot believe what a time saver Power Queries are! If a Likelihood-of-Occurrence table took 8 hours before, it will take 1 hour with a specifically designed Excel spreadsheet using Power Queries. The three biggest advantages are time savings, elimination of mistakes (such as typos, old data, data entry errors) and ownership (no responsibility or maintenance). If there is a down-side, it might be that some consultants might not be interested in designing their own Excel formulas to access the data. So, providing Power Queries fit for purpose is a great idea!

Are there any more Power Queries you'd like to see developed in the future?

Five BioNet Queries are available on the BioNet website. I made some additional ones available on my Google Drive for people to download. What could be useful in the future is a Quick-BioNet-Atlas-Access Power Query, where a user could pick a species, such as Koala, and an LGA or IBRA subregion and get all the BioNet Atlas records. Maybe some prototypes could be published where users can comment and provide additional requests?

Response from BioNet team: These are great suggestions and we really appreciate that you've shared them and your time with us.

We encourage all users to feed back with other Power Query suggestions and ideas. Don't forget to complete the BioNet Customer Satisfaction Survey 2019.
Copyright © 2019 DPIE BioNet, All rights reserved.
Banner photo: The vulnerable Dusky woodswallow (Artamus cyanopterus cyanopterus), photo credit Michael Todd

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