In the first of a regular series looking at your experience of working with BioNet data and how it makes a difference to biodiversity in NSW, the BioNet team had the pleasure of speaking with Joanne Ocock, Environmental Scientist with the Office of Environment & Heritage's Water, Wetlands and Coastal Science branch.
Jenifer Spencer (left) and Joanne Ocock undertaking field survey work in the Macquarie Marshes. Photo: Nicola Brookhouse
Hi Joanne, thanks for taking the time to speak with us, before we begin can you tell us a little bit about your role and what you do?
I am an environmental scientist with the Water and Wetlands team, splitting my time between the field and office. When back in the office I spend quite a lot of time managing data to generate reports on waterbird and frog diversity and abundance, across the inland wetlands in the Murray-Darling Basin where we work.
What are you currently working on?
I am working as part of a broader team spread across OEH on monitoring and evaluating the ecological outcomes of environmental water. We are using this information to inform long-term water planning and have been using data from BioNet and other sources, including aerial and ground surveys to identify important habitats across the catchments for waterbirds and other wetland-dependent species. We have been doing this by looking at the available waterbird data for spring months in each year, mapping the records and matching them up with our areas of interest within each catchment. We are analysing these records to develop draft targets for long-term water planning for maintaining waterbird species diversity at 5, 10 and 20 year time frames.
How will this project make a difference to Biodiversity in NSW?
The catchment based targets will be used to assess the effectiveness of the Basin Plan which has set out long-term quantified objectives for improvements in waterbird populations across the Murray-Darling Basin. The targets will be used in the monitoring we do to compare what we find each year with the long term averages. The idea is that these averages provide goals against which we can evaluate outcomes from environmental water management and how we are tracking towards achieving them. The net outcome being that we maintain a high diversity of waterbird species across wetlands in the Basin.
How relevant is the data in BioNet to your project?
BioNet fills the gaps in our survey data, and without this the picture would not be as complete or robust. So for catchments where we have limited survey data BioNet can help to build a representative picture of species occurrence. For us, we want the most complete picture of species in each year to make sure that the analysis really reflects what is going on in each area of interest, each wetland region within each catchment.
How does working with BioNet compare to other biodiversity data from other sources?
BioNet is my primary go to, but I do use data from other national resources. My feeling is that data in BioNet is more quality controlled and that there is consistency in the data. I have more control over the information that I download, particularly when using the new BioNet Web Service. This has made it easier to integrate the data with other data sets. But it is consistency in the data that is critical, especially if species names and species codes are not maintained. I have had some nightmare experiences trying to integrate datasets where these elements have not been maintained.
For more information on BioNet Web Services and the PowerQuery quick guide click here