A view from the helm

Welcome to our new BioNet newsletter, it’s been a long time coming.  We have established this in response to your requests for better communication particularly around product updates and applications enhancements.   It also provides a fantastic opportunity to share your stories in accessing and using biodiversity information.   Our success is ultimately measured by your success - the ease by which you can access and use relevant information to support your research or business activities.   

Over the past few years we have been listening closely.  One message that has been coming through strongly is your frustration with trying to locate relevant information within our warren of web pages and applications.  We are addressing this through our BioNet Unification Project which is well advanced, and you will be seeing some changes shortly. “BioNet” is being elevated to a brand covering a larger suite of data products. The names of data products and applications is being simplified and aligned with logically named data collections to be delivered via the growing list of Bionet Web Services.
To ensure we continue to improve our products and services we are fundamentally changing our teams structure to reflect a more responsive but strategic  'Plan > Build > Run > Learn' model supported by a transparent rolling 3 year plan.
Some of the other changes you can expect to see in the next 12 months include a significant enhancement of our Bionet applications, currently underway courtesy of the NSW biodiversity legislations reforms program. This has provided a great opportunity to work on a few useability issues, extend our range of open Web Services, and to move some of our key data products on to a data driven maintenance process (incl vegetation classification and vegetation integrity benchmarks). 
To ensure we stay true to our goal we are bringing you on board by setting up the BioNet Advisory Council giving a clear voice to our customers in order to strengthen our collaboration.

Ron Avery | BioNet team leader


> October 2016 saw a major upgrade to the NSW Plant Community Type (PCT) classification for the Sydney Metropolitan region go live.  Read more here.

> A number of new vegetation maps were released in November 2016, including a large number related to the State Vegetation Type Mapping Program.  Read more here.

> In February we introduced a number of changes to the BioNet systems in preparation for the support of the biodiversity legislative reforms.  This first phase of changes included bug fixes, enhancements and new features for both the BioNet Atlas and Vegetation Classification systemsRead more here.

>The ALA goes live with an automated feed from the BioNet Web Services and sets the benchmark for a streamlined approach to environmental data management.  Read more here.
On the 11th of April the revolution for land managers and restoration practitioners will begin! 

Restore & Renew, a project from the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, will combine genetic, environmental and ecological data to improve the success rate of plantings. 

This project will include interactive mapping via BioNet, and will be officially launched by the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney’s Restore & Renew team.

More information on the launch will be available here
Did you know?

If you know the VIS_ID (Vegetation Information System identification number) you can use this as the search term in the OEH Data Portal. e.g. to search for the map
HayNVMP_E_4153 enter the search term ‘4153’.

Data alive

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
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Banner photo: The vulnerable Dusky woodswallow (Artamus cyanopterus cyanopterus), photo credit Michael Todd

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