I had the pleasure of presenting at this year’s Atlas of Living Australia Science Symposium in Perth recently, at which I highlighted the importance of biodiversity information – especially scientific data – to regional NRM organisations like NACC.
In a nutshell, we take our science seriously, especially biodiversity data and other information about our natural environment. And we have done so since “Day 1” – as is obvious from the original Regional NRM Strategy for the Northern Agricultural Region, and its current manifestation online as NARvis. The natural sciences underpin our regional NRM strategies and virtually all of our core programs.
As further evidence of the extent to which we “take science seriously”, I pointed-out that regional NRM groups:
- Employ scientists, such as biologists and environmental scientists (Two of NACC’s four Program Coordinators have a PhD in the natural sciences – Dr Jessica Stingemore and Dr Mic Payne).
- Encourage staff to keep up-to-date with the latest research in their work areas.
- Engage with key external scientific and technical experts for additional input.
- Use spatial mapping, with data layers from WA Parks & Wildlife (DPaW), DoW, DAFWA, Landgate, etc.
- Engage with external researchers on key issues (e.g., WA Threatened Species Forum).
- Encourage expert staff members to attend scientific conferences relevant to their work.
- Engage with science development organisations – like Sci-napse (Mid West Science Engagement Group), of which one of our staff (Emma Jackson) is currently the Chair.
Regional NRM groups are both users of scientific information, and generators of scientific data. One can look at a range of projects that NACC has been involved in over the years to see solid examples of this.
Importantly, much of this data has been provided by, and lodged with, established data management organisations – to ensure rigorous standards in accessing the right data, and to ensure similar quality assurance in the data being “housed” and managed for future access.
Projects such as our current Tilapia eradication project collaboration with Central TAFE (Durack BCMI); our past Eucalypt woodlands conservation project (Woodland Watch) with WWF and WA Parks and Wildlife (DPaW); and our ongoing activities guided by sophisticated “Priority Landscapes” modelling (using biodiversity datasets such as threatened species and ecological communities distribution, and native vegetation complexes as part of biodiversity values modelling); all attest to this.
Like all regional NRM groups, we prioritise using established state databases such as FloraBase and NatureMap at DPaW or the Western Australian Museum to source and lodge our data. We also make use of the Atlas of Living Australia – a fantastic multi-partner collaborative initiative which anyone around the country can use and contribute to. You can check it out here: http://www.ala.org.au/
We also prioritise collaborative partnerships – with other NRM groups, government agencies and institutions, research organisations and universities, ENGOs, community groups, and individuals.
Finally, we prioritise making our data publicly available and, frequently, public-sourced – through citizen science data gathering projects and activities.