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Australian data platform will transform climate crisis predictions and native species conservation

29 November 2022

A world-first data analysis platform has been launched which will transform the ability to understand the impacts of the climate crisis on native species.

EcoCommons, with QCIF as the lead organisation of the partnership, is an Australian-built digital innovation platform that will simplify the use of data and analytics to pave the way for faster environmental breakthroughs to help protect and restore Australia’s natural world from an unsustainable state of decline.

The platform, which is available to all researchers, can be used to help conserve Australian native species by identifying where animals live now and where they may live in the future, where their habitat is and when it might disappear, and how they may respond to a changing climate. 

This informs the plans we can put in place to mitigate predicted impacts such as identifying a location for a new reserve.

QCIF CEO Sach Jayasinghe said QCIF is proud to be participating in the EcoCommons project as the lead organisation. “We're thrilled to see the outcome of cross-organisational collaboration on such an important Australian project. It is exciting to see EcoCommons already attracting significant attention from researchers, as well as organisations that want to make their data accessible on the platform.

Rosie Hicks, CEO of the ARDC, EcoCommons' major partner, said: “The ARDC is thrilled to see the launch of EcoCommons, a superhighway for researchers and decision-makers that shortens the time from question, to answer, to decision. We commend the team for creating a world-class research infrastructure that has been engineered for redeployment.”

The (AUD) $5m program is a partnership between: ARDC, which is funded by the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS); QCIF; Atlas of Living Australia (ALA); Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis (CEBRA) at the University of Melbourne; CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency; Griffith University, which built the platform; Macquarie University; Queensland Government via the Research Infrastructure Coinvestment Fund (RICF); Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN); and the University of New South Wales Sydney.

In the past, decision-makers, government professionals and researchers faced a number of issues when attempting to find answers from huge amounts of environmental data hosted in thousands of different places.

In Australia, there is an absence of suitable tools to address ecological and environmental modelling challenges while technical barriers, including the need for coding skills and powerful computers, meant it could take months or years to analyse data.

EcoCommons breaks down these barriers by bringing vast amounts of data together into one platform with simple-to-use tools that quickly generate meaningful information about the environment, and lead to solutions to enviro-socio-economic problems. 

Professor Brendan Mackey, Director of the Griffith Climate Action Beacon at Griffith University and one of the experts behind EcoCommons, said: “The EcoCommons platform provides previously unavailable capacity for a wide range of researchers and practitioners to investigate how climate change is impacting our native plant and animal species, allowing us to help protect our environment.”

The analytical tools available at EcoCommons have already been demonstrated by the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) to analyse animal tracking data and capture migratory patterns of Yellowtail Kingfish (Seriola lalandi) and Bull Shark (Carcharhinus leucas).

This kind of information produced by analytical models could then be used when, for example, setting fisheries targets and regulations, or planning for their protection during their migratory journeys. 

It is also likely that climate change will impact migratory species and these kinds of models could be used as the foundation to predict future migration patterns expected under climate change.

RICF funding has enabled an expansion of the IMOS Animal Tracking Facility in Queensland and this demonstrates the increased science impact from the Queensland Government’s investment in critical and collaborative research infrastructure in NCRIS facilities including QCIF and IMOS.

More information is available on the EcoCommons website.

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