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Welcome to the second of our newsletters, the first for 2012. This is roughly the middle of ACEAS’s projected activity under our current funding streams. In June 2013 we switch over to Educational Investment Funding from our current National Research Infrastructure Funding, and in 2014 it is all over! I hope it shall not be ‘all over’, as the achievements of all the participants in ACEAS are speaking for themselves, and the investment continues from one quarter or another. If it does not, it shall have been a grand experiment. So forgive us for being keen to see ‘product’!

This newsletter brings some exciting events to your notice: the Grand ACEAS Workshop and the ACEAS Great Debate. These are directed at giving ACEAS groups an opportunity for enhanced synthesis, as well as publicising the higher-level thinking we are trying to foster. The Debate is public and I hope many of you will live-stream in and tweet your comments. If these are a success, I am certainly planning to repeat it next year. More on this later in the newsletter.

It is great to welcome several new groups from the last round (PI and title):

  • Tania Laity, Integrating Measures of Phylogenetic and Taxonomic Diversity and Endemism into National Conservation Assessment
  • Fran Sheldon, Local to national – the capacity for increasing the spatial scale of monitoring
  • Alan Cooper, Using genetics to reconstruct the impacts of past climate change on Australian endemics; and
  • Max Finlayson, Adaptation pathways for aquatic plants under climate change: facilitating dispersal and management interventions.
There is another in the wings who I hope will join us soon.
The next round opens on May 1 and I am hoping for more Working Group proposals, over a shorter time-frame than up to now. Experience has proved this to be the most profitable way to produce results.

We shall soon be posting summaries of our first suite of groups to finish. We have a nice ACEAS-formatted template for web and booklet display of their work, but we do like to hear of papers and presentations, and we shall get better at putting such items on the web site. Wayne Meyer talks about his ACEAS experience in this newsletter.

While on the topic of welcomes and conclusions, I am sad to farewell Peter Johnston from the ACEAS Advisory Panel. He has, however, nominated Robert Karfs, also of the Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, who joins the Panel alongside Mark Schildhauer from NCEAS.

The TERN Symposium is occupying a lot of my time at present. It will feature some great speakers, including Steve Morton, Xavier le Roux from CESAB, the French equivalent to ACEAS, and Bill Michener from DataONE, as well as the TERN Facilities showing their progress. It is being held at the National Wine Centre in Adelaide, a wonderful venue. I hope lots of you consider coming along, as it will be a great Symposium, and we are looking for lots of feedback.

Talking of feedback, Lucy Keniger has received an enormous number of responses to her questionnaire, as you will read below, and Estelle Weber has just started her honours on the factors in group work that are conducive to high-level analysis and synthesis. I hope that through such reflection we can optimize our support for you, and convince those funders that ACEAS is an invaluable part of the research and management landscape in Australia. Indeed the world. It is a fantastic thing of which to be part.

Attend in person or online via live streaming!

ACEAS would like to invite you to our Great Debate, which will be held on Tuesday 27 March from 5.30pm at the Science Exchange in Adelaide. You can either attend in person or watch the live streaming from anywhere in the world.
The debate will be chaired by Sara Phillips, the editor of the ABC's Environmental Portal, and feature some of Australia’s top scientists and land managers, all of whom are ACEAS participants. The debaters are David Bowman, Barry Brook, Jasmyn Lynch, Dave Keith, Chris Johnson and Wayne Meyer. They will be debating important questions around the impact of European land use on Australia’s environment, including:

  • How has European land use changed Australia’s landscape?
  • Can a compromise be struck between European land use practices and protecting our unique biodiversity, or should we give up now?
  • How can we plan for a sustainable future?
The ACEAS Great Debate at a glance
Event date: Tuesday 27 March 2012, from 05:30pm. (add to outlook Calendar).
Location: The Science Exchange, 55 Exchange Place, Adelaide, and livestreaming.
Book your free tickets for the event here (the event is free but booking is required).
Full event description.

The Grand ACEAS Workshop will be held on March 26 and 27 in Adelaide at the Science Exchange of the Royal Institution of Australia. Nominees from ACEAS workshops from rounds one and two will be attending to present their key findings, identify common threads and differences, and work on synthesis papers. It is unfortunate we cannot have more participants, but to keep the balance and the budget in hand we have had to limit the numbers.

Wayne Meyer led the ACEAS working group "Transformational change of regional landscapes: navigating planetary limits and resource constraints over the next five decades ".

This working group brought together 13 multidisciplinary experts from academia and research institutions from all over Australia for a five day meeting. The participants included Paul Martin from the University of New England, Mike Young, the Director of the Environment Institute at the University of Adelaide, and Andrew Campbell, the Director of the Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods (RIEL) at Charles Darwin University.
The major outcome of the ACEAS working group will be a major report, which is currently in its fifth version. The report is intended to become a highly influential paper on the second industrial transformation of Australia's landscapes.
“The scope of the paper is very multi-disciplinary, covering the social and economic issues, as well as the biophysical. It talks about all of the things that are potentially influencing what happens in the landscape", Wayne explained.
The highlight of the ACEAS experience from Wayne's perspective was the opportunity to gather such a multi-disciplinary group together. "That's a pretty rare event these days, particularly for that length of time", says Wayne.
"ACEAS gave us the opportunity and reason to come together and look at this topic from an ecological and analysis point of view, and provided the resources to be able to do that. ACEAS certainly provides an opportunity that is hard to find from other funding sources these days", said Wayne.
"The only downside was the surf wasn't good", said Wayne about the meeting location, at Linnaeus on the NSW north coast. "But that was alright because that just kept everyone together for a bit longer".
For more information on the working group, please visit their ACEAS webpage
If you would like to find out more about the resulting paper, you can reach Wayne via his University profile.
Left to right: Andrew Campbell, Sam Wells, Lauren Rickards, Kelvin Montagu, Wayne Meyer, Richard Thackway, Josie McLean, Brett Bryan, Mike Young, David Summers, Paul Martin, Greg Lyle and Graham Harris. Absent, Ted Lefroy
Left to right: Andrew Campbell, Sam Wells, Lauren Rickards, Kelvin Montagu, Wayne Meyer, Richard Thackway, Josie McLean, Brett Bryan, Mike Young, David Summers, Paul Martin, Greg Lyle and Graham Harris. Absent, Ted Lefroy


Lucy Keniger is exploring the factors associated with interdisciplinary research collaboration in the Australian ecosystem science and management community as part of her masters.
Her questionnaire was widely distributed over the last 10 weeks, being sent to all ACEAS participants and many other groups.
Overall, 750 people responded to the survey, a response rate of around 21%, with 10% of the respondents indicating they had participated in an ACEAS working group. This was an overwhelming response – thank you to all who participated.
Preliminary analyses of the data indicate that there is a disjunction between the generally positive perceptions of interdisciplinary collaboration and with its actual practice within the community. Lucy will spend the next four weeks exploring this relationship further and investigating whether there any key demographic factors associated with the perceptions and practice of interdisciplinary collaboration.
The responses from the ACEAS participants provide an opportunity to analyse a subgroup of people who have been active in interdisciplinary collaboration (through ACEAS) and these will be analysed and compared with the responses from the wider community.
An overview of the results of the research project will be posted on the ACEAS and TERN websites.
For more information, contact Lucy Keniger or ACEAS Program Manager Alison Specht.


S.M. Guru, the ACEAS-TERN Data Synthesis Manager, provides a introduction to Metadata, and how to manage your ACEAS data.

Metadata is information about content, context, structure, quality and accessibility of data. It is often referred to as "data about data".
Metadata are very important for the effective usability of data. For example, imagine how difficult it would be to buy a chocolate if all chocolates were packed in plain packaging. We may be hesitant to buy them because we do not know their content, manufacturing date, brand, and use by date, information that helps us decide whether we want to eat the chocolate or not.
Similarly, data cannot be used effectively and efficiently if the information about the data are not provided with the data, such as the structure and content, temporal and spatial context, methodologies used, assumptions, and calibration information of the instruments.
Proper metadata, which contains all the information mentioned above, will help to improve the longevity of data usage, enable sharing with other researchers, and be easy to use in multi-disciplinary studies.
Metadata standards provide the structure for the information collected about the data. It ensures the proper use and interpretation of data. Metadata standards can be generic as well domain specific. Ecological Markup Language (EML) is a metadata standard used to document ecological datasets.
In the ecology domain, EML is used to describe data and store in a Metacat (Metadata Catalog), a repository for metadata. This enables scientists to document datasets in a standardised way so that the broader scientific community can re-use the datasets.
The data management tool called Morpho creates and edits metadata, searches and queries metadata collections and views data and data collections. Please refer to the new, revised, ACEAS Data Management Plan for further information on using Morpho to create metadata in EML format. You can find the plan on the ‘important documents’ home page of your wiki, or on the Working Groups home wiki.
Wikipedia has a fulsome metadata description:


The News and Views page on the Working Groups wiki is dedicated to discussions within the growing ACEAS community. Please join in a discussion with your fellow ACEAS participants to join a discussion thread with your fellow ACEAS group members and the larger ACEAS family. We’d like your contribution to the following discussion threads :
  1. Synthesis in ACEAS
    In your own words, what is your definition of synthesis in the context of ACEAS?
  2. Group or team?
    What do you think are the defining characteristics that differentiate a group of people from a team?
  3. Group progression
    During your time with ACEAS, at what stage do you think your group became a team?
  4. ACEAS assistance
    How has ACEAS assisted your group in becoming a team?
To join a discussion, go to the News and Views page on the Working Groups wiki and follow the prompts.


Confirmed workshop and working group meetings and other important dates for the next few months are as follows. More will join these soon as dates firm for 2012. Check out the ACEAS web site for meeting updates and reports as they come to hand.

Title Principal Investigator Meeting Dates
Local to national – the capacity for increasing the spatial scale of monitoring Fran Sheldon March 8-10th 
Integrated catchment planning Bob Pressey Mar 12-16, 2012
Molecules in models Andrew Young March 19-23
ACEAS Grand Workshop ACEAS March 26-27
ACEAS Great Debate ACEAS March 27, 5.30pm
TERN Symposium TERN March 28-29
Thresholds and regime shifts in Australian freshwaters Samantha Capon April 3-5
Adaption pathways of aquatic plants under climate change Max Finlayson April 23-27
Bio-acoustic monitoring Grace, Liddell & Specht May 8-11
Integrating measures of diversity and endemism Tania Laity May 14-16
Reconstructing effects of past climate change Alan Cooper May 21-25


Contact: Alison Specht | ACEAS Program Manager |

TERN is supported by the Australian Government through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy and the Super Science Initiative.