So, starting off, I’m in my third year of doing a Bachelor of science in Natural Resources. I received an email for Finn asking for expressions of interest for this internship and though it would be a great way to get more experience in the field that I’m interested in, having done very little at university in undergrad so far.
I also applied because I attended the AusPlots Rangeland field training Camp at Owen Springs Station, in Alice springs of October last year. I learnt a lot and had a lot of fun, but I wanted to get more of an insight into what AusPlots does outside of field work. I also felt like there was so much more I could have learnt, so I was fairly eager.
(Primarily I would like to be a part of researching ecosystems and their dynamics, as my end goal would be to work within field of conservation and restoration while working toward a more sustainable future)
So just to introduce my presentation; the TERN is supported by the Australian Government through NCRIS, and the Super Science Initiative, and the University of Adelaide hosts the Australian Transect Network, AusPlots and NERP (the National Environmental Research Program) which are the groups I primarily worked with, but they also host EcoInformatics
TERN- so TERN delivers research infrastructure for others to use. It allows people within the science community to gather information and samples, whether it be online though the aekos data portal or collecting vegetation samples directly from TERN, to help contribute to the management and sustainable use of Australia.
AUSPLOTS- Plot based monitoring program that assessed ecosystem around the country. Its for consistent ecological assessment. When plots are set up, the aim would be to go back to that same plot years later and the previous information can tell researchers how the ecosystem has changed through out the years Forests- carbon dymanics, and forest productivity Rangelands- surveys of veg and soils in the rangeland bioregions of Australia
ATN- Studies the patterns and trends of vegetation and soils along environmental gradients. This is important as it can help scientist understand ecosystem changes of the land
So this is a nifty flow chart of how Ausplots and ATN infrastructure works. I’ll be basing my presentation around this flowchart. I’ll be talking about my specific tasks that I did with regards to the fieldwork, data and sample management, publication, researcher use and collaboration, and also why we do it.
So beginning with the flow chart for AusPlots and ATN is fieldwork. We didn’t do this component until last week, when we decided to do some plots at Myola Station for a few days. I guess the first thing that was done was to make sure we had permission to use this area for sites. Lucily the station is owned Jacob, by one of the scholarship guys dad. And He seemed pretty keen to do a survey in the area.
Then the day before the trip, Finn and I went to Thebarton to make sure we had everything we needed in the 4WD vehicle. We used to the Ausplots Rangelands Survey protocols Manual to go through and check off the things we needed
So in Myola the first thing we did was choose 3 areas that had different vegetation to do sites on. The selected areas were chosen in terms of homogenity, logistical and access considerations. So the plots we ended up choosing to do sites on included a maeriana sedifolia low shrubland area, an acacia popyrocarpa (western myall) open woodland area, near the train line, and casurina pauper (or bellah) low woodland site. These were all pretty close to a dirt road where the cars were parked for easy access if we needed anything.
TECH Set up the plot- using the DGPS. Which gives us 4 corner points, All the transect end points within the plot and a centre point. Photopints- 3 photo-panoramas are taken in close to the centre point of the plot to give a panoramic view of the plot site. Photos are taken so the images can be processed to provide #D reconstructions of each plot, to monitor the change over time. LAI- Which is calculating the Leaf Area Index. This compares the amount of light intercepted with an above canopy reference. Basal Area- which determines the basal area of trees and shrubs and can provide information that can calculate carbon levels and biomass of the vegetation
VEGETATION Point Intersect- densitometer is used to view the canopy above, which is recorded and the staff also has a lazer to record the substrate below Collection of specimens to be pressed and take a sample of those for genetics. Placed in tea bags and barcoded
SOILS- Here we started off by digging a pit in the SW corner of the plot. This is where we did soil characterisation of Horizons by measuring the colour and texture. We also took samples for measuring the bulk density of the soil. Also from each horizon we took smaller samples to test the salinity and the pH, which is all important for soil monitoring -We also took metagenomics samples from 9 subsites within the plot to take back to Thebarton fro researcher use
This was especially good for me because I actually got a feel for what it was like doing a whole plot with all the elements, which didnt happen at the training camp because we focused on one area each day. Especially doing the LAI along transect lines and setting up the points of the plot first.
Important to manage genetic samples of vegetation by barcoding because 1. it’s a quick identifier for people that want to use that sample. Some of the really old plot sites didn’t have barcodes and their curernt identifiers easily came off the old teabags, if they didn’t have identifier than essential that sample is “lost” maintaining these samples by replacing old silica also ensures that the samples are still viable for use And 2. this is what people will use if they need to do genetic tests on plants to look at things like isotope analysis, adaptations in cellular structure. E.g Donna has borrowed some genetics samples to assess gene sequence of goodenia
So one of the things I had to do for sample management, apart from silica changes, for the genetics samples was to give them new barcodes and put that into a spreadsheet so it could be easily found if need be, I also changed over the old tea bags to new ones that are easier to store.
You might have noticed the wall of boxes I built in the past couple weeks aswell. This was to maintain pressed vegetation samples by replacing samples given back from the herbarium and putting them into the correct site boxes, which took a little while. After that was finished I started sorting through the boxes by picking out the samples which had good genetic material like flowers and fruit to be sent to the Canberra Herbarium. While picking out decent samples I also listed them as yes/no if I selected them to send to Canberra in a spreadsheet
This was done so we can be sure of which samples TERN still has and which the Herbarium have incase someone wants the sample but cant find it, we know where it is!
I didn’t do a lot of stuff to do with data publication but after the trip Finn did go through how the LAI worked and how it was entered into the system, which was pretty interesting (see picture)
So the last component of the flow chart is Research use. This means the data collected from the plots can be used by other people. Whether they need soil or vegetation samples, or information this is readily available for them. At the start of this week, we had the pleasure of checking out the State Herbarium to sift through 30 plot sites for specific vegetation samples a guy names Henrique needed for his PHD. From my understanding he will take the leaf samples he wants to use and send back what he doesn’t use. The end result being that TERN is acknowledged in his final thesis. Which is a win-win for him and TERN, because they appear in more publications and it means Henrique doesn’t have to go out into the field to collect all the samples.
So tying in the flow chart for AusPlots and ATN, all of this is done for collaboration with other organisations, groups and individuals. I found that its particularly important for educational organisations to maintain collaborative connections to help the group become more well known and to help them grow. I did have a really interesting conversation with Finn in my first week where he talked about maintaining friendships and connection with the state Herbariums. That conversation was one that has stuck with me because I didn’t know the full importance of maintaining these relationship.
Some of the collaborative work I did with the ATN include preparing maps in ArcGIS for the ATN brochure, which outlined the specific areas that there were plots. I also did a lot of publication proof reading to double check that these documents used or acknowledged TERN or ATN in some way.
I also did some collaborative work with Sally for NERP. NERP is a program that enhances long-term surveillance monitoring across Australia
So Mid way through the internship I did some work for Sally collecting information about Fauna Survey standards and animal ethics protocols in each states. All of the information I collected, which was primarily from government websites, was put into a big spreadsheet which Sally then Collated the information and put it into a presentation for the NERP Fauna Survey Protocols Workshop. This included getting information about the dimensions of permits required, trapping methods, hygiene and security protocols and specific information about doing surveys on private or crown land.
Animal Ethics information . We ended up finding that the general responsibilities were fairly standard across the country, with regards to respecting animals, using them only when justified, minimising harm to them and applying the 3 R’s (replacement of fauna, reduction in the number used and refinement of techniques. I also found some pretty good information on how much permits cost and the penalties if you weren't licenced.
Differences- There were some differences state by state though, I found some differences in pitfalls, primarily their dimensions, the number of them and the use of lids. There were also huge differences in when bird surveys should be done and active searching and spotlighting. When I could find information for camera trapping I found that they're all different in the methods. (happy to send summaries out)
Doing this was actually pretty interesting for because I’ve done a few fauna surveys in the past with the SAHG, which I really enjoyed doing but I had no idea of the requirements or consequences if you didn’t follow the right state protocols
So this week Lachie and I worked together to create a map for the AWNR Meeting. This involved Lachie gathering the coordinates and putting it into an excel spreadsheet which I then used to import into arcMap to create a map. I also got a lot of plot sites from Ben, which we then tailored to just show plot sites to the east side of the Stuart highway. The map showed previously established plot sites that had been done in traditional lands, plots that could potentially be used for ranger training and modification of plot methods.
Some challenges I faced in the internship include jumping out of my comfort zone to do some maps for ian. I did have some experience with GIS, while doing a two week intensive course, but even so, it definitely wasn’t long enough to take in all the information I needed. Luckily I like a bit of a challenge and got through this by producing quite a few maps. Of course with the help of Finn, Ian, Ben and Lachie for the last final map.
Another challenge I’ve found was balancing I guess “work life” with study. But this internship I feel actually improved my GIS skills and was helpful for my GIS project because I learnt how to use more tools in ArcMap by doing the maps for ATN and AusPlots. I even used some shape files from here in my project So in the end producing these maps because one of my biggest achievements in this internship because I managed to be successful in something that is completely out of my comfort zone
Teamwork- Flexibility- Data and Sample Management- GIS- Even though I did a 2 week intensive course, I still learnt a lot about entering data into ArcMap and how to create maps through out this internship.
Above everything, I learnt what its like to be in the real world. As generic as that sounds, but as an undergrad we don’t get a lot of experience in what it will really be like in an actual job. Turns out it’s not so bad
My future plans are flexible and not set in stone but after I finish my degree this year I want to spend some time (those 6 months before the new year) to Travel and gain some more work and life experience. If I could combine the two that’s even better.
Originally my plan was to just get the degree and get a job, but my goals have changed a bit since starting the internship. I’d now like to complete Honours, in hopefully the area that I want to go in. My ultimate dream honours project would be involving collecting information and data about the changes in the ecology in coffee and tea plantations with the current changes to previously shade grown coffee. I’ve done a lot of research and conservation and coffee are two things im passionate about. And working in a café for three years had me wanting to know other parts of the industry which include everything from the soil to the people involved in packaging and distributing it overseas
So to end, I just want to say thank you to everyone at TERN for making us feel welcome and bringing us into a relaxing environment. Importantly everyone with AusPlots and ATN for giving me this opportunity to work with you and for helping me out when I needed it. Finn, for being an awesome supervisor and for helping me out a lot with the ArcMap stuff! Then everyone else I directly worked with including Ian, Christina, Sally, Ben and Emyrs (when he was here)
Oh and thanks to Rick for the desk
So I hope to see you all around in the near future, I’ll be sure to keep in touch. And I’m more than happy to come along for future field trips if our offering the opportunity again
Aus plots atn_interpresentaion_ashleighburke
Summer Internship Program with
TERN- AusPlots and ATN
Why I applied
• Relates to degree
• Have done little work experience in undergrad
• Went to AusPlots field day October 2014
About AusPlots & ATN
TERN- Research Infrastructure
• AusPlots (Forests and Rangelands)
- Plot Based Monitoring program
- For consistent ecological monitoring
• ATN (Australian Transect Network)
-Patterns and trends along environmental gradients
• Permission to access land
• Field Equipment, Vehicles
and checklists in AusPlots
In the Field
• 3 plots. Maireana sedifolia, Acacia
papyrocarpa & Casuarina pauper
Tech- setting up plots with DGPS, photopoints,
LAI, Basal Wedge
Vegetation- Collection of all present species and
point intersect along transects
Soil- collection of soil and metageonomics,
assessing colour and texture, calculate EC & pH
Data and Sample Management of
• replacing old silica
• Catalog new barcodes
• Change teabags
• Maintains good samples
• Barcoding quick identifier for research use
Data and Sample Management of
- Replacing vegetation samples back to site boxes
- Choosing good samples to be sent to Canberra
- Database entering
- Data location
• Download LAI data back in office
• Herbarium to select vegetation samples
• Readily Available for others
• Win-win- Researcher doesn't need to collect
samples and TERN is Acknowledged in a
• Prepare maps for ATN brochure
• Proof read and add publications to ‘Summary
of Achievements List’
• To be presented
in ATN brochure
• Research government websites
• Fauna Survey Protocols- permits required,
methods, hygiene and security, access
• Collated information of each state to put into
presentation for NERP AusPlots Fauna Survey
• Animal Ethics Sate Summary- general
responsibilities, permit costs, penalties
• Mostly standard across the Country
• Differences in pitfalls, bird surveys, active
searching and spotlighting and Camera traps
Alinytjara Wilurara Natural Resources
• Create map showing previously established
• Ranger Training & how to modify methods
• GIS- Definitely out of my comfort zone
• Balancing internship with summer school and
Most memorable / Biggest achievements
• Field work
• Producing Final Maps
• Data and Sample Management
• Research Skills
• Interviewing skills
• Understanding of the importance of