ALA website receives a makeover

Next time you log on to the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA), you will notice some improvements to as part of our ongoing commitment to improving your user experience. We’ve made these improvements to address the feedback and insights we gained through a recent review of our website.

As part of this review we spoke to a number of people who use the ALA on a regular basis and benchmarked our site against best practice. This review told us that while many of our users think the ALA provides some very useful resources, at times the site can be difficult to navigate, sometimes is unstable, and that there is not enough support material.

We are pleased to be able to release this new and improved website as a first step to addressing some of these issues.

Here’s a brief summary of what we have changed as part of this website refresh.

  • We’ve improved how our content is grouped to make it easier for you to navigate the website. See footer navigation example below.

  • We’ve provided some extra content to help you get more concise information about the ALA, what we do, and how you can use the ALA. See ALA knowledge base example below.

  • We’ve redesigned our pages with a more up-to-date visual design.
  • We’ve made our basic user support materials easier to find. We recognise that we still need to do better in this area and will be working towards further improvements in this space. You can access our user guides here.
  • We’ve made it easier for you to sign up, and sign in, by making this more prominent on the homepage.
  • We’ve made it easier for you to get in contact with us by providing you with an easy to find contact form and clearer call to actions on pages. See contact form example below.

This is just the first step to developing an even better ALA website and incremental and continuous improvements will be made over the coming months. Our goal is to reduce the pain associated with large releases, to gain faster feedback from you, our users, and to offer incremental and continuous increases in the value of the ALA.

We would value and appreciate your feedback on this website refresh. You can provide feedback and ask questions to the team at


EcoEd training for first-rate science education

The Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) has joined forces with Biodiversity and Climate Change Virtual Laboratory (BCCVL) and Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN) to deliver an exciting and innovative new training program called EcoEd.

EcoEd provides cohesive training and skill development to university lecturers and researchers enabling them to combine theoretical concepts with real-world applications developed by three NCRIS-supported facilities (ALA, BCCVL and TERN) into undergraduate and postgraduate curriculum.

ALA, BCCVL and TERN developed data and products are already being used by some of Australia’s most successful ecosystem scientists and most inspiring lecturers spread across all our universities and institutions.

The EcoEd program builds on these achievements, in providing the training required to further incorporate NCRIS-developed expertise and capabilities into Australia’s higher education and research sector.

In doing so EcoEd is increasing the capacity of Australia’s research community to advance science and deliver outcomes that benefit the nation and underpin the sustainable use of our ecosystems. Moreover, it is enabling first-rate science education in Australia by supporting and nurturing our future scientists.

EcoEd provides cohesive training and skill development to university lecturers and researchers enabling them to combine theoretical concepts with real-world applications developed by three NCRIS facilities (ALA, BCCVL and TERN) into undergraduate and postgraduate curriculum.

EcoEd Champions leading the way

The EcoEd program was piloted this month in Adelaide where eight very enthusiastic champions from across Australia and New Zealand with varying backgrounds and institutions came together for a two day workshop. You can meet our champions below.

At the workshop the champions absorbed ready-to-use lecture and workshop modules, along with tools and knowledge on how to use the ALA, BCCVL and TERN platforms to explore species data and their relationships with their environment. The champions will now be incorporating these in their work and re-delivering the education materials in their own institutions.

EcoEd will be further developed to provide professionals teaching ecological and environmental science subjects at tertiary institutions with a wealth of information resources that can be used in courses that focus on topics such as ecology, biogeography, data fitness for use, environmental management and spatial analysis.In addition to the ALA, BCCVL & TERN, we would like to give a special thanks to Research Data Services (RDS) and National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources project Nectar for their support in making this program happen. And of course, a big thank you to all our champions for your enthusiasm and participation.

Meet our champions

Here’s a list of our current EcoEd Champions and their biographies.

Champions Biographies [PDF 710KB]

For more information about EcoEd, or if you are interested in participating as a champion in a future program, please express your interest by contacting Chantal Huijbers (


Spotlight on ALA Users – Tim Bawden

We first discovered Tim Bawden’s images while searching through the ALA’s Recent Sightings for some pictures of Australian mammals for promotional material. Digging through them, we found a great collection of sightings – many of rarely-seen species. They also cover a wide variety of locations around the country.

Luaner (Dasyurus viverrinus)

Luaner (Dasyurus viverrinus). Image by Tim Bawden

Tim uses the ALA to work out new areas to explore and look for areas that contain “target” species that he hasn’t seen before.

Peron's Tree Frog (Litoria Peronii).

Peron’s Tree Frog (Litoria peronii). Image by Tim Bawden

He doesn’t use the ALA for identification assistance, other than to work out the range of the species.

Leopard Seal (Hydrurga leptonyx)

Leopard Seal (Hydrurga leptonyx). Image by Tim Bawden.

He prioritises entering the images of species that are “interesting or rare” into the ALA. He works in IT and his hobby of using the ALA is a “good diversion”.

Sugar Glider (Petaurus breviceps)

Sugar Glider (Petaurus breviceps). Image by Tim Bawden

Many of Tim’s images are now the feature image for that species in the ALA.

Please contact us if you would like to share how you use the ALA.

Compare areas is a simple tool that will show the differences between any two defined areas in terms of species composition and area. Areas can be generated or determined by any of the options available under Add to Map | Area. The inputs to the standard wizard are

  1. Species, species list or lifeform
  2. Identity of area 1
  3. Identity of area 2

Two areas for comparison

and the outputs are

  1. A pop-up window that reports
    1. the size, number of occurrences and number of species for each area
    2. Number of species only in area 1 (not area 2)
    3. Number of species only in area 2 (not area 1)
    4. Number of species in both areas

      Compare areas pop-up window

  2. A CSV file that contains all the above and a list of species showing and if they occur in area 1 and area 2

Compare areas CSV


A New Scanner for Digitizing Australia’s Biodiversity Heritage

This article was originally published in Biodiversity Heritage Library . Read the original post.

By Nicole Kearney, Coordinator, BHL Australia

In 2011, Australia joined the Biodiversity Heritage Library and, led by Museums Victoria, began to digitize the rare books, historic journals and archival material related to Australia’s biodiversity, and to make them openly available online.

There are now 15 Australian organizations contributing to BHL and over 300 worldwide. These include museums, herbaria, royal societies, field naturalists clubs and government organizations.

Just this week the number of volumes digitized for BHL by Australian organizations surpassed 1,000, amounting to over 200,000 pages. The great majority of this digitization work was done by the BHL Australia team at Melbourne Museum. We have a fabulous team of volunteers who scan the pages and prepare the digitized books for upload online.

BHL Australia volunteers with Museums Victoria CEO Lynley Marshall (center) in front of the new BHL Australia scanner. Photo Credit: Nicole Kearney

In the 6 years we have been doing this work, there have been dramatic advances in digitization technology, both in hardware and in software. We are therefore very excited to announce that BHL Australia has just purchased a new scanner.

Museums Victoria CEO Lynley Marshall scanning the first page for BHL Australia on the new scanner. Photo Credit: Nicole Kearney

To celebrate the arrival of the new scanner, the Museums Victoria (MV) library hosted an Open House on 24 May, inviting MV staff to learn more about BHL, see a display of rare books from the MV collection, and see the new scanner.

Visitors exploring rare books from the MV collection during the Open House. Book on display is: Thesaurus rerum naturalium. 1734-1765. By Albertus Seba. Photo Credit: Nicole Kearney

The scanner, a Zeutschel OS 16000, will increase both the quality and quantity of our scanning work, and will automate much of our post processing. This will allow us to further expand our project and to make even more of Australia’s biodiversity heritage literature available online, so stay tuned for the next 200,000 pages!

Peruse the BHL Australia collection.

BHL Australia is funded by the Atlas of Living Australia.


Last chance to register for the Greater Impact through Environmental Infrastructure Symposium

Want to stay up-to-date with the latest trends in environmental infrastructure? Would you benefit from learning how NCRIS infrastructure has been used for cutting-edge ecosystem science and management among research, government, community and industry? Don’t miss out on your opportunity to participate in the conversation and help shape the future of environmental research infrastructure! Registrations are still open for the upcoming Greater Impact through Environmental Infrastructure Symposium, but you’ll need to hurry as registrations close Tuesday 9 May 2017.

Greater Impact through Environmental Infrastructure

Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of NCRIS

Tuesday 16 to Thursday 18 May 2017, National Library of Australia

We are pleased to announce the following keynote speakers.

Professor Suzanne Miller
Queensland Chief Scientist
Chief Executive Officer and Director of the Queensland Museum Network

Professor Mark Westoby
Macquarie University’s Genes to Geoscience Research Centre
NSW Scientist of the Year 2014

Dr Helen Cleugh
Chief Research Scientist, CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere
Lead, National Environmental Science Programm, Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub

You will also hear from experts from across the sector, including our very own Dr John La Salle, Director of the ALA.  Take a look at the full program and list of speakers.

Sessions include:

Demonstrating Impact – how can we best evaluate and communicate the impact of NCRIS environmental infrastructures?

Enabling Government – how the infrastructure has supported the needs of Government, and what next for the future?

Indigenous Knowledge – how can traditional knowledge systems be supported by the infrastructure?

Empowering Researchers – what is some of the new science and innovation enabled by the environmental research infrastructure?

Data Quality – how can environmental infrastructure support efficient delivery of data that is ‘fit for use’?

Registration is FREE and closing soon!

You can register for single days or for the whole symposium.

What are you waiting for? Register now!

For more information please email

You can also join the conversation before and during the symposium on Twitter via #NCRISimpact

We hope you’re able to join us!


Greater Impact through Environmental Infrastructure Symposium – registration open

To celebrate the tenth anniversary of NCRIS, the ALA is partnering with a number of NCRIS facilities to host a symposium to celebrate the collaborative impact of Australia’s environmental infrastructure. The symposium will showcase the impact of 10 years of NCRIS investment into environmental infrastructure, as well as providing a platform to foster new collaborations and shape future innovations.

Registrations are now open for the Greater Impact through Environmental Infrastructure Symposium which will be held at the National Library of Australia, Canberra from 16-18 May 2017.

Further information, including the draft program, can be found on the dedicated symposium website:

The ALA is made possible by contributions from its many partners. It receives support from the Australian Government through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) and is hosted by CSIRO.


A global approach to monitoring biodiversity

The Atlas of Living Australia (ALA), is a member an EU-funded project, called GLOBal Infrastructures for Supporting Biodiversity research (GLOBIS-B). The project aims to enhance the multilateral cooperation of biodiversity research infrastructures worldwide to support the production of Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs), which will provide a global approach to monitoring the state of biodiversity.

EBVs have been introduced by the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON), and are the measurements required for studying, reporting, and managing biodiversity change. By implementing EBVs at a global scale, the project supports the management of biodiversity conservation and sustainable development across the world.

Information infrastructure is critical to delivering data for EBVs, and that’s where the ALA as a leading global infrastructure in the aggregation and delivery of data is helping facilitate the improvement of biodiversity knowledge through the production of EBVs.

The ALA recently joined scientific, technical and legal experts from around the world at an EBV Workshop in Amsterdam on Species Traits.   At this workshop scientific experts discussed requirements for developing the EBV class ‘Species traits’. The details of designing and deploying scientific workflows to produce EBV data products were also discussed, along with the data policies that would support the use of data in the EBV process. You can find out more about this workshop at GLOBIS-B Essential Biodiversity Variables Workshop on Species Traits held in Amsterdam.

Find out more about this project and read the latest news on GLOBIS-B. You can find out more about ALA’s involvement by contacting Rebecca Pirzl (

By Hannah Scott and Peter Brenton, Atlas of Living Australia 

Sustainable land and natural resource management relies on many things, but at the core of it, timely accurate data at the right resolution is essential for benchmarking as well as monitoring status and change.  Such data helps to improve productivity and yield, better manage and enhance biodiversity and natural assets, and adapt to changing climates and land use pressures.

Thanks to rapidly evolving technology and publicly accessible ‘big data’ capabilities, it’s now easier to make environmental management decisions informed by large volumes of information.

User exploring ALA's powerful mapping tools.

The ALA features a wide range of powerful, open source mapping and analysis tools, which allow users to explore and analyse information in new ways.

With open access to millions of digital records at your fingertips, Australia’s national biodiversity database, the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) has a range of online tools and services that support environmental management and allow biodiversity and environmental information to be analysed in new ways.

A common question asked by Landcarers is, “What should I be planting on my property to minimise changing climate impacts and maximise the long-term success of my plantings?”  The ALA is being used to help answer questions like this, along with questions such as, “I want to grow a particular crop, where are the best places to do this, both today and under future climate scenarios?”.  The potential questions are endless, but some useful case studies have been put together at Spatial Portal Case Studies.

The ALA’s ‘explore your area’ feature allows you to enter a location and very quickly find and access records of species found in that area.  Alternatively, you might already know the species you want to plant, but want to see if it is appropriate to plant in your location.  The ALA allows you to search for species via maps as well as by query and filtering, access occurrence data and get information about the species found. You can even import your own data temporarily and use ALA’s powerful tools to visualise and analyse it, together with all of the other ALA data.

With over 67 million digital occurrence records at your fingertips to-date, the ALA has troves of information about Australia’s living things including species and their environments.  It can be used in multiple ways for the experienced conservation planner, researcher or ecologist; farmers, teachers, gardening enthusiasts, and the general public.

Find out more by visiting

This article was originally published in Landcare in Focus. Read the original article.


Setting the benchmark for a streamlined approach to environmental data management

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) and the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) have teamed up to produce an integrated data feed to enable researchers more efficient access to environmental data across NSW. This collaboration sets the benchmark for a more streamlined approach to environmental data management across Australia.

OEH’s BioNet team has created an Open Application Programing Interface (API) that anyone can use, with the ALA (a database of Australia’s national biodiversity information) now on board as an early adopter. The API allows NSW species sightings data to automatically synchronise between the two platforms.

Since going live in October 2016, the benefits of the integrated data feed have already been realised. “On the launch of the integration, we immediately saw the holdings of records from NSW OEH into the ALA increase from 7 million to 9 million records,” said Miles Nicholls, Data Manager ALA, “Given that NSW OEH is the second largest supplier of data to the ALA, this represents a significant increase in the data available on NSW for research purposes.”

According to BioNet’s Project Manager, James Bibby, the key goal of this collaboration is to demonstrate momentum and capability of the API, and encourage other states across Australia to adopt of a consistent international standard. “We took the decision to standardise the exchange protocol for all our BioNet OpenAPIs using the international OASIS OData standard, but on top of this we needed to select a data standard specific to sharing species sightings” said James Bibby Project Manager, NSW OEH.  “It was natural for us to turn to the ALA as the national hub for sharing species sightings data and align with them where possible. A great outcome of this project is that the NSW BioNet data you can now access through the ALA platform is so much more up to date” 

This collaborative effort between the ALA and OEH was also focused on aligning with best-practice data standards for the BioNet Web Service. Using open agreed standards will reduce the cost of integration of data sharing.  “The ALA are using Darwin Core standard reference for sharing information on biological diversity which has broad international support – so it made perfect sense to adopt the standard,” said James Bibby. “Our open data initiative is all about mobilizing data and having it used to drive improved biodiversity outcomes.” 

 “The adoption of standards which have broad support in the community and by technology providers is clearly the way to break down barriers to access and integrate the data, and to interpret and understand it,” said James Bibby.

The ALA and OEH are now exploring future collaboration opportunities, including how to harvest data back to OEH and increase the data available to the State in order to improve evidence based decision making while utilising the ALA as a hub to distribute data to other government agencies.

For more information about this project, or about this collaboration, please contact the OEH BioNet team via

For media enquiries, please contact Hannah Scott, Communication Manager Atlas of Living Australia on 0467 707 182.

About BioNet

BioNet is the trusted source of biodiversity data for decision making in NSW, developed by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.  It contains a range of biodiversity data collections which are being progressively made available via OpenAPIs.  Currently Species Sightings, NSW Landscapes and Vegetation Classification data are available, with plans to make Threatened Entities data available in 2017.

About ALA

The Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) is Australia’s national biodiversity database. It provides free, online access to a vast repository of information about Australia’s amazing biodiversity. It’s a collaborative, open infrastructure that pulls together biodiversity data from multiple sources, and focuses on making biodiversity information accessible and usable.