One of our most prolific contributors to the ALA is Reiner Richter, a wildlife photographer from Victoria. He has been taking nature photographs as a hobby for many years and has submitted over 13,000 fantastic sightings to the ALA.


Reiner uses the ALA to assist with identification for species that he is less familiar with.


“If I know what the genus might be I will search for species within that genera that are nearby using the mapping tools,” Reiner said.


He also uses the ALA to find gaps in data then embarks on expeditions to fill them. A couple of years ago, he noticed a gap between Lakes Entrance and Orbost and upon searching there, he found a population of Austrocnemis splendida, a small damselfly that is quite rare in the state.


Austrocnemis splendida by Reiner Richter

While searching for and photographing species, Reiner has made some interesting discoveries. His rediscovery of a Micraspis flavovittata, a ladybeetle thought to be extinct, garnered some attention in the mainstream media. From the unique markings, he knew on sight that this was a new species for him personally. Not finding an image of such a species anywhere on the web, he passed it on to experts, starting with Museum Victoria. He is hopeful that this species can get listed as critically endangered as a result.


Micraspis flavovittata by Reiner Richter

One of the things Reiner finds most rewarding is to photograph fungi in winter.


“Many strange fungi remain unidentified as the kingdom is vast and there are few experts in the field, so relatively few species have been described,” Reiner said.


Mycena kurramulla by Reiner Richter

If you’d like to see more of Reiner’s images, you can look through his Recent Sightings, or check out his online photo gallery at


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


The scatterplot function links the sampled values of any two environmental variables on a species (or genus etc) with the map. Points on the scatterplot represent the environment found at each occurrence record, as given by the environmental variables of the two axes of the scatterplot.

The scatterplot (environmental space) and the map (geographic space) are linked. Dragging a rectangle over an area of the scatterplot to enclose occurrence points will highlight the corresponding points on the map. You can also define an active area on the map and have all occurrences within that area highlighted on the scatterplot.

Scatterplot 1_640
The scatterplot allows you to:

  • Examine the environmental niche of one or two taxa or taxonomic groups. Using a species as the primary taxa and its genus as the secondary taxa can be highly informative. For example, survey effort for the species may be able to be evaluated. Two similar species can be plotted to see how they may be partitioning the environment.
  • Identify where species do not seem to occur. Areas in the scatterplot that do not contain occurrences are just as interesting as areas that do. Species may not occur in an area of the scatterplot for at least four reasons:
    1. The species may not be able to survive in that environment.
    2. The species may occur in that environment but there has been no surveys to look for it.
    3. The environment may have been surveyed but the species was not found, even though it was there.
    4. The species may be in that environment, but misidentified.(the scatterplot functionality has been designed to help discern what reason seems the most likely)
  • Identify where a species tolerates a wide range of environmental conditions.
  • Identify sub-populations that may adapt best to various climate change scenarios.
  • Identify what environmental combinations exist within an area.

From the menu option, select ‘Tools’ and then ‘Scatterplot’.


The scatterplot requires a minimum of three parameters – a species or taxonomic group and two environmental variables.

  • A primary species or any taxonomic group. The occurrences of this group are the points on the scatterplot (e.g. Eucalyptus camaldulensis).
  • Optionally, a second species or taxonomic group can be selected as a background (e.g. the genus Eucalyptus).
  • Two environmental layers (e.g. Temperature – annual mean (Bio01) and Precipitation – annual (Bio12)).

Faceting on legends

Any legend permits modification of the display of the associated layer. In the scatterplot tool, this means that both the points (occurrences) in both the map (geographic) and environmental (scatterplot) space. To activate the legend in the scatterplot, click on the ‘Species display setting’ button. This will create a floating legend that will permit rendering the points in both spaces on the basis of selected legend properties. For example, in the image at the top of the page, under the facet dropdown box on the legend, “Institution” was selected and the Apply button pressed. After a little while (for many points) the points on the scatterplot and the map will be coloured according to the institution facet.

For more detailed information on Scatterplot faceting »

Additional Options

  • Highlight active area occurrences. Selecting this option will highlight those occurrences on the scatterplot occurring within the map’s defined active area.
  • Display possible environments in area produces a grey-scale background on the scatterplot that delineates the combination of environments that occur within the full range of possible environmental values. Environmental combinations outside the environmental envelope do not occur in nature and are shown in light blue. The grey-scale represents the geographic (map) area of the environmental combinations. Light colours imply a greater area of the environmental combination than darker colours, thus providing an indication of the spatial extents of the environments.
  • The Select records with missing values check box will highlight those occurrences on the map that have one or more missing environmental values. In most cases, missing values will occur when occurrences are off the extent of the environmental surface, e.g. terrestrial occurrences occurring in marine or limnetic environments or vice versa. The number of occurrences with missing environmental values is also listed.
  • Selecting occurrence points on the scatterplot. A rectangle area can be created on the scatterplot by dragging the mouse between any two points. When the left mouse button is released:
    • the area perimeter will be displayed on the scatterplot with a black border.
    • primary taxa in this area will be highlighted on the map.
    • the number of records selected will be listed.
    • the range of both environmental variables for the rectangle area will be listed.
    • the add in/out layers to the map button creates two new layers to the layers list: an IN-group that includes all the occurrences within the environmental rectangle and an OUT-group that contains all occurrences not within the environmental rectangle. The legend and look of the IN/OUT layers can be altered the same way as for other species layers. See the Layer Interaction Panel for a screenshot of the species legend.
  • The Download databutton creates a CSV (comma-separated values) file of the data used to create the scatterplot. The variables are the:
    • Occurrence record identifier.
    • Status of the scientific name occurrence: ‘Uploaded’ or ‘In Active Area’ (for those records highlighted in the active area of the scatterplot, there will be both an uploaded and an in active area record).
    • X – environmental variable value.
    • Y – environmental variable value.
  • The Download image button will create a png image file of the scatterplot as displayed when the button is pressed. This file can be viewed or downloaded.

A case study

A case study on using the scatterplot tool to investigate the distribution of Banksia integrifolia in Australia, is given by Dr Ben Raymond of the Australian Antarctic Division, Hobart.

Read the Case Study »

A worked example

  • Eucalyptus camaldulensis as the Primary species.
  • Eucalyptus (genus) as the background taxonomic group.
  • Temperature – annual mean (Bio01).
  • Precipitation – annual (Bio12).

For Step 4, we are now using the general window for any type of environmental/contextual layer selection. If you tick the box next to “Display possible environments“, the scatterplot will be shaded (from dark meaning a small area of that environmental combination – to light meaning a large area of that environmental combination) to display what environmental combinations are possible – and not all are, thankfully.

In the context of the scatterplot, it is likely that you will want to use the ‘Add from search‘ box and either enter part of the name of the layer or its short name (e.g., Bio01 for “Temperature – annual mean”) and then check the box on the left of the name to select it. Ditto with the second layer. At the bottom of the window, you will see the number of layers selected and this should equal 2 before clicking on the next key (bottom right).

An alternative is to import the names of the two layers from a file – and this can be done from the top dropdown box. The names of the two selected layers can of course also be exported using the ‘Export set’ button at the bottom of the table. You can then re-import the list using the import option from the top dropdown box.

Layer selection

Layer selection

Once you have entered the name of the primary taxa (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), the (primary) occurrences are mapped.

Scatterplot 3_640

The background taxa group is the genus Eucalyptus. This gives us a good indication of what environments the genus covers and what portion of that environment is covered by E. camaldulensis. These occurrences are only mapped on the scatterplot in orange in the background. The E. camaldulensis is shown by blue points. If the highlight records in the active area was selected, then those records would be ringed with a red circle.

In the worked example, we will use temperature (Temperature – annual mean (Bio01)) and precipitation (Precipitation – annual (Bio12)) as the two environmental variables to define the environment. Once these two variables have been added, the scatterplot is generated. As there is a large number of occurrences (Eucalyptus has over 240,000 records), processing can take up to a minute or so. The distribution of Eucalyptus (orange dots) covers a significant portion of the scatterplot, thereby indicating that the genus can handle a wide range of temperature and rainfall conditions. The majority of the distribution is below 2,500mm rainfall, with two higher rainfall extensions at low and high temperature. To learn more about the environment used by the genus, make it the primary taxa.

Eucalyptus camaldulensis is located toward the bottom of the scatterplot distribution and clearly follows the outline of the genus ‘envelope’ on the low precipitation end, but over a broad range of temperature. This suggests that E. camaldulensis is stereotypic of low rainfall adapted eucalyptus. However, it covers mean annual temperatures from 12°C to nearly 30°C – a very impressive range!

Let’s look at some of the outliers to see where they occur. First, the low temperature end. Drag a rectangle over the lower end occurrences on the scatterplot. This highlights the corresponding points on the map, near Cressy in Tasmania and Macedon in Victoria. The former is low altitude, but further south than the higher altitude Macedon.
Scatterplot 5_640

Let’s do the same at the high temperature end to see where these occurrences are located. Drag the rectangle on the scatterplot and then examine the highlighted occurrences on the map. Not unexpectedly – the high temperature occurrences are found in the extreme north of Australia.

Scatterplot 6_640

Note that the range of temperature and rainfall values of the rectangle are listed above the scatterplot. In this case, a mean annual temperature range of 25.6130°C to 28.0974°C and rainfall between 285.996mm and 485.908mm. Also note that there are 20 records selected

The selected occurrences could be used to create two new mapped layers – an ‘IN-group’ containing only those 20 occurrences and an ‘OUT-group’ containing all the rest. This option can be useful for filtering/separating out a subset of occurrences for further analysis in say the spatial prediction model. Also note that there are 73 occurrences that have one or two missing environmental values of temperature or rainfall. If an IN/OUT groups are created these occurrences are added to the OUT-group by default. If you click the checkbox saying ‘Select records with missing values’, then the corresponding occurrences will be highlighted on the map and added to the IN-group. In all cases, these occurrences are located off the terrestrial temperature and rainfall surfaces; they occur in the ocean. This may be due to the resolution of the surfaces or of the coastline or just inaccurate occurrence locations.

Scatterplot 8_640

Next, let’s consider why E. camaldulensis doesn’t occur in a few environments on the scatterplot.

There is a hole in the distribution of E. camaldulensis at around 25°C and 600mm that is filled by other eucalypt species (shown by the orange Eucalyptus background points) so that environment exists in nature. But why are there no occurrences here? There are at least four possibilities:

  1. E. camaldulensis may not be able to survive in that environment. This is possible here but unlikely.
  2. E. camaldulensis may occur in that environment but there had been no surveys in the area represented by that environment. This is a likely scenario and best addressed by a targeted survey.
    NOTE: You can use the Environmental Envelope option for defining an Active Area (see Active Area Help) to map the locations that conform to this environmental combination.
  3. The environment may have been surveyed but the species was not seen, even though it was there. Another possible scenario but E. camaldulensis is a huge tree, so one would hope that this was an unlikely, but you never know!
  4. E. camaldulensis may have been seen in that environment, but misidentified. Not an uncommon taxonomic problem! The Atlas is incorporating identification keys using Identify Life ( You could examine what eucalypts occur in the area represented by this hole by using the Map All option on the Environmental Envelope noted in (2. above) and see if their characters could be confused with E. camaldulensis.

The same situation doesn’t occur with the ‘dent’ in the environment at around 14°C and 2500mm. Obviously that environment doesn’t exist in Australia (at least not represented by the environmental layers we have chosen) – and it is therefore not surprising that no eucalypts are to be found. The eucalyptus background covers much of the potential environmental range indicating the ubiquity of the genus. The grey-scale of the ‘display possible environments in area’ indicate the size of the corresponding mapped areas, with black representing only a small area with this environment in Australia, and reversely white, a large area. For example, there are only small areas of Australia with extreme rainfall (around Tully in Northern Queensland), and a large area of very low rainfall. This can be examined further by examining the environmental layers: Temperature – annual mean (Bio01) and Precipitation – annual (Bio12).

Mean annual temperature and annual rainfall were chosen because these variables were very likely to constrain the spatial distribution of eucalyptus. You may wish to use the Prediction Tool (MaxEnt) to find out which environmental variables best seem to control the distribution of Eucalyptus camaldulensis.

Demonstration Youtube Video

By Lee Belbin, Geospatial Team Leader


Sharing Indigenous women’s knowledge of biodiversity and culture across tribal boundaries in Arnhem Land

This post has been written and produced by Emilie Ens from Macquarie University, Sydney.

Over the last couple of years the ALA has been working with the Yugul Mangi Rangers and Macquarie University ecologists to build cross-cultural biodiversity knowledge of SE Arnhem Land. Additionally the collaboration has helped develop Indigenous content in the ALA website and raise awareness nationally, about Indigenous science and biodiversity management. The team has just published a paper called “Putting Indigenous Conservation Policy into practice delivers biodiversity and cultural benefits“.

In July 2016, the team held a regional woman’s biodiversity and cultural knowledge sharing workshop at Ngilipitji in eastern Arnhem Land. Thirty five women attended from the three ranger groups in the region (Yugul Mangi Rangers from Ngukurr, Yirralka Rangers from Yirrkala and Numbirindi Rangers from Numbulwar) as well as the Ngukurr Yangbala (Young) Rangers. Ngilipitji was chosen as a mid-way point for the groups and because it lies close to the border of the Laynhapuy Indigenous Protected Area (managed by the Yirralka Rangers) and the proposed SE Arnhem Land Indigenous Protected Area (managed by the Yugul Mangi and Numbirindi Rangers under the Northern Land Council) and is considered a “shared management” zone.


Cultural knowledge sharing workshops were held in Ngilipitji, Arnhem Land.

The team conducted biodiversity surveys over three days and nights in an area that according to ALA data, had not been surveyed in the past. We set up 70 Elliot, 15 Cage, 6 Pitfall, 15 Funnel and 12 camera traps over three sites (Rocky hill, Bottom spring, Top spring) to detect mammals and reptiles. We conducted one night search around the outstation for geckoes, did plenty of fishing and made opportunistic sightings of species. Despite the remoteness of this Country, surprisingly we only found 4 skinks (Carlia munda, Cryptoblepharus metallicus), 5 geckoes (Gehyra australis, Heteronotia binoei), 2 water rats (Hydromys chrysogaster), 2 dingoes (Canis lupus dingo), 3 crows (Corvus orru), 8 Black Bream (Hephaestus fluiginosus) and freshwater crocodile’s (Crocodylus johnsoni) eyes shining at night in the creek. One feral cat, 2 cane toads and evidence of feral buffalo and pig were also seen. We found no frogs, small mammals, large reptiles or turtles. The lack of animal sightings was suggested as due to the weather being cold and at times windy and raining. However the presence of feral animals and possibility of past damaging late dry season wild fires were also discussed as possible causes.


Left: Identifying geckoes using our local multilingual field guide; Right: Setting up Funnel traps at the rocky site.

At each site we did plant collections, pressed specimens and are still processing and identifying the species. However about 50 species were recorded, all were commonly known. Some lively knowledge exchange occurred around the plant species. The common medicinal plant Eucalyptus tetrodonta was called bambuja by the SE Arnhem mob and gadayka by the NE Arnhem ladies. All grasses were called wiji in Marra, mulmu in Yolngu matha and notho in Ngandi languages. The large Acacias (Acacia auriculiformis and A. aulacocarpa) were described as dukul in Ngandi, Ritharrngu and Ngalakan (SE Arnhem languages) and dhurrtji in Yolngu matha (NE Arnhem). Despite being relatively close in proximity, there were clear differences in language words for plants between SE and NE Arnhem Land.


Left: Maritza Roberts with catch of Black bream; Right top: Water rats caught on camera; Right bottom: Dana Gumbula, Maritza Roberts, Justine Rogers, Jane Hall and Megan Wilfred.

In addition to exchange of language names and uses knowledge, senior Ngandi woman Cherry Wulumirr Daniels also facilitated cultural leadership and kinship discussions throughout the camp with her usual passion and command of everyone’s attention. On the last night, the Yirralka Rangers shared with everyone a cultural song and dance (manikay) about Ngilipitji that was recorded by their family members. They also taught the group a range of other songs and dances that often had environmental themes. This was followed by cultural performances and lessons from the Numbirindi Rangers and Ngukurr mob.


Left: Pressing plants at Ngilipitji outstation; Right: Julie Roy taking photos of Kiefer Hall and Janita Russell collecting bush food plants.

After the camp the Yirralka Rangers came to Ngukurr, many for the first time, and participated in an ALA workshop led by Rebecca Pirzl with input from Julie Roy, Yugul Mangi senior woman ranger. We downloaded the camera trap photos and shared all photos and videos with each other.


Left: Cultural exchange by Yirralka Rangers; Right: Learning about the ALA back at Ngukurr.

All the ladies had a fantastic time learning from each other and experiencing Country that many had never been to before. Although we only found a few animal species and common plant species, they were all significant records due to the lack of surveys in this area in the past. The knowledge exchange was deemed a success with annual exchanges and the need for more cross-cultural biodiversity surveys discussed.


ALA Workshop for teachers in the ACT




Indigenous fire and season calendar

WINBA = FIRE, Wattleridge Fire and Seasons Calendar. The calendar content will be updated as our knowledge increases.

WINBA = FIRE, Wattleridge Fire and Seasons Calendar. The calendar content will be updated as our knowledge increases.

Banbai nation people at Wattleridge Indigenous Protected Area in northern New South Wales are working with Michelle McKemey at the University of New England to develop season and fire calendars.

The calendars represent annual seasonal changes as well as biocultural factors that indicate the right, and wrong, time to burn. They are developed using results of ecological experiments, literature reviews, observations and cultural knowledge gathered through interviews. For more information read WINBA = FIRE, the Wattleridge IPA Fire and Seasons Calendar. The development of the WINBA = FIRE, Wattleridge Fire and Seasons calendar has been supported by the Firesticks Project.

The ALA is working with Michelle and her Indigenous collaborators to test an ALA prototype for an online interactive Indigenous seasonal calendar. This online platform will visualise and reflect the Indigenous knowledge contained within seasonal calendars and the context for which they were developed. The project will also create some opportunities for two-way sharing by linking to other biodiversity information contained in the ALA.

This work is part ALA’s Indigenous Ecological Knowledge plan which is exploring the role of various information management platforms in bridging the boundaries between traditional Indigenous knowledge and western science.


Banbai elder and ranger Lesley Patterson shares the prototype Wattleridge Fire and Seasons Calendar with primary school children and teachers at Wattleridge Indigenous Protected Area.



Implementing a cultural burn at Wattleridge IPA.



Banbai rangers undertake collaborative post-fire ecological monitoring of the echidna and black grevillea.



The research team.