Spotlight on ALA Users – Clare Pearce

Clare Pearce’s images in the ALA’s Recent Sightings could be part of a tourism campaign advertising the Northern Territory.

Clare is the Community Engagement Officer with Parks and Wildlife based in Katherine. Part of her role involves working with kids in the Junior Ranger program. The program delivers hands-on activities based in environmental education for between 10-30 kids at a time, including activities such as hiking, tracking, navigation, spotlighting and birdwatching.

Egretta picata. Image by Clare Pearce - ALA Individual Sightings

Egretta picata. Image by Clare Pearce – ALA Individual Sightings

Her groups don’t do any formal collecting activities, but Clare enters some of the images of things they find during their activities in and around the Nitmiluk National Park. She said that the kids are getting better at being careful with the animals they find and they’re especially keen on frogs, bugs and geckos.

Platyplectrum ornatum. Image by Clare Pearce - ALA Individual Sightings

Platyplectrum ornatum. Image by Clare Pearce – ALA Individual Sightings

As well as contributing the sightings to the ALA database, she uses the species information, images and species distribution maps to assist in identifying the specimens.

Ranger Clare also presents talks to schools and community members and contributes articles to websites and newspapers. The ALA is one of the resources she uses to check facts while preparing these.

Nymphaea violacea. Image by Clare Pearce - ALA Individual Sightings

Nymphaea violacea. Image by Clare Pearce – ALA Individual Sightings

She was initially reluctant to contribute to the ALA as she didn’t think her data was “good enough”. With her wealth of knowledge and photography skills, we are glad that she started adding her sightings to share with others through the ALA.

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


Join the world’s biggest fish race around the world

It’s National Science Week this week, and there’s lots of things to get involved in, including the Whale Shark Race Around the World. The Race which officially kicked off yesterday, will see schools around the country join scientists in tracking the movements of the world’s biggest fish – the Whale Shark.

ECOCEAN is Australia’s only not-for-profit research organisation dedicated to conserving the whale shark. As well as expanding our knowledge of whale shark movements and distribution in the south-eastern Indian Ocean, their research has also expanded the learning opportunities for Western Australian school students through the Whale Shark Race Around the World.

The Whale Shark Race Around the World kicked off on 14th August 2017 just in time for National Science Week. Image credit: ECOCEAN


The Whale Shark Race Around the World started in 2015 with schools around Western Australia sponsoring satellite tags that were deployed on whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia. The Race is a joint ECOCEAN-Department of Education program designed to inspire students in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) learning. The tracks of the tagged sharks are available for anyone to see on ALA’s Zoatrack ( platform, so students are able to follow the movements of their sharks. Samantha Reynolds is one of the lead researchers for the project, and she said, “We bring real-world scientific research directly into the classroom and use the world’s biggest fish to get kids excited about science and marine conservation”.

For this year’s race, teachers and students will be able to use ZoaTrack visualisation and analysis tools in their lessons and will have access to the ongoing tracking of the sharks. Involvement in the race will support students and teachers to further develop their STEM capabilities, including: critical analysis and creative thinking, deepen their knowledge and understanding of the whale shark, the marine environment of Western Australia and scientific research. Teaching and learning resources developed by the Department of Education are designed to support teachers and students to engage in innovative and interactive STEM learning activities.

Tagging of whale sharks for the 2017 Race Around the World has been happening over the past few weeks, and researchers have been tagging large, mature whale sharks, hoping to gain insights into where they go to breed. “We’d like to find some clues to where whale sharks go to find love”, said Ms Reynolds, “because despite being the biggest fish in the sea, we still don’t know where they mate or give birth” she explained.

Samantha Reynolds photographing a Whale Shark. Image credit: Janine Marx.


You can take a look at the tracks of the tagged whale sharks which is being updated daily at (


ECOCEAN is Australia’s only not-for-profit research organisation dedicated to conserving the world’s biggest fish, the whale shark. ECOCEAN scientists have been working on whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef since 1995 and have contributed to the global protection of whale sharks through reports to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). ECOCEAN also promotes conservation of whale sharks and the marine environment by engaging members of the public in its pioneering “citizen science” projects. ECOCEAN was instrumental in setting up the world’s largest whale shark photo-identification library, now called the Wildbook for Whale Sharks, which encourages members of the public to get involved in whale shark research by submitting their photos online. The library currently has over 8000 individually identified whale sharks from over 50 countries around the world. And an innovative new program by ECOCEAN is engaging the next generation of scientists by involving school children in the satellite-tracking of whale sharks, connecting them to real-world scientific research and inspiring them to protect and conserve our precious marine environment and its inhabitants.

For more information about ECOCEAN or about the Whale Shark Race Around the World, please contact Samantha Reynolds at or 0424563472. For more information about ZoaTrack please visit the website (


National Science Week – are you up for the challenge?

Commencing tomorrow, National Science Week is celebrating its 20th birthday, and it’s your opportunity to help do science! There are numerous ways that users of the ALA can participate in National Science Week activities:

Citizen science is a very important source of data about biodiversity to the ALA. Data and insights gained through the efforts of citizen scientists can be as valuable as those obtained by scientists working in academia, natural history collections, government agencies and business, and the ALA welcomes more collaborators.

If you’re familiar with our User Profiles blog series, you’ll know that people add to the ALA’s Individual Sightings for a range of reasons, but all share a passion for Australia’s species. Vuk Vojisavljevic is no different. When it comes to identifying species using images, as is common with citizen scientists, the more detail included the better.  Many of Vuk’s insect images are taken with the intention to highlight identifying features that distinguish one species from another.

Specimen from the family Eulophidae. Image by Vuk Vojisavljevic

Specimen from the family Eulophidae. Image by Vuk Vojisavljevic

He uses the ALA as a “quick search for basic classification facts”. To classify further, he follows keys from published articles, which is sometimes a “very difficult job”. He uses affordable macro lenses and free online software to create the composite images.

Specimen from the genus Procladius. Image by Vuk Vojisavljevic

Specimen from the genus Procladius. Image by Vuk Vojisavljevic

He has been surprised by just how many different species he has been able to find when he goes collecting. On one trip he found over 1000 different species on “a few coastal Acacia trees”. “Each week the list of species is different” he said. While his addition of the photos is a hobby for him now, it is obvious he spends a lot of time to share his knowledge, passion and interest with others through the ALA.

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


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 (

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!