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.