Budding scientists build better maps

Winter 2016

TERN’s infrastructure continues to be used by Australia’s leading universities. We look at our Geo-Wiki crowdsoucing infrastructure that’s delivering mutual benefits for next generation scientists and the Australian research and management communities.


Satellite eye on Australia’s vegetation

Autumn 2016

The impact of TERN’s collaborative, multi-scale, and national approach to ecosystem science is once more on show this month, with the release of a new National Biomass Library, National Biomass Map, and landmark high-resolution map products of woody vegetation height and cover, via TERN AusCover. These products result from a combination of national and international collaborations, drawing field and satellite data from across TERN’s network, to deliver more accurate and finer resolution information on the state of Australia’s information, as a game-changing platform that can assist research, management, policy, restoration and sustainable use of Australian ecosystems.




TERN AusCover enables the use and access of field-verified remote sensing data products for accurate and precise mapping and monitoring of Australian ecosystems. This partnership of over 12 government and academic institutions collects data about ecosystems using satellites, airborne sensors, and onground systems. We then develop tools and data products that enable researchers and resource managers to measure, investigate and understand  how our environments are structured and are changing over time.

Our primary goal is to assist in the production of ecosystem science data products designed specifically for Australian conditions. We work collaboratively across Australian science and natural resource management organisations to provide infrastructure that enables data collection, calibration, validation, synthesis, and development of new knowledge.

AusCover focuses on geospatial data products measuring several biophysical variables for Australian ecosystems, including time-series, map products, and the associated field calibration and validation data that enable users to evaluate and appropriately apply our products in their work. Our datasets are used for a wide range of applications in ecosystem science and natural resources management.

AusCover also provides access to a national network of experts, field instruments, and field protocols for use in ecosystem science and natural resource management. We support a nationally consistent approach to the delivery, calibration and validation of key remote sensing datasets, and our data is also the basis for calibration of numerous global earth observation data products.


Key uses of AusCover

A wide range of professionals across government, research, and industry use AusCover to:

  • Assess natural and human induced changes in the environment including impacts of bushfires, climate variability, and intensive development;
  • Compare environmental variables across the country in space and time by drawing upon the satellite image archives for Australia;
  • Measure the relative benefits and impacts of legislated environmental management programs on Australia’s major land and coastal ecosystems; and
  • Facilitate national and international links between research, government, and industry.


Remote sensing data delivery, instrumentation, and ground validation

As well as delivering valuable remote sensing data products for use in science and management, AusCover’s suite of infrastructure includes tools that assist researchers to undertake their work more effectively. In total, AusCover delivers:

  • Nationally-consistent, standard biophysical data products;
  • Specialised satellite, airborne, and onground research-grade data;
  • Metadata and technical support documents;
  • Physical storage and efficient delivery to end-users;
  • Solved data formats, interoperability and data management/policy;
  • Set national standards and field validation protocols, including the Australian first ‘AusCover Good Practice Guidelines’ handbook that gives details on how to correct and check remotely sensed data products to ensure they can be used for science and management applications; and
  • International benchmarking e.g. Committee on Earth Observation Satellites Working Group for Calibration and Validation of Land Products.

Data themes

AusCover’s data products address the following key themes:

  • Land cover dynamics and Phenology
  • Vegetation composition and diversity
  • Fire dynamics and impacts
  • Vegetation structural properties and Biomass
  • Field survey datasets
  • Airborne datasets
  • Corrected surface reflectance products
  • Other environmental data such as solar radiation, rainfall, and water vapour pressure

For more information on AusCover's work and to access the AusCover data portal you can visit the AusCover website.


Facility Director:

Dr Alex Held
CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research


Biophysical image map data sets produced by the AusCover Facility

More AusCover news:

  • Long-term satellite data for natural resource and land-management

    >35 years of satellite-derived time-series biophysical map products are now freely available. Capturing seasonal, episodic and historical changes in land-cover, and the impacts of extreme events, the data are invaluable for Australia’s environmental management industry and are already being used by researchers and government programs.

  • Funding boost for TERN supported biomass and carbon measurement project. International funding has just been secured for the creation of a new international network that will utilize infrastructure, collaborations and expertise developed through TERN’s AusCover Facility, to measure and monitor change to terrestrial biomass and carbon in our environment.
  • Lasers, drones, and tree climbers measuring Tassie’s World Heritage forests. Equipped with a mountain of high-tech equipment reminiscent of science fiction flicks, scientists and volunteers have just spent a week working in the World Heritage Area of Tasmania to measure the composition and architecture of tall eucalypt forests that have regenerated naturally from past wildfires.
  • How green is our grass? Improved measurements to aid fire management. Using TERN’s high tech infrastructure to supplement grassroots monitoring of fire danger and inform fire management decisions.
  • Aerial imagery used in down-to-earth farming decisions.  TERN is at the forefront of efforts to improve the usefulness and availability of remotely-sensed data so that they can be used to help farmers make decisions about fertilising or harvesting crops, moving livestock, and other typical economic and land-management decisions. 
  • An echidna from Boston. Come and meet TERN’s newest piece of research infrastructure – the DWEL ‘echidna’ terrestrial laser scanner - and learn how it’s already starting to measure the health of our forests as never before
  • People using TERN: Peter Jacklyn. The manager of a fire-information service that operates across the Top End talks about why the service uses TERN infrastructure to help them manage fire.
  • Value of airborne infrastructure soars sky high. Airborne LiDAR data are becoming an integral part of Australian ecosystem science and the infrastructure TERN provides is enabling researchers around Australia and the world to access it. LiDAR data are currently available for download for nine sites around Australia with data from AusCover’s latest field campaign in Tasmania available soon.
  • People using TERN: Jasmine Rickards. A scientist with the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) working with TERN to improve land management outcomes.
  • A gourmet guide for koalas:  A collaborative team is using airborne technology to map koala habitats like never before.  Not only is the work improving our understanding of the habitat requirements of koalas, it is also providing important information about ecosystem processes and functioning.
  • TERN’s collaborative network continues to grow and mature, and the latest addition to our national ecosystem data infrastructure is the Tasmanian node of AusCover. Led by Arko Lucieer at the University of Tasmania, the node will complement AusCover’s existing wealth of expertise – adding another dimension through the use of unmanned aircraft systems for environmental monitoring.
  • The international value of TERN’s collaborative networks and infrastructure was clearly on show in August 2013 when a group of scientists from around the world came together in Australia using TERN’s infrastructure to test and compare the latest terrestrial laser-scanning technology for measuring and monitoring vegetation.
  • TERN's December 2012 newsletter featured an overview of AusCover's infrastructure and the ways it is working to collate and validate a range of remote sensing datasets, as well as making them freely accessible to Australia’s ecosystem science and management communities.
  • A range of AusCover's fire data products are showcased in the November 2012 newsletter.
  • Meet Persistent Green, the innovative new data-based product that identifies consistently green areas over time across the Australian continent, at 25m resolution.
  • AusCover is implementing an online 'geo-wiki' system that will allow field experts and citizen scientists to help validate the digital maps produced from satellite data.
  • TERN Associate Science Director Stuart Phinn's plenary presentation at the XXII Congress of the International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing discusses the current extent of Australia's capabilities in earth observation data collection and applications, and outlines proposals for future national coordination programs that will enable a more coordinated, integrated and effective approach to developing infrastructure, sharing resources, and training/education. Click here for more details or to view the presentation.
  • AusCover is at the forefront of efforts to improve the usefulness and availability of remotely-sensed data, for applications that may help farmers make onground management decision. Click here to read more.



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