New data library improving access to reef information

31 Oct 2017

A new fieldwork data collection project developed at The University of Queensland (UQ) aims to increase the amount of accessible information on the Great Barrier Reef for researchers, regulatory agencies and the general public.

UQ Faculty of Science senior manager (Research Facilities and Infrastructure Planning) Dr Clint Chapman said the Live Learning Library would provide open access to in-depth environmental data collected through education activities conducted at Heron Island.

“The database will capture the vast amount of standardised data from fieldwork activities recorded annually by more than 2500 students from 60 institutions at the Heron Island Research Station,” he said.

Previously much of the data was lost after the completion of the fieldwork. Dr Chapman and Station manager Dr Elizabeth Perkins approached the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and Boeing  with the idea of compiling unique, long-term datasets on the reef with data from these activities.

A secondary benefit was to provide the students with involvement in a larger project with tangible, research outcomes.

With both of these organisations enthusiastic about the proposal, the consortium then partnered with the national observatory for Australian ecosystems the Terrestrial Ecosystems Research Network (TERN), to build a repository to house the data and make it publically discoverable.

Launched in September, the Live Learning Library is storing the data generated by the Live Learning Program, which is a set of field-based activities for secondary and tertiary education groups.

Heron Island Research Station’s Education Officer Lauren Bailey said these activities were aligned with secondary school marine science syllabi and included monitoring along transects and in quadrants, and sampling and collection exercises.

“The students really love the fact that through their contribution to the database they’re able to play a much greater role in the wider management of the Great Barrier Reef than simply collecting the data they need for their assignments,” she said.

The Live Learning Library is managed by UQ’s Faculty of Science, and Heron Island Research Station, and is hosted by The University of Queensland.

Diver collecting data in field - courtesy Chris RoelfsemaDiver taking photos in field - courtesy Chris Roelfsema