World-first innovation accelerates process to safeguard environment and wildlife

A world-first data analysis platform has been launched, transforming our ability to understand the impacts of the climate crisis on Australia's environment and native species.

EcoCommons is an Australian-built digital innovation platform that will simplify the use of data and analytics to pave the way for faster environmental breakthroughs and help protect and restore Australia's natural world from an unsustainable state of decline.

At the EcoCommons Australia launch (L-R): Professor Brendan Mackey, Associate Professor Linda Beaumont, Rosie Hicks, Dr Elisa Bayraktarov, Professor Hugh Possingham, Dr Robyn Cleland and Dr Andre Zerger. Credit: ARDC / Josh Brightman

"The EcoCommons platform provides previously unavailable capacity for a wide range of researchers and practitioners to investigate how climate change is impacting our native plant and animal species, allowing us to help protect our environment," said Professor Brendan Mackey, Director of Griffith's Climate Action Beacon.

The platform can be used to help conserve Australian native species by identifying where animals live now and where they will live in the future, where their habitat is and when it might disappear, and how they will respond to a changing climate.

This informs the plans we can put in place to mitigate predicted impacts such as identifying a location for a new reserve.

In the past, decision-makers, government professionals and researchers faced a number of issues when attempting to find answers from huge amounts of environmental data hosted in thousands of different places.

In Australia, there is an absence of suitable tools to address ecological and environmental modelling challenges while technical barriers, including the need for coding skills and powerful computers, meant it could take months or years to analyse data.

Dr Elisa Bayraktarov, EcoCommons Program Manager at Griffith University said EcoCommons breaks down these barriers by bringing vast amounts of data together into one platform with simple-to-use tools that quickly generate meaningful information about the environment, and lead to solutions to enviro-socio-economic problems.

"The analytical tools available at EcoCommons have already been demonstrated by the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) to analyse animal tracking data and capture migratory patterns of Yellowtail Kingfish (Seriola lalandi) and Bull Shark (Carcharhinus leucas)," Dr Bayraktarov said.

"This kind of information produced by analytical models could then be used when, for example, setting fisheries targets and regulations, or planning for their protection during their migratory journeys."

"It is also likely that climate change will impact migratory species and these kinds of models could be used as the foundation to predict future migration patterns expected under climate change."

The $5 million dollar EcoCommons program is a collaborative project with development contributions from Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC), which is funded by National Research Infrastructure for Australia (NCRIS), and nine organisations including: Griffith University, which built the platform; Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis (CEBRA); Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO); Atlas of Living Australia (ALA); Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN); Queensland Cyber Infrastructure Foundation (QCIF); Queensland Government; Macquarie University and University of New South Wales Sydney, which all contributed to developing the analytics.

EcoCommons is free to use by the Australian researcher community and more information is available on the EcoCommons website.

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