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Stories about the real-life impact of Australian research data

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Contents 5

Introduction

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Melanoma study leads to ban on commercial sunbeds

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Using bee data to protect crops

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Understanding wellbeing in regional Australia

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Redmap helps protect marine life and monitor climate change

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Researchers measure health impact of controversial TV show

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PetaJakarta turns tweets into flood alerts

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Mapping the impact of climate change on Australian wildlife

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HILDA survey shapes policy on tax and jobs

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Data on bushfire fatalities helping to prevent more deaths

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Mapping sports data for better decision making

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Data reveals folate during pregnancy prevents spina bifida

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DNA data supporting whale conservation

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EverGraze project boosts Australian farming

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Citizen data monitors coral bleaching

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Using health data to save babies’ lives

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Waterbird survey guides conservation decisions


The case studies we collected over the course of the campaign cover a wide variety of research topics, from protecting the environment to boosting the economy and even saving lives.

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#DATAIMPACT


Introduction In March 2016, the Australian National Data Service (ANDS) launched the #dataimpact campaign to promote the real-life impact of Australian research data. Through showcasing individual stories, we wanted to show how data-intensive research is making a tangible difference to people in Australia and around the world. We asked the research data community to help us find those stories. The case studies we collected over the course of the campaign cover a wide variety of research topics, from protecting the

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environment to boosting the economy and even saving lives. Each of these stories proves the huge value of Australian research data and the research it supports. This book brings together many of the stories we collected into one place. Whilst the #dataimpact campaign is now officially at an end, the stories will remain online at ands.org.au/dataimpact. I hope you enjoy reading them. Ross Wilkinson Executive Director, ANDS

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Melanoma study leads to ban on commercial sunbeds Who did the research? School of Public Health, University of Sydney

What is the project about? Dr Anne Cust led a study into the link between sunbed use and melanoma. Based on a sample of more than 600 people diagnosed with earlyonset melanoma, the research showed that young people were particularly sensitive to the effects of sunbed ultraviolet (UV) radiation. It also produced modelling estimates for the Cancer Institute New South Wales showing that banning sunbeds would reduce the number of melanoma cases in New South Wales alone by 120 per year.

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The research gained national media attention, increasing pressure on legislators to take action.

What is the real-life data impact? The influential study was pivotal to the NSW Government banning commercial sunbeds from the end of 2014. Bans have now been rolled out in other Australian states and overseas. The research was a winner of the Sax Institute’s Research Action Awards in 2015, recognising the impact the study had on improving public health.

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The research was a winner of the Sax Institute’s Research Action Awards in 2015, recognising the impact the study had on improving public health.

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Using bee data to protect crops Who did the research? The Global Initiative for Honeybee Health (GIHH) led by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in partnership with multiple industry and research organisations.

What is the project about? Bee colonies are dying out worldwide and nobody is exactly sure why. The most obvious culprit is the Varroa mite which feeds on bees and bee larvae, while also spreading disease. The only country without the Varroa mite is Australia. However, experts believe there are many factors affecting bee health.

Maintaining honey bee populations is essential for food security as well as the farming economy. Bee crop pollination is estimated to be worth up to $6 billion to Australian agriculture alone.

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To unravel this, CSIRO is leading GIHH in gathering large sets of data on bee hives from all over the world. High-tech micro-sensor ‘backpacks’, similar to an e-tag, are fitted to bees to log their movements. The data is sent back to a small computer at the hive. Researchers are able to analyse this data to assess which stressors – such as extreme weather, pesticides or water contamination – affect the movements and pollination of bees.

What is the real-life data impact? Maintaining honey bee populations is essential for food security as well as the farming economy. Bee crop pollination is estimated to be worth up to $6 billion to Australian agriculture alone. More than 100,000 bees have been tagged to date with that number set to exceed one million by the end of 2017. Researchers aim to not only improve the health of honey bees but to increase crop sustainability and productivity through pollination management.

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Interest in the 2013 results led to the survey being supported on an annual basis, with even more respondents the following year.

Understanding wellbeing in regional Australia Who did the research? University of Canberra, funded by multiple external organisations.

better understand and empower Australia’s rural and regional communities.

What is the real-life data impact? What is the project about? In 2013, the University of Canberra conducted a major study of wellbeing in rural and regional Australian communities. Surveying over 9,000 participants, the research looked at life satisfaction, quality of life, health and response to change in those communities. Data was collected on a wide variety of issues, including outmigration, volunteering, leadership and the impact of flyin fly-out mining. Interest in the 2013 results led to the survey being supported on an annual basis, with even more respondents the following year.

The survey data is being used by Berrigan Shire Council (NSW) to analyse the wellbeing of residents and their level of engagement in local decision making. Both the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and the National Water Commission are using the data to assess the impact of water reforms on social and economic outcomes. Other organisations and projects are also utilising the research to better understand rural and regional communities in relation to wellbeing and change.

The results of the survey are now being used by numerous organisations and projects to

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#DATAIMPACT


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Redmap helps protect marine life and monitor climate change Who did the research? The Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) at the University of Tasmania, in collaboration with numerous partners and supporters (including ANDS).

What is the project about? Redmap is a marine ecosystem monitoring project covering the majority of the Australian coast. Fishers, divers and other ‘citizen scientists’

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feed the key data into the system themselves, logging significant sightings of fish and other marine life along with a photo and location. Scientists can then verify the data from their desks, identifying rare species and monitoring early indications of potential changes in distribution around the coast. Since its launch in 2009, over 900 users have logged sightings. Hundreds of thousands of people have visited the site or used the bespoke

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Hundreds of thousands of people have visited the site or used the bespoke app, with over 2100 unusual or valuable sightings being submitted.

app, with over 2100 unusual or valuable sightings being submitted.

The project has attracted international interest and prompted new research into the world’s changing oceans.

What is the real-life data impact?

The resulting data has contributed to 23 peer reviewed scientific publications. Some Redmap observations have also triggered focused studies on particular species, providing an indication of where limited resources for research could be constructively directed.

Collecting so much first-hand data about the location of fish and other sea life has led Redmap to become an important tool in monitoring the impact of climate change on Australia’s marine ecosystems.

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The team of researchers won the Medical Journal of Australia MDA National Prize for Excellence in Medical Research for its analysis.

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#DATAIMPACT


Researchers measure health impact of controversial TV show Who did the research? Andrea Schaffer led a research team from the University of Sydney, Australian National University and The University of New South Wales (UNSW).

What is the project about? A cross-university team found that thousands of Australians cut back or stopped using cholesterol-lowering statins after a controversial TV show about the drugs was aired in 2013. An estimated 60,000 fewer people filled their statins prescriptions in the eight months following broadcast of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Catalyst program, which examined concerns about overuse of the medication. Researchers analysed data from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to reveal the huge fall in the dispensing of statins, beginning shortly after the program aired.

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The medication changes could lead to hundreds of preventable heart attacks and strokes in future, according to the team. The study was published in the Medical Journal of Australia in 2015.

What is the real-life data impact? The research provided concrete data to verify concerns about the program’s negative impact on health. An ABC internal review (prior to publication of the study) accepted the episode did not meet required impartiality standards. The program has now been removed from public view. In 2016, the team of researchers won the Medical Journal of Australia MDA National Prize for Excellence in Medical Research for its analysis. The researchers plan to do further work to look at longer-term changes to statin use.

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PetaJakarta turns tweets into flood alerts Who did the research? SMART Infrastructure Facility, University of Wollongong, in collaboration with BPBD DKI Jakarta (Jakarta Emergency Management Agency) and Twitter Inc. The project was also supported by ANDS, DMInnovation, World Vision and University of Wollongong’s Global Challenges Program.

What is the project about? PetaJakarta is an online platform transforming resident tweets into real-time flood data. The project is successfully monitoring flood risk in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, supporting rescue operations in a city routinely troubled by monsoons. By monitoring Twitter for mentions of the word ‘banjir’ (flood), PetaJakarta pinpoints and maps confirmed locations of rising waters,

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creating a visual representation of affected areas. This is then used to better manage crisis and recovery operations in the city.

What is the real-life data impact? When major floods hit Jakarta in 2015, they sparked more than 100,000 flood-related Twitter conversations in the city – each of them picked up by PetaJakarta. The real-time flood maps it created were used by emergency services to speed up response times and communicate with residents. Citizens of Jakarta can also use the system directly to see affected areas and plan transport routes. The project has been widely commended for its success, including by the Open Data Institute and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

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The real-time flood maps it created were used by emergency services to speed up response times and communicate with residents.

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Mapping the impact of climate change on Australian wildlife Who did the research? The Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change (CTBCC) at James Cook University (JCU), funded by the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility.

What is the project about? Scientists from CTBCC have mapped the entire Australian continent to find the areas that will best support wildlife 70 years from now. The researchers considered multiple global climate change models across eight decades to estimate the future vulnerability of more than 1700 species. More than 20 terabytes of information was generated by the research, which was stored on the JCU Tropical Data Hub and supported by ANDS.

Sharing of data was made possible through the AARNet and RDSI (now RDS) nodes in Townsville and Brisbane. Nectar’s Australian Research Cloud enabled collaboration and expansion of the research. The data has been made freely available, enabling its reuse by researchers and climate experts globally.

What is the real-life data impact? The research revealed that much of Australia would suffer dramatic species losses in the future. However some parts would be less affected by climate change, retaining a greater potential to sustain native animals. Queensland’s Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) used the research to publish a heat map of climate change-resilient areas for vertebrates, informing the state’s environmental planning including possible extensions to wildlife reserves.

The research revealed that much of Australia would suffer dramatic species losses in the future. However some parts would be less affected by climate change, retaining a greater potential to sustain native animals.

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HILDA survey shapes policy on tax and jobs Who did the research?

What is the real-life data impact?

The Melbourne Institute at the University of Melbourne, funded by the Australian Government.

The HILDA Survey is known as one of the best panel surveys in the world, collecting a broad range of high quality economic and social research data about Australian lives.

What is the project about?

The data collected and analysed through HILDA have had a substantial impact on Australian policy development. Its findings have been used to help shape many policies, including:

The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey is an annual study of around 8000 households or around 20,000 individuals. It collects information about economic wellbeing, employment, health and family. HILDA is a longitudinal study, meaning respondents are followed year-on-year to observe changes over time. The data is confidentialised to remove identifying information, then made available for reuse by accredited researchers.

• proposals in Australia’s Future Tax System Review • the Government’s 2011 Paid Parental leave policy • decisions about minimum wage rates • national monetary policy.

The HILDA Survey is known as one of the best panel surveys in the world, collecting a broad range of high quality economic and social research data about Australian lives.

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#DATAIMPACT


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Data on bushfire fatalities helping to prevent more deaths Who did the research? Risk Frontiers (based at Macquarie University), RMIT University and Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre.

What is the project about? Analysis of over 100 years of data about Australian bushfire deaths has enabled new

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understanding about the decisions made by victims caught in fire situations. Adding details from coroners’ reports and witness statements to an existing database of 552 bushfire fatalities, the research found that most deaths occurred when victims fled at the last moment or were caught outside whilst defending their property.

#DATAIMPACT


Whilst twice as many men perished than women over the time-period studied, the proportion of women dying in recent times has increased significantly. Women and children were shown to often engage in dangerous behaviours such as last minute evacuations and passive sheltering.

What is the real-life data impact?

The study built on internationally acclaimed research by RMIT’s Professor John Handmer, which has strongly influenced bushfire procedures in Australia and beyond.

The findings and recommendations drawn from Australian bushfire research have directly influenced the ‘stay and defend or leave early’ response advice given to communities. The research has also shaped official fire index and warnings systems, in Australia and internationally.

Until 2003, bushfire community safety policies lacked an appropriate evidence base due to the absence of reliable research data. Scientifically analysing historical bushfire deaths has significantly changed government and emergency services thinking in this area.

Scientifically analysing historical bushfire deaths has significantly changed government and emergency services thinking in this area.

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Sport and Recreation Spatial is already being used by the Victorian State Government, local governments and individual sporting organisations in Australia to support decision making.

Mapping sports data for better decision making Who did the research?

What is the real-life data impact?

Victoria University and Federation University, with partners including the Australian Sports Commission, VicHealth and Sport and Recreation Victoria.

Sport and Recreation Spatial is already being used by the Victorian State Government, local governments and individual sporting organisations in Australia to support decision making about priority areas, such as increasing female participation in sport.

What is the project about? Sport and Recreation Spatial is a national database combining a range of information related to sports and recreation including participation levels, demographics and locations of sports facilities. Data is mapped to enable detailed analysis of activity across indicators such as area, age, gender, health, education, participation and facilities.

The project was nominated as a finalist of the 2015 VicHealth Awards, which recognise projects supporting healthier communities in Victoria, and published as one of the 2016 ‘Stories of Australian Science’ by Science in Public. It has also attracted media coverage about sports participation in local communities.

Having access to deep, connected datasets allows government and sports organisations to make better evidence-based decisions about policy and investment priorities.

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Data reveals folate during pregnancy prevents spina bifida Who did the research?

What is the real-life data impact?

University of Western Australia.

After the discovery Professor Stanley established the Telethon Kids Institute where she continued to research this topic alongside Professor Bower. Together they worked on education campaigns to encourage pregnant women to take folate supplements.

What is the project about? In 1989 Professor Fiona Stanley and colleague Professor Carol Bower used the Western Australia birth defects register to source subjects for a study of neural tube defects (NTDs). The neural tube is what forms the brain and spine in a baby. Development issues can lead to common but incurable birth defects such as spina bifida where the backbone does not close over the spinal cord properly. Measuring the folate intake of 308 mothers, the researchers discovered that mothers who take the vitamin folate during pregnancy are less likely to have babies with NTDs. The data contributed to worldwide research that found folate can reduce the likelihood of NTDs by 70 percent.

Their great success came in 2009 when the Australian Government implemented mandatory folic acid fortification of flour. The need for such legislation is now recognised by the World Health Organisation. A 2016 review conducted by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that since the flour fortification program’s introduction, levels of NTDs have dropped by 14.4%.

Their great success came in 2009 when the Australian government implemented mandatory folic acid fortification of flour.

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#DATAIMPACT


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#DATAIMPACT


DNA data supporting whale conservation Who did the research? Flinders University in collaboration with the Centre for Whale Research, the Blue Whale Study, Deakin University and the University of Johannesburg (South Africa).

What is the project about?

The results showed that in fact the population of blue whales in Australia is only 20,000 years old – very young in evolutionary terms. The researchers believe that blue whales came to Australia towards the end of the last glacial period, and the subspecies simply hasn’t yet had enough time to gain genetic diversity.

Dr Catherine Attard, Assoc Prof Luciana Möller and Prof Luciano Beheregaray led a study investigating the cause of the low genetic diversity in the Australian population of the Pygmy Blue Whale subspecies. This subspecies has the smallest gene pool out of all the blue whales and experts speculated that whaling was the cause.

What is the real-life data impact?

In order to find out, the research team compared the DNA from 109 blue whales in Australia, 142 in Antarctica and 46 in Chile – the largest genetic dataset ever compiled to study blue whales.

The study concluded that future conservation efforts should focus on lessening human impacts such as marine pollution and marine noise to allow the subspecies to recover in abundance from whaling.

This research showed that the low genetic diversity of the population was from natural causes. This means that humans have likely not yet reduced the diversity of the subspecies, which is important as genetic diversity gives a population the ability to cope with future environmental change.

The researchers believe that blue whales came to Australia towards the end of the last glacial period, and the subspecies simply hasn’t yet had enough time to gain genetic diversity.

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EverGraze project boosts Australian farming Who did the research? Charles Sturt University in partnership with Future Farm Industries Cooperative Research Centre (FFI CRC) and state departments in Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia.

What is the project about? EverGraze is a collaborative research project testing the innovative use of perennial flora

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on farmland in high rainfall zones of southern Australia. It has helped farmers improve soil health (e.g. acidity and salinity), ultimately increasing livestock profitability. More than 250 scientists, advisers and farmers have contributed to EverGraze since its inception in 2003, including experts in soil science, agronomy, environmental science, hydrology and economics. With complex modelling across multiple

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Improvements to farming practices have benefited the industry by $306 million to date. systems, robust research data has been key to validating the models and testing the impact of the new systems. The project has had a strong emphasis on consultation and partnership, with information freely accessible to farmers on the EverGraze website.

What is the real-life data impact?

estimated 4,400 producers made changes to their farms as a result of the research, positively impacting on nearly one million hectares of Australian farmland. Improvements to farming practices have benefited the industry by $306 million to date, according to a cost-benefit analysis, equating to a 9:1 return on the $33 million project investment.

A 2014 analysis of the project found that an

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Scientists, school groups, dive centres and tourists can measure coral bleaching using the Coral Health Chart – a simple plastic square – and add their data to the CoralWatch database.

Citizen data monitors coral bleaching Who did the research? CoralWatch, based at the University of Queensland and funded by multiple external organisations.

and provide corals vibrant colour. Rising sea temperatures due to climate change have caused unprecedented levels of coral bleaching.

What is the project about?

What is the real-life data impact?

CoralWatch is a citizen data (‘citizen science’) initiative to monitor coral health worldwide. It is the first attempt at providing useful data on coral reef health at large scale with noninvasive tools.

Since CoralWatch started in 2002, over 150,000 corals have been surveyed from 1284 reefs across 70 countries. This data is freely available online for use in scientific analysis and for educational purposes such as school projects.

Scientists, school groups, dive centres and tourists can measure coral bleaching using the Coral Health Chart – a simple plastic square – and add their data to the CoralWatch database. Coral bleaching occurs when increased water temperature causes coral to expel their symbiotic algae that help absorb nutrients

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Several studies have used the CoralWatch data to track the status of coral reefs around the world. The project has also been instrumental in raising public concern on the severity of the ecosystem crisis many reefs are undergoing, such as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

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Using health data to save babies’ lives Who did the research? Health Informatics Research with funding from multiple Australian organisations. Health Informatics Research was originally established at Western Sydney University, subsequently moving to the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.

What is the project about? The Artemis program, developed by computer scientist Carolyn McGregor, is a health analytics platform that analyses multiple data streams in real-time. Doctors can pick and choose which indicators and conditions to monitor, tailoring the program for their patient. The program was initially developed for use in neonatal intensive care to facilitate early detection of infection and disease. The

diagnostic machines can generate more than 1,200 data points per second, which the program is able to monitor for small abnormalities that are hard for humans to detect.

What is the real-life data impact? Artemis could save the lives of young babies as the program can give up to 24 hours of warning of an infection. This early treatment can increase babies’ recovery rates and decrease the likelihood of health complications later in life. Speeding recovery will also save hospitals money by preventing longer stays. The program is also being adapted for use by NASA on the trip to Mars planned in 2030. It will help monitor how astronauts cope with weightlessness and other health issues in space travel.

Artemis could save the lives of young babies as the program can give up to 24 hours of warning of an infection.

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Waterbird survey guides conservation decisions Who did the research? University of New South Wales Centre for Ecosystem Science (CES), with support and funding provided by state governments and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

In 2015, UNSW’s waterbirds survey was one of the ANDS-supported projects promoted through the Open Research Data Collection showcase.

What is the real-life data impact? What is the project about? The Eastern Australian Waterbird Survey is an annual assessment of wildlife along the Murray-Darling Basin. Beginning in 1983, the survey has provided more than three decades of data on changing ecology of wetlands and rivers. The ‘longitudinal’ nature of the study provides objective long-term data on waterbird populations in Australia.

The findings have been central to shaping the management policies of wetland sites in Australia. The data are used by state and federal governments when making decisions on environmental water flows and for informing guidelines on upcoming duck shooting seasons. The survey information has also been used by Australia in bilateral discussions about migratory waterbirds with Japan, China and the Republic of Korea.

“Waterbirds are the canary in the coalmine for the ecosystem because they track all of the processes and organisms that are difficult to track at a large scale,” CES Director Richard Kingsford says.

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#DATAIMPACT


Waterbirds are the canary in the coalmine for the ecosystem because they track all of the processes and organisms that are difficult to track at a large scale.

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Share your stories of data impact using the hashtag #dataimpact  twitter.com/@andsdata

The Australian National Data Service (ANDS) makes Australia’s research data assets more valuable for researchers, research institutions and

the nation. ANDS is a partnership led by Monash University, working in collaboration with the Australian National University (ANU) and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). It is funded by the Australian Government through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS).

ands.org.au/dataimpact DOI: http://doi.org/10.4225/14/588ed360036eb

ANDS Project Partners

Monash University is the Lead Agent of ANDS ANDS is supported by the Australian Government through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy Program. Monash University leads the partnership with the Australian National University and CSIRO.

With the exception of logos, third party images or where otherwise indicated, this work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence.

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