May 2016

Australian Treetops lead to Double PhD

Feature Story

16 May 2016

RMIT researcher and CRCSI PhD candidate Phil Wilkes developed a new technique to improve the way forests and woody vegetation ecosystems are characterised. The results of this work will lead to more accurate reporting on forest structures worldwide.

The work conducted by Phil was undertaken through both RMIT and the University of Twente (Netherlands) which gained, for the first time, a double-badged PhD from both universities.

This co-funded Woody Vegetation Project created open source software and guidelines to allow forest managers to auto-generate landscape level woody vegetation features, such as spatial layers, from field and remote sensing woody vegetation data. The metrics are assessed to inform carbon accounting, biodiversity and ecosystem health, and fire management.

Based on Australian eucalyptus forests, the software is relevant and usable in non-eucalypt forests in Australia along with eucalypt forests globally. Access to the software and guidelines can be found here.

Phil Wilkes headshot

Work in this area continues with a follow-on project examining large scale management of forests in south east Australia.

To read more about the work of Phil Wilkes, please click here.

The Communication Nub

With Jessica Purbrick-Herbst

Hello Spatial News Readers

There is much happening across our national and global networks including here at HQ. The May issue of Spatial News aims to capture just some of it. 

This month we:

  • Congratulate award winners for their PhD work and response to local disasters
  • Celebrate with ANZLIC turning 30
  • Look at how community engagement can bring about sustainable living
  • Step across to NZ to support geospatial research
  • Challenge health with a spatial focus
  • Learn about Australian forests and its application to the rest of the world
  • Check on new projects and the news of projects
  • And profile women in the CRCSI.

Reporting back to you

In April, I surveyed our stakeholders (readers, partners, participants and members) about the communication activities of the CRCSI.

What we got right:

  • Regular consistent communication with the breadth and depth of our activities
  • CRCSI News and the conference are the most valuable activities

New and Improved for 2016:

  • News updates online about the research program and published reports
  • Case studies and profiles about how and where CRCSI partners are using the research outcomes.

Thank you to those who invested time into responding to the survey.

Research Focus – themes and Applications

The central focus of the CRCSI research is to develop a research infrastructure that delivers commercially applicable end user [impact] outcomes. The three application research themes – Positioning, Rapid Spatial Analytics and Spatial Infrastructures – are supported by four key program areas. These program areas are:

  • Agriculture, Natural Resources and Climate Change through creation of a biomass and carbon monitoring system for high resolution and high frequency application on farms and through improved environmental monitoring
  • Defence by adapting the capabilities of CRCSI's research portfolio
  • Built Environment to build new tools to support sustainable built infrastructure development
  • Health by improving efficiency of health resource management and increasing knowledge of disease cause through spatial technology.

What we do image ball only

One last thing

If getting stuck on the words and terms is something you battle with, it’s probably time to visit our spatial words.

It's a wrap for May

Going social: Don't forget to follow @crcsi on twitter and Instagram – two great places to stay in touch with our everyday activities and those of our people, partners and projects.

Enjoy reading and as always, please let me know if you have any comments or ideas. You can contact me by email on jpurbrickherbst@crcsi.com.au 


Jessica Purbrick-Herbst
Communication Manager

New Zealand Creates Geospatial Research Institute

Geospatial Research Institute Toi Hangarau

To support the implementation of the New Zealand Geospatial Research and Development Priorities and conduct innovative research across the geospatial research spectrum, New Zealand Minister for Land Information and Minister for Women, the Hon Louise Upston, launched the Geospatial Research Institute at the University of Canterbury in May 2016.

The Institute will conduct research across: Spatial Data Infrastructures, spatial data management and governance, data sourcing (including UAV, WiFi and sensor networks) and delivery, and big spatial data analytics and visualisation. The applied research will focus on GeoSocial applications, Smart Cities, the natural environment, primary production and hazards applications.

Increasing connectivity and alignment between R&D providers and end users through better coordination and visibility of geospatial related activities, along with collaborations with New Zealand and Australian (through the CRCSI) universities, research agencies and the private sector will underpin the activities of the Institute.

The work of the Institute will allow New Zealand to fully realise the benefits of spatial information.

UC Geospatial Research

The launch of the Geospatial Research Institute was attended by (left to right) Prof Simon Kingham (GRI Director), Wayne Tyson (GRI Manager), Dr John Wood (UC Chancellor), Dr Rod Carr (UC Vice-Chancellor), Hon Louise Upston (Minister for Land Information and Minister for Women), Prof Wendy Lawson (UC College of Science Pro Vice Chancellor Science), Colin MacDonald (CEO Department of Internal Affairs, NZ), Dr Peter Woodgate (CEO CRCSI). Image courtesy of University of Canterbury

Greening the Places We Live

Greening the Greyfields is a sustainable urban environment project that has seen its success through one-on-one consultation with local government, workshops with users, and community engagement through outreach events.

In the beginning. Greening the Greyfields is a project dreamt by Professor Peter Newton (Swinburne University of Technology) and Professor Peter Newman (Curtin University of Technology) in 2010 and funded by the CRCSI in 2011. It flowed from independent research by both Professors who simultaneously identified the middle suburbs of Australian cities as the potential areas of growth. The regeneration of the middle suburbs was presented to the Federal Government's Major Cities Unit at a professorial meeting in 2009 as a critical challenge for sustainable urban development.

The project was to create a new way of developing cities, so these cities could house significant population increases, in a sustainable fashion. The term greyfields refers to the middle suburbs of Australian cities; places where the housing stock is ageing and being replaced by newer, typically denser houses.


ENVISION Showing multi-criteria analysis (red to yellow, based on transport connectivity and service availability) and potential precincts (in blue)

The volume of change in these areas is staggering, but it is not occurring in a strategic or organised fashion. Unlike greenfield (urban fringe housing developments) and brownfield (ex-industrial housing development), greyfield redevelopment occurs on small, individual lots of land, leading to a very inefficient use of land and expensive, adhoc, infrastructure supply. Also, unlike greenfield and brownfield developments, there is no set redevelopment model for anything other than developing individual lots. The two Professors set out to address this.

Starting out with an analysis of housing and infrastructure costs for greenfield versus greyfield redevelopment, Professor Newman and Dr Roman Trubka, a Western Australian research fellow, illustrated that greyfield redevelopment was far more efficient, as the infrastructure and services already exist.

Expanding to New Zealand. The impetus for change came about after the Christchurch 2010 and 2011 earthquakes that required a new set of planning to re-build a sustainable city. Greening the Greyfields is delivered through the University of Canterbury, under the direction of Prof Simon Kingham. The project is creating an effective tool to carry communication across previously seperate areas of the Christchurch City Council.

Dr Rita Dionisio, a member of the Greening the Greyfields research team said, "Greening the Greyfields will provide government, private developers and everyone involved in the business of city planning and regeneration, with the tools they need to develop our cities, in New Zealand and Australia, as more cost effective, less carbon intensive and more equitable places to live and work. It will promote smart, better, sustainable ways of reviewing and planning intensification of our cities without excluding people and allow us to live better together.”

Skipping ahead. With software now developed – ENVISON and Envision Scenario Planner (ESP) – these tools allow data to be combined from multiple sources to identify areas of high strategic importance along with land parcels available for redevelopment. Users can compare development costs to median value, and assess carbon, energy and water use, heating and cooling, stormwater capture, traffic, and capital and financial costs.

See an example of the Greening the Greyfields tools here.

The tool allows planners and land owners to re-design potential precincts and assess the benefits of various scenarios over business as usual approaches.

3D visualisation and analysis to design and assess precinct scenarios are the final stage of the project.


ESP showing advanced typology scenario (foreground), business as usual redevelopment (mid-ground) and existing dwellings (background)

Engaging for success. Community engagement with users was critical to the uptake of the terminology and gaining support across local government areas in Australia and New Zealand.

Maroondah City Council (Victoria) is currently undertaking community consultation about its strategy for housing with Greening the Greyfields central to the theme of liveability of Maroondah. Liveability incorporates affordability, infrastructure and diversity. 

Using an interactive website, the Council has opened consultation online and taken outreach events to the community involving key researchers and project designers – see here. Dr Stephen Glackin, one of the Greening the Greyfield project team members, spent time at local community events discussing with residents the opportunities of liveability.

A snapshot

  • ENVISION system now has metro wide data for Perth, with Melbourne and New Zealand major cities coming online shortly
  • ESP is being utilised by local governments to assess the benefits of precinct scale redevelopment, and being offered to the wider research community, providing the opportunity to create new, advanced housing typologies
  • Statutory change is being discussed by the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and the City of Maroondah
  • Municipal wide community engagement has seen greyfield precincts becoming a significant part of the Maroondah housing strategy and the project is poised to begin landowner engagement
  • The Greening the Greyfield tools are embedded into a new project involving transport analysis, value uplift and community engagement, adding more to urban sustainability of the future.

Profiling Women in the CRCSI

Q&A with Dr Lola Suarez

Current Roles: Remote sensing researcher and private consultant in the field of spatial information.

Experience that led you to the CRCSI: Before coming to Australia I was employed as a researcher in universities and research centres in Spain, Switzerland and France. I worked with remote sensing data acquisition and calibration, and deriving products for land managers of agricultural and forested areas. In Australia, I have been working in projects related to forest ecosystem research using spatial information at different scales. Finding where your expertise is needed is crucial. It doesn’t matter how much you know about something if it is not of use where you work.

Education pathway: I followed technical courses as electives having in mind pursuing engineering as a career and have both a Bachelor in Science and a Masters in Science degrees in Agriculture Engineering and a second Masters in Geo-Information Science and Remote Sensing. At the moment I like following programming courses.

Why the spatial industry? The possibility of studying complex phenomena at all scales using layers of information. Being able to understand and reach “remote” areas.

A message to my young self from the future: Embrace the latest technological advancement as soon as it comes up. Innovate or perish.

Lola Suarez May 2016

Lola at work

Focusing Spatial Health in Sydney

The CRCSI and the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Epidemic Response, located at the School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of NSW co-hosted the Spatial Health Focus Workshop on Wednesday 27 April 2016.

Using the context of Why Spatial Health? the three-hour event invited participants to delve into spatial health; what it means for organisations, how tools can help and where are the connections that will deliver the solutions.

The interactive panel included key partners from WA Department of Health, UNSW, Capital Markets CRC, WHO Collaborating Centre on eHealth, 43pl and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

health workshop

The health focus workshop in Sydney was co-hosted by UNSW and the CRCSI

Participants were challenged by a number of core issues. These were:

  1. Ensuring client confidentiality whilst accessing and manipulating record data to extract valuable analysis
  2. Access to electronic records for specific health requests/diagnosis
  3. Using geospatial technology to assess, detect and track disease outbreaks
  4. Using geospatial technology to target health needs and develop better service offerings
  5. Rapid and real-time data and analytics
  6. Using telehealth and tapping into wearable health.

Two spatial health tools were demonstrated – HealthTracks™ and Epiphanee™ – with user feedback and organisational integration. Details about these tools can be found here.

The CRCSI will be hosting further events like this in other areas around Australia and New Zealand. Please contact your local CRCSI Business Development Manager or Jessica Purbrick-Herbst for further details.

New Projects and Project News

1.21 Ionospheric Modelling: Led by Mike Terkildsen from the Bureau of Meteorology in collaboration with 43pl members ThinkSpatial and Position Partners, and LINZ, this project will explore the development of a time-dependent 3D model of the ionosphere that has sufficient temporal and spatial resolution to support real-time ambiguity resolution.

1.23 BeiDou Precise Orbit: Led by Dr Stavros Melachroinos from Geoscience Australia and Dr Suelynn Choy of RMIT along with Prof Qile Zhao (Wuhan University) and Dr Robert Odolinski (the University of Otago), this project will develop the precise orbit determination system for BeiDou constellations to cover the gap of the Analysis Centre Software platform.

4.103 Improved High Resolution Carbon Accounting: Led by Associate Professor Brian Wilson of UNE and Dr Greg Summerell from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage with CRCSI PhD student Arjan Wilkie, this research will generate practical tools for improved accurate estimation of current carbon storage and the carbon storage potential across NSW. UNE also supports an additional PhD student in this work.

4.104 LandFor: Landsat for Forests: A monitoring and forecasting framework for the sustainable management of SE Australian forests at the large area scale, this project has completed a literature review which summarises the main steps and techniques used for identifying disturbance across forests using Landsat satellite archive (repetitive coverage of the earth surfaces from satellite imagery). This project is led by Dr Mariela Soto-Berelov from RMIT.

Rapid Spatial Analytics (Program 2) has started working with four research projects:

  • Digital Reporting System through Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Property
  • Rapid Analytics Interactive Scenario Explorer (RAISE) with UNSW and NSW Land, Property and Information
  • Open Spatial Analytics with RMIT
  • QA4Mobile led by the CRCSI

These four projects bring together national collaboration to conduct research that improves the ability and efficiency of industry and government to rapidly create value to spatial information products using mobile and cloud infrastructure.

To stay up-to-date on the activities of these projects, please sign up for Rapid News here.

ANZLIC Turns 30 with Cake

Founded in 1986 by the then Prime Minister Bob Hawke with agreement between the State and Territory Governments, the organisation was tasked with:

  • Coordinating the collection and transfer of land-related information between the different levels of government
  • Promoting the use of land related information in decision making.

New Zealand formally joined in 1991 which included a name change to ANZLIC.

ANZLIC Chair Cutting cake

ANZLIC Chair, Mike Bradford cuts the cake at the April 2016 ANZLIC meeting in Melbourne

Awards and New Initiatives


Congratulations to Curtin University researcher, CRCSI PhD Student and Program 3 contributor, Premalatha (Latha) Varadharajulu for the Best Student Paper Award presented to the 2nd International Conference on Geographical Information Systems Theory, Application and Management, held in April in Rome, Italy. Prem  


Held during LOCATE16 in Melbourne, the Asia-Pacific Spatial Excellence Awards are an annual gathering of the spatial community from around Australia and New Zealand.

Several awards were presented to the CRCSI, our partners and our research community.

Nathan and Nathan winning awards at Locate16

Community and JK Barrie Award winners for the Cyclone Pam Crisis Map (lleft to right) Nathan Eaton, NGIS Australia with Nathan Quadros, CRCSI Program Manager and Peter Kinne, Digital Globe with award presenter Lynette Terrett

Matt Duckham and Zaffar winning awards at Locate16

Congratulations to Prof Matt Duckham (left), RMIT Professor and CRCSI Science Director, Program 2 for winning the Educational Development Award, seen here with CRCSI Director – NSW Business Development & Research and SIBA Board member Dr Zaffar Sadiq Mohamed-Ghouse (right)

New Initiatives

Spur, a new location and innovation hub, promotes collaboration, stimulation and acceleration of new ideas. Developed by Western Australia’s Landgate, this dynamic hub brings together access to data, resources and key contacts to nurture partnerships and investment opportunities for emerging Western Australian based location technology businesses.

The CRCSI will be supporting SPUR through the Biomass Business, Greening the Greyfields and the Spatial Infrastructures Program.

SPUR will also link with education and research alliances, including CRCSI partner Curtin University.