We are investing $4.77m, with $6.423m in co-investments from partners and a contribution from Minderoo, in 12 projects that will create translational research Bushfire Data Commons.

To protect Australian citizens from the dangers of bushfires, firefighters and planners need to be able to model and predict bushfire behaviour. For example, allocating bushfire responders or planning prescribed burning and urban development.

The Bushfire Data Challenges program aims to build comprehensive national data assets in these areas and create a shared bushfire modelling environment to support research, development, planning and response.

The ARDC’s systematic consultation process identified 2 key areas for national digital research infrastructure, being implemented in 2 phases:

Phase 1: A Bushfire Data Commons for understanding bushfire behaviour: nationally aggregating data and models on bushfire history and fuel.

Phase 2: A Bushfire Data Commons for understanding bushfire impact: nationally aggregating data and models on the impact of bushfires on physical and mental health, and the built and natural environment.

Phase 1 Projects: Understanding bushfire behaviour

Aggregated and harmonised burnt extent fire history data on a national scale

Partners: Geoscience Australia, Emergency Management Spatial Information Network Australia (EMSINA)

This work  will establish a nationally aggregated and harmonised data asset on past fires burnt extent boundaries for Australia. Through collaboration between national, state and territory agencies,  standardised state and national products would be produced. This work will support the agencies for the supply of datasets on geospatial boundaries of past fires, to fill a long-standing gap and demand for national fire history datasets. With improved satellite imagery data supply and cloud computing processing power, a satellite derived historical fire history for the nation would be created as well. This work will support bushfire research as well as National Emergency Management, National Fire Danger Ratings System and associated risk management operations.

Aggregating and harmonising fuel data on a national scale

Partners: TERN, Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (AWE)

Fuel data describes the combustible materials in a defined space and its related attributes such as type, amount, structure and moisture. Accurate estimation of fuel, alongside information about the type of vegetation at a location is key to managing and mitigating bushfire risk. Multiple organisations across different jurisdictions collect and use fuel data. However, there is no coordinated approach and community standards to harmonise, aggregate and share fuel data parameters across different stakeholders.  This work will define implementation processes and systems for ongoing sharing of fuel data and related attributes for meeting the needs of multiple stakeholders and to better enable Australia-wide bushfire response and preparedness.

Improving remote sensing fuel data on a national scale

Partner: The Australian National University (ANU)

The efficient national monitoring of fuel conditions is very important to understand bushfire behaviour and risk, as highlighted by the Bushfire Earth Observation Taskforce, the NSW Bushfire Inquiry and the National Royal Commission for Natural Disaster Arrangements.  This work will contribute towards compiling and sharing existing field and remote sensing observations of fuel attributes such as fuel load, structure and moisture in a national database. This national database will be used to improve remote sensing products and will be publicly available to support other research programs. The national fuel attributes databases will have direct benefits to bushfire planning and response given the fuel data will also be readily available for assessing bushfire risk, predicting fire behaviour, informing suppression efforts and planning prescribed burns.

A fire behaviour modelling platform

Partner: CSIRO

The fire behaviour modelling platform will be a bridge from data acquisition, processing and modelling to operation and assessing bushfire risk. The platform will be developed as a proving and testing ground for new data, models and analytics. It will be a collaborative, open environment for researchers, agencies and stakeholders, and it will be open for use by stakeholders for research as well as operational evaluation. The aim is to create a model where there is a clearly articulated process for translating bushfire research into operational use from a predictive modelling perspective.

Framework for sharing bushfire data and tools between jurisdictional agencies

Partners: National Council for Fire & Emergency Services (AFAC)

The objective of the project is to deliver a robust and enduring framework to facilitate the development of new understanding of bushfire behaviour through simple access to core data sets. This work will look at technological and trust barriers, and barriers associated with sharing data and tools. AFAC proposes to use its extensive collaboration network to create an enduring capability.

Bushfire Research Data National Collection

Lead by: Natural Hazards Research Australia (NHRA)

Partners: NHRA

The project will assemble and manage an accessible national bushfire research data collection. During this project, NHRA will develop a conceptual framework for bushfire research data management, to guide the collection, curation, and management of datasets, and to put in place necessary requirements for access to, and use of, the bushfire research data. A web-based bushfire data catalogue from NHRA projects and some Bushfire & Natural Hazards CRC (BNHCRC) projects will be established.

Aggregated and Harmonised Fuel Data on a National Scale

Lead: Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC)

Partners: AFAC predictive services data working group and Fuel working group (AFAC has member agencies representing all relevant fire and land management agencies), Fire Predictive Services

This project will deliver key elements towards a bushfire fuel data commons supporting the use of the national fuel data in national bushfire simulation and other fire prediction systems. This includes fuel classification, algorithms used to calculate fuel attributes and frequently updated observed fuel attributes including load, structure, and dryness.

Phase 2 projects: Understanding bushfire impact

Assessing the Impact of Bushfire Smoke on Health

Lead: National Air Quality Technical Advisory Group (NATAG)

Partners: NATAG (representatives from all states related agencies), Curtin University, University of Tasmania, The University of Sydney, Australian Space Data Analyses Facility (ASDAF), Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), Australian Government, Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (AWE)

This project will deliver a federated Australian air quality data system and a bushfire-specific air pollution exposure dataset that’s consistent throughout Australia. It will bring together the vast amount of air quality data collected in Australia into a common architecture and provide air pollution exposure mapping, processing and analysis that links this data with population health data. The project supports capability uplift in smaller jurisdictions so that the maximum value of Australia’s investment in air quality monitoring and modelling can be realised. Importantly, by standardising and codifying the air quality data ecosystem in Australia, the project lays the foundation for ongoing improvement of air quality data services.

Aggregating and Integrating Data on Health Outcomes Associated with Bushfires at a National Scale

Lead: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW)

Partners: AIHW, FrontierSI (Australian Environmental Health (AusEnHealth)), Queensland University of Technology, Centre for Air pollution, energy and health Research (CAR)

The aim of this project is to develop an accessible data asset of bushfire-related health service use, over an extended time period, and by small geographic area. This will help researchers to study the immediate and longer-term effects of bushfire on human physical and mental health. This project will focus on the impact of bushfires on health service use; however, it is envisaged that the data asset will have wider applications, and could act as a proof-of-concept for designing future data assets across other aspects of environmental health.

Curated Biodiversity Data for Rapid Assessment of Bushfire Impacts

Lead:  Atlas of Living Australia (ALA)

Partners: ALA, University of Melbourne, National Research Collections Australia (CSIRO), Invertebrates Australia Ltd

Beneficiaries: State agencies, BNHCRC, CSIRO, Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), Emergency Management Australia (EMA), AWE

In this project, the ALA will collaborate with experts to create a curated biodiversity dataset that can be used for off-the-shelf for bushfire impact modelling. This will also incorporate edits and annotations by expert users back into the main ALA dataset, enriching the data resource. Furthermore, knowledge from different research teams will be aggregated to implement best-practice data cleaning workflows at the ALA, allowing improved data cleaning at scale. Finally, ALA will establish mechanisms to capture and share common analysis methods from bushfire research, including Species Distribution Models. 

Establishing an Australian Reference Genome Atlas (ARGA) and a Leadership Application in Bushfire Data

Lead: Atlas of Living Australia (ALA)

Partners: ALA, BioPlatforms Australia, Australian BioCommons

To create tools that allow conservation managers to protect species and their genetic diversity, this project will locate and aggregate descriptions of all relevant genomic data in one place (e.g. genome assemblies, genome annotations, barcodes, raw data, other omic data). This enables searching across these data based on a variety of contextual aspects around the organisms (e.g. taxonomic grouping, functional classifications (such as fire tolerance/drought/salt/ conservation status), geographical location, etc.). The genetic information has a substantial impact on improving conservation outcomes by providing answers to important questions on species populations recovery and rebound after major catastrophic events.

Development of a traits database and vulnerability assessment framework to assess fire susceptibility of Australian invertebrate species

Lead: Invertebrates Australia

Partners: Invertebrates Australia, University of Melbourne, Australian Museum, UNSW, University of Sydney, Atlas of Living Australia, EcoCommons Australia, Australian Entomology Society, Australian National Insect Collection, Charles Darwin University

This project will build an enduring living database of fire-relevant ecological and life history traits for Australian invertebrate species. Such information is crucial to help rapidly identify the species likely to be most imperilled by future comparable fires, and to guide targeted management where it is needed. The project will align the invertebrate database with existing model databases for Australian plants and vertebrates (notably AusTraits). The project will expand the existing database from 1200 species (1% of Australia’s described invertebrates) to at least 10% of that biota, and develop or adopt protocols to allow ongoing inputs (by experts or supervised volunteers) to the database.

Bushfire Data Access and Impact Modelling Platform

Lead: University of Melbourne

Partners: University of Melbourne

This project will provide a secure platform for researchers to access diverse bushfire related datasets together with a suite of analytic and visualisation tools to perform a variety of bushfire related simulations and analyses. Wherever possible, these data sets will be programmatically accessed from targeted government and related agencies responsible for monitoring bushfire related information, including fire history, fuel, health, air quality and ecosystem and biodiversity at a national level. The platform will support access to data at finer-grained disaggregated levels wherever possible. The platform will support flexible access rights that restrict access to the data sets and tools as deemed appropriate by various government and related agencies providing data.

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