Liveability For All On Our Urban Fringes

NCRIS-enabled projects AURIN and TERN are delivering data and analysis tools to support research and planning for more sustainable urban environments.

Discussions around suburban sprawl have made headlines in recent months as the reality of life at the fringes is revealed for new residents.

Many were attracted to new outer suburb developments, or exurbs, by the promise of the good life, a spacious home and a garden of their own in a healthy connected community – with an easy commute to the city, and all at a fraction of the price of inner-city suburbs.  The reality now unfolding is long commutes, lack of public transport options, limited community facilities and cohesiveness and, more commonly, mental health issues and feelings of isolation.  

TERN's Samford peri-urban SuperSite in Queensland
TERN's Samford peri-urban SuperSite in Queensland

Not only are these developments revealing that liveability is limited for the human residents, in many cases, they have also made these spaces unliveable for our native wildlife, compounding the negative impacts and transforming huge expanses of our countryside into developments that disconnect residents from the nature that surrounds them.

Access to nature is an intrinsic part of liveability.  As housing developments encroach on valuable habitats of our flora and fauna we have an opportunity to adapt our development styles and better incorporate existing natural habitats into the design of our neighbourhoods  says RMIT sustainability and urban planning expert Professor Sarah Bekessy:

“We don’t value habitat and vegetation appropriately, they are built over and offset to outer areas.  This denies protection of our local species and access for our population to our natural heritage and the benefits nature can offer us.”
– Prof. Sarah Bekessy

Prof Bekessy and her research group ICON Science implore planners and policy makers for a rethink of this style of development to take design aspects such as optimal density, variety of housing types, efficient use of space, accessibility to services and inclusion of access to nature, into consideration to improve liveability while meeting the needs of our growing demand for housing. 

So how do we create policies for housing and growth of urban and regional settlements and support planning of new housing developments that address various socio-economic and demographic factors of the expected population, identify their infrastructure needs and protect our environment and the liveability of our neighbourhoods?

Did someone say “evidence-base?”

Accessing this type of information to make informed planning and policy decisions is possible thanks to the support of NCRIS-enabled national research facilities such as the Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network (AURIN) and the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN).

These two national research infrastructures provide access to data and analysis tools to support research across a broad range of disciplines related to urban and regional development. They provide access to the evidence-base needed for informed, effective decision-making to shape the communities and environment we live in.

Urban data at your fingertips

AURIN provides a secure online Workbench that allows all levels of academic and government researchers to access, analyse and visualise quality data on issues surrounding health and wellbeing, socio-economic metrics, transportation, and land-use.  Researchers can analyse information about our communities and their neighbourhoods and inform planning and policy decisions when designing new developments. 

AURIN works with data custodians such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)  and recently released historical ABS Census data dating back to 1976.  It is the first time that this span of data across time is being made freely available to researchers.

Australia’s largest, longest and most consistent data collection around who we are, and where we live, developed over the last 100+ years, includes information on health, education, labour force, migrants, crime, business, disabilities, ageing and carers.  It is our greatest source of information to tell us who we are and where we are going.

Access to this data can allow researchers to explore how our communities and groups within the community have shifted and evolved over time.  This can inform better planning and policy decisions to support future population. Data from large organisations such as the Australian Tax OfficeHealthDirect Australia, and Australian Property Monitors can help inform decisions around service provision, helping planners leverage existing infrastructure assets and ensure future populations are adequately catered for. 

Environmental data visualisation

TERN provides open access tools and services that allow Australia’s environmental monitoring data, collected by TERN and many others, to be explored and analysed by expert and non-expert users alike. 

In addition to on-ground environmental monitoring and data collection in peri-urban landscapes, TERN, in partnership with the Australian National University’s Centre for Water and Landscape Dynamics (ANU WALD) have created the TERN-ANU Landscape Data Visualiser.

This web atlas lets users discover a wealth of landscape and ecosystem data from satellite observations, airborne measurements, field surveys, sensor networks and national-scale model predictions.

The TERN-ANU Landscape Data Visualiser gives you access to more than 50 datasets providing information on, for example: ecosystem composition, vegetation properties, carbon uptake & release, bushfires, water and energy exchanges, soil moisture, soil depth, texture & chemistry and river flows & inundation.

You can drill down to any location of interest, compare data and locations, and download any of the data shown. It also allows users to quickly view and manipulate the data without having to download them first, which saves valuable time and computing resources.

The Visualiser lets users compare satellite and model-derived data with measurements from TERN’s ecosystem observing field sites and with high-tech airborne laser scanning (LiDAR) and hyperspectral data products that TERN has developed for several intensive research locations in Australia, including the entire Australian Capital Territory (ACT).

Users can find airborne products relating to vegetation cover, height, structure, foliage chemistry and also digital elevation models, water body mapping and building footprints, to name a few.

Rapid urban development in Western Sydney under the spotlight

One area of Australia that has experienced particularly significant urban growth is western Sydney’s Cumberland Plain—home to a critically endangered woodland ecosystem.

map showing housing density changes

For the past decade, research infrastructure at TERN’s Cumberland Plain SuperSite has been collecting data to track the impact of urban development on the region’s critically endangered woodland—and the impact of other major pressures including conversion to agriculture, invasive weeds and altered fire regimes.

These large amounts of environmental data are all openly-available via the TERN Data Discovery Portal (pictured above) and represent an immensely valuable time-series resource for researchers and urban planners alike.

For example, data from the site are facilitating research on the changes to the region’s sources and sinks of CO2, the impact of drought on our ecosystems, and the vulnerability of trees to hotter and drier future climates.

Additionally, wildlife monitoring using camera-traps and acoustic sensors provides valuable baseline data, allowing scientists to track changes to the region’s biodiversity over time.

TERN’s Cumberland Plain and Samford Peri-Urban SuperSites are two of TERN’s highly instrumented field sites that monitor Australia’s ecosystem processes at a high level of detail.  A quick analysis of this area in the AURIN Portal of housing density over a 35 year span shows an increase in both already built-up areas, as well as new high-density developments in other areas.

To further understand the impact of population increase and urbanisation in the region, and their potential risks, additional data accessed, analysed and visualised on the AURIN Workbench can give us a richer picture of what the lived experience might be for residents. 

Data accessed through AURIN from the ABS can inform how population and housing density has spread into urban fringe areas over previous years. Data from the Spatial Network Analysis for Multimodal Urban Transport Systems (SNAMUTS) system, measuring the performance of a region’s current public transport network framed around the accessibility of the transport network and accessibility of place, and index data from research institutions such as the Vulnerability Indices for Mortgage, Petroleum and Inflation Risks and Expenditure (VAMPIRE) from Griffith University’s Urban Research Program, can be used to analyse public transport connectivity as well as vulnerability to financial stress from changes in petrol prices.

map showing vulnerability to financial stress and level of transport connectivity

Through examining data across disciplines in this way, researchers can incorporate the many aspects of environment and liveability to strengthen their outcomes and ultimately the impact of their research.

 These two federally funded eResearch facilities are empowering researchers, planners and policy-makers with highly valuable access to data and analysis tools needed across the environmental and urban development fields. 

The cross-disciplinary nature of these facilities ensures that planning and policy decisions can be more informed. Accessing data for this evidence-based decision-making can address the challenge of balancing population pressure and increased housing demand with delivering solutions that limits impact on the environment and incorporates access to nature to improve liveability.

Who wouldn’t want these critters exploring our parks and gardens?…

Dr Stuart Newman

Therapeutic Innovation Australia

Since completing a PhD in Antarctic Biology from the University of Tasmania, Stuart has built up considerable experience of science policy, pharmaceutical R&D, grant funding, IP management, business development and commercialisation in the university and not-for-profit sectors.|

Stuart joined TIA as CEO in 2017. Under his leadership, TIA has focussed investment on the gap between research and development of high-value therapeutics, including pharmaceuticals, biologics, vaccines and cell & gene therapies. He also devised an innovative infrastructure access voucher scheme. He is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors

Beryl Morris

Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network

Merran Smith

Population Health Research Network

Merran is the inaugural Chief Executive of Australia’s Population Health Research Network and chairs the PHRN Participant Council. She is a past Director of the International Population Data Linkage Network (2019-2020) and current member of the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre Board.

Merran has an extensive background in science, health, and economics with strengths in strategic leadership and many years’ experience in Australia’s health and research infrastructure systems.  She is well versed in data management and oversaw the WA Department of Health’s Health Information Centre for more than 10 years. While with the Department, she established data linkage as a core service and served on Australia’s peak national health information committees. 

Prof Michael Dobbie

Phenomics Australia

Prof. Michael Dobbie has worked to establish and operate Phenomics Australia since its foundation in 2007, serving as CEO since 2013. Prior to leading the development and implementation of these national research infrastructures, Michael was a biomedical research with a PhD in Neurochemistry from the University of London and gained over 20 Years’ experience at the bench in field including genetics, vascular biology, cancer angiogenesis, neuroscience, metabolism, developmental biology, malaria and oxidative stress.

Mark Stickells

Pawsey Supercomputing Centre

Mark is a research executive with more than 20 years’ experience working at a senior level in innovative research and business development roles in complex, multi-stakeholder environments. Through national and international programs and joint-ventures, Mark had successfully led initiatives to accelerate the impact of research, development and education programs for Australia’s key energy, mining and agricultural sectors.
He is a former Chief Executive of an LNG research and development alliance of CSIRO, Curtin University and UWA, partnering with Chevron, Woodside and Shell. Prior to his appointment at Pawsey Mark led the innovation and industry engagement portfolio at The University of Western Australia. In addition, Mark is the current Chair of the Board of All Saints’ College and was appointed an adjunct Senior Fellow of the Perth USAsia Centre (an international policy think tank) in 2017.

Craig Humphrey

National Sea Simulator

Craig Humphrey has worked at AIMS for more than 25 years. He presently serves as the Director of the National Sea Simulator, a position he has held for the last two years. During the ten years preceding his directorial role, Craig was instrumental in the initial conceptualisation, creation, and implementation of the SeaSim. Prior to joining the SeaSim team, Craig worked as an experimental scientist at AIMS for 15 years, where he conducted research on various projects including fish ecotoxicology, inshore reef biological indicators of water quality, and coral reef climate-related studies.

Wojtek Goscinski

National Imaging Facility

Prof Wojtek Goscinski, with over two decades of leadership in research and innovation, heads the National Imaging Facility (NIF), Australia’s premier imaging network. As CEO, he oversees NIF’s collaboration among universities, research institutes, and government agencies. An Adjunct Professor at Monash University, he contributes to the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences. Prof Goscinski’s notable past roles include founding MASSIVE, a high-impact national analytics facility. He also serves on the Scientific Advisory Committee for Euro Bioimaging ERIC and has led significant international neuroinformatics programs.

Prof Sean Smith

National Computational Infrastructure

Sean Smith commenced as Director of the NCI in January 2018 and is conjointly Professor of Computational Nanomaterials Science and Technology at ANU. He has extensive theoretical and computational research experience in chemistry, nanomaterials and nano-bio science and technology.

Dr Lisa Yen

Microscopy Australia

Lisa is currently Microscopy Australia’s Chief Operating Officer and has over 15 years of experience in university administration, strategic research management in Centres of Excellence, and operations and management of national collaborative research infrastructure. She has been with Microscopy Australia since 2019. Lisa has a doctorate in cognitive science and a first–class honours degree in psychology.

Tamin Darwish

National Deuteration Facility (ANSTO)

Tamim leads the National Deuteration Facility at ANSTO, managing its operations and scientific advancements. With a Ph.D. in Chemistry, his expertise spans deuterium labeling, NMR spectroscopy, and organic synthesis. Tamim’s research focuses on creating deuterated molecules for advanced analytical techniques. His career includes postdoctoral fellowships and contributions to the field as a member of prestigious science communities and committees. His dedication to chemistry and material science is evident in his extensive work and achievements in the field.

Michael Steer

Southern Coastal Research Vessel Fleet

Professor Mike Steer is the Research Director at the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), with over 20 years of expertise in marine science. He specialises in fish biology, fisheries science, cephalopod ecology, and fishery reform. Dr. Steer has led numerous research initiatives that have significantly advanced Australia’s seafood industry. He is known for fostering collaborations between academia and industry to address challenges in aquatic ecosystems. Prof. Steer holds a PhD from the University of Tasmania and serves on several national committees, including the National Coastal Research Vessels Working Group and the National Marine Science Committee.

Toni Moate

Marine National Facility (CSIRO)

Toni Moate is Director of the Marine National Facility and Director of CSIRO’s National Collections and Marine Infrastructure business unit. 

Toni is responsible for ensuring CSIRO’s national collections and marine infrastructure programs and research areas are effectively positioned, managed and utilised for long term financial sustainability and support science delivery in the national interest. 

Toni has extensive experience in strategic, financial, project and stakeholder management and has worked for CSIRO for over 30 years. In 2015 Toni was awarded the Public Service Medal for outstanding public service in Australian marine and atmospheric science, as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. This was followed in 2017 when Toni was awarded the Tasmanian Telstra Business Woman of the Year. 

Dr Michelle Heupel

Integrated Marine Observing System

Michelle Heupel, with over two decades in marine science, leads Australia’s Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) at the University of Tasmania. Her work, pivotal in deploying oceanic observing equipment, supports marine and climate research. Heupel’s expertise in marine predator ecology, especially sharks, is recognized globally. She has a BSc in Zoology and a PhD in Marine Science, contributing to over 160 scientific papers. Her roles have included Vice Chair of Strategy for the IUCN Shark Specialist Group and advisor for the Ocean Tracking Network. Heupel’s dedication to marine conservation and management reflects her profound impact on the field.

Thomas McGoram

Heavy Ion Accelerators

James Whisstock

European Molecular Biology Laboratory Australia

Professor James Whisstock is based at Monash University, where he is currently an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow, an Honorary National Health and Medical Research Council Senior Principal Research Fellow and Deputy Dean Research in the Faculty of Medicine Nursing and Health Sciences.

Ceri Brenner

Centre for Accelerator Science (ANSTO - Nuclear Science Facilities)

Andrew Gilbert

Bioplatforms Australia

Andrew Gilbert has been Bioplatforms Australia’s general manager since its inception in 2007.
He is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Andrew oversees the investment of $300 million in Commonwealth Government research infrastructure funding in the discovery sciences of genomics, proteomics and metabolomics.
Andrew has an extensive network of contacts from Commonwealth and State Governments, along with prominent universities, medical research institutes, agricultural research institutes and commercial entities. The Bioplatforms Australia network now supports 4500 users per annum across the spectrum of pure research to commercial production. In addition to managing the national infrastructure network, Andrew has also catalysed the formation of a series of strategic national scientific collaborations.
Each of these projects is by design multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional and contain both discovery implications and pathways to end use.

Prof Pascal Perez


Professor Pascal Perez is a specialist of Integrative Social Simulation, using Multi-Agent Systems technologies to explore complex infrastructure systems. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of NSW and the Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand (MSSANZ). 

Professor Perez has published 200 refereed articles and book chapters. In 2002, he received an ARC-International Linkage Fellowship to develop social modelling research at the Australian National University. In 2006, he co-edited with his colleague David Batten the book ‘Complex Science for a Complex World’ (ANU E Press).

Rosie Hicks

Australian Research Data Commons

Rosie has 20 years’ experience working in Australia’s research infrastructure sector. With a career spanning every aspect of scientific instrumentation from product development and technical marketing to managing multi-user facilities, she works across academic and industry domains to drive innovation and research translation.

Richard Dichmann

Australian Plant Phonemics Facility

Richard is committed to advancing Australian agriculture through strengthening sustainable industry partnerships and creating new business opportunities which capitalise on innovation. His career with Bayer spans more than 25 years and five countries in roles ranging from marketing, technology scouting and sustainability. Hailing from rural Victoria and educated in Melbourne, Richard obtained an honours degree in Forestry from Melbourne University and a master’s degree in Agriculture, focusing on satellite remote sensing, from the University of Sydney. Richard is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. As Head of Public and Government Affairs ANZ for Bayer Australia and New Zealand, Richard is dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding among political stakeholders of the critical role innovation plays in meeting the food supply and health challenges of the future. Richard is a proud ambassador for Australian agriculture and is married with four children.

Dr Jane Fitzpatrick

Australian National Fabrication Facility

Jane led ANFF’s Queensland node for a number of years, joining the HQ team as its Chief Operating officer in 2012, before becoming CEO in 2021. Her responsibilities include ensuring the network performs as a cohesive and collaborative community, and maximising ANFF’s ability to support projects from academia and industry.

Prof Andy Hogg

Australian Earth System Simulator (ACCESS-NRI)

Professor Andy Hogg is a distinguished climate scientist leading the ACCESS-NRI, where he oversees the development of Australia’s advanced climate models. As a key figure in COSIMA, he contributes to ocean-sea ice model research. His role as a Chief Investigator at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes underscores his commitment to understanding climate dynamics and extremes. His work is pivotal in shaping Australia’s approach to climate science and modeling, reflecting his dedication to environmental research and innovation.

Jamie Schultz

Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering (ANSTO - Nuclear Science Facilities)

Dr Debbie Eagles

Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (CSIRO)

Debbie Eagles is currently the Director of CSIRO’s Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (ACDP). Prior to this, Debbie’s roles with ACDP included 4 years as ACDP Deputy Director and 3 years as the Research Director for the Diagnosis, Surveillance and Response (DSR) Program.

Debbie is a veterinarian by training and a World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) Reference Laboratory Expert on Bluetongue Virus. She is also enrolled as a WOAH and Australian Qualified Expert on the UN Secretary-General Mechanism’s (UNSGM) Roster for investigations of Alleged Use of Chemical, Biological or Toxin Weapons, has postgraduate qualifications in veterinary public health and has a special interest in interactions at the field/laboratory interface. Debbie has extensive experience in working in the Asia Pacific region, including in laboratory capacity building projects, in field investigations and through the provision of training courses.

Heath Marks

Australian Access Federation

Heath Marks was appointed by the Council of Australian University Directors of Information Technology (CAUDIT) in July 2009 to head a team to deliver the sustainable operations of Australia’s Trust and Identity services for Research and Education. This includes the national trust authentication framework the Australian Access Federation (AAF), and the Open Researcher and Contributor ID (ORCID) Consortium Lead for Australia. He is an IT professional with a wealth of management experience in the successful delivery of transformational Information Technology within the tertiary education and research sector supporting the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS). Heath participates in many national and international committees and working groups on trust, identity, cyber security, and company strategy. 

Tim Rawling


Tim Rawling is the CEO of AuScope Limited. AuScope is Australia’s provider of research infrastructure to the national geoscience community working on fundamental geoscience questions and grand challenges — climate change, natural resources security and natural hazards. Prior to this role, he was Director of Infrastructure Development for AuScope’s Australian Geophysical Observing System (AGOS). His recent research has involved the development of regional/crustal-scale 3D and 4D geological models as well as new exploration methodologies involving 3D modelling and finite element simulation. Tim’s background is in structural geology and IT and he has previously worked as a consultant exploration geologist, as the manager of the 3D modelling and simulation programs at GeoScience Victoria (DPI), as the MCA funded lecturer at the University of Melbourne, a commercial programmer and as a researcher at Monash University and the University of Arizona.

Dr Andre Zerger

Atlas of living Australia

Dr. Andre Zerger is the Director of the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA). The ALA is Australia’s national biodiversity database, harmonising the nation’s biodiversity data to support world-class science and decision-making.  The ALA is hosted by CSIRO and supported by the Commonwealth Government’s NCRIS program. Andre’s background is in the spatial sciences, environmental modelling with a focus on the ecological sciences, and spatially explicit hazard risk modelling. His career has focussed on establishing high-performing teams to deliver national data infrastructure transformations that support research, environmental management, and major government policy initiatives. He has previously led similar programs and held academic positions at the Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO Ecosystems Sciences, The University of Melbourne, and the University of California.

Andre holds a Bachelor of Science with Honours (Geography, Monash University), a Master of Applied Science (Spatial Information Systems, University of Melbourne), and a PhD (Environmental Science, Australian National University). He is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Mark McAuley

Astronomy Australia

Mark McAuley has worked for thirty years in research and development environments, with responsibility for securing investments, facilitating collaborations, and executing projects. As CEO of Astronomy Australia Limited, he is responsible for the NCRIS astronomy programme. Mark has previously worked for CSIRO, and in private industry, including six years in computer-aided engineering. His experience ranges from explaining science to young children to leading financial strategy discussions concerning billion-dollar research infrastructure projects.

Mark holds a Master of Business Administration, Master of Arts (Ancient History), and Bachelor of Science with Honours (Astrophysics). Upon completion of his MBA, he received the Vice-Chancellor’s Medal from the University of Notre Dame, Australia.