Monitoring Evaluation andResearch (MER) Pilot NetworkRLP Service Provider WebinarWednesday 6th October 2021Nick Gellie, Sam Nicol, Jess Hodgson, Suzanne Prober,Linda Broadhurst, Josie Carwardine, AndrewTokmakoff and Ben Sparrow

MER Network webinarSession 1 OverviewSession 2 Workflow andprotocols

Session 1: MER overviewBackgroundSupportEquipmentTech anddatacapture

MER Network overviewThe RLP MER Network is a mechanistic approach thatfacilitates the analysis of relationships among projectcomponents using a rigorous assessment of hypothesesto gauge the efficacy of any RLP interventions.MER will embed nationally integrated researchinfrastructure within local RLP projects by using small,well-designed experimental monitoring plots.MER seeks to foster collaboration among policy-makers,practitioners and researchers2022-23Collate andEvaluate

MER : Science–Policy-PracticeintegrationIn the first of its kind in Australia thisthree year project will focus nationalscale learning about the ecologicaleffectiveness of post fire NRMinterventions. The MER pilot networkinvolves working with Regional LandPartnerships service providers, CSIROand university researchers, theDepartment of Agriculture, Water andthe Environment, Australia’s TerrestrialEcosystems Research Network (TERN)and other stakeholders.PracticeMER Question focussedEmbeddedNetworkedShared KnowledgeMultiple needsAccessible

MER Network PilotThe MER Network pilot will focus on fire andweeds. The network aims for Improved local and national scaleunderstanding of where recovery after fire ison-track and where thresholds may have beencrossed Improved local and national-scaleunderstanding of whether/ in whatcircumstances post-fire weed managementenhances outcomes for measured ecosystemand biodiversity attributesData Ingestion

MER Network development

Variable selectionPROJECT WEBSITE and workshop nowledge/projects/mer/

Site selection In most cases regional MERNetwork liaison staff wouldhave visited your site andhelped to install it accordingto the experimental design.During this process cornerSW, NW, NE, SE pickets willhave been installed (to submetre accuracy) which is apivotal step in preparing theplot for revisits


Learning from your MER NetworkRLP projectsMER Network IDEALRESEARCHUPTAKE BY POLICY STATUS QUO NOENVIRONMENTAL CHANGESTATUS QUO ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE Iterative improvement tomanagement practicesEvidence based approachesAllows broader scopeUses data standardsMonitoring standardsLongitudinal data stream

MER Network looking forwardIn the past 25 years The Natural Heritage Trust of Australia Act (1997) has driven an estimatedAUD 7.9B investment by the Australian government in “natural capital infrastructure”. Theseprograms (e.g. Caring for our Country, National Landcare Program, RLP) have initiated manypositive activities (e.g. fencing, revegetation, pest and weed control) and outcomes (e.g. speciesrecovery, decreases in land degradation)However, assessing past investments has at times been hampered by Activity reporting rather than outcome reporting A lack of consistent baseline and long term data Disparate storage platforms for ecological monitoring dataThe MER Network is one of several Australian government projects that will help to us tounderstand intervention efficacy

1.2 MER Support, resources and trainingProtocol manualsMER Networkwebsite is thehub for trainingresources andcommunicationsSupportIn Field t NewsWebinar recordings

MER Network website The MER Network website isthe communications hub forthe project It has the contact details forMER project personnel It houses the projectresources The website also has answersto frequently asked questions

MER Network protocol manuals Descriptiveprocedures Standardmethods Rationale Logistics

MER Network project news MER Network uses the socialmedia handle(@MERNetwork) and invitesparticipants to post epochsat their sites Regular news from MERNetwork will also appear onthe website

MER Network webinar recordings The development of theMER Network has hadseveral steps of engagementand will have several more. All workshops webinars andforums will be publicallyaccessible via the projectwebsite


MER Network in field training Many aspects of monitoring aredifficult to teach in a webinar Travel restrictions have severelyhampered on ground trainingfor a national experiment Until we can move more freely,Key MER staff will liaise withthe RLP Service providers onsite to assist in the importantsteps of site stratification, plotselection and monitoringprotocols

1.3 MER field equipmentPersonalTechSetupSurveyCuration

MER field equipment manifests

MER personal responsibilities andequipment Fieldwork register/notifications as per organisationSampling permit (hardcopy)COVID approvals (hardcopy)PPE - water, weather, wildlife, chemical and sunprotection Two way field communications (e.g. UHF) Emergency communications (e.g. phone/sat-phone) Compass/Hand held GPSPersonal See protocols manual for further details

MER technological equipment Tablet Software (Fulcrum and MER App for survey) Offline maps with plot points loaded for navigation ondevice R1 GNSS (for plot layout only)*Tech* Only required if plots have not been registered

MER setup equipment R1 GNSS receiver* Star pickets and caps x 4 per plot* Picket driver or lumpy hammer * Tablet with MER and Fulcrum App loaded Multiple tape measures ( minimum 2 x 25m for 25m plot) Flagging tapeSetup Tent pegs minimum 16 ( redundancy) Clothes pegs minimum 16 ( redundancy)* Only required if plots have not been registered

MER survey equipment(A)(B)FloristicsSurvey Plant press(s) (A) Plant press newspaper andcardboard sleaves Secateurs Region specific barcodelabels (B) Large collection bags Paper bags/ envelopes (forseeds and flowers) Botanical reference resources Notepad and pens Gloves

MER survey equipment Survey staffcomprising adensitometer (A), alaser pointer (B) anda graduated staff (C) Components (D) andinstructions areincluded in theprotocols manualCCoverSurveyD

MER survey equipment(A)(B) Bucket auger (A)Hand trowel (B)Prepared calico bagsZip-lock bagsBucketPrepared silica (seeprotocols for details) Scales/persolaSoil Survey Alcohol wipes/spray Measuring cup (1/2 cup)

MER curation equipmentMoisture is the enemy of any biological sample collectionso it is imperative to dry samples thoroughly which willrequire Additional paper for the plant press Silica mix for the soil collection (see protocols forpreparing the silica mix)Curation

1.4 MER Network Tech and data capture Two mobile Apps are used to collectthe MER dataAuScribe MER FULCRUMAvailable Google Play (Android) orApple store (iOS Fulcrum only) Compatible Android 11 and IOS 15 Downloadable with user specific emailregistration Follow protocols

AuScribe MER AppSite setup is aprerequisiteFloristicsCoverData ingestionThese field protocolsand data collectionare MER App basedand require the plotto be registered andset up

AuScribe MER AppAuscribe MERmobile AppHow to set up the Auscribe MER appon your device: Install the Ausplots mobile datacollector app from Google Play(Android only) CSIRO/TERN will provide youaccess to the apps via your emailaddress You should have the followingopening page once installed

AuScribe MER AppThe Vegetation vouchering module (Floristics) is to becompleted once for each site. It captures species diversity,catalogues the plants found and prepares them forprofessional identification Relies on plot set up and plant collection All plants will be vouchered in the first year Subsequent years this module will be abbreviatedThe Point Intercept module (Cover) needs to be completedonce for each monitoring plot. This is a quantitativemeasure of plant occurrence along defined, relocatabletransects dispersed across the plot Relies on plot setup and floristics being completed It will be required each year

Fulcrum AppSite setup is aprerequisitePlot descriptionBasal wedgePost fire protocolData IngestionSoil protocolThese fieldprotocols and datacollection areFulcrum App basedand require the plotto be setup

Fulcrum App setupHow to set up the Fulcrum app onyour device: Install the Fulcrum mobile datacollector app from Google Play(Android) or Apple store (iOS) CSIRO will provide you access tothe apps via your email address Create a username and passwordand login You should see two applicationsonce Fulcrum is installed

Fulcrum AppThe Site Description App needs to be completed once foreach site, preferably before you do your monitoring. Contextual information about the site Management objectives Fire and weed management historyThe Plot Monitoring App needs to be completed once foreach monitoring plot. Fire severity monitoring Basal area monitoring Seedlings and Resprouting monitoring PhotosData Ingestion

Webinar Session1 summaryPlot selection and planningPROTOCOLSLOGISTICSSupport and resourcesPlot SetupFloristicsBasal AreaPost fire protocolCoverEquipmentTechnologyCurationSoil SamplingRegional trainingSite description

Take a break.

Session 2: MER Network work-flowPRE TRIPPlotSelectionPermittingMER NETWORK FIELD TRIPTWO PERSON TASKSPlot set upFIRST STEPFloristicsONE PERSON TASKSCollectionEquipmentChecklistPOST TRIPPlotDescriptionBasalWedgeCoverPost fireSeveritySoilMERNetworkdataSamplecuration

2.1 MER Network app work-flowFULCRUM APPPlot setupAuScribe MER APPPlotdescriptionBasalwedgeSoilprotocolsPost ingCoverCuration

2.2 MER Network plot setup The plot set up bounds and orientates the plot areafocus by laying out transect tapes Poor setup and positioning will create difficulties forthe current survey as well as future visits. Plot set up also drives most of the workflow for MERNetwork monitoring because subsequent protocolsand revisits rely on its accuracy The plot setup relies on initial site selection whichnames, logs and formats the sites for entering futuresurveys in the AuScribe MER and the Fulcrum app However, Plot setup does not collect any data andproviding the locality is locally stored on a device orGPS it does not require the Apps for completionData Ingestion

2.2 MER Network plot setupSW In most cases regional MER Network liaison staff wouldhave visited the site and helped to install it accordingto the experimental design. During this process corner SW, NW, NE, SE pickets willhave been installed (to sub metre accuracy) which is apivotal step in preparing the plot for revisits Everything begins at the South West corner SW On arrival to the site the first job is to peg the end ofthe transects Then use the pegs to run out tapes in the orientation ofthe surveyTIP! Peg the tape ends wellData Ingestion

2.2 MER Network plot setupTIP! Use clothes pegs orflags to identify transectends in dense floraOnce completed the plot setup should have installed a tentpeg at the end of each transect and have tapes laid out inthe direction of the cover survey.You are ready to begin using the Fulcrum App to collect dataData Ingestion

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2.3 MER Network FloristicsThe floristics module identifies the flora species presentwithin a MER Network plot. All vascular flora species (native and introduced) withinthe plot are identified (to the species level whereverpossible and the subspecies level when relevant). The Floristics module involves a staged (sector)collection of voucher specimens of all species presentto compile a master species list for the plot andsubsequent survey In the first year every species at every plot needs to becollectedData Ingestion

MER Network Floristics (collection)A floristic survey enables the collation of information on thespecies composition and richness of an area. When collected innested plots of increasing size, a species richness curve can becalculated and provide further information specific tovegetation types.FloristicSectorsCBA1 Starting at the SW corner and using the tapes as guidesexhaustively search each of the three sectors A (green) 5x5m, B (blue) 10x 10m -(A), C (yellow) 25 x 25m –(B) Assign a field name to the floristic sample Collect all species at each plot 1st year only (Refer toprotocols)TIP! Use three collection bags to separate the sectors.Notify colleagues when less abundant species are seen

MER Network Floristics (vouchering)Figure 1.Figure 2.MER Network Plots will be registered into theAuScribe MER app by MER personnel prior to survey.The AuScribe MER app gives ability to label sampleswith barcodes and scan them into the database in thefield, thereby referencing them to sites, dates etc.The barcode will track vouchers throughidentification processes and reference entries ontodatabases. From the mange plots tab open plot as in figure 1. Select vegetation vouchering as in figure 2.

MER Network Floristics (vouchering)Figure 1.Figure 2.Each species collected from a plot willbe assigned a name see manual forconventions and a unique barcode. Thatname and barcode will be used forpopulating the cover (e.g. pointintercept module) Select a species or assign a fieldname to the voucher and enter Activate the bar code reader fromthe app button as in (figure 1.) Record growth form (figure 2.) Repeat for all species collectedTIP! Place barcode labels flat and scan beforeattaching to plant. Press the plants as you go

MER Network Floristics (pressing)All species present at a site (e.g. multiple plots) will bevouchered in the first year. The best voucher of eachspecies will be sent to a herbarium for identification. Toensure the quality of the voucher plants should be presseddirectly in the field at the plot as they are being barcoded Select plant sample and insert in newspaper leafLayer samples in the open pressInsert cardboard every 4-6 samplesRepeat for all species collectedOnce site is completed select and keep best speciesexamples for herbaria and dispose of duplicatesTIP! Wrap newspaper sideways around aplot collection and label if putting multipleplots in one press

2.4 MER Network coverThe Cover module involves the collection of quantitative,accurate and repeatable measures of vegetation and substratecover within the MER Netwok plot by using the point-interceptmethod. Cover is interpreted by aggregating records collectedat 1 m intervals along taped transects in a grid configurationacross the plot. This protocol includes the number of ‘hits’ for each species (listed from thefloristics module) species growth form Species structural diversity substrate typeDataIngestionTIP! Set thestaffto the surveyors height and bringspare laser batteries as they are critical tocompleting the survey.

MER Network coverThe Point intercept method recordsspecific occurrences of species at eachpoint along the transect. Namingconventions are defined in the protocolmanual. For any point above you thedensitometer (A) gives you a target For any point below you a laser (B)gives you a target If multiple hits are found they arerecorded along with height in the app If no hits are found the substrate isData Ingestionrecorded using a quick access buttonson the app.

MER Network coverFigure 1.Figure 2.Figure 3.The voucher barcode will trackspecies through the AuScribe MERApp during the point intercept. Toaccess the point intercept page From the Mange Plots tab openplot as in figure 1. Select point intercept as in figure2. You will arrive at the pointintercept page and it will ask youto define the transect

MER Network coverFigure 1.N1S2In the App all transects need to be orientated in space sothat the hits relate to specific plants in the plot. Althoughyou can walk transects in either direction laying the tapesout as suggested will mean the least walkingW2E2W1E1 Transects have a naming convention which runs fromthe SW corner (see figure 1) Once this field is entered press the start new transectbuttonS1 S2TIP! When starting a transect unpeg the tape soyou can windit up once completedData Ingestion

MER Network coverFigure 1.Figure 2.You will notice that as you start the transect theinterface screen (figure 1) has self-populated with thespecies you entered including field names during theFloristics protocol (e.g. sclerolaena 5 spines in thiscase). As you progress through the transect the mostcommonly occurring species will remain towards thetop of the list. If we encountered Sclerolaena eriacantha andpressed it the App it would take you to figure 2 andyou would define the hit height and otherparameters requested then press next If it was bare ground you push the quick accessbutton and it would advance you to the next point Repeat procedure for each point

2.5 MER Network sample curationDepending on the size and complexity of the MER Networksite (e.g. multiple plots) it will generate several hundredvouchers up to 20kg of soil samples and valuable data.Eventually the soil will be sent to the MER Network soilarchive and only the best vouchers will be sent to aherbarium. However it is imperative to present thesesamples in the best possible condition by Keeping the plant vouchers dry and ordered Keeping the soil (biological) samples cool and dry Ingesting data once a plot is finalisedData Ingestion

MER Network sample curationA plant press is the accepted way of storing, transportingand curating plant samples. The collection it houses willform the bank of species for your plot in subsequent years.Samples should include diagnostic (fruit and flowers whenpresent) and include a tabloid sized specimen of maturefoliage. Barcodes should be readable and plot labellingdiscernible. Herbaria don’t want vouchers that have mouldor pest species attached.A Let the presses sun dry where possible Change paper sleaves regularly (A) especially in humidor wet climates or for species with a high waterData Ingestioncontent

MER Network sample curationSoil samples are collected across a grid at each plot tohelp provide insight into the soil dynamics. Our protocolrelies on dry samples which is facilitated by having thesamples in a calico bag surrounded by silica beads (seeprotocols for preparation). To dry suitably prior to dispatchthe silica will require regular inspection and the changingof spent silica. Keep bags labelled, sealed and together Change silica as required.Data Ingestion

MER Network sample curationFigure 1.Once a plot is registered the AuScribe MER Network appallows you to suspend plots at different junctures in themonitoring. However, plots cant be uploaded until youhave completed all components of the Floristics and Coverprotocols and a reliable internet connection is availableSuspended plots are resumable and finished plots can beuploaded to the database from the Manage Plots page(Figure 1.). Until they are uploaded data is stored locally so Protect your monitoring device Ensure some internal memory is free (MBs not GBs)Data Ingestion

Webinar Session 2 summaryPlot set up.FIRST STEP getit right andeverything elsewill followSWApportion tasksin the fieldaccording toresources andthe AppsFollow protocolsand promptsCurate yourcollectioncarefully


LinksPROJECT tps://

Thankyou from the TERN and the MER teamsNick GellieMER Network [email protected] SURVEILLANCE ADELAIDE

positive activities (e.g. fencing, revegetation, pest and weed control) and outcomes (e.g. species recovery, decreases in land degradation) However, assessing past investments has at times been hampered by