The newly launched Australian Mountain Research Facility (AMRF) comprises a network of ten field monitoring sites stretching from southern ACT down to Tasmania. These capture a wide range of environmental data to support research into impacts of climate change on Australia’s mountain environments.

Critically, this data is being managed on systems developed and operated by the APPF ANU node in Canberra.

“We have a long history of building scalable data management tools that work in both the lab and field,” APPF ANU Lead – Digital Innovation Dr Tim Brown says.

“When the AMRF proposal was being developed, the Chief Investigators turned to us for the technical tools to manage all their data ingest, access and visualisation.”

The AMRF field sites are equipped with an AMON (Australian Mountain Observation Network) system that includes a weather station and an array of sensors measuring soil moisture, soil and air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction, shortwave radiation, photosynthetically active radiation, snow depth, and rain.

Each site also has a ‘phenocam’ time-lapse camera.

Dr Brown’s team developed an end-to-end data system for each site’s AMON system and phenocam – from writing code to link AMRF data loggers to APPF ANU’s cloud-based ‘serverless’ tools for processing images and weather station data, to designing an online portal where researchers can view and download the data.

Meanwhile, the AMRF project faced many challenges, from limited mobile network coverage at the field sites, to installations being destroyed in the summer 2020 bushfires. The COVID-19 pandemic also impacted hardware acquisition and restricted interstate travel for participants.

“After all the hard work and persistence, it is exciting to see the facility finally launch,” Dr Brown says.

“Our approach has always been to build domain agnostic capabilities, so this work has been a great opportunity to support a large collaborative project and demonstrate that the tools we’ve developed for managing and monitoring controlled environments can work equally well for a national network of field sites.”

Dr Brown’s team is currently in the process of ingesting, processing and displaying archived historic data from many of the remote sites, where the mobile network connectivity prevents live data feeds. They intend to have a full dataset available for all sites by the end of April.