The front of a powerful owl featuring the head and chest.

The powerful owl (Ninox strenua) is Australia's largest owl and is native to the continent.

The Atlas of Living Australia

CSIRO is the lead partner in the Atlas of Living Australia which is a collaborative, national project focused on making biodiversity information more accessible and useable.

  • 20 September 2010 | Updated 22 February 2013

About the Atlas of Living Australia

The Atlas of Living Australia will provide online information on all Australian plants and animals and improve access to biodiversity information held in museums, herbaria and biological collections across the country.

By bringing together data on species distribution and combining it with biodiversity images, literature, sightings, maps, research, identification tools and molecular data, the Atlas provides a biodiversity 'Yellow Pages'.

The Atlas will also enable users to contribute sightings of any species. Such observations can greatly enhance our knowledge about native species and how they are faring. It can also highlight the arrival and spread of pest species and diseases.

The Atlas will provide consolidated:

  • data and information on Australian species
  • data and maps on species distribution
  • mapping tools with over 300 environmental and contextual layers
  • research and literature on Australian biodiversity
  • species names lists and identification tools
  • species observation records and images
  • information about specimens from biological, herbaria, fungi and DNA collections
  • citizen science projects
  • sensitive data service. 
    The Atlas of Living Australia provides a biodiversity 'Yellow Pages'.

Through the Atlas, you will be able to:

  • create a species list for an area
  • create species maps
  • read information about a species or taxa
  • combine species information with over 350 mapping layers
  • extract observation data
  • use identification keys and information
  • contribute data and images, and more.

The Atlas was established to support Australian biological and ecological sciences and education into the future. It is funded by the National Collaborative Research Strategy (NCRIS) and the Super Science Initiative funded from the Education Investment Fund.

Why create the Atlas?

The fragmentation and inaccessibility of biodiversity data has been a major barrier to Australia’s biodiversity research effort. By aggregating biodiversity information and making it more available online, the Atlas aims to assist scientists, planners, managers and others to create a more detailed picture of Australia’s biodiversity, its threats and future.

What the Atlas will deliver

The Atlas' first public release in October 2010 will provide:

  • species occurrences by maps, listing or area
  • species overview pages 
  • geospatial (mapping) portal
  • citizen science projects
  • Natural History Collection information.

The Atlas is:

  • building open source biodiversity tools using creative commons licensing
  • providing open access biodiversity data, with restrictions on sensitive data
  • showcasing Natural History Collections curatorial information
  • streamlining data sharing by building web services and employing other data integration techniques
  • addressing gaps in Australian scientific names lists
  • establishing local Australian nodes of international biodiversity resources, including Morphbank and the Biodiversity Heritage Library
  • improving data quality with analysis and feedback.

The end result will enhance biodiversity research by supporting scientists, taxonomists, natural resource managers, land-use planners, policy advisers, community-based groups, teachers and students.

Tools to come 

  • add your own field observations
  • identification keys and tools
  • annotation tools for user feedback
  • molecular data
  • biodiversity literature.

Atlas partners

The Atlas is a collaboration between:

  • The Australian Museum
  • The Museums and Art Galleries of Northern Territory
  • Museum Victoria
  • The Queensland Museum
  • The South Australian Museum
  • The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
  • The Western Australian Museum
  • The Council of Australasian Museum Directors (CAMD) 
  • The Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria (CHAH)
  • The Council of Heads of Australian Collections of Microorganisms (CHACM) 
  • The Council of Heads of Australian Entomological Collections (CHAEC)
  • The Council of Heads of Australian Faunal Collections (CHAFC)
  • Southern Cross University
  • The University of Adelaide
  • The Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) 
  • The Australian Government Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA).

The Atlas is collaborating closely with other NCRIS projects, particularly the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network, the Integrated Marine Observing System, the Australian Biosecurity Intelligence Network, the Australian Phenomics Network and the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility.

International partnerships

The Atlas works with relevant international organisations to mobilise biodiversity data, put it to use and improve web-based tools and services.

It is a participant node of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and an overseas partner of the:

  • Encyclopedia of Life
  • Biodiversity Heritage Library
  • European Union's Distributed Dynamic Diversity Databases for Life (4D4Life)
  • Data Observation Network for Earth (DataONE)

Find out more about Biodiversity research at CSIRO.

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