Research into how organisms work and interact – systems biology – is indispensable for developing new drugs, producing better and more resilient crops and increasing our understanding of the environment.
The Australian Government's commitment of over $40 million through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) to systems biology infrastructure greatly increases the ability of our researchers to study the observable characteristics of plants and animals – their phenotypes – and how these relate to their genetic make-up.
Funding has been used to develop a national plant phenomics facility, which aids the development of cutting-edge crops by measuring the attributes of plants and relating them to their genetic make-up.
Mice have become indispensable in research into human biological systems because of their genetic similarities to humans. NCRIS has funded the establishment of an Australian Phenomics Network to increase the number of mouse models of human disease available to Australian researchers and so reduce the cost of accessing them.
An online Atlas of Living Australia has been established to provide ready and efficient access to integrated data held in existing biological collections across the country.
Plant science and agriculture are both vitally important for Australia. This facility is strengthening our world-class plant science and will accelerate the research community’s ability to transfer its scientific discoveries to applied agricultural outputs.
Genomics has provided science with powerful tools to probe the molecular make-up of plants. But measuring the effects of these manipulations – that is the effect of each gene on each function within the plant - is currently limiting our ability to move forward. Phenotyping is our bottleneck. This investment in a national Plant Phenomics Facility, bringing robotics, image analysis and a computer-controlled environment together, provides the opportunity to relieve this bottleneck and move research forward for all Australian plant scientists. We can bring together genetics and physiology to open new opportunities for discovery.
Professor Mark Tester, Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics, the University of Adelaide
Australia has taken the lead in developing various initiatives in the field of biodiversity informatics over the past 10 or 15 years. As those projects have developed and many of our biological collections have increasingly digitised their holdings it has become clear that a higher level of investment was needed to further integrate the information and to improve availability.
The Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) will provide support on a national basis for the taxonomic community to efficiently deliver biological information and to facilitate integrated views of diverse datasets. Facilitating the integration of taxonomic information together with collections data and information from the fields of ecology and genetics in an advanced electronic environment, will greatly assist the broad user community to access the information most relevant to meet their requirements. Also, the development of tools for geospatial analysis will enhance dissemination of our biodiversity outputs, and ensure key environmental data is readily accessible and therefore more likely to be incorporated into environmental decision-making.
The ALA will provide the window for the world to access information about Australian biodiversity with a single query on the internet - it is the greatest opportunity to showcase Australian biodiversity data.
Donald Hobern, Director, Atlas of Living Australia
Australian Phenomics Network
The Australian Phenomics Network provides a world-class network of mouse production, cryopreservation, phenotyping, documentation, distribution and databasing facilities that removes the current barriers, such as cost and accessibility, to making sophisticated mouse models of human and animal disease available for medical and other research groups in Australia.The Network is led by Monash University and the Australian National University's Australian Phenomics Facility, in partnership with Victoria’s Walter & Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research, the University of Melbourne, the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, the Menzies Research Institute (University of Tasmania), The Centenary Institute (Sydney), the Institute of Medical and Veterinary Sciences (South Australia) and the Animal Resources Centre (Western Australia).
The Australian Plant Phenomics Facility is a two-node facility with one node in South Australia, hosted by The University of Adelaide (UA) and the second node in the ACT at CSIRO Plant Industry and the Australian National University (ANU).
The two nodes provide state-of-the-art capabilities for plant phenotyping (offering controlled environments, field-based plant growth monitoring using high-throughput robotics, automated imaging and computing technologies) integrated with the ongoing adaptation and application of emerging phenomics measurement technologies. This enables researchers to measure the attributes of plants and relate these to their genetic make-up.
The facilities are unmatched anywhere else in the world. Consequently they are attracting researchers from other countries and encouraging collaboration with Australian talent.
Hosted by the CSIRO, the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) is a unique informatics platform that underpins the Integrated Biological Systems capability. The ALA is an authoritative, freely accessible, distributed and federated biodiversity data management system that links Australia’s biological knowledge with its scientific reference collections and other custodians of biological information.
In May 2009, the Australian Government committed additional funding through the Super Science Initiative to enhance and extend the Integrated Biological Systems capability.
A key principle of NCRIS is that the facilities funded by the program should be accessible to researchers on the basis of merit at reasonable prices, wherever they are located in Australia.
For enquiries about the Australian Phenomics Network, please contact:
Ms Adrienne McKenzie
Australian Phenomics Network Services
Australian National University
Building 117 Garran Road
CANBERRA ACT 0200
Tel: +61 2 6125 2228
Mobile: +61 416 249 502
For enquiries about the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility, please contact:
Professor Mark Tester
Director, Australian Plant Phenomics Facility
Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics
University of Adelaide, Waite Campus
GLEN OSMOND SA 5064
Tel: +61 8 8303 7159
For enquiries about the Atlas of Living Australia, please contact:
Mr Donald Hobern
Director, Atlas of Living Australia
CSIRO Entomology - Black Mountain
GPO Box 1700
CANBERRA ACT 2601
Tel: +61 2 6246 4352
For matters related to management of the NCRIS program, please contact the NCRIS Team by email or by telephone on 02 6276 1998.
For further information on the Australian Phenomics Network, please see http://www.australianphenomics.org.au/
For further information on the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility, please see http://www.plantphenomics.org.au/
For further information on the Atlas of Living Australia, please see http://www.ala.org.au/