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Maintaining geoscience knowledge and capability


Maintain an enduring and accessible knowledge base and capability to enable evidence-based policy and decision-making by government, industry and the community.


To achieve this objective, Geoscience Australia ensures that geoscientific and geospatial data, information and collections are gathered, managed and made accessible for the use of all Australians both now and into the future.

Performance criteria and results

Table 7: Strategic priority: Maintaining geoscience knowledge and capability—performance


Program deliverable1


Operate national network of observatories

Targets were met for the operation and maintenance of two critical seismo-acoustic observatory networks:

  • the Australian National Seismograph Network and urban monitoring networks, supporting the NEAC
  • the Australian Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty International Monitoring System seismo-acoustic stations, including seismic, hydro-acoustic and infrasound technologies, as part of Australia’s commitment to monitoring of worldwide nuclear testing.

Targets for geomagnetic observatories were met except for the observatory at Charters Towers. In February 2019, the Charters Towers observatory site suffered a landslide which resulted in the burial of all seismic and geomagnetic observatory instrumentation. Extensive works and multiple site visits have been undertaken and work to establish a new site is ongoing. Currently, seismic data are being received from new instrumentation in a location adjacent to the damaged site. A temporary geomagnetic observatory is in operation and providing data while further site assessments are concluded.

Improvements to observatories included:

  • significant equipment upgrades at 12 seismic stations, one hydro-acoustic monitoring station and four geomagnetic observatories
  • the installation at the Canberra observatory of the first Australia-based automatic geomagnetic observation instrument—the seventh such instrument installed worldwide.

Geoscience Australia advanced its rapid deployment capability by implementing its first near-real-time after-shock monitoring deployment to Western Australia following the magnitude 5.3 earthquake at Lake Muir on 16 September 2018. A significant sequence of aftershocks was captured by this deployment, which continued until February 2019. The first publicly released dataset received over 1500 downloads.

Operate Alice Springs satellite ground station

Geoscience Australia operates and maintains a satellite ground station in Alice Springs, acquiring Earth observation from space data for government, industry, education and research uses in Australia. The ground station provides support for the United States Geological Survey’s Landsat satellite missions.

The Alice Springs satellite ground station continues to exceed its availability target and remains the best performing international ground station for Landsat satellite operations.

Upgrades to the electrical power system and ViaSat antenna—which is now capable of S-band telemetry, tracking and command—were completed in September 2018, ensuring that the target will continue to be met for future satellite missions. Overall, the site has been provisioned for full antenna redundancy and additional capacity for future satellite missions.

In May 2019, the ground station commissioned the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite (NOAA-20 or JPSS-1) in operations providing near-real-time datasets for Geoscience Australia and other Australian Government entities and the general public. Preparatory work is ongoing in support of the Landsat 9 mission that is scheduled to be launched in December 2020.

Collaborations and cultural engagement have taken place. Geoscience Australia facilitated a video-conferencing session between the Central Australian Indigenous community and an artist from the Lakota Sioux Native American community which culminated in an approval to have Sioux Native American artwork displayed on the ViaSat antenna at the ground station. The artwork was painted on the antenna in June 2019. This is on display alongside the existing Datron antenna displaying local Central Australian Indigenous artwork. Together, the artworks celebrate the traditional land where the ground station resides and the collaborative arrangement undertaken with the United States Geological Survey.

Geoscience Australia conducted a second approach to the market through a limited tender arrangement seeking a partner to operate the Alice Springs ground station, in anticipation of reducing its operating and capital costs while preserving operational and strategic priorities and relationships. Tender submissions closed in November 2018, and tender negotiations are in the final stages of assessment.

1 Source: 2018–19 Corporate Plan.

Key performance indicator1


2018–19 result

Data availability from the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty network



A landslip at the Charters Towers site destroyed the seismograph station, bringing down overall data availability. Other stations achieved 99% availability.

Data availability from the seismic network



The Australian National Seismograph Network exceeded data availability targets.

Data availability from the geomagnetic networks



Six observatories maintained an availability of 100% and all but one of the remainder had minimal downtime. A landslip at the Charters Towers site impacted the data availability of the network.

Alice Springs Observatory scheduled satellite passes acquired



The Alice Springs satellite ground station exceeded the target.

1 Source: 2018–19 Corporate Plan.

Science Support

Program deliverable1


Deliver analytical data to support Geoscience Australia’s science activities

Geoscience Australia provided fit-for-purpose, high-quality data, products and services to support its science activities and the delivery of organisational outcomes. This included the implementation of a new laboratory information management system which will manage the testing of future samples, both in-house and externally.

1 Source: 2018–19 Corporate Plan.

Petroleum Data Repository

Program deliverable1


Operate the National Offshore Petroleum Information Management System for the discovery and delivery of petroleum data and samples

An update to the National Offshore Petroleum Information Management System was released at the APPEA conference in May 2019. It includes a new direct connect application and the storage of all publicly available data in the cloud.

Complete integration of legacy physical asset management system into the National Offshore Petroleum Information Management System

Integration of the physical asset management system is 98% complete, with the hydrocarbon and thin-section/slide collections scheduled for completion in late 2019.

1 Source: 2018–19 Corporate Plan.

Key performance indicator1


2018–19 result

Repository Client Services requests are responded to within 7 business days



Client services delivered 334 terabytes of data to the petroleum exploration industry in response to 400 client requests. The client request completion rate was 91%, based on a running average.

New Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 submissions are catalogued within 5 working days



The National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator submitted 134 well, survey and reprocessing projects to Geoscience Australia.

1 Source: 2018–19 Corporate Plan.

Geoscience Promotion, Education and Awareness

Program deliverable1


Undertake activities to promote, educate and create awareness of geoscience and its benefits

Geoscience Australia undertook a range of education and outreach activities to build science literacy and support public engagement. This included:

  • delivering curriculum-aligned programs to support science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) engagement to primary and high school students, engaging with 11 493 students and 1013 teachers
  • partnering with national and local STEM programs to host students participating in Girls in Earth and Marine Science, the National Youth Science Forum and earth science olympiads
  • developing a new display to showcase the only lunar touchstone in the Southern Hemisphere, as part of a rolling refresh of exhibit material
  • participating in an extensive program of public outreach under the banner of 80 days of Earth Discovery, incorporating National Science Week and Earth Science Week activities
  • launching Geoscience Australia’s Citizen Science Community of Practice and supporting the opening of the first Australian Capital Territory chapter of the Australian Citizen Science Association
  • participating in National Volunteer Week activities across the Australian Capital Territory.

Geoscience Australia improved the discoverability of and access to geoscience information, resources and collections. This included:

  • launching a library discovery service that provides a single point of search across the organisation’s local, subscribed and open access electronic databases and e-resources
  • hosting a two-day meeting of state, territory and national geological survey librarians in March 2019 to agree upon ways to cooperate more closely, improving services to our collective clients across the country
  • completing over 5600 requests for library services from clients, including reference enquiries, inter-library loans and digitisation requests
  • contributing over 2000 records of Australian geoscience publications to GeoRef, the international database of earth sciences literature, to raise global awareness and access to the current Australian literature
  • transporting and 3D scanning multiple holotype specimens from the vertebrate collection in Melbourne as part of collaborative work with the Australian Museum
  • curating a new online exhibit highlighting Geoscience Australia’s history in the Antarctic, together with launching street-view captures of all Geoscience Australia’s public areas and the Geological Time Walk
  • updating Geoscience Australia’s website to include information about the National Mineral and Fossil Collection and revising and updating educational content relating to Australian minerals
  • completing the Defence Map Digitisation project, making all 1:50,000-scale topographic maps available for download, and resolving gaps in the availability of digital topographic and general reference maps
  • improving the data accessibility of the National Fossil and Mineral Collection through Citizen Science and GA volunteers, resulting in the uploading and cataloguing of thousands of new database records.

1 Source: 2018–19 Corporate Plan.

Analysis of performance

Geoscientific data and physical collections have enduring value. It is essential that they are collected correctly, and can be easily understood and accessed by everyone. Geoscience Australia delivers world-class, trusted data and platforms and expertise to support high-impact geoscience and transparent, evidence-based decisions.

Geoscience Australia’s network of observatories has consistently exceeded availability targets. The Alice Springs satellite ground station was the best performed international ground station for Landsat satellite operations. Upgrades to the station completed in 2018–19 will ensure continuing high performance for future satellite missions. The upgrade of seismic stations has enhanced the earthquake monitoring capability of the Australian National Seismograph Network.

Geoscience Australia continued to operate and enhance the National Offshore Petroleum Information Management System (NOPIMS) and the National Offshore Petroleum Data and Core Repository. The discovery and delivery of offshore petroleum exploration data was improved by making all data and samples publicly available upon authorisation by the regulator, the National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator. Importantly, clients are now accessing information by self-service via NOPIMS.

NOPIMS manages 827 186 survey and well data items from 2990 survey acquisitions and 8316 boreholes. A total of 66 terabytes of publicly available seismic and well data are available for download via the NOPIMS external portal. Further enhancements to NOPIMS are being planned for 2019–20, to enhance the user experience and make it easier to identify and download data of interest.

Geoscience Australia remains committed to maintaining geoscience knowledge and capability through the delivery of geoscience promotion, education and awareness activities. During 2018–19, these efforts Geoscience Australia focused on:

  • building science literacy, inspiring curiosity and supporting public engagement through education and outreach initiatives
  • expanding the reach of programs and improving the discoverability of and access to geoscience information, resources and physical collections.

Increasing the discoverability and accessibility of Geoscience Australia’s information, resources and collections is critical to maintaining an enduring and accessible knowledge base.

Geoscience Australia focused on expanding its support for teachers with the aim of developing programs to improve capability and confidence in teaching the earth sciences. The organisation hosted its first student teacher placement, in partnership with the University of Canberra, and hosted specialist education sessions for teachers including sessions of the National Science Teachers Summer School, primary school teacher professional development seminars, and a University of Canberra workshop for primary school STEM teachers. Geoscience Australia also presented workshops at the conferences of the Australian Science Teachers Association and the Science Educators’ Association of the ACT.

To improve national reach, Geoscience Australia is improving online access to its education resources and collections. In 2018–19, a major project of work was undertaken to develop educational material related to Australian minerals and resources. This work filled a major gap in our online content, providing students and teachers with credible, Australia-focused learning resources. Online access to the National Mineral and Fossil Collection was also improved, through the development of dedicated web pages and the creation of an online exhibit. In 2019–20, Geoscience Australia will investigate approaches for delivering teacher support through online tools.