Planting together for a better future – May 21 and 28

Community members are invited to help revegetate precious Box Gum Grassy Woodlands at CSIRO Ginninderra at two upcoming planting days in May.

The planting days, organised with the support of the Ginninderra Catchment Group, are to be held on Sunday 21 May and Sunday 28 May from 10am-2pm.

“Yes there will be a free lunch and an introduction to woodland ecology, but more importantly there is a great opportunity to be part of efforts to restore and improve our vital woodland environment,” according to CSIRO ecologist Jacqui Stol.

“We have obtained more than 3000 native plants for the planting days, including seven different local native shrub species specially selected to provide habitat, protection from predation and foraging sites for vulnerable woodland birds such as the Scarlet Robin and White-winged Triller,”  says Jacqui.

“Our goal with these plantings is to start to restore the shrub layer in a patchy mosaic and through that boost the diversity of native plant and animal life and the overall quality of the woodlands, particularly for the woodland birds. These are the first of a series of proposed plantings and further actions designed to improve ecological function and resilience in the conservation areas. ”

High quality woodlands contribute to a healthy environment for living things – including people. However, across South-East Australia only around 10% of the area of Box Gum Grassy Woodlands and Derived Native Grassland remains, and of that only about 5% remains in good condition.

Existing woodlands and grasslands are now protected under both national and state legislation, to guard against further degradation. In the ACT, an estimated 25% of the original woodland remain and are in good condition.

The CSIRO Ginninderra property includes about 114 hectares of Box-Gum Grassy Woodlands (and Derived Native Grasslands) of varying quality, including areas where vegetation has been cleared in the past for farming. In early planning for a future sustainable urban development, CSIRO has identified a number of zones, covering over 200 ha, for mandatory conservation. The May 2017 plantings will occur in two of these conservation zones.

The planting days are part of our vision to see the community actively involved in the conservation, restoration and sustainability science at Ginninderra.  Through a similar partnership with the Ginninderra Catchment Group in 2016, many community members took part in the autumn burn grassland restoration and associated grassland plantings trials at CSIRO Ginninderra.

“These are great opportunities for citizen involvement in science and conservation – so we are extending the invitation to the general public including local residents, conservation volunteers and interested future residents.”

“Together we can help restore a threatened and protected ecological community and play a part in improving our collective future.”

CSIRO will accept up to 50 registrations for each planting day and provide a free light lunch with an opportunity to talk with experts about woodland ecology.

Register now at or by calling 1300 363 400.

Little Eagle’s big trek

One Little Eagle’s epic trek of 3300 kilometres from Canberra to the Northern Territory outback has intrigued the ACT collaborators who have been monitoring the adult male bird through satellite tracking.

“A joint research project being undertaken by the ACT Government, University of Canberra, CSIRO and Ginninderry Joint Venture, is providing a fascinating insight to the travel patterns of the little eagle,” according to ACT Environment and Heritage Minister, Mick Gentleman.  “It is the first time this threatened species has been subject to satellite tracking,” Minister Gentleman said.

“After successfully raising a chick in West Belconnen during Spring/early Summer, the one we are tracking has taken off to spend time in the tropical heat near Daly Waters in the Northern Territory – a flight path of 3,300 kilometres.

“This distance was travelled in under three weeks and included flying 500 kilometres in one day, as well as reaching a maximum speed of 55 kilometres per hour,” Minister Gentleman said.

Study of Strathnairn eagle

The movements of this male Little Eagle from a pair using the nesting area at Strathnairn near West Belconnen have been monitored since the bird was first caught and satellite tagged in October 2015, as part of a study by researchers from the University of Canberra Institute for Applied Ecology, funded by Ginninderry (formerly Riverview Projects).

Experienced raptor experts fitted a lightweight, solar-powered, programmable Argos transmitter specifically designed for use on birds.  The unit was programmed to record eight position fixes each day at 2-3 hour intervals from 5am to 8pm and a midnight fix to inform roosting locations. The tracking unit had the ability to show altitude (3D) as well as 2D positional information.

The bird’s northern sojourn was unexpected because, in the time since it was first satellite tracked, it had moved mainly in a localised zone extending from south of Strathnairn to the east of the Murrumbidgee, across to Wallaroo in the north and CSIRO Ginninderra in the east.

“The Belconnen little eagle pair successfully raised a chick this year. During the nesting season, the male is thought to have hunted mainly juvenile rabbits and middle sized birds such as magpies, rosellas and starlings  over an area of 65 square kilometres, ranging from the junction of the Molonglo and Murrumbidgee rivers north-east to the CSIRO land along the Barton Highway and north to Wallaroo in NSW,” according to Minister Gentleman.

“On Thursday 9 March 2017 the male eagle suddenly left Canberra on its odyssey to the north. The little eagle was suspected of migrating between breeding and wintering territories. This study provides the first proof of this and a clear indication of the vast distances involved,” he said.

During the monitoring from late October 2015 through to the end of January 2016, (Source: University of Canberra, Brawata and Gruber 2016) 918 usable fixes were recorded – 27% of the time while the bird was flying and 73% of the time while it was roosting.

On average the bird travelled 9.87 kilometres per day with a maximum distance of close to 28 kilometres in a day.

‘This male Little Eagle showed a higher use of open woodland habitat followed by grassland but often flew over urban areas to access foraging grounds that were separated by 20km,’ according to the report. ‘The results indicate a preference for large trees for roosting and shelter as well as foraging habitat.’

The researchers concluded that information on movements and activity from this study should be combined with data on juvenile survival and dispersal and potentially tracking of another adult in the next breeding season to gain more accurate estimations of land use during breeding.

Follow-up research and tracking

Following a breeding event at CSIRO Ginninderra in 2015, CSIRO purchased two similar satellite tracking devices and has made these available for use at Ginninderra (in the event that a breeding pair returns to the CSIRO site) or elsewhere in the district.

The unexpected flight of the Strathnairn male to Northern Australia highlighted some of our knowledge gaps according to CSIRO ecologist, Jacqui Stol.

“The recent monitoring shows us just how much we still don’t know about the range, movements, behaviours and breeding territories of the Little Eagle.”

“These knowledge gaps and the common desire to maintain a viable breeding population in the ACT and nearby NSW are prime reasons that we are working together with the ACT Government Environment Directorate, raptor experts and the Ginninderry Joint Venture, to put together a plan of targeted Little Eagle research,” says Jacqui.

Minister Gentleman said the research project will further study the ecology of the little eagle in the coming year through plans to place cameras at nest locations and attaching trackers to additional birds. The knowledge gained will guide future management and development decisions.

Juvenile responds to a mobbing by Common Myna birds near Strathnairn on 27 January 2017. Photo: Stuart Rae.


This adult male pictured near Strathnairn on 27 January 2017 flew to the Nothern Territory about five weeks later. Photo: Stuart Rae.


Project update – April

It’s been a busy month for the Ginninderra project team as we continue to explore how the rapid pace of technological change is shaping our cities and how we can best incorporate this into our planning.

Several members from the project team attended the Green Cities Conference in Sydney to meet industry leaders and to canvas the latest thinking on liveable, sustainable and resilient cities. Co-hosted by the Green Building Council of Australia and the Property Council of Australia, Green Cities is Australia’s premier sustainability conference for the built environment.

While high-density inner-city living is not applicable to CSIRO Ginninderra, the concept of a mixed-use development that encourages work, recreational and social activity and reduces off-site travel needs, most certainly is. Having a deliberate plan and design for the right mix of housing densities and open space, among all the other social, commercial and environmental features, will be key to creating such a vibrant, healthy and sustainable community at Ginninderra.

With the recent release of the State of the Environment 2016 Report, we also explored how we can deliver a high quality built environment that promotes clean air and the health and wellbeing of residents and visitors.

To maintain excellent air quality across the Ginninderra property, CSIRO plans to work closely with a future joint development partner and the community on initiatives such as reducing car use and designing buildings to reduce the energy requirements for heating and cooling.

This month we also reported on how CSIRO has been working with Aboriginal communities over the past few months to find and salvage artefacts and protect Aboriginal heritage values.

CSIRO and Environmental Resources Management (ERM) were joined on 19 December 2016 by traditional custodian group representatives to salvage artefacts from two paddocks within the Ginninderra site ahead of the proposed future development. Artefact salvage, together with conservation measures in the landscape, are important for protecting heritage features and strengthening the connection between Aboriginal communities and their heritage values.

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The future of green cities is at hand

Autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, self-healing homes, vertical farming, smart sensors, ‘big data’ and the ‘internet of things’ – the future of sustainable cities is at hand!

Participants at the recent Green Cities Conference in Sydney (March 2017) were encouraged to ‘Fast Forward to the Future’ and to be the agents of change who drive the future of sustainable cities.

Co-hosted by the Green Building Council of Australia and the Property Council of Australia, Green Cities is Australia’s premier sustainability conference for the built environment. A team from CSIRO’s Ginninderra project attended this year’s conference to meet industry leaders and to canvas the latest thinking on liveable, sustainable and resilient cities.

A major focus of the conference was on the emerging megatrends and the rapid pace of technological change that is shaping our cities.

“The next three years of innovation will shape and define the next 100 years of urban living”, according to international futurist Chris Riddell.

Data-driven solutions will be at the heart of many of the emerging advances and efficiencies in the built environment through technologies such as artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and augmented reality, according to Riddell.

“Data is the new oil. We need to find it, mine it, and refine it.”

The potential of ‘big data’ solutions to transform so many areas of city life is the reason more IT, programming and digital companies have entered what was once the domain of  engineering, manufacturing and other sectors. Google’s work on autonomous vehicles is a prime example.

The connection of a growing number of devices to smart systems or the ‘Internet of Things’ will bring profound changes to the future urban world, according to smart cities expert, Catherine Caruana-McManus. “We are moving from a world full of data to a data-driven world.”

City planners will benefit from finding new ways to take stock of their data and build it into their management of the cities of today and in planning the smarter cities of tomorrow.

Focus on ‘density done well’

The conference also focused considerable attention on the issue of density and how it can be done well for the health and benefit of the community and for sustainability outcomes.

A number of presenters spoke about the need to change the prevailing mindsets and misconceptions about density. Speakers such as Chairman of the Committee for Sydney, Michael Rose, referred to studies that show that higher density living in city centres can actually boost health and wellbeing outcomes in comparison to low-density development on the urban fringes where residents typically spend considerable time on their daily commute.

“Low-density areas sometimes force people to drive more and to be less physically active.”

It appears the facilitation of work and lifestyle opportunities in a development can make all the difference.

“Cities that manage density well, enrich the lives of their residents, according to Kylie Rampa, CEO of Property Australia, Lendlease.  “Mixed-use developments encourage activity day and night and provide the atmosphere and environment for people to live and work.”

Applications to Ginninderra

While high-density inner-city living is not applicable to CSIRO Ginninderra, the concept of a mixed-use development that encourages work, recreational and social activity and reduces off-site travel needs, most certainly is.

Having a deliberate plan and design for the right mix of housing densities and open space, among all the other social, commercial and environmental features, will be key to creating such a vibrant, healthy and sustainable community.

CSIRO is well placed to combine its knowledge and expertise across many fields of research with data-driven insights that will change the way that we live, work, invent and innovate.

Data 61 has been established to help the nation navigate the path to a data-driven future.

In addition, CSIRO Futures, the strategy and innovation advisory arm of CSIRO, is working with both industry and government to identify new opportunities for sustainable growth, drawing on analysis of long-term megatrends and CSIRO’s depth of technical expertise.

Through bringing together this understanding and expertise with that of our engineers and biophysical scientists, CSIRO Ginninderra is be well placed to be ‘future proof’,  ‘climate ready’ and sustainable.

Ginninderra is one of the key sites at which CSIRO intends to nurture innovation and collaboration through CSIRO Urban Living Labs designed to create, develop and roadtest the cities of the future.