Legacy funding for earth observation

A consortium of state and federal departments and universities that set up an automated satellite tracking station to record earth observations has gifted more than $280,000 in legacy funds to further remote sensing knowledge in Western Australia.

Western Australian Satellite Technology and Applications Consortium (WASTAC) was set up in 1989 to establish, operate and maintain an automated satellite tracking station to receive, process and archive remotely sensed data from satellites including NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. The satellites are used in a range of activities including weather forecasting and mapping the impact of human activity and natural disasters on communities and ecosystems. 

In 2016, the WASTAC Board reviewed its role and relevance after 30 years of operation, resulting in an agreement to fund a new reception dish capability in North Western Australia, and transfer the ongoing operations to the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM). 

The consortium has now been wound up (31 Dec 2018), with the satellite reception function that was undertaken by WASTAC, now transferred to the BoM  in Learmonth, WA. The new Learmonth capability will be integrated into a national ground station network coordinated by the Australian National Ground Segment Technical Team.  

WASTAC also supported the aims of the Australian Satellite Utilisation Policy through the creation of a website that publishes the reception schedules from all government operated earth observation satellite receiving stations (www.angstt.gov.au). 

The third priority for the WASTAC Board was to support projects that foster collaboration, and invest in sustainable research, education on earth observation for Western Australia and to support national strategic capability. This will be achieved through a legacy fund administered by the Western Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI) and its terrestrial counterpart The Western Australian Biodiversity Science Institute (WABSI). The $280,000 in legacy funds will be used to:

  1. Build capacity in the earth observation (EO) community in Western Australia through the support of research and education opportunities;
  2. Strengthen the research and education opportunities for the Western Australian EO community;
  3. Strengthen the link between research outcomes and operational outputs for EO initiatives;
  4. Expand funding opportunities and linkages for Western Australian EO research and education;
  5. Support capacity building and professional development opportunities in the Western Australian EO community;
  6. Support the definition of data access and delivery standards requirements for the Western Australian EO community; and
  7. Provide a mechanism for coordination and targeting of research and development efforts to support applications of EO data for Western Australia and in a national context.

WAMSI CEO Luke Twomey welcomed the funding announcement saying that satellite remote sensing is an important aspect for global change research in Western Australia.

“From a marine science perspective, Western Australia’s vast and largely isolated coastline is difficult to access and so remote sensing is playing an ever-increasing role in our ability to gather information about those environments and to monitor any changes,” Dr Twomey said. “The funding from WASTAC will allow us to support new initiatives and will help to improve existing applications using earth observation data.” 

A selection committee will be established in 2019 to outline the criteria for applications and administration of the awards.