Map of Australia and neighbouring countries coloured to show areas with a similar measurement of, say, temperature or some other variable.

Making and mapping measurements can help to explain the environment’s mysteries.

Environmental and agricultural informatics: strength in numbers

Major issues such as climate change, sustainable fisheries and urban water quality can benefit from CSIRO's statistical and mathematical expertise.

  • 17 August 2009 | Updated 14 October 2011

CSIRO is helping improve the understanding of environmental and Agricultural
 systems by developing and using innovative statistical and mathematical methodologies.

These approaches, applied to major environmental issues, assist effective:

  • identification
  • monitoring
  • remediation.

These issues range across many areas, including:

  • climate change
  • sustainable fisheries
  • groundwater pollution
  • land use change
  • coastal water quality.

Key science issues

Environmental policy and management decisions require a deep understanding of complex natural systems.

This relies on extensive environmental research with scientists from many disciplines working together, each contributing different pieces to the puzzle. 

One way to begin to understand the complexity is by making measurements and creating and using models of these natural systems.

Handling this quantitative information requires specialist skills.

What CSIRO is doing

Statisticians and mathematicians can ensure more effective use of quantitative information in the environmental sciences in an area called Environmental Informatics.

One way to begin to understand the complexity of the environment is by making measurements, and creating and using models of natural systems.

For a particular environmental problem, CSIRO statisticians can use their thorough understanding of an environmental system to:

  • design measuring and monitoring schemes to efficiently provide data
  • build statistical models of the results to provide a clearer picture of patterns in the data
  • find any unexpected information in the data
  • estimate the uncertainties upon which resource decisions are made
  • interpret variations in the results.

This goes a long way to ensure that environmental management and policy decisions are based on reliable information.

Our statisticians work closely with CSIRO specialist teams in, for example:

  • CSIRO Land and Water, looking at water resources
  • CSIRO Marine & Atmospheric Research, addressing issues with fisheries and looking at climate change.

We are addressing emerging trends and challenges such as:

  • understanding whole environmental systems
  • handling data from sensor networks
  • new monitoring and assessment technologies, like sonar mapping.

Research activities

Our research activities include:

Monitoring water quality in South-East Queensland

CSIRO is helping to develop water quality monitoring programs for the bays, estuaries and freshwaters of South-East Queensland.
CSIRO worked with government, industry, universities and the community to develop a water quality management strategy for the bays, estuaries and freshwaters of South-East Queensland.

Estimating whale numbers in the Southern Ocean

Using statistics, researchers can use observation data of whale numbers from ships and aerial surveys to better estimate whale populations for conservation management.

Investigating the potential interaction between monsoon systems in Australia and China

CSIRO researchers are working with the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Chinese Academy of Science to analyse the relationship between southern Australia’s winter rainy season and East Asia’s summer monsoon season.

Using remote sensing for environmental monitoring and mapping

Remote sensing is an important tool in environmental management, providing up-to-date, detailed information about land condition and use.

Urban monitor: enabling unprecedented monitoring, planning and management of urban land and water

The Urban Monitor project will integrate the terabytes of high resolution airborne data with other data to create new capabilities in monitoring changes in the environment.

Putting remote sensing on the map

CSIRO and the Department of Climate Change have developed remote sensing tools and technologies that allow Australia to accurately measure land cover change since 1972.

Read about our award-winning work with the Department of Climate Change in Monitoring team receives CSIRO’s top award.