Range Management Newsletter 14/1


March 2014 – Range Management Newsletter 14/1


Noelene Duckett, 5 Amery Street, Ashburton VIC 3147.  Email: aduckett7@msn.com

After putting together this issue of the newsletter, I have realised that it has been a busy few months for many involved in the Australian Rangeland Society.

Council has been busy organising the upcoming ARS Annual General Meeting which will be held on 21st May at 5pm. While I am guessing most of you won’t be able to be there in person (the meeting is being held in Brisbane), why not join in via phone and find out what is happening in your Society. Further details including the meeting agenda and tele-conference information can be found in this issue.

Planning for the 2015 ARS Conference in Alice Springs is also now in full swing. The Organising Committee is working on an exciting program entitled “Innovation in the Rangelands” and has recently called for Abstracts from anyone considering presenting at the Conference. Closing date for Abstracts is 24 October – this date will be here before you know so start writing those abstracts soon! Additionally Council is also looking to include some training and skill development workshops at next year’s conference. If you have any great ideas for training workshops please contact the ARS Secretary, Carolyn Ireland, by the 30 May. Further details about the conference are available later in this newsletter. Please also look out for the recently released Preliminary Brochure and conference updates on the ARS website (www.austrangesoc.com.au).

One other article in this issue that I would like to point out is an interesting paper by Gary Bastin looking at ways of estimating above-ground woody biomass in the area around Alice Springs. Interestingly, the driver for this study was not to determine commercial yield potential as is often the case in other environments (such as forests) but rather an attempt to understand how woody biomass dynamics may contribute to carbon sequestration and emissions in the Australian arid zone.

The next issue of the newsletter is due out in July – please have any articles to me by the beginning of June if possible.

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John Taylor, ARS President and Director, 37 Pioneer Crescent, Bellbowrie Qld 4070. 
Email: taylamob@tpg.com.au

In February I was fortunate to attend the Society for Range Management’s (SRM) annual meeting in Orlando, Florida.   A brief report on the meeting is provided elsewhere in this newsletter. I participated in meetings of the SRMs International Affairs Committee and Range Science Education Council, a workshop on ‘Having a Say: Creating SRM Advocacy Papers’, and a session on ‘Rangeland Education across Institutional Borders’. I found the technical sessions on Grazing ecology and management, Integrating social and economic indicators for sustainable management, and Environmental impacts of feral swine particularly interesting. I took the opportunity to distribute material on The Rangeland Journal and the Society’s conference in Alice Springs in 2015.

The Advocacy workshop was very timely as the ARS had been approached for comment on the possible nomination of waterpoints in the rangelands as a threatening process under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. In view of the increasing requests for comment on issues in the rangelands, perhaps the ARS should consider the role of the Society, its members and their affiliated organizations in providing comment on issues, recognizing that some issues could be controversial and potentially divisive. So, should the ARS be more publicly involved in issues influencing the future of the rangelands? If so, should the ARS develop a policy on science-based position papers or policy inputs that is consistent with our Articles of Association, or, if it is warranted, consider changing these documents to allow a timely response? Council is interested in your thoughts on these ideas. If the ideas have merit, you might also comment in your response on the protocols that should be established for the development and submission of synthesis papers, 1-page position papers and/or comment on the principles underlying policy relating to the future of the rangelands. Greater engagement in important rangeland issues was suggested in the Kununurra Conference survey, and Council looks forward to your feedback on this matter.

Your Council has met by teleconference on two occasions since the start of 2014. In these meetings we considered reports on Membership, Finances and Publications; Trends and issues influencing the future of the Society; and Council succession. We received updates on the planning for the April 2015 Biennial Conference in Alice Springs, and considered actions to explore the possibility of the 2017 conference being held in South Australia. Council members sourced information on the ecological benefits and costs of waterpoints, and encouraged private submissions on the possible nomination of waterpoints as a threatening process under the EPBC Act. My response to the Department of the Environment’s request noted that waterpoints can have both positive and negative impacts on biodiversity, and that the actual consequence is more a function of the management of the waterpoint and surrounding landscapes than the waterpoint itself. Council is also collating information on places and people to visit for a group of international rangeland scientists.

Our next Council meeting is the Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Wednesday 21st May. The agenda and information on how you can participate in this meeting, by telephone or in person, are provided in the following sections of this newsletter.

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The 2014 Annual General Meeting of the Australian Rangeland Society will be held on:

Wednesday 21st May 2014
at 5 pm (Queensland time)
at 37 Pioneer Crescent, Bellbowrie, Queensland, 4070

The agenda will include:

  1. Open Meeting
  2. Apologies
  3. Minutes of the 2013 Annual General Meeting (available in the Members Only section of the Society’s Website https://www.austrangesoc.com.au)
  4. Receive the President’s report
  5. Receive the Financial Reports
  6. Motions on notice
  7. General business
  8. Close Meeting

Elections for office bearers of the Society are called in each alternate year and were last called in May 2013. If vacancies occur between elections Council can appoint members to hold the vacant position until the next call for elections (which will happen in May 2015).

Motions on notice are set out in this notice. Any financial member wishing to place a motion on notice before the Annual General Meeting must ensure that the signed motion is lodged with the Secretary by 30th April 2014.

Motions should be posted or emailed to:

Dr Carolyn Ireland, Secretary
The Australian Rangeland Society
13 Woodland Close, Aldgate, SA, 5154
Email: cireland@irmpl.com.au

Motions on Notice

Motion 1
Solvency resolution
‘That the Directors have reason to believe that the Australian Rangeland Society Ltd will be able to pay its debts as and when they become due and payable.’

The AGM will be followed by light refreshments. Please let President John Taylor (07) 3202 7632; john.a.taylor10@gmail.com know if you will be attending in person.


2014 ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING (Meeting #238)

37 Pioneer Crescent, Bellbowrie, Queensland, 4070

Or join via teleconference
Dial 1800 173 224 and enter pin 715901#

Wednesday 21st May 2014 at 5 pm Queensland time


1.  Open meeting

2.  Apologies

3.  Accept the minutes of the 2013 Annual General Meeting (Meeting #231)

4.  Review and accept the President’s Report (John Taylor)

5.  Review and accept the Financial Report (Peter Marin)

6.  Motions on notice –

Motion 1:  Solvency resolution – ‘That the Directors have reason to believe that the Australian Rangeland Society Ltd will be able to pay its debts as and when they become due and payable.’

7.  General business

8.  Close meeting


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From time to time positions on the ARS Council become available through the completion of fixed terms or resignations. In a little over 12 months, four positions on the ARS Council will become available with the retirement of two Directors of the Society (i.e. President and Finance & Audit Officer) and two General Members of Council, one of whom is currently the Subscriptions Manager.

To ensure a smooth transition at the May 2015 AGM, Council is seeking Expressions of Interest now from financial Members who are willing to contribute significantly to the Society’s primary objectives, viz:

  • to promote the advancement of the science and art of using Australia’s rangeland resources for all purposes commensurate with their continued productivity and stability;
  • to encourage and develop an awareness of the need to conserve the inherent resources of Australia’s rangeland areas;
  • to encourage and reward the study of rangeland science and improved rangeland management;
  • to provide a means for the interchange of ideas and information amongst Society members and with those of allied disciplines concerned with rangelands;
  • to hold periodical meetings of Society members in different parts of Australia;
  • to publish a journal for distribution among Society members and other interested persons and bodies.

Council believes that a mix of RD&E professionals, practical land managers and especially youth, from across the rangelands, will be important for the leadership to continue to achieve these goals over the next 5-10 years.

Ideally, prospective members of Council would have experience of Australia’s rangelands and a willingness to commit to bi-monthly Council meetings, usually held by teleconference, and respond to occasional out-of-session correspondence. The Council also meets face-to-face as part of the Society’s Biennial Conference.

The essential requirements for the Director’s positions are:

  • Training and knowledge of ‘best practice’ corporate governance for the not-for-profit sector
  • Experience and networks in the rangelands
  • Qualifications or experience in financial management including budgeting, book-keeping and reporting
  • Strong inter-personal skills
  • Willingness to commit time and participate actively in meetings.

The requirements for the General Member positions are:

  • Experience and networks in the rangelands
  • Understanding of corporate governance standards in the not-for-profit sector
  • Effective communicator
  • Willingness to commit time and participate actively in meetings.

Appointments to these Council positions would be for a 4-year term, with possible extension to a maximum of eight years.

Members interested in any of these positions should submit an expression of interest, specifying the preferred role, and a current CV to the Secretary of the ARS, Carolyn Ireland (cireland@irmpl.com.au) by Wednesday 30th April 2014. 

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Planning for the 18th Biennial ARS Conference to be held in Alice Springs from 12-16th April 2015 is well underway.   A Preliminary Brochure has been released – this provides great information about the proposed topics for discussion at the conference, the preliminary program and sponsorship opportunities as well as registration, conference venue and accommodation details. The itineraries for the ever-popular field trips are also revealed!   The brochure is now available on the ARS website at www.austrangesoc.com.au/userfiles/file/2015%20ARS%20Conference/ARS%20Prelim%20Brochure%202015%20Elelectronic%20Final.pdf.

The Conference Organising Committee is currently calling for abstracts for those considering presenting at the conference. They are encouraging a diverse range of both topics and presentation styles! Further information about the Call for Abstracts is given in the following article – due date for submissions is 24th October 2014.
Pencil in the date for the conference now and consider registering early – Earlybird registration opens on 1st June 2014.

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We invite you to submit abstracts for presentations addressing the theme of Innovation in the Rangelands. Contributions on the suggested topics are indicative and not restrictive, and we would welcome suggestions on other aspects of innovation that could be of interest to delegates. A diversity of presentation styles is encouraged, including case studies, video and interview. The representation of diverse voices is also encouraged, to include land managers, indigenous experience, businesses such as mining that are based on rangeland resources, researchers and students.

A Student Forum will be a feature and up to six students will be offered support to attend the conference if their contribution is chosen for presentation. Student contributions are not limited to the suggested topics.

All contributions are equally valued – please nominate whether you would prefer yours to be considered for a poster or spoken presentation. The deadline for receipt of abstracts is 24th October 2014.

If your contribution is selected as either a poster or spoken presentation, at least one author must attend the conference.

Abstracts are limited to 300 words for the body of the text and can be submitted by email to margaret.friedel@csiro.au

Abstracts should be prepared in Microsoft Word, in a plain font such as Calibri 11pt, with 1.5 line spacing. Six key words should be included at the bottom of the abstract. Include the first and last name, organisation, address, email address and phone details for all authors. Identify the presenting author with an asterisk*.

If you are a student, please indicate your student status at the top of the abstract. The presentation must be about student work and you must be a current student or have graduated in the six months prior to the conference

Contributors will be advised of their successful application by 10th November 2014.

‘A Guide to Authors’ will be available on the conference website. Completed papers for spoken or poster presentations will be required no later than 1st February 2015.

All papers will be available in the conference proceedings, which will be produced in electronic format. A selection of papers will be reviewed by an editorial panel for inclusion in a themed issue of The Rangeland Journal. Speakers’ guidelines will be available at a later date on the conference website.

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John A Taylor, President
On behalf of the Council of the ARS

The Council of the ARS is seeking to enrich the conference experience and maximise the use of your travel to Alice Springs by including training and skills development workshops. This works very well in other countries, and our members have expressed how important conferences are to learning and professional development. We seek people with ideas for training workshops in the week leading up to the 2015 conference (12-16 April), which may include community governance, R&D grant writing, scientific publishing and research skills to name but a few examples. The ARS Council and conference organising committee can help put your workshop ideas into practice, but we need motivated people to offer ideas and organise the workshops.

Would you please forward expressions of interest in this skill development opportunity to the Secretary of the ARS, Carolyn Ireland (cireland@irmpl.com.au) by Friday 30th May 2014. Please include the potential topic(s) and the name(s) of the suggested presenter/workshop coordinator.

Information on planned courses or workshops will be provided in future editions of the Range Management Newsletter and on the ARS website.

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Gary Bastin, CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, PO Box 2111, Alice Springs  NT  0871.  Email:  Gary.Bastin@csiro.au


Systematic robust allometry to estimate above-ground woody biomass is generally lacking for the Australian arid zone. In this article, I describe recent work to develop an allometric relationship for shrubs (predominantly witchetty bush, Acacia kempeana) on a calcareous shrubby grassland near Alice Springs. Statistically strong relationships were established between measured stem diameter (converted to basal area) and above-ground biomass for both individuals and sites. Due to growth form and other environmental constraints, the biomass had to be removed before the diameters of multiple stems for each individual could be reliably measured. This of course defeats the purpose of allometry. A demonstrated viable alternative may be to estimate landscape-scale biomass from very high resolution satellite imagery classified to map woody canopy cover. However, the results reported here require further replication for this calcareous landscape and testing in other locations and with different woody species.


Forests and dense woodlands are rare in the arid zone and this probably largely accounts for the limited availability of allometry for the main tree and shrub species present (Eamus et al. 2000, Treagust 2008; also Williams et al. 2005 for the tropical savanna). For those not familiar with the term, foresters (and others) use allometric relationships to estimate above-ground tree or stand biomass from stem diameter, e.g. diameter at breast height (dbh). Obviously the commercial yield potential of native woody species in most of the arid zone is inconsequential but allometry still has some relevance in understanding how woody biomass dynamics contribute to carbon sequestration and emissions.

Recent collaboration with the Chinese Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth through a wider CSIRO – Chinese Academy of Science agreement provided the opportunity to develop an allometric relationship for the dominant woody species growing on a calcareous shrubby grassland landscape approximately 20 km south west of Alice Springs. I then used very high resolution (hyper-spatial) satellite imagery to extend site-level biomass estimates to the broader mapped land unit characterised by this shrubby grassland.

Historical land management

The study area was part of a former pastoral lease where the calcareous shrubby grasslands were the most preferred grazing areas within a very large paddock (570 km2). These areas were also infested with rabbits and there is evidence that woody cover has been quite dynamic over the years. Barney Foran, a former CSIRO scientist, investigated the separate and combined effects of rabbits and cattle on an area of adjacent similar country in the 1980s (Foran 1986). Barney’s photos show that most woody species had died across much of the area (Figure 1) under the combined effects of browsing by rabbits and cattle (and probable ring-barking by the former), drought and erosion.

Figure 1. A photopoint from 1986 on a degraded calcareous shrubby grassland near Alice Springs where CSIRO initiated research into the separate and combined environmental effects of rabbits and cattle. Photo: Graham Pearce, CSIRO

A few years later, Geoff Pickup and colleagues developed their remote sensing-based grazing gradient method and the calcareous country in the same 570 km2 paddock was among the most degraded encountered in the southern Alice Springs region (Bastin et al. 1993, Pickup and Chewings 1994).

Move to the early 2000s and Rabbit Calicivirus had arrived a few years earlier to decimate rabbit populations, the NT Government resumed the pastoral lease and complete destocking followed. The paddock in question is now part of Old Man Plains research station run by the Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries. Pastoral infrastructure has been greatly improved through additional fencing and waterpoints, stocking levels are much more conservative and seasonal spelling is practised.
Witchetty bush (Acacia kempeana), the main woody species expected, has re-established and is thickening in some areas. Buffel grass is also contributing to the apparent transformation of this formerly degraded country (Figure 2), particularly on areas closer to Alice Springs where it was planted in the 1970s and early 1980s. The rate of recovery was quite limited during the dry years to 2009 but then accelerated with very good rains between 2010 and early 2012 (Chris Materne, pers. comm.).

Figure 2. Witchetty bush and buffel grass have established on formerly degraded calcareous shrubby grassland on Old Man Plains research station. The bare area in the foreground is the remnant of a former larger scald which is being gradually colonised by native grasses including Enneapogon species. Photo: Gary Bastin, CSIRO


Site selection
The intended sample design was three replicates of three woody density classes with each of the nine sites being equivalent to 3 x 3 Landsat TM pixels (equal 75m square [0.56 ha] when Landsat TM resampled to 25m pixels). As part of the bigger plan, we had hoped to use archived Landsat imagery to monitor woody dynamics over time but the very low cover levels across much of the landscape prevented accurate spectral discrimination of shrub canopies within the 25m pixels.

When sites were established and initial data collection commenced, it quickly became evident that the workload was much greater than the available time and staff resourcing would allow. I thus concentrated on obtaining field data across a sufficiently large range of size classes for the main woody species encountered so as to establish robust allometry. Site replication became a secondary consideration.

Satellite imagery and processing
Multispectral (MSS) and panchromatic World-View 2 imagery covering the study area was acquired in late January 2012. The MSS image was pan-sharpened to provide 0.5m pixel size, segmented to the previously mapped calcareous plains land unit (Lennartz and Whitehouse 2002) and then classified (unsupervised) to map woody canopies. The spectral contrast between green (photosyntheically active) trees and shrubs and dry herbage at the time enabled good discrimination of most woody species.

Site locations
The nine sites (three replicates of three densities) were selected from the classified imagery (Figure 3) and then adjusted as required in the field. The procedure was:
1.Determine the percentage woody-canopy cover in a 75m-square grid placed on the classified image. Group these values into three cover levels: ‘few’ (<5% canopy cover), ‘some’ (5-10% canopy cover and ‘many’ (10-20% canopy cover). (A small number of 75m grid cells had >20% canopy cover but these were considered too difficult to sample with available resources and were thus excluded from site selection.)
2. Select candidate grid cells as field sites, determine corner coordinates and locate (with a GPS) in the field. Where suitable, mark sites for sampling.
3. Initial data collection quickly revealed that the “some” and “many” sites were beyond the limited capacity of staff to adequately sample in the time available. I thus reduced the size of these six sites to 40m square (0.16 ha); modified site extents are shown with the coloured dashed lines in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Sample sites and classified levels of woody canopy cover shown on a true-colour World-View 2 satellite image. Bright areas are exposed soil, often extensively eroded. Predominantly blue areas are dry grass and litter. The lower right inset shows the general location of the study area in No. 1 paddock, Old Man Plains research station.


All* woody individuals within sites were numbered and their species identity, height and canopy dimensions (major and minor axes) recorded prior to biomass harvest over an eight-day period in April 2012. Most were less than 3m high which, combined with their multi-stemmed form, precluded conventional measurement of stem diameter at breast height. We thus measured diameters at 10 cm above ground. Ideally, this should have occurred prior to cutting and weighing each individual but gaining suitable access to most shrubs prevented accurate data collection. Witchetty bush can have many stems (e.g. Figure 4a) with foliage close to the ground (Figure 4b). Most shrubs were surrounded by moderately dense buffel grass and because many shrubs were flowering, small ants were numerous both on the ground and in the foliage. Some shrubs had ‘nests’ of witchetty grubs and/or ‘itchy grub’ bags which we needed to avoid for health and safety reasons. It was thus more practical (and accurate) to measure the diameter of stems (to the nearest millimetre with a digital vernier calliper) after they had been cut.

* Most ‘some’ and ‘many’ replicates had numerous juveniles of A. kempeana (witchetty bush), typically

Fresh biomass of live trees and larger shrubs was weighed with a spring balance and frame suspended from a jib mounted on a vehicle (net weights typically >15 kg, precision ±1 kg; Figure 4c). A digital bathroom scale was used to weigh smaller individuals (net weight 1-15 kg, precision ±0.05 kg) and the smallest individuals were weighed with kitchen scales with a precision of ±0.001 kg. Dead standing and fallen timber was avoided (this was generally a rare occurrence on sites sampled). A few shrubs had lost most of their leaves and appeared to be senescing. These were annotated as such as they were measured and harvested.




Figure 4a.  An example witchetty bush with many stems (here, ~40) where it was more practical to measure stem diameters after cutting to determine biomass. The shrub’s roots have been exposed with past erosion. Photo: Tracey May, CSIRO


Figure 4b.   An example witchetty bush where foliage extends close to the ground and the shrub has dense buffel grass under its canopy. Photo: Tracey May, CSIRO



Figure 4c:  Apparatus for weighing trees and larger shrubs was somewhat primitive. The base and rope attachments have a tare weight of 10 kg and the spring balance has a capacity of 50 kg with precision of ±1 kg. Photo: Tracey May, CSIRO


Dry-weight determination
Examples of large, medium and small shrubs were selected for two shrub types, witchetty bush and a smaller common Senna species. Part of the large witchetty bush was cut at 10 cm above ground and sectioned into six size classes (Table 1). The total fresh weight of each size class was then determined. Sub-samples of each size class were separately weighed, bagged and oven-dried until stable weights were obtained. The moisture contents and proportional weights of each section were then used to estimate the overall moisture content of a large witchetty bush as being ~37%.

The medium and small examples for witchetty bush were similarly sectioned into the same size classes and weighed. In each case, all material in the different size classes was oven dried to determine dry weight. The medium shrub had medium branches and smaller (size-classes B to F, Table 1) and an estimated moisture content of ~40%. The small shrub had larger twigs and smaller branches (size class D to F) and a moisture content of ~51%.

A similar procedure was followed for the Senna examples: medium shrub, size classes C to F and ~40% moisture content; small shrub, C to F size classes and ~52% moisture content.


Table 1. Size classes, total fresh and dry weights of sub-samples, and percentage moisture content for part of a typical large witchetty bush.

Size class Component Stem diameter (mm) Fresh weight (kg) Dry weight (kg) Moisture content (%)
A main stem >30 2.109 1.541 26.9
B  larger branches 21-30 1.084 0.778 28.2
C small branches 15-20 0.470 0.326 30.6
D larger twigs 10-15 1.025 0.679 33.8
E small twigs 5-10 0.560 0.368 34.3
F leaves and branchlets <5 0.953 0.507 46.8


Other less frequently sampled species were classified as likely having similar moisture contents, for their size class, to either witchetty bush or the Senna species. All harvested individuals were subsequently assigned to their species affiliation and size-class category based on their measured height and canopy area (major and minor axis dimensions). The appropriate moisture-content value was then used to estimate probable individual dry weight.


Eight of the nine sites were harvested: available time of allocated staff plus volunteer assistance did not allow us to complete the third “many” replicate.

Species occurrence
A total of 626 individuals were harvested. Witchetty bush was most commonly sampled (Figure 5) followed by the two types of Senna (both sub-species of S. artimisiodies). Mulga (A. aneura), colony wattle (A. murrayana), turpentine bush (E. sturtii) and native fuschia (E. latrobei) had restricted distributions. This was also the case for mimosa bush (A. farnesiana) although it was observed outside of site areas where it had established linearly in old eroded cattle pads that now collect water. Remaining species were more widespread but rarely encountered.


Figure 5.  Counts of woody species sampled on sites and their replicates


Measured stem diameters were converted to area (assuming circular cross section) and summed to give a stem area (tree basal area, TBA) for each individual. These data and corresponding estimated dry weights were (natural) log transformed before deriving allometric relationships.

All species
The spread of log-transformed TBA – biomass (dry weight) values across the eight sites and all individuals sampled is shown in Figure 7. The resultant allometric equation was:

ln woody biomass (kg dry weight) = -2.756 + 1.196 * ln TBA (cm2/ha at 10cm height)

n=626, R2 = 0.944, P<0.001

Including the measured height of each individual did not significantly improve the relationship.

Circled samples were statistically flagged as outliers and generally resulted from senescing individuals having a relatively low biomass for their measured stem diameter.

Site level
Basal area and biomass were summed across all individuals per site for each replicate and converted to a per-hectare value. Replicate values were then used to estimate the mean TBA and biomass for each density / cover class.

Mean values for each treatment (natural log transformed) plotted linearly (Figure 7, R2 = 0.999 – but recognising that replication was quite limited). Standard error of both mean basal area and mean biomass increased with increasing woody density.


Discussion – allometry

There was a strong linear relationship between the log-transformed basal area and biomass data for all individuals sampled (Figure 6) which, correspondingly, translated to a robust allometric equation for this arid-zone calcareous landscape. Similar relationships existed for the dominant species sampled (not shown but data embedded in Figure 6). Although site-level data were much more limited, similarly robust allometry may apply (Figure 7) but this requires further testing.

A practical limitation to applying the allometric relationships developed is the difficulty in measuring the near-ground diameters of multi-stemmed species such as witchetty bush. We found it much easier and more precise to cut and remove the above-ground biomass prior to measuring stem diameters. A necessary precursor to estimating above-ground biomass elsewhere with the types of allometry developed here is to establish measurement error associated with estimating tree / shrub basal areas in the absence of destructive sampling.

The need to reduce the size of wooded sites so as to achieve a reasonable sampling intensity with available resources meant that the multiple sites within the ‘some’ and ‘many’ treatments were no longer true replicates. Rather, these sampled areas provided an uneven continuum in canopy cover (7% to 31%) for this calcareous landscape. Treating sites as replicates (as per the intended sampling design) effectively increased the standard error of the mean for each treatment (Figure 7). Our ability to estimate the mean for the ‘many’ treatment was further compromised because only two sites at the reduced area were sampled.

Figure 6.  Relationship between basal area at 10 cm and dry biomass for all individuals samples

Figure 7.  Site-level relationship between stem basal area at 10 cm and dry-weight biomass for all woody species sampled (data natural-log transformed).

Can remote sensing contribute to allometry?

The practical requirement to accurately measure stem diameters close to the ground after above-ground biomass has been cut and removed for weighing of course defeats the purpose of allometry.

Alternatively, does the ability to discriminate most woody canopies in appropriately timed imagery such as World-View 2 mean that hyper-spatial remote sensing can assist landscape-scale estimation of woody biomass? I tested this potential using the field data for all species combined.
Log-transformed site-level percentage woody cover per hectare obtained from classifying the World-View 2 image was strongly correlated with all log-transformed data collected in the field (Table 2) although some of these relationships should be treated cautiously (see comments in table).



Table 2. Pearson correlations between site-level percentage woody cover derived from remote sensing and field data, and comments about these relationships. All data were (natural) log transformed. n = 8. All correlations were significant at P < 0.01.

Field data attribute Correlation Comments
Tree basal area (m2/ha) data summed for each site


 0.984 The strong correlation, albeit for a limited number of sites and one landscape type, suggests that remotely-sensed percentage woody cover may be able to substitute for tree basal area in allometric relationships.
Dry weight biomass (tonnes/ha) data summed for each site  0.979 Strong correlation probably results from the allometric relationships established above.
Canopy height (m/ha ) data summed for each site



 0.898 The high correlation is surprising as classified woody cover is based on the planar view of the earth’s surface. The strong relationship may result from limited variation in height for most individuals and thus their combined height relates to their spatial distribution and extent.
Canopy area (m2/ha) calculated from major & minor canopy axes and summed for individuals on each site  0.966 Logically highly correlated with percentage woody cover derived from remote sensing. Trees / shrubs growing in clumps or thickets often had overlapping canopies and here, summed canopy area can be considerably greater than the area of the thicket.
Canopy volume (m3/ha) canopy area multiplied by height  0.924 Highly correlated with canopy area (r=0.977). Similar limitations to canopy area where canopies overlap in thickets.




These results suggest that classified percentage woody cover may be able to substitute for tree basal area in predicting above-ground woody biomass. For the limited dataset available, there was a strong linear relationship between site-level, log-transformed percentage woody cover and biomass (Figure 8). Including height as an additional explanatory variable did not improve the relationship statistically.

Figure 8. Relationship between site-level classified percentage woody cover and dry weight biomass. All data (natural) log transformed.


Applying the linear relationship between classified percentage woody cover and biomass allowed above-ground woody biomass to be mapped on the calcareous country in No. 1 Paddock (Figure 9). Woody biomass (dry weight) ranged between 1 kg/ha and 17.7 t/ha with 70% of the analysis area having a woody biomass of

Figure 9. Above-ground woody biomass (dry weight, top map) predicted from classified woody cover (bottom map).

Concluding comment

The hyper-spatial resolution of the pan-sharpened World-View 2 multispectral image appeared to satisfactorily discriminate woody canopies using unsupervised classification, although omission and commission errors were not specifically tested for. At site level, classified percentage woody cover suitably substituted for measured tree basal area in predicting woody biomass. This allowed above-ground biomass to be estimated (and mapped) at landscape scale although, again, the accuracy of such mapping was not tested.

One obvious limitation in using classified woody canopy cover in allometric relationships to estimate above-ground woody biomass is that canopy cover can vary with seasonal conditions largely independently of any substantial change in biomass. Examples include leaf fall and canopy shrinkage in drought, during insect attack or disease, and other forms of disturbance (hail storms, non-lethal cooler fires). Correspondingly, most tree and shrub species ‘leaf up’ following good rains – which was the case in 2012. Thus remote sensing-based allometry such as that described here could be highly variable (conversely, unstable) over time. This limitation might be reduced by restricting image capture to detect biomass change to those times when similar seasonal conditions are experienced.

The interesting but cautious potential of hyper-spatial remote sensing aside, I am confident in the conventional allometry established for the woody species sampled on this calcareous landscape. However, site-level replication was minimal and other important arid zone species contributing to total above-ground biomass and carbon sequestration potential (e.g. mulga (A. aneura), gidyea [A. georginae], ironwood [A. estrophiolata]) were not sampled. In summary, there is further work to be done.


I thank Robert Eager (chainsaw operator), Tracey May and Vanessa Chewings (CSIRO staff) and Coral Allan, Grant Allan and Jason Barnetson (NT Government) for their dedicated support in the field. John Raison and Michael Battaglia (both CSIRO) provided clear direction and advice in designing the field component of this project.


Bastin, G.N., Pickup, G., Chewings, V.H. and Pearce, G. (1993). Land degradation assessment in central Australia using a grazing gradient method. Rangeland Journal 15, 190–216.

Eamus, Derek, McGuinness, Keith and Burrows, William (2000). Review of allometric relationships for estimating woody biomass for Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia. National Carbon Accounting System technical report, no 5a. Australian Greenhouse Office. 55 pp.

Foran, B.D. (1986). The impacts of rabbits and cattle on an arid calcareous shrubby grassland in central Australia.- Vegetatio, 66, 49-59.

Lennartz, R.K. and Whitehouse, D.M. (2002). Land Resources of the Eastern Portion of Owen Springs Station, Pastoral Lease NT Por. 1406. NT Dept. of Infrastructure, Planning and Environment, Alice Springs. 86 pp.

Pickup, G. and Chewings, V.H. (1994). A grazing gradient approach to land degradation assessment in arid areas from remotely-sensed data. International Journal of Remote Sensing 15, 597-617.

Treagust, Emily (2008). An Estimation of the Carbon Content of Standing Dead Mulga (Acacia aneura) in the Arid Zone. The Heaslip Arid Zone Research Scholarship 2008. St Philips College, Alice Springs. 27 pp.

Williams, R.J., Zerihun, A., Montagu, K.D., Hoffman, M., Hutley, L.B. and Chen, X. (2005). Allometry for estimating aboveground tree biomass in tropical and subtropical eucalypt woodlands: towards general predictive equations. Australian Journal of Botany, 53, 607-619.


Gary’s Bio: Gary is a rangeland ecologist with CSIRO in Alice Springs and coordinates the Australian Collaborative Rangelands Information System 
(www.environment.gov.au/topics/land/rangelands/ australian-collaborative-rangelands-information-system-acris).  He is also a former editor of the Range Management Newsletter (1990-2000). Gary’s particular research interests centre around working with colleagues to develop and apply remote sensing-based methods for monitoring grazing impact over large areas of the arid and semi-arid rangelands. As a postscript to the work reported here, Gary was fortunate to receive a travel grant through the CSIRO – Chinese Academy of Sciences Exchange Scheme which allowed him to spend ten days with colleagues at the Chinese Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth in Beijing in March 2013 (which included a spot of sight-seeing, photo courtesy of Xinjie Liu).


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Where did you grow up?
I grew up on the River Murray at Waikerie in South Australia. I was introduced to the “joys” of slave labour at a young age by picking grapes and citrus in our fruit blocks.

Education (primary, secondary, tertiary)
A proud product of the public education system, I attended primary and high school at Waikerie before leaving for the bright city lights to attend the University of Adelaide. Coincidentally, the only other person I knew who had attended university from my home town was fellow rangelander Martin Andrew.

Work history
After completing my PhD in 1998 I took a job “sight unseen” with the Department of Agriculture at Meekatharra in Western Australia. I spent a very enjoyable and educational three years there before moving to Alice Springs in 2001. In Alice I worked for the Centralian Land Management Association for 5.5 years doing Landcare work and rangeland monitoring. It still rates as the best job I ever had. We moved to Katherine in 2006 due to my husband’s work and I ran my own NRM consultancy business for three years before joining the Northern Territory Government. I have been the Rangeland Program Manager for the NT Department of Primary Industry & Fisheries since late 2009 and I’m now based in Darwin. Field work is my favourite part of the job.

Interests/hobbies (outside of rangelandy things)
In my spare time I enjoy doing triathlons, fishing and maintaining my tropical garden.

What sparked your interest in the rangelands?
When I started University I wanted to be a geneticist. It didn’t take too many lab sessions in a white coat to realise that this wasn’t for me. I really enjoyed the third year rangelands course at Middleback station. Bob Lange was a huge inspiration to me and I feel fortunate to have been one of his last postgrad students.

When and why did you join the ARS?
I can’t remember exactly when I joined the ARS; it was probably in the mid 1990s. Truth be told I probably joined to get cheaper conference registration when I was a broke student! I have remained a member ever since because I love the camaraderie, lack of ego and friendliness of the members. Going to ARS conferences is like one big happy family reunion!

How has the ARS helped you (networking, social aspects, increased knowledge, travel grants etc)?
The ARS has provided many opportunities to me over the years. I’ve been fortunate to speak at conferences and publish a couple of papers in the journal. I’ve also learnt a lot from being involved in some of the sub-committees over the years. I’ve really appreciated the support and mentoring of fellow members and have met some great people.

What do think are the major issues relating to the rangelands?
The growing gap between urban and rural Australia really bothers me. It troubles me how many Australians are ignorant about food production, natural resource management and the realities of life in rural and remote Australia. And yet many of these people are very vocal and influential despite having only superficial knowledge about the issues.

Another major issue I see is the profitability and indebtedness of the Australian pastoral industry. The need to service large debts is placing a lot of stress on people and natural resources. As a rangeland ecologist working with the pastoral industry I see a need to work more closely with financiers and practical economists to ensure that our advice is relevant in the context of current business realities.


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Dr Bek Christensen, Ecosystem Science Long-Term Plan (ESLTP) Project Coordinator, Goddard Bldg (#8), University of Queensland, St Lucia 4072 AUSTRALIA
Email: r.christensen1@uq.edu.au

A new long-term plan for Australian ecosystem science is being developed by and for the ecosystem science and management community in Australia. The intention of the Plan is to establish clear directions for the long-term future of Australian ecosystem science, identifying critical priorities for research, infrastructure, human talent, and uptake to policy and management.

The development of the Plan is grounded upon active engagement and input from the ecosystem science and management communities. True to this intent, over the last few months hundreds of people across the country have taken the chance to contribute their ideas for the future through online surveys and a series of national workshops. They include students, policy makers, scientists, ‘on-ground’ environmental managers, academics, industry consultants and even concerned citizens; and they all contribute in some way to understanding and managing the processes and living things that combine to make up Australia’s unique ecosystems spanning our oceans, coasts and landscapes.

In order to continue progression towards the development of the plan (due for release in mid-2014), the open consultation phase will be wrapping up soon. But there are still opportunities for you to be involved and have input. You can use online materials from the ESLTP organising committee to facilitate your own small group discussions and submit proposals. Alternatively, you can submit your ideas and proposals using the templates made available online: http://ecosystemscienceplan.org.au/Hold-your-own-town-hall-submit-proposals-pg28122.html.

Anyone, anywhere, with an interest in enhancing the nation’s capacity to understand and effectively manage its ecosystems in strongly encouraged to get involved with the ESLTP and add their voice to the mix.

More information on the ESLTP can be found at http://www.ecosystemscienceplan.org.au

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John Taylor, ARS President and Director, 37 Pioneer Crescent, Bellbowrie Qld 4070. 
Email: taylamob@tpg.com.au

Over 700 people participated in this meeting in early February, with almost half of these being students (i.e. high school students, undergraduates and postgraduates). It was a well-organized meeting, with an interesting innovation being a mobile app for updates or changes to the conference program.

Briefly, the program included three Symposia, six Forums, seven Workshops, 14 Technical sessions and two poster sessions. For those interested, the detailed program (i.e. speakers and topics) for the meeting is available at http://rangelands.org/orlando2014/documents/Program-1-16.pdf. In the past abstracts of presentations have been available on the SRM website by now, but they were not available at the time of writing this article.

By now some of you will be thinking that there’s little or no rangeland in Florida. Well, about a third of the state (~ 5m ha or 12m acres) is used for grazing, and has been since 1521 when the Spanish introduced the first cattle. Around half of these are run on rangeland and the remainder on improved pastures (eg. Bahia and Bermuda grass). Among the vegetation types I saw, the piney flatwoods were the most fascinating. They are savannah like, with a pine tree overstory and ground cover dominated by saw palmetto (Serenoa spp., a low growing 1-2m palm). At the height of the wet season the water table is just 25cm below the soil surface, but this can recede to 100cm in the dry season! This system is managed by fire, and, as both the native and introduced grasses are rhizomatous, it responds quickly to mechanical disturbance and grazing.

I was fortunate to participate in an excellent SRM Technical Tour on invasive species ecology and management and a fascinating visit to the Deseret Ranch. The diversity of ecological systems, the climate and the people of Florida have led to repeated introductions and invasions by plants, reptiles, insects, etc. On the tour we were introduced to some of Florida’s worst invasive species – a climbing fern (Lygodium spp), cogon grass (Imperata cylindrica), pythons, fish and feral hogs. There are almost 80 Category 1 invasive plants that are displacing native species and changing the structure and functioning of communities, and a further 80 Category 2 plants that have increased in abundance and could become Category 1 plants. For further information on Florida’s weeds visit the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council’s site (www.fleppc.org ). The problem reptiles include Burmese, African and reticulated pythons, large monitor lizards from Africa and South America, iguanas, etc. The skin of a 6m Burmese python and photos of a deer it had swallowed were very impressive. To tackle this problem, education programs, python patrols, new regulations about wildlife as personal pets, and an exotic pet amnesty program have been introduced.

The Deseret Ranch is the largest cow-calf operation in the US (44,000 cows; 300,000 acres) and a multi-faceted business operation (i.e. citrus, turf, hunting, forestry) owned and managed by the Church of the Latter Day Saints. Their focus is on managing the land sustainably for future uses, and while they acknowledged that cattle were not the most profitable enterprise, they saw it as the least risky enterprise in that environment. The projected future demand for beef is driving the enterprises in this and other US states.

Several people who are well known to many in the Australian rangeland fraternity were acknowledged in the annual awards ceremony. John Malechek (Utah State University, now semi-retired) received the Society’s most prestigious award – the Renner Award – for his role as an educator and researcher, and for his contributions to the Society and the profession. Mitch McLaren (Arizona) was made a Fellow of the Society, and Maria Fernandez-Giminez (Colorado State) and Urs Kreuter (Texas A & M) were recognized for Outstanding Achievement in Research/Academia. It is worth noting that both Maria and Urs are well known for their interdisciplinary research with a strong focus on the human dimensions of managing rangeland systems.

The 2015 meeting of the SRM will be held in Sacramento CA from 30th January to 7th February. The theme will be ‘managing diversity’, and it would be good to see some Australian contributions on this important issue.

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20 – 25 July 2014 – Grassland Society of Southern Africa 49th Annual Congress, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Website: www.grassland.org.za/events/annual-congress/gssa-congress-2014

30 Jan – 7 February 2015 – Society for Range Management’s 68th Annual Conference, Sacramento California, USA (Theme: Managing Diversity)
Website: www.rangelands.org/‎

12 – 16 April 2015 – Australian Rangeland Society’s 18th Biennial Conference, Alice Springs, Northern Territory (Theme: Innovation in the Rangelands)
Website: www.austrangesoc.com.au

17 – 22 July 2016 – Xth International Rangeland Congress, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
Website: www.2016canada.rangelandcongress.org

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CSIRO Publications has a free copy of the following publication available for review:

Australia’s War Against Rabbits: The Story of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Diseaseby Brian Cooke. Due out in May 2014.
(http://www.publish.csiro.au/nid/21/pid/6508.htm) .

A free copy of this new book will be sent to the first person volunteering to provide a review of the publication for the Range Management Newsletter. It is expected that the review will be completed in a timely manner and around 500-1000 words in length. Please contact the RMN Editor Noelene Duckett at aduckett7@msn.com if you are interested!

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Angie Reid, Fire Ecologist, USA.  Email: areid@ttrs.org

I am currently looking for range/fire ecology work in Australia. I have always had a keen interest in working internationally and have decided that 2014 is the year!  I feel it is a good time to move on from my home for the last 4 years and go overseas, Australia in particular.

I am interested in a position ideally in fire ecology but I would also consider and am qualified for fire management, range ecology and management or wildlife related positions.  I am most interested in arid or semi-arid areas (shrubland, prairie, dry savannah) but would not exclude other options.  I would also entertain a PhD program if it were a three year program, in any of the above listed topics of study.

Please contact me if you know of any positions that may be come available in the near future, or if you have any advice about how I may obtain such a position. I am happy to forward my CV if required.

Looking forward to hearing from you! 

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Ravinesh Deo – Springfield Qld

Mike Clark – Howard Springs NT

Jennifer Gleeson – Camden NSW

Kaye Kessing – Alice Springs NT

Sarah Watson – Hamilton Hill WA

McKenzie Foster – Singleton NSW

Vanessa Westcott – Geraldton WA

John Wilkinson – Coleambally NSW

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2014 Membership Rates; GST inclusive, $15 will be deducted if paid before 1st April

Australia           Overseas Airmail

Individual or Family

  • Full (Journal + Newsletter)/Student                $115/$95              $140/$115
  • Part (Newsletter only)/Student                           $75/$60                $85/$65


  • Full (Journal + Newsletter)                                   $150                      $180
  • Part (Newsletter only)                                             $90                        $105

* Please note that the RMN will only be available electronically to members except those who pay an additional $15 membership subscription to receive a printed copy of each issue – see note below under the heading Membership Subscription Rates for 2014

New members are encouraged to join the Society via the ARS website (www.austrangesoc.com.au) and renewing members should also pay their 2014 dues through the website, if possible.  A renewing member should logon using their Username, which is their email address as in the ARS database, and their Password, which is “new login xxxx”, xxxx being the member’s membership number.  If you do not know your membership number, please contact Graeme Tupper by email, grmtupper@yahoo.com.au. Some members may have changed their Password in the database, in which case, Graeme Tupper will not know it. If you encounter problems in logging on, contact Graeme Tupper.

  • All rates are quoted in AUSTRALIAN currency and must be paid in AUSTRALIAN currency.
  • Membership is for the calendar year 1st January to 31st December. New member subscriptions paid after 1st October are deemed as payment for the following year.

Any member who has not paid his/her subscription by 31st March of the financial year for which it is payable shall be deemed unfinancial, and all his/her rights and privileges as a member of the Society are suspended until the subscription is paid.

Membership Subscription Rates for 2014

The 2014 Subscription Rates remain as for 2013.  For members who wish to receive a printed copy of the RMN, an additional $15 membership subscription will be required, except for members who do not have an email address, who will continue to receive a printed copy as part of their standard membership fee.Any enquiries relating to this should be directed to Graeme Tupper, Subscription Manager, grmtupper@yahoo.com.au

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The Society has two awards to assist members with either:

  • travel expenses associated with attending a conference or some other activity, or
  • studies related to the rangelands.

The Guidelines for these awards have been recently revised and are set out below.  Members interested in either award should submit a written outline of their proposed activity.  Applications should clearly address how the intended activity (ie. travel or study) meets the aims of the Society.  Applications should be brief (less than 1000 words) and should be submitted to the Secretary, Carolyn Ireland, before 30 November.  An application form can be downloaded from the ARS website at www.austrangesoc.com.au.  For further information contact Carolyn by phone on (08) 8370 9207 or email at cireland@irmpl.com.au.

The Australian Rangeland Society Members’ Travel Grant


  • It shall be known as the Australian Rangeland Society Members’ Travel Grant.


  • The Grant is intended to assist an eligible person or persons to attend a meeting, conference, or congress which deals with the art or science of managing rangelands; or to assist an eligible person or persons with travel or transport costs to investigate a topic connected with range management or to implement a program of rangeland investigation not already being undertaken. The Grant is available for overseas travel, and or travel within Australia. It is not intended for subsistence expenses.


  • The Grant will be awarded, or not awarded, by Council on the merits of a written application (not exceeding 1000 words) clearly setting out the relevance of the applicant’s proposal in meeting the aims of the Society. Failure to comply with these guidelines may mean rejection of an application.


  • Applications may be submitted at any time but will only be considered by Council at the first scheduled regular Council Meeting after the closing date for applications of 30 November each calendar year, to be granted in the following calendar year. Applications must be submitted on the form entitled “Application Form for Travel Grant or Scholarship”.
  • One or more Travel Grants can be awarded in a calendar year. The maximum amount available for distribution in a calendar year is up to $6000 based on relevance, innovation and merit.
  • Applications should include details of costs and set out precisely how the Grant is to be expended. Details of any other sources of funding must be given.
  • Successful applicants are required to submit an article reporting on their activities, suitable for publication in the Society’s Newsletter or Journal, as appropriate, within six months of completion of travel.
  • Applications should include the names of at least two referees.


  • No formal qualifications are required. There are no age restrictions and all members of the Society are eligible to apply. Applications are particularly encouraged from persons who have little or no organisational support.
  • Only members of the Society with more than twelve months membership will be eligible to apply for the Travel Grant. Travel can be either within Australia or overseas. Overseas travel can include travel to Australia by overseas members.


  • Any Grant awarded must be properly accounted for by the recipient who will provide to Council full details of expenses incurred within four weeks of completion of travel. Unexpended funds must be refunded to the Society.
  • The recipient will submit their written report to Council within six months of completion of travel.


  • Interpretation of these guidelines is at the discretion of the governing Council in office at the time.
  • These guidelines may be altered by a majority vote at a special general meeting or an Annual General Meeting after notice has been duly served.


The Australian Rangeland Society Members’ Scholarship


  • It shall be known as the Australian Rangeland Society Members’ Scholarship.


  • The Scholarship is an annual award intended to assist an eligible person or persons to undertake formal study of a subject or course which will enable the recipient to pursue the art or science of rangelands management and further the aims of the Australian Rangeland Society. The Scholarship is available for study assistance either overseas or within Australia. It is not intended to defray travel expenses.


  • The Scholarship will be awarded, or not awarded, by Council on the merits of a written application (not exceeding 1000 words) clearly setting out the relevance of the applicant’s proposed course of study to rangelands management and in meeting the aims of the Society. Failure to comply with these guidelines may mean rejection of an application.


  • Applications may be submitted at any time but will only be considered by Council at the first scheduled regular Council Meeting after the closing date for applications of 30 November each calendar year, to be granted in the following calendar year. Applications must be submitted on the form entitled “Application Form for Travel Grant or Scholarship”.
  • One or more Scholarships can be awarded in a calendar year. The maximum amount available for distribution in a calendar year is up to $6000 based on relevance, innovation and merit.
  • Applications should include details of the program of study or course to be undertaken and the institution under whose auspices it will be carried out. It should state precisely how the Scholarship is to be expended. Details of any other sources of funding must be given.
  • Applications should include the names of at least two referees.
  • Upon the conclusion of a course of study a recipient of a Scholarship will be required to write an article on their experiences, suitable for publication in the Society’s Newsletter.


  • No formal qualifications are required. There are no age restrictions and all members of the Society are eligible to apply. Applications are particularly encouraged from persons who do not have any organisational support.
  • Only members of the Society with more than twelve months membership will be eligible to apply for the Scholarship. Study can be undertaken either within Australia or overseas. Overseas study can include study in Australia by overseas members.
  • A recipient who has received a Scholarship in any one calendar year, if undertaking a continuous course of study, can apply for a further Scholarship, provided that the person has satisfied council as to the proper acquittal of any previous monies and has demonstrated satisfactory progress. Notwithstanding, such a person will not necessarily be given preference over other applicants.


  • Any Scholarship awarded must be properly accounted for by the recipient who, depending upon the length of the course undertaken, will be required to report to Council on the progress of study at a regular interval as determined by Council. Unexpended funds shall be refundable to the Society.
  • The recipient will submit their final written report to Council within six months of completion of study.


  • Interpretation of these guidelines is at the discretion of the governing Council in office at the time.
  • These guidelines may be altered by a majority vote at a special general meeting or an Annual General Meeting after notice has been duly served.


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