Environmental and Geospatial Sciences: BIOL1015: Sustainable Ecosystems

By JJ Harrison (jjharrison89@facebook.com) - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10365439


Getting started

Biological surveys are a key method for collecting information. The Department for the Environment and Water (DEW) collects detailed information on the size, distribution, abundance, growth, birth rates and mortality for species of plants and animals - threatened or common, pests or endemic - in marine and terrestrial environments.

The Biological Survey of South Australia has been systematically surveying the vegetation and vertebrate fauna of South Australia since 1971 and has covered most of the state's biogeographic regions.

The surveys aim to substantially improve our knowledge of the biodiversity of South Australia, as well as improve our ability to adequately manage nature conservation into the future and measure the direction of long-term ecological change.

The purpose of biological surveys include:

  • determine the distribution of plant and terrestrial vertebrate species throughout the state
  • systematically survey the range of major habitats via quadrat-based sampling
  • collect additional opportunistic data by active searching away from established quadrats
  • assess vegetation and fauna condition
  • establish base line data for future monitoring
  • produce structural and floristic vegetation maps
  • compile biological data from a range of sources
  • improve land management and conservation decisions.

To ensure that this information is collected as consistently as possible, detailed survey manuals have been produced. They cover the Vegetation Survey and Vertebrate Survey techniques required to enable the data collected to contribute to the Biological Databases of South Australia.

(this information was reused from this site - here)


The assignment is to conduct a biological survey at a field site. The methods and data sheets are the standard methods used by the SA Department of Environment and Water (DEW) (Heard & Channon 1997, Guide to a Native Vegetation Survey (Agricultural Region) Using the Biological Survey of South Australia Methodology, DHUD and available online here


The aims of the survey:

You will identify and measure the flora, fauna and physical environment of a site. The final conclusion will be an evaluation of the site problems and suggestions of how to manage the site for conservation.


Choose a study site, organise a site team, plan three site visits:

In the practicals, you will learn the survey methods and choose a study site. Students should work in groups for safety, but each student does their own data collection and analysis. You will be given data sheets, or you may find them on your course homepage.


Write the report in the format required:

Complete details of the report requirements and format are given in the Biological Survey Methods (BSM) booklet.

The main concepts in your question form the foundation of your search:

  1. "biological survey"
  2. field site
  3. physical environment
  4. risk

To cover the range of terminology used in the literature, you must also identify any synonyms or similar keywords for each concept:

  1. flora, fauna, vegetation, plants
  2. Buschcare, "Council reserves", "Conservation Parks"
  3. birds, invertebrates,

Also consider:

  •  Plurals, different word forms ( biology vs biological),
  •  Different spellings (organisation vs organization), and hyphenated words (pre-European Flora v preEuropean Flora)
  • Acronyms (South Australia vs SA)

Once you have your list of terms for each concept, you can combine them to create a search strategy. Combine these keywords using the search connectors OR & AND.

OR: combines similar keywords - vegetation OR plants
AND: combines different concepts - "biological survey" AND Australia

Use an asterisk * to find word variations e.g. Australia* will find Australia, Australian. Use double quotes for phrases such as "biodiversity survey".

Search example: "biological survey" OR "biodiversity survey" AND "conservation parks" AND Australia*

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Referencing help

Referencing Roadmap (Harvard)

Need help referencing? Follow the roadmap!

The Referencing Roadmap (Harvard) shows you how to reference using the Harvard-UniSA style.

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