News: Australians have smart environmental control
Story by Spc. Marcus Fichtl
SHOALWATER BAY TRAINING AREA, Australia – Talisman Sabre 2011 environmental compliance… Australia has an app for that.
The Australian continent separated millions of years ago from the rest of the world and grew an environment both vibrant and unique. From the kangaroo to Ayers Rock, the Great Barrier Reef to the Tasmanian Devil, these monuments of mother nature are etched in to the imagination of every man, woman and child.
Unfortunately, with an ecosystem as unique as Australia’s, introducing anything foreign to that ecosystem can make a drastic impact. To make sure the Australian ecosystem remains vibrant, the Australian parliament enacted the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act, mandating minimal impact by military training on the environment.
Talisman Sabre 2011, a biennial joint international military exercise that includes thousands of Australian and American troops, uses Shoalwater Bay Training Area as both a training area and nature preserve due to the optimal terrain features and thousands of plant and animal species that inhabit the eastern Australia landscape.
Throughout the month of July, Marines hit the beaches of Freshwater Bay, paratroopers drop at Williamson Airfield while other troops across Shoalwater Bay maneuver tanks, fly helicopters and conduct live fire training.
In comes a potential environmental monitoring nightmare.
But Australia has an app for that.
The Model Collection Data tool.
The Model Collection Data app, according to the environmental control team at Shoalwater Bay, sends near instant data in text and visual form from environmental monitoring teams across the training area back to the environmental control team at Shoalwater Bay Range Control, where the environmental controllers can instantly analyze the environmental situation while mitigating wildlife and terrain risks.
“We signed up to not have any significant impacts on environment throughout the exercise so we wanted to do monitoring and compliance of all key areas. We are using the smart phones to collect data and assessing that data to ensure that we have don’t have any significant impacts because we [military forces] are accountable for those impacts,” said Alice Fenwick, environmental police adviser, Australian Department of Defence.
Flexibility of use was the key concern because without flexibility, there would be no way to simultaneous monitor the impact of all training activities and provide protective guidance to troops on the ground, in the air and at sea.
“We previously used a ruggedized PDA which collected the data we needed but it didn’t give us the flexibility to be able to send in data remotely so we had problems with getting near real-time data back to make informed decisions,” said Australian Capt. Travis Collins, TS11 environmental compliance officer. “With the smart phone we solved that issue. We were able to replace two PDAs without network capabilities with ten smart phones with network capabilities.”
“Our field teams have them in the field and they’re using them daily, they’re a cost effective solution to a data collection problem,” said Fenwick.
With better monitoring and more cost effective solutions, the environmental team is pleased with the results.
“The policy is zero footprint. We want to return Shoalwater Bay to where it was before the exercise,” said Collins. “And I think you see going around the range that proof is in the pudding that military training conducted on defense training areas is quite compatible with biodiversity. Showalter Bay is in fantastic shape.”
According to the environmental control team, that proof of environmental compliance will be shown to the public when they release a post-TS11 environmental impact report in the coming weeks.
“[Shoalwater Bay] is an environment we want to protect and we protect it by doing the right thing,” said Collins.