Case Studies

Case Studies

There's an important distinction between climate change and climate change adaptation. Research into climate change looks at questions of how the climate is changing and how this change will affect the environment. Climate change adaptation looks at how we can respond to these changes – how we can reduce the impacts of stresses on human and natural systems including our cities and regions, our agriculture and aquaculture, and the biodiversity of our environment, and how we can harness any beneficial opportunities. In other words, what should we do to prepare and adapt?

Imagine you work for the Queensland Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning, and you're working on the next 20-year regional plan for Southeast Queensland. Where do you find out about the options you might have for managing risks and increasing the region's resilience? Climate change adaption is a new field of research. There are some research reports available, if you can identify them, but you may have to wade through 600 densely written pages in each report to find the information you're looking for. There may also be some grey literature and case studies from other regions outlining responses they have taken to climate change, but finding any that are relevant to you may be extremely difficult.

QRIScloud is helping Professor David Lambert of Griffith University’s Environmental Futures Centre to solve a real dilemma: what do you do with the 50TB of DNA sequence data you’re expecting when it comes back from the sequence lab on hard disks? Where will you put it so you can work with it?

Professor Lambert and his team, in partnership with the Beijing Genomics Institute, are looking at the question of how animals will respond to climate change. The Antarctic climate has warmed by around ten degrees Celsius in the 18,000 years since the last ice age. Professor Lambert plans to compare the genes of ancient and modern Antarctic Adélie penguins in order to identify which genes have changed over time and therefore how these penguins have adapted to climate change. This will provide clues as to how animals will respond to future climate change.

QUT’s new Science and Engineering Centre has wow factor. Completed in February 2013, it includes The Cube, a touch and display system two stories high, offering learning and research opportunities to the public. It brings together more than 300 scholars from science, technology, engineering, mathematics, business and law in a range of collaborative workspaces and labs. It’s a sustainability showpiece, generating enough electricity to power itself and put electricity back into the QUT grid. Solar trees on the rooftop follow the sun to draw the maximum energy every day. It reclaims waste heat from the tri-generation power system and uses it to cool itself. It captures rain from the roof to water its own garden and top up the swimming pool.

QRIScloud helps Dr Jeremy VanDerWal make climate and biodiversity models accessible. 

Dr Jeremy VanDerWal at James Cook University’s Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change, creates models to study how climate change will affect bird and animal populations in Australia and around the world.

QRIScloud has helped him make these interactive models available to researchers globally, to conservation managers and decision makers, and to the general public.

QRIScloud’s fast and accessible data storage is making a positive difference to a global climate change research project involving Queensland’s James Cook University.

The Wallace Initiative, named after ecologist Alfred Russell Wallace, is investigating which areas, species and crops are likely to be the most and least affected by climate change in the future.

The project involves researchers from JCU, Sydney’s Macquarie University and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at England’s University of East Anglia.

The Biodiversity and Climate Change Virtual Laboratory (BCCVL) is enabling researchers to tackle data modelling without needing technical skills.

According to Professor Brendan Mackey, Director of Griffith University’s Climate Change Response Program, who helped shape BCCVL, it is a “one stop modelling shop to simplify the process of modelling species responses to climate change and enable more efficient investigation of related problems in the fields of conservation biology, ecology, and vector-borne diseases."

What researchers won’t see is QRIScloud, the NeCTAR research cloud, and National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) all working away behind the scenes, providing cloud compute and data storage for the virtual lab.

QRIScloud’s special compute service has enabled a Griffith University PhD student to run document image retrieval experiments faster and with greater flexibility.

Ranju Mandal, at Griffith’s Gold Coast School of Information and Communication Technology, Is applying QRIScloud’s GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) node in his experiments. Together with a deep learning technique, his GPU algorithms can retrieve relevant documents by image queries into document repositories.

The goal of Mr Mandal’s research is to make querying and document retrieval based on images (e.g. a handwritten signature, seal or logo) in administrative documents a lot faster, making possible an automated process, rather than manual document scans. For example, a bank or other company could use the application to search its databases for documents featuring a particular signature.

The use of one of QRIScloud’s large memory nodes has given the Queensland Brain Institute a competitive edge in the prototyping of new research domain specific information technology facilities.

Jake Carroll (pictured), QBI’s Senior Information Technology Manager (Research), said QBI used the node as a deconvolution pipeline prototype for its high throughput microscopy facilities.

Deconvolution is a computationally-intensive image processing technique that is being increasingly used to improve the contrast and resolution of digital images captured via high-end microscopy facilities.

Rowland Mosbergen is a power user of the Nectar Research Cloud, managing five production-ready virtual machines (VMs) as lead developer for Stemformatics.

After meeting other power users of the Nectar Research Cloud at a meeting hosted by QCIF, the Queensland node of the Research Cloud, Rowland established a power users group. According to Rowland, a power user wants to build things that are “maintainable, extensible, scalable, reliable.”

In the 1980s and 1990s big, buttery Chardonnay was the white wine to drink. A backlash eventually occurred and some drinkers began to ask for “ABC — anything but Chardonnay”.

Since then, the styles of Chardonnay available in Australia have broadened significantly and Chardonnay is making a deserved comeback. This is a testament to the great malleability of the variety and to the improved quality and diversity of available plant material. Plantings of this grape in Australia far outweigh any other white grape variety — in part because Chardonnay is an important component of sparkling wine.

As the world's fourth largest exporter of wine, Australia’s wine industry is very important to the nation’s economic health. With 18 per cent of all grape plantings in Australia being Chardonnay, the variety contributes significantly to the economy and viability of the wine industry.

The Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) in South Australia and Canada’s BC Genome Sciences Centre at the University of British Columbia are investigating the genetic make-up of the Chardonnay grape to help the industry better understand the variety.

Reproducibility of research results has long been a hot topic amongst scientists.

As science becomes more data and computationally intensive, the harder it has become to reproduce others’ research. Not only is access to the data required, but also access to the same software, operating systems and other tools used.

A Queensland-based team led by the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN) has taken a step towards addressing this issue by developing infrastructure for reproducible science in the form of a virtual desktop, accessed by a web-browser, called CoESRA: Collaborative Environment for Ecosystem Science Research and Analysis.

During the last decade, wind erosion of soils has removed millions of tonnes of valuable topsoil from Australia’s agricultural and pastoral lands, reducing capacity to produce food and affecting the economy. The loss of topsoil can also negatively affect biodiversity, the climate and air and water quality.

During an Australian dust storm on 23 September 2009, more than 2.5 million tonnes of soil was blown off the Australian coast. The economic impact of this event on the NSW economy alone was conservatively estimated to be almost $300 million.

Dan Burnham, a fifth-generation cattle grazier, is happy. Ground cover on his certified organic 2,500-hectare property, near Thangool in central Queensland, is up approximately 10 per cent.

Good ground cover — earth with grass or other plants — is essential not only for grazing, but also to minimise flood damage and polluting runoff. Healthy paddocks result in healthier livestock and better financial returns for the grazier.

Mr Burnham’s increased ground cover is partly thanks to Vegmachine — a free, fast online tool providing Australians with world-class, detailed ground cover analysis to help with grazing and land management decisions.


In a bid to reduce time and financial constraints, the University of Queensland’s Microbial Genomics Lab is increasingly using free cloud computing resources, such as QCIF’s, for a range of ARC and NHMRC-funded projects that use genomics to investigate multi-drug resistant superbugs.

For the Lab, QCIF developed a customised version of a virtual laboratory compute cluster on QRIScloud, QCIF’s cloud computing service. This infrastructure will support rapid investigation of healthcare-associated bacterial outbreaks as part of the Queensland Genomics Health Alliance project.

The Microbial Genomics Lab previously relied on in-house IT hardware to run bioinformatics analyses, which require high-performance compute environments. However, increased computational demands, and associated administrative overheads, led the lab’s team to seek alternatives to obtaining and maintaining their own expensive HPC hardware.

QCIF offers a number of services for researchers from our member universities who need to gain access to world-class HPC resources. These include training courses, face-to-face support, and a “grant” program to fund early-career researchers to get a track record in the use of national HPC facilities.

Dr Jed Burns, an early-career researcher (ECR) within The University of Queensland’s School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, is looking to tackle a big problem.


Australia’s Threatened Species Index (TSX) project is developing a tool to allow holistic reporting on the broad status of Australia’s biodiversity, as is routinely done for the economy.

TSX, led by the University of Queensland’s Professor Hugh Possingham, will support more coherent and transparent reporting of changes in biodiversity and will assist those working towards protecting threatened species.

This is the first time a threatened species index will be created in Australia, and in fact, worldwide.

The project team is using QRIScloud, QCIF’s cloud computing service, to run the thousands of combinations of indices, and for data storage — QRIScloud hosts the TSX database and Web service.


CQUniversity-developed DataMuster is a groundbreaking animal monitoring Web application that links biology with technology, combining automated livestock management hardware, such as weighing systems, with cutting-edge software so that beef producers have a precise and real-time understanding of individual animal performance.

With DataMuster, farmers can make informed decisions to improve cattle genetics, cattle management and supply chain management.

After a two-year pilot trial involving six farms and Queensland’s Belmont Research Station, DataMuster is now being offered as a commercial service.

QRIScloud, QCIF’s cloud computing service, provides the server to run the app and hosts the data automatically collected from DataMuster-using farms.


University of Southern Queensland researchers are using drones to map farms to help form a more targeted, lower-cost and environmentally-friendly approach to eliminating weeds.

The aim is to develop a commercial system to reduce the use of herbicides when using existing weed-spraying technology.

Large volumes of aerial imagery and drone data being collected by the USQ team during the project’s current trial period are stored and managed on QCIF’s QRIScloud, a cloud computing service for Queensland researchers.

Weeds have a devastating economic impact on Australian agriculture. The federal Department of the Environment and Energy estimates weeds cost Australian farmers $1.5 billion a year in weed control activities and a further $2.5 billion a year in lost agricultural production.


CQUniversity-developed FruitMaps is a data tool that takes real-time data from multiple sources and displays them visually to provide a simple, free, online decision support tool adapted for use by farmers to assess fruit maturity and assist harvesting planning.

The data collections that underpin the tool are stored on QRIScloud, QCIF’s cloud computing service.

FruitMaps’ pilot users, farm managers in Queensland and the Northern Territory, have welcomed the data tool to help minimise crop loss and plan for resources, such as labour, at peak times.

FruitMaps is currently being developed for other uses, such as assessing soil quality, and quality control of coral trout exported to China, and for use with other crops important to Australia’s economy, such as citrus, bananas and avocadoes.

Through QCIF, a Griffith University renewable energy researcher has taken his work to the next level with all-important access to national high-performance computers.

Before contacting QCIF, Dr Yun Wang of Griffith’s Centre for Clean Environment and Energy was facing the very real possibility of having to stop computational research due to a lack of HPC resources. This would have been a major setback as supercomputers are essential to his research, using large-scale computations in order to understand the properties of complicated materials at the atomic level.

Thankfully, friends at the University of Queensland recommended Yun contact QCIF for help.

QRIScloud-accessed Awoonga is one of the high-performance computers behind a University of Queensland all-women authored paper published recently in the “Women in Computational Chemistry” special issue of an international chemistry journal*.

The five researchers, who at the time were all based at the Centre for Theoretical and Computational Molecular Science (CTCMS) in UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN), had their paper published in the Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling on 28 May 2019.

The paper reveals certain electrode materials can be easily tuned for different reactions or temperatures, meaning hydrogen could be produced more sustainably and economically by reducing the amount of precious metals used. This has applications in making hydrogen fuel cells more sustainable, as well as for other fuel cell technologies.

When Dr Kay Ayre* was a special education researcher at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) she would carry a portable hard drive to regularly back up her files of data.

“Doing this was quite unsettling,” she said, “because there was always the risk of the drive being lost, left somewhere or left at home when needed at work or vice versa. Plus, it was easy to forget to back up regularly and that could be problematic.”

Fortunately, she attended an information session at USQ in which QCIF’s USQ-based eResearch Analyst Dr Francis Gacenga introduced academic staff to QRIScloud, QCIF’s cloud computing service, and Nextcloud, an application designed to facilitate access, sharing and collaboration across data sets.

A significant University of Queensland evolutionary discovery published in Nature has had the helping hand of QFAB for the last four years.

QFAB Database and Systems Administrator Nick Rhodes spends about one day a week working with the Degnan Marine Genomics Labs, with half of that day embedded within the research group.

“I do all the IT wrangling—creating accounts, advising students, installing and updating software, handling data storage and just generally ensuring that everyone has the resources they need to analyse their data,” said Nick.

“When we get new members in the lab, I usually tell them that it's my job to make sure that they can do their job.”

Species extinction rates are at an all-time high in modern times and natural scientists are faced with the challenge of needing to rapidly increase their efforts to gather reliable ecosystem information at broader scales in order to mitigate threats.

Traditional methods of collecting ecological data can often be time consuming, invasive and can alter the natural habitat of the study site.

With this in mind, a James Cook University coastal ecology PhD student has developed an alternative scientific workflow to collect biological and ecological data using computer vision and machine learning to scale up data collection to required levels and improve its efficiency and utility. To do so, he used a node on QRIScloud, QCIF’s cloud, specially designed for machine learning work.

About QRIScloud

QRIScloud is a large-scale cloud computing and data storage service.  It is aimed at stimulating and accelerating research use of computing across all disciplines. 

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