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Meet the brains behind our Report Card

Dinny Taylor and Adam Shand are the technical specialists behind the Townsville Dry Tropics Waterways Report Card — an annual report that grades local waterways on their health, based on data for water quality, habitat changes, hydrology, litter, and fish life.

Their almost year-long task means acquiring more than 27,000 data points from a fleet of partners and sources, and the epic result is our annual Townsville Dry Tropics Waterways Technical Report and Report Card. 

To release the annual Waterways Report Card, the technical team receives environmental data from a suite of partners and sources, including Townsville City Council, Port of Townsville, Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), Department of Environment and Science (DES), Queensland Herbarium, Great Barrier Reef Catchment Loads Monitoring Program (GBR-CLMP), James Cook University (TropWATER), Ornatas, Tangaroa Blue Foundation, Reef Check Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Queensland Spatial Catalogue.

“I went into data science because I couldn’t stand the amount of greenwashing that has made its way into our society,” says Dinny, our Senior Technical Officer. “Data needs to tell its own stories for the community to better understand our environments.”

“At the Dry Tropics Partnership for Healthy Waters we’re just the conduit to bring the data together and let it have a voice. The more data you have, the clearer and stronger the story.”

“I think of it like a spring — datapoints building up in a circular motion to grow something that has potential power.”

“And if we don’t take the time to understand what it is telling us, it never releases its power, and does nothing for the planet.”

In collaboration with technical experts from across five regional report card partnerships, and with the support of a Technical Working Group, Dinny and Adam develop robust models and metrics for analysis, de-identifying the sourced data, and calculate comparable year-on-year grades.

The team works primarily in the coding language ‘R’, increasingly popular for environmental data analysis due to its vast collection of libraries and packages that allow users to perform statistical analyses, data mining, machine learning, and visualisation tasks.

Once drafted, the annual Townsville Dry Tropics Technical Report then goes through a rigorous peer-review process and the scrutiny of the Technical Working Group and an Independent Science Panel before being translated into an easy-to-understand ‘snapshot’ Report Card for use by industry, government, and community.

“When you look at the raw data in its original form — water turbidity, nutrient levels, litter, fish numbers in reams of Excel spreadsheets — it’s a massive endeavour,” Adam says.

“Some data is too big to even be opened by Excel.”

“The Report is built on an impressive amount of work by hundreds of people in our region, literally collecting and counting fish, gathering water samples, doing the lab work.”

“It’s a privilege to be able to bring the results of all of these efforts together into something our community can easily understand.”

The 2023 Townsville Dry Tropics Waterways Report Card will be released 20 July. Subscribe to our newsletter below to receive access to the full Technical Report behind the results.

Learn more about Adam and Dinny.