All about real space and real time: Sam Stephens and Juliet O’Connell win the Dave Galloway Innovation Award
Category: National. Posted: 6 December 2021
Sam Stephens and Juliet O’Connell from Bay of Plenty Regional Council have won the Dave Galloway Innovation Award for the development of the Biosecurity Spatial Data System (Geopest).
In 2017, Bay of Plenty Regional Council (BOPRC) adopted an ‘all of Council’ database for storing and viewing data. Despite the aspiration to create a central point for all data, it became increasingly obvious that the database was not fit for purpose, particularly for Biosecurity data. A number of issues from the excessive time required to input data, inaccuracies in data being entered, and issues with extracting data to analyse success against programme objectives were regularly encountered. The system became a continual source of frustration for both staff and contractors.
In 2020, Sam Stephens attended a conference presentation about effective spatial data collection and analysis. It was a light-bulb moment for Sam and he became inspired about the potential of this type of system to revolutionise the effectiveness and efficiency of the Biosecurity team’s reporting and planning. Sam begun conversations with Juliet O’Connell, a Biosecurity Officer with a GIS background and the concept of Geopest began. In the last 18 months, Sam and Juliet, have managed the development of the Geopest project. Working with developers from Ethos Environmental the first stage of the project - the pest plant module, was launched in January 2021. Amongst other features, the module allows real-time logging and tracking of pest plant infestations and surveillance track logs. Dashboards have been developed for contract managers and programme managers to view and analyse detailed spatial data and filter to suit based on reporting requirements. Sam and Juliet have also worked to develop a Biocontrol module for the storing and analysis of biocontrol releases and monitoring.
The system has created huge efficiencies in data entry, allows contractors to have accurate information in the field to guide their decision-making and day to day activities, live reporting by a number of criteria, and the use of accurate spatial information to make strategic programme decisions.
Other staff in the organisation have helped Sam and Juliet to develop and test the systems but ultimately Sam and Juliet are the drivers and continue to contribute a significant amount of their time to the project. They have both gone well above and beyond what would normally be expected of them in their normal role.
The development and delivery of this revolutionary system is the result of determination and a visionary approach by Sam and Juliet. They were not asked to deliver the Geopest project - they had an idea, sold the idea to management, and pushed through to deliver an innovative solution.
Looking to the future:
Sam and Juliet remain actively involved in refining the live pest plant module while simultaneously beginning the development of the pest animal module. Future extensions planned include the development of aquatic and marine modules. They are currently working on a specific module to capture and store all eDNA data collected by BOPRC.
There has been a high degree of interest in the system by other agencies who have recognised the potential to create efficiencies and increase effectiveness of their own data capturing and reporting. Landcare Research has shown interest in utilising the database to help manage its Biocontrol programme and other Councils are already showing interest in adopting the Geopest system in its entirety.