Access to the Atlas of Living Australia’s data and tools using ALA4R

Ms Peggy Newman1

1Atlas of Living Australia, Carlton, Australia, 


The Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) [1] is almost 10 years old. Its primary goal was always clear: to aggregate biodiversity data and make it available for reuse, and it currently holds around 75 million occurrence records for more than 120 000 species. Now in the heyday of big data the ALA finds itself able to comfortably provide large, interesting, standardised datasets to anyone who wants them through a ‘data as a service’ model. Internal infrastructure and external services comprise of the same set of APIs.

In that time the open source R language has become a tool of choice for researchers for statistical computing, publication grade visualisation and reproducible research. The CRAN repository hosts more than 12,000 R packages, amongst which ecology and spatial research are well represented. ALA4R joins a newer brigade of packages which provide an R wrapper to ALA’s APIs for convenient data retrieval.

ALA4R’S core functions reflect ALA’s core functions: searching for information about species and names, providing taxon information, and downloading occurrence and environmental/contextual information. The package caches datasets locally to minimise network traffic. This presentation demonstrates some of ALA4R’s functionality using two case studies.


  • Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) –
  1. R –
  2. ALA4R Package –


Peggy Newman is a Project Manager at the Atlas of Living Australia with a background in software engineering and database development.

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