This newsletter is produced in the middle of a very busy few weeks preparing for the TERN Symposium in Canberra. This promises to be a very exciting event, with a full program of talks from around Australia, including several ACEAS participants presenting their work. There will also be an ACEAS poster and talk at the symposium, delivered by the ACEAS team. For more information on the symposium, please visit the TERN web site.
The part of the Symposium that we are particularly involved in is the forum "Ideas and Influence: how can scientific knowledge shape policy." The Forum, to be held on Wednesday the 20th of February, will be enlivened by six panellists from around the world who will take on the role of expert provocateurs, providing examples from their experience of where they believe science has been particularly effective in helping inform policy responses and outcomes. Sara Phillips, the Editor of ABC Environment on-line, known to many from last year’s Great Debate, will keep the discussion on track.
Not everyone can attend, so the event will be live-streamed on the ACEAS website and you can tweet in using the ACEAS hash tag #aceas. I hope we get some great tweets from ACEAS participants. For more information see the event page.
This event does not halt the normal operations of ACEAS; we are in the midst of several meetings, much data analysis and support, and the ongoing production of reports, data delivery and papers.
We have already had a new group run their workshop, Jane Hughes and Brian Fry, on Tracing spatial and temporal scales in aquatic connectivity using novel approaches, while another group has just held their last workshop (Max Finlayson’s Adaptation pathways for aquatic plants). They have great plans for their product and some work yet to do.
Juan Guerschman and Peter Scarth have gathered a team to tackle issues around Linking remote sensing and land management, Janet Davies is bringing fresh eyes to phenology through Australian aerobiology to monitor environmental change, David Keith has a big team working on the application of a new methodology for the assessment of ecosystems at risk, Mike Lawes, Peter Clarke et al. will look at Ecosystem vulnerability to changing fire regimes, particularly through vegetative recovery, while Colin Prentice will bring TERN and other players together to elucidate Unifying principles for terrestrial ecosystem carbon, water and land-surface modelling. Mike McCarthy’s team will focus on Decision-making for ex-situ conservation of Australian frogs, and there are still more meetings and activities planned as we look towards a very busy six months.
There is much to talk about, but one of the most rewarding news in the last weeks has been the acceptance for publication of the giant paper (certainly in terms of authors) produced from the Grand ACEAS Workshop last March in Adelaide. Thanks to the leadership of Corey Bradshaw, this mammoth task has come to fruition and the paper Brave new green world - consequences of a carbon economy for the conservation of Australian biodiversity will soon be published in Biological Conservation. This amazing effort is the result of a marriage of people from many disciplines who would rarely interact and I think this will make a great contribution to the ecosystem science and management community.
- Alison Specht
The ACEAS experience: and interview with Tracey Regan
Tracey Regan is an ecological modeller from the School of Botany at the University of Melbourne, and is a member of the ACEAS working group Extinction risks of frogs under climate change.
The ACEAS working group on the extinction risks of frogs held two meetings that brought together experts on frog ecology and life history, ecological modellers and end users from government agencies.
"In our two meetings we developed species distribution models, population viability analysis models and biophysical mechanistic models for a suite of frog species from around Australia," explains Tracey.
"We have integrated these models to investigate the potential impact of climate change on different frog species, whether particular life history traits make some frog species more susceptible to extinction, and if there are any specific management strategies that can reduce the risk."
According to Tracey, the ACEAS model enabled the group to come together in a distraction-free environment to really focus on analysis and synthesis. "This resulted in a very productive working group where we were able to develop multiple models for a large number of species in a very short time frame," said Tracey. “This would have been impossible without having all the expertise in the one room focussed on the tasks at hand."
ACEAS has been a valuable experience for the group both in terms of scientific achievement and the development of professional collaborations.
"Our ACEAS working group brought together a diverse group of people with complementary skills and experience to share data, knowledge and expertise in a friendly, encouraging and collegial environment,” said Tracey. “The range of expertise has allowed us to tackle research questions with a much larger scope than would be possible if working alone or in smaller groups."
For the PhD students and post docs in the working group, it was a valuable experience to work closely with some of the experts in the field.
"The ACEAS working group also reinforced how important it is to work closely with the species’ experts and end users when developing ecological models to ensure the life history and ecology of the species being modelled is captured faithfully and the management questions are relevant,” said Tracey.
"Being part of this ACEAS working group I have developed some new collaborations and friendships that will no doubt extend past its life. It has been a very positive and enjoyable experience."
For more information on the working group, please visit their ACEAS webpage.
If you would like to find out more about the resulting paper, you can reach Tracey via her website.
Luke Houghton, ACEAS’s Research Assistant and Masters Student, reports on the recent Student Conference on Conservation Science, where he presented a poster on ACEAS.
The 2013 Student Conference on Conservation Science, Australia has wrapped up after a highly successful couple of weeks. The conference was aimed at building a network of early career conservation science professionals across the Asia–Pacific region, and follows on from similar conferences held in London, New York and Bangalore. Over 120 students from more than 20 countries with a wide range of ecological and conservation backgrounds participated in a series of presentations, workshops, field trips and social events.
The highlight of the conference was not only the wide variety of talks given, but the commitment and enthusiasm from fellow students from all parts of the globe.
The plenary speakers, who included David Bickford (National University of Singapore), Michelle Pinard (University of Aberdeen) and James Watson (Wildlife Conservation Society), raised overarching issues relevant to all conservation scientists, such as science communication, interdisciplinary collaboration and science in environmental activism.
The student talks were a fantastic opportunity for students to showcase their research, which ranged from snow-leopard monitoring in Northern India to the animal trade in South-east Asia to uncertainty in the IUCN redlist.
The ACEAS poster presentation raised significant interest amongst the conference participants, particularly from students from developing countries, who were notably excited about the objectives and achievements of ACEAS and TERN. Participants commented and asked questions about the interdisciplinary and collaborative nature of ACEAS working groups and their focus on a specific ecological issue, as well as how such an organisation might work in their own country.
The general consensus of the students was that there will be much opportunity for global collaboration on ecological analysis and synthesis over the coming years, particularly between Australia and Asia.
Thanks to all the staff and volunteers who contributed their time to the Student Conference on Conservation Science, Australia, which will become a yearly occurrence and a great opportunity for ecology and conservation students, and indeed the future of the disciplines.
- Luke Houghton
Confirmed workshop and working group meetings and other important dates for the next few months.
Check out the ACEAS website for meeting updates and reports as they come to hand.
* Moreton Bay Marine Research Station
** Co-sponsored by the University of New England