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Welcome to the fourth ACEAS newsletter…

The last quarter has been, as it should be, full of events, a new round finalised, and three final reports now available for download. These are: Alex Kutt’s Vast Lands and Variable Data; Brett Murphy’s Pyrogeography: integrating and evaluating existing models of fire regimes, and Wayne Meyer’s Transformational Change of Regional Landscapes. Click here to check them all out. The latter might be the first application of the Representation Concentration Pathways (RCPs) published by van Vuuren et al. (2011) in a special edition of Climatic Change.

There are several other outputs that will really help you, and ACEAS, make a difference. These include peer-reviewed journal articles (always helps validate the product), portal and data delivery, conference presentations and white papers. Do check ‘Data Products’ on the ACEAS web site to see two portals, with a couple more in the pipeline. I am looking forward to data products that are currently being developed in partnership with the Australian National Data Service (ANDS).

A recent journal article submission has been the 30-author paper that emerged from the Grand ACEAS Workshop run in March this year titled 'Brave new green world - the costs and benefits of a carbon economy for the conservation of Australian biodiversity'. All authors are crossing their fingers.

New groups (title, Principal Investigator) to start in this last round:

  • Improving predictions of drought-induced mortality and its consequences for Net Primary Production in Australian forests, Anthony O'Grady;
  • Where have all the fish gone and can they come back? Nick Bond;
  • Indigenous bio-cultural knowledge, Emilie Ens;
  • Improving the synthesis of individual based animal movement data for ecosystem science and resource management, Hamish Campbell; and
  • Risk assessment of Australia’s ecosystems, David Keith.

These groups all, as usual, bring unique approaches to bear on some major ecosystem science and management questions. They have varying degrees of trans-disciplinarity, organisational and geographical range: great stuff.

We shall have a presence again at the Ecological Society of Australia meeting in Melbourne in December, with Martine Maron, Lucy Keniger and myself, and Clive McAlpine giving presentations on their ACEAS work. ACEAS is helping plan an exciting event associated with the TERN Symposium in Canberra next February. I have recently circulated an invitation to submit an abstract for presentation of a paper at the TERN Symposium in February 2013 to all Principal Investigators of mature or maturing groups: please think of that so we can have a good presence there. 250 word abstracts by the 28th September. Accepted (Australian-based) people get a trip to Canberra! ACEAS is helping plan an exciting event associated with the Symposium and there are some great keynote speakers booked.

In this newsletter we hear from Martine Maron, the PI of one of our nearly completed working groups, and from Lucy Keniger, who is well on the way to finalising some papers on the ecosystem science and management community in Australia. I would like to introduce the new ACEAS Research Assistant, Luke Houghton, who joins Estelle Weber in assisting you in your endeavours. Estelle is also doing an honours where she is examining the process to great synthesis outcomes (more in the next newsletter); Luke is linking with Guru in providing technical support and has already provided great data support for several groups. He is enrolled in a masters in environmental planning.

Best wishes,

Alison

Interesting fact: being in ACEAS doubles your networks! Less than half of the participants know one another before meetings.



The ACEAS experience: An interview with Martine Maron

One of the strongest drivers of bird assemblages in eastern Australia is the presence of a particular native bird species, the noisy miner. The noisy miner works in groups to aggressively defend large territories from almost all other smaller birds, making it a substantial conservation concern for many woodland-dependent birds.

Here in Australia we have plenty of experience controlling exotic pest species, but when a native species is causing problems, potentially as a result of human interference, how do we go about controlling it?

With several research groups working in their own patches on the domination of noisy miners amongst avifauna, an ACEAS working group was formed to tackle the issue collectively.

"The group's members are located all across eastern Australia, so having the financial and logistical support to come together in one place has been great”, says Dr Martine Maron from the University of Queensland, who is leading the ACEAS working group entitled “Avifaunal disarray from a single despotic species".

The group brought together experts from universities, museums, governments and private consultancies at two workshops in 2012, and they are now compiling a very large dataset for analysis.

"We've got bird assemblage data from over 2,500 sites in four states, and we're at the stage of starting to build range-wide models of the distribution of noisy miners and their impact on other birds," says Martine.

One of the most important outcomes of this analysis was a better understanding of why noisy miners appear to be associated with fragmentation (in the south east) while in other areas they are common even in un-fragmented forest and woodland. This seems to be the result of a combination of factors, related to vegetation productivity and structure. In areas of denser but fragmented forest they prefer edges because they (a) are more easily defensible, and (b) tend to be more productive.

The group is also giving attention to the policy side of the noisy miner issue. “We've been involved in the nomination of noisy miners as a Key Threatening Process under the EPBC Act and in NSW", says Martine. "Our most recent workshop was focussed around developing a set of recommendations for managing noisy miners where they are a problem."

Working on three manuscripts at the same time is now keeping the group very busy.

Martine says of the ACEAS experience, "It's a great thing to be able to spend a week dedicated to working on a problem along with experts who all bring so much experience and knowledge to the table."

"For a long time, subsets of us would get together and talk about the idea of doing something like this – it’s very rewarding to finally see it happening. Realising, at the end of a workshop, that we have managed to develop a consensus on something that we initially were at odds about is very satisfying."

The Avifaunal disarray from a single despotic species group The Avifaunal disarray from a single despotic species group. Back row L-R: Ian Davidson (Regeneration Solutions), Michael Clarke (la Trobe University), Richard Loyn (Arthur Rylah Research Institute), Ralph Mac Nally (Monash University), Richard Major (Australian Museum), Doug Robinson (Trust for Nature), Damon Oliver (NSW Office of Environment and Heritage), Dean Ingwersen (Birds Australia). Front row L-R: Jim Thomson (Monash University), Carla Catterall (Griffith University), Merilyn Grey (la Trobe University), Martine Maron (University of Queensland).


Learn more about the groups work on the ACEAS website.

You can reach Martine via her university profile.



Exploring interdisciplinary collaboration in Australia: an update.

Who is engaging in interdisciplinary collaboration the most in Australia’s ecosystem science and management community? What are the barriers to collaboration? Is interdisciplinary collaboration important for our community?

These were some of the questions investigated by Lucy Keniger, a UQ Masters student who has been exploring the factors associated with interdisciplinary research collaboration in the Australian ecosystem science and management community.

ACEAS participants and many other groups were sent the survey. Overall, 751 people responded, which was a response rate of around 21%, with 10% of the respondents indicating they had participated in an ACEAS working group. This was an overwhelming response: thank you to all who participated. Of those participants that provided their contact details, three lucky winners received a $50 book voucher. Congratulations!

Ross Barnard, Lucy Keniger, John Parker and Marco Fahmi drawing the winners for the book voucher
Ross Barnard, Lucy Keniger, John Parker and Marco Fahmi
drawing the winners for the book voucher


One of the benefits of the study has been the self-identification of the ecosystem science and management community: such as their geographical location, memberships of societies, disciplinary identification and employment.

The respondents were mainly from universities (45%), followed by government (25%) and private consultancies (15%), and most were from capital cities (67%). The majority had obtained their last degree within the last 20 years (80%), and there was a small majority of males (57%). Of the respondents, 48% were members of the Ecological Society of Australia, by far the largest of any membership nominated in the survey.

Most respondents thought that interdisciplinary collaboration was important for both ecosystem science and for management, but actual collaboration told a different story. The key perceived incentives for collaboration were learning, extending professional networks, gaining experience and opening up opportunities to work on different topics. Key perceived barriers were financial and institutional constraints, lack of time, and distance between potential collaborators. Whilst the majority of the population indicated that they did not prefer collaborating with people from their own discipline, the self-reported recent collaborative behaviour indicated that most people do collaborate primarily with people from their own discipline.

Further analysis showed that:
  • distance was a major barrier for people located in regional towns;
  • respondents from government departments are most likely to view institutional constraints as stifling;
  • respondents from CSIRO, herbaria and museums were most likely to have high levels of recent interdisciplinary collaboration; and
  • respondents more advanced in their career were more likely to collaborate with other disciplines.
Synthesis centres such as ACEAS are important vessels for improving collaborative effort within the community by providing financial resources, bringing distal researchers together, creating sufficient, dedicated time to focus on a project, and helping overcome both institutional and social barriers to collaboration.

Several papers are being prepared, and results will also be available on both the ACEAS and TERN websites. For more information, contact Lucy Keniger or ACEAS Program Manager Alison Specht.



Meeting Dates

meeting dates 4



Contact: Alison Specht | ACEAS Program Manager | aceas.tern@uq.edu.au


 
TERN is supported by the Australian Government through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy and the Super Science Initiative.
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