Watch recordings of our 2017 Seminars

The gender gap and the reproducibility crisis: what can we learn from big data?

25 Oct 2017 | Presented by Dr Luke Holman, The University of Melbourne

Science is currently gripped by two quiet crises: a shortage of women and minorities in the workforce, and a glut of irreproducible research. Getting to grips with the scale of these problems is the first step towards addressing them, and the internet contains petabytes of data that can be used to supplement traditional survey approaches. By text-mining research papers on PubMed and arXiv, Luke estimated the gender of 36 million authors from >100 countries publishing in >6,000 journals, covering most fields of science over the last 15 years. Despite near-universal progress towards parity, the findings are bleak: if the present rate of change continues, the gender gap will persist for centuries. Luke suggests we need additional reforms in employment, education, mentoring, and academic publishing. He has also used text mining to investigate ‘p-hacking’, in which researchers use various grades of malpractice to ensure that their results reach statistical significance, as well as the frequency and impact of working ‘blind’. p-hacking appears to be common, and studies that were not conducted blind have markedly different results, suggesting that the drive to produce significant results, as well as researchers’ expectations, introduce strong bias. Luke concludes with some recommendations to promote reproducible research.

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Eco-evolutionary dynamics of the invasive Yellow Crazy Ant (<i>Anoplolepis gracilipes</i>)

18 Oct 2017 | Presented by Prof Heike Feldhaar, Universit├Ąt Bayreuth

Global biodiversity is currently threatened by invasive species. Among these species, ants are a particularly important group due to their dramatic impacts on ecosystems. They often spread rapidly and massively into new habitats and may become dominant species by being more efficient in foraging and highly aggressive. The most devastating invasive ant species are forming extensive networks of multi-queened colonies with multiple interacting nests. These supercolonies are characterised by a free exchange of workers and queens among nests and absence of intra-specific aggression. When spreading into a new environment invasive ants are confronted with different biotic and abiotic conditions that may exert strong selection pressures on individuals, which may result in rapid phenotypic changes due to plastic responses and/or genetic adaptations. To preserve ecosystems it is crucial to understand the mechanisms enabling such explosive species spreading – as well as the factors limiting such spread. Heike gives an overview of current knowledge of the invasion history, impact on native species, and population structure and dynamics of the yellow crazy ant, Anoplolepis gracilipes.

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How does an emergent disease affect bee pollination behaviour?

11 Oct 2017 | Presented by Dr Lori Lach, JCU

We hear a lot in the media about bee declines and the subsequent loss of pollinating capacity. Clearly, dead pollinators can’t pollinate, but less appreciated and studied is how species introductions and novel sub-lethal disease may affect the behaviour of pollinators. Australia has approximately 2,000 species of native bees, including 11 species of social stingless bees, yet relies heavily on the pollination services of the introduced European honey bee (Apis mellifera). Though Australia has some of the healthiest honey bees in the world, it has not escaped pathogen spillover. The Cairns region has also been subject to recent invasion by Asian honey bees (Apis cerana). Lori presented findings from three studies. In the first, her team investigated whether a novel gut pathogen (Nosema ceranae) that has spilled over from the Asian honey bee affects foraging behaviour of European honey bees. In the second study, they investigated floral visitation by native bees, European honey bees, and Asian honey bees to determine whether they are partitioning floral resources and whether the honey bees’ floral and resource choices are affected by N. ceranae infection. Finally, they investigated the susceptibility of a native stingless bee to N. ceranae, the prevalence of the disease in the native bee, and the likelihood of transmission at flowers.

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Dingo impacts and management

4 Oct 2017 | Presented by Benjamin Allen, The University of Southern Queensland

Human-wildlife conflicts occur worldwide, and often include loss of livestock to a variety of predators. In Australia, dingoes and other wild dogs are the most pervasive predator of livestock (i.e. sheep, goats and cattle), and their active management is widely supported by all levels of government and many other stakeholders. However, the impacts of dingoes are not all negative – impacts can be direct or indirect and negative, positive or neutral in different times and places. Added to this is the changing nature of dingo taxonomy and a growing dislike for the use of lethal control tools by large parts of society. The environmental and socio-political context-specific nature of dingo impacts and management results in frequent debate and difficulty in implementation of dingo management strategies (positive and negative). In this presentation, Benjamin provided a broad overview of dingo impacts on economic, environmental and social issues, the management strategies used to address them, and the challenges to further improvement of those strategies.

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Landscape connectivity loss threatens Peru biodiversity hostspot: Outlook for land-use changes

27 Sept 2017 | Presented by Dr Francisco Dallmeier, Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

The Tropical Andes hotspot from Venezuela to Argentina is considered the epicentre of global biodiversity. Within this region, the Vilcabamba-Amboro Conservation Corridor (VACC) of Peru and Bolivia, also called “the hearth of biodiversity,” connects 300,000 km² of Andes and Amazon headwaters with high biodiversity value. Within the VACC, the Madre de Dios Department of Peru was recognized and designated by law as Peru’s capital of biodiversity. Yet the VACC in Madre de Dios is increasingly threatened by development and un-sustainable land-use practices. Of the 18 protected areas of the VACC, six of them (totaling 80,435 km²) are in Madre de Dios, including the internationally recognized 15,330 km² Manu National Park and World Heritage Site.

Completed in 2013, the Inter-Oceanic Highway connecting Peru and Brazil is an important source of economic development for Peru and Madre de Dios. Land cover and ecosystem changes around the Inter-Oceanic Highway have expanded considerably, with secondary roads growth, logging, extensive illegal gold mining, far-reaching defaunation of natural habitats, and widespread agriculture and cattle ranching, all with significant impacts on landscape connectivity of the VACC.

The Smithsonian team studied the landscape changes in Madre de Dios including the impacts of the Highway from 1993 to 2013. The team also assessed the biodiversity value of the poorly known Amarakaeri Communal Reserve (4,023 km²) adjacent to the Inter-Oceanic Highway in Madre de Dios. The Communal Reserve, currently threatened by illegal gold mining and logging, is a fundamental protected area for the long-term viability of the VACC, as it connects the buffer zones of the Manu National Park and the Tambopata Reserve. In consultation with stakeholders, they developed and modelled four future landscape scenarios through 2040 for Madre de Dios. These scenarios included: 1) the current trends where present-day political, economic, and social tendencies are maintained; 2) the unmanaged expansion of alluvial gold mining due to poor land management, weak law enforcement, increased immigration, and high international prices of gold; 3) land planning where sustainable Department’s land management plan is applied and enforced; and 4) landscape conservation where a new land management focused on preserving biodiversity and landscape is applied and enforced. They identified and proposed to the government of Peru four essential landscape connectivity corridors to be managed as sustainable working landscapes to secure the long-term connectivity of the VACC beyond 2040.

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The archaeology of Barrow Island: The Atlantis of northern Australia

20 Sept 2017 | Presented by Prof Peter Veth, The University of Western Australia

During 2017, two significant and early sites (Boodie Cave from Barrow Island and Madjedbebe from the Northern Territory) helped recast understandings of Australian archaeology. In this talk Peter focussed on the earliest evidence we now have for coastal-desert occupations from the now-drowned coastal plains of the North West Shelf. Dated to over 51,000 years ago, Boodie Cave and likely other sites from the Carnarvon bioregion, provide unique windows in the old coastlines and vast coastal plains inhabited by early Aboriginal settlers for much of human history and which now lie drowned by up to 125m of ocean. New dates, visualisations and archaeological understandings were shared from an international research team including faculty from JCU. The presentation concluded with a tantalising glimpse in to a landmark project from the Kimberley region where early rock art is being dated back to the last Ice Age.

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The ecology of common species

13 Sept 2017 | Presented by Prof Melodie McGeoch, Monash University

Climate change and biological invasions have increased the likelihood of the establishment, growth, spread and survival of some species – in other words some species are becoming more common. Changes in the distribution and abundance of common and range expanding species deserve further attention, not only to better understand their dynamics, but also as the basis for monitoring range expansions and their consequences. The notion of essential biodiversity variables has also re-focussed attention on the value of abundance and occupancy observations for assessing conservation values, threats and targets – for both rare and common, contracting or expanding species. Closer examination of the properties and dynamics of common species is important not only because declines in their conservation status are under appreciated, but also because those species becoming more common have significant implications for biodiversity, ecosystems and society. In this seminar, Melodie discussed the measurement, dynamics and monitoring of common species, especially invasive species, and the consequences of both declines and increases in the species with a tendency to dominate our ecosystems.

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Re-thinking an arid Last Glacial Maximum: new evidence from Australia's arid interior

30 Aug 2017 | Presented by A/Prof Tim Cohen, The University of Wollongong

For nearly three decades Australia’s Quaternary science and archaeological community have perceived the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) in the arid interior as a period of pronounced aridity, increased windiness and reduced mean annual temperatures. This has stemmed from a combination of early luminescence work on aeolian dunes in the Strzelecki desert and from palaeothermometry research on eggshell, all of which have greatly influenced interpretations about the habitability of the Australian deserts during the LGM. In today’s interglacial the continental interior is already classed as arid, with a pronounced moisture deficit and large inter-annual variability with regards to precipitation. So what did an arid LGM look like in the deserts of Australia? Here, Tim presents a range of examples which show some intriguing differences to the widely accepted view of pronounced aridity in the LGM. I present new luminescence chronologies on palaeolake shorelines, source-bordering lunettes, lacustrine and fluvial sedimentary sequences that all suggest at least periods of elevated positive moisture balance during the LGM. Indeed, this work shows that unlike today there were large waterbodies (mega-lakes) fringing the Flinders Ranges during the broader interval of 30-18 ka. Such waterbodies are much larger than the modern hydrological regime can produce. Tim discusses the implications of these findings on landscapes and people with special reference to the Lake Eyre Basin.

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Uncovering bright spots among the world's coral reefs

23 Aug 2017 | Presented by Prof Josh Cinner, JCU

The continuing and rapid global decline of coral reefs calls for new approaches to sustain reefs and the millions of people who depend on them. In this talk, Josh presents ongoing work by his research group aimed at rethinking reef conservation along two lines. First is directly confronting the drivers of change. In addition to environmental factors, there are socio-economic drivers that influence the condition of coral reef ecosystems, though reef governance rarely focus on explicitly managing these. His team analysed data from >2,500 reef sites worldwide to quantify how key socioeconomic and environmental drivers are related to reef fish biomass, a key indicator of ecosystem condition and resource availability. Our global analysis reveals that the strongest driver of reef fish biomass is our metric of potential interactions with urban centres (market gravity), with important, but smaller, roles of local management, human demographics, socioeconomic development, and environmental conditions. These results highlight multiple under-utilised policy levers that could help to sustain coral reefs, such as dampening the negative impact of markets. Second, drawing on theory and practice in human health and rural development, we use a positive deviance (bright spots) analysis to systematically identify coral reefs that have substantially higher biomass than expected, given their socioeconomic and environmental conditions. Importantly, bright spots were not simply comprised of remote areas with low fishing pressure- they include localities where human populations and use of ecosystems resources is high, potentially providing novel insights into how communities have successfully confronted strong drivers of change. Uncovering the mechanisms that underpin the ability of bright spots to confront high pressures may form a basis for novel policy approaches.

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Impacts and management of chytridiomycosis in Australian amphibians

16 Aug 2017 | Presented by Dr Lee Berger, JCU

The spread of chytridiomycosis, a fungal skin disease, has caused the decline and extinction of several hundred amphibian species globally. It arrived in Australia in 1978 near Brisbane and spread north and south, causing six extinctions in Queensland over the following two decades. Although it has now spread to almost all suitable habitat in Australia, most frogs have persisted. However, 37 Australian species have reduced distributions and/or abundance; six of these species are critically endangered and 11 are recovering. Recovery is related to higher recruitment rates, and evolution of resistance has not yet been demonstrated. Since the fungus has an amazingly broad amphibian host range, resistant species may act as reservoirs. Currently there are no widely applicable methods to control the disease in the wild. Reducing risk of spread into naive areas is a high priority, but even in infected areas, control measures are important to prevent incursions of new strains. For endangered frog species, emergency measures are needed to increase population sizes through captive assurance colonies. As frogs do not appear to acquire resistance, vaccination is unlikely to be effective. Management ideas being trialled include habitat modification (such as increased salinity or decreasing shade), translocating frogs to habitats already unfavourable for Bd, selection for resistance, control of reservoir species, and anti-fungal treatments.

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Catchment modelling in the Wet Tropics: can we meet the load reduction targets?

9 Aug 2017 | Presented by Gillian McCloskey and Louise Hately, Queensland Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy

The Paddock to Reef Loads Modelling Program estimates average annual loads of key pollutants (sediment, nutrients and pesticides) for each of the 35 basins draining to the Great Barrier Reef. It reports on baseline loads and the change in loads for each subsequent year due to adoption of improved land management practices. This assesses progress towards the Reef Plan water quality targets. Source Catchments is the modelling framework used, and major additions to the base modelling framework were made to enable the interaction of soils, climate and land management to be modelled. Major updates to the Source Catchments models occur on a five yearly cycle to ensure continuous improvement. Monitored catchment loads data is used for model validation and calibration.

In this seminar, the presenters discussed:

  • The background to the Paddock to Reef program
  • The methodology for catchment modelling in the Wet Tropics
  • Baseline loads, and load reduction due to improved land management practices
  • Scenario modelling to ask the question – can the Reef water quality targets be met?
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The challenge of managing for ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes

2 Aug 2017 | Presented by Dr Sarina Macfadyen, CSIRO Entomology

There are many important ecosystem services delivered by invertebrates that are useful for farmers. Processes such as pest control, pollination, and waste decomposition are all essential to achieving productive agricultural landscapes, therefore it is important that farmers look after the species that provide these services on their farms. However, easily adoptable strategies for farmers to manage beneficial invertebrates, and optimise service provision are rare. Ecological debate has focussed on the role of native vegetation, and non-crop patches in agricultural landscapes for providing resources for beneficial invertebrates. There has been confusion around the link between biodiversity and ecosystem services that is especially problematic for using research findings to manage Australian landscapes. Sarina presented examples from research in southern Australian and overseas farming systems on the benefits and uncertainties around managing landscapes for beneficial invertebrates and improved ecosystem service delivery. She argues there are small management changes that are feasible in intensive production landscapes that would provide benefits by supporting ecosystem services, reducing biodiversity losses and reducing input costs.

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Life in the city: how nature persists in urban environments and why it matters

26 Jul 2017 | Presented by A/Prof Dieter Hochuli, The University of Sydney

We often think of cities as concrete wastelands, where humans and their structures dominate and degrade our natural systems. The reality is that a surprising number of animals and plants manage to persist in cities. Some even thrive, seemingly better off in our modern cities than in their natural habitats. In this talk, Dieter outlined the ways in which animals and plants respond to ecological pressures as diverse as habitat loss, pollution, and exotic invasion, identifying how ecological interactions can be maintained in these highly modified urban systems. He also discussed the human dimension of urban ecology, identifying how promoting biodiversity in these degraded systems enhances well-being and the ultimate sustainability of cities.

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Why do we map threats? Making more informed conservation decisions

24 May 2017 | Presented by Dr Ayesha Tulloch, Australian National University

Management of threats to biodiversity occurs in complex and uncertain landscapes, and there are often numerous options for reducing or eliminating a threat to restore declining communities. Spatial representations of threatening processes – “threat maps” – can identify where biodiversity is at risk, and are often used to identify priority locations for conservation. In doing so, decision makers are prone to making errors, either by assuming that the level of threat dictates spatial priorities for action or by relying primarily on the location of mapped threats to choose possible actions. The only way to ensure that conservation decisions are effective is to develop and use threat-based information with an understanding of how species respond to actions that attempt to mitigate the threat. In her talk, Ayesha explores how best to incorporate knowledge of threats and their possible management actions into conservation decision-making to ensure that actions are effective and appropriate for conservation program goals. She demonstrates a transparent and repeatable structured decision-making (SDM) process, which ensures transparent and defensible conservation decisions by linking objectives to biodiversity outcomes, and by considering constraints, consequences of actions, and uncertainty. Critical to this is a fundamental understanding of baseline ecological processes driving community change, from which the benefits of threat management can be derived. This approach ensures that conservation actions are prioritised where they are most cost-effective or have the greatest impact, rather than where threat levels are highest. She describes challenges for conserving species and communities threatened by multiple processes, and presents new approaches to resolving these challenges. The communities she describes span numerous systems, including birds in the arid Australian rangelands and the endangered box-gum grassy woodland of eastern Australia, critical weight range mammals and invasive foxes in the threatened fire-prone proteaceous mallee-heath of south-western Australia, and coral reef ecosystems of Fiji.

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Surviving crises: urban livability after disasters

17 May 2017 | Presented by Dr Silvia Tavares, JCU

Innovative fieldwork in Christchurch (New Zealand) investigated the nature and social meanings of urban comfort in a city with seasonal climate featuring microclimatic variability, and an urban landscape undergoing rapid physical change following a series of major earthquakes. Ethnographic methods were combined with microclimate measurements to identify the ways in which people adjust their cultural and lifestyle values and expectations to the actual microclimatic conditions. In her seminar, Silvia presents the study and its results which suggest this integrative methodology effectively adapts to a challenging physical context, and is able to provide a coherent body of evidence. Important insights revealed through this methodology may not have become apparent if only conventional microclimate methods were used.

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Remote sensing of vegetation cover change and dynamics, and spatiotemporal analysis of surface water dynamics and environmental change

10 May 2017 | Presented by Dr Mark Broich and Dr Mirela Tulbure, UNSW Sydney

Remote Sensing of vegetation cover change and dynamics across large areas in support of carbon trading and land management policy – examples from Australia and Indonesia (Mark Broich)

This seminar dips into various remote sensing and spatial analysis and modelling topics including, (a) mapping of humid forest cover loss with Landsat and MODIS, (b) MODIS-based quantification of vegetation dynamics, and (c) quantifying seasonal vegetation response to flooding using Landsat time series for the entire Murray-Darling basin for 25 years.

Spatiotemporal analysis of surface water dynamics and environmental change at subcontinental scale (Mirela Tulbure)

Surface water is a critical resource in semi-arid areas. In Australia, competing water demands, combined with changes in climate and the way we use our land as well as multi-year droughts, such as the Millennium Drought that ended in 2009, have led to water shortages, particularly in the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB). The MDB is a large (>1million km²), semi-arid basin that experiences extreme hydroclimatic variability and competing water demands, of high economic importance given that it accounts for 40% of Australia’s gross value in agricultural production.

In this seminar Mirela presents, (1) the development of a statistically validated surface water and flooding extent dynamics data product (SWD) based on three decades (1986-2011) of seasonally continuous Landsat TM and ETM + archives and generic random forest-based models, and on going applications of the SWD, including (2) the quantification of key drivers of surface water extent dynamics, (3) spatiotemporal connectivity dynamics, and (4) vegetation response to flooding, including river red gum communities, an iconic riparian eucalyptus species that has suffered die-back.

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Rapid evolution in introduced species: will introduced plant species eventually be accepted as unique native taxa?

3 May 2017 | Presented by Prof Angela Moles, UNSW

Introducing species to a new environment creates excellent conditions for evolution, as the species are released from their old enemies and subjected to a new suite of biotic and abiotic pressures. Our work with herbarium specimens has shown that 65% of the plant species introduced to Australia have undergone significant morphological change since their introduction. Differences between source and introduced populations are retained when they are grown in common conditions (check out the picture of South African vs. Australian beach daisies). If we can’t eradicate introduced species (and we seldom can), then it seems inevitable that they will eventually evolve to become unique new taxa (whether we like it or not). At this point, we will have to decide whether to accept them as new native species, or continue trying to exterminate them. While most ecologists don’t like the idea yet, Angela thinks acceptance of introduced species is just a matter of time.

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It's always the last place you look: is the key to feeding the world in biodiversity conservation?

26 Apr 2017 | Presented by Dr Tobin Northfield, JCU

Over the last century researchers have made vast improvements in agricultural yields through technological advancements in management tools such as fertilisers and pesticides. However, more recent research suggests that some of these advancements may inhibit biodiversity conservation. Furthermore, in many cases increases in biodiversity can lead to improvements in the provision of such services as pollination and natural pest control, leading to a new approach to maximise the benefits from naturally occurring species, called ecological intensification. Tobin discusses some of the advantages of conserving a diverse group of beneficial organisms for agricultural yields, with special reference to improved natural pest control. Finally, he discusses how it may be possible to simultaneously improve natural pollination and pest control through simple habitat modification within farms. These techniques may be paired with low-impact conventional methods to improve food production and improve farmer incomes.

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The secret life of spurs and grooves: the form, function and evolution of one of the least studied zones of coral reefs

19 Apr 2017 | Presented by Dr Stephanie Duce, JCU

Coral reefs are some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet and are extremely important ecologically, economically, socially and scientifically. As well as providing essential habitat for thousands of species, coral reefs support critical industries and provide effective natural buffers reducing the risk from coastal hazards. Spurs and grooves are a common feature of coral reefs worldwide with their distinct finger-like morphology extending down the reef slope at the interface between the reef and the open ocean. Spurs and grooves represent one of the most biodiverse and productive zones of modern reefs. They also act as natural breakwaters, regulating the hydrodynamic energy and nutrients received by reef platforms and thus affecting reef platform geomorphology. However, they are difficult to access and hence few studies have collected quantitative data regarding the morphology, hydrodynamics and reef growth of spur and groove systems. Thus, many questions remain about their formation and evolution. In this talk, Stephanie presents a journey through the secret life of spurs and grooves exploring the morphology, hydrodynamics and long term evolution of spur and groove systems in the southern Great Barrier Reef and French Polynesia.

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Frontline protection and legal advocacy: conserving the Leuser ecosystem

12 Apr 2017 | Presented by Emma Collier-Baker, The University of Queensland

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Expansion of the tropics: revisiting frontiers of geographical knowledge

5 Apr 2017 | Presented by Prof Steve Turton, CQU

The tropics are expanding poleward at an alarming rate – with massive implications for societies, economies, and natural environments. This expansion appears to be determined largely by anthropogenic drivers – notably rises in greenhouse gases. Of greatest concern is the poleward shift of the dry sub-tropical zone into highly populated regions that have generally enjoyed a more temperate climate. While the effects of latitudinal shifts of climate zones will be most severe in temperate regions outside the tropics, there will also be significant changes in climate within the tropics – notably unprecedented thermal conditions for hundreds of millions of people, along with projections for more extreme weather events. Australia's geographical location makes it particularly vulnerable to an expanding tropics. As the tropics expand poleward, more of southern Australia will be influenced by the dry sub-tropical zone and associated reductions in winter rainfall. These drying trends are projected to continue over most southern parts of Australia this century, accompanied by rising temperatures and more hot days. Future rainfall trends for northern Australia remain uncertain, but there is an expected significant increase in the number of hot days, together with more extreme weather events. Future climate change in northern Australia has been ignored by the White Paper for the Development of Northern Australia (2015), bringing into serious question the feasibility and affordability of many of the development policies, plans, and projects promulgated in the White Paper. Even without climate change, the north faces many significant environmental and economic challenges for its future development.

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Impacts of rapid road expansion

15 Mar 2017 | Presented by the Laurance Lab Team, JCU

Part 1: Photographic journey across the Congo
Part 2: Optimising infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific

Both talks highlight ongoing efforts to reduce the impacts of rapid road and infrastructure expansion in some of the world’s most imperiled tropical regions – the Congo Basin of Equatorial Africa and the mega-diversity centres of Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. The tsunami of roads is creating unprecedented risks for forests, ecosystems and rare wildlife.

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Tropical conservation rainforest opportunities and challenges in the Guiana Shield

8 Mar 2017 | Presented by David Singh, Conservation International and David Cassells

The Guiana Shield is a large Pre-Cambrian geological feature in the north-east of South America that contains the countries of Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana and parts of Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela. The shield adjoins and partially overlaps with the northern areas of Amazon Bain and is covered by extensive areas of relatively undisturbed tropical rainforest and savannahs. Both the opportunities and challenges of securing effective conservation within the Guiana Shield will be discussed building on the presenters’ experience with both national and international conservation programs. Special emphasis will be given to the lessons learned from the Iwokrama International Centre for Rain Forest Conservation and Development and Conservation International's use of sustainable landscape concepts in community and regional development planning where conservation plays a central role.

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Modelling environmental impacts of agriculture

1 Mar 2017 | Presented by A/Prof Paul Nelson, JCU

Most people involved in the production and consumption of agricultural products are interested in reducing or eliminating adverse environmental impacts of production while maintaining or improving productivity. To do that we need to know what the impacts are, and predict how they will change in response to changed management. Environmental impacts occur through movement and transformations of energy and materials. In an ideal world we might monitor all these processes, but that is simply not feasible. We therefore need to estimate them, and this involves models. In this seminar Paul describes the approaches being taken and the directions for future research.

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How a spoonful of sugar makes the water quality go down, and delightful mitigation options

22 Feb 2017 | Presented by Tony Webster, CSIRO

The Great Barrier Reef is an extraordinarily important natural asset that also generates significant economic benefit to Australia. At present, the condition of the Reef system varies, with many areas far from pristine. The Reef faces a number of ongoing anthropogenic threats, including but not limited to pollutant loads above ‘natural’ flows. Of these pollutant loads, dissolved inorganic nitrogen, sediment and pesticides are primarily sourced from agricultural runoff. The Australian and Queensland Governments have created targets for reduction of these pollutants, and are providing mechanisms to help farmers reduce losses. Sugarcane is grown on 380,000 ha in Great Barrier Reef catchments. Sugarcane is a high nitrogen input crop, and reductions of nitrogen lost from sugarcane are needed to meet the set targets. This seminar will discuss the issue of nitrogen losses from agriculture to the Great Barrier Reef catchment, as well as the array of new technologies that are being researched and implemented to lower losses of nitrogen from sugarcane.

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