Watch recordings of our 2018 Seminars

The past informs the future: evolutionary and biogeographical history, and management of Australia’s tropical flora

Wednesday, 23 May 2018 | Presented by Prof Darren Crayn,  Australian Tropical Herbarium,  JCU

Studies of historical biogeography and evolutionary history are not only intellectually satisfying, but provide us with evidence for the role of range expansion, speciation, and extinction in the assembly of tropical biomes and the origins and maintenance of biodiversity generally. The knowledge gained through such work can also help determine priorities for conservation and appropriate management responses. This talk will demonstrate how improved understanding of the evolutionary history of key taxonomic groups has provided a better understanding of the origins and significance of the Australian tropical flora, and provided knowledge frameworks for the conservation of species and ecosystem processes.

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Science supporting policy and legislation

Wednesday, 16 May 2018 | Presented by Dr Mark Jacobs, Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation

Queensland is challenged with balancing the needs of development and the conservation of our environmental assets.  To this end, the government is committed to an integrated scientifically robust approach to the management of Queensland’s natural resources. The Science Division within the new Queensland Department of Environment and Science provides the environmental, natural resources and climate science that supports state legislation and regulation, and the development of policy.  A number of recent examples of environmental challenges across water and vegetation management and conservation will be presented and future technological advances will also be discussed in this context.

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An Indigenous led action research project – The threats to native stingless bees or Sugarbag project

Wednesday, 9 May 2018| Presented by Peta Standley, Cape York Natural Resource Management

From February to April 2010 the Kuku Thaypan Elders Fire Management Research project conducted through their Traditional knowledge recording work with Tagalaka descendant Victor Steffensen in Cape York, extended their Indigenous led research methodologies to begin implementation of the “Threats to Native Bees (Sugarbag)” project. My role was to help document the Indigenous fire knowledge of the Elders and work alongside them in undertaking their fire research study. In undertaking the Sugarbag project I developed a methodology for mapping the native bee hives based on the knowledge of the Elders that enabled description of the Elders classification system of sugarbag or (native stingless bees) and their inter-relationship with fire management.

A Unified Model Explains Commonness and Rarity on Coral Reefs

Wednesday, 2 May 2018 | Presented by Prof Sean Connolly, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University

Abundance patterns in ecological communities have important implications for biodiversity maintenance and ecosystem functioning. However, ecological theory has been largely unsuccessful at capturing multiple macroecological abundance patterns simultaneously. Here we propose a parsimonious model that unifies widespread ecological relationships involving local aggregation, species-abundance distributions, and species associations, and we test this model against the metacommunity structure of reef-building corals and coral reef fishes across the western and central Pacific.  For both corals and fishes, the unified model simultaneously captures extremely well local species abundance distributions, inter-specific variation in the strength of spatial aggregation, patterns of community similarity, species accumulation, and regional species richness, performing far better than alternative models also examined here and in previous work on coral reefs. Our approach contributes to the development of synthetic theory for large-scale patterns of community structure in nature, and to addressing ongoing challenges in biodiversity conservation at macroecological scales.

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Migration of Amazonian waterbirds to Natural and Human-Dominated Landscapes

Monday, 23 April 2018| Presented by Dr Lisa Davenport

Previous work using satellite telemetry to study the movement ecology of waterbirds in western Amazonia has shown that at least some populations of two sandbank-dependent species, the Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger) and the Orinoco Goose (Neochen jubata), undertake long-distance, annual round-trip migrations after waters rise and cover riverine beaches where they raise young.  Here we compare the results from western populations with new tracking data from breeding birds tagged along the Río Javaés and Río Araguaia bordering the Araguaia National Park of Tocantins, Brazil, situated near the eastern limit of Amazonian habitats, along a transition zone between rain forest and savanna.  The region is under considerable settlement pressure, with extensive soy and rice plantations rapidly covering the landscape outside of protected areas.

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The squeeze is on: disturbance-climate feedbacks on vegetation

Wednesday, 11 April 2018| Presented by Dr Joe Fontaine, Murdoch University

The frequency of ecological disturbances is on the rise globally. These are coupled with phrases such as ‘unprecedented’ and broad concerns about the capacity of ecosystems to respond to ever increasing intensity, extent, and severity of each disturbance.  When disturbances occur in quick succession or on top of one another, the resilience of populations and ecosystems may unravel. Using fire-climate feedbacks on plant populations, we have developed a conceptual model (the ‘interval squeeze’) that seeks to identify the mechanisms that may drive population declines under these circumstances, the species most vulnerable, and potential climate adaptation strategies.

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Dynamics of an “empty forest” in the Peruvian Amazon

Wednesday, 4 April 2018| Presented by Prof John Terborgh, Duke University and JCU

Birds and mammals have been shown to be the main dispersers of tree seeds in tropical forests around the world. Unfortunately, many of the species most crucial to seed dispersal are favored targets of hunters. Unregulated and, especially, market hunting have depleted large-bodied seed dispersers in most tropical forests. A recent article by Peres et al. (2016) has claimed that hunting-induced loss of seed dispersal function will lead to the substitution of light-wooded for heavy-wooded tree species, resulting in a large release of CO2 to the atmosphere. Since 2002, I have led a team of investigators in a comparison of the compositional dynamics of an “empty forest” and a faunally intact forest in Amazonian Perú.

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Human occupation of Sahul by 65,000 years ago

Wednesday, 21 March 2018 | Presented by Prof Zenobia Jacobs, The University of Wollongong

The timing of arrival of people in Australia is a contentious issue. The recent announcement of human arrival at least 65,000 years ago at the site of Madjedbebe in the top end of the Northern Territory has reinvigorated this debate. The site and finds have important implications for our understanding of the timing of modern human dispersal Out of Africa, as well as the technology and behaviour of the first people to enter Sahul. This seminar will provide an overview of the excavations, context and rich finds, focusing specifically on how the chronology was developed and tested for robustness, to place Madjedbebe in the broader context of modern human migration and colonisation of Sahul.

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Fusarium wilt of banana; a 100 year war

Wednesday, 14 March 2018 | Presented by Prof Elizabeth Aitken, The University of Queensland

Liz’s seminar will focus on research that her group has been undertaking on the fungal pathogen Fusarium oxysporum.  This fungus, which causes vascular wilt in many crop plant species, has had particular impact on banana production both here in Queensland and elsewhere in the world and not just currently, but in the last 100 years with devastating economic and political consequences. Recent incursions of the Tropical Race 4 (TR4) strain of this fungus are causing great concern for banana producers in northern Queensland.

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Playing God: Introducing natural hydrological processes back to cities

Wednesday, 7 March 2018 | Presented by Dr HanShe Lim, JCU

Urbanisation has resulted in a host of hydrological problems including flooding and water pollution. This seminar focuses on recent attempts to reduce and manage these problems by re-introducing natural hydrological processes back to urban areas. Some of these attempts include the construction of water-sensitive design elements such as rain gardens and green roofs as well as larger projects involving river and floodplain restoration. The talk will refer to examples from around the world, particularly with reference to the tropics, and assess the effectiveness of such attempts and its potential for implementation in Cairns.

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TESS Student and Post Doc Talks

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Dr Alex Cheesman: Trialling Denitrifying Bioreactors in the Australian Wet Tropics

Elias Harrison Bloom: Introduced pollinators mediate breakdown in wild plant pollination

Lain Efren Pardo Vargas: Terrestrial mammals responses to oil palm dominated landscapes in Colombia

Rismita Sari: The Phylogeny of Australian Garcinia (Clusiaceae)

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Introducing the ARC Centre for Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH)

Wednesday, 21 February 2018 | Presented by Prof Michael Bird, JCU

In 2017, JCU, in collaboration with nine other Australian universities and eleven national and international partners, was awarded $33.75 million to develop the new ARC Centre for Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH). In this seminar, Michael will outline the research programs and aspirations of CABAH as a whole, and the role of JCU within the Centre. As an example of the cross-disciplinary nature of the research, the seminar will also present the results of a research project examining the routes by which Anatomically Modern Humans (AMHs) dispersed rapidly through Sunda, Wallacea and across much of Sahul (Australia and New Guinea joined at times of lowered sea level) by around 50,000 years ago, and the tropical environments they encountered upon arrival.

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