Watch recordings of our 2019 Seminars

Microbes, Snails, Legs and Tails

Wednesday, 29th May 2019 | Presented by Dr Tasmin Rymer & Stephen Maxwell, Linda Hernández-Duran and Misha Rowell|JCU

What do fawn-footed mosaic-tailed rats, sea snails and funnel-web spiders have in common? In this case, the pure basic sciences of taxonomy and behaviour. Dr Tasmin and her three PhD students will give you a brief insight into their current research. Stephen works on sea snails, with the aim of revising a group of sea shells using a classical pluralist approach, together with evidence provided from molecular methods. By comparing and contrasting these, he will determine the efficacy of modern classical taxonomy to provide a sound assessment of the world, given the changes molecular methods have brought. Fundamentally, this is a defence of classical methodology in the face of growing dominance molecular phylogenetics. Linda will describe how she is using an interdisciplinary approach to study two populations of Australian funnel-web spiders Hadronyche infesa to determine whether or not personality occurs across different contexts and environments. She will include morphophysiological traits, that is, those underlying mechanisms that maintain differences in individual behaviours. Personality can affect how an individual explores its environment, learns information, and solves problems, but these relationships haven't been studied in Australian species. Therefore, Misha will explain how she aims to study how personality affects problem solving in the native Australian rodent Melomys cervinipes, presenting some of her current findings. Finally, Dr Tasmin will discuss a small project that arose out of a disaster, leading her to investigate the effect of antibiotics on the microbiome of Melomys cervinipes.

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Twenty Years of Fashion Changes in Mapping the Great Barrier Reef

Wednesday, 22nd May 2019 | Presented by Dr Karen Joyce| JCU Senior Lecturer

Quick, pose for that drone selfie, or ‘dronie’ as those in the know call them! Drones are the latest trend in remote sensing fashion and are making a huge impact on the way we are able to capture our own data for analysis. High-end drones and sensors are now becoming increasingly available on the market as consumer demand soars for the latest techie tool. But what difference are they really making to science, and how have they progressed our knowledge of coral reef habitats? Over the past 20 years, we have seen the field of coral reef remote sensing science rapidly progress, and drones are just part of this story. And as we look to the future of the broader discipline and its potential applications, let’s first reflect on the past and some of the major fashion changes we’ve seen over this time. We’ll look at changes in sensors, platforms, data processing, and applications with a view to inspiring thought of futuristic fashion and just how that may look.

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Spines, Sprays, and Shields: The Evolution of Prey Defenses and Warning Coloration in Mammals

Wednesday, 15th May 2019 | Presented by A/Prof Ted Stankowich| UC Long Beach

Many species have evolved elaborate physical defenses (armor, spines, noxious sprays, toxins) to avoid predation and stay safe. The factors that influence why such defenses evolve are less clear, but exposure to predators clearly serves as a strong source of selection. Using comparative evolutionary analyses and behavioral research on wild skunks and coyotes, we can understand how and why defenses evolve, how having a defense influences risk assessment and fear, and how predators learn about warning coloration and prey defenses. Dr. Stankowich will discuss his research on why and how defenses have evolved in mammals (e.g., armadillos, pangolins, skunks, porcupines), and what the consequences have been to the other aspects of their lives, including their perceptions of fear and cognitive ability.

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The age of rainforests in northeast Queensland

Wednesday, 8th May 2019 | Presented by Prof Jon Nott| JCU

The rainforests of northeast Queensland, and indeed all of eastern Australia, are dependant, principally, on orographic rainfall. In this regard two factors are influential; onshore winds over relatively warm seas and the presence of the highlands/escarpment of eastern Australia. Without either of these we would not have the rainforests of eastern Australia. Studies in south-eastern Australia suggest that the highlands there experienced kilometre scale denudation over the past 100 million years. One possibility is that following their initial uplift this denudation removed the highlands before they were uplifted again over the past 5 to 10 million years. The other scenario is that the highlands have been maintained since their initial uplift with the bulk of the erosion being limited to their eastern edge. Each of these scenarios present vastly different environmental conditions for the long-term history of rainforests in this region. The first would imply the rainforests are relatively young, whereas the second would suggest the opposite. Similar studies in north-eastern Australia have also indicated kilometre scale denudation following initial highland uplift but here the extent of denudation is thought to have been twice that of south-eastern Australia. The same set of highland evolutionary scenarios, as has been proposed for south-eastern Australia, could also be applied in the northeast. This seminar will examine the evidence for and against each of these possibilities and hopefully arrive at a reasonable conclusion concerning the long-term history of the north-eastern Australian highlands and by implication the antiquity of rainforests in this region.

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Controversies about regional and rural development in Australia: How do we grow and who is in charge?

Wednesday, 1st May 2019 | Presented by Prof Hurriyet Babacan| JCU

Regional and rural communities contribute significantly to the economic, social and environmental development of Australia. Their economies and communities are dynamic and face a significant array of long standing and emerging challenges. Capitalizing on emerging opportunities (to develop resilient environments and economies) will require effective management of resources, new ways of doing business and innovation. Regional development requires good Regional governance which is often described as “crowded” or “congested” with a multiplicity of players. Development takes place in multiples levels of jurisdiction, with many frameworks and cross-cutting institutional arrangements. This presentation explores key issues in regional governance and draws from a number of projects undertaken in Queensland and Northern Australia regions.

(apologies for the technical issues on the video recording)

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Building resilient and sustainable food supplies for the world's growing cities

Wednesday, 17th April 2019 | Presented by Dr Rachel Carey|University of Melbourne

Population growth and rapid urbanisation is focusing attention globally on how to feed cities. Australia’s state capitals are surrounded by highly productive foodbowls that are increasingly important to fresh food supplies in the face of growing pressures from climate change and declining supplies of the natural resources that underpin food production.

But our cities are also growing rapidly, sprawling into areas of farmland. Unless we change the way that we plan our cities, we are likely to undermine the resilience of our food supply and the capacity of current and future generations to access fresh local food.

This seminar focuses on the role of local food production in resilient and sustainable food supplies for cities, drawing on the example of the Foodprint Melbourne research project.

This project has developed an evidence base about the importance of Melbourne’s foodbowl to the city’s food security in the context of climate change. It has also built a public conversation about the need to protect Melbourne’s foodbowl, and it has engaged a wide range of stakeholders in a process to develop a vision and roadmap for a resilient and sustainable city foodbowl.

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From grasslands to tropical forests: understanding the implications of pervasive environmental change on plant populations, plant communities and local people

Wednesday, 10th April 2019 | Presented by A/Prof Jennifer Firn|QUT

The global population is predicted to plateau at 9 billion by 2050, and with this population explosion our natural resources will continue to experience unprecedented pressures. The irreplaceable loss of native biodiversity is accelerating at an alarming rate globally with ecosystems across continents increasing in similarity via widespread transport and dominance of non-native species. Management of extinction and invasion processes are global priorities, as mass conversion of native ecosystems is resulting in the loss of essential services, like productivity, hydrological flows and nutrient cycling. On one hand, we need to understand how these changes we are making to our native biodiversity impacts on the long-term sustainability of key ecosystem services and on the other hand, we need to urgently take action to restore these services once they are lost, but with cost-effective and sustainable management strategies.

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Sugary chocolate bananas: Improving farming of three key tropical crops

Wednesday, 03rd April 2019 | Presented by Dr Kalu Davies, Samantha Forbes & Ryan Orr|JCU

Tropical agriculture is tasked with meeting the needs of a rapidly growing worldwide population while also limiting environmental impact. These goals can be met by increasing productivity, reducing losses and incorporating co-benefits.

Sugar is an important crop globally for both food and energy production and its widespread production throughout the tropics makes it suitable for an unusual climate change mitigation strategy: enhanced rock weathering. Kalu is running Australia’s first field trials incorporating crushed basalt into soils to improve soil fertility and sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Farming systems for cacao (chocolate trees) production are currently driven towards “monoculture” and often “monoclonal” plantation designs for increased yield. However, these systems may not be sustainable. Samantha will discuss a new “diversified” farming system in cacao that may benefit farmer livelihoods, biodiversity and crop production in the long-term.

Banana is the world’s most important fruit crop but commercial production is now under threat from Panama disease. This pathogenic soil fungus can’t be killed and there are no suitable replacement varieties of banana. Ryan is determining how farmers can manage their fertiliser applications and soil to reduce disease losses.

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Data-driven Internet of Things for Better Environment Protection and A Case Study of Smart Catchments for the Great Barrier Reef

Wednesday, 27th March 2019 | Presented by Prof Wei Xiang and Dr Lynne Powell|IoT - JCU/ Cairns Regional Council

It is well known that the Internet of Things (IoT) technology is one of the most crucial digital infrastructure for the fourth industrial revolution that is revolutionising the way we live our lives. Some consider IoT technology as a frontend of big data. We would argue that IoT is a data-driven technology on its own, which is composed of three layers, i.e., the data collection layer, data communications layer, and data analytics layer. This three-layer stratification well explains why IoT technology serves as a foundation to and is inseparable from machine learning (ML) / artificial Intelligence (AI).

We will pay specific attention to how data-drive and learning-based IoT technology can be used to protect one of the greatest natural treasures on the planet – the Great Barrier Reef. Cairns Regional Council is leading the Smart Catchments: Saltwater Creek pilot study in a partnership with James Cook University, the Wet Tropics Healthy Waterways Partnership and Itron Australasia. This study is testing new technology that will deliver water quality data in real-time and in-turn inform better water management processes. By sharing this data through a publicly accessible online platform Cairns residents will be encouraged to care for their local catchment and identify how they can avoid and reduce pollutants that are entering our waterways; and take actions to encourage and support sustainable, healthy water in our region.

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The city and the wild: Design meets ecosystems

Wednesday, 20th March 2019 | Presented by Dr Silvia Tavares|Urban Design - JCU

Urban environments affect and disrupt natural ecosystems. In this context, we can find defenders of urban compact life, as we human beings are destructive beings and if we care about nature, we should stay out of it. On the other hand, there are scholars who defend that natural landscapes should permeate urban life, despite the fact that they take space and spread people out increasing the need for motorised vehicles. Considering these two perspectives, in this presentation I explore ways of designing urban environments that take into account natural ecosystems. In the context of increasing urban populations, the green of our cities have to be more than only beautiful patches, both supporting wild life and increasing urban resilience in the face of climate change. I will also show some current projects focused on urban climate, climate change resilience and public health that bridge planning, urban design, urban ecosystems and ecology.

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Agile Data Science - What is it, and, can it help farmers prepare for tougher environmental regulations?

Wednesday, 13th March 2019 | Presented by A/Prof Yvette Everingham | Data Science JCU

Few will argue the data revolution has well and truly arrived. This is thanks to rapid advances in computing power, the ability to store and analyse data and a big special thanks to the Internet of Things, which is connecting sensors via the internet and pushing data through our pipelines at velocities and scales not seen before. Gone are the days of the boring old statistician and the job market is today flooded with adds for Data Scientists.

Data Science is the “new kid on the block” that intersects many disciplines such as statistics, computer science, software engineering and business. Even “newer” than Data Science is Agile Data Science – a framework for doing Data Science that builds on agile principles which have historically formed part of software design, development and engineering.

This talk will highlight some of the work that is being performed in our Data Science team in partnership with many other researchers and stakeholders. Specifically it will focus on how we are driving AgTech solutions to help farmers prepare for tougher environmental regulatory frameworks.

How to be More Prolific: Strategies for Writing and Publishing Scientific Papers

Wednesday, 6th March 2019 | Presented by Prof Bill Laurance|Distinguished Professor & Director of TESS

How is it that some people can write and publish 20 papers in the time it takes someone else to write just one?  It’s a lot easier than you might think.  In this seminar, I condense a lifetime of tricks for writing easily and effectively, and successfully running the gauntlets of referees and journal editors.  Most of all, I emphasise enjoying the process.  I publish over 30 scientific and popular papers a year, on average, so these tricks do seem to work.

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Sustainability Reporting: Are Corporations Telling Us the Truth?

Wednesday, 27th February 2019 | Presented by Dr Robert Gale|Principal & Company Director (

The starting point of my presentation is to address the findings of The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, and the role of sustainability standards in improving corporate sustainability performance in all sectors of the economy. I will focus on how the banks have addressed the GRI Standards for Sustainability Reporting in particular, and how they Monitor, Evaluate and Report on non-financial performance. I then want to develop this truth in sustainability reporting theme by situating the discussion of sustainability in the wider context of evaluating economic adjustment and long-term industrial restructuring by referring to transitions underway or proposed in the Paris Agreement on climate change, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the EU Circular Economy package, the US Green New Deal, and (ideally) – through enhanced regional NRM and GBR Environmental-Economic Accounting and sustainability reporting at the local level. Sustainability reporting is not just about misconduct or inadequate reporting in the private sector: it involves all of us wherever we work and live.

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