Watch recordings of our 2019 Seminars

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.

Watch the recording

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.

Watch the recording

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.

Watch the recording

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.

Watch the recording

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.

Watch the recording

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.

Watch the recording

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.

Watch the recording