Wednesday, 30th October 2019 | Presented by Michelle Ward |(PhD Candidate, UQ)
Australia has one of the worst extinction rates of any nation, yet there has been little assessment of the effect of its flagship environmental legislation, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). By coupling remotely sensed forest and woodland data with the distributions of threatened terrestrial species, terrestrial migratory species, and threatened ecological communities, we quantified the loss of potential habitat and communities since the EPBC Act came into force. We found that over 7.7 million ha of potential habitat and communities were cleared in the period 2000–2017. Of this clearing, over 93% was not referred to the Federal Government for assessment, meaning the loss was not scrutinized under the EPBC Act. While 1,390 (84%) species suffered loss, Mount Cooper striped skink, Keighery's macarthuria, and Southern black-throated finch lost 25, 23, and 10% of potential habitat, respectively. Iconic Australian species, such as koala, also lost ~1 million ha (2.3%) of potential habitat. Our analysis showed that the EPBC Act is ineffective at protecting potential habitat for terrestrial threatened species, terrestrial migratory species, or threatened ecological communities. Without a fundamental change in how environmental law is enforced, Australia faces an increasing extinction rate.
Wednesday, 23rd October 2019 | Presented by Debby Ng |(wildlife ecologist, photojournalist)
Images of wild animals and landscapes mark the frontlines of conservation work, making it easy to forget that conservation is done by people and for people. Conservation successes are achieved by effectively engaging, attentively listening, and building on the strengths of benefactors and collaborators – skills not often taught in schools of natural sciences.
Recent debates have raised the need to facilitate the voices of minority representation, and to be diverse in the actors we include in the conservation discussion. This may seem challenging for natural scientists who have dedicated their lives to empirical study. However, reconciling the values of our stakeholders need not inspire panic, and could be as simple as reflecting on the central role of humans as the engine of conservation.
Wednesday, 16th October 2019 | Presented by Dr Ashley Field & Dr Matt Barrett | (ATH/JCU)
1) Concern about an extinction crisis in Australia is palpable. There are, however, a growing list of species that have become ‘unextinct’. ‘Unextinction’ happens in three ways, through a species being rediscovered, through the taxonomic validity of a species being revaluated or through the veracity of original records being reconsidered. I explore the Australian plant extinction record based on the recent reviews of Silcock et al. (2019) To Name Those Lost, which proposes a framework for validating records; and Field and Renner (2019) Rediscovered or reconsidered, which explores in detail the veracity of the record of fern extinctions in the north Queensland mountaintops, the area hitherto considered to have lost the most number of species of any plant group.
2) Fungal spores are usually dispersed by wind, and have the potential for intercontinental dispersal, matching the “everything is everywhere” hypothesis. However spores dispersal has been shown to be strongly leptokurtic even over short distances, with geographic structuring at all scales. Biotic exchange between the Sunda and Sahul shelves has been little studied from a fungal perspective, but is a useful model system to explore rates of intercontinental dispersal over time. Unfortunately, the fungi of key areas for exchange in northern Australia and Indonesia biomes are among the least explored in the world. The current state of knowledge of fungal biogeography in the Sahul-Sunda area will be summarised, and some emerging trends discussed in light of ecological associations. Natural patterns of fungal dispersal have implications for arrival and spread of fungal diseases in northern Australia.
Wednesday, 09th October 2019 | Presented by Dr April Reside|Postdoctoral Research Fellow (UQ)
As ecologists we’re often faced with bad news for the species and ecosystems we work with, and are without adequate resources or legal instruments to do enough about it. Environmental law reform has received recent media attention in the lead up to the 20 year review of Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). Debates have been far-ranging, from those that want to see the protection of biodiversity strengthened; to those that see the law as an impediment to development and agriculture. I will demonstrate how the current legal framework has not prevented broad-scale habitat loss for Australia’s threatened species, even critical breeding habitat for endangered or critically endangered species. Furthermore, this is not just a historical situation – but also a serious present threat. Important work has been done by environmental lawyers to write the blueprint for new and improved environmental law, with recommendations such as increasing independence and transparency in decision making and regulation, and a greater adherence to the first steps of the mitigation hierarchy – i.e. avoid impact to biodiversity in the first place. However, it is important that new laws have strong ecological underpinnings in order to give the best chance of persistence of our biodiversity and ecosystems. Therefore, I will argue that the ecologists must be involved in these debates, and will outline some potential avenues for this. Environmental law has been effective in some jurisdictions, and we can use these learnings to achieve better outcomes for Australia’s biodiversity.
Wednesday, 25th September 2019 | Presented by Mr Bill Sokolich | Environmental activist
In June 2019, Qld Dept of Innovation and Tourism Industry Development and the Commonwealth Games (DIDIT) placed at QTenders website an invitation to ‘register their interest to develop and operate eco-accommodation and tour guidance in Tropical North Queensland’ within the Wangetti Trail proposal. The tender marked the fourth area within the Queensland national park estate recently offered to private developers through the state’s ‘Ecotrails” program. The Wangetti Trail offer consists of 94kms of a dual purpose 1.8km wide walking and mountain bike trail through World Heritage listed National Park, five separate accommodation ‘nodes’, campgrounds and a premium, upmarket structures, four of them offered for lease on national park / World Heritage land. This marks of a new age for protected area management on mainland Queensland, where recreation and ‘ecotourism’ are now competing with conservation values and territory. Enabling legislation can be traced back to amendments made to the Nature Conservation Act in 2013 by the former Newman Government and while a new government promised to repeal the Newman changes, they did not rescind the amendments in full. Will public consultation through the approval stage be adequate to influence a better conservation outcome; is there grounds for a legal challenge and what excesses might future governments entertain if parks are further opened to commercialism and privatisation?
Wednesday, 18th September 2019 | Presented by Aida Greenbury|Sustainability Advisor (Sydney)
In the wake of global forest fires in Brazil, Russia, and Indonesia, and in addition to the serious warnings by IPBES and IPCC reports this year, the world has clearly breached the safe operating space for humankind. Many of these disasters have stemmed from warning indicators from environmentalists for more than 30 years – in particular deforestation. Deforestation could start small in the forms of encroachment and illegal logging activities, but it can quickly transform into massive natural forest conversion, peat drainage; when these acts tip the balance of our planetary boundaries, their impacts will quickly spiral down into uncontrollable and devastating forest fires. The private sector plays a key role in ending deforestation. To date, close to 500 major corporations are committed to reaching no-deforestation or zero-deforestation across their operations and supply chains by 2020, but many organizations have reported that these major corporations are not going to meet that deadline. Aida Greenbury, who’s spent all her life in the forestry and sustainability field - in the private sector, non-profit and scientific community - will discuss why many zero-deforestation commitments have failed and how stakeholders should deal with the issue moving forward.
Australia' harbours a rich and highly endemic orchid flora, with over 90% of Australian native orchids found nowhere else, many of which are threatened. Orchids constitute a large proportion of Australia's threatened flora with 15% and over one third of Australia's critical endangered plants are orchids. Recent advances in DNA sequencing technologies allow for unprecedented insights into evolutionary relationships among Australia's orchids, which shed light on the origin and diversification of Australia's orchids in space and time as well as the evolution of key morphological and ecological traits. Further, conservation genomic studies based on next-generation DNA sequencing increase understanding of species boundaries and genetic diversity in Australia's threatened orchids and inform effective conservation management. Katharina will present phylogenomic studies across all major Australian orchid lineages as well as conservation genomic studies on Australian threatened orchids from her research group.
Wednesday, 04th September 2019 | Presented by A/Prof Fahmyddin Tauhid | (University of Indonesia/JCU visiting scholar)
Jakarta, a home for 10.5 million people and over 2 million daily commuters in 2018, is experiencing an exponential increase in economic and social losses due to natural disasters impacts. With the scenarios of climate change effects worsened with urban environmental problems and uncontrolled urbanization and can become the world's most vulnerable city. The future of the city needs an innovative strategic planning and creative approach to reduce the impacts. Therefore, urban policy and research need to put more emphasis on disaster resilience rather than responding planning. This presentation discusses the employment of disaster management phases and urban community asset to develop concepts and index.
Wednesday, 28th August 2019 | Presented by | Dr Claudia Benham (JCU lecturer)
It is increasingly apparent that effective conservation relies on understanding the social values, priorities and goals that shape how people use and relate to the environment. Understanding the human dimensions of environmental change is particularly important in places such as World Heritage Areas, where multiple (and sometimes conflicting) values are at play. Local communities are well placed to observe and relay information about environmental change in their surrounding environment. However, although the incorporation of local and traditional knowledges and priorities into environmental governance regimes is increasingly seen as being critical to effective and equitable conservation efforts, there remain significant barriers to integrating community-based knowledge within contemporary environmental governance structures. This seminar explores community-based knowledge in the context of marine and coastal ecosystems in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Drawing on recent research, the talk will discuss the role that local community knowledge plays in helping to manage key threats to the reef, how local communities value and use different marine and coastal ecosystems, and how new forms of social science can help us to better understand our relationships with nature.
Wednesday, 21st August 2019 | Presented by Dr Daniel Montesinos|Australian Tropical Herbarium (ATH/JCU)
Invasive species have the ability to rapidly adapt to the new regions where they are introduced, and present disjunct neo-allopatric distributions across the world, with known introduction dates. Consequently, they constitute optimal study systems for the study of the evolutionary mechanisms involved in the early stages of allopatric divergence. Species introduced into new non-native regions have been found to rapidly develop local adaptations, and in some cases even some degree of reproductive isolation between native and non-native regions. Local adaptation and reproductive isolation can occur at faster rates than it was previously thought and have broad implications for the understanding of the mechanisms and speed of allopatric speciation, a keystone concept of evolutionary ecology.
Wednesday, 14th August 2019 | Presented by Prof Bob Pressey|Distinguished Professor (JCU)- ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
After decades of observation that terrestrial protected areas are “residual”, or biased away from landscapes with higher extractive potential, it is time for a synthesis. The seminar reports on work underway to synthesise the literature and understand the phenomenon of residual reservation (see figure). The basic problem can be understood if we consider the fundamental purpose of conservation: to save parts of nature that would otherwise be eliminated. Residual reservation does the opposite: it “protects” those parts of nature that least need protection while allowing the other parts to languish. The presentation begins by defining “residual” and acknowledging that residual bias changes through time. The main focus of the talk will be on the reasons for residual bias and what we, as conservation scientists, might do to influence policy and practice so that future protected areas can make more difference to conservation outcomes.
Fossil fuel emissions is causing future unexpected deaths by multiple mechanisms (i.e. reduced food and water supplies, exacerbating hunger, disease, violence and migration). How will anthropogenic global warming (AGW) affect global mortality due to poverty around and beyond 2100? Roughly how much burned fossil carbon corresponds to one future death? What are the psychological, medical, political, and economic implications? The carbon budget for 2°C AGW (~ 10^12 tons of carbon) will indirectly cause ~10^9 future premature deaths (~ 10% of global future population). Given universal agreement about the value of human lives, a death toll of this unprecedented magnitude must be avoided at all costs. As a clear political message, the “1000-tonne rule” can be used to defend human rights, especially in developing countries, and to clarify that climate change is primarily a human rights issue. The talk will discuss the ethical, psychological, social, medical, economic, legal, and political implications.
Wednesday, 31st July 2019 | Presented by Prof Michael Bird|Australian Laureate Fellow, Distinguished Professor
Pyrogenic carbon (PyC; soot, char, black carbon) is produced by the incomplete combustion of organic matter accompanying biomass burning and fossil fuel consumption. It is pervasive in the environment, distributed throughout the atmosphere as well as soils, sediments and water in both the marine and terrestrial environment. As PyC is derived ultimately from plant material it retains information on the vegetation that was burnt, encoded in its stable carbon isotope composition. PyC preserves well in sedimentary archives because it is relatively resistant to degradation, and microcharcoal particle counting has long been used to generate proxy records of fire incidence in the past. In some circumstances, PyC is relatively easy to isolate but in many others, PyC is very small, ancient, and dispersed in a matrix (e.g. soil or sediment). Hydrogen pyrolysis (HyPy) is a technique that we have optimized for the quantification and isolation of PyC from a variety of matrices for determination of radiocarbon age and stable isotope composition.
Ecosystem d13C values vary widely across the tropics as a result of changes in the balance of vegetation using C4 versus C3 photosynthesis and information on changes in ecosystem C3:C4 balance can be obtained from the development of d13C time series from PyC in sedimentary archives. Stable isotope analysis of PyC in sedimentary archives by HyPy therefore offers the possibility of developing a more nuanced understanding of the interplay between fire regime and vegetation structure/function (and climate) in the tropics, in the past. This talk will provide an introduction to HyPy as an analytical tool and results from modern ground-truthing studies aimed at underpinning the interpretation of ancient PyC d13C time series. It will also present case studies where the technique has been used to develop proxy records of biomass burning and vegetation dynamics, where the results can be compared against particle counting approaches and palynological information
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.
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.
Many species have evolved elaborate physical defences (armour, spines, noxious sprays, toxins) to avoid predation and stay safe. The factors that influence why such defences evolve are less clear, but exposure to predators clearly serves as a strong source of selection. Using comparative evolutionary analyses and behavioural research on wild skunks and coyotes, we can understand how and why defences evolve, how having a defence influences risk assessment and fear, and how predators learn about warning colouration and prey defences. Dr. Stankowich will discuss his research on why and how defences 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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Wednesday, 27th February 2019 | Presented by Dr Robert Gale | Principal & Company Director (Geotsc.com)
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.