TESS Seminars 2022 Seminar Series

2022 Seminar Series

Speaker: Professor Hugh Possingham | Queensland Chief Scientist |

Abstract: Prof Hugh will discuss several experiences of how science has impacted policy and management, or not, over the past 30 years in various Australian states or federally. These stories may cover: rezoning of the Greater Barrier Reef, Commonwealth marine parks, the Brigalow Declaration, the Long Paddock Statement, Threatened Species Policy, EPBC Act biodiversity offsets, Monitoring and Evaluation, NSW biodiversity policy reforms, state forestry policy and regional planning. We can suggest improvements for the future.

Biography: Hugh is a conservation scientist and mathematician who has held positions in the university, public and not-for profit sectors.  He is a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science. He completed his PhD at Oxford University in 1987 as a Rhodes Scholar and was most recently the Chief Scientist at The Nature Conservancy, a global conservation organisation operating in 79 countries. A winner of two Eureka Prizes, his most significant contribution to conservation was the co-development of Marxan, software first used to rezone the Great Barrier Reef, and now used in almost every country in the world to inform the expansion of their marine and terrestrial protected area systems. Hugh has worked with all levels of government and many not-for-profit organisations, pro bono, to improve the state of Australia’s threatened species and habitats. He is currently on the board of directors of BirdLife Australia. Hugh has supervised over 200 honours students, doctoral candidates and postdoctoral fellows. He has published >650 peer-reviewed publications, >30 in Nature and Science.

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  • introduction by Prof Bill Laurance | JCU Nguma-bada campus
  • Tasmin Rymer: Cool thing we can do in science
  • TropEco: Sustainability in Action
  • Camila Lopes: What do you know about Flying Foxes?
  • Matthew Connor: Finding new species in your backyard

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Speaker: Dr Brian Roberts | Retired Ecologist | Cairns

Abstract: This work exposes the floristic change and climatic trends over half a century. A definite conclusion is difficult as the processes are still ongoing, and the authors found appropriate to summarize the factual findings rather than to attempt to close up the 50-years of dynamic study. Some of the finding over the course of the study are: mean annual temperature has increased by about +0.200C for the half century; the generally expected trend toward more drought-resistant plants has not been detected by the vast number of observations (up to 2021); and annual rainfall has decreased by an average of 1.0mm per decade over the past 13 decades.

Biography: Brian Roberts trained in Agricultural Ecology in South Africa and worked in Southwest Queensland from 1972 before he focused on establishing the National Landcare movement. Brian has held several professorial and published several books, first on grasses, then on Indigenous future, having grown up with tribal people. Dr Brian pays his respects to the Badjiri people of his study area.

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Speaker: Dr Tasmin Rymer | Senior Lecturer (JCU Nguma-bada campus)

Abstract: Mammalian paternal care is rare in nature, occurring in only 5-10% of species. It is also varied across mammalian taxa, and, consequently, there is no definitive ‘one size fits all’ hypothesis that adequately explains the evolution of mammalian paternal care. In 1963, Tinbergen described an integrated approach to understanding animal behaviour broadly. The proximate questions consider the mechanisms and development of behaviour, which are hard to untangle, and can collectively be described as the behavioural machinery. The ultimate questions consider the evolution and adaptive significance of behaviour, which are again difficult to untangle. In this talk, Tasmin will use this integrated approach as a useful framework for exploring mammalian paternal care broadly, providing evidence for some components from her work on the African striped mouse, Rhabdomys pumilio, and suggesting possible future avenues for exploration.

Biography: Tasmin Rymer is an animal behaviourist with a particular interest in the development and expression of behaviour and cognition. She has worked on a range of different species, including reptiles, various rodents, flying foxes and spiders. She obtained a BSc with Honours from the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS) in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2002 in Zoology and Ecology, Environment and Conservation working on interspecific interactions of Kalahari tree skinks, pygmy falcons and sociable weavers. Thereafter, she obtained her MSc in African Mammalogy in 2003 from the University of Pretoria, South Africa, working on population modelling of African eland in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. She returned to WITS in 2005 to complete her PhD in Animal Behaviour, working on paternal care in the African striped mouse. In 2012, she moved to JCU to take up a position within the Zoology and Ecology group.

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Speaker: Professor Robert Wasson | Emeritus ANU, Adjunct JCU and UKM

Abstract: Oil palm plantations have contributed to increasing suspended sediment fluxes in rivers in the global south, threatening both fresh and coastal water quality. Erosion is also a limit to productivity in the oil palm industry of Southeast Asia and is a threat to below-ground biodiversity. Attempts to re-establish some of the ecosystem service of erosion control have focused overwhelmingly on one kind of erosion, namely that by sheet flow, with some attention to gullies. But catchment-wide changes to the erosion-sediment yield system in oil palm plantations has received little attention. This system has been investigated in a sub-catchment in the headwaters of the Johor River in Peninsular Malaysia by taking a sediment budget and historical approach, placing the last century of plantation agriculture in the context of the past five millennia. Before plantation establishment, first of rubber then oil palm, the sub-catchment was a sediment trapping system under lowland rainforest. After removal of the rainforest, greater runoff and the construction of drains led to valley incision, converting the sub-catchment to a sediment exporting system. As oil palm plantations are developed on steeper land, and for those already on steep land, an understanding of how to mitigate this kind of system change is crucial.

Biography:Professor Robert (Bob) Wasson is a geomorphologist who has studied desert dunes, palaeoenvironmental change on centennial to millennial timescales, fluvial systems, mass movements, cross-disciplinary methods, and extreme flood histories and flood mitigation strategies. He has held senior positions in CSIRO, at the Australian National University (Head of Geography, Director Centre for Environmental and Resource Studies, Dean of Science) and Charles Darwin University (Deputy Vice Chancellor Research). He joined the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 2011 where he carried out research in India and Thailand on flood history and mitigation policy. He has done research in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Indonesia, India, Timor-Leste, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, China, and Myanmar. He is Adjunct Professor at JCU and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and is Professor Emeritus at ANU.

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Abstract: Agriculture in rural China is undergoing monumental reform. The government narrative suggests that farmers are abandoning their land to live in cities and therefore the government is restructuring agriculture to achieve ‘appropriate scale farming’. Presented as a win for farmers and agricultural efficiency, the central government is encouraging smallholders to transfer their land operational rights to new agricultural operators (NAOs) - agribusiness, large family farms and farmer cooperatives. At the same time these new entities are being presented as “greener” than “poorly educated” and “backward” smallholders to progress a shift from agrochemicals to more organic agriculture. Drawing on data collected in the provinces of Hubei, Yunnan and Shaanxi through an ARC Discovery Project (DP180100519), the panel will discuss how farmers are responding to state ambitions for large-scale green agriculture.


Sarah Rogers is a Senior Lecturer in the University of Melbourne's Asia Institute and part of the Centre for Contemporary Chinese Studies. She is a geographer who studies social, environmental and political change in China, predominantly in rural places. Her current research projects focus on agrarian change (through an ARC Discovery Project), the hydropolitics of mega water infrastructure (through another ARC Discovery Project), as well as the politics of poverty alleviation and resettlement.

Brooke Wilmsen is a Senior Lecturer in Development Studies in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at La Trobe University, Australia. She is the Director of the Master of International Development and Convenor of the Major in Sustainability and Development offered in the Bachelor of Arts. A former ARC DECRA holder and current ARC DP awardee, her research interests include forced displacement, involuntary resettlement, climate adaptation, social protection and agrarian change. She predominantly works in China, although she has been involved in research in West Africa, South-East Asia, Australia and most recently, Maldives.

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Speaker: Mr Robin Hicks (editor of Eco-Business)

Abstract: Mr Robin Hicks will speak on his journalism career writing on sustainability issues. The topics include deep-sea mining, palm oil, meatless meat, plastic pollution, and the debate over carbon credits and conservation. He will also speak on his voluntary work in the weekends, and occasionally during the week for emergency cases, in an animal rescue team, called Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES). ACRES receives around 60 calls a day from concerned members of the public, and helps to rescue Singapore's wildlife from injury, dislocation, and human-animal conflict. Animals he has rescued include King cobras, pangolins, long-tailed macaques, colugos, monitor lizards, and hornbills.

Biography: Robin Hicks has worked as a journalist for 20 years, covering sustainability for the past 5 years, with a focus on Asia Pacific, the world's most climate-vulnerable region. Robin has a degree in Zoology from the University of Bristol in the UK.

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Speaker:  Dr Lyanne Brouwer | Lecturer, (JCU Bebegu Yumba)

Abstract: Social animals typically occur in viscous populations where limited dispersal allows individuals to benefit from cooperating with relatives. Despite these benefits, living with kin inevitably leads to competition for food and space, and may cause inbreeding with associated costs for populations. In this talk Lyanne will present results from long-term field studies, experiments and comparative approaches showing some of the sophisticated behaviours that birds have evolved to deal with these issues, which may help them to cope with ongoing environmental change.

Biography: Lyanne Brouwer is a behavioural ecologist with a particular interest in social behaviour of animals, and how such animals adapt to environmental change, like climate change and urbanization. After completing her PhD at the U. of Groningen, Netherlands she stayed at institutes in Norway, Germany and the UK. She subsequently moved to ANU and established a new field-based study system on fairy-wrens to study the risk of inbreeding in social species, initially supported through a Rubicon fellowship from the NL and subsequently by an ARC DECRA. A EU Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship brought her to Radboud University (NL) to study how urbanization affects avian population dynamics, before returning to Australia, where she is now lecturer in Zoology & Ecology at JCU Townsville.

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Speaker:  Dr Zoe Wang | Lecturer, James Cook University (JCU Nguma-bada)

Abstract: China’s countryside is changing. Long a smallholder dominant economy with small and fragmented farms, a suite of policies, regulations, and financial instruments are being mobilised to drive larger-scale, more commercialised, and more industrialised farming in China. Larger operators are transforming production and supply chains, while the operational rights and titles over farmland are being formalised so that smallholders can more easily transfer their land to large-scale producers. While land transfer is encouraged by the state, and existing research tend to hold the view that rural land transfer is a widespread phenomenon countrywide, is this the case? In this talk Zoe will present the extent and nature of land transfer in China by exploring its dynamics in inland provinces. Overall, land transfer from smallholders to other operators is generally quite limited a finding which highlights the ongoing viability of specialised smallholder farming and other site-specific barriers to scaling up.

Biography: Zoe is a Lecturer in Environment and Development at JCU, with a PhD in Human Geography from the University of Sydney, a Master in Environmental Management from Yale University and a Bachelor in Science from National Taiwan University. She is an interdisciplinary expert on environmental governance, natural resource management, agrarian change and rural development, with a strong focus on community-based and participatory approach. She has long time research experience in southwest China, a fascinating area with very high diversity of culture and nature.  In addition to China, her research area includes Taiwan, Sri Lanka and Australia. Zoe's research is based on extensive fieldwork and her analysis primarily adopts political ecology approach. For the most of Zoe’s research career, she has been conducting research looking at the influence of various environmental, development and agrarian interventions (e.g. NGO project, government policy and commodity market) on natural resource uses in China. Prior to joining JCU, her professional experience included Research Fellow at University of Melbourne and Visiting Fellow at City University of Hong Kong.

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Speaker: Associate Professor Tanya Jakimow | ARC Future Fellow, Australian National University (ANU)

Abstract: On May 21, Australians will go to the polls to elect the 47th Parliament of Australia. To date, Australia has failed to elect a Parliament that reflects the broader population by gender, cultural and ethnic diversity, age, socio-economic class and (dis)ability. The same is true of all levels of government across Australia, including the local level where opportunities for descriptive representation are higher due to smaller electorates and a greater number of positions. A/Prof Tanya will present ethnographic research conducted on NSW councils—including the 2021 local government elections—to shed light on why political representation remains ‘male, pale and stale’ in Australia. She will start by identifying the nature of the problem, then interrogate the ‘common-sense’ reasons for the overrepresentation of ‘white men’. She will then draw attention to lesser-known and (wilfully) ignored factors that need to be addressed to diversify local government. Then, Tanya will conclude by arguing for interdisciplinary research linked to social action for meaningful change.

Biography: Tanya Jakimow is Associate Professor of Anthropology in the College of Asia and the Pacific, ANU. She is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow, working on a project examining women’s political labour and pathways to politics in Medan, Indonesia, and Dehradun, India. Her research has recently extended to examine representational practices in New South Wales, Australia, including the possibilities and barriers to political participation at the local level. She collaborates with scholars and practitioners in Indonesia, India and Australia, aiming to make theoretical contributions to the anthropology of politics (through an intersectional lens) and to enhance understandings about the enduring problem of political over-/under-representation in local government.

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Speaker: Laura Lopresti (JCU, PhD Candidate)

Abstract: Rainforests are experiencing the continued effects of habitat fragmentation, resulting in isolated populations with decreased genetic variation and increased competition from introduced plant species. The effects of this habitat destruction are a particular problem within the Rutaceae family in the Sydney Basin Bioregion. We investigated the reproductive biology of three rainforest Rutaceae species: White Aspen (Acronychia oblongifolia), Bauerella (Sarcomelicope simplicifolia subsp. simplicifolia)and the rare and threatened Illawarra Zieria (Zieria granulata), with the intent of improving conservation and restoration outcomes. Components of the floral biology were quantified to infer the pollination syndrome and likely breeding system of each species. A comprehensive investigation of the biotic and abiotic pollination vectors were undertaken, in conjunction with a manipulative hand pollination experiment to confirm the breeding systems. The results from this study depict the Rutaceae species examined require a pollination vector for the persistence of these populations and, these species rely on a broad suite of insects to set seed. The results will assist in the conservation and restoration of these rainforest species.

Biography: Laura Lopresti is an ecologist with a particular interest in the reproductive ecology of plants, including pollination ecology, and floral and seed biology. Laura completed a Bachelors in Conservation Biology (Honours) at the University of Wollongong, including a research component on viable seed production in rainforest Rutaceae. She has three years’ experience in the environmental consulting industry (NSW) working as an Ecologist and Project Manager on various restoration, conservation and sustainable development projects. Laura is a current PhD candidate at JCU where she aims to investigate what factors contribute to the reproductive success of invasive plants that have specialized plant-animal relationships.

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Prof Gabriel Filippelli | IUPUI School of Science

Where: live and in person from the Crowther Theatre (A3.003, JCU Nguma-bada campus, Smithfield)

Abstract: Pollution from multiple sources causes significant disease and death worldwide. Some sources are legacy, such as heavy metals accumulated in soils, and some are current, such as particulate matter. Because the global burden of disease from pollution is so high, and so unequally distributed, it is important to identify legacy and current sources and to develop and implement effective techniques to reduce human exposure. ​One technique is through citizen-science, which is helping communities without adequate resources measure their own environments, and in this way gain agency in controlling local pollution exposure sources and/or alerting authorities to environmental hazards. This approach can yield a low cost, high access pollution sensing network at the scale of where people live, providing relevant personal environmental exposure data, engaging participants in the scientific process, and yielding valuable research results. Dr Gabriel and team have employed community-engaged research and citizen science, through the lens of lead poisoning, on a number of fronts. Several of them have developed and deployed large-scale garden soil programs to map the signature of lead contamination and to develop clear messaging to participants to mitigate hazards where needed. Additionally, they co-developed a global partnership to explore the indoor exposome (www.MapMyEnvironment.com) which is already yielding scientific insights into potential indoor risks from exposures. Through engagement with communities, particular low-income communities of colour, they are attempting to eradicate environmental injustice and racism, enhance opportunities for training and youth development, and reach across the abyss that exists between universities and the very communities surrounding them. The future of GeoHealth will depend on building on these developments and others to protect a growing population from multiple pollution exposure risks.​

Biography: Dr Gabriel Filippelli is a Chancellor’s Professor of Earth Sciences and Executive Director of the Indiana University Environmental Resilience Institute. Filippelli is a biogeochemist with broad training in climate change, exposure science, and environmental health. Filippelli has published broadly, including publications in Science, Nature and Geology as well as in specialty journals and in popular press. He has personally directed over $9M of research funding over his career. He is the Editor-in-Chief for the journal GeoHealth, published by the American Geophysical Union. Filippelli is a Fellow of the International Association of Geochemistry, a 2022 Fulbright Distinguished Chair, and former National Academy of Sciences Jefferson Science Fellow, where he served as a Senior Science Advisor for the U.S. Department of State.

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Speaker: Professor John Connell | University of Sydney

Abstract: The lives and livelihoods of the people of Siwai were first recounted in Douglas Oliver's A Solomon Island Society (1955) based on his fieldwork in 1938. Prof John first stayed there in 1974-76 and returned on several subsequent occasions, most recently in 2016. Thus a partial, fragmented 78-year-old ethnography exists: unusual in Oceania. This enables reflections on the long-term longitudinal study of a people whose lives have obviously changed substantially over that period, and the various interlocking strands, such as cash-cropping to the Kingdom of Papaala, of what constitutes the frustrating search for 'development'.

Biography: John Connell completed his PhD at University College, London in the late 1960s. In 1970, Prof Fred Fisk at the Research School of Pacific Studies, ANU, offered John a research job in Bougainville, PNG (John recalls ‘when I found where it was on the map I was sold’). This led to extended field work among the Siwai which fuelled many of John’s key research interests in development. In 1977 John took up a lecturing post at the University of Sydney, where he has remained ever since – apart from three years on secondment at the South Pacific Commission in Noumea (1981-84). John was elected Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences of Australia in 2000 and in 2007 won the NSW Geographical Society’s McDonald Holmes Medal, and in 2009 was award the AUSTRALIA-INTERNATIONAL MEDAL by Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG). In 2021 John was the recipient of Member (AM) of the Order of Australia. John has published extensively, especially on the Pacific, in total more than 40 books and 250 articles.

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Speaker: Dr Brooke Williams (Post Doctoral Research Fellow) | University of Queensland

Abstract: Human activities are encroaching further into Earth’s remaining intact ecosystems to utilize finite natural resources, resulting in profound losses of biodiversity and ecosystem services. As such, it is now crucial that patterns of human pressure on the environment are both well understood and well documented so that humanity can plan for the conservation and restoration of intact ecosystems. Where this is not possible, it is essential sustainable development occurs that balances multiple objectives within the regions that retain high levels of ecosystem integrity, biodiversity, and ecosystem services. In this seminar Dr Brooke will discuss work from her PhD where she analysed patterns of recent human pressure across Earth, and developed novel planning frameworks to help guide the conservation of intact ecosystems. She’ll discuss conservation planning in the post-2020 era of conservation, and what she’ll be working on over the next few years at the University of Queensland (UQ).

Biography: Dr Brooke research interests are in finding solutions to challenging problems that balance conservation objectives with human needs. Her PhD at the University of Queensland focussed on assessing the state of intact or under-developed landscapes and how to plan for their conservation considering competing objectives. She’s been lucky to work on several conservation and planning projects globally and across Australia, Central and South America, and Africa with various conservation groups including the Wildlife Conservation Society, The Nature Conservancy, and the International Institute for Sustainability Australia. Dr Brook is now working as a postdoctoral researcher with the Sustainable Landscapes Group focusing on private land conservation, modelling, and improving decision making considering ecosystem service flows.

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Dr Claire Gely (Post Doctoral Research Fellow) | (JCU Nguma-bada campus)

Abstract: With climate change, droughts are predicted to become more frequent and severe in many tropical rainforests around the world. This is worrisome for rainforest trees because such trees are adapted to high rainfall, and drought-stressed trees may be more susceptible to insect attack. In temperate forests, millions of trees have been affected by bark beetle attack following drought events. So how will increased drought affect insect communities and insect attack on trees in tropical rainforests? For a long time, drought studies have been limited to glasshouse experiment using seedlings or saplings, but more recently a few large-scale drought experiments have been developed in order to study the impact drought may have on a forest ecosystem. One such experiment was established in the Daintree rainforest, in Cape Tribulation, in 2015. An infrastructure of plastic sheets was set up to cover about half a hectare of rainforest understory in order to simulate the effect of a decrease in rainfall. The Daintree drought experiment is the first drought experiment in the world to include a canopy crane allowing to collect samples from the forest canopy. In this seminar, Dr Claire Gely will present how this unique experimental set-up provides insights into the effect of drought on canopy and ground insects. We examine how drought affects insect abundance, diversity, community composition, and wood-boring insect attack. The Daintree drought experiment revealed major differences between drought effects in canopy and ground insects. The experiment also revealed an important increase in wood-boring attack on drought-stressed trees. There is a critical need for more tropical forest-scale drought experiments in order to better understand how drought will affect tree health through changes in herbivorous insect communities.

Biography: Dr Claire Gely is an ecologist with a special interest in climate change, rainforest ecology, and entomology. After completing her masters in Environmental Sciences in France, Claire completed her PhD in Biological Sciences at Griffith University in 2021. During her PhD she investigated how drought affects insect communities in Australian tropical rainforests. After working a few months as a research assistant at JCU, Claire is now a postdoctoral research fellow working for the Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science, JCU. Her current research is focused on the effect of drought on insect herbivory, wood-boring attack, and plant chemical defences against insect attack.

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Speaker:  Associate Professor Paul Nelson | (JCU Nguma-bada campus)

Abstract: Sustainable soil management means improving or maintaining soil quality and preventing degradation, so crop production can be maintained indefinitely. But we have known that for many years, so why is soil degradation still an issue? We now know that sustainability also involves maintaining functions of soil other than crop growth; helping prevent degradation of atmospheric composition and the state of downstream aquatic ecosystems in particular. But pollution of the atmosphere and water continues. Furthermore, agriculture is spreading and rapidly displacing vastly more diverse ecosystems in the tropics; what are the implications of that for sustainable soil management and vice versa? This seminar tackles the questions of why we have not achieved sustainability and what is needed to get there, focusing on the tropics.

Biography: Paul Nelson’s main interest is helping find more productive and sustainable ways to manage soil and water in agricultural systems. He obtained a Bachelor of Agricultural Science in 1987 and after working in soil microbiology and soil management groups in Europe he returned to Australia to obtain a PhD in Soil Science from the University of Adelaide in 1997.  Upon completion he was drawn to the tropics because everything is more diverse, productive, challenging, rapid and interesting here. After working as a Research Officer in the Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations in Ayr and CSIRO in Townsville, he took up leadership of the Papua New Guinea Oil Palm Research Association’s Agronomy group in 2000. In 2004 he moved to a joint position with JCU (Cairns) and the Qld Department of Natural Resources (Mareeba) and in 2010 he became a full-time academic at JCU. He is currently Associate Professor in the College of Science and Engineering in Cairns.

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Speaker: Dr Noel Preece | Adjunct A/Prof (JCU Nguma-bada)

Abstract: Northern Australian savannas hold exceptional biodiversity values within largely intact vegetation complexes, yet many of the 180+ mammal species, and some other taxa, found in the region when Europeans colonized Australia are Endangered. Recently, 10 mammal species were added to the 20 or so already listed in the Australian endangered category, one up-listed to Critically Endangered, one to Extinct, 2 un-listed, 2 down-listed to Vulnerable and so on. Current predictions suggest that 9 species of mammal in northern Australia are in imminent danger of extinction within 20 years. We examined the robustness of the assumptions of status and trends in light of the low levels of monitoring of species and ecosystems across northern Australia, including monitoring the effects of management actions. The causes of the declines include a warming climate, pest species, changed fire regimes, grazing by introduced herbivores, and diseases. Conservation scientists and recovery teams are working to help species and ecosystems recover. Indigenous custodians who work on the land can provide significant skills and resources to save species. If Traditional Owners combine forces with non‐Indigenous researchers and conservation managers – and with adequate support and incentives – we could make substantial ground. Indigenous Protected Areas, national parks and private conservation areas provide some protection, but this network needs expansion. We propose establishing a network of monitoring sites by prioritising particular bioregions. Building a network of monitoring sites would not just help prevent extinctions, it would also support livelihoods in remote Northern Australia. Policies determining research and monitoring investment need to be reset, and new approaches implemented urgently. Crucially, funding must be adequate for the task. The funding needs to be returned to levels adequate for the task. At present resourcing levels, species are likely to become extinct through an avoidable attrition process.

Biography: Dr Noel Preece is an environmental scientist, conservation practitioner and researcher working in northern Australia and has been an environmental consultant for over 30 years. Noel holds a PhD from Charles Darwin University, is an Adjunct Associate Professor with Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science at James Cook University and with the Research Institute for Environment and Livelihoods at Charles Darwin University and has published more than 200 papers and reports. Noel was a Chief Investigator on a JCU ARC Linkage project on secondary regrowth in Nth Qld, is researching and implementing large-scale rainforest restoration (ARC-Linkage Principal Investigator) and is studying faunal declines, forest restoration, endangered species and fire management. Noel was a Director of the Ecological Society, Councillor of Australian Ecosystem Science Council and is a member of the Spectacled Flying-fox Recovery Team.

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Speaker: Dr Andrew Dennis  (Project Leader - Biodiversity) | (TERRAIN NRM)

Abstract: The Anthropocene has brought with it an extinction crisis. Many species have become extinct and many more are threatened with extinction. Using IUCN guidelines, Queensland and Federal governments are using Common Assessment Methods to estimate the risk of extinction for species. This assessment, and the subsequent investigation of threatening processes and recovery planning, generally requires a solid underpinning of sufficient data. Often it is researchers that provide this evidence. However, recovery plans and teams involve a wide range of stakeholders engaged in efforts and on-ground actions. In this talk, I will review several decades of effort expended on the recovery of two threatened mammals in the Wet Tropics – the Northern Bettong and the Mahogany Glider – and examine where and how research efforts have been used to guide on-ground actions to facilitate the recovery of these threatened species. Unfortunately, both species remain at severe risk, so it is timely to reconsider how to align and integrate research directions and on-ground actions.

Biography: Dr Andrew Dennis is Project Leader – Biodiversity, with Terrain NRM, Chair of the Northern Bettong Recovery Team and Coordinator of the Mahogany Glider Recovery Team. He is an ecologist with a special interest in managing threatened species. After completing a PhD with JCU studying the ecological role of Musky rat-kangaroos, he went on to conduct research on a range of taxa in the wet tropics, including frogs, mammals and birds, and spent 6 years with CSIRO studying vertebrate seed dispersal in rainforests – a threatened ecological process. His focus now is to facilitate Terrain’s efforts to get on ground outcomes for threatened taxa through ensuring appropriate questions are asked and good science is integrated into a natural resource management framework that continues to engage all stakeholders.

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Speaker: PhD Candidate Jayden Engert (JCU Nguma-bada)

Abstract: Loss and degradation of habitat is a key threat to the majority of terrestrial plant and animal species in Australia and globally. The importance of ecological restoration in mitigating these threats has led to a proliferation of national and international programs to restore the planets declining systems, as well as a dramatic increase in research outputs focused on restoration planning. However, restoration planning studies tend to focus on optimal site selection and often ignore barriers to restoration or drivers of funding allocation. By comparing successful and unsuccessful grant applications under the 20 Million Trees Land-care Program, a federal government ecological restoration initiative, we identified factors that drove restoration funding. We then assessed the influence of these drivers on the Programs ability to provide benefits for threatened species. Our results show that biases in awarding of funding for ecological restoration can significantly reduce the benefits delivered by said programs

Biography: Jayden Engert is an applied ecologist with a particular interest in human impacts, ecological restoration, and forest conservation. He completed a Bachelors in Zoology and a Masters in Protected Area Management at James Cook University, including a research component on tropical forest restoration. He has spent years working as a Geospatial Technician on various land management and conservation research projects. Jayden is a currently a PhD candidate at JCU where he aims to predict the environmental impacts of proposed large-scale infrastructure development projects across the Asia-Pacific region.

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Speaker Distinguished Professor Michael Bird (JCU - Nguma-bada)

Abstract: The carbon and nitrogen isotope composition of human and animal tissues encodes dietary information. We transformed the isotope compositions of 13,666 modern and ancient analyses of bone collagen and hair keratin to make them comparable on a common scale. This reveals that the dietary breadth of modern humans is highly compressed when compared to populations predating the development, in 1910, of modern industrial fertilizer by the Haber-Bosch method. However, modern humans that still use ‘traditional’ subsistence strategies retain remarkably similar dietary breadth to pre-Haber-Bosch human populations. Increased reliance on industrial agriculture and pastoralism is resulting in a cascade of ‘rewiring’ to remaining food webs globally that can reduce the resilience of global ecosystems in the face of accelerating environmental change. Having established the global range of isotope variability in ancient populations, we demonstrate the archaeological utility of this approach using a subset of ~1000 analyses of human bone collagen from the British Isles spanning the last 5000 years. We compare this to ~4,000 analyses of potential dietary items, also from the British Isles, informed by our understanding of the contemporary controls on the stable isotope composition of the base of terrestrial and marine foodwebs in the British Isles. This reveals large and overlapping ranges in the isotope composition of many potential food items, making detailed ‘dietary reconstruction’ problematic at the local level. It also reveals significant temporal shifts in diet at the population level, particularly post-dating the Norman conquest.

Biography: Michael Bird trained as a geologist at the University of Sydney and the Australian National University, obtaining a PhD in isotope geochemistry in 1988. Following a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, he returned to Australia as research Fellow, Queen Elizabeth II Fellow and Fellow at the Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University. In 2000 he took up an Associate Professorship in Singapore and in 2004 moved to the Chair in Environmental Change at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. He returned again to Australia in 2009 to take up an Australian Research Council Federation, then Laureate Fellowship. He is currently Distinguished Professor in the College of Science and Engineering at James Cook University (Cairns campus). He leads a research group focused terrestrial biogeochemistry and environmental change in tropical Australia and Southeast Asia. He is a co-investigator with the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH).

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