Formed in 2005, the Institute for Land, Water and Society (ILWS) combines research strengths in biophysical, social and economic fields and has well-established partnerships with state and federal government departments, agencies and other tertiary institutions in Australia and overseas.
Since 2016 ILWS projects and strategic research activities have been aligned across four thematic research areas – Biodiversity Conservation, Rural and Regional Communities, Environmental Water and Sustainable Development (International).
ILWS is based in the heart of the Murray-Darling Basin, one of Australia's most significant food production regions. However, the region is facing pressing issues around water use and management, biodiversity and agricultural productivity, which explains why ILWS has a strong focus on aquatic biodiversity and ecosystem condition.
ILWS researchers also work on better ways to connect scientific and other knowledge, including that from local and Indigenous communities, with governance and policy-making processes, says the Institute’s Acting Director, Associate Professor Andrew Hall, a spatial scientist with expertise in climatology and remote sensing.
|ILWS Professor Lee Baumgartner with a Murray Cod (image courtesy of ILWS)|
ILWS experts, including fish and river ecologists and environmental sociologists and chemists, have been heavily involved in providing expert scientific advice on recent ecological issues in the MDB, including the widespread fish deaths during 2019.
ILWS Professor Lee Baumgartner, a member of the Murray Darling Basin Authority’s Technical Advisory Group, who was involved in investigating fish deaths in the Lower Darling and in September 2019, warned that the challenging summer that is now with us would likely lead to more fish deaths.
Referring to the massive fish deaths (for the second time within a year) in the Macleay River in northern NSW after the recent bushfires, Professor Baumgartner says that a sudden deluge after a bushfire creates the perfect scenario for mass fish kills.
Members of the Institute are also responding quickly to Australia’s current bushfire crisis, including Associate Professor Dale Nimmo who is a member of the Expert Panel of ecologists, conservation biologists, and other scientists called upon to advise the Minister for the Environment on how best to support the immediate survival of affected animals, plants and ecological communities and assess the impacts of the bushfires on our environment and prioritise recovery efforts.
One of the major on-going projects in which the Institute is playing a key role is the development and establishment of an Australian Acoustic Observatory (A2O), a continental-scale acoustic sensor network recording across multiple Australian ecosystems for a five-year period to monitor biodiversity change.
The project is funded via an ARC LIEF grant led by Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and builds on an ARC Discovery project co-led by QUT and CSU.
The A2O will have approximately 400 continuously operating acoustic sensors collecting around two petabytes of sound data over the duration of the project. The observatory is collecting one of the largest terrestrial sound data-sets in the world, recording audible species across multiple habitats, and providing high resolution spatial and temporal data.
The huge effort that has gone into the planning and preparation for an A2O that will monitor biodiversity across the continent has come to fruition, says ILWS’s Professor David Watson, a key team member.
Professor Watson is hoping the number of acoustic recording units across the country will increase over time.
ILWS Professor David Watson demonstrating one of the 400 continuously operating acoustic sensors that form part of the Australian Acoustic Observatory (A2O) (image courtesy of ILWS)
Published in TERN newsletter January 2020