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Wild talk at ecology workshop

The hot topic of discussion among people at the ‘Talks on the Wildside’ workshop was the need to hasten the capture of long-term data on the landscapes we live in, and to pass knowledge on, not just to future generations, but also from the ‘experts’ who collect or analyse it to the general community.

Participants in the workshop came from two groups of disciplines that study natural environments — natural heritage and cultural heritage. The workshop took place at the annual conference of the Ecological Society of Australia, which was held in Hobart in November.

One of the organisers, Associate Professor Alison Specht, the ACEAS Program Manager, said the workshop was well, although variably, attended.

‘It was a great opportunity to reflect on the different perspectives ecologists and archaeologists hold out Australia. As part of this, we looked at the history of the ways our different professions have studied the land, and how to record and preserve our natural and cultural heritage in a dynamic way for the future,’ Alison says.

Professor Claire Smith of Flinders University led the discussion from the archaeologists’ perspective, and Professor Chris Dickman of the University of Sydney led the ecologists’ presentations. In thought-provoking talks the presenters — Claire and Chris, and Vince Copley, Mal Ridges, Peter Latz and Richard Thackway — encouraged those who took part to think about how data are collected across time and space and how they can be used to better inform our decisions about the future. Several posters (one by AusPlots, one on assessing the legacy of our use of coastal dunes, and three from Flinders University students) added depth to the discussions in their presentation of new ideas and understanding.  One of the most striking insights the ecologists gained at the workshop was about the living nature of cultural heritage, which was well demonstrated by the student posters.

ACEAS and TERN were silver sponsors of the conference, which attracted about 650 delegates. Alison Specht spoke about the work of ACEAS, which also sponsored three scientists, Richard Thackway, and Brett Murphy and Damien Fordham, to present on their ACEAS-supported work.

‘The ACEAS and TERN stand attracted much attention,’ Alison says.

‘One of our students, Lucy Keniger, was able to use it to circulate surveys for her research into collaborative practice in the ecosystem science and management community, and had a great response – 98 people! – from the ESA conference. Since then, she’s had 267 more responses,’ Alison said.

ACEAS-funded groups meet

In other ACEAS news, in the past few weeks there have been numerous workshops. Dr Kerrie Wilson’s group met for the first time to discuss ways of improving decision-making on the conservation of areas, and Dr Samantha Capon’s group met for the second time to discuss ‘tipping points’ in changes in freshwater ecosystems.

They were followed in the first week of December by Associate Professor Beverley Henry’s group, which is working on ways of improving predictions about carbon and nitrogen dynamics in farming systems, and Dr Brett Murphy’s group working on predicting the likely effects of climate change on landscape fire regimes. Both met for the last time, and gathered attendees from around the world. Reports on the workshops and working group meetings will be added to the ACEAS website as they become available.

Associate Professor Alison Specht said applications made in the last ACEAS funding round, which closed on 25 November, would be considered before the end of the year. The next funding round will open in May, for submission in June. Alison invited anyone who has ideas for an ACEAS working group or workshop to contact the ACEAS office to discuss their ideas.

Published in TERN e-Newsletter December 2011

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