2017 Abstracts

2017 Abstracts

Prof Jenny Donald

Title: My experiences in Cuba
Abstract: My experiences in Cuba

Emeritus Prof Dick Frankham

Title: Genetic management of fragmented animal and plant populations: highlights from our book
Abstract: Genetic management of fragmented populations is one of the most important, largely unaddressed issues in all of conservation biology. Dick Frankham and seven of his colleagues have recently completed a book on the topic which seeks to provoke a paradigm shift in the management of fragmented populations. This seminar will provide highlights from the book and an overview of it. A central issue is the potential to genetically rescue small inbred populations with low genetic diversity by augmenting gene flow, and thereby prevent many unnecessary population extinctions.

Prof Lourens Poorter & Assoc Prof Marielos Pena-Claros

Title: Conserving tropical forests: the potential role of sustainable forest management and the potential of secondary forests: how fast do they recover in terms of carbon and biodiversity?
Abstract: MPC: The conservation of tropical forests depends largely on the fate of tropical forests managed for timber and other products, since the area of forests in protected areas is limited. Sustainable forest management has been proposed as a conservation strategy for tropical forests, with the idea that forests that are not managed sustainably will eventually lose their economic and ecological value and are likely to be converted to non-forest land uses. Many ecological questions about the implementation of this strategy remain, however, unanswered. In this presentation I first evaluate the impact of selective logging on biodiversity, forest dynamics, and ecosystem services. Then I highlight some silvicultural treatments that aim to improve growth of timber trees (such as liberation from lianas and other competing trees), to increase regeneration of commercial species, and to speed up forest recovery. Finally, I argue that ecological knowledge is key to define best management practices for tropical forests, and therefore that ecologists can - and need to - play a more active role in making management practices ecologically sound and environmentally sustainable.

LP: The potential of secondary forests: how fast do they recover in terms of carbon and biodiversity? Over half of the world’s tropical forests are not old-growth, but regrowing forests that recover from disturbances and are undergoing secondary succession. These secondary forests play an important role in human-modified landscapes, may act as reservoirs of carbon and diversity, and provide forest resources and other important ecosystem services to local people. Here I present results of 2ndFOR, a collaborative research network on secondary forests. The network encompasses >50 sites and >1700 forest plots covering the major environmental gradients in the lowland Neotropics. Using a chronosequence approach, we show that above-ground biomass (AGB) recovers quickly over time and that AGB recovery rate increases with the water availability of the sites. Tree species richness increases rapidly over time, highlighting the value of secondary forest as biodiversity reservoirs. In contrast, it takes a long time for species composition to recover to values of neighbouring old-growth forest, indicating the importance of conserving old-growth forest. Although secondary forests are not a substitute for old-growth forests, they have a tremendous potential for carbon sequestration and biodiversity conservation in human-modified tropical landscapes.

Dr Antoine Wystrach

Title: The emergence of navigational behaviour in insects: lessons from crawling larvae and walking ants
Abstract: Navigation requires the coordination between different type of actions (e.g., choosing a direction, going forward etc...), and the control mechanisms that ‘triggers’ these actions is often characterised as decision making. In the first part of this talk, we will see that distinct actions can spontaneously emerge from simple, continuous processes without the need to ‘trigger’ or ‘select’ actions. Such processes can provide a generalist solution to various navigational tasks from simple taxis behaviour as observed in fruit fly larva to complex visual route following as observed in ants. In the second part of this talk, we will see that ants construct additional, more sophisticated representations. These enable the higher behavioural flexibility required to solve more challenging navigational tasks, such as being displaced by wind, or needing to drag a heavy cookie backward.

Dr Geertje van der Heijden

Title: The role of lianas in shaping accumulation and storage in tropical forests 
Abstract: Lianas (woody vines) are important components of tropical forests where they reach their highest abundance and diversity. Classed as structural parasites, they rely on the biomass of trees to support them to reach the top layers of the canopy. With their unique growth form, lianas affect tropical forests in a variety of ways, both positively and negatively. In this seminar, I will discuss the contribution lianas make to tropical forests, how they affect their hosts and focus on forests-level effect of lianas on the carbon balance. The latter is extremely important as mature tropical forests sequester large quantities of atmospheric carbon dioxide and by effecting their hosts liana are able to impart the tropical carbon cycle and the capacity of tropical forests to store and sequester carbon. At the end, I will also give a brief overview of some of my ongoing liana research projects

Assoc Prof Marko Miliša

Title: Dianaric karst organisms and global climate change
Abstract: In karst areas, calcite precipitation in water is common. The calcite deposit encrusts all immersed objects, including organisms such as algae, mosses and animal-originating structures, and is called tufa. Tufa may grow in height more than 1 cm per year, and growth is controlled by many factors, one of which is water temperature. The higher the temperature the more tufa is deposited. Encrusted organisms die-off and with subsequent decay a system of pores and caverns within the substrate is created. These nooks and crannies may be populated by animals and/or filled with organic particles. As such, both tufa deposits and attached organisms may serve as tools to monitor climate change. With a size of approximately 138,595 km² (roughly twice the size of Tasmania) and a mean depth of 173 m the Adriatic Sea is a small pocket of the Mediterranean and harbors extreme biodiversity. Calcium carbonate forms part of the skeletons of many organisms, hence their skeletons have similar monitoring potential to corals. The skeleton growth may be a tool that enables comparisons between diverse marine habitats, e.g. Adriatic Sea and Tasman Sea/Pacific.

Prof David Warton

Title: The case of the missing model: the modernisation of multivariate analysis in ecology
Abstract: For the best part of four decades, multivariate analysis in ecology has diverged substantially from mainstream statistics, perhaps because state-of-the-art in 1980's statistics was not capable of handling the complexity frequently seen in multivariate abundance data simultaneously collected across many species. But the methods developed in the ecological literature, still widely used today, have some serious shortcomings that suggest they are fast approaching their use-by date.

Assoc Prof Clare McArthur

Title: Are elephants just big butterfilies? Using lead odor to detect food in a complex smelly world
Abstract: Foraging theory usually considers rules of patch quitting based on food quality and predation risk, ignoring the front end of the foraging process, which is finding food in the first place. Yet for herbivores, searching for food plants in complex vegetation communities is a key first step – and failure to do so renders questions about relative food quality irrelevant. But how do herbivores find food plants? Invertebrates use odour and visual cues, yet we know almost nothing about mammalian herbivores. Do they randomly bumble into food, or do they “hunt” it down? And if the latter, what cues do they use? I tested the hypothesis that foraging herbivores use odour cues to detect preferred food plants, using the biggest herbivore there is – the African elephant. As a mega-herbivore, it might be expected to forage randomly just to satisfy its enormous food requirements. But if it uses plant odour cues to enhance its foraging efficiency, it’s likely that plant odour is critical to efficient foraging in many other smaller mammalian herbivores too. I describe trials with six semi-domestic elephants in South Africa, designed to test these ideas. The results? Come and hear about them, and watch these truly magnificent creatures in action.

Prof John Mattick

Title: The RNA at the epicentre of evolution, development and cognition
Abstract: It appears that molecular biology has been fundamentally misunderstood, because of several primitive or premature foundational assumptions, notably that most genetic information is transacted by proteins, that mutation is random, and that the soma cannot communicate with the germline, all of which are evidently incorrect. This lecture will present the evidence that RNA is not simply an ephemeral intermediate between gene and protein, but in fact the computational heart of cell biology, development, cognition and probably evolution itself.

ECR - Koa Webster & James Lawson

Title: KW: Individual differences in mammalian glucocorticoid responses; or: How I learned to love variations.
JL: How abundant are different kinds of photosynthesis proteins in wild Eucalyptus leaves? A continental-scale ecological proteomics project.
Abstract: KW: In recent years, there has been an increase in the use of non-invasive measurement of glucocorticoid hormones (in urine, faeces or hair) to investigate the physiological stress response of mammals. Studies typically investigate the physiological response to some stressor, such as seasonal changes, social ranking, population density, translocation and acclimation to a new environment, the presence of or handling by humans (e.g. zoo visitors), to name a few. However, individual differences in the stress response may impact on studies investigating differences between treatment groups. Using examples from my studies of flying foxes, koalas, possums and bandicoots, I will show that high variation between individuals can make interpreting group differences difficult. I will further show that individual variation is itself a fascinating area of study and can illuminate differences in how individuals interact with and respond to their environment. JL: Photosynthesis is one of the most important sets of chemical reactions in the biosphere. We have had a robust understanding of how plants perform this incredible feat for several decades, but most of this information has come from model organisms in highly controlled environments. What we don’t know is how wild plants allocate their protein resources to photosynthesise under natural conditions.
We have developed new quantitative proteomics methods which allowed us to measure variation in the absolute amounts of leaf proteins on a continental scale, for over 100 species of eucalypt, Acacia and Proteaceae across eastern Australia.
I will introduce our ecological proteomics project and discuss how the two major components of photosynthesis, the light capturing photosystems and the carbon fixing Calvin cycle enzymes, change in abundance in eucalypt leaves sampled across large environmental gradients.

Assoc Prof Tim Parker

Title: Insufficient transparency in ecology, evolution, and beyond: problems and solutions.
Abstract: Effective scientific progress requires that researchers report what they find and how they found it. This is not a controversial idea, but when it comes to actual practice, in many disciplines we fall far short of the level of transparency needed to avoid major bias. In this talk I will review evidence from ecology and evolutionary biology that insufficient transparency is widespread and that this insufficient transparency is driving substantial bias in much of the published literature. I will also discuss some of the characteristics that expose disciplines to higher rates of bias. This elevated rate of bias means that many published conclusions are unreliable and rather than contributing to scientific progress, are hindering progress by leading other researchers (and their research funding) down blind alleys. Fortunately there is growing recognition of these problems, as well as a host of ideas for reducing bias. Individual researchers can take important steps to reduce bias in their own work, but journals, funding bodies, and universities are particularly well-positioned to promote transparency and reduce bias.

Assoc Prof Eddie Holmes

Title: Redefining the Virosphere: Metegenomics and Disease Emergence
Abstract: Virology is entering a new discovery phase. Bulk DNA and RNA shotgun sequencing, including RNA-Seq based techniques, provide a uniquely powerful means to rapidly reveal the microbial composition of any sample without bias. These metagenomic techniques provide important new information on the composition of the virosphere, the fundamental patterns and mechanisms of virus evolution, and are able to determine disease agents on clinically actionable time-scales. Here, I will show how metagenomics has advanced all these areas, providing new information of the viromes (and microbiomes) of a diverse array of invertebrate and vertebrates, including iconic Australian species as well as invasive pests. In particular, I will show how newly identified viruses filled major gaps in the RNA virus phylogeny, and reveal an evolutionary history characterized by both host switching and co-divergence that likely extends for more than a billion years. These metagenomic studies also reveal that the invertebrate virome is characterized by remarkable genomic flexibility, including frequent recombination, lateral gene transfer among viruses and hosts, gene gain and loss, and complex genomic rearrangements. Together, these data present a view of the virosphere that is more phylogenetically and genomically diverse than depicted in current classification schemes.

Prof Vanessa Hayes

Title: Precision medicine for prostate cancer - What are we missing?
Abstract: Precision medicine requires a complete assessment of the individual patient, including environment, lifestyle and genetics. This information is then used to prevent and treat disease that is specific for the individual. Precision medicine therefore moves away from the current model of treating diseases according to their classification. While there are no known modifiable risk factors for prostate cancer, prostate cancer is a genetic disease, impacted by inherited and acquired (somatic) genomic variation. Presenting with a high degree of clinical and genetic heterogeneity, prostate cancer is an ideal candidate for the hopes of precision medicine. Although genetics is a significant contributor to prostate cancer, there is still a large percentage of missing heritability for this common cancer, while genomic subtyping is less advanced then other cancer types. The Hayes lab is using novel approaches to define the genetics of prostate cancer. Looking for the missing heritability has taken the team back to our human origins in Africa, while understanding the genomic drivers of tumour development has required the team to adopt novel genomic technologies from genome sequencing to genome mapping. The prostate cancer genome is displaying a unique level of genomic variation that is likely driven by a remaarkable genome shattering and reassembly. Ultimately genomics has opened doors for the future of precision medicine. Professor Hayes will discuss the current developments for the application of precision medicine for prostate cancer.

Prof Mike Archer

Title: Riversleigh - 40 years of research is just the start
Abstract: David Attenborough declared that Riversleigh, now a World Heritage listed natural resource, was one of the four most important fossil deposits in the world. Because Australia has been a vast isolated laboratory for the last 50 million years where evolution could independently work its weird ways, fossils revealed at Riversleigh, which span the last 24 million years, should and do reflect this independence--in spades. E.g., prior to 1976, only 73 Tertiary mammals were known from all the fossil deposits of Australia. Discoveries at Riversleigh have now more than trebled that number with many groups of living mammals (as well as reptiles, birds, ‘bugs’, plants etc.) revealing fossil records for the first time. Although primarily the focus of palaeontologists and geologists at UNSW, with more than 100 researchers in 26 institutions and 11 countries collaborating over the last 40 years to make sense of this resource, a prodigious panoply of publications and preposterous prognostications continues to grow. Unexpected discoveries include bizarre cases of preservation (e.g. fossil eyeballs as well as 17 million year old sperm cells with nuclei) as well as palaeontologists with outrageous senses of humour who almost changed the world as we know it. Ongoing research by many different groups focused on palaeontology, phylogenetics, palaeoecology, palaeoclimatology, geology, caves, palaeohydrology, elemental signatures, geochronology, modern zoology and even the finer aspects of palaeoscatology ensure that at least another century or three of researchers will continue to make extraordinary discoveries in this addictive palaeo-playground.

Prof Michael Romero

Title: Stress physiology in conservation: Predicting human impacts on wildlife
Abstract: Many human-induced environmental changes are potentially stressful stimuli to wildlife; often they are stressful but sometimes they aren’t.  Distinguishing between whether they are or are not stressful is of prime importance for conservation.   Monitoring the presence, dynamics, and strength of the physiological responses to stress in potentially affected individuals can help determine whether those individuals are adversely affected.  In other words, stress physiology can tell us how well those individuals are coping with these stimuli.  How those individuals respond to stress thus becomes an index for how problematic is the human-induced environmental change for that population and species. The ultimate goal is to use physiological responses to predict the health of individuals and populations that are at risk of extinction.

Dr Ceridwen Fraser

Title: The evolutionary consequences of long-distance dispersal versus long-term isolation: test cases from the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic
Abstract: Dispersal is a fundamental process underpinning global patterns of biogeography. The capacity to disperse differs widely among taxa, and is not always predictable based on life-history and physiological characteristics. Furthermore, dispersal does not always result in ongoing gene flow among populations, but is critical for initial colonisation events. Taxa that readily disperse long distances are often well equipped to deal with climate change by shifting their distributions, whereas poor dispersers rely on refugia for long-term survival. In this talk I will provide a range of examples of my research on the biogeography of high latitude species in the Southern Hemisphere, testing the dispersal capacity of organisms and pinpointing the processes and locations that allowed survival through past climate cycles for non-dispersive taxa. Examples will range from penguin parasites and kelp crossing sub-Antarctic oceans, to mosses and invertebrates weathering ice ages in steaming volcanic caves in Antarctica.

Prof Bill Ballard

Title: Myths and fantasies: What really influences the evolution of mitochondrial DNA
Abstract: The factors that maintain genetic and phenotypic variation within natural populations have long interested evolutionary biologists. We test the oft-made presumption that mitochondrial DNA evolves in a manner consistent with a strictly neutral equilibrium model and employ Drosophila population cages to assay the frequency of mitotypes fed a range of diets. Females harboring Alstonville mtDNA have advantageous mitochondrial functions when fed a 1:2 Protein: Carbohydrate (P:C) diet enabling them to reach the highest frequency in cages. In contrast, Dahomey larvae harboring an L161V mutation in NADH dehydrogenase subunit 4 that inhibits Complex I function, eat more and move less when fed the 1:16 P:C food. These physiological changes increase flux through the polyol pathway and rates of ß-oxidation resulting in an evolutionary benefit via partial by-pass of Complex I. These data argue for a crucial role of metabolic flexibility as a selective force shaping the evolution of mtDNA and the processes of energy metabolism.

Prof Madeleine Beekman

Title: Why I study social insects
Abstract: In Virgil’s poem The Georgics, worker bees are described as happily sacrificing their reproductive prerogatives in order to joyfully labour in the service of their colony and monarch. This view has held sway for the greater part of history, until the publication of Hamilton’s inclusive fitness theory. Although Hamilton’s work initially explained how non-reproductive workers in insect colonies could evolve, Darwin’s ‘one special difficulty’, his gene-focused explanation also predicts conflict. So, we can view an insect colony both as a harmonious, xenophobic society in which workers selflessly sacrifice their reproductive opportunities in order to serve their queen and as a battlefield, with selfish individuals pursuing their own interests. Which angle is most appropriate depends on the exact question one wants to ask. I study honeybees to ask questions about how a collective makes decisions but also to elucidate when conflict is expected and means to avoid conflict.

Prof David Haig

Title: Filial mistletoes: the functional morphology of the moss sporophyte
Abstract: TBA

Assoc Prof John Alroy

Title: The onset of mass extinction in Amazonia
Abstract: It is difficult to estimate the number of species to have gone extinct in recent decades because data are sparse and methods are based. One general approach is to back-estimate extinction counts by way of species-area relationships (SARs), which assume a power law relationship between area and species richness. Large-scale SARs are poorly constrained because of sampling biases. I present a better protocol that involves subsampling point records to make the data uniform (using a new equation) and then extrapolating from the subsampled data to obtain an overall richness estimate (using a different new equation). When applied to vascular plant data from the speciesLink museum portal, this protocol suggests that the SAR indeed follows a power law with an approximate exponent of 0.27. Because about 23% of the Brazilian Amazon is already deforested, about 7% of the 50,000 species in this system are either extinct or committed to extinction.

Prof Rick Shine

Title: Education by the Toad: an invader's tutorial on ecology, conservation and evolution
Abstract: Just over 80 years ago, 101 cane toads were brought to northeastern Australia (from French Guiana, via Puerto Rico and Hawai’i).  Remarkably, the toads prospered, spread at an increasing rate, and have become an iconic pest in Australia. In this talk I will explore what we have learned from studying this now-classic example of an invasion in action. The extraordinarily rapid invasion, and its devastating impact on native wildlife, provide both depressing and encouraging news for conservation biology, and give a unique perspective on fundamental processes in ecology and evolution.

Dr Katherine Moseby

Title: The role of predation in reintroduction failure; causes, consequences and novel solutions
Abstract: Predation is a significant contributor to reintroduction failure, particularly in countries where exotic predators are present including Australia and New Zealand.  In these countries, the majority of reintroductions outside of fenced reserves and islands fail due to predation by the introduced European fox and feral cat.  The high predation impact is attributed, at least in part, to prey naivety where native species have evolved in isolation from eutherian mammalian predators. To date, methods to address predation in reintroduction programs have included exclusion or control of introduced predators, predator training of captive-bred individuals and acclimatization in release pens at the release site.  These methods have produced mixed but often poor results, stimulating research into predation impacts and novel solutions.  I present four novel solutions being tested to reduce predator impacts. Examples are presented from a number of reintroduction programs in Australia including the burrowing bettong and western quoll.
Recent research suggests individual predators may have disproportionate impacts on reintroduced populations through specialization and this can be addressed using toxic implants placed under the skin of reintroduced prey. These Toxic Trojans may reduce the need for widespread, indiscriminate predator control and increase post release survival of the population.   Another method, In situ predator training, involves releasing wild threatened prey into areas with low and controlled densities of introduced predators to stimulate learning and accelerated natural selection. Results suggest a significant improvement in anti-predator behavior of reintroduced populations. A third method that may reduce predation impacts is careful selection of source individuals through an understanding of differential survival based on physical, behavioral or release site traits.  Finally, advances in species-specific predator control have also occurred including the development of a cat grooming trap “Felixer” that takes advantage of a cat’s compulsory grooming behaviour.

Assoc Prof Nigel Andrew

Title: Assessing invertebrate responses to global warming; from individual through to biogeographic responses
Abstract: Understanding biotic responses to global warming continues to be one of the key issues being assessed by biologists. We are still a long way off from determining if there are underlying generalities in population, species and ecosystem responses to these rapid environmental changes. Nigel will present some of his recent research on different ways of assessing these responses, primarily focussing on ants.

Prof Chris Johnson

Title: Rewilding for management of threatened and invasive species in novel ecosystems
Abstract: Modern ecosystems are increasingly composed of novel mixtures of indigenous and exotic species, with unstable dynamics, low resilience, and high rates of threat of extinction of native species. One of the root causes of this modern condition is loss of top-down control of ecosystem dynamics, which was once imposed by large vertebrates that have been disappearing since the Pleistocene. The loss of these animals not only shifted ecosystems to new states, but also created opportunities for later invasions by exotic species, some of which triggered further extinction cascades. To some extent these problems can be remedied by reintroductions of large-bodied species analogous to lost megafauna: this is rewilding in its classic sense. But often, megafaunal analogues are either unavailable or unlikely to be socially accepted as introduced species. In such cases, how can we accomplish rewilding, in the broader sense of using strongly-interacting species to sustain trophic and species diversity without direct and repeated interventions by managers to remove invasive species or protect threatened natives? This problem is especially well exemplified by the southern land-masses of Australia and New Zealand. Both places are much-invaded by ecologically destructive species such as feral cats and European rabbits, and have suffered exceptionally high rates of extinction of endemic animals over the last two centuries. I will review this contemporary problem in light of Pleistocene extinctions of megafauna. I will then consider what options are available to ecosystem managers to rewild these ecosystems in the broad sense described above. These include recognising the ecological value of exotic species such as dingoes and camels, managing habitat structure using fire to reduce impacts of invasive predators such as feral cats, using livestock guardian dogs as surrogate top predators, and others.

Prof Michael Gillings

Title: The antibiotic resistance crisis: Origin and destinations of clinical class 1 integrons
Abstract: TBA

Dr Tanya Latty

Title: Nature's engineers: how ants and slime molds solve their transportation problems
Abstract: Like human societies, many biological systems rely on transportation networks to distribute resources, individuals and information. Examples include the mycelial networks of fungi, the foraging networks of giant amoebas, and the trail networks of ant colonies. In this talk I will provide an over view of biological transportation systems with particular emphasis on the trail networks of ants and the foraging networks of slime moulds. Despite their lack of centralised organization , ant colonies can build and manage complex, adaptable transportation networks that can  balance competing design criteria, solve shortest path problem and adapt to changes in traffic demand. Some species even build physical ‘superhighways’ by clearing and smoothing the substrate beneath their trails. Slime mould amoebas build efficient transportation networks that solve shortest path problems and which can reshape themselves according to resource quality.  I will end by discussing some of the implications of  biological transportation networks on  movement ecology and on  the design of human infrastructure networks.

Dr Caragh Threlfall

Title: The ecology of urban greening; green space traits, biodiversity and human dimensions
Abstract: Urbanisation drives ecosystem degradation, threatening biodiversity, and disrupting ecosystem function. To offset some of these impacts, urban greening initiatives are increasing worldwide. Initiatives including planting street trees, revegetating habitats, creating new parks, green roofs and encouraging wildlife gardening, are becoming common in Australia and internationally. Until recently, urban ecology research has focussed on the study of remnant vegetation in cities, largely ignoring designed, constructed green spaces that make up a large portion of the landscape. Landscapes designed to maximise the retention of native vegetation patches and encourage vegetation establishment throughout the urban matrix through urban greening initiatives could yield significant biodiversity benefits and maintain critical ecosystem functions. However, despite the current popularity of urban greening programs, the consideration of biodiversity or ecosystem function in their design or management is limited. In this talk, I examine ways urban greening can be used to improve habitat for urban biodiversity to address this knowledge gap, using examples from streetscapes, backyards, green roofs, parks and golf courses. I will present our findings that utilise a combination of ecological and social surveys, targeting a diversity of taxa, including native bees, beetles, bugs, birds, insectivorous bats and butterflies, in addition to assessing vegetation structure and composition, and public values and attitudes towards urban biodiversity. This research highlights the role of people in shaping urban biodiversity and ecosystem function, and demonstrates that successful implementation of urban greening initiatives relies on understanding the scale at which social & ecological drivers operate.

Dr Lesley Lancaster

Title: Species range shifts: what are the consequences for macroecological variations?
Abstract: Many traits exhibit latitudinal variation within and across species, including environmental tolerances and competitive abilities. This talk explores how range dynamics and species’ responses to rapid environmental change may contribute to shaping latitudinal gradients, in the context of wild and model insect systems. The results have implications for understanding how ongoing range shifts will affect species distributions and interactions.

Dr John Martin

Title: Human-wildlife conflict: species we love & hate
Abstract: Has a seagull ever stolen a chip from your hand? Have you ever thrown bread to the ducks? We all have a wildlife story. Some are love stories, like giving a koala a drink on 40 degree day; others are hate stories, like being kicked by a horse. We humans have changed our surrounding environment (building cities, clearing land for farms, etc.) and some species have adapted to exploit these environments. We'll discuss how ibis are becoming hipsters, how cockatoos are spying on you, why flying-foxes are making a ‘concrete change’ and moving from the bush to the city, and what it means for the future.

Ayesha Tulloch

Title: Back to basics: Using species co-occurrence to predict and evaluate the effectiveness of managing threats to ecosystems
Abstract: Mitigating the impacts of global anthropogenic change on species is conservation’s greatest challenge. Efforts to forecast the effects of actions to mitigate threats are hampered by out-dated species-centric research ​and incomplete information on community responses. Although individual species are important, we are in the midst of a paradigm shift in which conservationists, policy-makers and researchers consider all co-occurring species and the ways in which they interact when making decisions about how to manage ecosystems. My research aims to identify symptoms of community change in networks of co-occurring species that will allow us to predict ecosystem decline and potential for recovery. In this talk I will describe some of today's challenges for predicting and evaluating management outcomes for threatened species. Increasing evidence suggests that species do not respond independently to anthropogenic change and associated management actions. Instead, species’ abilities to persist in the presence of threatening processes as well as their abilities to recover under mitigation actions depend on both environmental drivers and the responses of the community around them. I will present new discoveries revealing the value of using co-occurrence analysis to uncover the impacts of processes such as agricultural transformation and fire succession, which may be masked in conventional studies of species richness and community composition. I will demonstrate a new approach to predicting community restructuring under threat management, which combines models of responses to threats with network analyses of species co-occurrence. The communities I describe span numerous systems across Australia, from nomadic birds in the arid rangelands to reptiles in the endangered box-gum grassy woodlands of south-eastern Australia.

Assoc Prof Carla Sgro

Title: Responding to environmental change: plasticity or evolution?
Abstract: Climate change threatens biodiversity, with many animals thought to be at risk of extinction. Global change will also alter the distribution and abundance of species of direct concern to human health and food security, such as disease vectors and agricultural pests. The extent to which evolution and phenotypic plasticity might mediate specie responses to climate change remains largely unknown. We have used a combination of experimental evolution and environmental manipulations to address this gap in our understanding.  In particular, I will discuss how we have used intra- and inter-specific studies of invertebrates to understand the physiological and evolutionary processes that limit, and enable, adaptive responses to rapid environmental change.

Dr Marc Seid

Title: Ant addiction
Abstract: My talk explores my addiction to ants and examines three major themes. The first is brain to body size comparisons (brain allometries) among ants and what makes ants unique. The second is how ants can be used as models of behavior, even human behavior. And the third deals with brain development and miniaturization; how do ants miniaturize their neuron systems to have big functions in a limited space. I will use examples of ants from all over the world, but will also present data that specifically incorporates the Australian ant fauna. I will present both behavioral and neurobiological data to weave a story that tells why I am addicted to ants.

Assoc Prof Bob Wong

Title: Behavioural responses to a changing world: evolutionary and ecological consequences
Abstract: Humans have brought about unprecedented changes to environments worldwide. For many species, behavioural adjustments represent the first response to altered conditions.  Such behavioural modifications can potentially improve an organism’s prospects of surviving and reproducing in a rapidly changing world. However, not all behavioural responses are beneficial. Human-altered conditions, for instance, can undermine the reliability of sexual signals used by animals to assess potential suitors. Environmental changes can also impair sensory systems or interfere with physiological processes needed to mount an appropriate behavioural response. An understanding of behaviour could therefore be important in helping to explain why some species are able to survive, or even flourish, under human altered conditions, while others flounder. In this talk, I will consider the pivotal role that behaviour plays in determining the fate of species under human-induced environmental change, and discuss recent research in my Group investigating the impacts of anthropogenic change on behaviour in fish.

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