Prof Angela Moles
Title: Rapid evolution in introduced species: will introduced plant species eventually be accepted as unique native taxa?
Abstract: Introducing species to a new environment creates excellent conditions for evolution, as the species are released from their old enemies and subjected to a new suite of biotic and abiotic pressures. Our work with herbarium specimens has shown that 70% of the plant species introduced to Australia have undergone significant morphological change since their introduction. Differences between source and introduced populations are retained when they are grown in common conditions (check out the picture of S. African vs Australian beach daisies). If we can’t eradicate introduced species (and we seldom can), then it seems inevitable that they will eventually evolve to become unique new taxa (whether we like it or not). At this point, we will have to decide whether to accept them as new native species, or try to exterminate them. While most ecologists don’t like the idea yet, I think acceptance of introduced species is just a matter of time. I have been called a witch for these ideas before - bring on the arguments!
Prof Andrew Skidmore
Title: Remote sensing enabled Essential Biodiversity Variables for environmental monitoring
Abstract: Many of the key challenges that face humanity are due to the impacts of global change on the stability of ecosystems and natural services that they provide. In this presentation, I will discuss the process and progress in using remote sensing for monitoring of Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs) to predict the consequences of changes in the global drivers of biodiversity. Essential Biodiversity Variable (EBVs) are defined as the key variables required to observe, understand, and report on change in the state of biodiversity. They sit as a layer between raw biodiversity observations and the biodiversity indicators used in policy, such as the indicators measuring progress towards the UN Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) Aichi Targets and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). EBVs provide key guidance to the observation system in terms of what it should measure, and their intermediate position between observations and indicators isolates those indicators from changes in observation technology. Satellite remote sensing can play a crucial role in the measurement of EBVs, particularly for a subset of EBVs which we denote by remote sensing enabled EBVs. Largely, this is because the global and periodic nature of satellite remote sensing greatly simplifies the acquisition of the needed observations, making remote sensing an ideal method for understanding change at national as well as other scales. Using the EBV framework as a baseline (Pereira et al. 2013) the Group on Earth Observation Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON) held three workshops to discuss current and future satellite missions and their ability to provide observations useful for generating EBVs. The goal was to create a list of candidate RS enabled EBVs by carefully considering, amongst others, factors such as an ability to meet policy needs, priority, feasibility, implementation status, spatial resolution and temporal frequency. The list published in Skidmore et al. (2015) contains RS enabled EBVs that are continuous and biophysical such as leaf area index and species traits, as well as others that use somewhat arbitrary class boundaries, such as land cover and disturbed areas. Also, like some Essential Climate Variables (ECVs), a number of RS enabled EBVs are actually groups of related variables that describe a phenomenon of interest (e.g, plant traits, phenology, disturbance). I will explore progress and challenges in using state-of-the-art remote sensing to retrieve EBVs from remote sensing. With this list as a starting point, the next steps in the process can begin, with the ultimate goal of putting a plan in place to acquire the needed RS observations to generate the related EBVs. The current approach for this process is described. The key organizations for this are the CBD, IPBES, CEOS, and GEO BON, with GEO playing a facilitative role, however, the broader biodiversity community is also very important. A key goal is to meet as many as possible of the reporting needs that CBD signatory countries have for the Aichi targets, as well as for the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Prof Geoff Hill
Title: Speciation and sexual selection as processes to maintain mitonuclear coadapation
Abstract: Eukaryotic performance hinges on the coordinated function of the products of the nuclear and mitochondrial genomes in achieving oxidative phosphorylation. Because two genomes are involved, function is maintained only through perpetual selection for mitonuclear coadaptation. I’ll discuss how these fundamental features of the genomic architecture of eukaryotes results in both pre- and post-zygotic sorting for coadapted mitonuclear genotypes leading to both speciation and sexual selection, highlighting recent work with songbird coloration.
Dr Michael Stat
Title: Organisms to ecosystems with DNA: The evolutionary ecology of corals and the biodiversity of marine ecosystems
Abstract: In this talk I will highlight the broad utility of using DNA to answer questions about the evolution and ecology of a species through to capturing the entire breadth of biodiversity present in an ecosystem. The first part will focus on research conducted on corals that has provided insight into the adaptive potential of coral reefs. The second part will focus on the development of metabarcoding workflows and the analysis of environmental DNA (eDNA) for studying spatio-temporal patterns of biodiversity and for the detection of invasive species.
Dr April Reside
Title: Land clearing across Australia, the regulated and un(der)-regulated
Abstract: Land clearing is accelerating across eastern Australia, taking it to globally significant levels and therefore intensifying the impacts on both terrestrial and marine ecosystems, and local, regional and global climate. Increases in land clearing have largely been the result of the winding back of policies in place to manage vegetation across many Australian states. The recent policy changes made in Queensland and New South Wales include the introduction of self-assessable codes that allow landholders to clear native vegetation without a permit. While self-regulation makes sense for some small-scale activities, the current self-assessable codes allow large areas of vegetation to be removed from high-risk areas without government oversight.Vegetation policy continues to be the subject of intense and polarised political debate. It needs to strike a balance between protecting the environment and enabling landholders to manage their businesses efficiently and sustainably. In this talk I will cover the latest policy settings and ecological implications of land clearing across Australia.
Associate Professor Kira Westaway
Title: ‘Reigniting student curiousity’ – the art of dynamic engagement, intrinsic motivation, visual stimulation…..and the hard sell!!
Abstract: When I started lecturing I was dismayed and discouraged to find that many students were disengaged, uninterested and only learning for exams. Their child-like curiosity and fire for learning had been extinguished by the pressures of secondary education. As a result they lacked the innovative skills required for the competitive job market. What could be done to stoke the furnace of passionate learning; reignite their curiosity and prepare them for a workforce that demands creative and innovative problem solvers?In response I developed a multi-pronged approach ‘reigniting student curiosity’ that creates effective learning environments using dynamic engagement, intrinsic motivation, visual stimulation and challenging activities that nurture students curiosity and bring everyone along for the ride, whatever their learner background. But to get them to this point you need to be a master of sales – once they believe in what you are selling their curiosity skyrockets. I believe that a curious nature is the key to developing innovative problem solvers, which will help them succeed in any profession.In this interactive talk I will suggest a few techniques to stoke the fires of curiosity in our students suggest ways in which to develop your sales techniques to make learning and teaching a more rewarding experience for everyone.Warning – be prepared to think outside the box, play with balls, a giant Earth and oversized board games!!