Department Seminars

Department Seminars

Monthly Department Seminar Schedule

Date / TimeLocationSpeakerSeminar TitleAbstract
6th March - 11am12 Wally's Walk
Level 8, Room 801
Dr Marc Humphries

School of Chemistry
University of the Witwatersrand
Johannesburg, South Africa
Wetlands in southern Africa: insights into geomorphic evolution, climate variability and contaminationClimatic conditions in southern Africa generally preclude the development of major wetlands, yet the region is host to several important wetland systems that are characterised by exceptional biodiversity. Many of these systems remain largely unexplored and poorly understood features in the landscape. This seminar will focus on research currently being conducted within iSimangaliso Wetland Park on the east coast of South Africa. Shaped by sea-level changes that have occurred since the last interglacial, today this region encompasses a range of pristine landforms, including coral reefs, coastal dunes, lakes, swamp forests, and extensive wetlands. In addition to fulfilling several important ecological and social functions, these systems hold great potential for palaeo-environmental studies. We will examine how isotopic and geochemical markers preserved within sedimentary sequences can be used to study regional environmental change and its links with larger-scale climatic variability in the Southern Hemisphere. We will also discuss how increasing human pressures on wetland ecosystems are exposing important management issues.
11th April - 11am12 Wally's Walk
Level 4 Conference Room

Dr Ken Krauss

Wetland and Aquatic Research Center 

Environmental Change and Carbon Dynamics in Sentinel Tidal Wetlands of the Southeastern United StatesTidal wetlands in the southeastern United States comprise vast areas and include saltmarshes, mangroves, and upper estuarine forests mixed with lower salinity marshes. In recent years, these ecosystems have been touted globally for their potential to store and convey carbon (C), and thus have considerable potential for atmospheric CO2 mitigation is left intact or managed appropriately. Here, I will describe C studies that were conducted in two sentinel wetland types. Tidal freshwater forested wetland and oligohaline marshes are rarely considered “blue carbon” ecosystems, but have all the hydrologic characteristics. I will describe a surprising potential for this ecosystem type to store C as well as any blue carbon system, and I will estimate the role that this ecosystem plays in lateral C exchange. Key to this function is tidal exchange. The second ecosystem I will describe is a classically defined blue carbon ecosystem; a mangrove forest. I will show how disconnecting mangrove forests from tides and slowing landward transgression simultaneously affects the ecosystem through peat collapse and mortality. Such actions have an enormous influence on the above ground C resource, but the demise of the belowground C resource is more nuanced. Tidal wetlands of the southeastern United States are incredibly valuable from a C perspective, but are also sensitive to changes underway directly and far afield. Maintaining tidal connections are key to preserving the C resource of tidal wetlands into the future.
1st May - 11am12 Wally's Walk
Level 8, Room 801
Dr Stephanie D'agata

Department of Environmental Sciences
Vulnerability of Coral reef communities to human activities, and importance of biodiversity baselines to assess conservation toolsBeyond species loss, human activity may cause the decrease of phylogenetic and functional diversity carried by species. One of the major issue, particularly in marine ecology, is to understand the effects of human activities on all aspects biodiversity related to ecosystem functioning and assess conservation tools.  This seminar will focus on the latest findings concerning the impacts of human activities on coral reef fish biodiversity, i.e. taxonomic and functional diversity. Also, the effectiveness of marine protected areas at protecting coral reef fish biodiversity will be reviewed.
22 May - 11am12 Wally's Walk
Level 4 Conference Room
Neven Duić, University of ZagrebSustainable energy systems – future stepsTransition to decarbonised energy systems is becoming more attractive with fall of investment costs of renewables and volatile prices and political insecurity of fossil fuels. The renewable energy resources are bountiful, especially wind and solar, while integrating them into current energy systems is proving to be a challenge. The limit of cheap and easy integration for wind is 20% of yearly electricity generation, while a combined wind and solar may reach 30%, while still pending on improving transmission capacities and flexibilization of conventional power plants. Going any further asks for implementation of really free energy markets (involving day ahead, intraday and various reserve and ancillary services markets, as well as coupling with neighbouring markets through PCR mechanism), demand response, coupling of wholesale and retail energy prices, and it involves integration between electricity, heat, water and transport systems. The cheapest and simplest way of increasing further the penetration of renewables is integrating power and heating/cooling systems through the use of district heating and cooling (which may be centrally controlled and may have significant heat storage capacity), since power to heat technologies are excellent for demand response. Electrification of personal car transport allows not only for huge increase of energy efficiency, but also, electric cars due to low daily use may be excellent for demand response and even for storage potential, through vehicle to grid technology. That will allow reaching renewable share of 80% in energy system, but the remaining 20%, part of transport and industrial processes that cannot be electrified, and backup of power system in times when neither wind nor solar are available, may be more an uphill battle without technology breakthrough. Biomass can probably cover half of that demand, and carbon dioxide from biomass combustion may be hydrogenised using hydrogen produced from excess renewables, resulting in electric fuels, like e-methane, e-methanol and e-DME.
22 May - 11:30am12 Wally's Walk
Level 4 Conference Room
Dr. Natasa Markovska,
Skopje, Macedonia
Green Energy in Light of Sustainable Development Goals and Global Climate Deal
The year 2015 was a significant turning point for both the sustainable development and climate agendas. Two major international processes were concluded: the adoption of Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations General Assembly as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the adoption of a new global climate agreement, the Paris Agreement, under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
This lecture will present the role of green energy in fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals and achieving a transformation toward sustainable future for all. Furthermore, it will depict the green energy contribution in the long-term mitigation scenarios which are consistent with the goal of limiting global warming at 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level.
The case of solar energy in Macedonian conditions will be particularly elaborated in light of the deliberations at international level.
12th June - 11am12 Wally's Walk
Level 8, Room 801
Dr Peter Scanes
Senior Team Leader – Estuaries and Catchments Science
Office of Environment and Heritage

Dr Maina Mbui Senior Lecturer Department of Environmental Sciences Macquarie University

Managing the interaction between catchment landuse and condition of estuarine and coastal ecosystems

This talk will present two different but complementary approaches to assessing and managing impacts of catchment landuse on estuarine ecosystems.

Peter will present the results of the work his team has done to monitor and model the interactions between inputs of pollutants from catchments and the estuarine ecosystems in Lake Macquarie. This work emphasises the combination of monitoring and modelling to produce outputs that local government can use to guide investment in catchment management. This work will then be put in the context of the government’s recent Threat and Risk Assessment and new approaches for managing catchment landuse through the Risk Based Framework for Considering waterway Health Outcomes in Strategic land-use Planning Decisions ( ).

Maina will present his work on catchment modelling in Africa and Pacific Islands in the context of providing decision support on one of the key strategies for coral reef conservation in a high CO2 world: reducing sediment and nutrient pollution emanating from the adjacent land.

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