ESA2021 Keynote Speakers

We are pleased to confirm the following keynote speakers for ESA2021

New Zealand Te Tohu Taiao Presentation – Dr George Perry, School of Environment, University of Auckland

Dr George Perry completed undergraduate and Masters studies in the Departments of Geography and Plant and Microbial Sciences at the University of Canterbury, before doing a PhD at the University of Melbourne. He worked at King’s College London for four years before moving to the School of Environment at the University of Auckland where he teaches in the broad areas of terrestrial ecology, environmental change and associated quantitative methods. George is interested in the dynamics of forest ecosystems at spatial scales from the population to the landscape and at temporal scales from decades to millennia. His current research focuses on understanding how the legacies of change in the past, both natural and anthropogenic, influence and constrain contemporary ecosystem dynamics.

KEYNOTE PRESENTATION: Using models to reconstruct past ecosystem dynamics and their legacies

Professor Stephen van Leeuwen, Curtin University

Professor Stephen van Leeuwen is Australia’s first Indigenous Chair of Biodiversity and Environmental Science, based at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia.

Prof van Leeuwen is a respected South West Boojarah Wardandi Noongar leader with a profound respect for Country who engages and builds collaborative relationships with Traditional Owners and other land managers to co-deliver novel and enduring outcomes for biodiversity conservation, bio-cultural land management, and the stewardship of Country.

Prof van Leeuwen is a botanical ecologist, research scientist and senior manager with a diverse research pedigree extending from threatened flora survey, fire ecology and threatened flora and fauna management through to biological survey, arid zone ecology, plant taxonomy and pollination biology. He has worked for over 39 years across Western Australia, principally in the rangelands (Pilbara and Western Desert) and the Kwongan sandplains of the biodiversity hotspot that is south-west Western Australia.

Associate Professor Navjot Bhullar, University of New England

Navjot Bhullar, PhD MAPS, is an Associate Professor of Psychology in the Faculty of Medicine and Health at the University of New England. In the last 10 years, Navjot’s research has focussed on understanding environmental influences on mental health and wellbeing. Her program of research seeks to improve people’s mental health and quality of life by creating resilient communities, solve global problems of mental health impacts of climate crisis, and design effective behavioural science-informed public engagement communication strategies.

KEYNOTE PRESENTATION: Negative emotions and mental health impacts attributable to climate change

Associate Professor Michael-Shawn Fletcher, Associate Dean (Indigenous), University of Melbourne

Associate Professor Michael-Shawn Fletcher is a descendant of the Wiradjuri and a geographer interested in the long-term interactions between humans, climate, disturbance, vegetation and landscapes in the southern hemisphere. Michael’s research group focusses on understanding how Southern Hemisphere landscapes evolve at scales ranging from tens to millions of years using microfossils stored in wetland sediments, along with tree-rings to understand long-term forest dynamics. Michael’s recent research has a particular emphasis on how Indigenous burning has shaped the Australian landscape and how Indigenous knowledge needs to be meaningfully incorporated into landscape management to tackle many of the environmental challenges we face today. He is Director of Research Capability at the Indigenous Knowledge Institute, a cross-faculty research institute at the University of Melbourne that aims to advance research and education in Indigenous knowledge systems. Michael is also Associate Dean (Indigenous) in the Faculty of Science at the University of Melbourne, and a panel member of the Australian Research Council College of Experts.

KEYNOTE PRESENTATION: It’s much more than just a climate problem: how we made our landscapes and why you need us to help save them.

William Bond, Emeritus Professor, University of Capetown

William Bond is a South African ecologist particularly interested in the ecology, biogeography and evolution of open (non-forested) ecosystems. He has helped show the ancient origins of these systems contradicting the notion that they are the result of deforestation. He has explored both physical and biotic controls on the distribution of these systems using a variety of tools, from remote sensing and global vegetation models, to field studies and glasshouse experiments. He has helped change the basic conceptual framework of global biogeography by exploring how animals and fire interact with climate to shape the distribution and structure of terrestrial ecosystems. His work has policy implications challenging global plans to afforest large areas of open ecosystems for carbon capture.
William is an Emeritus Professor in Biological Sciences at the University of Cape Town. He served as Chief Scientist for the South African Environmental Observation Network from 2014-2018. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa, a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA and in 2021 was made an FRS.

KEYNOTE PRESENTATION: Open Ecosystems and the challenge of defining them for Australia

Martine Maron, Professor of Environmental Management at The University of Queensland

Martine’s research group works on problems in environmental policy and conservation ecology. Recent research has focussed on biodiversity net gain/no net loss policy, particularly the design and consequences of biodiversity offsetting, as well as the conservation and restoration of Australia’s woodland bird assemblages, particularly the role of the native but despotic noisy miner as a Key Threatening Process. Martine is a Deputy Director of the National Environmental Science Program’s Threatened Species Recovery Hub and leads its policy research theme, which includes projects seeking to improve biodiversity offsetting for threatened species and ecological communities. She works with governments around Australia and the world to improve offset policy and practice, and advises on judicious use of net outcome approaches in international policy including under the UN Convention to Combat Desertification and the Convention on Biological Diversity. She chairs the IUCN’s Impact Mitigation and Ecological Compensation Thematic Group, is a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, and is currently President of BirdLife Australia.

KEYNOTE PRESENTATION: The new Global Biodiversity Framework v. Australia: how our conservation policy needs to change, and what ecologists can do about it.

Emeritus Professor Ross Bradstock, University of Wollongong and Dr Rachael Nolan, Western Sydney University

Emeritus Professor Ross Bradstock co-established the Centre for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfires at the University of Wollongong in 2006. This multi-disciplinary research team is dedicated to the development of a quantitative understanding of risks posed by bushfires to multiple values and how such risks may be mitigated through cost-effective management, particularly under climate change. His work has been supported by the ARC and Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and international collaborations with USGS and the European Union. He led the establishment of the NSW Bushfire Risk Management Research Hub, a collaboration between UOW, the NSW Government, Western Sydney University, UNSW and University of Tasmania. He retired as Director of CERMB and the NSW BRMR Hub in late 2020. Professor Bradstock has worked extensively with government agencies and the community to help improve our understanding and capacity to coexist with fire. He has served as an expert witness at two Royal Commissions and led a major technical project that supported the NSW Independent Bushfire Inquiry during 2020.

Dr Rachael Nolan is a senior lecturer at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment at Western Sydney University. She studies the role of disturbances in ecosystems, in particular the effects of fire on the landscape. She have two main areas of current research. The first is focused on understanding forest mortality and recovery following drought and fire, and the implications for ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, habitat values and water resources. The second research area is focused on developing models of forest flammability due to dynamics in fuel loads and fuel moisture content.

KEYNOTE PRESENTATION: The 2019/20 mega-fires: what did we learn and will it equip us for the future?

Dr Katherine Moseby, University of New South Wales

Katherine Moseby is a conservation biologist from the University of New South Wales. She is passionate about conserving Australia’s unique desert ecosystems, improving the plight of threatened species, and conducting research in wild places. Katherine has led threatened species translocations for species such as the stick-nest rat, bilby and western quoll and has conducted research into reducing the impacts of introduced predators. She is a strong believer in the value of conservation research partnerships and has co-founded four such initiatives that combine applied research with on ground conservation outcomes. Katherine is an optimist, and although Australia’s ecosystems are battling a range of significant environmental issues, her talk will include examples of conservation success stories from Australia’s remote deserts and the Solomon Islands, where research partnerships have helped improve conservation outcomes.

KEYNOTE PRESENTATION: Ecology in Wild Places – the value of conservation research partnerships

Wiley Next Generation Ecologist Award Winner – Dr Heather Neilly

Heather Neilly is a terrestrial ecologist with The Australian Landscape Trust, with a focus on restoration. She is interested in how disturbances, like grazing, alter vegetation structure and affect the animals that live in these communities. Heather’s goal is to improve the restoration of degraded landscapes, working with land managers to build functioning ecosystems that are resilient to climate change.

Heather completed her PhD at James Cook University in 2018, testing the effect of different cattle grazing regimes on fauna communities at the Wambiana grazing trial in North Queensland and is currently a post-doctoral fellow at conservation NGO, Australian Landscape Trust, a position funded through The Ian Potter Foundation. She is affiliated with The University of Adelaide and La Trobe University and based at Calperum Station in the Murray-Mallee region of South Australia. Heather’s research here includes examining the long-term impacts of livestock removal on fauna communities, testing the efficacy of woody debris addition as a restoration technique, the role of Malleefowl as an ecosystem engineer and the impact of overabundant kangaroos on the Murray River floodplain. In the future she will examine how fire and grazing regimes impact thermal refuges for fauna.

Heather also loves talking about science and ecology with kids of all ages, and has authored an ecology picture book and workshop for pre-schoolers, worked with primary students to conduct a national pollinator experiment and delivered field ecology courses for secondary students.

To read more about Dr Neilly’s work, click here.

Australian Ecology Research Award Winner – Professor Euan Ritchie

Professor Ritchie leads the Applied Ecology and Conservation Research group in the Centre for Integrative Ecology and School of Life and Environmental Sciences at Deakin University. His work focuses on understanding the ecological importance and consequences of species interactions (such as predator-prey relationships) and processes (including fire) for ecosystem management, invasive species control and biodiversity conservation. He argues that multiple and often complex interacting processes need to be considered at both local and large geographic scales if conservation objectives are to be effective.

To read more about Professor Ritchie’s work, click here.