Symposia at ESA2021

The theme for ESA2021 is ‘ Renewal’. In a post-COVID, post-black summer world, at ESA we will explore a renewal in our relationships with each other and with nature, as our land recovers from fire, drought and flood.

We are pleased to offer the following symposia at the 2021 Ecological Society of Australia Conference

Advances in genomics for ecology

Convenors: Dr Ben Hoffmann and Dr Karen Bell, CSIRO NT Australia

Genomics and its applications are both rapidly advancing with great opportunities for ecological research. This symposium will showcase a broad diversity of recent genomic advances and their utility for ecology, such as eDNA with a focus on terrestrial applications, HTS amplicon for advancing mass sampling, advancements in long-read technology for deeper genetic analysis, advancements

for Population Genetics, and much more. This will have broad applicability for ecological applications from basic autecology studies, through to biosecurity, climate change adaptation, threatened species management and landscape management.

This symposium will showcase how a genomic technology has been used to advance ecology, with a view to potential for the future.

Ecosystem recovery and the forgotten elements of fire regimes: How ecosystems respond to changes in fire season, extent, and severity

Convenors: Dr Ryan Tangney, Alexandria Thomsen, Chantelle Doyle, Tom Le Breton and Dr Mark Ooi, 1University of New South Wales, Australia

Fire is central to many ecosystem dynamics across Australia, however, fire regimes are changing as a result of climate change and fire management. Fire regimes are comprised of elements that describe the pattern of fire across ecosystems. Defined by the frequency, seasonality, extent and severity of fires that occur within an ecosystem, fire regimes and alterations to those regimes have direct impacts on ecosystem function. Fire frequency is possibly the most extensively examined aspect of fire regimes, but alterations to other elements of fire regimes similarly influence ecosystem function and trajectories for recovery.

This symposium will capture emerging research that looks to examine the impacts of climate change and fire management as they drive changes in less well represented aspects of fire regimes.

In the twilight of the mega fires that occurred during the black summer of 2019/20, this symposium looks to shed light on the forgotten aspects of the fire regime and ask the question: How do ecosystems respond and recover following changes in fire season, extent and severity. The goal of this symposium is to highlight novel and emerging ideas that allow a nuanced understanding of fire regimes.
The symposium will highlight each of the forgotten elements and include examining changes to the fire regime as a whole.

Remote sensing in ecology

Convenors: Shaun Levick, CSIRO and Hamish Campbell, Charles Darwin University

Understanding where, when and how organisms interact with their environment is fundamental to the science of ecology. Technological advancements in remote sensing technologies are revolutionising ecology and the aim of this symposium is to highlight the progress in ecological science that remote sensing has facilitated, and communicate how remote sensing can be used effectively to study, understand, and manage dynamic ecosystems.

Remote sensing has long assisted ecologists to explore relationships between different components of ecosystems across multiple spatiotemporal scales. New sensor technologies, remotely piloted vehicles, cloud-based computing, machine learning and artificial intelligence have ushered in a new era in ecology – providing avenues for exploring old questions in new ways, and for addressing new challenges that were not previously possible or feasible.

We encourage contributions to this symposium that span a broad spectrum of ecological remotes sensing – from ground-based and handheld sensors (e.g., camera-traps, acoustic samplers, mobile phones, terrestrial LiDAR, animal telemetry), to autonomous vehicles, airborne and satellite-based technologies (multi-spectral, SfM, LiDAR, SAR, thermal etc.).

Join us to explore how remote sensing science and technology is helping us understand the natural state and fluxes of ecosystems, and monitor and manage their trajectories or recovery following disturbances.

Business and biodiversity: insights for ecology and conservation science from research and practice

Convenors: Dr Matthew Selinske, RMIT University, Natasha Cadenhead, University of Queensland and Dr Megan Evans, University of New South Wales – Canberra

Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning are neglected, but key, aspects to the long-term success of the global economy. Businesses – from small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to large corporations, spanning multiple sectors – impact, and depend, on biodiversity and ecosystem services (ES). Biodiversity and ES are fast-growing concerns, with the World Economic Forum – the leading body on public-private cooperation – placing biodiversity loss alongside climate change in the top five most impactful & urgent risks facing the global economy in 2021. Thus far, business engagement with biodiversity has primarily taken the form of addressing risks to their businesses but a few private sector actors have integrated biodiversity as a fundamental component of their business model. Collaboration between environmental scientists and the private sector has not been extensive in this area, but opportunities exist for both groups, and working together will be vital for the success of mainstreaming biodiversity into core business practices.

To date there has not been a broad investigation of the Australian business and biodiversity context and the opportunities and challenges to mainstreaming and intensifying biodiversity-supporting practices.

This symposium will showcase current research on this topic and the speakers will examine private sector engagement from multiple perspectives, including: finance, agriculture, development, and ecological and social sciences.

The symposium will provide an overview of the state of business and biodiversity in Australia by
1) examining current engagement of private sector in biodiversity;
2) detailing current reporting and accounting practices from business;
3) hearing from business leaders about their work in the context of biodiversity; and
4) synthesising this work to help guide conservation decision-making.

The symposium brings a new topic to ESA and will present a growing research area focused on the integration of biodiversity and business. It will highlight and document case studies of business and biodiversity presented by private sector leaders as academics, governments, and conservation NGOs, are increasingly focused on engaging the private sector and seeking ways to guide their efforts.

Managing, monitoring and modelling mammalian predators

Convenors: Matthew Rees and Rebecca Groenewegen, University of Melbourne; Hugh Davies, Charles Darwin University

The conservation spotlight shines bright on mammalian predators–they are major drivers of Australian ecosystem function and biodiversity loss. Management can be highly successful, backfire, or sometimes both; initially succeeding only to become less effective over time. A lot of the time, we just don’t know. Effective long-term predator monitoring is resource intensive, so often cannot be implemented. However, with new technology and statistical approaches, we have more choice than ever in quantifying predator numbers, impacts and interactions. So, what have we learnt, and what challenges remain?

We have long recognised that management programs should move from a single species focus to integrated management of multiple invasive species and other threats (e.g. fire, habitat destruction), whilst ensuring native species’ populations respond to management.

Are current management, monitoring and statistical methods up to this task? Which do we choose, and do we have the resources to implement them?

This symposium will investigate the intricacies, challenges and opportunities for mammalian predator management and monitoring. We aim to bring together field and computational biologists to discuss:
(1) predator population dynamics
(2) interactions with other species and threats
(3) outcomes, challenges and advances in predator management and monitoring.
We encourage presentations from both managers and researchers who are focused on either native or invasive predators.

Improving the integration of the social sciences into research for conservation challenges

Convenors: Dr Dave Kendal and Ms Haylee Kaplan, University of Tasmania

This symposium will explore the expanding role of the social sciences in ecological and conservation research in Australia. There is now widespread recognition that solving complex environmental problems (and human health and well-being challenges) requires integration of ecological and social dimensions. Human influence on the environment is pervasive and better environmental management requires a deeper understanding of the complexity of human-nature relationships. The session will focus on ways in which social dimensions can be more effectively integrated into research addressing ecological challenges.

Ecologists are currently leading the movement toward interdisciplinarity by adding social science concepts and methods to their available tools for understanding ecological systems.

One of the challenges in this expanding role of ecological research is reconciling different ways of understanding human-nature relationships. This has important implications for conservation and human well-being outcomes. Respecting human subjectivity, values, social norms, and cultural differences is instrumental to a more comprehensive understanding of ecological issues.

This symposium will stimulate discussion on the perspectives needed to better incorporate social science research and practice that complements and enhances our ecological understanding of nature. The expanding scope of social science into the conservation domain is an opportunity to engage ecologists in collaborative interdisciplinary research that incorporates human dimensions thoughtfully and avoids common methodological and theoretical pitfalls.

Planning our Future: Planning for People and Biodiversity in Cities

Convenors: Katherine Berthon and Julia Schiller, RMIT University and The University of Melbourne

2020 was a year was like no other. We needed to rapidly and radically adapt our lifestyles: Working from home became the new normal, we went digital to stay connected with our loved ones, and we explored our local neighbourhoods, with local parks often being the only accepted place for social but physically distanced gatherings. Covid-related changes to the usage requirements of urban spaces have sparked discussions about accessibility of social and natural amenity in urban areas, and our relationship with nature. On the one hand, COVID-19 lockdowns have highlighted the disparity of access to greenspaces, particularly in vulnerable socio-economic areas. On the other hand, we were inspired with how animals ‘reclaimed’ the streets when human disturbance was temporarily reduced, and narratives about the ‘risks’ of co-existence with nature came up against arguments that greenspaces in cities actually make us healthier and less vulnerable to disease. We have an opportunity to use these discussions to re-imagine the role of urban areas and make the necessary structural and behavioural changes in promoting co-existence of nature.

This symposium aims to blend urban ecology and social sciences to explore options to redesign cities for habitat creation and human-nature connection. Urban greening has concerned itself for a long time with the integration of natural and human systems, minimising conflict with wildlife, and the human benefits of ecosystem service provision. This newfound inspiration for everyday human nature experiences encourages us to explore how we design cities that are inclusive of other species, including approaches that do not solely focus on conflict avoidance but rather co-existence and co-habitation with other species, and a re-imagining of our relationship with urban nature.

In this symposium, we will examine questions such as:
• How do urban areas shape the human-nature relationship?
• How do we improve accessibility to urban greenspaces for people and/or biodiversity?
• Why are some urban greenspaces more popular for people and/or biodiversity than others?
• Can we change the design of urban greenspaces to encourage active co-existence?

Renewal or reimagination? What we learned teaching ecology in unusual times

Convenor: Professor Dieter Hochuli, The University of Sydney

This symposium will examine how the teaching of ecology has changed in response to the rapidly changing educational environment imposed by the COVID19 epidemic. The overarching theme showcases how the Australian ecological community responded to the challenges imposed by teaching a science grounded in the outdoors remotely, highlighting the opportunities and threats posed by radical shifts in teaching approaches in universities and schools.

The prevailing view is that the 2020 epidemic will change the ecology educational experience forever. This relates partly to the widespread adoption of remote teaching practices, partly to the unusual location of ecology in school curricula from K-12, and partly to the shifting landscape of higher education.

The theme, proposed by the education working group of the ESA, emerged from the lunchtime session held at ESA2020 in which participants highlighted the urgent need to share experiences and approaches relating to the teaching of ecology, as well as embed education as a scholarly activity in the annual conference.

Presentations in this symposium will showcase innovative approaches to teaching ecology devised during the time of COVID and the legacies of these approaches in future ecologists at a time where scientific and environmental literacy in the broader community has never been more important.

Indigenous Ecological Knowledge Symposium

Convenor: Gerry Turpin, Qld Department of Environment and Science

As part of the Ecological Society of Australia (ESA) conference, the ESA annual Indigenous Symposium will showcase Indigenous peoples biocultural knowledge research and projects. This initiative is part of the ESAs ongoing commitment to increase Indigenous participation in ESA activities.

The ESA is inviting Australian Indigenous people to present in this symposium. This provides an opportunity for Indigenous peoples to share and hear stories to build: relationships with each other and with non-Indigenous ecologists; recognition of our diverse knowledge and shared interests, values and practices in caring for and understanding country.

Decisions on presentations for the Indigenous Symposia will be based on:

  • Strength of application (i.e. why you should be chosen)
  • Your ability to tell a good story about your ideas and/work
  • Your ability to demonstrate why your work is important
  • Meeting the word count and format requirements.

Using soil microbes to restore, regrow and rewild

Convenors: Dr Anna Hopkins, Edith Cowan University, and Dr Adam Frew, University of Southern Queensland

Soil microbial communities and their interactions with plants are fundamental to ecosystem function and resilience. This proposed symposium will highlight how recent understanding of plant-soil interactions can be used to develop solutions for ecosystem renewal and resilience. The symposium will be built around the application of plant-soil ecology to three central themes:
• Restore (restoration of ecosystems after disturbances such as fire, flood and drought),
• Regrow (promoting plant growth and health in agri-ecosystems and highly modified ecosystems), an
• Rewild (conservation and invasive species management).

This symposium builds on the successful, well attended plant-soil symposia held at ESA from 2016-2020 (as part of the Plant-Soil Ecology Research Chapter).

This symposium will bring together an exciting collection of ecologists working on diverse questions pertaining to plant-soil ecology providing a diverse range of perspectives from soil scientists to microbial ecologist and plant ecologists and showcase recent advancements in our understanding of plant-soil interactions used to restore, regrow and rewild our native and agricultural ecosystems. The presentations will focus on new soil-centred approaches that can help to address the consequences of anthropogenic-driven disturbance and biodiversity loss. Central to this symposium is the broad spectrum of research across the diverse plant-soil ecology spectrum, highlighting the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to forming effective solutions.

PF-FIRE: Past Fire Frequency and Intensity Reconstruction

Convenors: Associate Professor Michael-shawn Fletcher, Dr Simon Connor, Dr Michela Mariani, Dr Yoshi Maezumi, University of Melbourne

Fire is a key ecological process in the Earth System, yet we have little appreciation of how fire has changed through time and how these changes are both driven by, and drive, changes in ecosystems and ecosystem dynamics. This session invites people investigating how fire and landscapes have changed at timescales relevant for understanding both the influence of cultural burning on Country and the impacts of the removal of cultural burning. A number of advances in the fields of palaeo-ecology and dendro-ecology have recently allowed the determination of critical and previously invisible facets of fire regimes from archives of the past, such as fire intensity, fire frequency and fuel type. Further, new computational models have allowed the reconstruction of changes in landcover from subfossil plant remains.

These new and critical insights provide a powerful data source on past fire activity that have direct and applied implications for living on and appropriately managing the Australian continent.

The aims of this session are threefold:

  1. To provide Traditional Owners with empirical support for efforts to return cultural burning to Country;
  2. To provide data and narratives that places the current State of Environment in Australia within an appropriate pre-British Invasion context;
  3. To engage neo-ecologists with those working in dendo- and palaeo-ecology to improve our collective understanding of ecosystem processes and dynamics on this continent.

Tailored restoration response: predictions and guidelines for coastal wetland renewal using ecological theory and data

Dr Pawel Waryszak, Deakin University and Dr Emma Asbridge NSW Department of Primary Industries

The year of 2021 marks the start of UN decade of restoration with the overarching goal of preventing, slowing and reversing ecosystem degradation worldwide. Coastal wetlands which support many critical ecosystem services (e.g., fisheries, flood prevention) are disappearing at an alarming rate. There is an urgent need to improve our restoration strategies to better manage the anthropogenic effects on coastal wetlands such as mangroves. Globally, 20–35% of mangrove ecosystems have been lost over the last 50 years. In Australia, there has been a dramatic loss of coastal wetlands: with 40% of NSW coastal wetlands extensively modified, 50%-loss of pre-European extent in Victoria and >80% of fresh-brackish wetlands on the floodplains of the Great Barrier Reef coast have been cleared and drained for agriculture. Using ecological theory and data may equip us with tailored and efficient strategies to improve our ability to slow down and reverse the destruction of coastal ecosystems.

The research questions posed in symposium are:

1) What are the drivers of wetland degradation?
2) How do we identify restoration hotspots across spatial and temporal scales?
3) What factors need to be considered to maximise the success of rehabilitation projects?
4) How do we define the thresholds past which the disturbed ecosystem cannot be restored?

This symposium will bring together academic researchers, policy makers and natural resource managers to identify knowledge gaps, build collaborative links and facilitate the sharing of knowledge and data. In this way, the symposium will significantly advance ecological understanding of how, when and where ecological restoration can be applied to aid in the rehabilitation of current areas of wetland loss and areas likely to be impacted by climate change and sea level rise. Specific examples will be discussed, for instance, the mass mangrove dieback in the Gulf of Carpentaria, NT (~7400 ha dead in 2015–16), will be discussed in reference to ecological drivers, ongoing monitoring and the potential for natural regeneration. Moreover, natural resource managers will provide valuable insights into the current legislative requirements for wetland rehabilitation, legacy impacts and provide examples of successful/unsuccessful restoration projects.

Vegetation information supporting classification and mapping – road to recovery

Convenors: Dr Donna Lewis, NT Government and Dr John Hunter, University of New England

Plants are part of what makes us and our Australian landscapes unique, with 85% found nowhere else in the world. In the wake of covid-19, industry and government are on a recovery mission to boost economic development, which will have direct impacts on our flora, vegetation and ecosystems. Measuring the threats that increased development, in conjunction with existing land clearing, changed fire regimes, grazing by livestock and feral animals, plant diseases, weeds and climate change will have, is critical. To do this, we must better understand the requirements of plant species and the vegetation communities and ecosystems that support them. Vegetation classification and mapping provide a tool and a basis to achieve this, and in turn, inform the decision-making process. Attempts to classify and name the various major vegetation types of Australian vegetation has a long history. Although the major vegetation groups are well known, comparable cross-jurisdictional information is lacking at more detailed levels of attribution and spatial scale. From determining rarity and measuring the cumulative impacts of land-clearing for development, to assessing climate change impacts – accurate descriptions of vegetation pattern is essential for creating baselines from which to measure change. Robust data-collection underlies all quality scientific work and must extend to decision-making if we are to make fair and equitable decisions in the face of conflicting land-use priorities.

This symposium will bring together ecologists and vegetation scientists who are interested in the intersect between species information, vegetation data, classification, map-products, policy and decision-making for positive conservation outcomes. Presentations will be linked to how the science of vegetation analysis impacts practical conservation outcomes from species distribution modelling, habitat and vegetation community mapping and vegetation classification appropriate at local, regional and continental scales. Speakers in this symposium will bring both their experience and expertise, new and innovative research developments including:

• Foundation information to provide a baseline and track change in a transforming landscape;

• Current status of national vegetation classification systems and international standards;

• State, territory and federal developments;

• Innovative methods for species habitat modelling, vegetation and ecosystem mapping and monitoring, and

• Modern techniques in vegetation classification.

Practitioners collaborating to restore and rewild landscapes

Convenors: Dr Sacha Jellinek, University of Melbourne, Dr Chloe Sato, Dr Samantha Lloyd, Dr Noel Preece

Collaborations between practitioners and researchers often focus on the restoration and renewal of our natural environment, and restoring links between people and nature. The Practitioner Engagement Working Group symposium will focus on highlighting these links between practitioners and researchers, and the application of research into on-ground outcomes that renew our natural environment, and/or our links to it.

Collaborations between practitioners and researchers often focus on the restoration and renewal of our natural environment, and restoring links between people and nature. The Practitioner Engagement Working Group symposium will focus on highlighting these links between practitioners and researchers, and the application of research into on-ground outcomes that renew our natural environment, and/or our links to it.

This symposium will showcase collaborative projects between researchers and practitioners, aimed at understanding how to better renew natural landscapes through habitat restoration and rewilding. Renewal of the natural landscape covers many facets, including rehabilitation, regeneration, revegetation and post-fire/natural disaster restoration; and provides opportunities to explore practitioner collaborations and links to projects such as those undertaken by First Nations people. Symposium outcomes will highlight the importance of good collaborations supported by robust science for ecological resilience and recovery. Presenters are also encouraged to apply for the Ecological Impact Award 2021, which provides winners with assistance to take part in the conference as well as other benefits.

Engaging community in the science and stories of nature through science-arts collaborations

Convenors: Dr Sheryn Pitman, South Australian Museum, Dr Ayesha Tulloch, University of Sydney and Dr Kirsten Parris, University of Melbourne

Both science and art are human attempts to understand and describe the world around us. While the relationship between science and art is natural and intimate, it can be argued that more recently the two have suffered some disconnection. Fortunately science communication today is a growing field alive with experimentation and new approaches for telling the fascinating and important stories of science and research. This symposium will explore just some of the possibilities for growing science and ecological literacy through story-telling and look at some innovative artistic approaches that can engage and inspire new audiences and contribute to making a difference.

All around Australia are community-based programs that bring together arts and sciences. We explore ways in which these collaborations take place, ways in which relationships between scientists and artists can develop, and ways in which communities become engaged, and examine some of the outcomes of such collaborations and consider how they contribute to the renewal of the relationship not only between the science and the arts but, even more importantly, between humanity and nature.

The symposium will include a combination of
1) presentations about recent events or activities at which science was successfully communicated in non-conventional ways and
2) on-the-spot artistic communication of ecological ideas and information.

The symposium convenors encourage students and early-career researchers to participate, and offer prizes for best presentation by a student and best presentation by an ECR (currently employed at Level A or B or < 5 years FTE post-PhD). This symposium is supported by the ESA’s Research Chapter for Science Communication, which was launched in 2017, and the ESA Working Group for Media and Communication

Negative emotions and mental health impacts attributable to climate change

Convenors: Navjot Bhullar and Myfanwy Maple, University of New England; Patrick Nunn, University of Sunshine Coast; Charles Ogunbode, University of Nottingham

Connection with nature is increasingly recognised as important for human health and wellbeing, a realisation that can provide important lessons and tools for addressing social and health issues. At the same time, conservation scientists and practitioners recognise that conservation problems are caused by and can be solved by changing human behaviour. Understanding human relationships with nature, how to influence them, and their consequences for both biodiversity and people is critical. This is especially apparent during times of ecological disaster, such as the COVID19 pandemic and 2019-2020 catastrophic bushfires.
This symposium will address a significant public health concern of mental health impacts of climate change and other ecological issues. Negative emotions are experienced first-hand by ecologists and conservation scientists and practitioners who are working on-the-ground protecting natural habitats.

This symposium will provide evidence to help understand:

  1. How is eco-connection associated with positive mental health outcomes including sense of restoration and stress recovery?
  2. How are negative emotions about climate change are impacting mental health and sleep patterns?
  3. How can knowledge of the benefits of nature provide an avenue for communicating the detrimental impacts of climate change on our natural environments, and on our mental health?

Human behaviour change and the importance of nature connection for humanity’s wellbeing

Convenors: Lily van Eeden, Arthur Rylah Institute, RMIT University, BehaviourWorks Australia, and Fern Hames, BehaviourWorks Australia

Connection with nature is increasingly recognised as important for human health and wellbeing, a realisation that has can provide important lessons and tools for addressing social and health issues. At the same time, conservation scientists and practitioners recognise that conservation problems are caused by and can be solved by changing human behaviour. Understanding human relationships with nature, how to influence them, and their consequences for both biodiversity and people is critical. This is especially apparent during times of ecological disaster, such as the COVID19 pandemic and 2019-2020 catastrophic bushfires. In this symposium we will explore human-nature connection, human interactions with nature, the role of nature for healing catastrophe-affected communities, and the potential of human behaviour change science for promoting nature connection and conservation goals.

This proposal presents a unique opportunity to expand ESA’s traditional focus on ecological research to include social and behavioural psychological sciences, supporting the ESA community to improve the applicability and impact of their environmental research and programs through interdisciplinary collaboration.

The goals of the symposium will be to share findings and frameworks with researchers and practitioners to support and develop programs that build positive relationships between humans and nature and identify future research and collaboration opportunities. Presentations will include community-based bushfire recovery programs with government and NGOs, academic research on nature connection and behaviour change, and First Nation’s perspectives on healthy relationships with nature.

CALL FOR ABSTRACTS

The Call for Abstracts is now open. You are welcome to submit an abstract for inclusion of any of the listed symposia, or for consideration in the Open Forum. Oral presentations will be a mix of 5 minute speed talks or 15 minute talks.

Abstracts may be submitted for individual symposia, or as part of the general scientific program. The committee welcomes abstracts for oral presentation, poster presentation, and speed talks. The Call for Abstracts will close on 23 July 2021.
 
Please note that abstracts cannot be amended or replaced once the review process has commenced.