ESA Bulletin

The Bulletin contains news relevant to ecologists and includes regional reports, research projects, notification of events and conferences, and international news. Members are encouraged to contribute to this quarterly publication.

Coping with 'A World of Wounds' (John Benson); Mental health of tertiary students (Michelle Walter); ESA President Don Driscoll's letter to Premier Berijiklian and more…

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The Ecological Society of Australia is delighted to announce a new partnership with the Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment. Each year, the fund supports around 200 post-graduate students to conduct research in ecology, wildlife management, and natural history studies. The first round of applications are now open, and close on 31 March. Individual grants up to $22,500 (up to $7500 per year for up to 3 years) are available.

Read more in our March edition.

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Welcome to the new look ESA Bulletin. Regular readers will have noticed a change to the type of content being featured. In the last issue, we featured three articles on how the Australian federal election might affect our funding, but the majority of content was the more traditional ESA Bulletin content (e.g., grant opportunities, job offers, general announcements).

This issue, the pendulum has swung the other way. We have five articles addressing the place of advocacy in science and five articles discussing potential career options for those who have just received their “Doctor” stamp; with several short pieces of ESA news and announcements. As an aside, the two themes in this issue pre-empt events taking place at the ESA Conference.


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As the year rolls on, we are solidly preparing for the 2016 ESA conference in Fremantle. Abstracts have now closed and registration is now open for this exciting event. ESA previously had the annual conference at the Esplanade Hotel in Fremantle in 1999: much has changed since then and the Local Organising Committee is busy organising a very exciting event.

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Those of you that have been reading the Bulletin for some years will notice that Ben Gooden is no longer editing the Bulletin. Ben has passed the torch onto me, and hopefully I will not drop it and burn the house down. As my first order of business, I would like to publically thank Ben for his work editing the Bulletin over previous years. Ben doesn’t get off scot-free however as he remains an ESA Director.

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Another ESA annual conference is just around the corner and leading up to this year’s event in  Adelaide the Society is offering a number of incentives to renew membership and spread the word to friends  and colleagues. The Society is proud of the diverse range of opportunities we offer our members with new  initiatives consistently being introduced for students and professionals across all ecology sectors so why not  tell as many people as possible – and win a prize as well! 

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In this special herpetology issssssssssssssue...

It is rare that I go to an ESA meeting or peruse my twitter feed and not hear of some outrageously thrilling herpetological adventure, where a crazed, khaki-clad ecologist is crawling beneath a sandstone overhang in pursuit of a scaly beast that the rest of us would carefully yet hurriedly back away from. This ancient continent of Australia comprises one of the most diverse, endemic, poorly understood but increasingly threatened suite of reptiles and amphibians on the Planet. We have the extremes: some of the fastest, deadliest and biggest reptiles on the planet, for instance. This is exemplified by recent research from the University of Canberra, which shows that male bearded dragons are able to become females in the egg, and those males who do so are often “better mothers” in terms of offspring fitness – marvellous!

So, in the spirit of winter, where all of us are feeling a little more cold-blooded than normal, I thought, why not run a special herpetologically-themed winter issue of the Bulletin, to showcase all these marvellously scaled beasts and the researchers devoting their life to understanding their ecology? In this Bulletin I present the usual suite of news from the ESA Board, starting with an update on strategic development by Nigel Andrew (ESA’s President) and showcase ESA’s student award winners for 2015. I then showcase reports from some of ESA’s leading herpetological ecologists, including Damian Michael, Dustin Welbourne and Annabel Smith. Their contributions explore a wide spectrum of research, from optimal methods to survey reptiles to understanding threats to endangered species on remote islands and optimal restoration strategies to conserve endangered retile populations across anthropogenically-modified landscapes. I really hope that all readers will be as impressed by this novel and world-class research as I have been!

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At ESA14, held last year in Alice Springs, I was fortunate enough to see a series of talks on the intersection of  ‘nature’ and urbanisation (that is, ‘urban ecology’) by some of ESA’s excellent student and ECR members, such  as Caragh Threllfall and Pia Lentini. I was buoyed to see that so many researchers and practitioners  are working on how to maintain the function of native ecosystems and species across urban landscapes, rather  than simply documenting the doom‐and‐gloom of urban impacts! As a result, I was inspired to compile a series  of reports from ESA members across terrestrial and aquatic systems who are working in the field of urban  ecology, with a focus on adaptive management of native species and ecosystems in an increasingly urbanised  world. As humans first and biological conservationists second, are we able to have our cake and eat it too? Can  we conserve indigenous ecosystems and their constituent species in the face of exponential human population  growth, urbanisation and civic enterprise? After reading the contributions in this Special Issue of the Bulletin, I  hope you feel that the answer is possibly, hopefully yes! I wish to thank all contributors for their inspirational  work. For those readers who, like me, are bushies at heart, perhaps these reports can make urban ecologists of us yet!

I am also saddened to note the passing of Peter Clarke, Associate Professor in the School of Environmental and Rural Science at the University of New England, who died in December after a sustained and courageous battle with cancer. I never had the pleasure of meeting Peter, but I have used his research widely in my own research endeavours and teaching. In this Special Issue, David Keith pays tribute to Peter with an obituary of his life through the lens of research, teaching, friendship and mentorship.

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Sometimes compiling the Bulletin, especially as deadlines rapidly approach and teaching heats up, is more stressful than not. The December Issue, however, is always a joy to put together, as it typically sees me (Ben Gooden) slumped against a tree in the sun, often next to a creek, reading through report after report of studentresearch achievements and awards, field adventures and new year research and management aspirations of our members! The December Issue also typically covers many of the popular events from ESA's annual conference, which this year was held in Alice Springs. The red dust (which still covers my tent and sleeping bag!), lazy moans of crows and burgeoning blue sky set the scene for my favourite conference yet and some extremely inspiration presentations, many of which are presented in the pages of this Issue.

As usual, I present reports from ESA’s President and Board, and award-winning student members, including a summary of the 2014 student research award recipients. I am particularly grateful to PhD candidate Tim Doherty for a lovely “Labs in the Limelight” piece on the research currently being done by Rob Davis’ wildlife ecology research group at Edith Cowan University.

As always, I value feedback about the Bulletin (good, bad and ugly) and material for inclusion in future Issues. Thank you to our members for such a lovely and productive year, and best wishes to all for the much-needed holiday season.

In this issue...

In this spring issue of ESA's Bulletin, we explore the role of community engagement in ecological management and research into biological conservation. Specifically, within the Labs in the Limelight section, I present two case studies: the first, kindly penned by Dr Bert De Groef from La Trobe University, discusses the role of crowd funding campaigns in his team’s research on the effects of pesticides on amphibian development; the second, contributed by Drs Jemima Stuart-Smith and Gretta Pecl, explores the role of ‘citizen scientists’ in rapidly generating data that one scientist could only dream of! I am talking, of course, of the Repmap project, which aims to map the range extension of marine species throughout Australia.

In Spotlight on Students, I highlight the PhD research by Kate Grarock from ANU into the effects of myna invasion on native bird assemblages. Kate’s work combined analyses of bird diversity and abundance data, that were collected by community-based ornithological groups across Canberra, with widespread collaboration between researchers and volunteer bird surveyors in the field. For me, this work highlights the invaluable contribution that local community members can and do make to novel, high-impact and internationally-relevant ecological research in Australia. With funds for research rapidly on the decline, there is probably no better time to explore the possibilities of researcher-stakeholder collaborations for ecological management!

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