A contingent of Qaecologists have just returned from a fortnight in sunny Brisbane, attending the first ever Student Conference for Conservation Science to be held in Australia. The conference took place at the University of Queensland and is part of a family of similar conferences held in Bangalore, Cambridge and New York. The Brisbane event was hosted by the EDG and attended by more than 120 students from over 20 countries.
The conference was a resounding success. We’d like to thank all the organisers and student attendees for putting on such a fantastic series of talks, poster sessions, field trips, workshops and social events. Read on to find out more about what QAECO got up to up north.
Each morning of the first three days of SCCS-Brisbane offered a stimulating and very different plenary from three leading lights in the conservation sciences: David Bickford (National University of Singapore), Michellle Pinard (University of Aberdeen) and James Watson (Wildlife Conservation Society). Then it was straight into the student talks. Four PhD students from QAECO were lucky enough to present their work to the conference delegates. Darren Southwell spoke about adaptive management of the threatened growling grass frog, Litoria raniformis in outer Melbourne, while Diego Correa spoke about his Masters research on primates and fleshy fruit prevalence in Colombia. Later in the week, Michaela Plein presented work from her PhD on the optimal translocation of interdependent species and Kylie Soanes impressed the audience with a talk on the effectiveness of road crossing structures along major highways in Australia. Overall, the talks were a fantastic opportunity to showcase conservation research by young researchers from all over the world. A big congratulations to Lucie Bland from the Zoological Society of London, who was awarded first prize for her presentation on Uncertainty in the IUCN Red List. Lucie will be visiting the QAECO lab for the next 2 months on a CEED travel scholarship. Other crowd favourites included Aishwarya Maheshwari’s amazing snow leopard photos captured in Northern India, and the enthusiastic, if alarming, talk from Zhigang Mei on accelerated declines in the Yangtze finless porpoise in China (quote of the conference: “What can I do for these lovely animals?”).
If you weren’t talking at SCCS, you had a poster – so the three days of sessions were a great chance to see the massive geographic and scientific scope of work being done by delegates. QAECO had three poster presenters at SCCS. Sarah DeVries displayed some of her Masters work on expected value of perfect information in management decisions for the endangered growling grass frog in Victoria. Both in earlier stages of their research with QAECO, Paing Soe and Gerry Ryan presented work on threatened species in Asia. Paing Soe informed us about surveys with the Wildlife Conservation Society for the poorly known though critically endangered White-bellied Heron in Northern Myanmar. Gerry showed some of his ongoing work monitoring the critically endangered Mekong River sub-population of Irrawaddy dolphins.
The second week of the conference consisted of workshops covering a wide range of topics from “Effective Talks and Presentations” to “Decision Theory”. A highlight of the workshops was an invaluable lesson in the art of “Media Skills” delivered by Caroline McFarlane. Members of the Quantitative and Applied Ecology Group not only attended the workshops but ran some as well. Will Morris & John Baumgartner introduced the world of statistical programming with R, while Mick McCarthy and Brendan Wintle taught enthusiastic conference-goers all about Bayesian methods.
The conference offered a broad social program including two field trips, speed networking, bird watching, trivia and BBQs. The field trips took us to the Lamington National Park, about two hours south of Brisbane. With its rich wildlife and lush green forest it was definitely a highlight. For everyone too busy fending off leeches to see the Lamington National Park’s friendlier animals, the next field trip took us to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. There we had the opportunity to cuddle koalas and other animals. QAECO was well represented on the podium at trivia night, with teams finishing second and third. But ultimate success was hampered by certain team members’ knowledge gaps regarding accurate bird nomenclature. If only the bird walk the following morning had been a day earlier?
In summary we whole-heartedly recommend SCCS-Brisbane for any student interested in conservation research. The conference will be on again next year, so keep an eye out for when applications to attend open once again. See you there!