Just a short one today to highlight a new1 endeavour by the Ecological Society of Australia.
Ecological societies around the world (e.g., Ecological Society of Australia, British Ecological Society, Ecological Society of America, Czech Society for Ecology, Société française d’Écologie, etc. - see a fairly comprehensive list of ecological societies around the world here) are certainly worthwhile from an academic standpoint. I’m a member of at least three of them, and over the years I’ve found them to be a great way to meet colleagues to discuss various aspects of our work. The conferences are usually a lot of fun (although I’ve generally found the Ecological Society of America conferences are too huge and unwieldy to be terribly beneficial), the talks are usually pretty good, and the social programmes tend to demonstrate just how human we scientists can be (I’ll let you read into that what you want).
An outsider could easily argue, however, that most ecological societies are archaic bastions of a former time when ecology was more a theoretical endeavour for academic circles, with little of practical use in today’s society. I’d agree that many components of these societies still hold onto elements of this sentiment, but it’s fast becoming clear that ecological societies can play an immensely important role in shaping their countries’ environmental policy.
For example, the British Ecological Society has an active and powerful Science Policy Team, and the Ecological Society of America has a wide array of policy endeavours that aim to convince the environmental Luddites in Washington that they’re pissing away their rich environmental wealth.
One might excuse little ol’ Australia for having a substantially less-engaged policy platform since its inception because we’re still relatively small in terms of numbers and clout. However, that changed last year thanks to a brilliant undertaking driven mainly by Don Driscoll at the ANU.
I therefore (quite unofficially and belatedly) introduce the ESA’s ‘Hot Topics in Ecology‘ which is a blatant attempt to get the Canberra politicos to realise that our ecological health is everything on which our prosperity is based. As my readers will know, Australia has an awful environmental history of deforestation, mammal extinctions, invasive species and wretched water management. Too few of our major Commonwealth environmental policies are based on nothing more than politicking, so it is high time that the very body representing the ecological experts in our country made the effort to extend its expertise into the policy arena.
Check out the first two ‘Hot Topics’ here (soon to be hosted on its very own website, I’m told). You can also check out the editorial board for Hot Topics here (which includes yours truly). Have a good idea for a Hot Topic? Don’t hesitate to pitch it to us. The process is vetted by the board to see if the topic is indeed ‘hot’, that it is appropriately evidence-based and that it has a clear policy implications.
Yes, there’s a lot more we can do, and I’m sure that as the Hot Topics get traction, we’ll see different policy offshoots that really do make our country more ecologically resilient.
1Not strictly ‘new’ – the first one went live in June 2012