Hot topics in ecology

5 03 2013

HotTopic copyJust 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 AmericaCzech 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.

CJA Bradshaw

1Not strictly ‘new’ – the first one went live in June 2012



3 responses

11 03 2014
Alliance of Leading Environmental Researchers and Thinkers |

[…] blogged about a similar venture coordinated by the Ecological Society of Australia – their Hot Topics in Ecology. In a lot of ways, the two endeavours are complementary – both gather the scientific […]


11 03 2013
Shane White

A hot topic in Ecology?

Perhaps the utter absence of participation in weed and feral animal control in conservation parks of the Mount Lofty Ranges by the South Australian government’s Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR)? Not academic enough?

I live next to one of these parks and worked with it as a member of Friends of Parks for 6 years. Not once did DEWNR (aka DEH, DENR, Parks and Wildlife) do any weed control work in this park. As a volunteer I was required to identify weeds, complete grant funding applications and manage subcontractors on site, on top of manual labour. There I was as a volunteer answering questions in grants about how the proposed weed spraying was going to benefit the local community; a volunteer answering idiotic questions in order to obtain grant money from the federal government to carry out weed control in a state government conservation park, home to 60 native bird species.

Eventually I became sick and tired of DEWNR’s apathy and incompetence and left Friends Of Parks (FOP). Within FOP I could not find any other member, including David Mitchell who would stand publicly up to DEWNR and demand change.

As I write this sheep are free to roam into the adjacent park despite my five years of complaints on this matter.

As if all the above isn’t bad enough, DEWNR now burns areas of conservation parks under the name of “biodiversity burns”. Of course these are conducted in the spring while birds are nesting… What’s the honest purpose of these burns? Litigation avoidance perhaps?

DEWNR. What an utter joke. To Mr Holmes, the highest paid public servant in SA and CEO of DEWNR, a round of applause Sir.

Conservation park management in South Australia’s Mount Lofty Ranges could not be worse. Anyhow, keep writing reports guys and doing research. DEWNR can keep publishing all of their lovely glossy brochures. I’m sure the red robins, bassian thrushes and antechinus et al will be very appreciative.


11 03 2014
Colin Cook

Shane, It’s not a problem that’s restricted to SA. Victoria is similarly slack with respect to pest and weed control due to limited funds being available. The Rangers on the ground would like to do more, but budgets are tight and getting tighter. I’m sure other states have similar problems. Declaring a National Park or other type of reserve is one thing; funding it so it can be properly managed seems to be beyond most politicians and bureaucrats.

If you want to see how a park should be managed, check out how Bush Heritage and the Australian Nature Conservancy manage their reserves.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: