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Bulletin of the Ecological Society of Australia Issue 3, Volume 45, October 2015

Bulletin of the Ecological Society of Australia

Issue 3 | Volume 45 | October 2015

In this issue… ESA News, Events & Opportunities President’s Report………..…………………………………………………………………………………………. Executive Officer’s Report……………………………………………………………………………………….. Board News………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

ESA Awards ESA Student Research Award Winners 2015……………………………………………………………. 2015 Wiley next Generation Ecologist Award Winner……………………………………………… Applied Forest Ecology Scholarship – New Grant Available

Regional Activities & Reports Wild Pollinator Count………………………………………………………………………………………………. Association for Tropical Biology & Conservation Annual Meeting……………………………. Campus Flora – Digital Education Tool………………….…………………………………………………. SE Queensland Fire & Biodiversity Consortium Report..……………………………………………

ESA 2015 Office Bearers


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Bulletin of the Ecological Society of Australia Issue 3, Volume 45, October 2015

ESA Board News

President’s Report Nigel Andrew, September 2015 At this time of year the major focus of the Society moves towards the ESA annual conference (30th Nov  3rd Dec in Adelaide). Abstracts have been assessed by the LOC, and early bird registration is now closed (but there is still plenty of time to register if you want to attend). We are anticipating over 550 delegates, so it should be another dynamic and exciting annual conference. Since the last ESA Bulletin, ESA also held its first membership drive, with which the first prize was either attendance at the annual conference, or life membership. Before the membership drive (May 2015 the ESA had 1012 paid members, and post drive and leading up to the conference (as of 21st September) the Society has 1213 members. One of the key things we need to do now is keep our current members; make sure that our current student members stay on post-PhD and become full members of ESA; and promote the benefits of ESA membership to potential new members and lapsed members. On the 10th August 2015, during the 100th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America the Presidents of 10 Ecological Societies and of two major Federations of Societies, representing over 20 000 scientists from over 100 countries and over 40 national ecological societies, met to address key issues related to the field of Ecological Science. They shared their concern about the severe and ongoing erosion of global natural assets including genetic diversity, species, habitats and ecosystem processes that people rely on for survival. This erosion will be further aggravated with current climatic change. Given that an important cause of these changes is the impact of people on the climate, the Presidents urge the Parties meeting in Paris in December during the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Climate Change Conferences, to take the decisive steps urgently needed to prevent a 2°C rise in average global temperatures as recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This is very likely the last decade when it will be possible to achieve this together and to establish a global legacy of a healthy planet for generations to come. All major Ecological Societies worldwide (including the Ecological Society of Australia) were signatories to this call. On Tuesday 14th July, Gail and I appeared in front of the House Of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment: Register of Environmental Organisations: as ESA representatives after we submitted a written submission on ESA’s behalf. We were well received, as the main focus of the committee seemed to be targeting environmental groups that broke the law and also were receiving donations from the public. We were asked about the type of organisation we were; if any environmental groups had mis-


Bulletin of the Ecological Society of Australia Issue 3, Volume 45, October 2015

represented members research and what we would do about that; difficulty of getting onto the register; the significance of DGR status to ESA; our experiences with dealing with Government departments since being on the register; reporting status; Hansard transcripts of public hearings are made available on the internet when authorised by the committee. http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au. However I do not anticipate any adverse findings for the ESA. With this in mind, the ESA Financial Governance Working Group has recently had discussions with the philanthropic wing of Perpetual, the Perpetual Foundation, to find out how we can use our Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status to apply for philanthropic funds to give more benefits back to our members. As Perpetual manage our share portfolio, they also provide free advice to us particularly in respect to philanthropic opportunities. The Perpetual Foundation has a grant round opening soon and closing in early December. We are endeavouring to apply for these grants, especially as the governance aspects of the ESA is now becoming more strongly aligned with the not-for-profit sector guidelines, has strong priorities as set out in our current strategic plan, and is becoming more efficient in developing our governance protocols. Philanthropic funding agencies place a high emphasis on governance structures at the first round of grant project assessment, so we are well on our way to getting these structures in place, even before the potential projects themselves are assessed on merit. Looking forward to catching up with you all at ESA15 in November.


Bulletin of the Ecological Society of Australia Issue 3, Volume 45, October 2015

Executive Officer’s Report Gail Spina, September 2015 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! As promised, we are offering a second chance to ‘Bring a friend and win’. Every member can have the opportunity to win either lifetime membership or free attendance at ESA16 (including registration, domestic travel, and accommodation) both valued at over $2500, simply by nominating someone who then becomes a member before November 30. Amy Hahs from the University of Melbourne was the lucky winner of our end of financial year competition and chose lifetime membership. Speaking of new initiatives, the Society is very excited to offer a new research grant aimed at Honours and Masters students only. A generous private donor has partnered with ESA to offer an exciting opportunity for Honours and Masters students working in the field of applied forest conservation science. The successful recipient will obtain valuable research funds and have the opportunity to attend an ESA conference and experience the value of knowledge exchange and networking with colleagues and friends. See later in this issue for more detail. The ESA Ecology in Action Photo Competition is up and running again with entries closing October 16, and this year the 2016 ESA photographic calendar featuring g stunning images from past years will also be making its debut appearance and is another reason to make sure your membership is up to date. All members as at October 31 will receive a free copy with additional copies available for sale online or at the conference - great Christmas present option! And for those members wanting to get more involved, please consider nominating for the ESA Board or one of the many working groups that make things happen. We are currently looking for nominations for two Executive positions - VP – Membership & Communications, & VP - Outreach and Media Liaison. It’s an exciting time to move into these roles with a suite of initiatives proposed in both of these portfolios in the new Strategic Plan so it is worth any member who has an interest or expertise in science communication or outreach having a look at these positions. All Board positions will be open for election at the AGM in Adelaide on Monday November 30 – please come along if you’re able and have your say. If you have any great ideas or suggestions for events or activities that ESA should be considering we would love to hear them. Just drop by the ESA booth at the conference or use the online contact form and let us know – your feedback is the only way we know what our members want from the Society and the more the better! See you in Adelaide!


Bulletin of the Ecological Society of Australia Issue 3, Volume 45, October 2015

Board News CALENDAR – COMING SOON! Inspired by the many wonderful images submitted through our Ecology in Action Photo Competition, the ESA Photographic Calendar is finally here! Complete with important ESA dates and deadlines as well as all the usual public holidays. Calendars will be issued free to all members who have joined or renewed their membership by October 31 (one per person) with additional copies available for sale online and at the annual conference.


Bulletin of the Ecological Society of Australia Issue 3, Volume 45, October 2015

2016 ESA BOARD NOMINATIONS NOW OPEN Nominations for positions on the ESA Board and Working Groups are now open online. Nominations are sought for Bulletin Editor, VP – Membership & Communications and VP – Outreach and Media Liaison. Why bother? There are many benefits to being a part of the Society’s management team:       

Participate in driving the strategic direction of the peak professional body for Ecologists Be a part of delivering on the new Strategic Plan Opportunity to advocate for your sector or an idea your passionate about Professional development - take advantage of training opportunities It looks great on your CV! Travel and Accommodation to Planning Day held during the annual conference Free membership for every year of service

All financial members are eligible to nominate. All Board roles due for election are spilled prior to the AGM and, in 2015, separate ballots will be conducted for each Executive portfolio and Ordinary Director position. Members nominating for an Ordinary Director position can indicate an area of interest or suggested portfolio. For more details on the nomination and election process visit the ESA website. Expressions of interest for Working Group positions are also very welcome. A list of Working Groups and their terms of reference will be available on the ESA website. These roles are offered by the respective Working Group Chairs on a needs basis and are not subject to an electoral process. We would also like to invite members to provide suggestions for activities, events or other ideas you would like the Society to develop in the future. To nominate or for more information go to www.ecolsoc.org.au

“Bring a friend” member prize announced Congratulations to Amy Hahs, winner of ESA’s “Bring a friend” competition. To mark the end of the financial year, ESA ran a “Bring a Friend and Win!” promotion offering the chance to go in the draw for either a lifetime ESA membership or free ESA15 Conference attendance if you nominated a friend for membership and the friend then became a member. Amy’s name went into the hat after her nominated colleague Alex Kutt signed up and came out the winner. Amy chose Lifetime ESA Membership (worth over $2500). Thank you to all the members who participated in the promotion and welcome to Alex and all the new members who have joined us as a result! There is one more chance to win this prize! Nominate a friend or colleague for membership and if they join before November 30 2015 you will go into the draw to win your choice of lifetime membership or free attendance at the ESA16 in Fremantle, WA.

Donations & Bequests ESA is now a registered charity and all donations over $2 are tax deductible. All contributions big and small are very much appreciated. An online donation facility is now available via our website https://www.ecolsoc.org.au/donate. Thank you to the members who generously donated following our End of Financial Year campaign.


Bulletin of the Ecological Society of Australia Issue 3, Volume 45, October 2015

Australian Ecology Research Award 2015 – winner announced This year’s AERA award goes to Dr Saul Cunningham. The AERA recognises Saul’s outstanding contribution to pollination ecology in natural and agricultural systems. Saul’s research has focused on plantpollinator interactions. Like many, he was drawn to them initially because they are complex and beautiful examples of nature at work. Over time, however, Saul’s research has focused more explicitly on the practical questions that emerge when you think about these systems. Does native plant conservation require a focus on pollinators? What role do wild pollinators play in supporting agricultural production? Will pollinator management increase the productivity of my crop? How can we manage agricultural land to keep wild pollinators doing their work? He has explored these questions in varied landscapes, from rain forest to paddock, and with a wide network of collaborators in Australia and internationally. Saul’s has used crop pollination as an archetypal example of the way in which humans depend on nature, and to offer solutions to the challenge of conserving biodiversity in transformed landscapes at the same time as feeding a growing global population. The AERA Lecture recognises excellence in research in Australian ecology, for a specific body of recent work by a mid-career researcher, and is delivered annually as a Plenary at the conference of the Ecological Society of Australia, which will be held this year in Adelaide, South Australia from November 30 December 3. The candidate’s travel, registration and accommodation will be paid or reimbursed. The AERA winner is selected by an independent panel of expert ecologists from around Australia, chaired by ESA Vice President – Research, Raghu Sathyamurthy.

Image: Sujaya Rao


Bulletin of the Ecological Society of Australia Issue 3, Volume 45, October 2015

ESA Student Award Winners 2015 WILEY FUNDAMENTAL ECOLOGY AWARD WINNER 2015 Congratulations to Melinda Greenfield (JCU), who has won the 2015 Wiley Fundamental Ecology Award for her project on the interactions between a plant, ants and fungi in the ant-plant Myrmecodia beccarii. Melinda will receive a research grant of $5000 and will present her research at ESA16 in Fremantle, Western Australia. Congratulations also go to David Vaughan (also from JCU) for his project on investigating unexplored ecological aspects of cleaner shrimp, and Rebecca Wheatley (UQ) for her project on predicting how fast an animal should run to evade a predator or capture prey. Both of these projects received highly commended awards. Thank you to Dr Jodi Price for co-ordinating the assessment panel, and thank you to our award partners Wiley for their ongoing support of Ecological research. Melinda’s project investigates myrmecophytes (“ant-plants”), which are plants that provide ants with nesting space in hollow modified structures called domatia. The symbiotic ants usually defend the plant against herbivores, pathogens and encroaching vegetation. The Australian species Myrmecodia beccarii is an endemic epiphytic ant-plant found in Melaleuca forests and mangroves of far north Queensland, from Townsville to the Iron Range National Park. The domatia of M. beccarii is a tuber which contains a network of tunnels and chambers commonly occupied by the native ant Philidris cordata. There are two types of chambers inside M. beccarii domatia: one with light-brown walls where P. cordata usually keeps its larvae and pupae, and the other with dark-brown walls where ants deposit waste and defecate. Over 30 years ago, two taxa of fungi were discovered in these different domatia chambers of M. beccarii plants in Cairns but their identity and functional roles were not determined. It was suggested that ants might eat these fungi or that fungi may break down organic material and as such play an important role in nutrient cycling for the plant. There has been no further study of fungi in ant-plants in Australia leaving questions about the identity of the fungi, the roles of these fungi, the nature of the interactions between ants, plants and fungi, and the mechanisms of fungal dispersal between plants. The aims of my PhD project are to explore the interactions between fungi, ants and the antplant M. beccarii to establish if a tripartite mutualism exists and the possibility that ants are farming fungi. I am going to conduct a survey to determine: (a) what species of fungi exist within this ant-plant; (b) whether fungal diversity varies across the distribution of this ant-plant; (c) if fungal species are partitioned in different domatia chambers; and (d) if fungal species vary depending on resident ant species. I am also going to carry out antexclusion experiments in the greenhouse and field to investigate: (a) if ants disperse fungi between mature M. beccarii plants and seedlings; (b) if seedling establishment/growth is affected by the presence or absence of certain fungi; (c) if ants transport fungi indirectly on their exoskeleton; and (d) if adult ants and/or larvae eat and disperse fungi directly. I am going to use traditional fungal culturing methods and a combination of morphological and molecular techniques to identify the fungal species that I find during my survey and greenhouse/field experiments.


Bulletin of the Ecological Society of Australia Issue 3, Volume 45, October 2015

My research will significantly advance our understanding of ant-plant interactions and the fundamental ecology of mutualisms including: 1) the roles of fungal symbionts in ant-plant mutualisms which are poorly understood; 2) how ant-plants in Australia may represent another case of fungiculture practiced by ants; and 3) how ant-plant mutualisms have evolved and are maintained.

Ant-plant showing light and dark chambers

M beccarii on Melaleuca tree

2015 THE NATURE CONSERVANCY APPLIED CONSERVATION AWARD WINNER Fitness consequences for amphibians inhabiting artificial wetlands Congratulations to Michael Sievers, PhD Candidate at the University of Melbourne, and this year’s winner of The Nature Conservancy Applied Conservation Award. Michael will receive a $6000 research grant for his project “Opening the trapdoor: Artificial wetlands as ecological traps for frogs“ The nature and distribution of wetlands around cities is changing at an unprecedented rate, with artificial wetlands increasingly dominating urban landscapes. Although superficially resembling natural systems, these created environments are primarily designed to treat stormwater pollution, with biological conservation often a secondary or missing component. Although there is considerable evidence that animals inhabit artificial wetlands, the ecological consequences of choosing these habitats are less well known. Animals often respond to human-induced rapid environmental change (HIREC) with specific


Bulletin of the Ecological Society of Australia Issue 3, Volume 45, October 2015

behaviours, such as altering their habitat selection. These behavioural responses are shaped by past environments - which provide the evolutionary history that shapes sensory and cognitive processes controlling behaviour - and ultimately influence the fitness, survival and reproductive success of animals. In some cases, animals exhibit highly adaptive responses and can even flourish in highly disturbed, human-altered systems such as invasive species. However, more often than not, animals appear to be struggling to cope under HIREC, not necessarily because of a scarcity of appropriate resources, but because of maladaptive behaviours resulting in ecological traps. An ecological trap is a habitat that an animal finds equally or more attractive than other available habitat, despite experiencing reduced fitness whilst occupying it. Artificial wetlands may function as traps if some cues of habitat quality perceived by animals are present (e.g. native vegetation) along with unperceived factors reducing fitness (e.g. pollutants). Among the animal groups of greatest conservation concern, amphibians clearly stand out as the most imperilled, with 41% of species facing the threat of extinction. My project will focus on Melbourne’s native frogs, with the primary goal to ascertain the fitness consequences of inhabiting artificial wetlands of differing quality throughout juvenile and adult life-history stages, and to determine whether frogs can detect and respond adaptively to wetland quality. Having the capacity to understand and predict how frogs will respond to HIREC will be crucial for active management and, if need be, eliminating ecological traps from the landscape. You can keep up to date with this project at http://msievers100.wordpress.com The judges also awarded two Highly Commended awards to:  

Manisha Bhardwaj “Is Road Noise Driving Bats out of their Habitat?” Krista Jones “Behaviour and pathogen transmission in the critically endangered woylie (Bettongia penicillata)”

ESA would like to gratefully acknowledge our publishing partners Wiley for their support of early career researchers in funding this award.

2015 WILEY NEXT GENERATION ECOLOGIST AWARD WINNER Congratulations to Daniel Falster, ARC Australian Post-doctoral Fellow, Macquarie University, and ESA’s inaugural winner of the Wiley Next Generation Ecologist Award. The Wiley Next Generation Ecologist Award is a new funding initiative aimed directly at supporting Early Career Researchers through a research and professional development grant and Plenary opportunity. The award recognises excellence in research in Australian ecology and Daniel was selected from a strong field of applicants for his innovative work on plant adaptations. Daniel will receive a $3000 grant which he will use to travel to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama, and present a plenary in STRI’s Tupper seminar series, and will give a Plenary address at the


Bulletin of the Ecological Society of Australia Issue 3, Volume 45, October 2015

Society’s annual conference in Adelaide. He outlines his work and his proposed Plenary below: “My research uses a combination of maths, computer models, and large data sets to test fundamental ideas about the processes shaping forest communities. Walk into any forest and you may find anything from tens to hundreds of plants species -- how do they all survive in a competitive context? Using mechanistic models, we can now demonstrate how fundamental trade-offs in plant function promote diversity. My talk at the ESA will give an overview of some key trade-offs with potential to maintain diversity in forests. I am delighted and humbled to receive the ESA's Next Generation Ecologist Award. Currently I am an ARC-funded post-doctoral fellow at Macquarie University, where I also completed a PhD in 2010. While I started working as a field ecologist, I increasingly moved towards theoretical research. I am now enjoying reconnecting with field-research as I seek to connect theory with the large-scale trait and demographic databases that are being assembled. I am passionate about science, open data, reproducible research, and helping biologists to use math and code in their research.” ESA would like to gratefully acknowledge our publishing partners Wiley for their support of early career researchers in funding this award.

New Research Grant opportunity in 2016! - Applied Forest Ecology Scholarship A generous private donor has partnered with ESA to offer an exciting opportunity for Honours and Masters students working in the field of applied forest conservation science. The successful recipient will obtain valuable research funds and have the opportunity to attend an ESA conference and experience the value of knowledge exchange and networking with colleagues and friends. The successful applicant will receive a $2000 research grant ,and funded travel, registration and accommodation costs to the 2017 ESA annual conference to present their research findings. The Applied Forest Ecology Scholarship will support a student conducting research into issues important to the management and sustainability of forests. Projects commencing in either first OR second semester 2016 will be considered. Applications open November 16, 2015 and close Monday February 27, 2016. For details on eligibility and how to apply see www.ecolsoc.org.au/students/awards-and-grants. Image: Alan Kwok


Bulletin of the Ecological Society of Australia Issue 3, Volume 45, October 2015

ESA Student Reports Giulia Ghedini, Southern Seas Ecology Laboratories, The University of Adelaide ESA Student Research Award 2013 Natural communities are continuously exposed to disturbance. Yet most of them remain remarkably stable, i.e. do not continuously shift from a state to another. This resistance to disturbance, however, often decreases when multiple disturbances combine. In particular, human disturbances that bring alteration to resource availability may drive community shifts by altering the competitive outcome of species interactions, often turning subordinate into dominants. Ecologists have shown a strong interest in understanding the processes that may favour and reverse community shifts in response to disturbance (i.e. resilience). Although community shifts may occur as gradual transitions over long periods of time rather than sudden and abrupt shifts, disturbance-driven changes to contrasting states are often difficult to reverse once they have started. Therefore, I have been particularly interested in understanding the mechanisms that may underpin community resistance to change, well-before resilience mechanisms are enacted. Communities that resist disturbance often do not display any visible change in terms of structure or composition. Does that mean that the disturbance has no effect on the community? Or, instead, does that mean that there are mechanisms that absorb the effects of disturbance that would otherwise drive community change? The aim of my project was test whether compensatory mechanisms could absorb the effects of increasing levels of disturbance, thus maintaining the overall system close to a non-disturbed state. To test this hypothesis I used a key species interaction within kelp forest as a model system, i.e. gastropod grazers feeding on turf algae. Kelp forests have an intense history of research, including the processes that drive change to one community state (kelp-dominated) to another (turf-dominated). Human disturbances that act through local (e.g. habitat fragmentation, eutrophication) to global (carbon enrichment) scales may favour shifts in kelp systems by bringing alteration to resource availability (i.e. light, nutrients, CO2) and, hence, favouring the natural competitors for space of kelp (i.e. turf algae). Processes that oppose turf expansion, such as herbivory, enable kelp replenishment and persistence. For herbivory to compensate for the effects of disturbance, rates of turf removal by grazers must proportionally increase the match the rate of turf expansion, which is accelerated when multiple disturbances combine. If this happens, herbivory may act as a process that counters the effects of disturbance maintaining turf covers close to those in a non-disturbed state. What I found is that grazing effectively countered turf expansion driven by increasing levels of disturbance. This process was driven by an increase in per capita consumption by grazers which maintained turf cover close to ambient levels. Importantly, the increase in grazing was proportional to the increase in turf expansion rates, occurring for the single and multiple disturbances of canopy loss, nutrient and carbon enrichment. This result suggests that the strength of trophic interactions may change in response to environmental change driven by resource-disturbance, thus stabilizing community structure and reducing the size of community change. Compensatory processes may, thus, act as unseen but important mechanisms that


Bulletin of the Ecological Society of Australia Issue 3, Volume 45, October 2015

stabilize communities. If trophic compensation is a general response to resource-disturbance, it may represent an important additional, but relatively unexplored mechanism that underpins community resistance. Where communities undergo profound change, compensatory mechanisms may have unable to counter the effects of disturbance. I have recently finished a project that tested this hypothesis and results indicate that community transitions may be initiated when the size of change driven by disturbance is greater than what compensatory responses can absorb. These results were achieved thank you to the support of my supervisors, Prof. Sean D. Connell and Dr. Bayden Russell. I would also like to acknowledge the sponsors that made this project possible: ESA Student Research Award, Nature Foundation of South Australia, Conservation Biology Grant and Dr. Paris Goodsell marine Ecology Research Grant. Contact information: [email protected]

Kelp forests characterise most temperate coasts around the world (left), but some of these extensive forests have been replaced by covers of turf-algae (right). Although compensatory processes may counter the effects of disturbance (i.e. turf expansion) to reduce the size of community change, transitions to contrasting states may occur when the size of change driven by disturbance is greater than what can be absorbed by compensatory processes. Photographs by S. D. Connell.


Bulletin of the Ecological Society of Australia Issue 3, Volume 45, October 2015

Regional Activities & Reports Wild Pollinator Count Manu Saunders, Charles Sturt University The national Wild Pollinator Count has come a long way since it kicked off on a very small scale in November 2014. While interest in the biannual event has increased rapidly, it has been eyeopening for us to find out how much confusion there is in the broader community about Australian wild pollinator insects and their ecology. But the level of community interest in our wild pollinators is very motivating! Our April event attracted double the number of observations we received from the first count. The geographical coverage also significantly increased, with observations submitted from 25 locations between Brisbane and Melbourne. Many people submitted sensational photographs, some of which are now up on the website. It was great to receive lots of positive feedback from observers, most of whom said they couldn’t wait until the next count. The biannual timing (autumn and spring) also gives regular observers the opportunity to notice seasonal patterns in wild pollinators visiting their favourite flowers. Some people have asked how they can tell if insect visitors are actually pollinating, and whether it matters for the count. Short answer is, you often won’t. But the majority of legitimate flower visitors you would see in a 10 minute window have high potential to pollinate the flower, depending on the insect’s activity and the type of plant (e.g. monoecious, dioecious). However, the point of the count is not to collect data on pollination efficiencies, but to raise awareness amongst the broader community that introduced honey bees are not the only insect pollinators in Australia. Sometimes, the best way for people to understand this is to see themselves how many other insects visit flowers. The national event will be on again in the week of 15-22 November 2015. The same rules apply: pick any warm, sunny day during that week; watch your favourite flower for 10 minutes and count the number and different types of insects that visit the flower; then enter your observations using the form on our website (wildpollinatorcount.com). This year, we were approached by the Great Eastern Ranges partnership in the south-west slopes region (Slopes 2 Summit) who were keen to collaborate with us to engage the farming/natural resources communities in the region. A number of face-to-face


Bulletin of the Ecological Society of Australia Issue 3, Volume 45, October 2015

events are being organised in Albury and surrounding regions to coincide with the count week, including a macro-photography workshop and a basic pollinator identification workshop. Details of the events will appear on the wildpollinatorcount.com website. The national count event will still run as usual for anyone not attending the events, and anyone can count pollinators at a time and place that suits them. We also have a ‘Run your own Count’ kit available for download from the website, for those wishing to organise a group count event. It’s a great event for community and school groups – we have already had a number of local landcare groups and school classes participate in previous counts, with more planning to join in this year. If you use Twitter, we have created the #Ozpollinators hashtag to share sightings, information, and identification tips on Australian wild pollinators year-round. This will be a great resource for inexperienced pollinator-spotters and will also maintain interest in Australian wild pollinators between count events. We look forward to hearing from regular and new contributors in November. Have a look at wildpollinatorcount.com for all the details on how to count and submit your observations. Contact: Manu Saunders, Karen Retra, Tobias Smith at [email protected] for feedback or more information.


Bulletin of the Ecological Society of Australia Issue 3, Volume 45, October 2015

52nd annual meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, 12–16 July 2015, Honolulu, Hawai’i. David M Watson, Professor of Ecology, Charles Sturt University In July, I jetted off to Hawaii, where I was based for three months as part of my sabbatical. Before heading to Hilo on the island of Hawai’i, I spent a week on Oahu for the ATBC annual conference. In keeping with the conference theme of ‘resilience of island systems in the context of climate change: challenges for biological and cultural diversity and conservation’, talks focused on many of the challenges facing tropical ecosystems—both now, and in the foreseeable future. Attracting similar numbers of delegates as annual ESA conferences, these meetings cover a wide cross section of ecology, conservation biology and environmental science as they relate to tropical systems. As with previous ATBC meetings I have attended, the Neotropics were disproportionately well represented, but there was also a large number of talks on Hawaiian species and ecosystems. By far the simplest way to gain an overview of the meeting, read highlights of talks and follow up links to more information about the research and researchers involved, is to scroll through the conference thread on Twitter. For those readers who don’t know what social media is all about but are confident it is irrelevant, just give this a try—go to www.twitter.com click on the magnifying glass icon in the top left hand corner and type in #atbc15 into the panel. Go on, you don’t need to sign up for anything and it will give you direct access to what went on in the meeting. Unlike the confusing situation at the Ecological Society of America’s annual meeting where sharing of information via Twitter was restricted to those presentations that explicitly gave their permission, many delegates participated in live-tweeting during this conference, greatly extending the reach of the meeting and allowing interested people around the world to engage with proceedings. There were many highlights, with the daily plenary addresses especially notable. The opening address was given by Dr Samuel M. Ohukaniohia Gon, III, senior scientist at the Nature Conservancy (Hawaii), and his moving address set the tone for the meeting, seamlessly weaving together the latest research findings with traditional knowledge into a detailed ecological and cultural tapestry covering the length, breadth and depth of the Hawaiian archipelago. The other plenaries were given by Prof Catherine Graham (Stony Brook University), Dr Richard Corlett (Centre for Integrative Conservation, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden) and Prof Kaoru Kitajima (Kyoto University) exploring hummingbirds as model systems for understanding ecological processes, conservation in an era of rapid global change and plant life history strategies in tropical forests (respectively). Another highlight was a non-traditional approach to conference presentation. For the symposium ‘Exploring elemental limitation of tropical biological processes across the entire periodic table”, the usual format of four talks per hour for two or three hours was replaced by a series of ‘lightning talks’— three slide three minute presentations. For the first half, 14 researchers gave a synopsis of their work on this topic, all of them keeping to time and using their allotted three slides creatively. Then, a one hour discussion ensued, moderated by symposium chair Prof Mike Kaspari (University of Oklahoma) strategically interspersed with corn chips. As Mike discusses in his blog http://michaelkaspari.org/2015/07/16/ this format worked surprisingly well—the first hour giving everyone a “what do we know, and how do we know it” primer, while


Bulletin of the Ecological Society of Australia Issue 3, Volume 45, October 2015

the second hour focused on a nuanced exploration of “what don’t we know, and how can we get there”. I foresee many lightening strikes on the horizon, hopefully at future ESA meetings. For more highlights, check on the twitter thread (which is archived and searchable) and find out what really went on. The next ATBC meeting will be held in Montpellier, France from 19–23rd June; #ATBC16

Campus Flora: a digital education and engagement tool to turn whole campuses into interactive learning spaces Caroline Cheung, Glenda Wardle and Rosanne Quinnell At the University of Sydney undergraduate students and staff have been working on an innovative learning and teaching app that harnesses the power of mobile technology extending student engagement with the botanical resources we already have growing around us. These botanical resources represent a living collection and mobile technology has allowed us to turn the whole of our University grounds into a learning space for Biology. Focus on plants and ‘botanical literacy’ in education There is no question that plants are essential for our survival. Paradoxically, however, our visual cognition as humans can render plants merely as green wallpaper for our lives. Recent research provides empirical evidence for what many botany educators know, that plants simply capture our attention to a lesser degree than animals (Balas & Momsen, 2014). This phenomenon has been dubbed “plant blindness” (Wandersee & Schussler, 1999), symptomatic is when plants are only being considered for a very limited set of use (food and/or habitat) they provide to animals including humans. Plant blindness is offered as one reason why levels of botanical literacy and participation in the study of plant sciences at the tertiary level have been declining over the past century (Drea, 2011; Hemingway et al., 2011; Uno, 2009). On the one hand there are falling levels of botanical literacy and on the other there is an increasing need for a botanically literate society. This disconnection between ‘supply’ and ‘demand’ is even more sobering when we consider the recent report that the ascent of human civilisation correlates with ~ a 46%-decline in the number of trees globally. #iamabotanist It is not all doom and gloom. Botany educators have been rising to the challenge to counter ‘plant blindness’ with technology-enhanced initiatives to enable and enthuse students to learn about plant diversity, plant ecology, plant evolution, biogeography etc (e.g. Struwe et al. 2014 ). Botany educators are not shy about using social networks to talk about botany and Chris Martin, the instigator of #iamabotanist, is making sure that we know that “Plants are cool, too” via youtube (Martin, 2014).

Using mobile technologies to map plant locations on campus and/or to offer plant maps in App form is another approach that is becoming a viable way to enthuse our students to engage with plants. Of course we have our own efforts here with CampusFlora, but we are not alone offering interactive and informative vegetation maps; there is the Waite Arboretum (University of Adelaide, iOS and googleplay, SA), “The Green Trail” (UNSW), Griffith University’s “Grows at Griffith” iOS and googleplay, (NSW), the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Interactive Campus Map (USA), Harvard University’s “Arboretum Explorer” (USA),


Bulletin of the Ecological Society of Australia Issue 3, Volume 45, October 2015

University of Hawaii at Manoa plant map (USA) which all offer excellent examples where our surrounding green spaces have been recognised as educational resources. Campus Flora @ USYD The Campus Flora at the University of Sydney is an interactive map of the campus vegetation currently with locations of over 2000 plants representing more than 200 species and provides images, plant descriptions and educational material on species pages. At the backend CampusFlora has a structured RubyOnRails database which offers the WebApp (opensource), which feeds data to the iOS (opensource) and GooglePlay (in development). The app has a number of ways to interrogate the database; users can filter by Family or search by Species. The app also presents botanical narratives through “trails” that can be used to target more specific audiences (i.e. by alignment to learning objectives of our undergraduate biology curriculum), and these are also suitable to engage with a broader community audience. Our most recent trail is the ClimateWatch trail, which is being used as a complementary tool by ecology students to improve and reinforce plant identification skills needed to record accurate phenological observations. The ClimateWatch trail was developed by one of our undergraduates while undertaking a Summer Scholarship and is an example how this project is forging partnerships: research partnerships between undergraduate and academics, and institutional partnerships between the University of Sydney and ClimateWatch. We are on track to include our collection of campus plants in the Atlas of Living Australia. Campus Flora has fast become a device (= a mechanism) to provide curriculum cohesion and our students are using the App throughout the undergraduate biology curriculum (i.e. formally because we ask them to) and beyond (informally, because they enjoy using it). Community and Collaboration We believe that we have a responsibility to create an eco-literate society to be in a much better position to face the big environmental questions ahead. The need to improve botanical literacy across the board to maintain botanical capacity is large, given the necessity to study and manage challenges in climate change, food security and conservation. This starts with developing an appreciation of our total dependence of photosynthetic organisms, firstly by admiring the plants in our immediate surroundings. CampusFlora started as a way to improve undergraduates’ engagement with botany and to improve their botanical literacy but it has become much much more. The Campus Flora project has fostered partnerships between users and creators bringing together a community of students, teachers, researchers and volunteers. We attribute much of the success of this project to the enthusiasm of our undergraduate student partners. By sharing our experiences with developing CampusFlora (Cheung et al., 2015; Pettit et al., 2014a, b) we aim to improve the ecological and botanical knowledge of people who are increasingly living in densely populated urban environments. The Campus Flora project has allowed us to reach a wide community through data sharing, for example, we have extended this concept of sharing by offering the app code under an opensource licence. We hope to inspire others to join us in using mobile technology to offer interactive plant maps across urban spaces where access to wilderness or parklands is particularly limited. People will benefit immensely from the opportunities to learn about biological and ecological systems in every neighbourhood. All that is needed is to encourage the self-directed learning through the use of mobile technologies.


Bulletin of the Ecological Society of Australia Issue 3, Volume 45, October 2015

There are already some excellent examples of this in Melbourne (WebApp:http://melbourneurbanforestvisual.com.au) and London (iOS: “Tree-Routes”). Imagine if every city did the same. Imagine if every campus did the same. We hope that Campus Flora acts to inspire others to develop plant maps on their own campuses. Once we have more of them – a bouquet of them - this will provide a system through which to facilitate large-scaled research in urban ecology and botany. How to get involved? To follow the Campus Flora journey find us on Twitter: @campusfloraoz. If you are interested in offering a map of your institution using the OpenSource Campus Flora software visit the project page: https://campusflora.wordpress.com/

Figure 1: Campus Flora’s extended network of partnerships References Balas, B., & Momsen, J. (2014). Attention “Blinks” Differently for Plants and Animals. CBE-Life Science Education, 13, 437– 443. Cheung, C., Wardle, G., & Quinnell, R. (2015). Cultivating Botanical Literacy with Campus Flora: Mobile Engagement Tool Paper presented at the Ecological Society of Australia, Adelaide. Drea, S. (2011). The End of the Botany Degree in the UK. Bioscience education, 17. Retrieved from: http://dx.doi.org/10.3108/beej.17.2 doi:10.3108/beej.17.2 Hemingway, C., Dahl, W., Haufler, C., & Stuess, C. (2011). Building Botanical Literacy. Science, 331. Martin, C. (2014). I Am a Botanist (And No, I Don't Grow Marijuana). THe Huffington Post Australia. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-chris-martine/i-am-a-botanist-no-i-dont-growmarijuana_b_5673557.html?ir=Australia Pettit, L., Pye, M., Wang, X., & Quinnell, R. (2014a). Designing a bespoke App to address botanical literacy in the undergraduate science curriculum and beyond. Paper presented at the ascilite, Dunedin. Pettit, L., Pye, M., Wang, X., & Quinnell, R. (2014b). Supporting botanical literacy in the undergraduate science curriculum and beyond with a bespoke campus app. . Paper presented at the 20th Annual UniServe Science Conference: Australian Conference on Science and Mathematics Education, University of Sydney, Sydney. Struwe, L., Poster, L. S., Howe, N., Zambell, C. B., & Sweeney, P. W. (2014). The Making of a Student-Driven Online Campus Flora: an example from Rutgers University Uno, G. E. (2009). Botanical literacy: How and what students should learn about plants. American Journal of Botany, 96, 17531759. Wandersee, J. H., & Schussler, E. E. (1999). Preventing Plant Blindness. The American Biology Teacher, 61(2), 82-86.


Bulletin of the Ecological Society of Australia Issue 3, Volume 45, October 2015

South East Queensland Fire and Biodiversity Consortium – 10th biannual fire forum and Research Student Scholarship Recipient For the second year running, a student from the University of the Sunshine Coast has been awarded the South East Queensland (SEQ) Fire and Biodiversity Consortium’s Research Student Scholarship to undertake cutting edge fire research. The Student Scholarship Program, funded and administered by the SEQ Fire and Biodiversity Consortium, aims to provide financial assistance and research support to an honours, masters or PhD student undertaking research into applied fire ecology or fire management in the SEQ bioregion. The SEQ Fire and Biodiversity Consortium would like to acknowledge the kind philanthropic donation from Fireland Consultancy towards the scholarship for the second year in a row. The scholarship assessment team were again challenged by the high calibre of applications from students undertaking valuable and practical fire research. However, one application stood out as potentially providing very useful information on vegetation health and fire management. Successful recipient, Martyn Eliott, from the Faculty of Science, Health, Education and Engineering, will undertake his Honours research into whether cerambycid beetles (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae) could be an effective bioindicator of environmental change associated with differing fire regimes. Specifically, he aims to: (1) determine whether there is a link between fire regime and the abundance and diversity of cerambycid beetles; and (2) determine whether forest health is associated with cerambycid composition. Martyn has sampled cerambycid beetles using flight intercept panel traps baited with two known cerambycid attractants (a pheromone and host odours) over a twelve week period within four longterm fire treatments (annually burnt, triennially burnt, unburnt and wildfire) at Bauple State Forest, Queensland. Vegetation structure surveys (including coarse woody debris, tree health) were also conducted within each treatment. Martyn will examine the link between forest health and the abundance of cerambycid beetles, and determine whether forest health and fire regime is associated with certain cerambycid species. Martyn is hoping this will lead to a better understanding of the impacts of different fire regimes and will provide some indication of the potential role of cerambycid beetles as bioindicators of vegetation change. Last years scholarship recipients, Ross Walker and Brett Parker, were both awarded First Class Honours and have provided the SEQ Fire and Biodiversity Consortium membership with informative research outcomes. Dr Samantha Lloyd, Manager of the Consortium is extremely pleased with this outcome. “I am thrilled with the project we are supporting this year and believe Martyn will follow in the success of last year’s scholarship recipients. Honours is a tough year, but Martyn shows the academic ability and determination required to successfully complete his project and I am sure the outcomes will be of relevance and practical use to fire ecologists and fire managers in south east Queensland”, said Dr Lloyd. Communication to SEQ Fire and Biodiversity Consortium’s stakeholders will be delivered through various avenues throughout 2015 - 2016. For further information on the successful projects, the scholarship program or on the SEQ Fire and Biodiversity Consortium, please visit please visit: www.fireandbiodiversity.org.au.


Bulletin of the Ecological Society of Australia Issue 3, Volume 45, October 2015

Art and craft ecology Belinda Martin Attempting to measure ecological processes is…well…really hard most of the time. Giving birth to a hypothesis is one thing, but correctly raising a hypothesis into a comprehensible and decent adult experimental design is another. One of the challenges is trying to measure the damn thing, and, measure it correctly. This more often than not, requires the use of make-shift experimental equipment, or ‘DIY laboratory supplies’. How many hours have you spent painstakingly cutting, sawing, hammering, ripping, gluing and tacking plastic, cardboard, feathers, gauze, tubes, pipes and…your fingers? All of this requires some form of creativity. We are often told that being a scientist means being creative. But it’s hard to be creative. OK, so that $10,000 painting for sale featuring a black square painted over the white square makes us think that creativity is easy. Still, we didn’t paint it. It’s hard to be creative, but I feel like it’s often easier if we work in teams. But this isn’t possible for all labs and often our research feels, well, kind of lonely. We often can’t rely on conferences or papers to get experimental ideas as conference talks are too short and the methods section on papers has been heavily ‘edited’. For example: “Centipedes were housed in microcosms and samples were taken every three days”. Reality: “Centipedes were kept in Tupperware and sampled every three days because I didn’t want to come in on a weekend”. It would be great to have an online resource of sharable experimental designs and DIY laboratory equipment that’s EASY and FAST to navigate. That’s not to say this doesn’t exist already. There are some amazingly helpful things to be found on YouTube, Instructables and Pinterest (just beware of being sucked into a YouTube black hole only to emerge 5 hours later confused and hungry and wondering why you have ended up watching cat videos). Maybe we hold onto our DIY designs and equipment because it took us so long to develop them. We shouldn’t just hand them out for free, should we? Or maybe we think people will think poorly of our research if they find out that it was all stuck together using a hot-glue gun and Blu-Tack. Whatever the reason is, I wish we were a little better at supporting each other’s creativity. After all, it’s probably more important that our paintings are seen than sold.


Bulletin of the Ecological Society of Australia Issue 3, Volume 45, October 2015

Ecological Society of Australia 2015 Board Members President A/Prof Nigel Andrew

Bulletin Editor Dr Ben Gooden

Practitioner Engagement Dr Anita Wild

Zoology Department University of New England Ph: 02 6773 2937

School of Biological Sciences University of Wollongong Wollongong NSW 2522 Ph: 02 4221 4310

Wild Ecology Pty Ltd, Tasmania [email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

Vice-Presidents Member Communication Dr Liz Tasker NSW Office of Environment & Heritage

[email protected]

Student Affairs Prof Angela Moles Evolution & Ecology Research Centre, The University of New South Wales,

[email protected]

Research Dr Raghu Sathyamurthy

Membership Manager Bev Watkins PO Box 8250 Alice Springs NT 0871 Ph: 08 8953 7544 [email protected]

Finance Officer Lyn McCormick PO Box 8250 Alice Springs NT 0871 Ph: 08 8953 7544 [email protected]

[email protected]

Board Directors Hot Topics Dr Don Driscoll

Secretary Jodie Lia

Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University

Biosecurity, CSIRO

WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services

[email protected]

[email protected]

Early Career Researchers Dr Andrew Hayes

Treasurer Dr Jason Cummings

Dept Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry GPO Box 267, Brisbane QLD 4001

Lyrebird Communications, Canberra

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Executive Officer Gail Spina

Tasmania Dr Kerry Bridle University of Tasmania

PO Box 2187 Windsor QLD 4030

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Research Chapters Dr Euan Ritchie Deakin University [email protected]

Membership Dr Romina Rader University of New England [email protected]

Austral Ecology Managing Editor Prof Mike Bull Flinders University, SA,

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Book Review Editor Dr Perpetua Turner University of Tasmania [email protected]

Ecological Management & Restoration Managing Editor Dr Tein McDonald PO Box 42 Woodburn NSW 2472

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Chair of Editorial Board A/Prof Gary Luck Charles Sturt University Institute for Land, Water and Society PO Box 789 Albury NSW 2640 Ph: 02 6051 9945

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Austral Ecology and EMR could not be published without the ongoing efforts of the numerous members of each journal’s editorial boards. Please refer to the respective publications for the full listing of journal editors.


Bulletin of the Ecological Society of Australia Issue 3, Volume 45, October 2015

Photo references Photographs used in this Bulletin (details below) were submitted to ESA through its annual photo competition. As part of submission to this competition, entrants granted the Society a non-exclusive, royalty-free, worldwide right to reproduce and publish their entries. We thank them so, so very much for allowing us to use such beautiful images to promote the science of ecology. All photo entries can be viewed here (https://www.ecolsoc.org.au/events-and-activities/photocompetition/2014-photo-competition-gallery?page=7).

Cover: Title: Flight, Photographer: Patrick Kenny, Location: Wyong Nsw. Image Description: Wyong River, NSW is home to many birds. The grace and beauty of an egret in flight is always a joy to see. Page 3 Header: Eastern Yellow Robin, Daniel Lees;

Photographs that appear within each article are attributed to the authors unless otherwise stated. Copyright Notice: Items printed in this Bulletin should not be reproduced without the permission of the Ecological Society of Australia Inc (hereafter the “Society”) or the author of the material. Opinions expressed by contributors to the Bulletin, including the Editor, do not necessarily represent the views of the Society, unless otherwise stated. Any mention of companies or products in the Bulletin should not be viewed as an endorsement by the Society. All header images have been submitted to the Society as part of its annual photographic competition and details of image authorship can be found on the Society’s webpage (www.ecolsoc.org.au).