The following symposia will be offered at ESA18. You are welcome to submit an abstract for any of the symposia listed below. Alternatively, you can submit your abstract under the theme of “open forum” for inclusion in the general scientific program. 

Beyond monitoring: Long-term ecological knowledge to support biodiversity and ecosystem management

November 26, 2018, 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Symposium Convenors: Dr Samantha Capon, Dr Guy Castley

Long-term ecological monitoring is widely recognised as critical to supporting improved investment and interventions addressing a wide range of environmental outcomes associated with key taxa and ecosystems. At the same time, however, there is growing sentiment that past ecological monitoring has been insufficient, and sometimes irrelevant, to policy and management needs. Considerable attention has been directed towards designing monitoring programs with respect to foundational conceptual models, indicator selection and sampling design and methodologies. In contrast, the evaluation and application of information generated by such programs are often poorly articulated. In this symposium, we will explore advances in approaches to long-term ecological monitoring and evaluation by addressing these knowledge gaps.

Communicating ecology in the Anthropocene

November 26, 2018, 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Symposium Convenor: Dr Kirsten Parris

Clear science communication has never been more important, in the face of accelerating environmental change and an apparently widening gap between science and society. This symposium will showcase engaging and innovative ways to communicate ecology to a range of audiences including scientists, policy makers, industry groups, school children, educators and the general public. Approaches may include talks using simple language (such as the 1,000 most common words in the English language; the “Up-goer Five” challenge), “Soapbox Science” (e.g.,, art, videos, podcasts, science comedy, dance, song or poetry. We particularly encourage students and early-career researchers to participate, and will offer prizes for:

  • the best paper by a student and
  • the best paper by an ECR currently employed at Level A or B or < 5 years FTE post-PhD.

The symposium will be a key activity of the ESA’s Research Chapter on Science Communication, which was launched in 2017.

Hot Topics in Ecology

November 26, 2018, 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Symposium convenor: Dr Rachel Standish

The role of the ESA is to promote ecological science and by doing so assist nature conservation, advise environmental policy and educate the public (President’s address, EcoTAS 2017). The Hot Topic (HT) Initiative helps to achieve these goals by delivering timely, factual overviews ( We, the editors of the HT Initiative, propose to launch the inaugural Hot Topics Symposium at ESA 2018. Our objectives are to provide an overview of current hot topics in ecology in Australia and to encourage HT contributions. We have structured the session into six themes reflecting key issues of the Anthropocene. Ultimately, our goal is to establish ESA Hot Topics as a dynamic repository of ecological knowledge for guiding decision makers and informing the public and environmental discourse.

Conservation Technology: Innovative applications for ecology

November 26, 2018, 3:45 PM - 5:45 PM
Symposium convenors: Stephanie Courtney Jones, Alison Haynes

Innovating the use of existing technologies as well as developing new tools in the field of conservation is imperative to enhance the work of conservationists and scientists worldwide. This symposium will bring together ecologists and researchers from a wide variety of fields to consolidate current knowledge and shed light on cutting edge technology in ecological and conservation research. This will facilitate interaction between scientists, managers and technology innovators and provide an inspiring forum in which to solve conservation challenges and inspire new developments.

Why won’t people just listen to me? Integrating ecology into environmental decisions

November 26, 2018, 3:45 PM - 5:45 PM
Symposium Convenors: Dr Daniel Rogers, Dr Megan Evansn Dr Jennie Fluin Dr Rachel Morgain, Dr Angela Dean

The role of scientific evidence in public policy decision making is a subject of increasing interest within the environmental science and policy spheres. The traditional model of evidence-based policy assumes a linear transfer of science to decision makers, and that better decisions are made in the context of this new scientific knowledge. The reality is of course much more complex, and involves ongoing two-way exchange and negotiation between scientists and decision makers who operate under different constraints, incentives, and norms. In the spirit of this two-way exchange, we have brought together ecologists, environmental agency staff, and ‘boundary riders’ (knowledge brokers), to provide a range of practical insights drawn from the best available evidence and experience on the relationship between science and environmental decision making.

This symposium aims to explore the role of ecological evidence in how environmental policy and management decisions are made, the barriers to effective integration of ecological evidence into decision making, and potential opportunities to improve the use of evidence in environmental policy. We will cover a range of related themes in this symposium, including:
• What is the role of scientific evidence in decision making, and how does scientific evidence intersect with societal values, and ‘rules’ (laws, obligations, norms) to inform decisions?
• What are the different levels of environmental decisions being made by agencies and practitioners, and how can scientific inquiry be best designed to meet the knowledge needs of these different levels of decisions?
• How do the drivers of researchers and decision makers influence the relationship between science and policy, and how can we minimise the tension between these drivers?
• How does psychology influence uptake and interpretation of scientific information? How can knowledge be created and communicated to maximise its value in decision making?

Separating natural variability and human impacts in ecosystem dynamics

November 26, 2018, 3:45 PM - 5:45 PM
Symposium Convenors: Professor Stuart Phinn, Dr Peter Scarth

An essential question for management of ecosystems is how to separate changes in the environment that are a direct result of human activity, from those due to natural variability.

Over the past five years there has been a significant global advance in our ability to analyse long term, and high-temporal frequency field data and satellite image archives to partition changes in the environment that are a direct result of human activity, from those due to natural variability.

The Goal and Objective of this symposium is to explore the current capabilities for ecosystem science and management in Australia to use these new data sets and analytic capabilities to detect and report on changes in the environment that are a direct result of human activity, from those due to natural variability. By doing this we will establish a path to more effectively link ecological expertise into the growing number of activities and publically accessible capabilities in this area.

Coexistence and conflict between Australians and wildlife

November 27, 2018, 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Symposium Convenor: Dr Pia Lentini

Human-wildlife conflict is one of the most intractable, pervasive and growing issues in conservation, with serious ramifications for people’s livelihoods and wellbeing, and the distribution and abundance of many animal species. The ecological aspects of these conflicts have been well-studied across the USA, Africa and Europe, with an emphasis on large carnivores or megafauna. However, ecological knowledge alone will not provide a solution as conflicts are not solely driven by wildlife; conflict can occur between and among stakeholders, and in response to wildlife management. Human dimensions are therefore just as important, and social-theoretical frameworks are increasingly being used to explore these issues. While Australian fauna frequently feature in conflicts, to date research efforts have been disparate, and largely draw on theory developed in response to large terrestrial carnivores and traditions such as hunting that are less prevalent in Australia. Therefore, it is unclear how and where the attitudes and values of the Australian public towards wildlife fit in a global context.

Marine ecology: new developments and human impacts

November 27, 2018, 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Symposium Convenor: Timothy Staples

The human activities that have brought about the Anthropocene do not respect system boundaries. Both terrestrial and marine ecosystems are under threat by climate change, unsustainable resource use and invasive species. Despite similarities in these threats, and in underlying ecological patterns and processes, research in marine and terrestrial systems is profoundly divided. This symposium is an attempt to bridge that divide by inviting world-class and upcoming marine ecologists to present their recent research, and foster discussions on how their methodologies, results and conclusions can advance our understanding of “Ecology in the Anthropocene” for all systems.

Indigenous Ecological Knowledge

November 27, 2018, 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM 
Symposium Convenor: Gerry Turpin

This year’s ESA Conference theme is ‘Ecology in the Anthropocene, reflecting the era of great tribulation and yet great opportunity in which we live’.

Indigenous people in Australia have lived here for thousands of years, building on their biocultural knowledge which enabled them to co-exist with the environment and adapt to climatic and environmental changes. In recent times, the expansion of human population and unchecked growth of the global economic system has put pressure on the earth’s natural ability to regenerate and dispose of waste, causing a significant impact on the environment. Changes include global warming, species extinctions and habitat loss.
Indigenous Biocultural Knowledge (IBK) is recognised globally for its potential value in contemporary biodiversity conservation and land management. Indigenous Rangers, Land Managers and Traditional Owners are invited to present their projects, research and perspectives showing how they are contributing to ecological sustainability through IBK.

Applying microbial communities to improve restoration and conservation outcomes

November 27, 2018, 1:30 PM - 3:30 PM
Symposium convenors: Dr Christina Brinbaum, Dr Eleonora Egidi

In an era of ever-increasing human-induced environmental changes, e.g.,urban development, changing climate, and growing human population, threat to the biodiversity has become imminent. In plant communities, where habitat restoration and conservation are crucial to re-establish or protect endangered native communities, disentangling patterns and processes underpinning the aboveground–belowground interaction is pivotal to design successful and sustainable management strategies. Yet, while advanced tools to investigate soil organisms and their relationship with plants are now available, the mechanisms and dynamics of this fundamental association remain elusive, and the plant-soil-microbe linkage is only sporadically considered in conservation and restoration practice.

As part of the newly established Plant-Soil Ecology Research Chapter, this Symposium is aimed at bringing together the researchers working on the field of plant-soil ecology.

Tracking species and ecosystem change to inform effective environmental management

November 27, 2018, 1:30 PM - 3:30 PM
Symopsium Convenors: Dr Ayesha Tulloch, Dr Elisa Bayraktarov

Can we track changes in threatened species populations nationally and globally? What is the best way to measure ecosystem degradation and recovery over time? When we can’t measure everything, what indicators should we choose to assess the effectiveness of management interventions? Informed actions to conserve biodiversity demand robust measures of tracking change. Biodiversity indicators have the potential to report on changes in ecosystems, species, and ecosystem services. Several indicators and indices have been developed to track changes to biodiversity at national and global scales. Others report on overall ecosystem health. Many are vital for reporting on whether we are progressing against international conservation targets such as the Aichi Targets to the Convention on Biological Conservation.

This symposium is part of the official launch of the National Environmental Science Program’s Threatened Species Recovery Hub Threatened Species Index for Australian birds. It presents novel ideas and approaches for tracking change in threats, environmental conditions and species populations, unravelling concepts, new analytical methods and evaluations of indicators and indices.

 Seed ecology in a changing world

November 27, 2018, 1:30 PM - 3:30 PM
Symopsium Convenor: Dr Mark Ooi

This symposium will focus on the changes facing our natural systems and the ways that an understanding of seed ecology can help predict impacts and manage for the conservation of native vegetation. Life-history stages surrounding seeds are critical for the persistence of plant populations and the key processes of dormancy and germination are arguably some of the most complex, yet least understood, attributes in Australian plants. Research presented will focus on predicting the effects of changing climatic conditions, fire regimes and other disturbances on dormancy and germination mechanisms, seed bank dynamics and seedling performance. It will also highlight how knowledge of these mechanisms can lead to better informed management both in situ in natural systems and ex situ seed bank protocols.

Assessing impacts and facilitating adaptation of biodiversity to climate change

November 27, 2018, 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Symposium Convenors: Dr Linda Beaumont, Dr Chantal Huijbers, Prof Brendan Mackey

Climate change poses a significant threat to biodiversity. While all extant species have experienced numerous periods of climate disruption, the pace and magnitude of anthropogenic climate change, combined with other environmental changes, means that management actions will be required to facilitate the survival of many species.

The last few years have witnessed a substantial increase in studies assessing species’ vulnerability to climate change, measuring adaptive capacity, or designing conservation strategies to facilitate species’ resilience. This has given rise to the development of tools and frameworks to guide species’ assessments and prioritisations, and visualise or communicate impacts and adaptation options.

This symposium aims to bring together a multi-disciplinary group of ecologists, conservation biologists, and science communicators to highlight:

  • innovative studies into climate change impacts on biodiversity that directly inform conservation and land-management practice,
  • advances in digital tools and frameworks that facilitate large-scale assessments of biological responses to climate change, and
  • approaches to communicating research to practitioners and non-scientist end-users.

Emerging directions in movement ecology

November 27, 2018, 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Symposium Convenor: Dr Hamish Campbell

The movement of organisms connects habitats through space and time. These connections are essential components of ecosystems, providing services such as pollination, seed dispersal, energy, and nutrient transfer. Organism movement links discrete ecosystems and exerts substantial influence on local processes and dynamics. As our planet becomes increasingly subjugated by humans, the timing, magnitude, frequency, spatial extent, and rate by which organisms move is being altered. As a consequence, there is a growing appreciation amongst ecologists that organism movement is a sensitive indictor of ecosystem change and resilience. Technical innovation coupled with new modelling techniques has resulted in a proliferation of research investigating the causes, mechanisms, patterns, and consequences of organism movement. This emerging field is engaging a diverse group of ecologists and is characterised by a broad range of approaches ― conceptualised under the banner of ‘Movement Ecology’. This symposium will bring together research across terrestrial, marine, and freshwater environments with organismal movement as the focal theme. The objective of this symposium is to share common tools and concepts between scientists who do not usually engage with each other, to develop a unifying framework for organism movement research. This is a timely opportunity to discuss the directions and opportunities for this emerging discipline, and assess how it may contribute to our understanding of ecological change and ecosystem resilience in the Anthropocene. Talks will include theoretical, experimental, and quantitative approaches in the analysis, synthesis, and application of all aspects of Movement Ecology.

Protecting the Kimberley’s culturally important species

November 28, 2018, 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM 
Symposium Convenor: Alexander Watson

The Kimberley region (like much of northern Australia) has an extremely low density of humans, and much of country is covered in native vegetation that although heavily modified by cattle, feral predators and fire, is relatively pristine relative to southern Australia. These ecosystems retain the last remaining populations of many species that have gone extinct on the rest of the Australian mainland, although our work is showing they have declined significantly over the last 20 years. The vast majority of the region is managed by Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Rangers as part of Aboriginal run pastoral leases, exclusive possession native title, Indigenous protected areas and joint-managed marine parks. In this landscape, therefore, Aboriginal people lead on conservation projects and are supported by a range of academic institutions trying to address our current extinction crisis. This symposium will highlight the extraordinary science being undertaking to protect culturally important species.

Lessons from the Past: The application of palaeoecology and archaeobotany to ecological science

November 28, 2018, 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Symposium Convenors: A/Prof Patrick Moss, A/Prof Andrew Fairbairn, Prof Jamie Shulmeister

Modern ecological landscapes are the product of a range of environmental processes that have operated over annual, decadal, centennial and millennial scales (and beyond). These processes can be linked to natural climatic variability and/or anthropogenic impacts that occur over a variety of temporal and spatial scales. In particular, the Holocene (~last 12,000 years) has played an important role in shaping modern landscapes through the development of the current warm, ice free high sea-level environments that characterise this interglacial period, as well as observing the development of agriculture, urban regions and subsequent rapid human population growth. Furthermore, an understanding of previous ecosystem response to dramatic climate change and/or human impacts can also provide important context for how these systems may respond to further environmental change, particularly anthropogenic global warming. This symposium will examine how palaeoecological and/or archaeobotanical data can be utilised to provide context to ecological science, particularly how Holocene environments and/or human impacts have shaped the ecological composition of modern landscapes, as well as how this data can be used in the conservation and management of these landscapes into the future. Particular emphasis will be given to presentations that integrate palaeoecological/archaeobotanical data with the management of contemporary landscapes.

Expert elicitation in ecology and conservation

November 28, 2018, 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM
 Symposium Convenor: Dr Steve Sinclair

Like all scientists, conservation biologists value empirical data, and strive for accuracy, objectivity, repeatability and transparency. Applied conservation biology relies heavily on the judgement and opinion of people to make decisions, often alongside limited empirical data. Are these approaches at odds? How can we bring them together?

Formal expert elicitation is increasingly used to address these issues, by gathering data from human minds in structured ways that can be defended, and justly called science. This symposium will explore the rapidly-growing field of expert elicitation, with a focus on the following themes:
• Realising that we already use expert judgement more often than we think.
• Deciding when expert data is appropriate and when it is not.
• Techniques for transforming human parameter estimates into hard data.
• Quantifying value judgements where there can never be empirical measurements.
• Democratisation: Bringing stakeholders into science and policy who are otherwise excluded.
• Supporting decisions with expert data.
• Building an accumulating body of knowledge that persists, can be tested and improved.
• Learning from other disciplines.

Measuring and mapping ecological condition through space and time

November 28, 2018, 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Symposium Convenors: Dr Michael Drielsma, Dr Kristen Williams

Ecological condition is a measure of the ability of habitat to support biodiversity relative to its inherent potential. It is usually calculated against a reference state. It can be calculated for any spatial scale using a variety of methods; it can be monitored through time; or forecast for any given management or climate scenario.

Disturbances to native habitats put biodiversity under considerable threat worldwide. Reliable ecological condition assessments help to detect human influence as well as nature’s response to it. As society seeks to address threats, ecological condition assessments are used directly in decision making, incorporated into monitoring, and used to inform policy.

This symposium will highlight recent progress, as well as current challenges and opportunities facing the measurement and modelling of ecological condition. It comprises expertise from ecology, conservation planning, spatial science, remote-sensing, citizen science, mathematics, computer science, complexity theory, and public policy.

Parasite ecology in the Anthropocene

November 28, 2018, 3:45 PM - 5:45 PM
Symposium Convenors: Dr Maggie Watson, Dr Stephanie Godfrey

This symposium will examine the effects of human activity, including human driven climate change, on parasite ecology. Here we propose a symposium with a focus on understanding the natural and changing function of parasites in ecosystems, such as how they act to prime immune systems and regulate populations, and how these functions are changing in the face of habitat destruction, host and vector range changes, and climate change. We envision that the talks included in this symposium could include the consequences of parasite extinctions, how novel parasites can be more virulent than co-evolved host-parasite relationships, the effect of human activity on parasites and disease, and the impact of climate change on parasite (and their hosts) life-history. We believe that the integration of knowledge in this symposium would be of great importance to a unified understanding of host-parasite interactions and interest managers because of the implications of parasites and disease in conservation.

Challenge: How to investigate long-lived organisms within 3-year funding cycles?

November 28, 2018, 3:45 PM - 5:45 PM
Symposium convenors: Marilyn Connell, Dr Ricky Spencer, Dr James van Dyke

Understanding the ecology of long-lived organisms can require decades of study using traditional ecological methods, many of which were developed for use on short-lived species in which the same relative goals can be achieved in much shorter time-spans. Simultaneously, long-lived species are threatened by declines in population that maybe masked by their longevity that must be mitigated within the span of only a few generations. Furthermore, most funding cycles are short-term, often limited to 3 years, and present logistical constraints on understanding the ecology and management of long-lived species. There is thus an urgent need to develop a new toolbox of ecological research methods: those that can effectively answer long-term ecological questions within very short time-frames. The objective of this symposium is to synthesize a range of non-traditional research methods for effectively studying long-lived species and engage attendees to evaluate their potential effectiveness.

How citizen science is improving conservation of species and benefitting society

November 28, 2018, 3:45 PM - 5:45 PM
Symposium convenor: Jessica Oliver

With recent advances in digital innovations, citizen science is rapidly diversifying in disciplines being represented as well as strategies, activities, and technologies employed for ecological research. Given it’s rapid growth, organizations around the world, including the Australian Citizen Science Association (ACSA) have developed to advocate for citizen science, increase capacity, and promote best practices. In Australia, state originations, such as the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, as well as research intuitions, including universities and museums have harnessed the power of citizen science and are making important conservation discoveries with their respective communities. For this symposium, we will the scene by providing global and national context for citizen science. Then speakers will provide a diverse set of exemplar citizen science projects that demonstrate how citizen science has been employed as a rigorous strategy to conduct scientific research. We will cover a wide variety of topics relevant to anyone interested in exploring the potential of citizen science as a means to understand the natural world and how people interact with it. Community experiment development, the importance of technology design, environmental engagement, and conservation impacts are just a few of the topics to be covered. Citizen science not only has the potential to increase our knowledge of the flora, fauna, and their habitats, but also to better understand how people can help reverse current species declined.

The future of applied ecology in an exponential growth era

November 29, 2018, 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Symposium Convenors: Dr Iadine Chades, Dr Sam Nicol

We are experiencing rapid change worldwide. Ecologists are faced with an uncertain but inevitable future of exponential growth that will change the way we perform our research. While other disciplines are becoming increasingly productive, the field of ecology and our environment have not progressed as fast. In Australia, the number of federally listed species has increased by approximately 10% (44 species) since 2011, yet the resources required to implement existing recovery plan actions are inadequate (Cresswell and Murphy 2016). The aim of this symposium will be to bring together scientists that have a desire to increase our ability to perform research more efficiently so that our discipline remains competitive in the face of change. We welcome presentations that will highlight our ability to become more agile in an Anthropocene era. The participants are invited to contribute to a discussion panel at the end of the session.

Reintroduction for restoration

November 29, 2018, 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Symposium Convenor: Catherine Ross

Species translocations are increasing being recognised as critical to conservation many vulnerable taxa, either to reintroduce species within their historical range, or to overcome barriers to natural migration (assisted colonisation). It has been suggested that assisted colonisation could also be used as a tool for restoration with the aim of re-establishing food webs or functional roles (Lunt et al., 2013). Many of the species being reintroduced in Australia are digging mammals, which are considered to be ecosystem engineers because of their impacts on ecosystem function and health (Fleming et al., 2014). However, reintroductions could have a range of unexpected consequences and impacts on other species. In many cases we may be introducing species into novel ecosystems that have fundamentally changed due to human impacts such as invasive species, inappropriate land use, and climate change.

Due to the difficulty of controlling feral predators, the establishment of predator-free ‘sanctuaries’ has become a priority. Many threatened species are now restricted these areas, which may take the form of islands or fenced reserves. The number of sanctuaries has increased rapidly in recent decades (Ringma et al., 2018), and this is likely to continue with significant investment from Governments and private organisations such as the Australian Wildlife Conservancy. Sanctuaries also provide the opportunity to study the impacts of translocations in a relatively controlled setting, and inform future reintroductions ‘beyond the fence’.

This symposium aims to bring together researchers working in the fields of reintroduction biology, restoration, and ecosystem engineering to discuss a range of issues including: the challenges and opportunities of assisted colonisation in novel ecosystems; the potential for using species reintroductions as a restoration tool and how to manage possible negative outcomes; and the role of sanctuaries in species conservation. These topics are highly relevant to the conference theme of Ecology in the Anthropocene, as they relate directly to the challenges of conservation, restoration and management of ecosystems that have been fundamentally altered by human actions.

Urban greening in the Anthropocene: New challenges and approaches

November 29, 2018, 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Symposium Convenors: Dr Alessandro Ossola, Assoc. Prof. Nicholas Scott Williams

At the onset of the Anthropocene the diverse benefits of urban vegetation, the vast majority of which is designed and managed by humans, are increasingly sought after by urban practitioners. Urban greening can be a solution for climate change adaptation and sustainability. However, greening interventions are also impacted by the same environmental and climatic stressors they hope to moderate.
Ecologists are well placed to help resolve this conundrum and advise practitioners on how deliver sustainable urban greening.

The symposium will synthesise the latest research on urban greening drawing from empirical, theoretical and modelling studies to answer questions such as:
– What principles and strategies are needed for urban greening in the Anthropocene?
– How can we improve current greening interventions to address urban sustainability and climate change adaptation?
– Are past greening interventions likely to fail under future environmental and climatic changes?
– Which plant species and communities are more likely to withstand environmental and climatic changes?