A warm breeze swirled around a marque at the University of Adelaide as the haunting sound of tapping sticks began echoing across the lawn, drawing the crowd into the first plenary session of the 2018 South Australian NRM Science Conference. The following heartfelt “Welcome to Ghana Country” by Timaru was equally moving and the scene for the next two days is set.
This year’s SA NRM Science Conference had a theme of ‘Science for Policy in a Changing World’
The first keynote address was presented by Professor Kristofer Helgen, who opened the scientific proceedings with accounts of the cute, cuddly and undiscovered of New Guinea and the Andes – inspiring the seed of adventure hiding, or not hiding, in all of us. Professor Helgen also set the perfect scene for the conference, emphasising the reality of NRM and indeed environmental science as a whole, that we really know so little about our natural world.
Showcasing the NACC NRM region
NACC’s attendance at the Conference was precipitated this year by an invitation to our CEO, Richard McLellan, to be a keynote speaker and panel member at the conference. Saying that he was “honoured” to have been invited to be the Conference’s dinner speaker, Richard, as always, used the opportunity to encourage delegates to “do more good”.
— NRM Research Network (@NRMRaIN) April 11, 2018
Recounting his vast global experiences, Richard encouraged all those in attendance to follow his five tips to become a “SAPP” – a Science And Policy Person (a ‘mandatory’ new acronym that Richard said he invented just for the conference). These were to:
- Be confident of your abilities, they’re probably unique. (And don’t always follow the guidelines).
- Understand that you (everyone) can make a difference.
- Think big (Richard once launched a book – the Living Planet Report, no less – from the International Space Station).
- Be optimistic. Focus on the light at the end of the tunnel.
- Keep a sense of humour. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
In closing his motivational address, Richard encouraged the crowd to “never let it rest”, to take a leaf out of the verse inscribed on the back of every old Furphy Water tank, and settle in for the ‘long haul’ that is NRM science, ‘Good, better, best, Never let it rest. Until your good is better, and your better best.’
Some of the great work on science and NRM being achieved in the NACC NRM region was also on show in the form of two graphic posters about local work being done on Malleefowl and on the Abrolhos — put together by NACC Biodiversity Program leader Jessica Stingemore.
— Richard McLellan (@RichardMcLellan) April 10, 2018
Day 1 of the conference was Adelaide’s hottest April day on record, a poignant backdrop for the Climate Change concurrent sessions also held on day 1. Unfortunately, that record didn’t stand for long, with temperatures on Day 2, easily surpassing the previous day’s maximum and serving as a timely reminder of the need for urgency in our actions.
Not surprisingly, Climate Change was a hot topic at the conference. Speaking during a panel session entitled “Social, economic and environmental sustainability in Natural Resource Management”, Richard stressed just how important he thought it is for NRM to embrace the science that can help land managers, especially farmers, adapt to changing climatic, environmental, economic, and social conditions.
“I measure true sustainability in the bush by what is happening to our rural communities – the land stewards who are bearing the brunt of these changes. If we lose farmers, we lose so much capacity to look after our biodiversity, to protect and provide ecosystem services,” he said.
Spurred-on by tweets from a host of keen Twitter aficionados, the #SANRM18 trended strongly over the two days, spreading far and wide the range of important messages from ‘How to pitch science communication’ to ‘Measuring changes in NRM Skills and Knowledge’ – all the way from Mick Davis at the City of Kalamunda in WA.
The perfect close to the conference was the launch of the new NRM ‘tool’ in the form of a Threatened Species monitoring toolkit. The “Monitoring Threatened Species and Ecological Communities”, produced by National Environment Science Program (NESP) Threatened Species Recovery Hub, was launched with inspiring messages from its co-editors, and a rousing and personal response from Dr Matthew Ward, Director of Conservation, NRM and Protected Areas Policy, SA Department of Environment and Water.
Speaking at the launch, Richard said that NACC is looking forward to utilising the new resource, and to working with NESP and TSR on Threatened Species conservation in the lead-up to next year’s Threatened Species Forum in Geraldton. “We’ve got some exciting plans being hatched,” he said.
NACC Program Development and Innovation Manager Katherine Allen, who also attended the conference, said the conference had provided an excellent opportunity to share the good work being achieved at NACC, as well as to access some of the latest science being applied to NRM around the country.
“We’re proud of where NACC is situated in this space, but we also committed to continual improvement, so I’ll be returning home with lots of new thoughts for ensuring we’re doing the best possible job with available resources,” she said.