The fast and the few; connecting science and policy in a rapidly changing world

Opinion 
by Paul Ryan
Director, Australian Resilience Centre and ILWS Advisory Board Member

Paul Ryan Director, Australian Resilience Centre and ILWS Advisory Board Member

Paul Ryan
Director, Australian Resilience Centre and ILWS Advisory Board Member

Over the past few months I have had the good fortune of working with a range of dedicated staff from state agencies, utilities and NGOs informing policies and strategies relating to water, local food, climate and biodiversity. What struck me about the discussions these different groups are having is the distinct lack of a broader narrative around sustainability and land use to provide context for their planning processes. What’s the vision we are working towards? This lack of vision and a contextualising narrative about sustainability means at best policy making becomes inconsistent, at worst ad hoc, despite the best intentions of many policy makers.

The uncertainty surrounding a clear national direction for the sustainability of the most basic issues any society must address: food supply, water provision, clean air, protection of productive agricultural land and support for communities that manage those landscapes, and the protection and management of the biodiversity we know is critical for provision and maintenance of life sustaining services, means that all the layers of formal and informal institutions that aggregate at different scales around these issues become similarly disorganised.

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Do bigger dusky flathead have better eggs?

Tara Hicks with the largest flathead in her sample.

Tara Hicks with the largest flathead in her sample.

As if a keen fisherman ever needs an excuse to go fishing….but for one local Mallacoota resident, Keith Simpson the chance to be involved in a research project studying Dusky Flathead, a species very popular with recreational fishers, certainly
gave him that extra impetus.

The “fishing expert” provided more than 200 fish for honors student Tara Hicks who began her project on the
“Body size, fecundity and egg quality relationships in Dusky flathead (Platycephalus fuscus) from Victorian
waters” in July last year for a project funded by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning
(Fisheries). She is supervised by Dr Keller Kopf and Dr Paul Humphries.  For the project, Tara had to source fish across its size range. To that end she asked the local fishers in Mallacoota to help out by donating their fish frames (what’s left after the fillets are removed).

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Robbie, the Bittern with a taste for travel

the Australasian Bittern Pic by Matt Herring

The Australasian Bittern
Photo by Matt Herring

The Institute’s Dr Wayne Robinson is a member of an on-going community research project called the “Bitterns in Rice Project”. It is a collaboration that started in 2012 between the Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia, Birdlife Australia and other organisations. It is being led by former CSU honours student Matt Herring.

Also in the project’s working group is former ILWS PhD student Elisa Tack, who now works for Murray Local Land Services (LLS), as well as representatives from Federation University, Coleambally Irrigation, Riverina LLS, NSW Office of Environment & Heritage and the community.

Australian rice crops support the largest known breeding population of the globally endangered Australasian bittern (Botaurus poiciloptilus), (also known as Bunyip birds) and other threatened species. Read more of this post

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