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

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

2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,700 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 28 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Regional rail freight – rationalising the debate

 Adjunct Associate Professor Ian Gray

Adjunct Associate Professor Ian Gray

Australians like trains, but their governments seem not to. At least the Commonwealth and States, that is. Many local councils would like more train services, but have not been in a position to obtain them. Since undertaking a research project on regional passenger trains for what was then the New South Wales Local Government and Shires Associations 10 years ago, I have been working with and near local government in its attempts to investigate and promote rail freight. They have made progress, but it has been slow and very difficult to achieve.

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Looking beyond the water

17th International Riversymposium: Looking beyond the water  

Jess Schoeman, ILWS PhD Candidate

Jess Schoeman, ILWS PhD Candidate

During a conversation about river management, a colleague once said to me, ‘if you’re looking at the water, you’ve got your back to the problem’. This message has stuck with me for many years and motivated my decision to cross over to the social sciences for my PhD research. Understanding human nature and our river cultures is essential for diagnosing the source of our water problems, rather than just treating the symptoms.

The over-arching theme of this year’s International Riversymposium, held in Canberra, was ‘large river basin management’, with three case studies: the Murray-Darling Basin, the Rhine River Basin and the Mekong River Basin. A common thread throughout the conference was the portrayal of rivers as complex social-ecological systems. Managing rivers is not just about ecology and hydrology; it is about people: our philosophies, cultures, needs, wants and desires.

This post explores just a few thoughts from the conference:

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Surveys, gorillas and a mountain climb

A/Prof Rosemary Black

A/Prof Rosemary Black

Well, the past two weeks have flown by and Angel and I have been very busy completing the community surveys across the two sectors. It’s a large area so we have tried to ensure that we have covered as many people as possible, including trekking to communities on the Volcanoes National Park boundary and into outlying villages. The early rains have started and so we’ve been caught in a few heavy showers – but I bought a great multi-coloured umbrella from the local market which has been helpful in the sun and rain! We’ve now finished all the 50 household community surveys. So that is the end of the data collection for this research project. Read more of this post

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