The following symposia will be offered at ESA19; You are welcome to submit an abstract for any of the symposia listed below; alternatively, you can send your abstract under the theme of “open forum” for inclusion in the general scientific program.


Monday, 25 November 2019, 11:00am – 6:00pm

New Methods and Applications in Urban Ecology

Conveners: Ms Monika Egerer, Dr Emily Flies, Dr Caragh Threlfall, Dr Dave Kendal

Urban environments are now home to over 50% of the human population and a significant proportion of Australia’s threatened plant and animals (Ives and Lentini et al. 2016). Cities are a confluence of sociocultural, physical and biological environments that are a non-traditional but increasingly important home for ecological research. Urban ecologists are developing new techniques, adapting traditional ones to study complex urban social-ecological systems. Given this complexity, interdisciplinary collaboration and communication of new research approaches, methods, and applications are critical. However, there are few platforms to exchange ideas among researchers. This symposium will highlight the latest and evolving research approaches and techniques in urban systems drawing from empirical, theoretical and modelling studies and highlight how these novel techniques are leading to solutions. In this symposium, we will examine questions such as:

-What new approaches and methods in natural and social sciences are being applied to answer urban social-ecological questions?

– How can commonly used ecological means be adapted to study urban ecosystems better?

– Which tools and techniques from other fields can answer questions and create solutions in urban ecology?

– What are the strengths and weaknesses of different methodologies when applied to interdisciplinary and practitioner applications?

– Can novel methods characterise and explain the spatial, temporal, and social variation across urban systems in new ways?

The goal of this symposium is to present recent research approaches, techniques and methods that address interdisciplinary questions in urban areas. It will have a strong focus on methodologies, applications and theoretical frameworks used by researchers working on both natural and social science issues in urban ecology. By doing so, it will aim to highlight novel methods and their research application to inspire future investigations and collaborations.


Monday, 25 November 2019, 11:00am – 6:00pm

Field-based manipulative experiments for understanding environmental change

Conveners: Dr Susanna Venn, Professor Sally Power

Documenting change, and demonstrating biological responses to the environment, is essential work that will continue to build our understanding of ecosystems and reveal gaps in our ecological knowledge.

But what’s going on?

Manipulative experiments, especially those conducted in-situ in the field, perhaps along environmental gradients, can be a powerful tool for isolating the various environmental parameters and identifying the underlying mechanisms that are driving biological responses.

Insights gained from such experiments can then be used to build more accurate models of environmental change, which may ultimately lead to policy change and practical solutions for conservation efforts.

Demonstrated will be the commonalities among experimental approaches, data analyses, experimental artefacts and outcomes, regardless of the target species, expected responses or ecosystem, whether it be terrestrial, freshwater or marine.


Monday, 25 November 2019, 11:00am – 1:00pm

Using new research results to manage Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease better

Conveners: Professor Hamish McCallum, Dr Rodrigo Hamede

This symposium will present new research from several groups across Australia and internationally working on Tasmanian facial tumour disease (DFTD) using a range of disciplines and aims to generate a lively and meaningful discussion on how to use this new knowledge to improve practical conservation strategies for the Tasmanian devil.

It is now more than 20 years since the emergence of Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease, a bizarre infectious cancer that threatened to cause the extinction of this iconic species. Recent developments have made it critical to re-evaluate management strategies for the Tasmanian devil and DFTD. The disease now covers almost the entire range of the devil, having recently reached the west coast of Tasmania.

The challenge now is how best to manage the long-term coexistence of devils and the disease, including managing impacts on the rest of the Tasmanian ecosystem.

This symposium will be structured around six 15 minute talks, followed by three 5 minute speed presentations from PhD students, finishing with a 15-minute panel discussion combining managers and researchers to evaluate future management actions Symposium justification.


Monday, 25 November 2019, 4:00pm – 6:00pm

Integrated Landscape Management in the Tasmanian Midlands Agricultural Region and Biodiversity Hotspot

Conveners: Associate Professor Menna Jones

The savannas of the Midlands region of Tasmania were managed by Aboriginal peoples for 35,000 years. Two hundred years of European pastoralism and agriculture, with associated tree clearing, fertilization and introduction of exotic grasses has led to tree decline, faunal loss and degradation and fragmentation of native vegetation, with <10% woodland and <3% native grassland remaining. The Midlands is an Australian Biodiversity Hotspot, supporting endemic plants and CWR mammals, with a limited extent of government nature reserves. Remnant vegetation on private land is of high conservation value, and is being managed via innovative arrangements with conservation organisations such as Bush heritage Australia and Tasmanian Land Conservancy. Additionally, Greening Australia is leading a restoration project with the goal of restoring and connecting remnant woodland to provide habitat and connectivity for wildlife. This includes the construction of two large biodiversity corridors that cross the highly cleared northern Midlands. In this multi-speaker presentation, we hear about the conservation and restoration and conservation projects, including the perspective of a farmer who champions nature conservation in this production landscape, and the science that underpins landscape management, including manipulation of stock, feral animals and restoration of patch burning fire regimes. Restoration plantings are multi-layer and incorporate trials of different genetic provenances for climate change adaptation. With the audacious goal to restore a functional trophic network dominated by native species of mammals and birds, we present an animal-centric approach to determining how key species interact within the landscape in the presence of high densities of feral cats.


Monday, 25 November 2019, 11:00am – 1:00pm

Ecologists Weaving Knowledge on Country

Conveners: Dr Rosemary Hill

Ecology in the 21st Century recognises that multiple sources of evidence from diverse knowledge systems contribute to humanity’s understanding of the interactions among all forms of life and the environments they inhabit, and in turn, change and shape. The ecological knowledge embedded in the Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is of growing importance in natural resource management, and protected areas.

Ecological understanding from both science and IKS is fundamental to Australia ecology and environmental policy.


Monday, 25 November 2019, 2:00pm – 6:00pm

Indigenous Symposium

Conveners: Gerry Turpin 

As part of the Ecological Society of Australia (ESA) conference, the ESA annual Indigenous Symposium will showcase Indigenous peoples biocultural knowledge research and projects. This initiative is part of the ESAs ongoing commitment to increase Indigenous participation in ESA activities.

The ESA is inviting Australian Indigenous people to present in this symposium. This provides an opportunity for Indigenous peoples to share and hear stories to build: relationships with each other and with non-Indigenous ecologists; recognition of our diverse knowledge and shared interests, values and practices in caring for and understanding country.
Decisions on presentations for the Indigenous Symposia will be based on:

  • Strength of application (i.e. why you should be chosen)
  • Your ability to tell a good story about your ideas and/work
  • Your ability to demonstrate why your work is important
  • Meeting the word count and format requirements.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019, 11:00am – 1:00pm

Understanding and managing the plant pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi and other invasive pathogens in natural and managed ecosystems for biodiversity values

Conveners: Professor Giles Hardy

Phytophthora cinnamomi is recognised as a Key Threatening Process to Australia’s biodiversity by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. It is having a significant impact across southern Australia, including Tasmania and up the eastern seaboard; causing the extinction of species and impacting on Australia’s biodiversity assets. There remain substantial gaps in knowledge and challenges for effective and sustained management to stop its spread and impact.

As part of the Dieback Working Group (an incorporated not-for-profit organisation), an annual Dieback Information Group (DIG) meeting in Western Australia has been run since 2000. The emphasis of DIG is to disseminate research and management findings, listen to stakeholder concerns and to develop ways to manage the pathogen across landscapes collaboratively. It is about ‘Science for Practical Solutions’. DIG is attended by up to 300 stakeholders (researchers, government and non- government agencies, NRM groups, ‘friends of’ groups and industry). Contributors/speakers are from all of the stakeholder groups to ensure all issues and concerns are covered. At least one speaker from overseas or the Eastern States contributes.

Furthermore, such training is relevant to anyone working in the natural environment, including many ESA attendees. There is a need for restoration ecologists, botanists, plant physiologists, climate change scientists, fire ecologists and zoologists/native fauna ecologists, social scientists, on-ground practitioners and others to get involved.


Tuesday, 26 November 2019, 11:00am – 3:30pm

Practitioner Engagement for Onground Outcomes

Conveners: Dr Sacha Jellinek, Dr Samantha Lloyd, Dr Karen Ikin, Dr Chloe Sato

Ecological practitioners are at the forefront of applied ecology communication and practice. Communicating research, and translating science into practice, is challenging. However, the outcomes are hugely beneficial with applied ecological and conservation research informing and improving ecological practice, relevant policy and supporting evidence-based land management.

This symposium is intended to highlight the crucial role of ecological practitioners and the value of collaborative projects that link research and onground application through stakeholder and practitioner engagement. The symposium will have presentations from practitioners and researchers on the value of partnerships between research and practitioners, and the challenges and successes they have experienced in researching and/or implementing evidence-based applied research. It will reflect on how such projects can inform policy, and therefore, the application of ecological research, and the future health and wellbeing of the Australian landscape and people. Presentations will also discuss how we build relationships that empower practitioners and stakeholders to better implement ecologically sound science to improve biodiversity, land management and natural disaster mitigation strategies. This includes strategically communicating science beyond scientific publications and translating it into formats that suit people undertaking onground work, and engaging with researchers to tackle knowledge gaps. It will summarise the key issues facing practitioner engagement, showcase successful partnerships and facilitate discussion and provide feedback to the ESA Practitioner Engagement Working Group.

Following these presentations there will be a facilitated discussion with the purpose of identifying key ways to address the challenges of getting science into practice and communicating those outcomes for improved biodiversity conservation. The anticipated outcomes of the symposium will include publications and/or recommendations supported by the ESA Practitioner Engagement Working Group.


Tuesday, 26 November 2019, 11:00am – 3:30pm

Communicating ecology through art

Conveners: Dr Kirsten Parris, Dr Ayesha Tulloch

This symposium will highlight innovative ways to express ecology through performance and participatory art, including music, dance, soundscapes, crafting and the visual arts. The creative use of these media often allows audiences and participants to connect with biodiversity, place-based nature and ecological principles in ways that more traditional approaches to communicating ecology do not.

The symposium will include a combination of,

1) presentations about recent events or activities at which ecology was successfully communicated through art and,

2) on-the-spot communication of ecological ideas and information through performance or participatory art. Students and early- career researchers will be particularly encouraged to participate. Prizes for best paper by a student and best paper by an ECR will be offered (currently employed at Level A or B or < 5 years FTE post-PhD). The symposium will be a vital activity of the ESA’s Research Chapter for Science Communication, which was launched in 2017.

This symposium relates directly to the conference theme of “Science for Practical Solutions”. Implementation of practical solutions to environmental problems will require effective communication of ecological principles and research findings to diverse audiences, both in Australia and internationally.

The symposium will focus on approaches to science communication for ecologists that are both innovative and interdisciplinary, with an active, creative component. Conference sessions on science communication resonate strongly with ecologists; previous symposia at EcoTAS 2017 and ESA2018 were very well attended and very well received.


Thursday, 28 November 2019, 11:00am – 5:30pm

Using ecological traits of invertebrates to understand ecosystems

Conveners: Associate Professor Heloise Gibb, Professor Nigel Andrew

This symposium will explore the evidence that we are heading in the right direction, examine the variety of traits used, their links with ecological function and their effectiveness in predicting responses to environmental change. We will also consider statistical and modelling approaches to trait analysis, the availability of trait data and the critical steps to advancing our understanding of ecosystems through invertebrate trait ecology.

Functional traits are considered essential to the development of a general theory of ecology. Invertebrates are an ideal group for which to ask questions about relationships between assemblage structure and the environment because of their diversity, but invertebrate ecologists struggle with the quirks of species responses. They are therefore extremely well suited to a trait-based approach to understanding ecological communities. Trait-based ecology has been overwhelmingly focussed on plants, but different lifeforms likely have very different insights to offer in this field.

A range of disciplines will be closely aligned to ecologies such as statistics, behaviour, physiology, and mathematical modelling. Speakers will be asked to present their latest findings within the framework of the symposium.

  1. Linking traits with function: morphological, behavioural, physiological, life history;
  2. Trait responses to the environment;
  3. Statistical and modelling approaches to trait analysis,
  4. Advances in trait data availability and databases.

Speakers will be invited that will address one or more of the four key symposium themes. This symposium would appeal to members studying invertebrates and any researchers working on traits in other taxonomic groups, particularly plants.


Thursday, 28 November 2019, 11:00am – 5:30pm

Solutions from above and below: Plant-soil research addressing climate change and biodiversity loss

Conveners: Dr Adam Frew, Dr Anna Hopkins

Interactions between soil and plants are fundamental to ecosystem function and resilience. As we face the challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss, the ability to apply our understanding of plant-soil interactions towards the development of solutions is becoming increasingly important.

As part of the Plant-Soil Ecology Research Chapter, this Symposium will showcase recent advancements in our understanding of plant-soil interactions under climate change, and how current knowledge can contribute towards solutions addressing the consequences of anthropogenic-driven disturbance and biodiversity loss.

The symposium builds on the successful symposium in the plant-soil space held at ESA in 2018 (as part of the Plant-Soil Ecology Research Chapter) as well as the successful microbial ecology symposia held at ESA in 2016 and 2017. This symposium brings together an exciting collection of ecologists working in the plant-soil space from a diverse range of perspectives. It aims to continue the theme of previous symposia bringing the ideas of soil and microbial ecology to mainstream ecology by showcasing cutting-edge research being carried out in plant-soil interactions.

Although broad in scope, this symposium will synthesise new knowledge from plant and soil research (ranging from reductional experimental approaches to long-term field studies) and apply it to manage our increasingly anthropogenically-modified environment better.


Thursday, 28 November 2019, 11:00am – 3:30pm

Vegetation science for decision-making

Conveners: Ms Sarah Luxton, Dr John Hunter, Eda Addicot

This symposium aims to bring together a multi-disciplinary group of ecologists, analysts and policy-makers to discuss:

  • The gaps between Australia’s current vegetation system and international standards,
  • Innovative solutions to data-deficiencies,
  • State, territory and federal developments; and
  • Examples of modern techniques in vegetation classification in the Australian context.

Without adequate data and the development of international-level methodologies which allow cross-jurisdictional analyses and robust hierarchical classification, professional assessments cannot be made relatively or scientifically. The goal of our symposia is to bring together ecologists who are interested in the intersect between vegetation data, classification, map-products and decision-making.

with thanks to TERN for their support of this symposium


Thursday, 28 November 2019, 4:00pm -5:30pm

Research protocols and the changing nature of working on country

Conveners: Noel Preece

Field ecologists work on other people’s Country. These range from Indigenous Protected Areas to private conservation lands to grazing lands and the formal conservation estate. In recent years, changes to how ecologists do this work have presented challenges to the old ways.

Research protocols for researchers working on IPAs for instance have resulted in much greater engagement of Indigenous owners with the research. Research protocols are developing on IPAs and other Indigenous lands, whereas private conservation lands have established rules for researchers. All these protocols affect research, who owns the data, and what can be published and what authorities are required to publish.

These changes present great challenges to researchers. They inevitably incur costs, changes to attitudes, conduct on Country and back in the lab, and what can be studied and how they can be studied on the ground.

This symposium will present a range of speakers from across the Country and provide an opportunity to explore some of the issues in an open session.

What we will not do:
• Dictate what landholders and researchers must do – our goal is to review and discuss the issues, and to write up these in summary form, write up some of the principles and possibly develop some protocol templates

This symposium will explore a range of issues that present themselves. Some of these include: 

• Research protocols – review of the range of current and developing protocols
• Discuss some of the issues that are raised, such as the complexity or simplicity of alternative protocols
• Implications for costs of research – how can we overcome these?
• Free, prior and informed consent – what does it mean for us, especially for Indigenous people, but also more broadly
• Issues of Intellectual Property rights
• Investigate cost implications for new research protocol approaches
• Develop some approaches to gain recognition of the need to fund research differently – e.g. ARC research funding may need a fundamental change in scope and allowable costs – we could develop a statement on this for presentation to ARC and other funding bodies during the symposium, or at least the outline

• Explore some parallels, such as working on health issues on Indigenous lands where some of the ‘new’ things for ecologists have been mainstream for health researchers and workers
• Explore values of culturally diverse research
• Develop some standard protocols and codes of conduct – borrowing from established and tested ones such as those developed by KLC for the Kimberley Saltwater Country, and Wet Tropics TOLG Research Protocols
• Develop some principles around what should be addressed in Research Protocols


Friday, 29 November 2019, 11:00am – 1:00pm

Adaptive management: walking the talk

Conveners: Dr Vanessa Westcott

Adaptive management is a phrase often used in ecological research and conservation programs but seldom implemented using high quality, transparent data analysis as a foundation for altered practices.

Private landholders want and need to be able to measure, evaluate and share the benefits they see from their conservation efforts to leverage ongoing support. Improvements in the adaptive management space include the use of standard language and symbology, a broader strategic vision that goes beyond a project by project approach, structured monitoring plan development, regular stakeholder engagement and robust question-based data analysis.

In this symposium, there will be speakers providing an overview of the theory as well as multiple best-practice examples of adaptive management tools and projects currently underway.


Friday, 29 November 2019, 11:00am – 1:00pm

Management of overabundant macropods

Conveners: Dr John Read

Overabundant kangaroos and in some cases smaller macropods pose a significant threat to the conservation or restoration of native vegetation remnants and their flora and fauna.

Unsustainably high macropod densities can also be detrimental to animal welfare outcomes (evidenced by many starving kangaroos) and agricultural productivity.

This symposium aims to highlight several case studies where these threats have been measured and to showcase examples of how such risks can be managed.