PRE-CONFERENCE WORKSHOP: 22 and 23 November 2019

Near-term Ecological Forecasting for Early Career Researchers

Workshops organisers: Dr Ayesha Tulloch (University of Sydney) and Professor Michael Dietze (University of Boston)

Time: 0830-1700, Friday 22 and Saturday 23 November

Venue: UTAS Inveresk, Room 118, School of Architecture Building C

Participation fee: $100 inc GST per person

Inclusions: lunch and afternoon tea on day 1; morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea on day 2

This workshop is being offered to Early Career Researchers (postgraduate students and ecologists up to 10 years post PhD) with an interest in ecological forecasting. A basic knowledge of R will be expected for the practical exercises and participants will need to bring their own computer with working R software.

Ecosystems are being altered in many cases irreversibly by rapid and interacting changes in weather, climate, land-use change, invasive species, natural disturbances and a range of other anthropogenic activities and natural processes. We need good predictions of the future to inform how to manage ecosystems undergoing these changes. Ecological forecasting is the process of predicting the state of ecosystems under uncertainty, contingent on explicit scenarios for climate, land use, human population, technologies, and economic activity. Traditional ecological forecasting focuses on once-off predictions of the future state of a species or system (e.g. population viability analysis), or focuses on long-term futures (e.g. 50-100-year predictions of distributions under climate change). Such long-term approaches are valuable to motivate long-term planning, strategic thinking and policy, but we are unable to learn through getting feedback on how forecasts performed and using this to refine predictions. More importantly, because most policy and management occur on short timescales, we are not delivering forecasts that meet the operational needs of governments and managers. To create forecasts relevant to operational timelines, we need to build daily, weekly, seasonal or annual predictions of how systems might change – these are known as seasonal and near-term forecasts. This workshop aims to teach the next generation of ecologists the basics of near-term ecological forecasting. Specifically, the workshop goals will be to (a) teach participants about the theory of iterative ecological forecasting, (b) inform participants about the current state of iterative ecological forecasting and available data and methods in Australia, and (c) involve participants in practical modules that teach them the basic technical skills needed to build their own near-term and seasonal forecasts. Professor Michael Dietze (University of Boston), the writer of the book “Ecological Forecasting”, will be teaching the practical modules.

Invited presenters for group sessions on forecasting data in Australia include Professor Glenda Wardle (Ecosystem Science Council and University of Sydney) and the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN).

Workshop outline

Day 1:

  • Why forecast? Intro to ecological forecasting under uncertainty
  • Introduction to Bayes and hierarchical Bayes + practical 1
  • Machine Learning demonstration + practical 2
  • State space demonstration + practical 3

Day 2:

  • What is scenario analysis and how do we use it to structure decision making?
  • Uncertainty propagation in forecasting + practical 4 
  • Data assimilation (analytical and ensemble) + practical 5 
  • Model assessment demonstration + decision trade-offs 
  • What data do we need to do iterative forecasting in Australia and what are we missing? 

The following workshops will be offered on Wednesday 27 November 2019. 

Participation in workshops is optional, and not included in full conference registration fees. Additional costs apply. 

Unlock your skills to increase Biosecurity and Biodiversity outcomes

Workshops organisers: Bruno Rikli and Giles Hardy

Time: 0900-1600

Participation fee: $100 inc GST per person

Inclusions: morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea

Considered essential for anyone working in natural areas, managing them or planning for their sustainable future!

CLICK HERE for details

Communicating real ecology through stories: a writers workshop

Workshops organisers: Dr Ayesha Tulloch and Dr Kirsten Parris (University of Melbourne) 

Time: 0900-1600

Participation fee: $65 inc GST per person. Includes morning tea and lunch. 

Inclusions: morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea 

Although many ecologists strive to share their research with the public, they often have little experience in the range of non-traditional formats available to them (e.g. poetry, novels, illustrated children’s books, visual art). By focusing only on scientific articles, scientists miss great opportunities to communicate their stories about nature to the public through non-scientific writing forms. Similarly, many writers in the literature community strive to write stories with “real” environmental issues but lack the scientific background to fully understand how to ensure the reality of the ecological story is captured whilst still engaging the audience. This means that most of the stories available to adults and children to learn about Australia’s ecology are either incorrect or overly scientific, despite new and truly interesting ecological, engaging and accurate stories being discovered daily. This one-day workshop aims to start ecologists on the journey of writing creatively for the public. The focus is on creating ecologically accurate children’s literature, as well as promoting collaboration between scientists and the arts world through bringing Australian novelists to work with the ecologists attending the workshop. Encouraging the development of more accurate and ecologically informative stories for children and adults will foster a greater appreciation for the environment and educate the public in important topics. This workshop will appeal to any ecologist with an interest in creative writing, art, story telling or science communication, and who are keen to either work with artists to communicate their science or perhaps become creative writers themselves. The workshop is the first of a series of annual workshops on conventional and novel approaches to science communication to be run under the auspices of the ESA Science Communication Research Chapter, building on successful symposia at the EcoTAS 2017 and ESA 2018 conferences.

Workshop structure

  1. Introductory presentation and participant discussion: “Why is storytelling important to me?”
  2. Presentations by creative writers on their inspirations for writing and tips for scientists to enter the creative writing world
  3. Facilitated panel discussion, during which participants can ask writers specific questions about writing techniques, picking your audience, choosing the right story, or collaborating with writers (not everyone is a creative writer, but many scientists have great ideas for writing that could be communicated through a good partnership!)
  4. Groupwork “pitching” session where participants split into smaller groups led by each invited writer or published novelists in the ESA; each participant will have the chance to “pitch” their creative-writing idea to one of the invited writers and receive constructive feedback from the group.

Writing for publication workshop

Workshops organiser: Nigel Andrew, Editor in Chief, Austral Ecology and Dr Rebecca Ciezarek, Journal Publishing Manager, Research Australia and New Zealand, Wiley

Time: 0900-1600

Participation fee: $35 inc GST per person

Inclusions: lunch 

This one-day workshop will be primarily focussed towards researchers who are at the beginning of the publication treadmill, but there will also be useful tips for people who have been through the publication process a few times. There will be plenty of opportunity for QA and workshopping of ideas.

Key elements of this workshop: 

  • what to publish? 
  • constructing a paper
  • effective science writing
  • the publication pipeline
  • authorship
  • publication ethics
  • which journal? 
  • promoting your research


Introductory concepts in spatial capture recapture

Workshop organiser: Joanne Potts, The Analytical Edge, TAS

Time: 0900-1700

Participation fee: $170 inc GST per person

Inclusions: morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea 

This workshop is aimed at people collecting and analysing capture-recapture data to estimate density of a target population, where a portion of the population can be uniquely identified. This includes proximity traps (e.g., camera traps), multi-catch traps (e.g., mist nets) or single-catch traps. No background knowledge in capture-recapture analyses is required, since the workshop will cover introductory concepts. The workshop will be conducted in R, and although code will be provided with complete worked examples, familiarity with R will help participants gain more from the workshop.

This workshop will cover the following:
– motivation for using spatial capture-recapture
– theoretical understanding of how the spatial capture-recapture likelihood works (in pictures!)
– a practical in class during which participants collect spatial capture-recapture data
– learn how to store, format and import spatial capture-recapture data
– analyse data collected during the morning session, including using ‘masks’ to define habitat from non-habitat, exploring the form of the capture function, the use of covariates, and model selection.


Taking your R skills to the next level: four great strategies for reproducible research

Workshops organiser: Daniel Falster, Saras Windecker, Nick Golding and Jian Yen – The University of Melbourne

Time: 0930-1630

Participation fee: $65 inc GST per person

Inclusions: lunch 

Conservation and ecology research underpin management decisions that directly impact biodiversity. Yet, growing concern about the irreproducibility of many published results means the credibility of research and the reliability of decisions they inform may be questioned. Researchers can overcome these concerns by making their research reproducible. The aim of this workshop is to teach ecology researchers using the language R best practices for making their research computationally reproducible – meaning the ability to rerun an analysis and reproduce the same results. Making your analyses more reproducible has many benefits, including fewer mistakes, less duplication, more interpretable analyses, and better collaboration. Ultimately, reproducible code is likely to be more organised, more easily shared, and to support more robust and reliable research.

This one-day session will introduce our top strategies for increasing the reproducibility of your work in R. The workshop is best suited for those who are already using R and looking to upskill their coding techniques.



National Environmental Prediction System (NEPS) Scoping Study Consultation

Workshop organiser: Peter Brady (NEPS Scoping Study Expert Panel and TERN)

Time: 1000-1200

Participation fee: $nil

Inclusions: nil

This workshop is aimed at any interested Australian ecologists who like to investigate, model, forecast and predict the state of our future environments for research and evidence-based policy development, input from attendees will be instrumental in shaping a business and use case to the Australian Government for establishment of this proposed new environmental research capability.

There will be a presentation on the proposed National Environmental Prediction System (NEPS) Scoping Study followed by facilitated round table discussion on technical design, uses and the social architecture. A summary of the workshop discussion will form part of the feedback to the Australian Government from the Scoping Study’s Expert Panel when it submits its consultation and implementation reports in 2020.  Under the Australian Government National Research Infrastructure Investment Plan, released in the 2018-19 Budget, the NEPS is conceived as a federated form of national research infrastructure, enabling integration of environmental observations with predictive modelling. In addition to its importance to researchers, the NEPS would be expected to produce data and information products and services to be used by decision-makers to boost our economy through improved environmental knowledge.

This workshop forms part of the scoping study’s broad, nation-wide consultations, and is an opportunity for members of Australia peak body for ecosystem science, ESA, to have their say on Australia’s future environmental predictive capabilities.


Shaping the next National State of the Environment Report for 2021

Workshop organisers: Dr Ian Cresswell and Ms Jeanette Corbitt

Time: 1300-1630

Participation fee: $nil

Inclusions: light morning tea

This workshop aims to involve a broad range of participants to share their experience and ideas in how to improve national State of the Environment reporting. All are welcome to attend from early career researchers and undergraduates to experienced ecologists as well as others who have an interest in improving how we report on the environment.
This workshop seeks:
a) to solve a problem – how do we better align our environmental reports across national and sub-national levels to achieve better outcomes for the environment, such as through shared indicators?
b) to get your input in shaping the next Australian State of Environment 2021 report, calling out our biggest challenges and opportunities.
Since 1996 Australia has produced a national State of the Environment (SoE) report every five years, providing a synthesis of the state and trend across major biomes. Since 2016 reporting has become more complicated with major reports released from IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services), as well as the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Australia’s States and Territories produce different types of reports. A recent OECD review found the need to better link our national SoE Report with state and territory indicators and measures. For SoE 2021 could we develop a set of measures that provide a level of concordance across sub-national indicators? This would also provide the ability to meet various international reporting obligations.
Developing an agreed framework across Australia’s nine jurisdictions for a shared set of outcome-based questions for each of the SoE report’s major themes can provide a new way forward to simplify reporting at many levels, while continuing to ensure the autonomy of states and territories. This workshop will also discuss whether our national SoE should align with goals, targets or indicators of the SDGs, and if so how to develop a pragmatic approach to aligning Australia’s disparate goals and targets across multiple reporting frameworks. Currently all jurisdictions are developing a national approach to environmental-economic accounts which may also provide new opportunities to building the capability to ‘report once and use many times’, across a range of sub-national, national and international reporting obligations. What is your view on the most important environmental reporting that should appear in SoE 2021?



If you would like to host a workshop at this year’s conference, please download and complete the workshop proposal form below, and email to by 31 August 2019.