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

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. 

How to successfully raise awareness of Phytophthora dieback across all tenures

Workshops organisers: Bruno Rikli and Giles Hardy

Time: 0900-1600

Participation fee: $125 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. Learn from experienced professionals using real examples, how to successfully create opportunities for positive human behaviour changes that ultimately enhance biodiversity protection. We will use the widespread high impacting plant disease Phytophthora cinnamomi (a ‘Key Threatening Process to Australia’s Biodiversity’, EPBC Act 1999) to demonstrate an adaptable and successful approach to mitigate anthropogenic disease spread across land tenures. This workshop is suitable for all individuals (e.g. ecologists, undergraduate and post-graduate students, landcare managers and groups, shire councils, utility providers, environmental and community engagement practitioners).

Discussion and sharing the success story from Western Australia (WA) that could be adapted across Australia for various biodiversity threats! We will outline the activities of a successful not-for-profit association that has survived over 20 years of change in government, leadership and the rise and fall of environmental investment. Particularly how it became a leader disseminating science and raising awareness of Phytophthora Dieback, as well as the leading association for training stakeholders across land tenures about biodiversity threats and biosecurity-hygiene.

We will outline one approach to successfully engage diverse stakeholders through training, environmental compliance and advocacy. This includes explaining a training model that sustains the training organisation and raises awareness of biosecurity/biodiversity threats and their management. We will even provide you a ‘snap-shot’ of this training to experience it yourself. Now a training requirement for numerous industries in WA, participants learn essential skills and knowledge to apply Biosecurity-Hygiene principles in the field, home or office when planning activities in vulnerable vegetation. This model-training example has received excellent feedback and the not-for-profit Dieback Working Group Inc is the broker for delivering training to participants across all land tenures not covered by WA’s Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions (WA).

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

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

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.

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


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.