Dr Erik MeijaardPeople and Nature Consulting International

Speaking Tuesday 20 January 2015, 9:00 am
Conservation Science in the Asia-Pacific

Dr. Erik Meijaard runs the terrestrial branch of PNC International. He has an academic background in tropical ecology and a PhD in biological anthropology. His academic work focuses on the evolutionary history of the mammals of the Malay Archipelago, and trying to understand what that means for their conservation. Since 1992, Erik has worked in Indonesia on a range of different forest conservation programs. His first few years in Indonesia he spent traveling through remote parts of Borneo and Sumatra where he mapped the distribution of orangutans and other large mammals, and developed the first spatial datasets for these species. Subsequently, Erik worked for several international NGOs and research organizations including WWF-Netherlands and the Center for International Forestry Research, where he was instrumental in the development of new conservation strategies and initiatives, including launching the Heart of Borneo idea. From 2004 to 2009, he worked for the Nature Conservancy Indonesia's forest program as its senior scientist and later program manager. At the same time he was also closely involved with developing and implementing USAID-funded orangutan conservation programs, first as chief of party, later as Kalimantan coordinator and conservation strategy planner. Erik brings to PNCI a wealth of experience working with the provate sector, including timber and mining concessions, as well as plantations. His editorial experience with two newsletters, frequent publications in public and scientific fora, and media experience indicate Erik's strength as a very effective communicator on forest conservation and management issues.


Prof Lei CaoChinese Academy of Sciences

Speaking Wednesday 21 January 2015, 9:00 am
The East Asian-Australasian Flyway: waterbirds in trouble

Cao Lei is a professor and Ph.D. supervisor at the University of Science and Technology of China. Since 2004 Professor Cao has developed a great interest in the serious environmental problems occurring in the Yangtze River floodplain wetlands and her research work is now focused on understanding the causes of these and their impact on waterbirds.  The Yangtze River is globally unique for its extensive ephemeral floodplain wetlands, recharged by summer monsoonal rains laden with nutrients and sediment. Autumn and winter water level recession creates one of the largest concentrations of marshland, shallow and seasonally flooded lakes in the world, wetland ecosystems of dramatic diversity and productivity.  The cycle of flooding and drying provides ecosystem services of enormous economic value to hundreds of millions of people in the form of flood alleviation, water supply and storage, food supply (especially fisheries and aquaculture), transport, aggregate and other mineral resources.  The wetlands support globally significant numbers of millions of wintering waterbirds, including several species unique to the area, many of which are suffering serious declines in number in the face of rapid environmental change.  Waterbird community and composition reflect the structure and function of the wetlands upon which they depend, making them vital indicators of wetland ecological health.  Monitoring is helping to establish the status, abundance and distribution of Yangtze waterbirds, thus identifying key research areas. Professor Cao’s current research focuses on understanding the feeding ecology and habitat use of flagship and key common species, which appear to have experienced changes in distribution or abundance due to environmental changes in the floodplain (such as the Swan Goose, Tundra Swan, Lesser and Greater White-fronted Geese, both races of Bean Geese, Falcated Duck and Baikal Teal), to better understand their conservation management requirements.  Innovative use of satellite imagery is being used to measure major expansion in the distribution and abundance of key macrophyte species, which may reflect recent changes in water quality and hydrology.  Such studies have been supplemented with microcosm experiments which are being used to better understand the trophic effects of the spread and current distribution of macrophytes on the functioning of Yangtze wetlands.  Such insights into ecosystem function and processes are vital if the ecosystem services so essential to the human population of the area are to be safeguarded for the future. Professor Cao is currently undertaking or presiding over a number of research projects sponsored by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), the Major Projects of Knowledge Innovation Program of CAS, and other international cooperative projects.


Prof Hugh Possingham, University of Queensland

Speaking Thursday 22 January 2015, 9:00 am
Optimal monitoring for nature conservation

Professor Hugh Possingham's research interests are in conservation research, operations research and ecology. More specifically his lab works on problems to secure the world's biological diversity: efficient nature reserve design, habitat reconstruction, monitoring, optimal management of populations for conservation, cost-effective conservation actions for threatened species, pest control and population harvesting, survey methods for detecting bird decline, bird conservation ecology, environmental accounting and metapopulation dynamics.

Since January 1st 2014 Professor Possingham is an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow. He currently directs two national research centres, including an Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED). He received his PhD from the University of Oxford in 1987. His research projects are in the field of decision theory in conservation biology, and include: reserve design, biodiversity management and fire regime management; population viability analysis (PVA) - including the development of ALEX; pollination ecology; metapopulation dynamics; ecological economics; optimal monitoring and environmental accounts; and stochastic modelling.