Looking back, moving on

The original AEDA crew (circa 2006)

The original AEDA crew (circa 2006) and where they were then. Rear: L-R. Bob Pressey (UQ), David Lindenmayer (ANU), Mick McCarthy (UM). Middle: L-R Mark Burgman (UM), Brendan Wintle (UM), Sarah Bekessey (RMIT), Kirsten Parris (RMIT). Front: L-R Karen Gillow (nee Hurley), Hugh Possingham (UQ), Mark Colyvan (UM), Clive McAlpine (UQ)

As most of you know, I’m leaving CEED to take on the role of The Chief Scientist at The Nature Conservancy. This is my last issue of Decision Point as CEED’s Director. I’ve been working with you in this network (in its various forms) for the past decade and it’s been a wonderful time – full of exciting science and valuable and respectful collaborations. I have been humbled and inspired by the friendship and dedication of you, my colleagues. I may be deluded, but I think that our collective efforts have put decision science for conservation front and centre in people’s thinking, both in Australia and around the world.

It was ten years ago that we established the Applied Environmental Decisions Analysis Hub (AEDA). Back in those days decision science for conservation barely existed. These days, the ideas of prioritisation, trade-offs, optimisation, risk management, value of information and dealing with uncertainty are all commonly included in policy formulations and public discussions on biodiversity.

CEED (and its earlier manifestations) has played an important role in making these concepts real and relevant. That’s something we can all be proud of. The collaborative research networks and culture that we have nurtured (AEDA, CEED, NERP ED, NESP TSR and EDG) have been the vehicles to prosecute the case for smarter environmental decision-making. The legacy of this work is in more robust environmental policies, a bigger management and policy tool box and a cadre of extremely talented environmental decision scientists. Many of the Early Career Researchers that our networks helped nurture some ten years ago are now heading up highly influential groups both here in Australia and overseas.

Hugh speaks at the Brisbane Library on environmental decision science. Over 300 people turned out to hear his message.

Hugh speaks at the Brisbane Library on environmental decision science. Over 300 people turned out to hear his message.

Decision Point has chronicled the life and times of CEED and its antecedents, and I believe this publication has made a real difference in building a community of interest in environmental decision science. It has helped bridge the gap between research, policy and management and given the general public a real insight into how interesting and important conservation problems are – as evidenced by my recent public lecture in the Brisbane City Library which was sold out with 300 attendees.

I’m excited about the next chapter for CEED (and whatever networks continue beyond the lifespan of CEED). I look forward to continuing to collaborate with the researchers and organisations who are contributing so much to better environmental decision making globally.

Editors Pick

Long-term readers of Decision Point would know that, over the years, Hugh Possingham has floated some excellent and sometimes off-the-wall conservation ideas in his editorials. Some of them have been eminently do-able and grounded, others have been fantastic and controversial. All of them have been provocative and stimulating. Here are my top three:

The Biodiversity Endowment Trust

Decision Point#23, p2

The Federal Government places $200 million dollars in a trust for every one of the 56 NRM regions. That trust fund is an endowment releasing about 4% per annum to the regional body. We create a composite biodiversity index for each region that is set to a value of 100. Every five years the biodiversity accounting office provides another composite biodiversity index and according to these outcomes the amount of funds released to NRM regions is adjusted…

Threatened Species Lotto

Decision Point #31, p2

DP#97_Page_03_Image_0004Every year the Minister for the Environment draws out ten coloured balls. On each ball is the name of a threatened species. To each ball (species) one million dollars is allocated. If you are the lucky owner of a property on which that species lives, you will be given a fraction of the million dollars in proportion to the number of individuals of the species that you have so carefully nurtured…

The Acoustic Environmental Accounts

Decision Point #44, p2

Establish a network of acoustic monitoring boxes across the continent. Let’s say two boxes per bioregion/vegetation structure combination. Each box records an hour of sound four times a day, one day a week: the first at dawn, at dusk, an hour after dusk and an hour in the middle of the night. Over the years we would be able to cost-effectively detect changes in the abundance (based on calling rate) of hundreds of species (bats, birds and frogs) across the entire continent. It would be the first long-term continent-wide survey of any group of fauna in Australia.

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