As a fish ecologist living in Norway, it’s a joy to be able to travel to Melbourne and interact with the people that are driving forward fish science in my home country. So when I found out that the Australian Society of Fish Biology’s annual conference was taking place 3 days after my first flight home since 2016, I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
We’re on the last day of the conference at the moment, and over the next 2 months I’m looking forward to bringing you a number of insights, including interviews with guest speakers Eva Plaganyi and Gretta Pecl and pioneers of intriguing projects like Peter Unmack and Jarod Lyon. I’ll also have a fish edition of The Changing Face of Ecology, and some articles on how the angling community and the fish science community interact in a country with one of the most unique fish assemblages in the world.
Ecology is a discipline that is constantly evolving. I spoke to (from top left to bottom right) Mark Davis, Madhur Anand, Paul Hebert, Andrew Hendry, Amy Austin and Bill Sutherland about the biggest changes they’ve seen in their careers (Image Credits: Mark Davis; Karen Whylie; Guelph University; Andrew Hendry; Amy Austin; British Ecological Society)
With so much of ecology focused on how the world around us is changing, it should come as no surprise that the discipline itself has undergone considerable transformation since its inception. And as with the world around us, many facets of ecology which are now commonplace were once a thing of the past.
Over the last 10 months, my colleague Kate Layton-Matthews and I have had the fortune to speak with a number of influential researchers in ecology, and there’s one question that we’ve always asked them: how has ecology changed over the course of your career? Here are some of their responses.
The image of the lone polar bear has become almost ubiquitous in step with growing awareness of climate change. So why hasn’t the scientific community been able to convince the world to act accordingly? (Image Credit: Pixabay, CC0)
During the late 1970s, in the wake of intense scientific research showing that chlorofluorocarbons were leading to the depletion of the ozone layer, the world took action. By 1987, the world had seen the signing of the Montreal Treaty, which practically banned the use of CFCs, imposing significant economic costs on those who signed. Since then, the hole in the Ozone layer has retreated. It’s a powerful example of science identifying a problem, finding a solution, and then presenting both the urgency of both to the public. Scientific communication at its best, surely. So with recent steps backward in environmental conservation law worldwide, despite almost global consensus on the negative impact of well-studied worldwide environmental phenomena, is science communication no longer as effective?
The Indian Pond Heron, one species which could face population declines as a result of climate change (Image Credit: Dr Raju Kasambe CC BY-SA 4.0)
Rapid warming is associated with population decline among terrestrial birds and mammals globally (2018) Spooner et al., Global Change Biology, DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14361
The term climate change is almost ubiquitous these days. Humans tend to concentrate on how the warming of certain parts of the globe will affect them, but the species we share the globe with also experience a myriad of effects at the hands of climate change. These include rising temperatures constricting the ranges of some species and concurrently extending the range of others, who can move into areas that were previously too cold for them.
Whilst the focus of climate change has often been on species range shifts, the effects on species abundances are less well studied. This paper attempts to quantify the effects of climate change on a large number of bird and mammal species, whilst accounting for other factors which could affect species abundances, like rates of land use by humans, species body size, and whether or not the animals are in a protected area.
When I interview ecologists, there are two themes I always end up gravitating towards; how the earth is changing and how to improve scientific communication with the general public. So when my colleague Stephanie Januchowski-Hartley mentioned she’d recently spoken to a global change ecologist who also happened to be a poet, I jumped at the opportunity.
Professor Madhur Anand is the co-author of Climate Change Biology and the author of A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes, a collection of poems which bridge the gap between poetry and science. Along her way to picking up two Canada Research Chairs and the ICCC Female Professional of the Year award, she has worked with theoretical physicists, poets and mathematicians. I spoke to Madhur about interdisciplinarity, using poetry to connect with the general public, and the future of the planet.