"Can you imagine 100 keen post graduate students from 30 countries gathered in one place for 10 days of talks, workshops and exchange forums?...I discovered, to my surprise, more than a dozen other students at the conference were working on very similar topics to mine....Our discussions revitalised us, and I left with greater confidence about my research goals..." - Michelle Venter, James Cook University attendee, 2013. (2nd from left in the photograph)
Conservation science students in Australia have access to some of the world’s finest conservation researchers and facilities but the same cannot be said for students working outside of Australia studying in our region. CEED has made many concerted efforts to develop the next generation of conservation scientists both here in Australia and in the Pacific and Asia region, and an excellent example of this is the Student Conference on Conservation Science (SCCS) staged at the University of Queensland in January 2015.
This was the 2nd SCCS in Australia and CEED played a leading role in making both this and the first conference a great success.
The conference brought together around 150 research students for an intensive week of talks, training workshops and field trips. There was also considerable emphasis on communication and network building in the hope that contacts made during the conference would lead to enduring relationships as the students develop into conservation researchers and practitioners.
Twenty four fully paid scholarships were offered to early career researchers, covering all transport, accommodation, conference registration, social activities and excursions. Scholarship holders were from 15 different countries. Over 80 participants came from all over the South East Asia and Pacific region. This was complemented by a similar number of Australian students from all around the country.
“While we used a template that has been tested in other places like Cambridge University, this is the first time this type of conference has been run in the southern hemisphere,” says Professor Hugh Possingham, CEED’s Director and the Convenor of the SCCS. “That it worked so well is testament to the efforts of the many enthusiastic volunteers and organisers involved in this year’s conference.
“We’re proud of what we’ve achieved and I think Australia as a nation should acknowledge the importance of events such as these. Australia needs to shoulder its responsibility more when it comes biodiversity conservation in the region. I estimate that somewhere between Burma and Fiji, taking in Brisbane on the way, there are about a third of all terrestrial species on the planet packed into 10% of the world’s land. And if we dive into the marine realm, the Coral Triangle, which lies the middle of that broad transect, has no parallel on the land in terms of the richness of its marine biodiversity. Yet many of the countries in our region have limited capacity to do the conservation research they need to. Training and skills in ecology, conservation, GIS, communication and conservation economics is absent or limited. The SCCS is one small action we can take as a nation to help redress this situation, and in 2018 we hope to be running this again in Brisbane.”
The SCCS Australia conference was a proud achievement; a first for the southern hemisphere. It was such a success that we are planning another for 2018.
Keep informed on the progress at the official SCCS Australia website at http://www.sccs-aus.org/