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Empowering students through conference networking


The conference poster.


Over a hundred postgraduate students from more than 20 countries attended Australia’s first Student Conference on Conservation Science in Brisbane. (Picture: Colin Tucker)


The students went on a field trip to Lamington National Park, which is known for its natural beauty, rainforests, birdlife, ancient trees, waterfalls, walking tracks and mountain views. (Picture: Colin Tucker)


MSc student Colin Tucker presented a poster highlighting his work on the development of sustainability indicators for biosphere reserves.

By Colin Tucker, MSc student, Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology, Stellenbosch University

Something extraordinary happens when people with common goals come together from across the globe to share their knowledge, experiences and ideas.

The common goals form a bridge between the diverse cultural and social backgrounds of the different nationalities. This allows for the formation of global networks founded on common purposes and visions.

I recently attended Australia’s first Student Conference on Conservation Science (SCCS), which was hosted by the University of Queensland in Brisbane and sponsored by the Thomas Foundation. Other cities that have hosted the SCCS are Bangalore, Cambridge and New York.

The conference was organised by Dr Hugh Possingham, Director of the Environmental Decisions Group and Professor of Ecology and Mathematics at the University of Queensland. Over 100 postgraduate students from more than 20 countries attended the conference.

Building a student network

The conference organisers emphasised that one of the main goals of the conference was for us to form a network, which would increase our opportunities for collaborating with other conservation science students and institutions across the globe. Another important goal was the empowerment of early-career researchers through shared learning experiences.

During the first three days of the conference, the students gave talks and presented posters on their research. These covered a diversity of topics, which included genetics, ecology, ecosystem services and social-ecological systems. The quality of the presentations was outstanding. I presented a poster on my MSc study regarding the development of sustainability indicators for biosphere reserves

At the beginning of each of these three days, a presentation was given by a plenary speaker. The plenary speakers were Dr David Bickford (National University of Singapore), Dr Michelle Pinard (University of Aberdeen) and Dr James Watson (Wildlife Conservation Society).

Dr Bickford presented 10 rules of science communication for biodiversity conservation, Dr Pinard discussed the lessons that conservation science can bring to conservation, and Dr Watson gave the perspectives of a conservation NGO on putting conservation science into practice.

Following the poster and presentation sessions, we went on field trips to Lamington National Park and Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. The third day of field trips, a trip to the Noosa region was cancelled due to a cyclone which caused substantial floods in areas of Queensland.


The second week of the conference consisted of a series of workshops on a variety of scientific research and communication skills. Aspects covered in these workshops included statistical methods, scientific writing, stakeholder engagement, decision theory, and how to deliver an effective presentation.

Over the course of the conference there were numerous social gatherings, such as speed networking, trivia nights and barbeques. These social events were extremely valuable for networking with our fellow conference attendees and the other academics and practitioners that were present.

I would like to thank SAEON for funding my participation in this conference, which was very well organised and turned out to be very successful. For me the highlight was meeting students from all over the globe and seeing the pragmatic research that is being conducted to meet the goals of conservation.

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