Does your work focus on the management of weeds in Australia?
Are you passionate about finding new solutions to this long-term challenge?
Would you like the opportunity to explore how natural and social science, policy makers and practitioners can come together to chart a new way forward?
Then this is the conference for you!
The 2019/20 Fenner Conference on the Environment, supported by the Australian Academy of Science is about:
Managing wild and weedy Australia across boundaries and disciplines
This innovative conference has been designed for a select group of expert researchers, policy makers and practitioners to devise a transformation in Australian weed management. We will be driven by the question:
What are the highest priority actions we can commit to, working together across boundaries and disciplines, that will deliver the greatest contribution to radically improved weed management research, policy and practice in Australia?
The conference will use creative formats and methods delivered by a professional facilitator that encourage deep discussion and debate rather than presentations of research results. This will be aided by the involvement of two of Australia’s most eminent social and ecological scientists, Professor Lesley Head and Professor Richard Hobbs.
The aims of the conference are to:
- Critically reflect on Australia’s weed management practices and policies, and evaluate whether they are based on the best available scientific, local and Indigenous knowledge; and
- Formulate a plan of action of how to transform Australia’s future weed management research, policies and practices.
This bespoke approach recognises the importance of trust, an alluring landscape setting (Kosciuszko National Park) and social interactions for enabling meaningful conversations, in achieving enduring collaborative relationships to deliver long-term change.
Venue: Stillwell Hotel, Charlotte Pass, New South Wales
Date: 17-21 February 2020.
This opportunity is limited to a maximum of 30 participants and is by application only. Some support will be made available to eligible participants to enable participation.
We very much hope you can join us at this special conference!
In Australia, almost all native vegetation communities have been invaded, or are vulnerable to invasion by exotic plants (Department of the Environment and Energy, 2018). Concerns about the environmental and agricultural impacts of invasive plant species have resulted in billions of dollars being invested annually in practices that limit their spread and reduce their extent (Llewellyn et al., 2016). Despite more than a century of such endeavours, there are few success stories, as wave after wave of plant species continue to invade and spread across the country. The conference seeks to initiate a transformation in the way weeds are managed in Australia. Its transdisciplinary approach and focus on both environmental and agricultural weeds, will provide value to diverse researchers, practitioners and policy makers regardless of the context in which they work.
One of the possible reasons why there have been few success stories in Australian weed management, is because many of the groups of researchers, policy makers and practitioners in Australia work in isolation from one another. There have been repeated calls for greater collaboration among policy makers, practitioners and researchers. For example, in Thorp and Lynch’s (1999) review of the 1997 National Weed Strategy they repeatedly called for more collective action in future weed management in Australia. However, they did not give clear guidelines on how this can be achieved. Similarly, in the 2017-2027 Australian Weeds Strategy, it is recognised that landholders, community groups, industry groups and the Australian Government should be responsible for initiating and supporting collective action (Invasive Plants and Animals Committee, 2016). Yet, there is no definition of what this is or clear guidelines on how this can be achieved. Thus, the proposed conference seeks to initiate such collective action by bringing diverse weed management stakeholders together from across Australia to work together to develop a shared vision for the future, and a plan for how to achieve that vision.
The conference is taking place at a time when there is a critical juncture in terms of scientific debates, policy formulation, and environmental change. Scientifically, there are significant international debates that Australia could benefit from further engagement with, such as whether we should accept a ‘new nature’ (e.g. Marris, 2011; Hobbs et al., 2013; Orion, 2015; Pearce, 2015), how to respond to invasive species ‘denialism’ (Ricciardi and Ryan, 2018; Russell and Blackburn, 2017), how to include indigenous knowledge into invasive species management (Bach et al., in press; Gratani et al, 2011; Hill et al, 2011), and how to better account for human-plant interactions (e.g. Atchison and Head, 2016), among others. At a policy level, the conference is timely because the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is about to undertake its invasive species assessment (Schmeller et al, 2017), and almost all Australian states and territories have recently or are currently renewing their biosecurity legislation, providing an opportunity to ask whether the policy changes being made are sufficient. Finally, in the face of climate change, it is pertinent to ask whether and how our weeds research, policy and practice will address, and keep ahead of, the competitive advantage that invasive plants are argued to have (Mabey, 2010). We argue that this timing has provided a critical opportunity to question and rethink how Australians manage and live with weeds.
Three of the organisers of the 2019/20 Fenner conference have been involved in the development and running of the international ‘ANdinA’ series of interdisciplinary scientists’ meetings, on which the 2019/20 Fenner conference is based (Cousens, 2017). The ANdinA format, which has been applied on four occasions in three continents, was purpose-built to elicit the safe and collegiate interpersonal interactions within which free and frank exploration of challenging and controversial topics can take place.
Below are testimonials from participants of past Andina meetings.
“A real novelty of the Benasque meeting was that the organisers succeeded in creating an atmosphere that encouraged critical debate of important and controversial topics while making sure that everyone, regardless of seniority or gender, had the opportunity to contribute and engage. The organisers created a rare beast: a safe and creative space for robust academic debate. The quality and depth of the conversations that ensued were excellent as a result.” Professor Yvonne Buckley, Trinity College, Dublin
“What I have appreciated most about this workshop is the opportunity to initiate conversations and, frankly, be pushed out of my comfort zone on topics that I don’t normally touch. While a feeling of discomfort may sound like a critique, I believe it is a necessary step to take in order to bridge the gaps across the various disciplines and diverse schools of thought.” Assistant Professor Carlo Moreno, College of Wooster, Ohio
“I was honoured to have the opportunity to spend a week with some of the top weed scientists from across four continents. As likely the least academically experienced person in the room, I cannot overstate how welcome I felt, and how I felt my opinion was valued and fairly evaluated when given. The addition of the perspectives of social science to this workshop has validated some of my current approaches;it has helped me see that there is value in moving beyond the traditional hard science we tend to stick to in weed and agriculture research to include exciting new aspects from the social sciences. In reality AndinA has opened my eyes to a whole new body of literature, knowledge and experience readily available to bring value and validity to agricultural research issue” Graham Collier, Nufarm, Canada
Two eminent researchers have been invited to lead the debates about frontiers in weed management research, policy and practice.
Professor Lesley Head is Head of the School of Geography at the University of Melbourne and is known internationally for her work on the cultural dimensions of invasive plant management. Professor Head will lead the debates about the social and cultural dimensions of invasive plant management.
Professor Richard Hobbs, from the University of Western Australia, is known internationally for his contributions to debate on novel ecosystems. He will lead the debates about the ecology and philosophy of invasive plant management.