Workshops & Field Trips

Friday 1 December 2017


Workshop – Data Science in monitoring programmes: empowering management and conservation

Workshop organisers – Fernando Cagua and Bernat Bramon Mora, School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

Date and time – Friday 1 December, 1000-1200

Fee – $20 inc GST

Workshop description – Data Science, “the responsible use of data for decision-making”, has been embraced by companies in many fields for optimising their processes and improving their resource management. Notably, these good practices in business can also be put into practice for conservation science because the successful management of natural resources involves making data-driven decisions in shifting social and ecological settings.

To support this decision-making, environmental management agencies often establish monitoring programmes that provide information about the status and trends of the resources of interest. However, while monitoring and management frameworks outlining how data can be used for decision making are well established, cases of data being collected—but not used—occur too frequently. Small or under-funded organisations are more likely to be in this “data rich but insight poor” situation. Although managers are often acutely aware of this disconnect, they are unable to address its root because data management, manipulation, and analysis, are often more complex and expensive than anticipated. In this workshop, we will show how relatively simple data science tools can be used to bridge this gap and create an efficient workflow for data monitoring. With the right systems in place, we will demonstrate that automated reports and user-friendly interactive web apps can easily provide managers and scientific staff with direct and immediate overview of not only the data being collected, but also how it relates to the actual resource(s) being managed and the associated conservation values. This workshop will be of interest to any scientists whose work involves collection, monitoring or evaluation of experimental data. This includes: undergrads that see themselves as future experimental scientists; early career scientists who want to optimise their fieldwork strategies and learn some powerful tools that could become key for their future research; and, advanced ecologists that want their research group to benefit from tools for efficient data management. A practical example will outline the key ideas and tools by which experimental scientists or any data-dependent agency can benefit from a data science perspective. This example will be broken down to introduce the key elements and concepts that will help scientists or managers implement an efficient data monitoring system.

Participants are requested to bring a laptop (fully charged) and/or a smartphone.

Field Trip – Wine and Cheese Tasting in the Hunter Valley

 Date and time – Friday 1 December, 1000-1330

Fee – $58 inc GST

Description – A relaxing day enjoying the culinery delights of the region, with private tasting and facility tours at the following: 

– Rothvale Wines

– Hunter Valley Cheese Co.

– Tamburlaine Wines (The Valley’s premier organic winery)

– Hope Estate (Wine tasting, plus visit the micro brewery)

Participants have the option to stay at Hope Estate for lunch (own expense).

Field Trip – Upper Hunter Riparian and Equine Industry Vegetation Rehabilitation Projects

Field Trip organiser – Paul Melehan

Date and time – Friday 1 December, 0730-1700

Fee – $65 inc GST. Includes morning tea and lunch.

Field Trip description – The Hunter Region is only second to Kentucky in the USA for thoroughbred breeding. Breeders range from small family operated enterprises to large multinationals and own and manage extensive tracts of land in the Hunter. Cressfield Stud is a medium size operation which has been actively working to reduce it’s environmental impacts. It is home to a number of endangered plant and animal species and communities and is actively rehabilitating Riparian and Grassy Box Woodland communities. It has also recently established a composting facility to recycle stable bedding as compost. A quarterly bird monitoring program conducted by Birds Australia has been ongoing for a number of years. The visit to Cressfield will involve looking at works undertaken, discussing the results of bird monitoring and the issues, difficulties and solutions devised.

Hunter Local Land Services has been working with landholders in the Upper Hunter to improve the health and extent of the River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), a listed threatened population. The site to be visited is one of the few “healthy” intact remnants of this species in the Hunter.    

Some walking over uneven ground will be undertaken (a few hundred metres at most) and Tiger Pear is also likely to occur on site. Participants will need sturdy covered shoes. It is also likely to be hot, so hats, sunscreen, long sleeve shirts and pants are recommended.

Indigenous Cultural Field Trip

Field Trip organiser – James Wilson-Miller

Date and time – Friday 1 December, 0800-1300

BYO lunch, drinks and snacks, hat, sunscreen, insect repellent and shoes suitable for bushwalking

Fee – $75 inc GST

This half day field trip will tour the local area and visit Baiame Cave, a sacred Hunter Valley cave which features a painting of one of the most important Aboriginal Figures in NSW. Baiame Cave is located in the foothills of the eastern side of the Great Dividing Range in the upper Hunter Valley, on privately owned farmland, a few kilometres north of the boundary of Yengo National Park. Baime is known as the “Father of All” to the Dreamtime of many NSW Aboriginal cultures, including the Wonnarua on whose traditional land the cave is found.

Workshop – Nature journaling: a practical way to combine art and science

Field Trip organiser – Paula Peeters.

Date and time – Friday 1 December, 1000-1600.  Cypress Lakes Resort grounds. 

BYO lunch, drinks and snacks, hat, sunscreen, insect repellent and shoes suitable for bushwalking

Fee – $50 inc GST

Good ecology starts with the close observation of nature, and so does good land management. Nature journaling is the practice of drawing and writing in response to nature. This rewarding activity can sharpen your observation skills, provoke all manner of questions and open the door to a deeper understanding of your natural surroundings. Nature journaling is also fun and relaxing, and you end up creating your own unique nature journal. It’s an activity for all ages and all levels of fitness. In this age when many people are becoming disconnected from nature, nature journaling can be a playful, inexpensive way to foster greater connection with nature, which can also result in greater care of nature. This workshop will include beginner-level exercises in drawing and creative writing, activities to improve observation skills and generate questions about nature, and demonstrations of the use of various materials for nature journaling. The ecology of the site will be explored and interpreted. Ideas for including nature journaling in group activities and projects will be discussed. No prior experience or skills in drawing or writing are required.

Paula Peeters is an ecologist, artist and writer. Visit to read more about nature journaling, or download Paula’s free ebook Make a Date with Nature: An introduction to nature journaling. 

Materials: Participants should bring their own unlined paper sketchbook and 2B pencil and/or permanent ink fineliner pen for drawing, plus a pen or pencil for writing. Lined paper for writing will be supplied. Alternately, participants may purchase a materials kit for $20. A kit includes a good-quality sketchbook (Strathmore mixed media visual journal 8 x 5.5 inches), 2B pencil, permanent ink fine pen (Pigma micron), and a print copy of Paula’s book Make a Date with Nature: An introduction to nature journaling. 





Workshop – Innovative tools for mapping and modelling species distributions 

Workshop organiser – Chantal Huijbers,

Date and time – Friday 1 December 2017, 10 am – 4 pm

Fee – $65 inc GST. Includes morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea.

Workshop description – Models play a critical role in synthesising our understanding of the natural world and making forward projections into novel conditions. These projections help tailor conservation efforts by pinpointing hotspots of biodiversity now and into the future under a changing climate. While they are central to ecological forecasting, models remain inaccessible to many scientists and managers, in large part due to the informatics challenges of managing the flows of information in and out of such models. In this workshop the ALA (Atlas of Living Australia) and the BCCVL (Biodiversity and Climate Change Virtual Laboratory) join forces to explore the often-complex relationships between taxa and the environment and how to use this data in ecological models.

In the first half of this workshop participants will use the ALA Spatial Portal to learn about key features, data quality issues, environmental layers and simple but powerful tools like scatterplots to get a better understanding of taxa-environment relationships. They will then take what they have learnt in the ALA to the BCCVL to explore the basic elements of species distribution models and climate change projections, including the data required to run the models, the differences across various model algorithms and how to appropriately interpret and evaluate the results of model outputs. Using the BCCVL, workshop participants will access national datasets to run a species distribution model and then project the results into the future using a climate change projection under a number of different emission scenarios.

The workshop will be of interest to students, environmental/climate scientists and researchers, ecologists, decision-makers, members of government and industry groups, and anyone with a keen interest in conservation and climate impacts. No complex coding/statistical knowledge is required.

Please bring your own laptop.

Workshop – Media skills training

Workshop organisers – Paul Holper & Simon Torok, Scientell 

Date and time – Friday 1 December, 0900-1100

Fee – $20 inc GST

Workshop description – There are many advantages to communicating your research through the media: informing people about the work and its importance, raising the profile of your subject area, eliciting action, and possibly helping with funding.

This session will explain how traditional media – print, TV and radio – works and how to increase your chances of having your work covered. It will also summarise the evolving media landscape, and how to select appropriate media for publicising your work. It will include advice about identifying the story and hook in your work, interacting with journalists, and tips for appearing on radio and TV. We will also provide pointers on what to do if you’re contacted unexpectedly by the media.

This will be a practical session. Participants should have in mind a research topic that they would like to develop into a media story.