‘Dismantling unhelpful binaries in citizen science’ at the #CitSciOzOnline conference

The Early-Mid Career Researcher (EMCR) 1/2 day symposium united citizen science-aligned researchers in Australia to interrogate and explore research and practice in citizen science across the country. Featuring keynotes, lighting talks, Q&A, interactive sessions, and networking opportunities, the #CitSciOzOnline Conference is the starting point for a community of practice in citizen science research; uniting interdisciplinary researchers, citizens, and others from outside of institutional settings.

Debbie Gonzalez Canada, who is researching participation in digital environmental monitoring, discussed unhelpful binaries in citizen science at the conference. The binaries are: 1) volunteers vs organizers; 2) dabblers vs super contributors; 3) individual vs group activities; 4) nature connection vs disconnection, and 5) digital vs traditional (aka “new vs old”). Thought some of these problematic binaries are not new for people in the field of public participation in research, it is surprising how they keep on being used, how they keep on shaping citizen science practice and obscuring (our) understanding. The presentation was informed by initial insights coming from qualitative fieldwork about how the experiences and practices of environmental monitoring volunteers are shaped by digital tools such as smartphone apps.

You can watch the 5 minutes presentation here:

The slides can be download here: Dismantling unhelpful binaries in citizen science:
5 research insights in 5 minutes

The #CitSciOzOnline Conference will continue every Wednesday during October 2020 and you can register for the event by following this link.

October 14th 7PM – 9PM – Disaster Response Stream followed by the Resilience Session

This theme will celebrate and explore the unique platform that citizen science provides for the collection of diverse and comparative data and how the unification of global citizens through science can improve our ability to recover from extreme events. Following on from this session, join us for an informal chat about resilience which has been trending in 2020- but what does it mean in practice?

October 21st 7PM – 9PM – Connections and Partnerships Stream followed by Coffee & Networking session

Connections are at the core of citizen science, which brings together a diverse array of people to share science and creativity through collaboration. This theme will focus on powerful examples of citizen science as a way to connect and foster impact. Stick around afterwards for a virtual coffee and some citizen science networking!

October 28th 7PM – 9PM – Innovation Stream followed by CitSci Soiree

New approaches and technology are pushing the boundaries of the ways that citizen science can contribute to a range of social and ecological outcomes. This theme will unite cutting edge enabling technologies with citizen science approaches and highlight opportunities for new research. After the stream join the ACSA MC team for a networking session to wind down the event.

Watch the winning entry for Visualise Your Thesis 2020 about mindful engagement in nature

PhD candidate, Rose Macaulay, recently won the University of Melbourne’s Visualise Your Thesis competition. The competition challenges graduate researchers to present their research in a 60 second digital display. You can watch her entry below.

Mindfulness and Wellbeing in Urban Nature by Rose Macaulay from unilibrary on Vimeo.

Next, Rose will represent the University of Melbourne in the International Visualise Your Thesis Competition in October.

Seminar program from September to November 2020

Intervention – holding space for alternative futures in academia and beyond

Joint seminar with the School of Geography, held by Sophie Pascoe, Paula Satizabal Posada, Andrea Rawluk, Anna Sanders, and Tess Tomborou.

Tuesday 8 September, 1-2pm

Bridging historical landscape ecology and land management: the geo-historical background of fire risk in Spain

Seminar by Cristina Montiel

23 September, 4-5 pm

Sustainability governance paradigms: a case study of blue carbon

PhD completion seminar by Carolina Contreras

21 October, 4-5 pm

Academic leadership: What I’ve learnt so far

Seminar by Kirsten Parris

11 November, 4-5 pm

SEMINAR: Rebecca Ford and Kathryn Williams explore social aspects of planning for bushfire risk.

In a changing climate, people are increasingly going about their daily lives in landscapes that are shaped by fire. How do residents relate to the annual risk of wildfires? Recreation in forests is known to have positive outcomes for health and wellbeing, but what are recreational experiences in recently burnt forests? How do agency staff in planning and management view and act on these issues?
Over two seminars, we explore interactions between people, ecosystems and fire. Part 2 is two presentations that investigate some social aspects of planning for bushfire risk.

Living with Ecosystems and Fire – Part 2

‘So much black, it was quite confronting’, experiences of people living, working and recreating in forests recently burnt by bushfires
By Dr Rebecca Ford

How does new knowledge of relationships between people, ecosystems and fire shape professional practice?
By Professor Kathryn Williams

ZOOM Webinar: Wednesday 22 July 2020, 4pm-5pm

SEMINAR: Ruth Beilin and Andrea Rawluk explore interactions between people, ecosystems and fire

In a changing climate, people are increasingly going about their daily lives in landscapes that are shaped by fire. How do residents relate to the annual risk of wildfires? Recreation in forests is known to have positive outcomes for health and wellbeing, but what are recreational experiences in recently burnt forests? How do agency staff in planning and management view and act on these issues?

Over two seminars, we explore interactions between people, ecosystems and fire. Part 1 is two presentations that investigate how different kinds of people relate to bushfire.

Living with Ecosystems and Fire – Part 1

No Rose-Coloured Glasses Here: Australian agency staff views about community responsibility, risk and resilience in bushfire safety
By Professor Ruth Beilin

Narratives of everyday practice and bushfire in residents who don’t engage with fire agencies
By Dr Andrea Rawluk

ZOOM Webinar: Wednesday 24 June 2020, 4pm-5pm
To receive the ZOOM link, please email Dr Rebecca Ford: fordr [at] unimelb.edu.au

Twitter Conference #SCBMelb20: “Conserving Melbourne’s Biodiversity: past, present and future”

The inaugural Twitter Conference #SCBMelb20, to be held next July 30th–31st, 2020, has the theme “Conserving Melbourne’s Biodiversity: past, present and future”. It aims to bring together stories of biodiversity research and conservation action from across Melbourne and share them with a wider audience.

It is organized by the Society for Conservation Biology. Below is a summary of the information and you can read more about it here. You can submit your abstract via this form.

“We’re inviting presentations from anyone who has had a hand in conservation research or action within Greater Melbourne, including those from academia, state and local government, industry, land managers, NGOs and community groups. We’re interested in all aspects of nature conservation – ecology, social science, culture and community, policy and practice. You can share the story behind past events, current research or turn our thoughts to the future. Help us introduce Melbournites and the rest of the world to the amazing biodiversity on their doorstep.

Dates to keep in mind:

  • Abstracts submission DEADLINE EXTENDED to June 19th
  • Program released July 14th
  • Conference runs July 30th – 31st
  • How do presentations work?
    Each presenter is allocated a 5-minute timeslot to present their work across 5 tweets. It may not sound like a lot, but there’s a huge capacity to be creative! You can include images of your slides, photos from the field, links to research papers, blogs and videos, gifs, memes – you name it. Anything that might help communicate your work with a broad audience. We’ll release some tips and guidelines along the way, so keep an eye out.

    Who is the audience?
    Everyone! Unlike a traditional academic conference, a Twitter conference isn’t limited to other researchers who happened to be in the room during your talk. Anybody with a Twitter account who is interested in biodiversity conservation can follow along with the hashtag #SCBMelb20. This is a great opportunity to engage people beyond your traditional networks and bring stories of conservation science and practice to the broader public.”

    Society for Conservation Biology Social Sciences: Working group Twitter Conference

    The Social Science Working Group (SSWG) of the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) is a global community of conservation scientists and practitioners. The SSWG is deeply committed to strengthening conservation social science and its application to conservation practice around the globe. SSWG catalyses forums and mechanisms for information exchange, promotes dialogue and debate, shares career opportunities and builds social science capacity among conservation practitioners.

    Given the current global situation, and with the support of board members, SSWG has been decided to run a Twitter conference. While everyone is encouraged to participate by engaging with the presentations on Twitter, the conference is designed for undergrads, graduates and those early career researchers who have just graduated or defended their thesis (within 1 year of conference date). The conference aims to provide opportunities for conservation social science students unable to attend Society for Conservation Biology conferences or other conferences due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. The conference will have 53 presentations from students from all over the world. The conference will take place on 16 and 17 June, 2020.

    This event is free, and it is easy for academics to participate from anywhere with a Twitter account. Follow the hashtag #SSWGTC20 on Twitter.

    Further information is available: conbio.org/groups/working-groups/social-science

    Participate in study about Digital Citizen Science

    Would you like to share your insights about monitoring the environment using digital technologies such as smartphones?

    You can now contribute to a research project at the University of Melbourne that studies participants’ experiences and practices in biodiversity monitoring with digital technologies. The research team seeks participants over 18 years old who are involved in one of the following biodiversity monitoring platforms:

  • Melbourne Water’s Frog Census;
  • Birdlife Australia’s My BeachBird Portal AND Birdata.
  • Your participation in the research project will help better design citizen science programs, improving production of knowledge, connection with nature and social interactions.

    This study involves two parts. First, you will have an interview with a researcher, that will take close to 60 minutes. The interview can be done via the phone or a computer (using Zoom or similar video chat technologies). The time of the interview will be coordinated with the researcher, with the objective of finding what is more convenient for you (as a study participant). The researcher will audio-record the interview.

    At a later stage, as long as social distancing measures permit monitoring activities in groups, you may allow the researcher to come along with you in one of your expeditions to collect biodiversity data (such as frog calls or birds’ surveys). Alternatively, you may be invited to share further insights with the researcher right after you collected data on your own.

    To request further information or participate, please send an email to gonzalezd [at] student.unimelb.edu.au with the subject line “Digital Citizen Science study” or complete the following form:

    Create your own user feedback survey

    Contact: Debbie Gonzalez Canada, PhD Candidate, School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences
    Email: gonzalezd [at] student.unimelb.edu.au

    This post was originally published on June 1st, 2020, and was last updated on January 28th, 2021.

    Planting timber forests on Australian farms

    By Professor Rod Keenan and Dr Nerida Anderson, University of Melbourne

    Australia’s catastrophic bushfires earlier this year may seem like a long time ago now as focus has shifted to the COVID-19 pandemic, but their impact continues.

    The fires, which devastated the country’s east, had a major impact on timber resources in both plantations and native forests.

    Australian bushfires
    The Australian bushfires had a major impact on timber resources in both plantations and native forests. Picture: Getty Images

    Even before the fires, it was estimated half a million hectares of new softwood plantations would be required by 2045 to meet increasing timber demand for Australian housing.

    Local and export demand for hardwood timber has also continued to grow. However, a lack of recent investment in plantations could see Australia relying more on timber imports in future.

    And this is where Australia’s farmers have an opportunity. One way to produce more local wood is by planting trees and forests on Australian farmland.

    This has multiple benefits as it would generate timber, improve our wood security, and, in the process, farmers could diversify their incomes, improve farming productivity and wildlife habitat as well as generate many social and environmental benefits for rural Australia.


    Farm forestry has also been recommended to play a major part in Victoria’s emissions reduction strategy.

    Our team has been working on new business models for commercial trees on farms, that we believe will be attractive to investors seeking wider beneficial impacts from their capital investments.

    local wood
    A way to produce more local wood is by planting trees and forests on Australian farmland. Picture: Supplied

    The project, which was funded by forest industries and the Australian Government and managed by the not-for-profit industry services company, Forest and Wood Products Australia, involves a multi-disciplinary team of forestry experts, spatial analysts, social and finance researchers, and designers.

    To understand the big picture, the research team analysed landowner needs and past experiences with tree investment in different regions and then designed business models in collaboration with industry and rural landowners.

    It’s important to understand that Australia’s farmers differ in their income needs, business interests and attitudes towards trees. For example, one farmer we spoke to said that if the economics were “good enough” he might even consider buying land to grow trees for timber.

    While another farmer said that converting large tracts of good grazing land to trees for forestry was “not for him”. However, the same farmer noted that it would be a “win-win situation” if the trees could be positioned to provide protection for stock, enhance biodiversity and provide habitat corridors, as well as providing timber.

    Those developing tree investment options need to recognise these differences and vary timing of payments, planting configurations, and species choices to accommodate these different interests.

    Flexible approaches can inspire and enable new partnerships with tree and forest growers working alongside the agricultural sector to generate investment in trees on farms at the scale needed to make a difference to regional industries.

    And it’s a system that’s already working in practice. The Yan Yan Gurt West property in the Otway region of Victoria is just one example.

    The research team analysed landowner needs and past experiences with tree investment. Picture: Supplied


    Back in 1993, Timber company Midway Ltd began a working partnership with the Stewart family farm in rural Victoria to plant blue gum trees for future harvest under a tree farming agreement.

    Eight hectares were planted in belts ten rows wide through the property. This provided shelter for their sheep and soil protection while the trees were growing. After 14 years, the trees were harvested and the Stewarts received a share of the final income.

    The net profit (after accounting for fencing and lost grazing opportunity) of $A1,668 per hectare in today’s money was higher than the farming income would have been from this land over the same period.

    But even after the trees were harvested the benefits continued. The tree stumps left after harvesting re-sprouted, rapidly providing new shade and shelter. The regrown trees could also be harvested again to generate future income.

    These types of partnerships were common in the 1990s but were overtaken by companies promoting the now infamous Managed Investment Schemes. These schemes established around one million hectares of tree plantations, with the companies generally buying whole farms and planting them with trees.

    This caused concern among neighbouring farmers and others in local communities and, ultimately, the investment model, which was built on borrowing capital, wasn’t financially or socially sustainable.

    New models need to be built on trust between landowners, the timber industry and other stakeholders. Picture: Getty Images

    Our research found that tree investment needs to be based on sound regional planning to ensure that the right tree species are planted in the right places to generate desired benefits. Industry also needs to provide a clear commitment to buy wood at suitable prices.

    Payments for carbon storage or other environmental services can supplement timber income and provide short-term cash flow.

    Most importantly, an investment vehicle is needed to attract the right scale of investment, build investor confidence by spreading risks and underwrite returns.

    These new models need to be built on mutual understanding, trust and long-term commitment among landowners, the timber industry and other stakeholders.

    This kind of flexible model that meets different needs will be of more interest to a wider group of landowners and see more take-up. But there’s also the need for additional flexibility in payment arrangements, landowner co-investment, tree location and the design on farms, like planning plantings for permanent shade, shelter, aesthetics or biodiversity.


    It’s not just farmers who see the potential of these kinds of investment opportunities, our industry partners also see the benefits.

    Scaling-up these investment models will see benefits across rural communities and the timber industry. Picture: Getty Images

    The industry recognises that creating opportunities from more commercial trees on rural land will require them to change the way they interact with rural landowners.

    Tony Price, CEO of Midway Ltd, one of the industry partners in the project, told us that by working together, the sector can promote a consistent message that producing timber is a farm activity that complements other forms of agriculture, and that the industry is willing to work with farmers to achieve common goals.

    It’s time to scale-up these investment models so we can start seeing the benefits for rural communities and the timber industry, and secure the future of Australia’s timber resources.

    The project was supported by the Australian Government under the Voluntary Matching Program with co-funding by Australian Paper, AKD Softwoods Ltd, Hancock Victoria Plantations Ltd, Midway Ltd and OneFortyOne Plantations Ltd. Reports from the project can be found here and if you would like further information please email Professor Rod Keenan: rkeenan [at] unimelb.edu.au

    This article was originally published in Pursuit and it is republish here with permission.

    SEMINAR: Connecting with nature during COVID-19

    How people can maintain physical and emotional relationships with the natural world despite social-distancing measures?

    The People and Nature Alliance (PANA) would like to host some online presentations based on this topic with a particular focus on talks that might suggest pathways for how people can connect with nature during the ongoing pandemic. Additionally, we (PANA) would like to take the key messages from these presentations and our group discussion, and produce a simple advice document. This document would be targeted at local government, health practitioners, and e-NGO’s, and would aim to provide a consistent set of messages and advice for how people can build and maintain relationships with nature when movement is constrained. The knowledge and authority of the many experts in our group will ensure the advice is sound and gives people confidence in their messaging to the broader public.

    Confirmed Program

    Opening talk

  • Communicating about nature during COVID – Emily Gregg
  • Experiencing nature

  • Re-Imagining Nature – Georgina Reid
  • Mindful engagement with nearby nature: staying connected with nature during a pandemic – Rose Macaulay
  • Technology and nature

  • Nature connection and digital technologies? Insights from citizen science literature – Debbie Gonzalez Canada
  • Using Virtual Nature to Cope with Social Distancing – Tristan Snell & Navjot Bhullar
  • Social Media and Animal Photos- The Internet Connection – Meghan Shaw
  • Programs and initiatives

  • Lonely Conservationists- Isolated beyond the pandemic – Jessie Panazzolo
  • Victoria’s COVID-Safe Virtual Nature Festival: science, policy & people – Fern Hames
  • Participate in the seminar

    Virtual Seminar: Connecting with nature during COVID-19
    Thursday, June 11th 2020, from 3:30 to 5:00 pm

    To register as an official PANA member and participate from the Seminar, please go to pana.org.au, click “Join” or “Sign up”, and complete the PANA membership application form.

    For more information, visit People and Nature Alliance (PANA).

    Number of posts found: 11

    We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work and pay respects to elders – past, present and emerging. We aim to work together with Traditional Custodians to develop solutions to environmental problems in genuine partnership, respecting and appreciating their knowledge, culture, history and world views.