Monthly Archives: May 2010

Exhibition video

The current collaborative exhibition between North Sydney Council’s Smart Trees – Blue Harbour and the University of Sydney’s Iconic Landscapes projects, at North Sydney library, has the following video on display.

The compilation takes us through some the joint initiative’s survey findings around how the local North Sydney community value their environment as well as presenting snapshots of the individual initiatives.


Leave a comment

Filed under Bringing the project to life, People and the environment, Sydney Harbour (seawalls), Visuals

Simpson Desert’s ancient rivers revealed

If we rewind a couple of months we will find a number of interesting articles in the press and science literature about the discovery of a network of ancient rivers and streams that flowed beneath the Simpson Desert up to 50 million years ago. A New Scientist article speaks of these rivers being 35 metres below the red sand and the possibility of them leading the way to valuable minerals and water resources. 

Once a land of rivers and streams?

Leave a comment

Filed under Arid dry-zone (Simpson Desert), Putting it in context, Relevant articles

Upcoming JULY 1 community consultation evening in BEDOURIE

The Iconic Landscapes’ project timeline is marching on.

The upcoming July 1 information evening in Bedourie, hosted by the Desert Ecology Research Group, Bush Heritage and the Diamantina Shire, will mark the culmination of the Simpson Desert case study research looking at how scientific research can be effectively connected with and communicated to relevant local communities. 

Even though 2010 marks Chris Dickman’s, and subsequently, the Desert Ecology Research Group’s, 20th year in the desert, this knowledge sharing event will be the first of its kind.

As well as learning about the University’s current research and what Bush Heritage’s present and future plans for Cravens Peak and Ethabuka are, the event will be a good chance for land holders, managers and the local community to ask questions and raise issues and concerns.

Everyone is warmly welcome to attend and we look forward to a great evening.

Event poster



Leave a comment

Filed under Arid dry-zone (Simpson Desert), Bringing the project to life, Presentation methods, Putting it in context

North Sydney Council and Iconic Landscapes: exhibition collaboration

The University of Sydney’s Iconic Landscapes study and North Sydney’s Smart Trees – Blue Harbour project have collaborated on a study looking at how the North Sydney residents relate to, understand and value their local environment.

In designing a survey (which was completed by 360 residents) we were conscious that understanding and asking the community what values they associate with the environment is vital for effective engagement, education and policy direction.

In the following photos you will see ‘wordles’ (from have been used to communicate the survey findings of specific questions.


* What comes to mind when you think about the harbour coastline or seawalls?

* What comes to mind when you think about your local natural environment?

* What does nature mean to you in a word/colour/image/sound/smell?

Responses are collated and the larger and bolder the word, the more frequently it was used by respondents to express their views. Those viewing the exhibition are asked to link these questions with the corresponding wordle.

The exhibition, which also explores the natural history of North Sydney will be on display for the next couple of months on level 2 of North Sydney Library, 234 Miller Street.

Wordle display


Corresponding questions


Collaborative survey


North Sydney and the University of Sydney working together


Exhibition video - one of the sections looking at Mark Browne's work with seawalls in Sydney Harbour

Leave a comment

Filed under Bringing the project to life, People and the environment, Sydney Harbour (seawalls), Visuals

‘Desert Channels’ book due out in September

A new book on the desert co-edited by Libby Robin, Mandy Martin and Iconic Landscape’s very own Chris Dickman is set for release in September this year.

The book combines visual appreciation of the region with accessible text about its intriguing natural history, its people and their histories and the various ways that people are working to conserve the land, the rivers and the creatures. It is a celebration of what people in the region value about their place, and what visitors might find when they visit.


Mandy Martin artworks


See below for further information about the book and contributors and how to register your interest.

Desert Channels information

You can also visit the website.

Leave a comment

Filed under Arid dry-zone (Simpson Desert), Australian landscape's 'character', People and the environment, Putting it in context

Biodiversity at a glance

The panel below comes from another article, this time on the BBC news website, covering the UN’s third and latest Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-3) report warning that the earth’s ongoing nature losses will soon begin to hit national economies. 

BBC commentator Richard Black had this to say on Monday:

Often when I’ve written about biodiversity down the years, I’ve been assailed by a strong sense of deja vu.

While “we’re screwing up life on Earth” still sounds like big news to me, it isn’t always to news editors, whose reaction is often along the lines of “but we know that”.

And in truth, the deja vu feeling is justified. Although the evidence that prospects for life-forms on Earth (other than humans) are declining in several different ways gets clearer and clearer, the basic message is as it has been since well before 1992 when governments signed the UN biodiversity convention.

Let me pick out a statistoid from the UN’s third and latest Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-3) report, launched at the Zoological Society of London on Monday. 

The abundance of vertebrates – mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish – decreased by about one-third between 1970 and 2006.

Let’s put it another way.

If you’d added up the numbers of mammals, fish, birds etc in the world in 1970, and done so again in 2006, one-third of them would have disappeared in between times.

Is it just me, or is that a truly staggering figure?

A couple of other things caught my eye from GBO-3.

One is that over the same time period – 1970-2006 – the Earth’s human population almost doubled.

The second concerns the 21 “subsidiary targets” that governments set in 2002, alongside their headline target of significantly curbing the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010.

The main 2010 target has been spectacularly missed
, but some of the 21 subsidiary ones have partially been met, in some regions of the world at least. They’re indicated in GBO-3 by a bit of green in an otherwise red circle.

But cloaked in complete red, indicating complete failure, are the two that are most fundamental when it comes to preserving the extent to which human lives depend on what nature supplies :

Reducing unsustainable consumption of biological resources, or that impacts upon biodiversityand

Maintaining the capacity of ecosystems to deliver biological resources that support sustainable livelihoods, local food security and health care

There are, of course, significant problems in trying to track trends precisely across a world in which the capacity to observe rigorously is not uniformly distributed, and where reliable documentation gets swiftly less global and less plentiful as you go back in time.

Nevertheless, there are few signs even in the most expertly documented countries that ecosystems are returning to full health.

The big white hope of the biodiversity world is, as those of you who follow this stuff regularly will know, the idea of quantifying the economic benefits that nature brings, and then persuading people and governments and businesses that these economic benefits make preservation of said ecosystems a wise policy option.

We’ll have a lot more detail on this coming later in the year, but in the meantime I wanted to offer you a couple of snapshots that were offered to me at the GBO-3 launch.

First, a feathered tale from Japan. In the 1970s, Oriental storks left the country; modern rice farming methods, including pesticide use, concrete irrigation canals and keeping paddy fields under water for shorter length of time had reduced their chances of finding prey so much that they couldn’t survive.

The global population of this spectacular but endangered species, by the way, is less than 3,000.

In 2003, authorities in Toyooka City, in the south of the main island of Honshu, established incentives for farmers to adopt more traditional farming methods with a strong organic component.

The results: yields are down, but the rice sells for a higher price. The storks are back, and visitors are flocking to see them.

These two factors combined have increased municipal income by more than 1%.

This win-win outcome is in microcosm what the UN Environment Programme (Unep)hopes to achieve across the world by stimulating awareness of biodiversity’s economic value.

But are governments interested – those same governments that have so signally failed to meet the 2010 target?

According to Nick Nuttall, the Unep spokesman at the GBO-3 launch in London, 30 developing country governments have recently approached Unep asking for advice on how to “green” their economies and live within nature’s boundaries.

That sounds like a new twist on the old story to me.

Whether it’s enough to prevent a further 30% drop in the abundance of mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and amphibians, with the human population set to increase as much between now and 2050 as it did between 1970 and 2006, is another matter.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bringing the project to life, Putting it in context, Relevant articles

Extinctions accelerate

“The news is not good. We continue to lose biodiversity at a rate never before seen in history – extinction rates may be up to 1000 times higher than the historical background rate. Business as usual is no longer an option if we are to avoid irreversible damage to the life-support systems of our planet.”

– The executive-secretary of the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity, Ahmed Djoghlaf.

See article looking at threats to the basics of life due to animal extinction.

Leave a comment

Filed under Putting it in context, Relevant articles