Monthly Archives: July 2010

ABC Radio National’s Big Ideas program: Reith Lecture Series – Scientific Citizens

Part One: Scientific Citizens. In the first of this year’s Reith Lectures, Lord Martin Rees explores the challenges facing science in the 21st century.

We are increasingly turning to government and the media to explain the risks we face. But in the wake of public confusion over issues like climate change, the swine ‘flu vaccine and, more recently, Iceland’s volcanic ash cloud, Martin Rees calls on scientists to come forward and play a greater role in helping us understand the science that affects us all.

…Today, science has transformed our lives. Our horizons have hugely expanded; no new continents remain to be discovered. Our Earth no longer offers an open frontier, but seems constricted and crowded – a ‘pale blue dot’ in the immense cosmos.

My theme in these lectures is that the Royal Society’s old values should endure. Today’s scientists, like their forbears, probe nature and nature’s laws by observation and experiment. But they should also engage broadly with society and with public affairs.

Indeed, their engagement is needed now more than ever. Science isn’t just for scientists. All should have a voice in ensuring that it’s applied optimally – and to the benefit of both the developing and developed world. We must confront widely-held anxieties that genetics, brain science and artificial intelligence may ‘run away’ too fast. As citizens, we all need a feel for how much confidence can be placed in science’s claims. And these are themes I’ll explore in all four lectures.

And, as I’ll discuss, this is a crucial century. The Earth has existed for 45 million centuries. But this is the first when one species, ours, can determine – for good or ill – the future of the entire biosphere…

Full transcript



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Filed under Australian landscape's 'character', Bringing the project to life, Interviews, People and the environment, Putting it in context, Relevant articles

Desert of the Heart

See the recent Sydney Alumni Magazine article describing life and research on a University of Sydney Desert Ecology Research Group trip to the Simpson Desert… 

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Some like it hot: 20 years in the desert

On August 12, ecology professor and director of the University of Sydney’s Desert Ecology Research Group, Chris Dickman, will give a talk about his 20 years of research in the Simpson desert. It is open to the public and everyone’s invited! Please see registration details below.

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The start of something new…

On Sunday July 19 Adam Munn, a scientist looking at the grazing patterns of different animals in the NSW Rangelands, gave a talk on his findings. It was the first of what is now hoped will be regular annual presentations and or open days, to share important information with the surrounding public and graziers, at Fowlers Gap Research Station.

Menindee Lakes


Rippled river bed, Fowlers Gap Research Station


Water trail




Empty bed




Leaves and sky






Adam presenting his findings




Post talk discussion

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Filed under Australian landscape's 'character', Bringing the project to life, People and the environment, Rangelands (Fowlers Gap), Visuals

Iconic Landscapes on ABC’s Country Hour

Kangaroo grazing effects

By Amy Spear

Friday, 16/07/2010

It’s been an ongoing debate and one that’s provoked thought from both country and city folk alike. 

But now it seems there’s an answer. 

Research shows that when it comes to effects of grazing on Australian rangelands, one kangaroo is equivalent to point 4 of a sheep.

Adam Munn, from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Wollongong, has been conducting the research at Fowlers Gap near Broken Hill, for the past 5 years.

Fowlers Gap is a research station run by the University of New South Wales.

He says it’s important that they’ve found out the facts.

“For a while now the comparative grazing impacts of kangaroos has been that one kangaroo has been equal to point 7 of a sheep and we’ve suspected for a long time that, on a whole animal basis, that was an over estimate.”

He says they wanted to get a handle on it so they could really take into account the grazing pressure of kangaroos when estimating total grazing pressure on an environment.

The research has taken 5 years.

In this report
Adam Munn, scientist, University of Wollongong

Visit the site

Listen to the July 16 Country Hour podcast (Adam Munn is speaking three quarters of the way through)

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Adam Munn in ABC news

Land Managers to attend animal impact talks

A scientist from the University of Wollongong will present a talk to local land managers at Fowlers Gap about the impacts of animals this weekend.

Adam Munn has been studying the difference between the impact sheep and kangaroos have on the land.

He has found the impact of a kangaroo is about 30 to 40 per cent that of a sheep.

Mr Munn says he hopes the information can be used by land managers and government bodies to understand the impact kangaroos might be having on the environment.

“Ultimately what we’re hoping to do is build a picture,” he said.

“Now that we have a good idea about some of the kangaroo species, we want to expand this research into looking at different animals such a feral goats and different breeds of sheep.

“[Then we’ll] really be able to figure out what the ratios are of animals you can have on the land to improve your environmental, and therefore your economic, sustainability.”

The public is invited to attend the talk which begins at 10:00am (AEST) Sunday at the Fowlers Gap Research Station.

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Today, an article on the upcoming talk Adam Munn will be giving to local property owners on the impacts of native, domestic and feral grazing animals around Fowlers Gap, was in Broken Hill’s Barrier Daily Truth.

Full article:

After five years of research at Fowlers Gap, scientist Adam Munn is ready to present his findings on the impacts of native, domestic and feral grazing.
Mr Munn has been working out of the University of NSW’s Fowlers Gap arid-zone research station, which is 110 kilometres north of Broken Hill on the Silver City Highway. He will give a public talk on his results there on Sunday morning.
One of his principle projects sought to establish large-scale grazing plots so that different grazing scenarios can be examined, particularly in light of mixed-grazed systems.
“When we compared sheep and kangaroos, both in a large enclosure and out in the free range environment, we found that contrary to what previous estimates have been, which is that one kangaroo equals 70 percent of a sheep, one kangaroo really equals about 30 or 40 percent of a sheep,” Mr Munn said.
The figures are based on the animal’s energy use and food and water intake.
“On average, the sheep on the saltbush diet were drinking about 12 litres of water a day and kangaroos about one and a half,” he says.
The goal was not to replace sheep with kangaroos, according to Mr Munn, but to learn an manage the two together.
“At the very least, we’re aiming to gather information necessary for people to make informed decisions about how they run their properties,” he said.
Geoff Laan, Director of Planning and Environment at Broken Hill City Council, said scientific research could help develop effective management plans.
“There’s a very real need for scientific development and research to continue,” he said.
Nicole Payne, Assistant Director and North West Manager of the Kangaroo Management Program for the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water said the sharing of scientific information around Fowlers Gap had been limited until now.
“There’s a big yawning gap between what the scientists know and talk to each other about and what filters down to the level of people who are making on the ground decisions,” he said.
“The upcoming Fowlers Gap information event will be a chance to discuss ideas and future research projects that benefit local land managers and the community,” says Munn.
Mr Munn extended an invitation to everyone interested in his findings to come along to his talk on Sunday at 10am in the Fowlers Gap shearers’ quarters.

For more information on the event contact:

02 9351 4870

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