Category Archives: Conference talk

ICON at #VicBioCon21

By Katherine Berthon and Marco Gutiérrez

Last month ICON Science was a proud sponsor of the 2021 Victorian Biodiversity Conference (VicBioCon). ICON researchers also helped organise and presented at the conference. It was the first time the conference was held entirely online, and, despite some website updates during a tea break, the whole train ran smoothly!

VicBioCon is a local conference that aims to connect industry, government, and practitioners to research, and showcase local efforts to conserve biodiversity in Victoria. This year’s line-up included plenary talks from academics and professionals working with human-nature connection and threatened species conservation. It also included two outstanding panels; one on the efficacy of Australia’s biodiversity laws, and another on the possibilities for nature in the city. In the latter panel, our very own Sarah Bekessy shared her passion for creating everyday nature in cities, a topic that is especially important given continued covid lockdowns.

Plenary highlights included Euan Richie talking about what gives him hope in conservation, in a time of climate and political challenges.

Minda Murray shared about her story and the struggle of Indigenous Peoples to have their knowledge and cultural existence recognised. She ended by encouraging for collaboration and relationship building across Indigenous organisations and non-Indigenous allies.

Chris McCormack gave us two tales of development and encouraged us to build empathy for human-nature relationships through storytelling.

Lindy Lumsden delivered a passionate talk about her work with Australian bats and their conservation.

An equally important part of VicBioCon is the student and early career researchers talks which give postdocs, PhDs, and master’s students alike the opportunity to network and share their research. This year, ICON researchers participated in sessions on urban ecology, science communication, and environmental policy.

On Friday morning, in the Urban Ecology session, Katherine presented her research on using metabarcoding to determine pollinator preferences in Melbourne parks.

On Friday afternoon, in the Science Communication session, Matthew shared his expert elicitation work on cost-effectiveness of cat containment and wildlife gardening programs on conserving small mammals; and Emily mapped out the ethics behind strategic conservation messaging. Both have papers in prep, so stay tuned!

Alongside in the Environmental Policy session, Marco gave his critical analysis of the Melbourne Strategic Assessment, and Lily van Eeden (our latest ICON recruit) talked about research strategies, and collaborations necessary to encourage Victorians to value nature.

We look forward to the next edition of VicBioCon in 2022!

Society for Conservation Biology Melbourne Twitter Conference

ICON scientists were out in force last Thursday and Friday at the first ever Twitter conference of the SCB Greater Melbourne Chapter. A huge congratulations to the organising committee and moderators (including ICON members Matthew and Holly) that braved the technology issues, found stray threads, and kept the tweets flowing. For many of us, it was the first time presenting in this format, but the quality of presentations was outstanding!

Our fearless leader, Sarah, defeated technology glitches to kick off the talks with an inspirational opening plenary that urged readers to plan for, and create everyday nature in cities.

In the following session on Fitting Nature into Melbourne, Katherine presented her systematic review results for how plant origin influences biodiversity in urban green spaces (keep a look out for the paper, coming soon!)

On Thursday afternoon, the Strategies for Designing Urban Spaces for Nature session saw a triple header of ICON Scientists. First up, Marco presented his work investigating how biodiversity and ecosystem services are treated in urban planning and policy documents (the answer is not well – another paper to look out for!).

Holly then presented her connectivity modelling work for the City of Melbourne, including prioritisation of road segments for greening action, to reduce the impact of these roads as barriers for wildlife. Rounding out the session, Thami presented on the process of setting biodiversity targets in the recently finished Biodiversity Plan for Fisherman’s Bend.

On Friday, Georgia presented her work on cat control in the Threats to Nature in Melbourne session, and in the Connection to Nature session, Matthew shared his new survey results on connection to Nature in the City of Melbourne.

With COVID-19 lockdowns now extended in Melbourne, and second waves potentially hitting other cities, Twitter Conferences may be the way of the future. They are very engaging and it is almost easier to gain post-talk feedback and ask questions – plus the talks are up there in perpetuity so you’ll never miss a thing!

It’s not too late, check out the hash tag #SCBMelb20 or follow the links above to view the talks and post your questions now!

ICON at VicBioCon & ASC Conferences 2020

Over the past month a few of us ICON scientists have had the pleasure of attending, and presenting at multiple conferences, both located at Monash University in Clayton, Melbourne.

First up, the Victorian Biodiversity Conference 2020 on the 6th-7th of February was yet again a fantastic opportunity to network and learn more about the exciting local research and conservation work going on in Victoria. Congratulations to the organising committee (including ICON members, Katherine, Marco, Roshan, Emily, Freya and Matthew) for a great few days. Highlights included Dr Jen Martin‘s plenary on her journey to science communication, Amos Atkinson and Mick Bourke’s plenary on First Nation peoples’ perspectives on land and fire management, and seeing our fellow ICON members presenting their research!

In the Climate Change & Species Resilience session, Matthew presented on Landholder perceptions of climate change and its implications for biodiversity management on private lands.

In the Environmental Policy & Decision Making session, Mat presented on Identifying the role and capacity of local government to support private land conservation. Marco presented on Biodiversity and ecosystem services in strategic environmental assessment: A review of six Australian cases, and Roshan presented on Evaluating the impact of private protected areas (as well as a poster in the poster session!).

In the Science Communication & Community Engagement session, Emily presented on whether common names influence willingness to conserve threatened species, and Alex presented Five lessons for more effective biodiversity conservation message framing (as well as a poster!).

Last but not least, in the Urban Ecology & Conservation session, Katherine presented on Plant-insect dating in urban squares: exploring the influence of design on interactions.

Emily was also lucky enough to spend the following week at the Australian Science Communicators Conference 2020. Highlights included networking with a wide range of science communicators, Stephen Oliver’s plenary on broadcasting for impact, and Anthony Boxshall’s presentation on making impact with science in the Board and Executive rooms!

Emily also again presented her research on whether common names influence willingness to conserve threatened species.


Well done to all presenters and thank you to everyone who made these two conferences such a joy to attend!

Biodiversity Research and Monitoring Forum in The City of Melbourne

Members of the ICS research group recently attended The Biodiversity Research and Monitoring Forum held by The City of Melbourne – a day of discussions about biodiversity research in the urban area of Melbourne. It was a fantastic day to meet practitioners, decision makers and researchers working in Melbourne.

Figure 2

A figure from a recently published report showing The City of Melbourne extent and some green spaces recently surveyed for biodiversity.

Three members of ICS spoke about projects underway in the City that revolve around increasing biodiversity and human well being in Melbourne’s urban area.

Sarah Bekessy presented research led by Luis Mata* that aims to quantify biodiversity changes in a network of greening intervention sites.

With the rapid and pervasive urbanisation of the planet, urban ecosystems are increasingly being valued for their biodiversity, human health and wellbeing outcomes. Enthusiasm for greening in cities is growing around the world, as is interest from conservation scientists and stakeholders working in urban environments to incorporate greening into the design of cities. Yet, while a strong body of evidence is mounting for the social and ecological co-benefits of existing urban green spaces, very few studies have quantified the changes in biodiversity that may occur after a greening intervention takes place, and no studies have investigated these changes in a systematic, experimental way using standardised survey methodologies across a wide range of different interventions.


A honeyeater seen in a newly ‘greened’ space.  Photo: Luis Mata

Luis’ research has been specifically conceived to quantify the before and after changes in biodiversity resulting from a series of greening intervention sites that are presently been undertaken across a series of urban green spaces in Metropolitan Melbourne. With the support of the National Environmental Science Programme – Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub industry, government and community partners, a Network of Greening Intervention Sites (NGIS) has been established, including numerous sites in the City of Melbourne. These sites will be used to demonstrate the positive outcomes that greening has on beneficial insect, including native pollinators such as bees and butterflies, birds and other taxa. Findings will help guide management actions aimed at supporting existing biodiversity and bringing locally extinct species back into our cities.

* contributing researchers: Ashley Olson, Anna Backstrom, Tessa Smith, Kirsten Parris and Sarah Bekessy.

Holly Kirk presented research on behalf of a number of collaborators* entitled Our City’s Little Gems.

Following the success of “The Little Things that Run the City” insect ecology, biodiversity and conservation research project (2015-16), the Interdisciplinary Conservation Science Research Group at RMIT University and the City Of Melbourne extended this research to include butterflies. In addition to being eye-catching animals, butterflies play a key role as pollinators. Yet, despite their visibility, relatively little is known about the interactions between different plant and butterfly species, particularly in urban habitats with a mix of native and introduced vegetation.


Vanessa kershawi – photo: Luis Mata

During January 2017, flower and butterfly surveys were conducted in 15 public green spaces across the City of Melbourne, observing over 20 000 flowers in bloom. Of the 21 butterfly species or species groups identified from historic records, eleven were observed during these surveys. From these data key plant-butterfly interactions have been identified. These will help provide recommendations which can be used to guide management actions and strategies aimed at strengthening existing butterfly populations, and potentially attract additional butterfly species into the city.

* contributing researchers: Tessa Smith, Anna Backstrom, Alejandra Morán-Ordóñez, Georgia Garrard, Ascelin Gordon, Christopher Ives, Sarah Bekessy and Luis Mata.

Freya Thomas presented on behalf of a range of collaborators and industry partners* a new project about Designing green spaces for biodiversity and human wellbeing.

The health and wellbeing of urban residents is intrinsically linked to urban green spaces and their biodiversity. Yet, very little is known about the causal mechanisms and pathways linking green space design to biodiversity and human wellbeing benefits. The ‘Designing green spaces for biodiversity and human wellbeing’ ARC-Linkage Project proposes to untangle some of these mechanisms though strong industry partnerships with The City of Melbourne, Arup, Phillip Johnson Landscapes and Greening Australia. Through an experimental approach revolving around modular green space plots the project aims to: (1) investigate the mechanisms linking green space design to biodiversity outcomes; (2) investigate the mechanisms linking green space to human wellbeing; and (3) develop best practice urban design guidelines that reflect these mechanisms and supports biodiversity and human wellbeing.


Happy members of our research team talking about designing green spaces for biodiversity and human well-being. 

Initial concepts were presented of the experimental approach based on controlled, manipulative field experiments, as well as the conceptual framework, which links green space design to (1) biodiversity, through the ecological niche theory; and (2) human wellbeing, through the stress reduction and attention restoration theories. Understanding the causal links between urban design and benefits to biodiversity and human wellbeing is critical to underpin evidence-based policy around green spaces. The findings from this research will enable industry partners, including the City of Melbourne, to demonstrate the value of good urban design and access to nature, thereby raising the profile of urban biodiversity for city residents and exploring the potential for new opportunities for urban greening.

* contributing researchers and partners: Luis Mata, Katherine Berthon, Adrian Dyer, Fiona Fidler, Richard Fuller, Jair Garcia, Georgia Garrard, Ascelin Gordon, Vaughn Greenhill, Lee Harrison, Dieter Hochuli, Christopher Ives, Sacha Jellinek, Phillip Johnson, Cecily Maller, Rodney van der Ree, Rob Turk and Sarah Bekessy.

The Biodiversity Research and Monitoring Forum in The City of Melbourne was a great space to communicate our research and hear about other research going on in The City.