AMSA2003 - Brisbane
AMSA2003 - Brisbane 9-11 July 2003
Keynote speaker, Mike Hadfield (Univ Hawaii) & chair of organising committee, Bernie Degnan (Univ Qld). Held at the University of Queensland, Brisbane from 10-12 July 2003, over 240 papers and posters were presented in concurrent sessions over three full days, with more than 300 registrants from overseas and all around Australia.
AMSA2003 Conference Reports
AMSA President (A/P John Sherwood) | Andrea Schmitt, Secretary Organising Committee | Nicola Fox, AMSA Student
The 2003 AMSA conference on Marine Biocomplexity attracted over 300 registrants. A large proportion of those were on hand for the official launch of the conference by Queensland's Minister for Innovation and Information Economy, the Hon. Paul Lucas. In his address the Minister outlined his Government's 'Smart State' policy and the important role of marine science in it. Queensland has internationally significant biodiversity - 19 terrestrial and 17 marine bio-regions and incorporates 5 World Heritage regions. Biodiscovery has the potential to lead to significant new pharmaceuticals as well as other useful chemicals. The State is developing a Biodiscovery Bill with the objectives of facilitating sustainable access to the State's biodiversity, encouraging the development of value-added biodiscovery and ensuring any benefits are shared for the benefit of all Queenslanders.
The positive theme of the Minister's opening remarks was nicely complemented by the first keynote address by Professor Michael Hadfield. Mike outlined a multi-disciplinary study of site-specific settlement by a sea slug larvae. Field research in an Hawaiian coral reef lagoon (yes we were all envious!) was associated with laboratory and tank studies designed to simulate the chemical and physical environment of these minute free swimming organisms as they drifted across the coral reef. One of the secrets given away by Mike was the value of Vaseline as a means of fixing these organisms to probes for his tank studies!
On Thursday morning we were able to announce that Prof. John Lucas had been selected for the 2003 Silver Jubilee Award. John outlined a career of over 30 years at James Cook University in which he conducted research into the life-cycle and ecology of giant clams, the Crown of Thorns starfish and black-lip pearl oysters. John acknowledged the role of serendipity in determining his research directions. His productivity in both pure and applied aspects of aquaculture and the benefits this has brought to us and our South Pacific neighbours is undeniable. John's research has resulted in over 90 papers and 53 Honours and Postgraduate students have benefited from his supervision.
Keynote speaker, Dr Joe Baker with Mal Heron from JCU Dr Joe Baker gave a thought-provoking review of the development of marine biodiscovery in Australia. He pointed out that as the richest of the world's 'mega-diverse' countries Australia must show leadership in the responsible and sustainable development of marine resources ("bioprospecting not biomining"). Joe also outlined the high risk associated with biodiscovery where, in his experience, the testing of over 6500 organisms had resulted in fewer than 10 potential drugs in a process that took 10 years and cost $300 million. He left us with a summary of the benefits of pure research and challenged the marine science community to think how it will address the National Research Priority of an 'Environmentally Sustainable Australia'.
The final keynote speaker, Prof. Hugh Possingham, spoke about a decision support tool for marine reserve system design. The computer-based tool, MARXAN, was designed by a PhD student, Ian Ball, under Hugh's supervision. MARXAN has been applied to the current re-zoning of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The GBRMP has 30 reef bioregions and another 40 non-reef bioregions. In a risk based approach GBRMPA decided to preserve examples of each bioregion in three places well spaced apart to reduce the risk of the loss of any bioregion reserve through natural or human catastrophes. The task of determining an optimal arrangement of these reserves is well beyond mere mortals. MARXAN was able to find good solutions for the placement of the reserve system. The tool and its predecessors have found applications in a wide variety of terrestrial and marine reserve plans.
Following the keynote sessions we all went our separate ways selecting talks from amongst the four concurrent themes running over the three days (nearly 200 presentations!). I found plenty to interest me on sessions around coastal ecology and management, aquaculture, biofouling and marine protected areas. The poster session gave a similar range of topics. It was very pleasant wandering from poster to poster (with a glass of wine in hand). I was particularly pleased that "even a physical scientist" was able to find a wide range of relevant and useful research being reported. I'm already looking forward to the next conference!
John Sherwood, AMSA President
AMSA2003 Conference in the Lime-Green Light
The Ice Breaker
Hosted at the Queensland Museum and overseen by a quite scary looking huge dinosaur displayed in the foyer about 300 AMSA members enjoyed catching up with each other, listening to the fine tunes of a string triplet (or was it a quartet in the end??) and enjoyed the Discover Queensland and the Marine Reptile displays.
Registrations in the registration room kept most of the lime-green brigade pretty busy (although we were undercover at that stage and didn't wear our wonderful helper shirts!), but we actually managed the unexpected and got through registrations of all conference participants who were present that night.
Our appreciation to all the organizers at the Queensland Museum for making the Ice Breaker a very enjoyable and appropriate venue for a science conference. In particular thanks from the AMSA 2003 conference organizing committee go to John Hooper and Laura Campbell for organizing the music, food, logistics and a very nice science atmosphere. A special thank you to GHD Pty Ltd, in particular Tom Koskela, for providing the banner and signage displayed at the Ice Breaker.
The Student Night
Due to much innovation and work by Nick Wade, the student night was a huge success. We had probably in excess of 100 students turn up at the Red Room (Bar and Café), all very willing to give us their best shot to demolish the bar tab in record time – well done guys. A very special "thank you" to all the scientists who came at Nick's invitation to engage in interesting and informative student–scientist conversations. The student sub-committee, and attending students, appreciated your time and effort to come to the student night and exchange information, funny stories and to generally have a good time with AMSA students. Nick also prepared a student night trivia quiz, and although many trivia sheets were left on the tables, it was very nice to see the enthusiasm of some students who wanted to participate (even if it meant forming groups) to answer the sometimes tough questions that Nick had come up with (e.g. find someone with more than four piercings, find the supervisor with the most supervised PhD students, find someone with the same star sign as yourself, etc.). All in all vivid conversations with plenty of laughter were going on everywhere in the room, and both scientists and students had a jolly good time. Mission accomplished! The student committee recognizes the generous funds available from AMSA to host the student night. And congratulations to all those students who were game enough to tackle the trivia questions – well done guys! Which brings me to the prizes! I am sure not all contestants have collected their hard-won conference T-Shirt - if you are one of those adventurous students who competed & did not collect, please email email@example.com with a reminder!
The Poster Session
The poster session was seen by many of the conference participants as THE highlight of the conference with a significant amount of innovative and very exciting research displayed extremely professionally. Although some of us got extremely involved in the in-situ research of OH-compounds (nice wine – thanks AMSA) the poster session was a very good representation of the diversity and dynamics of Australian (and overseas) marine research undertaken. I am sure it was not easy for the poster session committee to choose the best poster and I am very glad my only decision was white or red wine! To the winners of the poster awards congratulations – you certainly deserved your prize! To all other poster session participants also congratulations for presenting some truly outstanding posters and sharing your passion for research and science with the rest of us gang. The presentation of all these posters would not have been possible without the effort of those who dragged poster boards around the Holt Room, ensured that every presenter had their own very nice space in the room, organized the receipt of every poster and generally made sure that everything was running as smoothly as possible - Dave Harris, Kathryn McMahon, Nick Wade and Mara Wolkenhauer – brilliant teamwork and undeniable success!
The Conference Dinner
The conference dinner at Brisbane City Hall was yet another major success which is mainly accredited to Kerstin Fritsches who organized nearly everything (including the wonderful flowers on each table). The conference dinner was very enjoyable and the surprise factor that you didn't know which meal you would receive made it even more enjoyable (maybe a lazy Susan as table would have been a good idea to compensate for food envy for your neighbour's dinner...). The food was absolutely superb, the service fantastic and the location magical. I'm not sure whether anyone actually looked at the ceiling (I'm not going to detail my reasons for finding myself staring at the ceiling), but it was just gorgeously lit up in blue, creating an atmosphere that felt very elegant and sophisticated.
The night's highlight of course was the presentation of awards to the student prizewinners for oral and poster presentations. AMSA was honoured by having Mrs Helen Kenny present AMSA's premier Ron Kenny Award prizes to the winning students (see pp. of this Bulletin for (brief) prizewinner autobiographies and abstracts). It was also the first year for the CSIRO Publishing Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research award, presented by Dr Dugald McGlashen, and the second year for the Peter Holloway Oceanography and Fisheries Research Development Corporation prizes, presented by President John Sherwood.
And compliments to Nick – again – for his selection of a terrific band called Madison Kat to entertain all conference participants (originally a band called The Funky Love Pumpers had been chosen but no-one would volunteer to introduce them!). Madison Kat were excellent – I engaged in some observational behavioural ecology and found about 98% (±0.0002 SE) of the conference population were seriously engaged in some funky moves out on the dance floor (especially loved those suave Travolta-moves displayed by John Sherwood and the chest-muscle stretches by Gina Newton!).
I guess every good science conference dinner dance should finish off with a quick plenary anatomy presentation and this was run successfully by one of the scientists, using himself as the teaching subject and leaving many other scientists (mainly females) rather breathless and eagerly awaiting next years presentation (nominations for presenters are currently considered). Nice presentation Troy!
The Whale Watch Apres-Conference Cruise
Despite the late finish of the conference dinner, the consumption of precious OH-compounds during the event and the rather early wake-up call for those going on the cruise (yes, I know, having to get up at 6am after a late night out is pushing it!) we had most people turn up for the cruise. Although the weather didn't look too promising in the beginning (maybe that was good, as too much sunshine too early in the day would have burned out our tired, hung-over retinas) it turned out to be a fabulous day. The boat departed at about 8am with a lot of excited AMSA conference delegates. The night before there was news that a white whale had been spotted further south and rumours had it that there may be a chance of sighting this beautiful creature. Our trip took us through the mouth of the Brisbane River into the stunning beauty of Moreton Bay and over to Tangalooma Resort on Moreton Island, where we quickly docked to pick up a vital part of the trip - the food. Then the journey continued to the lighthouse (northern tip of Moreton Island) – and then there it was, the yelling we had been waiting for: "Whales, Whales!". It was all happening from that point onwards: the whales were splashing (I think the scientific term would be breaching!) and waving with their tail (I'm sure there is a scientific term for that also!).
Mike Noad also played some tapes of recorded whale noises – very interesting, but I agree with the suggestion that the sounds did resemble a cow in agony as much as anything else!. The trip back to the home port was fairly quiet with some of the participants being able to finally talk and catch up with each other and other people catching up on some lost sleep! All in all we had a whale of a time! Many thanks to Trevor Hassard from the Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Resort for the very generous of the AMSA2003 conference with this whale-watch cruise.
The AMSA 2003 conference organizing committee was the best team I have had the pleasure to work with - everyone was extremely reliable, did their job really well, and it was a lot of fun working with everyone. Thank you Bernie Degnan, Narelle Hall, John Hooper, Kerstin Fritsches, Kathryn McMahon, Mara Wolkenhauer, Nick Wade, Dave Harris, Liz O'Brien, Regina Counihan, Michael Noad and Petra Ringeltaube, and especially for your support during the conference by helping to ensure that all presentations were given without technical problems. Assistance from Carmel McDougall, Helen Moss, Tim Lucas, Josh Smith and Eric Bresson during the conference was invaluable. And finally, thank you for allowing me make you wear the "Helper T-Shirts" in that lovely lime-green colour – I think we looked outstanding!
Secretary, AMSA2003 Organising Committee
My First AMSA Conference - A Student Perspective
The annual Australian Marine Sciences Association Conference was held in Brisbane on 9-11 July. The theme for this year's conference was 'Marine Biocomplexity', a broad theme that encompasses nearly all facets of marine science. As such, the scope of the over 200 presentations was vast, ranging from climate change to marine reserves, larvae to seagrasses and everything in between.
Before the official start of the conference a small group of postgraduate students attended a science writing workshop, run by Dr Vivienne Mawson, the former scientific editor at CSIRO Marine Research. This informal workshop was aimed at developing writing skills for preparing both theses and scientific papers. While at the end of the day we were all feeling a little overwhelmed, it was a very beneficial workshop. Hopefully I will remember all of Dr Mawson's advice when it comes to writing my thesis!
The conference officially opened on Wednesday morning with a presentation from the Queensland Minister for Innovation and Information Economy, the Honourable Mr Paul Lucas. This was followed by the first keynote address, from Professor Mike Hadfield of the Kewalo Marine Laboratory, University of Hawaii. Professor Hadfield not only informed us of his work on invertebrate larval settlement on coral reefs, but managed to make me, and I am sure others, envious of his work environment. Is there anyone who would not like to work on coral reefs in Hawaii?
Dr Joe Baker, the Chief Scientist of Queensland's Department of Primary Industries, discussed marine biocomplexity and sustainability when presenting the keynote address on Thursday. The final keynote address, given by Prof. Hugh Possingham of the University of Queensland, was on an area close to my own heart: marine reserve system design and the rather controversial question – do we know what we are doing?
While the theme of the conference was Marine Biocomplexity, the first two days presentations were dominated by one of the largest gatherings of marine mammal scientists in Australia. Their presentations covered such topics as mammal nutrition, abundance, human impacts and behaviour. One of the more memorable presentations was by Joshua Smith of the University of Queensland, who, unfazed by the failure of the lecture theatre's sound system, treated us to a vocal rendition of the many sounds made by the Pacific humpback dolphin.
Thursday night was taken up by the poster session. From what I understand the standard of the posters was excellent and they covered an amazing array of topics. Unfortunately, as I was presenting a poster for the first time at a conference, I was a tad nervous and so did not really get to appreciate the other posters.
John Sherwood & Anth Boxshall - performing at the conference dinner! After several days of listening, learning and questioning, the conference dinner on Friday night was a chance to relax, socialise and, of course, have a few drinks. The formal part of the night was over with quite quickly with the presentation of the student prizes (two going to Western Australians!) and the final speeches. What followed was a bit of a shock to this first time conference attendee – I don't think I have ever seen that many respectable scientists dancing, or break dancing in the case of AMSA president Assoc. Prof. John Sherwood! And as for that poor student who ended up in nothing but his underwear...well, enough said.
I found the AMSA Brisbane conference to be interesting and enjoyable. The range of presentations really opened my eyes to the breadth of marine science in Australia. The support provided to students and the interest shown in their work was very encouraging and certainly made me want to return next year
Nicola Fox, Marine Science Honours student Murdoch University