AMSA2007, Melbourne Victoria. 9-13 July
45th Annual Meeting of the Australian Marine Sciences Association
The great strength of AMSA is to foster dialogue between the many disciplines that make up Australia's marine science community. The recent AMSA conference in Melbourne demonstrated the multidisciplinary focus with flair. Symposia and presentations covered a huge range of topics including Antarctic science, oceanography, climate change, fisheries, estuaries, marine park design and management, anthropogenic impacts, education, introduced species, and of course marine biology and ecology. The demand for talks was so great, that for the first time, AMSA was lengthened to become a four-day conference with up to four concurrent sessions. Many of the AMSA talks are organised into themes or symposia by nominated convenors, and I would like to thank all those involved for doing such a great job in obtaining such a diversity of presenters.
Each day began with an interesting and pertinent talk by a keynote speaker. Dr Rob Massom of the Australian Antarctic Division emphasised the pivotal role that sea-ice around Antarctic plays in controlling the world's climate and oceanography. This year is also International Polar Year (which is actually extends from March 2007 to March 2009), a focus of increased multidisciplinary scientific exploration of our polar regions. On the second day, Dr Mick Keough of the University of Melbourne reviewed our current state of knowledge about the life cycles of marine organisms and the implications for environmental management. Dr John Church of CSIRO Marine Science and Atmospheric Research outlined the role of the oceans in climate change. Since 1955, oceans have absorbed 84% of the excess heat and much of the carbon generated by human activities. We need to reduce our carbon emissions by 50% immediately to prevent massive changes to circulation and weather patterns as well as acidification of the oceans. Finally, Dr Mark Burgman of the University of Melbourne discussed the dubious role of expert judgement in threat assessments and what can be done about it through better characterisation of uncertainties. On the Wednesday we were also honoured to have Dr Joe Baker, the inaugural patron of the association, give a stirring address about the need for marine scientists to interact with public policy. Dr Baker, currently Chief Scientist of Queensland?s Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries, has had an extensive career covering marine biotechnology, natural resource management and environmental advocacy.
Organising an AMSA conference is a nail-biting exercise. Registrations and abstracts come flooding in at the last minute and the amount of sponsorship is sometimes dependent on end of financial year budgets. Just a month from the conference opening, you are unsure whether the Conference will be a huge success or financial disaster. Fortunately, AMSA 2007 fell into the former category, with 348 registrations including 97 students. There were 215 scheduled oral presentations and 32 posters.
Sponsorship plays a major role in reducing the cost of participation, particularly for post-graduate students. We would like to thank all our sponsors, but particularly our major Sponsor CSIRO, with contributions from Marine and Atmospheric Research, Wealth from Oceans Flagship, Water for a Healthy Country and CSIRO Publishing. Our Bronze Sponsors for this year included Geosciences Australia, Department of Education, Science and Training, Department of Environment and Water Resources, University of Melbourne, Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Western Australian Department of Fisheries. Our major exhibitors at the conference were ATA Scientific, Scielex and BlueNet. Keeping with the marine theme, we had the conference dinner at the Melbourne Aquarium next to the coral tank (where shortly after the male sea snake gave birth to a bunch of happy snakelings) and the welcome function in the Science of Life Exhibition at the Melbourne Museum next to the giant squid display. This year we started a new award for the most striking dance by an academic which was won by Dr Gary Kendrick for his Ecklonia waltz (or was it the Sargassum salsa?). Other conference highlights included the exquisite Antarctic Fish print display, on loan from Dr Graham Hosie, CSIRO Hobart, and the launch of the new Marine Ecology textbook edited by Sean Connell and Bronwyn Gillanders.
Tim O'Hara, Chair, Conference organising committee