Ecology podcast supported by ESA Community Fund

Our ESA Community Fund members have voted, and we’re thrilled to announce the inaugural recipient of the ESA Community Fund grant on the theme of Ecology & Education is... Cherese Sonkkila from The University of Melbourne who has proposed to produce a podcast from the ESA 2019 Conference. You can read more about this winning project, and the shortlisted intiative below.

We are very grateful for the members of the ESA Community fund whose donations have funded this $2,000 grant, and were very impressed with the number and calibre of applications received for the funding.

We plan to continue the initiative into the future, keep an eye out for details of how you can be involved, including an opportunity at the Conference to help choose the theme for the 2020 grant(s).

And if you are presenting on a topic at the Conference which you think might be of interest to Cherese, you can find her via the media room.

The delight and wonder of Australian ecology: a podcast

Cherese Sonkkila, University of Melbourne 

From the bumblings of birds, to trees stubbornly growing sideways out of rockfaces, to the frog called the “pobblebonk”, to the incredible colouring of the orange-bellied parrot – there is much delight, laughter, wonder, and beauty to find in the natural world. This podcast on Australian nature and conservation takes this very perspective.

It is a joint project between science communicator/researcher, Cherese Sonkkila, and audio producer, Emma Smith, who met while performing in the Melbourne comedy scene. They are both passionate conservationists and are combining their skills to produce a funny, heart-warming and educational podcast on Australian ecology. 

The podcast will centre on researchers interviewed at the ESA 2019 conference, and the episode topics will be shaped by the stories discovered there. The final product will be a five-part series, which will make up the first season of the podcast.
Although the podcast will be entertaining, the main aim is to educate people on the incredible biodiversity in Australia and the all the effort, adventures, and passion that is involved in understanding and conserving it. It will include information on the effects of climate change, indigenous knowledge and how to support conservation efforts.

This podcast offers a new voice to describe our unique ecology by using witty observations, tangential explanations and detail-deluxe storytelling. The legacy of nature documentaries is the communication of the awe-inspiring elements of nature, and the devastating impacts we are seeing on the ecological world. This podcast will build on these while finding the light-hearted, hopeful and funny moments within it all to develop a greater connection between the public and the natural world.


Shortlisted entries

From Reef to Harbour: The Hidden Wonder of NSW Corals

Charlotte Page, University of New South Whales 

Explore the underwater wonders of the coral reefs up and down the NSW coast with leading researchers at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science.

A public event will bring together two days of private school events at SIMS. During these two days, local school children will be exposed to a diverse range of coral research being conducted in NSW. In addition to this, school children will work with artists and scientists to produce art work that will be showcased at the public event. 

The public event will be held at SIMS at Chowder Bay. As guests walk along they foreshore, they will be virtually transported along the NSW coast from the Solitary Islands near Coffs Harbour, out to Lord Howe Island and back to Sydney Harbour through the use of videos, interactive displays, coral samples and artwork. Guests will be encouraged to join in discussions with researchers about the management of these precious marine resources. Visitors will also have the opportunity to take a virtual dive on the Great Barrier Reef and discover the connection between the Great Barrier Reef and our NSW coastal environments. A range of artwork created in collaboration with local school children depicting the coral reef environments of NSW will be on show.


In the Field Among the Fungi – Fungus Foray & Survey

Sue Brunskill, Wooragee Landcare 

The fungi of NE Victoria are little known. Only very scant and mostly anecdotal records exist. Fungi are an important part of these ecosystems especially in creating and stabilising soils, nourishing and interconnecting plants, as a food supply for animals, and essentially underpinning their health and resilience. The geological history and diversity of habitat types is likely to foster a diversity of fungi. Fires in recent years are also likely to have affected fungal communities hence the particular importance of such surveys.

Effective land management, conservation and biodiversity monitoring would ideally fungi into account An overview of the fungi of the region would contribute important information to the greater understanding of local ecosystems.

This aim of the foray and survey is to equip participants with the basic principles and protocols for surveying fungi in the field. These participants could then further develop their skills to become leaders in engaging the wider community to partake in fungus surveying. Following an introductory overview we will work in groups to survey the fungi of the field sites using field guides and other resources to use in the field.


Environmentally friendly pest control: Public forum and citizen science project

Lizzy Lowe, Macquarie University 

Do you have pests in your house, but want to avoid spraying insecticides? Or would you like to attract good bugs to your garden? There’s an app for that! 

Insects play vital roles in ecosystems, such as pollinating flowers and decomposing waste, but some species can also be pests, especially in cities. The traditional method for dealing with insect pests is to use insecticides, but we are rapidly realising that these chemicals also affect beneficial species such as bees, butterflies and beetles, putting both our environments and our health at risk.

Thankfully, there are many solutions for controlling pests in an environmentally friendly way without harming beneficial insects or other wildlife. For example, if you encouraging native predators such as lady birds, preying mantises and spiders in your garden, they can do the pest control for you!

We are planning to hold a public forum to provide Sydney residents with important information about how to manage pests while attracting beneficial insects to improve urban biodiversity. During the forum we will consult with local communities, businesses and councils to identify concerns regarding pest management and demonstrate ways to reduce the use of insecticides in homes, gardens and parks to improve public health and well-being. 

We will then co-create a community-led citizen science initiative that will test insecticide free pest control solutions, such as traps, repellents and releasing native predators such as lady birds. The citizen science project will include a mobile phone app for identifying pests and choosing environmentally friendly pest control solutions to try. The data collected from the citizen science project will be used to produce fact sheets and other educational materials for urban residents across Australia.