Delegates talk ‘innovation’ at rangelands conference in Alice Springs

[April 2015]
 
Nearly 360 delegates met in Alice Springs this month for the 18th Biennial Australian Rangeland Society (ARS) Conference. 

Held at the Alice Springs Convention Centre from 12-16 April, a number of Rangelands NRM staff and representatives from projects attended, giving oral and poster presentations. 

The theme for the conference was ‘Innovation in the Rangelands’. Delegates shared their ideas and experience of how to nurture, then develop and share, innovative solutions to the challenges of living successfully in our rangelands environments.

Rangelands’ NRM Operations Manager John Silver said the ARS conference brought together like minded people, those with a vested interest in making the rangelands work – bringing the outback to the forefront of the collective Australian psyche. 

“While much of the conference focused on the socioeconomics of having more people in the landscape and the need for active land management, I was reminded about our collective political impact, the importance of ‘nudging’ and having clarity about what we are trying to achieve,” he said.

The four-day event commenced with a Welcome Reception at the Town Council on the Sunday, followed by a number of field trips on the Monday. One group explored technology in pastoral production at Old Man Plains and Undoolya Station, another visited Owen Springs Reserve and Hermannsburg, another visited a number of desert waterholes and the last learnt about innovative technologies such as the Uterne solar power station.

Official proceedings commenced with a Plenary Address by the Hon. Fred Chaney AO who spoke about the need for gentle ‘nudges’ by all involved to advance the cause of the rangelands. 

Dr Dean Revell who is leading the Rangelands Self Herding innovation project gave an oral presentation about the latest trials that are positively influencing the grazing distribution of livestock and bring benefits to productivity and landscape function. A number of trials are being undertaken across the WA Rangelands that use audio, visual, tactile and olfactory tools and tactics to change animal behaviour.

Linda Anderson, Project Manager for the Pilbara Mesquite Management Committee (PMMC) presented about mining partnerships where investment from one mining resource company to the PMMC to tackle weeds has helped to encourage others to invest as well, making real differences on-ground. 

Ngadju Conservation’s David Graham presented their poster about their work towards a Conservation Action Plan to manage their country in the Great Western Woodlands. The group have been busy training in bushfire prevention as well as land management training including surveying, mapping of invasive weeds and malleefowl. This poster was voted the runner-up in the People’s Choice Awards. 

Rangelands’ NRM Communications Manager Teresa Belcher also gave a poster presentation about communicating in the rangelands of WA. This covered the Rangelands NRM eNews, social media, the online Regional Plan as well as the School of the Air Photo Competition. 

The conference concluded with panel discussion followed by a Gala Dinner at the Old Quarry. 

Timed to take place during the ARS, was a meeting of the Ten Deserts Network (more to come later) as well as the launch of the Desert Science Network, a new initiative that aims to facilitate collective science learning, skills development and inspiration through connecting innovation and science communication across the arid lands. The Desert Network Launch, an Inspiring Australia Initiative, saw over 100 people come together for some ‘Stand up Science ’involving visiting scientists and science communicators giving humorous presentations on a topic of their choice. 
Image: Many of the WA representatives (and friends of Rangelands NRM) at the ARS Conference