Monday 10 July | 9.30am - 10.30am
Professor Mary L Droser
Mary Droser is a Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Riverside. Droser has worked for several decades on the fossil record of the Ediacara Biota in South Australia. Along with students and colleagues from the South Australia Museum, Droser has described the oldest sexual reproduction, the oldest evidence of mobility, the oldest animal to live in the water column and our oldest relative – all from South Australia. Droser has also been deeply involved with STEM education and outreach in the US and more recently in South Australia – working to increase awareness of the Earth Sciences as a pathway and career as well as to increase diversity and representation in the Earth Sciences. Droser is the recipient of the SEPM 2020 Moore Medal, the 2020 University of California Dissertation Mentor award and the 2022 National Academy of Sciences Walcott Medal.
Bringing the world-famous half billion year old fossils of the Ediacara Biota to South Australian students: In the classroom and in the field.
As ones climbs Mt. Lofty or snorkels in the Spencer Gulf or Great Barrier Reef, it is impossible not to be awed at the biodiversity of these and other ecosystems that are teeming with life. But for almost a billion years, planet Earth was lifeless. Over the last three and a half billion years, life evolved in fits and starts from very simple bacteria to the diversity of life as we know it today. For humans, in particular, one of the most critical events in the evolution of life on Earth, after the origin of life, was the advent of multicellular animals. Over half a billion year ago, before adaptations such as skeletons, jaws, or brains had developed, the oldest animals on Earth, referred to as the Ediacara Biota, dominated seafloors and formed Earth’s earliest complex communities. The record of these organisms predates the well-known Cambrian Explosion by nearly 40 million years and provides the essential clues on evolutionary innovations such as the advent of animals, the advent of movement, the oldest sexual reproduction and the first appearance of our closest animal relative. These fossils are thus critical to understanding the early evolution of life on Earth and even provide hints as to what we should look for to identify life on other planets. Fossils of the Ediacara Biota, first discovered in South Australia by Reg Sprigg, consist of macroscopic, morphologically diverse and generally soft-bodied organisms that occur globally but have a particularly wonderful record at the new Nilpena Ediacara National Park (NENP), west of the Flinders Ranges. NENP is one of the world’s finest preserved and most diverse evidence of the Ediacaran ‘explosion of life’ with more than 80 morphologically different life forms preserved in place in their original communities. This history and the resulting fossil discoveries occurred in the backyard of South Australian students providing a personal introduction into geology, paleontology, and natural exploration that can be woven into Australian school curriculum through online exercises, museum visits, virtual field trips to NENP and actual field trips.
Tuesday 11 July | 9.00am - 10.00am
Professor Christopher Daniels
Professor Christopher Daniels has been an incredible force in popularising nature education in South Australia. The university academic and government scientist has presented on ABC Radio for two decades. He started with fortnightly backyard wildlife segments in 2003 and, since 2007, presented many community programs on urban environmental science. Whilst his primary area of interest is in citizen science and ecoliteracy, Chris also works with a large number of allied education delivery organisations including the Marine Discovery Centre, Cleland Wildlife Park, the SA Museum (Board member) the Junior Field Naturalists and Nature Play (ex Board chair). Christopher was a driving force in Adelaide becoming a National Park City and also uses the arts to promote conservation. Christopher has written 11 award winning books including a children’s book, Koala, produced a musical theatre show on koalas, delivered comedy for the Adelaide Fringe with South Australia’s Science Media Centre, and advocates for numerous South Australian nature authors.
Now chair of the Green Adelaide Landscape Board, and a member 30 other Environmental Boards and committees, Christopher received a Doctor of Sciences from Adelaide University in 2019. He holds adjunct professorships at the University of South Australia and University of Adelaide.
Developing an ecoliterate community through nature education programs
One of the consequences of burgeoning populations together with rapid advancements in technologies that enable our daily life have led to a shrinking connection with nature and natural processes and so a decrease in ecoliteracy. We have demonstrated that a number of factors form the foundation of ecological literacy. These factors are:
- Education and in particular education that includes science based subjects or disciplines;
- having a healthy relationship with place such as growing up or living in communities where people are connected with each other and with their natural environments;
- spending time in nature and having opportunities for regular engagement with nature and the outdoors;
- participating in activities that encourage or facilitate understanding nature;
- and living in communities or households where the natural world is valued,
However, delivering nature education is itself a wicked problem because the term has different meanings for everyone and also varies with delivery modality. For example nature education can be delivered through:
- Formal classroom style actions,
- Nature Play
- Citizen science,
- Broad-scale community engagement (eg via National Park City concept),
- Engaging Aboriginal knowledge and pedagogy,
- Nature-based and other festivals
- Other external informal education forums
- By aligned institutions.
Because nature education is fundamental to creating an ecoliterate community, it is a priority of Green Adelaide and our goal is to Inspire communities to value, connect with, and care for nature. This presentation will discuss how Green Adelaide partners to deliver across the wide spectrum of learnings and knowledge exchange to reach its goal of creating an ecologically literate community in an urban context.
Wednesday 12 July | 9.00am - 10.00am
Professor Tanya Monro
Professor Tanya Monro commenced as Chief Defence Scientist in March 2019. In this role she is head of Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG) and Capability Manager for Innovation, Science and Technology for Defence.
In June 2022, Professor Monro was awarded a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for eminent service to scientific and technological development, research and innovation, tertiary education, and professional organisations.
Her previous roles include Deputy Vice Chancellor Research and Innovation (University of SA) and inaugural director of the Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale Bio Photonics (University of Adelaide).
Professor Monro is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE), the Optical Society of America and the Australian Institute of Physics. She also sits on the board of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).