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Plenary 1 | Creative conservation for nature in cities

Dr Kylie Soanes

University of Melbourne

Saving wildlife in cities is challenging – space for nature is scarce, full of bright lights, noisy cars, and hard surfaces. Yet there is huge potential for our urban jungles to support native plants and animals, and even help save them from extinction. Kylie Soanes is a conservation biologist with her sights set on saving species in cities and towns. Whether it’s helping city councils plan corridors that move animals safely through cities, or working with architects to build designer houses for one of Australia’s largest owls, Kylie is always looking for new ways to help nature thrive in urban environments. Kylie is based at the University of Melbourne where she completed her PhD in 2015, building rope bridges to help endangered possums cross busy highways.

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Plenary 2 | Reef Builder and Restoring Marine Ecosystems

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Dr Scott Breschkin

Marine and Freshwater Scientist and Oceans Project Coordinator,

The Nature Conservancy Australia

Scott is a marine and freshwater scientist. He has had the privilege of working across Australia and in the tropical Pacific in Papua New Guinea. Scott has extensive experience in designing, managing and conducting field surveys as well as project management and stakeholder engagement. Scott is a true ocean lover (a thalassophile) and this passion has taken him surfing and diving all over the world. Therefore, he also loves working on, near and under the water.

Prior to joining The Nature Conservancy, Scott spent nearly a decade consulting as an aquatic scientist and an environmental impact assessment specialist, working on the permitting and approvals for a range of development projects. Highlights from this time include conducting marine ecology field surveys in the Solomon Islands, various field assignments in Papua New Guinea and conducting freshwater field surveys in remote parts of Northern Australia. Scott enjoys working with diverse stakeholders and communicating complex scientific concepts in a manner that can be easily understood by a broad audience.

Plenary 3 | Mountains as Model Environments to Test Plant Responses to Climate Extremes

A/Prof. Susanna Venn

Senior Lecturer, Deakin University

​Dr Susanna Venn is an Associate Professor of Plant Ecology at Deakin University. Her research focuses on the processes that drive vegetation patterns and plant regeneration across alpine landscapes. She plays an executive role in managing the Australian Mountain Research Facility and uses this infrastructure in combination with manipulative experiments to investigate plant responses to drought, warming, fire and reductions in snow. Susanna chairs the Australian Institute of Alpine Studies, is a member of the Victorian Government’s Scientific Advisory Committee, the Global Mountain Biodiversity Assessment Scientific Steering Committee and the Afromontane Research Unit Advisory Board.

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Mini-plenary 1 | How sharing your data with the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas helps Biodiversity

The Victorian Biodiversity Atlas is the Victorian Government’s occurrence database for naturalised flora and fauna species in Victoria (native and introduced species). Our focus is on gathering high quality survey data that inform models and public land management policies and practices to get the best outcome for Victorian biodiversity. This presentation will focus on how you can share your data with us, which details make it higher quality, where the data is currently used and displayed, and how you can access the data for your own interests.

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Bev Yen

Victorian Biodiversity Atlas

Bev has a background in biological sciences and GIS/Remote Sensing and has worked with the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas for the past 5 years. Her focus has been on robust data processes that ingest and store high quality survey data, and publishing spatial datasets for use in modelling, research and public land management.  Bev also has a role in post emergency (fire/flood/storm) risk assessments that include biodiversity values, which personally highlights the importance of good data.

Mini-plenary 2 | A history of the advocacy and science behind wins for nature conservation in Victoria

Big victories for nature conservation in Victoria have been underpinned by campaigns informed by good science along with strong community voices and political nous. These campaigns are often long-term and hard won. Matt will tell the story of the changes to Victoria’s nature since colonisation such as sheep grazing, native forest logging and overfishing. This story will be told alongside the history of big wins for nature such as the creation of new protected areas and removal of threatening processes like cattle grazing. Matt will unpack how the campaigns that influenced these wins brought together science, community and political strategy.  This will be followed by a discussion on what is next and the importance of science, community building and advocacy working together in Victoria’s ongoing conservation journey.

Matt Ruchel

Victorian National Parks Association

Executive Director of VNPA since 2007, Matt Ruchel has an extensive background in environmental policy. He has worked in non-government environmental policy areas in the state, national and international arena for more than 30 years.Matt has held senior positions in leading international and national conservation organisations and in local government. He brings exceptional strategic planning skills to his role at VNPA and his experience is invaluable in coordinating staff and campaigns, as well as liaising with government and industry at all levels and a range of interest groups.

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Panel Discussion

At VicBioCon 2024, our expert panel will be discussing the following topic:

Not so cute and fluffy: how can we advocate for the weird and wonderful?


Moderator: Meg Shaw (PhD Candidate, Deakin University)

Prof. Don Driscoll

Professor of Terrestrial Ecology, Deakin University

All of Don's research has conservation biology as a central theme, with a focus on how species use whole landscapes, particularly the role of dispersal. Using a range of approaches to capture data, including manipulative experiments, natural experiments and the application of population genetic techniques, Don aims to place a strong emphasis on testing ecological theory using applied conservation problems.

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Emily McLeod

Senior Social Science Research Manager, Zoos Victoria

Emily is a conservation social scientist with an interdisciplinary background in psychology and zoology. She leads the social science research program at Zoos Victoria, where her research examines the drivers of pro-environmental behaviours to inform how we can best engage our community in conservation action. Emily’s research focuses on a range of topics including cat containment behaviours, drivers of sustainable coffee consumption, and responsible wildlife tourism behaviours. Her work helps to inform the development and evaluation of community conservation behaviour change campaigns at Zoos Victoria.

Dr Lynette Plenderleith

President, Frogs Victoria

Dr Lynette Plenderleith is Founder and current President of Frogs Victoria. She has a PhD from Monash University where she studied the ecology of native Australian frogs and her Masters Research at Towson University in the USA investigated the ecology of lungless salamanders. She is a science communicator and community engagement specialist, with professional experience in film and television, citizen science and environmental education. In 2023 she co-produced and co-starred in the short film For Frogs' Sake.

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Doug Gimesy

Conservation and Wildlife Photojournalist

Doug is a professional conservation and wildlife photojournalist who focuses on Australian issues. A four-time finalist in the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year, he is a Senior Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP) and his clients include National Geographic, BBC Wildlife, The Smithsonian, Australian Geographic, as well various mastheads like The Guardian. In addition to this, he also runs a communication consultancy called The Framing effect, which focuses on the use of language framing to influence attitudes and behaviour.

Initially gaining a B.Sc. with majors in zoology and microbiology, he later completed both a Masters of Environment and a Masters of Bioethics. Together, these two qualifications finally helped shape his thinking as to what type of issues he should be focusing on and why – predominantly conservation and animal welfare issues.

Dr Kaori Yokochi

Lecturer, Deakin University

Kaori is a Lecturer in Ecology and Conservation Biology at Deakin University. Originally from Japan, Kaori moved to Australia to complete Bachelors, Honours, and PhD at the University of Western Australia, before relocating to Melbourne to pursue her academic career at Deakin University. Her research so far has focused on Urban Ecology, especially on finding ways for humans and Australian terrestrial wildlife to coexist in our towns and cities, in presence of impacts of human infrastructure such as roads, light, and noise. She aims to broaden her research further, and started investigating impacts of urbanisation and light pollution on microbat communities in the last few years. In 2020, Kaori joined the Network for Ecological Research on Artificial Light (NERAL).

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Meg Shaw

PhD Candidate, Deakin University

My name is Meg, I'm a PhD Candidate at Deakin University. My work revolves around the use of imagery as a tool for wildlife conservation. In particular, my interests lie in how we can best construct and use photographs of wildlife to connect people with wildlife and promote wildlife-friendly behaviours. Images are much more powerful than text in conveying messages, we pay deeper attention to them and remember them for longer, so using them to promote conservation is a fantastic idea, but we're still figuring out how best to do that. I'm one of the people helping to solve these problems by using theories from Social Marketing and Emotion research.

I'm currently the Secretary for ConsMark (the Conservation Marketing group of the Society of Conservation Biology), and sit on various Conservation Social Science and Science Communication boards. I also work closely with industry partners such as wildlife charities, zoos, and photography galleries, to make sure this work has impact across the globe.

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