Keynote & Invited Speakers 2018

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Keynote Speakers

Dr Fiona Walsh, Alice Springs

Fiona is an ethno-ecologist resident in and working across desert lands for 32 years. Her heartland is Mparntwe (Alice Springs); she has birthed two sons who bring a particular connection to the Yipirinya caterpillar. Fiona was a CSIRO Research Scientist (2004-2016) until the closure of the Alice Springs lab. Currently she is seeing if work as a sole trader consultant is sustainable and is an Honorary Fellow of Charles Darwin University. She blends her disciplines of anthropology, botany and zoology with her passion for photography, documentary and stories. Her expertise includes Aboriginal people’s relations to and management of plants, animals, bush foods, bush medicine, fire and complex conceptual worldviews. She has authored 70 publications plus 10 short and long documentaries. She has a life-long commitment to ethical cross-cultural collaboration and is honoured to travel and learn alongside of Veronica Perrurle Dobson since 2005.

Ms Veronica Perrule Dobson (AM), Alice Springs

Veronica is an Eastern Arrernte woman and a native title holder (Untulye lands) of Alice Springs. She is highly respected for her cultural and linguistic knowledge.

One of her father’s mother’s totems was the Utnerrengatye caterpillar. She is an interpreter and teacher of the Arrernte language, and is a naturalist and ecologist. Veronica has decades of experience in cross-cultural collaborations. She was instrumental in establishing Eastern Arrernte as a written language. Additional to the Arrernte dictionary she has authored or co-authored books and papers about bush medicines, kinship relations, birds, indigenous ecological knowledge systems, wetland care and management and seasons and ecological indicators. Veronica and Fiona Walsh have intermittent collaborations that span about twenty years which includes attention to totemic caterpillars, the processionary caterpillar and caper moths.

Assoc. Prof.  Theo Evans, University of Western Australia

Theo Evans started entomological research on during his PhD at the University of Melbourne, where he worked on social spiders, and proposed the first Darwinian explanation for why spiderlings eat their mothers. Such behaviours may have helped him move into termites at CSIRO Entomology, where he learnt these herbivores are not adverse to cannibalism either. Nevertheless, he persisted, and has worked on these social cockroaches for over 20 years, at CSIRO, Bayreuth University in Germany, and the National University of Singapore, with fieldwork in over 20 countries on six continents. Theo has worked on just about every aspect of termite biology, particularly their evolution, ecology, genetics, behaviour, and pest management systems (which termite researchers have a hard time avoiding). He has a long-term collaboration with engineers from UNSW investigating how termites perceive and use vibrations in information gathering and communication, discovering that they can determine the size of a piece of wood and identify ants using only vibration signals. Theo has developed particular interests in ecosystem services of insects, especially termites, ants, and dung beetles, and running large scale, manipulative experiments to quantify their ecological impacts (manipulations made possible from experience with pest management).

Assoc. Prof. Mike Kearney, University of Melbourne

Michael Kearney’s research focuses on understanding physical constraints on where organisms can persist. He has developed conceptual and computational methods for ‘mechanistic niche modelling’. These methods provide ways to link the traits of organisms functionally to their environments to predict behavioural, life history and population processes. This work incorporates microclimate modelling, biophysical ecology, ecophysiology and metabolic theory. He heads the Climatic and Metabolic Ecology Lab at the University of Melbourne, which has worked particularly on reptiles, insects and mammals in the past, but is increasingly focusing on orthopterans as model organisms.

Ms Sarah Corcoran, Northern Territory Department of Primary Industry and Resources

Sarah Corcoran is the Executive Director for Biosecurity and Animal Welfare, first joining the Department of Primary Industry and Resources (DPIR) as Chief Plant Health Officer in September 2016.

Sarah has a passion for preserving agricultural industries and Australia’s unique environment from invasive pests and disease. She holds experience working as a biosecurity practitioner in the Australian Government and two state Departments of Primary Industries. She has worked on a number of emergency responses to incursions of exotic pests and pathogens across the biosecurity continuum, and has led national eradication programs for red imported fire ants, electric ants, banana freckle, browsing ants and most recently citrus canker.

Sarah’s focus is to lead the Biosecurity and Animal Welfare Division to enhance sustainability of the Northern Territory’s plant and livestock industries by working with stakeholders to ensure national biosecurity and animal welfare obligations are met, as well as enhance market access, research and economic development.

Sarah’s qualifications include a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Botany and Zoology, Honours in Freshwater Ecology and post-graduate studies in Epidemiology for Public Health. She is a trained quarantine entomologist and mosquito specialist, conducting research in vector surveillance and control in operational military environments.