Faculty Symposium 2011 - a resounding success

13 July 2011

Friday the 8th of July marked a discussion of one of the greatest issues facing our generation - can our environment keep bouncing back?

The Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources Annual Research Symposium 2011 was hailed a resounding success. Individuals from the areas of agricultural science, resource economics, environmental policy, primary industries and students were presented with the views of nine leading academics and challenged to think wider about the resilience of economic and environmental systems.

One of the reasons touted for the Symposium's success was cross-disciplinary collaboration. "There is no doubt that the issue of environmental resilience, environmental sustainability, is one of the big 21st century issues and this Faculty is really at the cutting edge of addressing some of those really vital questions," said Professor Stephen Garton, University Provost and historian, who opened the 2011 Symposium.

Professor Garton's official opening was built upon by Professor Mark Adams, Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. "Australia has long had a reliance on agriculture. This should be a University that stands out for addressing the need for interdisciplinary research."

The day included presentations from renowned international speakers Dr Jayne Belnap (soil scientist) and Professor Karl-Göran Maler (resilience economist), who described the limits in natural and economic systems. An in-depth set of data was presented by Professor Quentin Grafton (environmental economist) on the possibility for win-win outcomes in the way social networks interact with their environment.

Guest speakers were joined by Faculty academics who discussed resilience in a wide range of fields, from the resilience of pathogens on wheat, to natural ecosystems under fire, and to food production systems in a rapidly growing and developing world. It was not until the final presentation of the day that resilience was properly defined. "The strength of resilience thinking is that it does highlight system complexity," said Professor Michael Harris,University of Sydney discipline leader inResource Economics.

One highlight of the day was the inaugural Faculty 3 Minute Thesis Finals. In a fast-paced competition, seven PhD students were each challenged to explain their thesis topic in less than 3 minutes. The audience was on edge as students animatedly condensed years worth of work into their short talks, and the judges provided positive feedback all-round.

At the end of the Symposium, delegates relaxed over drinks and canapés, and reflected on the question of the day - can our environment bounce back?

Perhaps the best summary was provided by Professor Jeff Amthor with a humourous slide depicting a flooded section of Northern NSW from earlier this year. The caption read, "Probably we'll be OK... right?"

Contact: Lucy Buxton

Phone: 02 9351 6242

Email: 06312f325b3a4c14060e570b4314071c084b680a32245d2337