Keynote Speakers

Keynote Speakers

Prof Scott Collins

Monday 20 July 2015: Opening Keynote Address: The changing and uncertain role of scientific societies

The Royal Society of was founded in 1660 as a mechanism to promote communication and exchange knowledge among scientists. Since that time thousands of scientific societies have formed, all of which have the same fundamental goal, to promote communication and share knowledge, primarily by hosting scientific meetings and publishing journals. Over time, larger scientific societies have become an end unto themselves by developing headquarters in national capitals, like Washington DC, with the goal of communicating science to a broader audience of educators, decision-makers and the public. Such infrastructure requires financial resources. In the past, the main sources of income for societies have been membership dues, journal subscriptions, particularly library subscriptions, and profits from annual meetings. At first many societies profited by self-published journals, but now commercial publishers are gobbling up each other and they dominate the scientific publishing market. The change from print to online only publishing can lead to a decline in the “branding” of articles and society journals. Declining revenues from individual memberships and subscriptions hurt the bottom line, but the biggest pressures on scientific societies comes from the Open Access movement. Open Access (OA) benefits authors and readers by making products of scientific research freely available to anyone. But OA shifts the cost burden and economic model from institutional subscribers to authors, and threatens the viability of commercial publishers and the revenues these publishers pay to scientific societies. Despite numerous economic challenges scientific societies continue to serve the same essential goals that led to the establishment of the Royal Society 350 years ago, sharing and communicating knowledge.

Professor Scott L Collins received his PhD from the University of Oklahoma in 1981. After a postdoc with Dr. Ralph Good at Rutgers University, he returned to the University of Oklahoma as an Assistant and then Associate Professor of Botany. In 1992 he moved to the National Science Foundation where he served as a Program Director in various programs including Ecology, LTER, Conservation and Restoration Biology, TECO, and Integrated Research Challenges. He was the original NSF Program Director for NEON helping to organize six NEON planning workshops from 2000 through 2002. In 2003 he moved to the University of New Mexico where he is now a Regents' Professor of Biology and the PI on the Sevilleta Long-term Ecological Research Program (LTER). The overarching goal of the Sevilleta LTER, established in 1988, is to understand how abiotic drivers and constraints affect dynamics and stability in aridland populations, communities, and ecosystems. Using both long term measurements and experimental manipulations, we are particularly interested in determining how disturbances, such as fire, will interact with global environmental change to affect moisture inputs and losses, and soil nutrient dynamics, and how those drivers will affect plant community composition and structure. He have also worked extensively in tallgrass prairie as part of the Konza Prairie Long-term Ecological Research (LTER) Program since 1988 where he is involved in a multi-institution project on Ecosystem Convergence in which we are comparing fire, climate and herbivore effects on tallgrass prairie in North America and mesic Savanna grassland in Kruger National Park, South Africa. He has served as Chair of the Vegetation and Long-term Studies sections, Chair of the Publications Committee and as President of the Ecological Society of America. He served on the Editorial Boards of Community Ecology, Journal of Vegetation Science and Journal of Ecology. He is currently on the Editorial Boards of BioScience, Ecosphere and Oecologia. After coming to UNM in 2003, he helped to establish a SEEDS Chapter in the Biology Department in association with the Sevilleta LTER. He is also the lead PI on the Sevilleta LTER Summer REU Program.

Prof Scott Collins

Tuesday 21 July 2015: Plenary Keynote Address: Trends in grassland science: does the past predict the future?

Grass-dominated ecosystems cover between 25 and 40 percent of terrestrial environments globally, with natural grasslands occupying large areas in Eurasia, Africa, South America, North America, and Australia . The strong regional correlation between environmental variables and grass-dominated ecosystems suggests that the general emergence and maintenance of grassland ecosystems is controlled by a common set of large-scale drivers, including climate variability, fire, and grazing animals, all of which are increasingly controlled directly or indirectly by human activities. Most of the world’s natural grasslands formed during the late Miocene, a time when atmospheric CO2 levels decreased and modern climatic patterns, particularly increasing seasonality of rainfall, were established. Currently we are witnessing a global reversal during which shrub or bush encroachment is occurring in many grasslands globally. Given the importance of grasslands for conservation of biodiversity, food and fiber, and carbon sequestration, this global scale reversal of patterns formed during the Miocene requires an internationally collaborated effort to develop coordinated, distributed measurements and experiments to determine how global environmental change will affect the structure and function of the world’s native grassland ecosystems.

Prof Roland Schulze

Tuesday 21 July 2015: Plenary Keynote Address: What are we doing to our climate? . . . and what is the climate likely to do to us in South Africa?

Vast emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in the past few decades have resulted in an enhanced greenhouse effect and ever-increasing temperatures, with 2014 having been globally the hottest year on record. Consequences of global warming are wide-ranging, with both gradual “pushes” into new climates and “pulses” of extreme events projected to occur. Using climate scenarios appropriately downscaled to account for local topographic conditions in South Africa, examples are shown of possible effects of climate change on temperatures, rainfall variability, climate zones, human and animal discomfort, chill units, food security, the wine industry, the timber industry as well as on grassland yields and fodder banking. Looking into the future, the presentation concludes with the need to find a sustainable balance between our natural capital and development and assesses the degree to which humanity is still operating in a “safe space”.

Prof Roland Schulze (PhD, University of Natal), is a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa and Member of the Academy of Science of South Africa. Recently retired as Professor of Hydrology at UKZN, he is now a Senior Research Associate of the Centre for Water Resource Research. Originally a hydrological model developer, his main focus at present is on climate change issues on the water and agricultural sectors, on hydro-climatic mapping and integrated water resource management. In the climate change field he has led several multi-institutional research projects with national and international funding. Author of over 550 scientific publications, he also has wide international lecturing and collaborative research experience. Prof Schulze was recently appointed to the Minister’s National Water Advisory Committee. He returns to as a Keynote Speaker at our Congress having presented at the 44th Congress held in UNISA, Florida, Gauteng.


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