Every four years the world’s leading natural scientists, resource managers, conservationists, economists, educators, and graduate students from around the globe gather under a single roof to share research findings and discuss all things to do with coral reefs.
This past week the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) was held in Cairns Australia and boasted over 1,500 presentations in 72 mini symposiums ranging from physiology and functional biodiversity, fish and fisheries, climate change and bleaching, social, economic and cultural perspectives, to the human impacts on coral reefs.
As a graduate student interested in the intersection of oceans and people in the Coral Triangle, this conference provided a unique opportunity to gain knowledge and network with scientists, conservationists, graduate students, and others across a wide spectrum of interests. Despite the Vancouver-esque rainy weather, the ICRS provided the ideal setting to feed the development of my research ideas and provide critical direction in a sea of possibilities.
Of particular interest to me was a focus on the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) – including informative presentations on ‘scaling up and down for effective marine spatial planning’ by Bob Pressey; ‘stateless stakeholders: participation and governance in marine conservation’ by Julian Clifton; and a lively presentation by Patrick Christie on ‘redefining marine protected area planning processes in the CTI’ to consider the human dimension. The Bird’s Head seascape – located in northwest Papua, Indonesia and the site of a long-term management experiment over coastal and marine resources – garnered a surprising amount of attention in this series.
Adding to the presentations were twice daily plenary speakers – individuals who are making big waves in their respective fields (watch all the plenary speaker presentations here). Jane Lubchenco – the first female administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – set the tone for the week with her decree that “we need bold science and bold action” to inform coral reef conservation and management. Mirroring sentiments voiced elsewhere, Dr. Lubchenco emphasized that ‘protecting coral reefs is about protecting communities, cultures, and food security.’
Outside of the jam packed presentation schedule, side events including the launch of ‘The State of the Coral Triangle Reports’, workshops on remote sensing and new spatial technologies, and a spectacular banquet featuring delicious kangaroo and crocodile appetizers and local entertainment, offered ample opportunity to meet scientists, conservationists, and managers from around the world.
Written by Samantha Berdej, PhD student with ECGG