Australian Mammal Society Conference 2013

I’m about to take a well-earned break with my family and visit my old stomping ground of North Queensland, a biodiversity paradise. It’ll be great to reacquaint myself with all of its wonderful inhabitants and of course, some old friends of the human variety! But before we disappear, I’d like to give a short report on the Australian Mammal Society meeting in Sydney, that I attended these last few days. To find out more about the society itself, please see the AMS website.

To start with, this year’s meeting was one of the best I’ve been to, and its organisers are to be commended. I’ve been to a few over the years! My first was way back in 2002. This year’s meeting also held extra significance for me personally, as I met my wife, Dr Jenny Martin at the Sydney meeting 10 years ago to the day. She was working on possums in Victoria at the time and me kangaroos in northern Australia, but that’s a story for another day…

There was a wonderful diversity of talks this year from a project that aims to record mammal vocalisations, to Scottish Beaver restoration (no sniggering, people) , wildlife surveys in war-ravaged Cambodia and Buddhist Bhutan, and predators of all shapes and sizes, including issuing spotted-tailed quolls with ‘passports’ by using their distinctive dotted markings. Dr Matt Crowther delivered an important talk about dingoes and their morphology. We are still without a proper description of what a dingo really is, until now (Matt and his colleagues’ paper is coming!). Until this issue is resolved the appropriate management of dingoes and ‘wild dogs’ will remain clouded. My PhD student Sarah Maclagan also reminded us of the importance of novel habitats, showing how dependent the endangered southern brown bandicoot is to modification of drain networks it lives in and around in peri-urban Melbourne. Me personally, I stayed away from controversial topics and presented a talk on why the dingo barrier fence fails the triple bottom line test. More on that later too!

It was a wonderful meeting and made all the more pleasing by the fact my table won the legendary limerick award (members of the society will appreciate the ‘honour’ associated with this), with a ditty inspired by the Bhutan camera trapping talk by Assoc. Prof. Vernes:

There was a man named Vernes
Who presented his work with finesse
What Google can do
With pics from the zoo
Vernes, it’s time to confess

Once again the student talks were among the best, and it’s great to see such a wonderful bunch of passionate and capable scientists and communicators for the future. Along these lines though, actual numbers of students at the meeting were down and we’d really like to remedy this, so if you’re keen to be part of a society focused on the ecology, conservation and management of mammals, please sign up. Biodiversity needs YOU!

Talk soon, with tales of North Queensland…