Anthropocene Now

Anthropocene is a term that was first used 20 years ago to describe the new epoch of geological time, starting after the industrial revolution of 1750 indicating the transition out of the Holecene and into a new age – the human age. This term and its implications has incited great debate amongst the scientific community over the year, as in order for a new new geologic epoch to be accepted, we would have had to have changed the planet to such an extent as to have effected the rock strata around us. In 2019, scientist in the International Commission on Stratigraphy, did indeed agree this to be the case, and officially accepted the new age of the Anthropocene. Professor Will Steffen reflects on the current state of the climate, and revels that due to the connectedness of all of Earth’s systems, a cascade effect of climate disasters can occur – called the Tipping Point. We are fast approaching this tipping point, and to avoid it society will have to change. The evidence suggest we are already in a state of planetary emergency, and acting now is how we can escape Earth’s Tipping Point.

Resilient Forests: ensuring the Australian bush survives a changing climate

Professor Patrick Baker, Professor of Silviculture and Forest Ecology at the University of Melbourne, explains how tree rings can tell us about a landscapes climate history, and prove a worrying trend towards more extreme weather events and bushfires as a result of climate change. His studies have shown that bushfires are becoming more widespread and hotter than ever before, not just scarring trees – but killing them. Patrick’s work in forest management has indicated that lower tree density forests, made up of larger, older trees, are the most resilient to these changing climate events. Drawing on his silviculture expertise, he has been able compare the effects of traditional bushfires to selective tree clearing, which leaves the some trees behind that range in size and age. As a result, these trees have more space to grow and actually creates a stronger, healthier forest.

Championing Translation & Commercialisation of Australian Medical Research

Australia has a vibrant medical technology and pharmaceutical (MTP) sector, recognised globally for its excellence and innovation. With nearly 1,300 companies and an exceptionally skilled workforce of 68,000 across industry and research, the MTP sector is a major contributor to the Australian economy. Dr Rebecca Tunstall, Senior Director of Stakeholder Engagement at MTPConnect, leads collaborative teams to drive connectivity, innovation and productivity in this sector. Rebecca outlined emerging “megatrends” that will ‘reshape our world in the next 10-50 years.’ Digital evolution is central to them all, allowing the rapid exchange of information, advances in genomic sequencing and big data collection to support precision medicine, and integrated care models with artificial intelligence and robotics. She wants to see Australia at the forefront, revolutionising healthcare with these emerging technologies.

The Phoenix Schools Program: resurrecting lab equipment for the next generation of scientists

During Andrew Gray’s efforts in setting up BioQuisitive, he realised a large amount of old but otherwise high-quality scientific equipment was being consigned to landfill from professional laboratories. Joining forces with Samuel Wines, the Phoenix School Program was born. Within a month, they had already diverted over $100,000 in donated equipment from the tip to a redistribution facility. The donated equipment is now destined to be repurposed at low-socioeconomic high schools and their students to foster their science education. Samuel’s vision for the program is to create an online portal that, in addition to an inventory of lab equipment on offer for schools, showcases citizen science projects, STEM-based jobs and businesses available for the next generation of scientists. Partnering with programs such as BioQuisitive and Science for All, they will encourage students to participate in curriculum-mapped citizen science projects to work directly with scientists.

Supporting our Heritage

Following a call for submissions in the 2020 Review of the World Heritage Management Plan by Heritage Victoria, the Royal Society of Victoria provided input on 27 July 2020. Sadly, this submission has not featured in the subsequent report, nor has it been acknowledged via other channels when queried, so we are reproducing it here for general consideration. As with heritage programs the world over, there is a significant gap between the aspirations of a precinct-based conservation strategy and the means to enable it. We have submitted a proposed instrument to address the resourcing gap for consideration and further discussion with government colleagues. The Society has given long consideration to the establishment of a Victorian Government hypothecated trust for the precinct, which would build a fund to both conserve and activate the heritage-listed buildings and grounds in the whole precinct, including our own. We have recommended that such a trust be established, and here outline how this might be enabled.