Soil Carbon – Keeping it in the Ground

Human activities have released significant quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. As a greenhouse gas, the more carbon dioxide emitted, the warmer our planet becomes. Partly mitigating these impacts, plants recover 30% of atmospheric carbon via photosynthesis. Using energy from the Sun, they combine carbon dioxide with water to form sugar and oxygen. When the chemical reaction is reversed, carbon returns to the atmosphere – either by cellular respiration in plants and animals, or the burning of coal, wood, or gasoline. Soil scientist Dr Samantha Grover explains that one way of preventing carbon dioxide from returning to the atmosphere is keeping it sequestered in the ground. In fact, there is two-to-three times more carbon in soil than in the atmosphere.

State of the Climate 2020

Senior Climatologist Dr Lynette Bettio explains that soon we will no longer be considering how we get through a single intense year, such as 2019, but how we can make it through a stretch of years with no respite. The climate has been set on a warming path – the long-lived greenhouse gasses that are in the atmosphere and the extra energy soaked up by oceans have secured the warming trend continuing for the next few decades. So the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO are investing a lot of effort to solve these problems, knowing the sooner we take action, the sooner we will see a divergence from the alarming projections in current climate models and simulations.

Postcards from a Pandemic

A multi-disciplinary panel gathered to discuss what they see as inspirational for scientists, governments and communities to take action in response to COVID-19, devastating bushfires, and systemic racism and social unrest. Before the pandemic we were amongst the unbridled fires, lush landscapes were blistering, and communities came together to offer donations and support to rebuild towns that were destroyed. During the pandemic and in lockdown we feel as if we’re in a snow dome. Gaps in wealth, age, sex, age and disability became highlighted and people marched forcefully with thunder in response to social injustice. Once we emerge, we hope to have better communication with scientists and vigorously carve out a new equilibrium.

Young Scientist Research Prizes 2020

Every year, final year PhD candidates present their doctoral studies to the Royal Society of Victoria, competing for four Prizes that recognise excellence in Victoria’s early career scientists. Eight finalists present under the four categories: Biological Sciences, Biomedical & Health Sciences, Earth Sciences, and Physical Sciences. While the format of delivery was different this year, participants rose to the challenge to deliver engaging and informative videos for National Science Week. From chicken sexing to neutron stars, all finalists’ presentations are summarised here, with links to their video presentations and the full proceedings as broadcast on the night via Facebook Live.

Building our Resilient Future

Extreme events are becoming more devastating and more frequent. Communities, economies and ecosystems have increasingly less time to bounce back between them. How do we build resilience for the future? This summer’s devastating bushfires and the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic have given Australians an alarming insight to the sustained uncertainty we will be facing under a rapidly changing climate. Mike Flattley (Royal Society of Victoria) and Anthony Boxshall (Science Into Action) invited a number of speakers to discuss how we can build resilience into our planning strategies for water, agriculture and biodiversity. Featuring David McKenzie and Claire Flanagan-Smith on the Goulburn Murray Resilience Strategy, Lauren Rickards on Climate Change and Systems Transformation, Brendan Wintle on Decision Making for Biodiversity, Briony Rogers on Preparing the Water Sector for Transition, Richard Eckard on the Transition of the Agricultural Sector, and Sarah Bekessy on Building Community Ownership and Agency in the process.