The 2007 Oceania meeting took place in Sydney, Australia. Following is a note about the conference from Karen Firestone and Richard Kingsford. The 2007 Sydney Meeting Evaluation is available here. (20kb pdf format)
What a fantastic success! The inaugural meeting of the Oceanian section of the Society for Conservation Biology ‘The Biodiversity Extinction Crisis—An Australian and Pacific Response' had 369 attendees, 11 plenaries, 5 symposia, 22 concurrent sessions, 146 contributed oral presentations, and 15 poster presentations. The conference focussed on five major themes including: regional challenges, managing threatening processes of universal importance, case studies of conservation in action, including biodiversity monitoring and assessment, conservation science and policy, and conservation science and the community. The two opening plenaries, by Professor Michael Soulé and Dick Watling set the stage for the rest of the three day meeting. Michael gave a broad overview comparing conservation challenges in North America to those in Australia while Dick talked about the disparity of resourcing between non-government conservation agencies and Government agencies in Fiji.
There was also wide media coverage of the conference including Professor Chris Dickman's thought provoking plenary talk on conservation in arid lands, and the symposium on dingoes, ‘Do dingoes have a role in conservation'.
The number of registrants far exceeded our initial expectations. Such a large attendance at this conference indicates the strong need and desire for conservation meetings of this sort in the Oceanian region and many favourable comments were received from delegates that attended. The vast majority of attendants (88%) were from Australia, but we also had 12% delegates from other countries. Other countries represented included New Zealand (4%), Papua New Guinea (3%), Fiji (2%), the United States (2%), and a single representative from each of New Caledonia, French Polynesia, India, and Colombia. We were particularly gratified to have such good attendance from the developing nations in our region.
Sponsorship was another key factor in the success of this meeting and allowed us to help support members and students from developing nations to attend. Many thanks go out to our key sponsors including: the Society for Conservation Biology, the Department of Environment and Water Resources, the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change, the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, Landcare Research NZ, Land and Water Australia, the Invasive Animals CRC, CSIRO publishing, the Zoological Parks Board of NSW, and the Humane Society International. Additional thanks go to the University of New South Wales Bookshop and Surrey Beatty & Sons for providing student awards. And a special thanks to the University of New South Wales for hosting the meeting.
Analysis of the evaluation forms distributed to delegates at the conference is still taking place. Preliminary results indicated that the overwhelming majority of the plenaries, symposia and concurrent sessions were considered to be excellent, very good, or good. Similarly the location, venue facilities, meeting rooms, registration process, catering and venue staff rated very highly.
Some recurring comments indicated the difficulty of moving between sessions, the need for further discussion time, more interactions and involvement with and by indigenous Australians and those from developing nations, and more talks on plant and invertebrate conservation issues.
Though we are still finalizing all the details and the outcomes from this landmark meeting, financially, the section has made a good profit from the meeting which will be used to help support other conservation programs and initiatives in the region. From all accounts it was a resounding success and we are looking forward to seeing you at the next meeting in 2009!
-Karen Firestone and Richard Kingsford