Bridging the science-policy gap

From left to right: Dr. Selma Klanten (University of Sydney), The Honourable Mark Butler (Parliamentary Shadow Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Water), Prof. Dave Booth (University of Technology, Sydney), Dr. Elizabeth Madin, and Mr. Steve Doo (university of Sydney)

From left to right: Dr. Selma Klanten (University of Sydney), The Honourable
Mark Butler (Parliamentary Shadow Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Water), Prof. Dave Booth (University of Technology, Sydney), Dr. Elizabeth Madin, and Mr. Steve Doo (University of Sydney)

This week I had the pleasure of being part of a small contingent from the Australian Coral Reef Society to brief The Honourable Mark Butler, the Parliamentary Shadow Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Water on the threats facing Australian coral reefs and possible policy-based solutions. It was a rare and welcome opportunity to do my part to help bridge the science-policy gap! Mr. Butler was well-informed and interested in what we had to say, asking great questions and likewise helping us to understand the political considerations surrounding coral reef conservation policy. Hopefully this will be the start of an ongoing dialogue between the Shadow Minister’s office and our scientific society.

UPDATE: Now, two weeks later, the Labour Party has announced that it will pledge $500m over five years to support scientific monitoring and science-based management of the Great Barrier Reef. Labour leader Bill Shorten said the GBR is now one of party’s ‘highest priorities’. Hopefully we had some role in helping make that the case!

The Guardian UK: “Labor pledges $500m over five years to support Great Barrier Reef”

Great Barrier Reef is severely bleaching

Due largely to the record-breaking high temperatures we’ve had lately, large sections of the northern Great Barrier Reef have begun bleaching (i.e., expelling the symbiotic algae that live within coral tissue and serve as a life-support system for corals). This is very bad news. In past bleaching events like this, some coral reefs never recover and become seaweed-dominated reefs lacking coral. Most experts agree that the root causes of the high temperatures (and the resulting coral bleaching events) include the burning of fossil fuels and release of other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere (e.g., through beef production)…which are both ultimately driven by human overpopulation and overconsumption.

Below are some recent photos taken by coral reef scientists Wen-Sung Chung and Justin Marshall (University of Queensland) from Lizard Island on Australia’s northern Great Barrier Reef. They tell a sad, rapidly-unfolding story of desperate corals.