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Alexandra

Alexandra Campbell

Year of Award: 2014 Award State: New South Wales Environment > Sustainability
Environment > Water
To understand and prevent degradation of coral reefs - Fiji, USA, Brazil
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The key lessons and outcomes from my fellowship are listed below:

Key lesson 1a: Restoration, although very useful in certain situations, is not a panacea for correcting human impacts in marine ecosystems. Rather it is a useful tool that should be but one part of a broad, multifaceted management approach and will often be inappropriate altogether.

Key lesson 1b: Including a significant public outreach and education component is essential for a successful restoration program, because it will educate people about the original problem, provide a science-based solution to said problem, create an opportunity for local residents to become involved, thus promoting stewardship of the local marine environment.

Key Outcome 1: I am working towards developing a Marine Restoration Framework that will outline how to initiate restoration projects in marine ecosystems that (a) are scientifically sound and (b) maximise the opportunity to engage with the local community via education programs, volunteering and citizen science. This will be disseminated to the scientific community via publication in peer-reviewed journals, followed by articles pitched to popular magazines (e.g. The Conversation) and in an additional ‘practical guide’ to be disseminated to conservation groups engaging in restoration activities.

Key lesson 2: ‘Sliding baselines’ is an intergenerational change in the perception of the state of natural environments, where each generation perceives the environment of their childhood as ‘natural’ and fails to recognise the impacts of previous generations. This results in a constant readjustment of our expectations of nature to lower levels and represents a major challenge for meaningful conservation efforts. I observed a ‘spatial’ slide in baselines during my fellowships, when my perception of a marine protected area on the Costa Brava was very different to the perception of other marine scientists from different parts of the world of the same place on the same day. I postulate that my expectations of nature are greater than marine scientists from the eastern Mediterranean, because my reference is Australia’s relatively pristine reefs, where seaweed forests and fish are still numerous, whereas the eastern Mediterranean has huge areas that are completely barren. 

Key Outcome 2: This observation has inspired me to conduct a review of historical accounts and datasets to paint a quantitative picture of what marine life was like in Australia when Europeans first arrived in comparison to what we see today. The aim of this will be to highlight that what Australians experience as ‘natural’ today is actually just a remnant of what was here only a few generations ago. As well as accessing historical scientific records and engaging with Australia’s marine science community via professional networks (.g. the Australian Marine Science Association), I will also liaise with Indigenous community leaders to construct an educational program that illustrates (1) what Australia has already lost, (2) what needs to be done in the future. In addition to the publication of peer-reviewed scientific articles, I will pitch this idea to factual television makers (e.g. ABCs Catalyst) to reach as many Australians as possible.

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