The Royal Geographical Society of Queensland Ltd
Dear Fellow Members,
I hope you are continuing to stay safe and well as we move into the next stages of coping with the COVID-19 virus. It is now clearly evident that, fortunately, Australia and New Zealand have done very well compared to many other countries. At the time of writing, Qld, SA, WA and the NT have had very few or no new cases for a couple of weeks. Check out the number of cases on the RGSQ home page, updated daily by the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center (worldwide totals) and by the UQ-Qld Centre for Population Research (Qld totals) by clicking on the graphics or links at https://rgsq.org.au.
Re-opening RGSQ premises?
Now that the Queensland government is lifting some restrictions, the RGSQ Council is considering when we could start to re-open RGSQ premises. Initially this would only be for 2-3 volunteers at a time who would feel comfortable about coming in to Fortescue Street to continue working on some projects e.g. the library, maps and archives collections and AGC scanning. This would also be dependent on staff presence. We will review the situation at the June Council meeting. In the meantime we certainly intend to be vigilant, stay at home where possible and await the results from the easing of restrictions especially around Southeast Queensland. It is to be hoped that we do not see a dreaded “second wave” of cases.
A meeting of three Society Presidents
I am sure many members are utilising technologies such as Skype and Zoom to connect remotely with family, friends, work colleagues and networks in other clubs and societies. On 27th April, I had the opportunity to connect with the President of the Royal Geographical Society of South Australia. We had planned to have a three-way presidents’ meeting via Zoom involving RGSQ (Iraphne), RGSSA (Leigh Radford) and the Geographical Society of NSW (Rae Dufty-Jones). Unfortunately, the Zoom hook-up failed and so, instead, Leigh and Iraphne had a phone meeting. Later, Rae contributed to our conversation notes. While all three Societies have suspended activities at least until July, we have been trying to keep our respective members engaged during the “stay at home” period via publications and online activities.
Here are some examples of what we are doing and ideas for the future:
Members’ ideas on any of the above are always welcome.
With best wishes
Dr Iraphne Childs, President
As Governor of Queensland and Patron of the Royal Geographical Society of Queensland, I was very pleased to receive an invitation from your President, Dr Iraphne Childs, to reach out to members through the RGSQ Bulletin at this challenging time.
His Excellency the Honourable Paul de Jersey AC, Governor of Queensland. Courtesy of Government House Queensland
It has been a difficult start to the year, with the Society’s meetings, lectures and trips either cancelled or postponed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and I know that this experience is a matter of great concern to members. Let me reassure you that Kaye and I have you in our thoughts.
A once-in-a-lifetime event such as this demonstrates very clearly that the Society’s diverse program of events does much more than contribute to improving public understanding of our community and environment. It also plays a vital role in promoting social cohesion by bringing people together to share conversations and collaborate in bringing ideas and plans to fruition. I am very much aware that you will all be missing this interaction.
Somewhat ironically, the COVID-19 pandemic will provide geographers with research opportunities for years to come. Now, however, as the Australian and Queensland governments consider how and when to reduce the restrictions imposed to combat the spread of the coronavirus, our focus must continue to be on remaining compliant, patient, and supportive.
I am confident that the Society, in common with other community-based organisations, will bounce back with renewed energy once this event has passed.
In the meantime, let me reiterate the message on your website – stay safe, but above all, stay curious!
His Excellency the Honourable Paul de Jersey AC
Governor of Queensland
Dear Fellow Members, I hope you are all keeping safe and well as we cope with the COVID-19 virus. The pandemic is redefining our relationship with physical space: distance, proximity, spread, hot spots, and scale - in a word Geography – everyone is concerned with where. We are thinking about it on personal and local scales, navigating supermarket aisles and converting rooms into home offices. We are dealing with it at the regional scale, moving medical equipment from places with surplus to places in need. We listen to reports from epidemiologists functioning at national and global scales, as they work to understand how a virus could travel so far so fast and cause such devastation.
Australia does seem to be coping well compared to some other parts of the world. As at this writing, our daily number of new cases has decreased to the point where some states have had no new cases and the government is planning to ease some restrictions.
If there are any positive outcomes of this pandemic, one, surely, has to be the reduction in air pollution around the world. Indeed, this is observable from space.
Satellites are a key component of global efforts to tackle air pollution. Data from many major cities show a strong correlation between reduced levels of air pollutants and actions taken to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic. Air pollution around the world has dropped as countries scale back economic activity and drastically reduce travel by road and air. An important and encouraging lesson is that when we remove the sources of pollution, unhealthy air clears up almost overnight. As far as the environment and our health is concerned, this is an excellent thing. However, the lockdown in economic activity cannot continue and scientists warn that, unfortunately, the reprieve in air quality will only be short term. A surge in emissions as economies recover is likely to leave the environment again worse off. Achieving the inevitable transition to a low-carbon-low-polluting future is a major challenge. A weak global economy may threaten investment in renewable energy sources and associated long-term jobs, particularly given the present availability of cheap oil and lobbying to develop more new coal mines for profits in the short-term.
“Could governments and economies view this clean-air episode as an opportunity to begin to re-align policies towards a sustainable future?”
Our cities may again breathe clean air hopefully sooner rather than later.
Melissa Lunden and Meghan Thurlow The stunning impact of COVID-19 social distancing on air pollution (March 31, 2020) https://www.greenbiz.com/article/stunning-impact-covid-19-social-distancing-air-pollution
New York Post China’s skies are briefly clearer while factories stay shut March 3, 2020
Gabriel da Silva, COVID-19 drop in pollution to be short-lived Engineering & Technology 30 March 2020 https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/covid-19-drop-in-pollution-to-be-short-lived
RGSQ President Dr. Iraphne Childs
By Dr Emma Kennedy
The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is currently experiencing its most widespread coral bleaching (a physiological response to heat stress) to date. In January, NOAA satellites detected warmer-than-usual sea surface temperatures, which continued through to March, with February breaking a record as the warmest since records began in 1900. With heat stress accumulating much faster than scientists originally anticipated, survey teams were scrambled from across regions and institutions to assess the impact on corals across the world famous Marine Park’s massive 344,400 sq kmextent. The 2020 mass coral bleaching marks the third major bleaching event in just five years.
Aerial surveys conducted by Prof Terry Hughes from the ARC Centre of Excellence and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Dr James Kerry over a period of 9 days in late March gave scientists the best overview of the damage. Flying a light aircraft 150 m above the ocean, the team’s flight path crisscrossed 1036 of the Great Barrier Reefs approx. 2900 reefs, giving researchers an opportunity to eyeball each reef and assign a score (either <1%, 1-10%, 10-30%, 30-60% or >60%) based on the estimated proportion of corals bleached white. Survey scores released in early April matched the footprint of the heat stress, which was concentrated on inshore reefs. While outer reefs and much of the northern area appeared to escape this bleaching, and some central reef areas – including the tourist areas of Cairns and Port Douglas – were spared, south of Cairns the damage was extensive. A quarter of all reefs surveyed were assigned a “severe bleaching” category (where >60% corals affected), and these reefs were found in every sector of the GBR for the first time. This makes the bleaching footprint the most widespread ever reported for the Reef, and just second to the 2016 GBR bleaching in terms of severity. Just 40% of reefs fell into the “no bleaching” >1% bleaching category. Dive teams were deployed to collect underwater field data to help verify aerial scores, although for many researchers – including my own Remote Sensing Research Centrelab trying to get to our reef sites at one of the worst affected areas in the Keppel Islands – COVID-19 restrictions limited our ability to access field sites.
Of particular concern for scientists was the impact on the southern reefs, which had largely escaped the 2016 and 2017 mass bleaching events, and had been thriving despite crown-of-thorns outbreaks in the Swains reefs. Catastrophic declines in the number and recruitment of corals followed the 2016 and 2017 events. Although some recovery has been observed, it is not known how this year’s bleaching has affected new coral recruits. The time between these major disturbances generally does not allow coral assemblages to recover. This kind of heatwave recurrence was not predicted until later into the 2030s. Part of the reason that little bleaching was documented in the Far Northern Reef areas is that most of the reefs there are extremely damaged, making the small number of living corals harder to observe from above, a phenomenon scientists have dubbed “ecological memory”, or “dead reefs can’t bleach”.
Particularly concerning for scientists was the impact on the southern reefs, which had escaped recent mass bleachings in 2016 and 2017, and had been thriving despite crown-of-thorns outbreaks in the Swains. UQ’s remote sensing research group surveyed the stunning Hardline Reefs last year as part of their project to map the Great Barrier Reef. Credit: Emma Kennedy
While events on the Great Barrier Reef often focus media attention, the bleaching was not just restricted to the Park: in February our dive team returned from the remote Coral Sea after surveying kilometres of corals. Coral bleaching does not always equate to mortality. Generally, warmer-than-normal temperatures (defined by scientists as “Degree Heating Weeks” DHWs – the period of time water temperature remains >1 degree C above the maximum monthly mean for that that area) that exceed 6 DHWs are associated with significant coral loss. Accumulated heat stress was not as high in 2020 as in 2016. As we transition into winter, temperatures are starting to cool and the stress is beginning to alleviate. Only with time will scientists be able to understand the true long-term impacts of this summer’s heatwave.
With 64,000 Australian jobs reliant on the Reef, the economic impacts of bleaching could be felt for years to come. The GBR brings in an estimated $6.4 billion to the economy. Dive Instructor Tanya Murphy described it as “Gut wrenching - unless we cut down on carbon pollution urgently, tens of thousands of tourism workers like me who are currently on jobseeker payments due to coronavirus are going to be out of work permanently”. Meanwhile the Morrison Government has announced a $100 million commitment (of the $443 million given to the controversial Great Barrier Reef Foundation) towards a Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program (RRAP) to explore technological solutions from cloud brightening to larval reseeding of damaged areas.
Bleaching data for the 2016 and 2017 global mass-bleaching event showed damage concentrated north of Cairns, and in the central areas from Cairns to Townsville respectively. Southern reefs had largely escaped recent warming, until this summer. Credit: Terry Hughes, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University
While these innovations are exciting, without a concerted effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions both at home and abroad, the future of the reef seems bleak. Corals are extremely vulnerable to elevated ocean temperatures. The 2019 IPCC report warned that limiting global warming to <1.5°C was critical to ensure the survival of functioning reef systems that support over a billion people by providing food, coastal protection and jobs globally. In an online discussion on the scientific findings of the Great Barrier Reef surveys live-streamed to over 300 scientists and reef managers, James Cook University’s Prof Morgan Pratchett, involved in coordinating the bleaching response, said “we need to act to reduce the severity of bleaching events … the only way to do that is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions”
“Our planet’s summer from hell is not over by any means”
As Australia’s long and desperate summer finally draws to an end, seasons shift and the heatwave migrates into the Indian Ocean, researchers in the Maldives are already noting the first signs of bleaching on their reefs. As we begin to survey the aftermath, scientists across the planet are now trying to find a way to check on their local reefs in this difficult time.
Heat stress data from the Bureau of Meteorology shows “Degree Heating Days” an accumulation of above-average warm days (climatology taken from 1993-2003) over the Australian summer (1stDec to 31stMarch), derived from IMOS L3S AVHRR sea surface temperature (SST) products. Heat stress accumulated on southern inshore reefs this summer. Credit: BOM
The Great Barrier Reef, indicating location of surveyed reefs that were most severely affected (more than 60% corals estimated to be bleaching red circles) and those that were least impacted (<1% corals bleaching, green circles) by the heatwave. In total, 1036 reefs were surveyed. Credit: Terry Hughes, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University
Bleaching corals in the Keppel Islands. The Keppel Islands near Rockhampton were one of the worst affected areas, but because of COVID-19 restrictions, University of Queensland scientists were not able to access their reef sites to assess bleaching impact. Credit: Oliver Lanyon
by Iraphne Childs
Geography in Australian universities
As RGSQ President, I’m fortunate to be able to represent the RGSQ at the meetings of the Australian Academy of Sciences National Committee for Geographical Sciences (NCGS). During the most recent NCGS teleconference, on 20 February, it was decided to send a letter to all Australian University Vice-Chancellors entitled “Responding to Australia’s current crises: Geography’s place” - emphasising the contributions that Geography makes in tackling the challenges of our environment and society – a timely reminder following the weather events of the 2019-2020 summer and the impact of the coronavirus. Universities play a critical role in educating the next generation of professional geographers and in improving the geographical literacy of Australian citizens. We encourage universities to support more Geographers and Geography courses! The VCs have been provided with copies of Geography: Shaping Australia’s Future, published by the Australian Academy of Science in late 2018. Prepared by the National Committee for Geographical Sciences the report presents the state of play of Geography as a discipline in Australia and provides a unified vision for Australian geography over the next decade.
Geography and the spread of COVID-19:
In the wider world, of course, the news is full of depressing statistics and daily updates about COVID-19. Predictions of the further course of the epidemic are decisive in order to deploy targeted disease control measures. Those of you familiar with Swedish Geographer Torsten Hägerstrand’s early work on diffusion theory will recognise that this was the basis for many early epidemiological studies by medical geographers mapping the spatial-temporal diffusion of diseases.
As was presented by Dr. Thomas Sigler at our March lecture evening, the evolving field of network-based modelling is beneficial for an accurate forecast of epidemic outbreaks e.g. the Ebola outbreaks in West Africa. Studies are already underway using network analysis to model the spread of the COVID-19 virus in Hubei Province, China. The network used is composed of the cities in Hubei and their interactions (e.g. traffic flow).
I hope all RGSQ members will stay safe and avoid the virus over the weeks and months ahead.
Source:WHO Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report –50.
Geography: Shaping Australia’s Future
Prasse, B. et.al (2020) Network Prediction of the 2019-CoV Epidemic Outbreak in the Chinese Province Hubei Physics and Society 12 February
Dr. Iraphne Childs, President RGSQ
I write to you on behalf of the Society’s Council, which held a meeting on 17th March. We considered our responsibilities to our members in the current public health crisis with the COVID-19 virus. While the situation is constantly changing, and we will endeavour to keep you up to date, we have made the following unanimous decisions:
We trust you will appreciate the duty of care which Council feels obliged to exercise in the current circumstances, to a membership which largely falls into the highest risk category. It is our desire to limit any risks to you, by ceasing all non-essential activities. We will continue to communicate with you during this period and look forward to getting back to normal as soon as possible. As President, I wish that you all stay well and encourage you to monitor and heed the changing medical and Government advice.
Dr Iraphne Childs, President RGSQ
Our “Welcome night” on 4th February, the first members’ meeting of 2020, was well-attended and very successful. Thanks to all those members who prepared and presented updates and activities for 2020 from the various committees and special interest groups. It’s clear we have a great progam for the year ahead. I hope you can come along to the lectures and participate in some of the interesting activites and treks – you can find the whole year’s program on the RGSQ website. During the Welcome night I was particularly pleased to catch up with some members from the Sunshine Coast. We are looking at options for presenting some lectures at the University of the Sunshine Coast again and/or making lecture presentations available online from RGSQ Spring Hill.
A big thank you to all the volunteers who have helped with the first AGC mailout on 5-7 February. We couldn’t run the AGC without you!
This title is achieved through an accreditation program based with the Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers (RGS-IBG) in the UK. Established in 2002, a Chartered Geographer is the internationally recognised accreditation for people who apply geographical skills, knowledge and understanding and are committed to maintaining their expertise through continuing professional development. “The Chartered Geographer accreditation gives confidence to employers, customers and decision makers that the professionals who attain this status are practicing at a high level within their sector, can advise on innovative solutions and are active contributors to a vibrant international geographical community.” Andy Murdock - Chair of Chartered Geographer Final Assessors Committee. Chartered Geographers’ knowledge and skills may be in the physical, environmental, resource management, social sciences or in the humanities, and across many areas of work: in education, teaching and training, in research, in the commercial world, including consultancy, in the public sector, charitable and not-for-profit organisations and in the planning professions. Chartered Geographers must be Fellows of the RGS-IBG. Eligibility has some fairly rigorous standards and involves an annual fee. There is a Framework of Competencies and a Code of Conduct designed to help Chartered Geographers to demonstrate their expertise and experience, no matter what their career stage.
It is an interesting concept that the Institute of Australian Geographers IAG) some time ago had considered implementing for Australian Geographers but as yet has not implemented. I would expect that such accreditation should make it possible for the work and expert advice of geographers to be more widely recognised, cited and referenced in policy and strategic documents. For example, in January 2018 the UK Government’s Science and Engineering (GSE) profession announced the appointment of a new pan-government Head of Geography, David Wood, a Senior Geospatial Data Analyst and Economic Geographer. No doubt the availability and status of Chartered Geographer assisted in championing the breadth of work undertaken by geographers in the UK, recognising their contribution to analysis, delivery and policy formulation across government. Currently there are at least 12 Australian Geographers who hold the RGS-IBG Chartered Geographer accreditation. The program may be of interest and worth considering in future especially for some of our Young Geographers.
Iraphne Childs, President
invite written submissions from an Australian Geographer for the Ken Sutton Trust Memorial Award.
This award will be promoted through an endowed public lecture in Brisbane in 2020, preferably in early October, and a publication as a pinnacle activity for RGSQ.
For full selection criteria download Application Form
Submission deadline: 30 April 2020
Email submission to: email@example.com
Inquiries to: firstname.lastname@example.org or (07) 3368 2066The winner will be notified by email/phone.
The awardee will receive support for: publication of a paper, costs associated with presenting in Brisbane and $500 prize money.
Find out more about Ken Sutton Trust and Ken Sutton.
Dear Fellow Members, welcome to 2020.
The disastrous start to the year with the devastating bushfires has affected people in so many regions, our ecosystems, wildlife and local economies. I do hope that all RGSQ members and their families have stayed safe.
As I have a professional interest in disaster management, I would like to share one aspect of the bushfire response. It is now widely recognised that resource capacity for dealing with the increasing scale and severity of natural disasters within individual countries across the Asia-Pacific necessitates greater international cooperation. In terms of fighting large-scale bushfires, we have already seen many examples of international cooperation between Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA.
Australia and New Zealand have long-standing reciprocal first-response exchange arrangements of disaster and emergency personnel. This has included Australian Search and Rescue personnel deployed to the 2011 Christchurch earthquake and New Zealand fire fighters to the current 2019-2020 bushfires in Australia. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern pledged bushfire-fighting support in November 2019 and we have seen on-going contingents of NZ fire-fighters arriving from across the Tasman throughout this summer. Highlighting the scale of the catastrophic bushfires was the unwelcome gift from Australia of the smoke and ash to New Zealand which has "caramelised" the normally pristine white Tasman Glacier in early January some 3000km away from the actual burn!
Satellite imagery showing the south-east drift of smoke from Australia to New Zealand.
Source: Bureau of Meteorology 1 Jan at 10:40am.
For the past two decades, Australia, Canada and the US have exchanged personnel and equipment during major fires in their respective countries. In July 2018, around 200 Australian firefighters were deployed to the United States to help battle bushfires across the north-west of the nation. In January this year, for the first time, the NSW Rural Fire Service called upon the US for a reciprocal fire-fighting response. Canadian firefighters have left freezing conditions in their homeland to help fight Australian bushfires this summer, giving up Christmas with their families to do so. Fortunately, the Canadian and US personnel operate on similar systems to those in Australia, so the teams add value to our firefighting operations very quickly.
A major emerging issue for fire authorities in terms of international cooperation is that there are no longer very distinctive “fire seasons” in different parts of the globe. Climatic conditions are producing seasonal fire weather and conflagrations that overlap between the northern and southern hemispheres. Longer fire seasons threaten to disrupt the sharing of vital personnel and equipment. Australia could previously rely on hiring specialist water-bombing aircraft and equipment from north America during our summers. Those exchange arrangements could be strained as the combination of climate change, more droughts, high temperatures and winds and lengthening fire seasons produce more severe blazes. Critical resources may be needed at the same time in both Australia and California, for example. The lengthening of fire seasons has also meant there have been shorter and fewer safe “windows” within which to carry out controlled burning for fuel-reduction – the limitations on this being the actual drought and weather, not any restrictions placed on fuel-reduction according to fire authorities (NSW Rural Fire Commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons, Jan 8th 2020).
I look forward to seeing you at the RGSQ Welcome night on 4th February. We will be presenting activities for the Society’s year ahead and offering a delicious welcome supper. We will also have a raffle, so bring along your small change.
Dear Fellow Members
A CLG at last! The Society year is ending with very welcome news – on 30th October we received confirmation that, taking effect from 25th October, our registration as a Company Limited by Guarantee had been approved by ASIC. This is the culmination of a 3-year challenging process. On behalf of all members, our congratulations and thanks to Roger Grimley, Lilia Darii and Chris Spriggs for their efforts in seeing this through. Our lawyer, Heather Beckingsale, has provided legal advice pro bono throughout the process for which we are most grateful. So the RGSQ Council now constitutes a Board of Directors (although we still retain the nomenclature “Council” and “Councillors”).
UQ Students present their findings: On 17th October the UQ post-graduate students who had been researching our membership as a project for their degree, presented their report to RGSQ. A copy is available to members in the office. 100 members responded to the online survey part of the exercise. Key findings include:
Engaging with the UQ Business School has been a worthwhile exercise, incurring no cost to RGSQ and the UQ staff involved have been very good to work with. We hope to continue this association in the future.
A visit to the Museum, Lands, Mapping & Surveying: On 31st October I represented RGSQ at the opening in 317 Edward Street of the new Museum of Lands, Mapping and Surveying (Dept. of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy). This occasion also commemorated the 200th anniversary of the birth of Queensland’s first Surveyor General, A.C. Gregory. Links have been made for RGSQ Map group to visit the Museum which houses many items of interest used by surveyors and cartographers in bygone eras. For example, in 1919 the Harvard Observatory in Peru expressed interest in shifting its instruments to Australia and Queensland was chosen for the relocation. In 1921 the Qld Surveyor General conducted tests for the “clarity of the atmosphere” at various sites on the Darling Downs. The 4-inch Grubb Astronomical Telescope now in the museum was used for this. Although the tests were satisfactory, the transfer of the observatory to Queensland never eventuated.
The Museum also has a bust of our foundation president, Augustus Charles Gregory. Bill Kitson, who is known to many members, related the story of its acquisition. For many years the bust was held in the Gregory Masonic Lodge, Cairns. In 2018 through the efforts of John Cavill-Jones and others, the bust was entrusted to David Kirchner who arranged for the transfer of the Gregory bust to the Museum of Lands, Mapping and Surveying in Brisbane where it is now on display.
The RGSQ Christmas Party: I look forward to seeing you at our Christmas party on December 3rd. There will be a couple of special awards and a quiz to test your geographical knowledge ! This year we will also have a raffle (tickets $2 or 3 for $5) so bring along your spare coins. On behalf of Council and Staff I extend my best wishes to all members for a happy and safe Christmas-New Year season.
The Royal Geographical Society of Queensland Ltd
Gregory Place, Level 1/28 Fortescue St, Spring Hill Qld 4000Tel 07 3368 2066ABN 87 014 673 068 | ACN 636 005 email@example.com