After the Mendel Genetics Conference (which took place in July and was one of the highlights of this year’s celebrations of the bicentennial of the birth of Gregor Johann Mendel, the father of genetics), Masaryk University hosts another event bringing prominent figures of global science and research to Brno. This week, ICRI 2022 will bring together four hundred and fifty delegates from all over the world, making it one of the largest events taking place in the six months of the Czech Presidency of the EU Council. Among the guests is leading Australian ecologist and mathematician Hugh Possingham, who will also join the Citizen Programme, which opens the conference to the general public for the first time in its over 20-year-long history.
While ICRI 2022 itself will run from Wednesday 19 October to Friday 21 October, the Citizen Programme kicks off on Monday to introduce the world’s leading experts and their work in a non-traditional, informal setting. Individual meetings will take place each weekday in the early evening. The Tuesday programme is organised in cooperation with the VIDA! Science Centre and the Thursday programme will take place at the Brno Observatory and Planetarium. The odd days’ events are organised by Science Party Brno and will be held in the 4pokoje cocktail bar.
On Monday, physicist Vojtěch Pleskot will be there to talk about the search for the Higgs boson at CERN. Gihan Kamel, an Egyptian scientist working at the Jordanian synchrotron SESAME (sometimes called “the CERN of the Middle East”) who a few years ago made an impression with her TEDx Talk on science diplomacy, will appear on Friday. On Wednesday, Hugh Possingham, co-author of Marxan – the now globally-used protected areas planning software – will talk about saving the environment with the help of data.
“Marxan has already been used to design about half of the systems of protected areas around the world. From the Great Barrier Reef to areas in South Africa and the Amazon, to the Carpathians,” says Possingham. As a biologist and mathematician who prides himself on an interdisciplinary approach, he has added statistics to his other research interests. He is a co-author of the Brigalow Declaration, which has helped halt deforestation in Australia, reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the point where the country could meet its Kyoto Protocol obligations. “This declaration saved two million hectares of forests and woodlands and with them, forty million birds too.”
Possingham is also a keen bird watcher. He acquired the two disparate interests at an early age. “I used to go birdwatching with my dad in the countryside and was intrigued at the time by a book on the behaviour of bird communities. Its author, Martin Cody, explained their behaviour through mathematics,” recalls the now 60-year-old professor. “As different science disciplines develop, they become more mathematical. Scientists need to create models for their systems and I think all biologists – however much they may personally dislike mathematics – increasingly appreciate its contributions. And ecology is perhaps the most mathematical of all the natural sciences.”
However, it is important that scientists know how to work with data properly. That is also what Possingham will talk about on Wednesday at 4pokoje in his presentation titled “How Can Data Solve Environmental Problems”. “We are currently witnessing a rapid pace of extinction, which sadly does not seem to be slowing down. Therefore, it is extremely important to invest in the restoration of biodiversity, especially beyond Europe and North America,” says Possingham. “When someone asks me how much data we need to solve our environmental problems, I say that we often have more than enough, which is something many colleagues may disagree with. The question is whether we know how to use the data properly and whether we can communicate science to the public and to politicians well enough. But that’s what my presentation will be all about, so do come!”
ICRI 2022 Citizen Programme:
VIDA! After Dark: Light It Up!: VIDA! Science Centre, Křížkovského 554/12
Tuesday 18 October at 19:00
Those Who Move the Stars and the Universe: Brno Observatory and Planetarium, Kraví Hora 2
Thursday 20 October at 19:00