Water Journal : Water Journal February 2015
water FEBRUARY 2015 38 workshop report WHAT’S GREEN, AND SMELLS WORSE THAN A FROG IN A BLENDER? Angela Gackle, Gayle Newcombe, Lee Bowling and Philip Orr wrote this report on the 4th National Cyanobacteria Workshop. There’s nothing like a crisis to get people motivated! Following extensive algal blooms in the Murray-Darling Basin in 2009, a number of cyanobacteria stalwarts, led by Lee Bowling of the NSW Office of Water, suggested that it would be useful to meet regularly to stay abreast of who’s doing what in the blue-green algae (BGA) space. The decision was made to convene the first National Cyanobacteria Workshop (NCW) with the specific aims of ensuring efficient knowledge exchange and, if needed, to mentor younger staff to ensure Australia remains at the forefront of cyanobacterial research and management. Water Research Australia (WaterRA) has made an ongoing commitment to support these workshops, with a modest funding arrangement plus assistance with logistics and organisation such as compiling and printing of abstract booklets, and maintaining webpages for each event. WaterRA also ensures that the workshop knowledge is shared by publishing on its website for public viewing relevant content, including presentations, from the event. BACKGROUND ON THE NATIONAL CYANOBACTERIA WORKSHOPS The first National Cyanobacteria Workshop was hosted by the NSW Office of Water in Parramatta in 2009, while the second was held in Melbourne the following year and hosted by the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment and Department of Health. These first meetings included presentations from many key organisations on their issues and current challenges, and what researchers across Australia were up to. They were low-key and relied on word of mouth to spread the invitation to participate. Importantly the environment was relaxed, informal and non- commercial. Sometimes the research presented was “hot off the press”, so the workshops provided a safe and encouraging forum in which to discuss projects, technologies, ideas and questions of common or specific interest. At the second meeting the consensus was that holding the workshop annually was too frequent, and every second year would work better in terms of time commitment and keeping pace with the progress of research projects. The third workshop was at CSIRO Black Mountain in Canberra (2012) and the fourth was recently held at the University of Adelaide (2014). Around 100 people attended each NCW event. This was a loosely imposed limit, for ease of management, and seems to be a sustainable number. The participants are diverse and presentations are widely relevant. A comment was made at the 2014 workshop that the trend is generally towards greater specialisation and less of a “helicopter view” of research. The NCW allows us to address this, by creating a think-tank to take advantage of the considerable brainpower and experience in the room. THIS YEAR’S WORKSHOP Cyanobacteria are, of course, a concern for people in many segments of the water industry, as well as for the environment. This year’s participants comprised staff and researchers of state water and health departments, water utilities, universities, NGOs, CSIRO and analytical laboratories. The presentations reflected the diverse interests in cyanobacterial research of these participants, ranging from management strategies, control measures, taxonomy, ecology, potential impacts of climate change, genetics and molecular techniques for monitoring, problems in drinking water source waters and in wastewater treatment ponds, impacts of toxins on embryonic stem cells, remote sensing, and the operation of water treatment plants to optimise cyanobacterial cell and toxin removal. The workshop began with the Chair of the organising committee, Dr Gayle Newcombe, describing her efforts to identify and assess the benefits to the water industry of over 30 years of cyanobacteria research. The program of the workshop was aligned with Gayle’s thematic model of the research, which allocates research into three main “Research Themes” of Understanding, Measuring and Controlling. The presentations at the workshop fell nicely into the three themes, with the Understanding theme predominating in terms of numbers. Suzie Wood of the Cawthron Institute in New Zealand and Rod Oliver from CSIRO gave keynote talks. Suzie has attended most of the NCWs to date, and it’s great to have her input to the topic. Thematic model of cyanobacteria research impact, from Cyanobacteria Impact Study, Gayle Newcombe (for WaterRA) 2013. Michele Burford (Griffith University), Tim Malthus and Rod Oliver (CSIRO) enjoying a refreshment break during the fourth National Cyanobacteria Workshop (NCW).
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