Grad Seminar 2016

After getting preliminaries out of the way in the first class for Graduate Seminar: Environmental Science, today’s class discussed the process of publication and peer review. However, the discussion broadened into biases in science, including gender bias, and (very briefly) the issue around reproducibility in science (or the lack thereof).

Regarding gender bias in ecology, it is worth watching this video featuring Professors Emma Johnston and Mark Burgman. Emma Johnston also has a recent article in The Conversation.


Regarding reproducibility, read this, this, and this.

We also discussed topics that we want to cover in the class, things that we like about The University of Melbourne, and things we don’t like. We’ll post about those things shortly.


Nuclear energy for biodiversity conservation

We are going to kick off our subject Graduate Seminar: Environmental Science by discussing this recent paper by Barry Brook and Corey Bradshaw:

Key role for nuclear energy in global biodiversity conservation

Here is the abstract:

Modern society uses massive amounts of energy. Usage rises as population and affluence increase, and energy production and use often have an impact on biodiversity or natural areas. To avoid a business-as-usual dependence on coal, oil, and gas over the coming decades, society must map out a future energy mix that incorporates alternative sources. This exercise can lead to radically different opinions on what a sustainable energy portfolio might entail, so an objective assessment of the relative costs and benefits of different energy sources is required. We evaluated the land use, emissions, climate, and cost implications of 3 published but divergent storylines for future energy production, none of which was optimal for all environmental and economic indicators. Using multicriteria decision-making analysis, we ranked 7 major electricity-generation sources (coal, gas, nuclear, biomass, hydro, wind, and solar) based on costs and benefits and tested the sensitivity of the rankings to biases stemming from contrasting philosophical ideals. Irrespective of weightings, nuclear and wind energy had the highest benefit-to-cost ratio. Although the environmental movement has historically rejected the nuclear energy option, new-generation reactor technologies that fully recycle waste and incorporate passive safety systems might resolve their concerns and ought to be more widely understood. Because there is no perfect energy source however, conservation professionals ultimately need to take an evidence-based approach to consider carefully the integrated effects of energy mixes on biodiversity conservation. Trade-offs and compromises are inevitable and require advocating energy mixes that minimize net environmental damage. Society cannot afford to risk wholesale failure to address energy-related biodiversity impacts because of preconceived notions and ideals.

The full paper is here. Have any counter arguments to this piece been published? Do any such arguments exist? What is the evidence to support these counter arguments? I look forward to the discussion.