Following a traditional Welcome-to-Country, Simon Allen from Murdoch University took the stage to kick off our evening of scientific discovery. Simon is a 'cetacean' scientist - meaning he's an expert on carnivorous marine mammals like whales, dolphins, and porpoises.
Simon began by talking about the Kimberley's many dolphin species, including the curious-looking Snubfin Dolphin, Humpback Dolphin and newly described Dwarf Spinner Dolphin. He also highlighted the flaws of Woodside's environmental impact assessment of the proposed gas hub site at James Price Point which, as one audience member pointed out, calls the integrity of science in Western Australia into question.
Next, Maddie Goddard from the Walmadan Active Research Collective inspired the audience with stories of the many citizen science projects taking place at James Price Point throughout the year. As a leading researcher and organiser of the Humpback Whale and turtle surveying programs, Maddie was able to give a first-hand account of the large numbers of Humpbacks - including hundreds of pairs of mothers and calves - spotted during this year's observation period. In contrast to the environmental impact assessment by the state government, the work of Maddie and her colleagues follows sound scientific method, and will be subject to rigorous peer review.
Our third speaker, bilby ecologist Malcolm Lindsey, was unfortunately unable to make it on the night. However, Maddie was able to speak on his behalf. Malcolm and his team have found indisputable evidence of breeding bilby colonies near the site of the proposed gas hub, despite Woodside and the state government reporting that no bilbies were present there.
Our forum wrapped up with a screening an ABC Catalyst episode featuring the dinosaur trackway at James Price Point, after which our audience got the chance to pose questions to paleontologist Dr Steve Salisbury live via Skype. An extensive Q&A with other panel members topped off the evening.
Thanks to all those who attended our Protect the Kimberley science forum, and a special thank you to Simon, Maddie and Steve for sharing their expertise.
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