Nearly 300 researchers from about 35 countries will converge
on Dunedin this weekend to take part in an international
The Seventh Southern Connection Congress is a
multidisciplinary gathering devoted to natural science
research involving the southern hemisphere.
The five-day congress, hosted by the University of Otago,
focuses on ''Southern Lands and Southern Oceans: Life on the
Edge?'' and starts on Monday.
The ''life on the edge'' theme acknowledges the ''growing
pressure from changing climate, extractive use and human
populations on the distinctive climates, biotas and human
settlement patterns'' which had unfolded since the breakup of
the ancient supercontinent Gondwana, congress organisers
said. A biota is the flora and fauna of a region.
The aim was to learn from ''shared and divergent biotas and
cultures'' and their histories, in order to ''contribute
solutions to sustaining species and ecosystem services'',
Topics range from alpine ecology to marine biology, from
mountains to the sea, and from Australian wildfires to
wilding pines in this country.
This is only the second time the Southern Connection Congress
has been held in New Zealand and it is believed to be one of
the most important multidisciplinary natural science
gatherings held in this country.
Among congress highlights is a public lecture by Australian
ecologist Prof Lesley Hughes on ''Southern Hemisphere
Biodiversity in a Changing Climate: 2050 and Beyond'', at
Otago University's Castle 2 lecture theatre at 7.30pm on
Wednesday. Dunedin conservationist Prof Sir Alan Mark's
latest book, Above the Treeline. A Nature Guide to Alpine New
Zealand, will be launched during the congress.
Prof Kath Dickinson, who heads the Otago botany department,
and Dr Bill Lee, of Landcare Research, Dunedin, are the
congress co-conveners. Many natural science researchers were
based in the northern hemisphere, but the congress reflected
growing awareness of the southern hemisphere's importance,
Prof Dickinson said.
New Zealand's diverse flora and fauna and our response to
conservation challenges were attracting a great deal of
''We're regarded as world leaders in some of these aspects,''