Panel 2: Systems and Flows

Destination Antarctica: Animal journeys and the far south
Hanne E F Nielsen and Jasmine Lee
University of Tasmania/ University of Queensland

Zebra Mussel crossing: Visualizing maritime supply chains along the St Lawrence river
Sydney Hart
PhD candidate, Cultural Studies
Queen’s University Canada

Managing ambiguous amphibians: Feral cows, people, and place in Ukraine’s Danube Biosphere Reserve
Dr. Tanya Richardson
Anthropology Program Coordinator
Wilfrid Laurier University

Comments 19

  1. Hi Tanya
    What a fascinating, tragic, and funny story! The bit about the herding of the wild cattle that turned around and ran back to their habitats is wonderful. I’ve studied wild cattle in the Simpson Desert, Australia. The sound of wild bulls roaring as they come in to water in the late evening remains the most wild experience I’ve had anywhere, anytime. These ‘Anthropocene aurochs’ of the Danube and the Simpson Desert are – to me – an expression of “wild” more profound than the wolves of Yellowstone or the elephants of Kruger.
    Best wishes,

    1. Hi Arian,

      Thank you for your comment on my presentation! I’m happy to hear that it resonated with you. I’m also fascinated to hear about wild cattle of the Simpson Desert. Have you published about them? Where can I read more about them? Looking forward to your presentation. Tanya

      1. Hi Tanya
        I’m ashamed to admit that even though I’ve already completed 6 years of data collection I haven’t published my Simpson Desert study yet…. I will! Soon! Very soon! Soonish?
        There are some photos of the Simpson Desert aurochs in my presentation you can see.
        We also published these two studies on introduced megafauna:
        Introduced megafauna are rewilding the Anthropocene:
        Invisible megafauna:
        Again, thanks for a great talk!

        1. Thank you, Arian! Please send the articles when they are published. In the meantime I will look at these and listen to your talk. Tanya

  2. Dear all,

    Welcome to this panel on systems and flows. Thanks to Tanya, Sydney, Hanne and Jasmine for such an interesting set of presentations, and to Arian for kicking off the questions and comments. The panel will be live until November 18th if you want to ask questions.


  3. Hi Sydney,
    This is more of a comment. First, thank you for you presentation, and diversity of skills that were used in the presentation. The visual component used through arcGIS is wonderful. I was wondering, is there a way in arcGIS to ‘hide’ the oncoming portions of the flow of supply chains for visual clarity? This is a minor aspect to your work, but I thought that it would allow for a more coherent flow.

  4. Hi Abigael!
    I appreciate your reflection on the visuals. As you can imagine, this paper was an opportunity to experiment with ways of using Geographic Information Systems and vessel tracking platforms in strange ways for artistic research. As a result, some of the information I was attempting to communicate may have been ” drowned out” in the process of representing river flows, e.g. by superimposing transparent maps. Most of the work in the viz was done through image and video editing software like After Effects. I wanted to foreground the use of ArcGIS and Marine Traffic websites though, since I imagined they’d be especially relevant for researchers at the conference. Let me know if you want more details… I see your comment as a good reminder of how clarity can be lost through image manipulation, and how tricky it can be to find the right balance with visualizations.

  5. Hi Hanne and Jasmine,

    Thank you both for a fascinating presentation – I learned a lot from it! I expecially appreciated the story about the cows. I wondered if you could comment about assembling a presentation and crafting a narrative together. I noticed that Hanne is based in the humanities/social sciences and Jasmine in conservation biology. Do you both share the same stance on regulating invasive species in Antarctica? It seems that the conference organizers and some presenters wish to challenge and question the meaning and use of this term and the negative associations with the species classified as such. Is there consensus among scientists and social scientists about how to relate to (and regulate) invasive species in Antarctica?

    1. Hi Tanya
      Great question – it was really fun crafting a presentation together. I found that social science and conservation science have some differences in style/approach to presenting information, but I think we managed to strike a good balance without disrupting the flow too much? In terms of stance on invasive species – I think most of the Antarctic community agrees that we should do everything we can to limit introduction of invasive species and control them if they are introduced (certainly I think Hanne and I agree). Maybe the Antarctic is a bit different to other places in the world (such as Australia, where there is a current debate over whether dingoes should be considered as native or not), because humans haven’t been there nearly as long and non-native species have been identified as one of the primary threats to native Antarctic biodiversity (because they are so highly adapted).

      1. Hi Jasmine and Hanne,

        Thank you for excellent presentation, I found it really helpful for illustrating the biopolitics of animals and plants and how they can be utilised for colonial purposes. I guess my main takeway from the presentation was that humans as an invasive species seem to be the biggest threat to Antarctica and wondered how humans are regulated in their engagement with the territory?

        Kind regards,

        1. Hi Holly,

          Thanks for your message! Antarctica is a super interesting example to look at because they have invaded from afar in many ways – the impacts of anthropogenic climate change are particularly visible even in locations which have had only a very recent physical human presence.

          Human activity in Antarctica is really tightly regulated these days, but it’s a recent thing – only since the Madrid Protocol was introduced in the 1990s. All human activities are subject to Initial Environmental Impact Assessment, and those with more than a minor or transitory impact are subject to a Comprehensive Environmental Evaluation. These are done through national governments that are Antarctic Treaty parties – the politics is quite unique. Also, there is no “polar police” – but nations can inspect the bases of others (initially a provision designed for looking for nuclear weapons, now used to ensure environmental compliance).

          Despite the concerns about footprints and impacts, I don’t think most of the workers and scientists who head south would think of themselves as an “invasive species” – because of the way humans so often set ourselves apart into our own category. That’s really problematic, of course! Antarctica often gets left out of the debates around theory and interaction with place that focus on other parts of the world, but is well overdue for further analysis from humanities, social sciences, and philosophy angles. (See http://www.antarctica-hasseg,com for some of the current researchers from these areas).

          I think it would be super interesting to have this as a topic at one of the philosophy sessions here at IMAS, and dig deeper into the question of how those who work there position themselves, and why – and to hear further thoughts from other listeners!

          Best Wishes,


          1. Hi Hanne,

            Many thanks for your thorough response, some really interesting issues to consider.

            Kind regards,

      2. Hello Jasmine, you seem to be using the term ‘invasive’ to mean all nonnative species. Although this is a common mistake, the term ‘invasive’ is supposed to be applied only to those nonnative species causing harm. So, do you mean permitting some new species to establish that are not threatening any of the native species is ok. Or, do you mean that every nonnative plant species would be viewed as harmful? Others might view the addition of more species simply as change and not harm. I do question what seems to be a passionate desire to keep the Antarctic flora down to two species. Really? First of all this is certainly going to be impossible. The warming temperatures will inevitably result in species dispersed by wind, animals, and humans to become established. Second, why the arbitrary decision to maintain Antarctica as a biodiversity museum (with only 2 plant species) of the recent period of Antarctica climate? In the geological past, the continent had a much diverse flora and fauna. –Mark

    2. Hi Tanya,

      Thanks for your question.

      Personally, I am very aware of the ways the “purity” trope associated with Antarctica has been deployed for various political purposes. It’s super relevant in this instance also, as the idea of Antarctica as a “last wilderness” is one way of encouraging protection. However, it also takes for granted the current stand point of the Antarctic community (where Antarctica is a place for peace and science, and protection is paramount), and glosses over the messy and entangled pasts where humans, non-humans (endemic and foreign), and Antarctica have interacted.

      I would agree with Jasmine that amongst the wider Antarctic studies community there is a desire to “protect” Antarctica – although protection comes in many guises. Some are interested in historic sites, others in the ecosystems etc. And there can be conflict between different groups of researchers also as to what should be “protected” (eg soil scientists walking in the streams, but water scientists walking on the soil because of different focusses). I’d also say that the troubled nature of the rhetoric of protection has not gone unnoticed. Rupert Summerson’s work on “wilderness values” shines some light on this, and on why various places and ideas (and species) have been valued over others. Of course, any talk of protection does still centre the human as the main agent of change.

      I’d also note that this topic comes up regularly on cruises with tourists to Antarctica, where a common question is “why don’t be bring polar bears down here?” There’s so much we still don’t about Antarctica and its dependent and associated ecosystems – so I think it’s important to keep studying these, to try and get some understanding of baselines, and of alterations to these in the face of climate change, before consciously introducing any more alien species.

      Best Wishes,


  6. Thank you Tanya for an engaging presentation about a part of the world that I am not particularly familiar with.

    One of the many things that got my attention was your mention of the reintroduction of aurochs in Romania. I thought aurochs were extinct so naturally this stirred my curiosity and lead me to take a quick online look at aurochs. I’m pleased to know humans are working to re-establish the breed in the wild.

    The issue of what is wild and what is not also raises a number of questions for me about the role we humans are playing in controlling the “natural” environment. Even in the depths of the remote places here in New Zealand I wonder how much is really natural anymore.

    Food for thought. Many thanks.

    1. Hi Nancy,

      Thank you for your comments and interest in my presentation! One of the things that I find interesting about this part of the Danube Delta is the newness of the terrain and the consciousness of long-term delta dwellers and the reserve administrators (who came to the delta from elsewhere in Ukraine a few decades ago) that the delta’s current form and species diversity is the result of the presence of people and their stewardship practices. So while they all certainly have an understanding that areas of the delta are “wild” it doesn’t mean untouched, or created wholly independently of human stewardship practice. Some tourist guides and narratives do present it as untouched wild nature. And some environmentalists in Ukraine think that conservation practice means that there should be no human intervention whatsoever even if this means a reduction in species diversity. So yes, it’s an interesting place to research!

  7. Kia ora koutou,

    Thanks everyone for your great presentations, what a fantastic panel! Tanya, I’m kind of rooting for the feral cows!

    Sydney, thanks so much for your presentation, a really great way of de-colonising cartography.

    Ngaa mihi,

  8. Thanks again to Tanya, Sydney, Hanne and Jasmine for a wonderful set of presentations, and to everyone who has participated in the questions answers and comments threads over the past week.

    We’re into the 2nd week of the feral conference now, so a new set of panels are now open for viewing and discussion, I hope to see you there

    Nga mihi,

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