AoR 128: International Rangelands Congress 2025, with Nicole Spiegel & Andrew Ash

Australia is hosting the IRC2025 in Adelaide, and this is the biggest rangelands event leading up to the 2026 UN International Year of Rangelands & Pastoralists. Australia boasts more rangeland than the United States, with wild, open spaces everywhere. Andrew and Nicole discuss uniquenesses of Australia, challenges common to other parts of the world, and the 7 themes of the congress. This event is an excellent opportunity to visit this less-peopled continent with a fascinating history. Submit to present at the conference by June 2, and check out the pre-congress tour options, which will sell out fast.


>> Welcome to the Art of Range, a podcast focused on rangelands and the people who manage them. I'm your host, Tip Hudson, range and livestock specialist with Washington State University Extension. The goal of this podcast is education and conservation through conversation. Find us online at Welcome back to the Art of Range. My guests today are Andrew Ash and Nicole Spiegel. They are the co-chairs for the International Rangelands Congress coming up in June 2025 in Adelaide, Australia. These events only come around about every four years, so it is a big deal. And this one is also happening on the eve of the United Nations International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists in 2026. The IYRP is intended to bring the ecological and social importance of rangelands and the people of rangelands to the world's attention. So, Andrew and Nicole, welcome.

>> Thank you, Tip. Thank you for having us.

>> Yeah. Thank you, Tip, for the invitation to have a chat with you.

>> No, I really appreciate your time and I'm glad that we can make the time zone differences work out. Australia is a little bit bigger challenge in trying to coordinate than some other locations on the globe. It will be obvious to most people since a lot of our listeners are in North America, but not all of them, that you are from Australia. But it will be useful I think to have you do some self-introduction and then we can talk about the conference and Australian rangelands and whatever else comes to mind. So, you can decide which one of you goes first. How did you both get involved in rangelands science and management?

>> Yeah. So, yeah, I got into rangelands in the 1980s and early 1990s. I'd done a bit of work up in Southern Queensland in Australia then went overseas for a few years. But when I returned, I joined our national science agency, CSIRO, in Townsville and started working on rangeland and pastoral systems right across Northern Australia which are tropical rangeland systems. And I just found them fascinating in terms of the scale of operations, the research questions that still needed answering, and just the climatic variability and the people that worked and lived in the rangelands.

>> Nicole?

>> Yeah. So, my parents weren't born in Australia so I guess that makes me first-generation Australian. They migrated to Australia from Germany and I think it was probably my grandma's influence where she was basically living on the land and growing her own food. So, that got me very passionate about agriculture and food and fiber. And through studying -- and, you know, coming from a city as well, studying through Sydney University, I ended up finding myself in the rangelands and falling in love with the landscape but more so the people and their connection with land and animals. So it was just from that initial experience that I was hooked and continued a career in rangelands management. I've done a bit of meat science and I'm currently focusing on grazing ecology. So, what I thought was wonderful too is there's not many of us in Australia involved in rangeland work but hopefully there will be more. I think it's slowly growing and being involved in the Australian organizing committee for the International Rangeland Congress for 2025 has given me the opportunity to link in with some like-minded people that are very passionate about rangelands.

>> Excellent. You say you're a first generation. Were you born in Australia? Or did you come later?

>> I was born in Australia. So, I'm hoping I'm explaining that correctly.

>> Well, you sound like a native is why I'm asking.

>> Yeah.

>> I grew up in Arkansas but I moved to the Northwest where they sort of have a neutral accent. You know, that what characterizes Northwest United States accents is that it sounds like dictionary pronunciation. But I still carry over a little bit of a Southern accent. But you sound straight up Australian. I suppose that's a compliment.

>> That is a compliment. That's what wonderful because I have sort of concentrated on how I speak because as I said, with my parents being German, they've had that strong accent. And going through school, I noticed that people were sort of picking up on how I was saying things. So, I think I've had plenty of time in the bush.

>> Yeah, that's interesting. My grandmother's parents moved to Missouri from Germany and they were first generation. But she grew up speaking German because her grandmother only spoke German. And you can definitely hear that in how she spoke English.

>> Yeah.

>> And Tip, both Nick and I have either currently live or have lived in Northern Queensland for quite long periods. And once you hit Northern Australia, you have even broader Australian accents.

>> Yeah. I don't know whether -- I don't think that we crossed paths after I was there for the Australian Rangelands Society meeting back in September, but I visited one of the ranches there in Western Australia. And when I arrived at the station, the first guy that met me was the mechanic and I could barely understand a word he said. And I later learned that many of the employees of the ranch who were themselves native Australians also could not understand much of what he said. So I didn't feel so bad about that.

>> I can give you a --

>> The two of you are quite understandable.

>> I can give you just a little similar story to that, Tip. We had for many years working with us in Australia, in Townsville, CSIRO, Joel Brown. I'm sure you know Joel.

>> I know Joel well, yeah.

>> Joel came to Australia with his wife, Peggy, in I think in 1991 and they checked into their hotel in Townsville and turned on the news at nighttime and listened to that and said, "Oh, we can understand all that pretty easily." So they went down to a local pub in the center of Townsville and went to the bar and couldn't understand a word that anyone was saying.

>> That is funny. Where is Townsville geographically? You said Northern Australia.

>> Northeast Queensland.

>> Right, yup.

>> Yeah, OK.

>> So about nearly 3,000 kilometers north of Sydney, 2,500, 3,000 kilometers north of Sydney.

>> Yeah. And east of Darwin.

>> Yeah.

>> Yeah. And Andrew and I are both in Queensland. Andrew, you were in Townsville previously and now in Brisbane. And I'm currently in Charters Towers which is just inland from Townsville.

>> Great. I heard a lot about the Mitchell grasslands. That would be south and west of you?

>> That's further inland.

>> Yeah. OK.

>> Yeah. Yeah.

>> OK.

>> That's in Western Queensland.

>> Got it. Well, it feels like a bit of a understatement to say that Australia has lots of rangeland, but Australia is also bigger than most people are aware of. You know, when you're sort of -- when you're looking at a globe, you kind of lose a sense of geographic scale even though you can see a blob on the map. But Australia is nearly as big or as big as the continental United States. Is that right?

>> Yeah, that's correct. I think it's about 7 million square kilometers. So, yeah, it is very similar size to continental US.

>> And you don't have a lot of forest and you don't have as much cultivated cropland, you know, relative to the United States. We used to have a lot more of what would have been considered I guess botanically rangeland but we plowed up most of that. And we have quite a bit of forested ground. In fact, probably some forested areas that used to be more open savanna that might have been classified rangelands. But Australia is mostly classic rangelands. Am I right?

>> 75% of Australia is classified as rangelands.

>> And what's the remainder aside from cities?

>> Well, it's a mixture of wet tropical country in Northeastern Queensland and then some tropical savannas across the north, some of which are classified as rangelands. And then down in southern, you have the southern cropping zone or Eastern Australian cropping zone and another cropping zone in Southwest WA. And then of course, you have just the fringing forests around the eastern coastline of Australia. And so, a reasonable amount of national park in various parts of Australia.

>> And what are the various vegetation types kind of across the continent?

>> There's a lot of diversity there. So you've already mentioned, Tip, about the Mitchell grass in Western Queensland but we've got forest country. We've got shrublands. Yeah. And like within Queensland for instance, there's so many different land types which then translates to different vegetation types as well. So, in my area for instance, in the wooded savanna, we have speargrass, for instance, and desert bluegrass. So, our keystone long-lived perennial grasses, tussie grasses.

>> And to this climatically very different as similar to other rangelands in the world, they can vary quite a bit but within Australia, you have a broad sweep of tropical rangelands across the northern half of the country. And then the southern half tend to be more a Mediterranean climate, the semi-arid cooler rangelands and so completely different systems climatically and of course then in terms of vegetation.

>> Now, what is the -- I'm actually looking at a world map on my wall at the moment. And I suspect because this surprised me that Northern Australia is not very far south from the equator. In fact, the northern tip, you know, of I think it's Queensland nearly touches Papua New Guinea. What is the latitude spread of the continent of Australia? Maybe I have to tell you because I'm looking at --

>> Yeah. I was going to say that. You've done your homework too.

>> I think it's from somewhere around, well, if you go right up the tip of Cape York and over into the Torres Strait Islands, I'm not quite sure that you did. But off the mainland continent, I think it's something like 13, 14 degrees south and then you get down to the bottom part of Tasmania and you're down more than 40 degrees south.

>> Right. Northern Australia is very much inside the tropics in Southern Australia. Like I'm at about 44, 45 degrees north from the equator and Tasmania goes down, it looks like, to about 43 degrees south.

>> Yup.

>> So that is quite a wide geographic spread with all of the associated difference in climate zones across that territory.

>> Correct. So, you can think of it across the north is our tropical environment and then Southern Australia is then temperate.

>> And the IRC, the International Range and Congress, is going to be in Adelaide. Am I remembering that correctly?

>> Yes, that is correct.

>> OK. And Adelaide is outside of the Tropic of Capricorn on the temperate side.

>> Yes, it sits very much in that southern zone of a somewhat more Mediterranean climate with most of the rainfall occurring in autumn and winter and into spring and very hot, dry summers. And the vegetation reflects that climatic zone.

>> Yeah. I didn't ask you to be prepped for this, but do you have any figures ready at hand on how many hectares of rangeland there are in Australia? Because I think I saw a presentation that you gave, Andrew, at some meeting recently about the extent of rangelands in Australia relative to the United States. And I think Australia has nearly double the total acreage or area of rangeland compared to at least the continental US.

>> Yeah, I'd have to have to go back and check those figures, too. They're not right on -- not --

>> Sure, we can --

>> -- in front of my brain in there.

>> And we can throw those numbers into the show notes.

>> Yeah.

>> Regarding the IRC, how did -- what was the selection process that resulted in the IRC 2025 happening in Australia?

>> Well, Australia submitted a bid to the International Rangeland Congress Continuing Committee. And based on the bid that was put in, it was selected by the Continuing Committee to host the Congress in Adelaide in 2025. And the Congress in Adelaide will be the third time it's held in Australia. Previously held in the mid-1970s. And then in 1999, there was a very large International Rangeland Congress in Townsville where we had nearly a thousand delegates.

>> Do you happen to know what has been the attendance at the most recent IRCs? I think I went to the one in New Delhi which I believe was a joint with the International Grasslands Congress, and the one in Rosario, Argentina. And as I recall, it seemed like there was a decent crowd, but do you know what the history of the numbers has been and how many people are you anticipating in Australia? Any idea at all?

>> Well, I'll answer the first bit and then you can probably talk about the numbers for Adelaide. But historically, yeah, they've varied between about 600. And as I said in Townsville, we had nearly a thousand. The Congress in New Delhi ended up not being a joint with International Grassland Range and Congress. It was just an International Grassland Congress. I don't know the numbers that were there. And the one that lined up with that in terms of timing, in terms of rangelands was held in Canada. And there were 600 or 700 delegates there, I think. So, yeah, we would hope for a minimum of 600 based on this history, but hopefully more than that particularly with, as you mentioned in your introduction there, with 2026 being the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists, we're expecting quite a lot of interest in this Congress. And further to that, the fact that the last Congress held in Kenya was during the midst of COVID and it ended up being largely a virtual Congress. And so, I think there's a lot of appetite for a face-to-face meeting after nearly a decade.

>> Mm-hmm.

>> Yup. And as Andrew said, yeah, we are sort of working towards 600 to 800 delegates but if we can get more, that's fantastic. And the location being Adelaide is able to accommodate some large numbers. So, we're certainly, yeah, hoping that we can sort of reach that 800 mark.

>> Great. Well, I'm also hopeful we can hit the 800 mark. What is the -- I may be asking a bunch of dumb questions leading up to talking about the conference itself, but what is the theme for the conference and what are you hoping for in terms of soliciting abstracts for symposia and talks and posters at this congress?

>> So, the theme, Tip, is working together for our global rangelands future. We think that's a really important theme where we do we meet to come together and share stories and learn from each other to move forward. You know, with all the challenges, there's also the opportunities. And by coming together, it becomes more powerful. And, you know, not just celebrating but promoting rangelands and people of the rangelands. And as we've already mentioned, we have got that lead up to the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists. So that'll be a really important component of the International Rangelands Congress next year. The program subcommittee have also been quite busy developing important themes for the conference. So, we can delve into that if you like. Andrew, did you want to say more on the working together for our global rangelands' future?

>> Yeah. Well, we've got seven themes at the Congress covering social issues through to ecological issues through to management and right through to policy. So, very diverse Congress in terms of its themes. And we're really hoping to get discussion that works across or cuts across all those themes and make it a really vibrant meeting for everyone who attends.

>> And before I forget about it, when is the deadline for people that are submitting abstracts to speak as part of the conference or to do a symposium?

>> So, deadlines of submission of abstracts is 2nd of June this year and registrations will open on the 1st of April this year.

>> OK. And I have it on good word that there will be some very attractive tours --

>> Yes.

>> -- to places that are not so easy to get to on your own. John Taylor assures me that they're going to fill up fast. So, what is the -- is that registration also opening up on April 1?

>> I'm not -- I think there is expression of interest during that registration on tours. Is that right, Andrew?

>> Yes, we're after expressions of interest around that timeframe of April. And based on the numbers and expressions of interest, we'll determine just how we run those tours. And, you know, we've got an incredible range of tours there across a lot of the different types of landscapes of Australia. So, it's a fantastic opportunity for people to experience Australia and Australia's rangelands firsthand.

>> So Tip, you mentioned like we talked about, you know, the tropical north and the temperate south and also the location being in Adelaide. It's provided us an opportunity as an organizing committee to look at diverse options of tours, the pre-congress tours, starting from all these fantastic locations across Australia and then working towards Adelaide. So for instance, we've got Perth to Adelaide tour which will be looking at the woodlands, shrublands, and of course wine. And we've also got Alice Springs to Adelaide, so that'll be including visiting Uluru as well as working down into the Northern South Australian rangelands. There's also a Longreach to Adelaide tour where you can enjoy [inaudible], learn about dinosaurs and just marvel at the desert of Australia. And we've also got a Sydney to Adelaide. So that's working through the New South Wales rangelands and across into the South Australian rangelands. And then there's an Adelaide to Adelaide tour, so to speak, which is essentially venturing through the South Australian rangelands.

>> Those all sound interesting. I suppose you can't make all of them.

>> No, but I mean, if there is interest there, I mean, wouldn't it be fantastic to have all those tours operating leading up to the pre-Congress tour and being able to catch up so much diversity across Australia and share stories that, you know, are relevant not just in Australia but right across the globe.

>> Did you say that one of those tours starts on the Dampier Peninsula?

>> No, Perth.

>> OK. Oh in Perth, got it.

>> So, in Western Australia, it will be Perth across to Adelaide.

>> OK. That would be a very long trip from the northwest corner.

>> That's right.

>> I thought it would be interesting because this was new to me. When I traveled to Australia recently, I got through about two-thirds of the book The Fatal Shore about the founding of Australia. I don't know whether either of you would be interested to say just even a little bit about that. But most people in other parts of the world like me who are otherwise somewhat felt, you know, fairly well read don't have a lot of idea about just how recently Europeans or non-Aboriginals came to Australia.

>> Yeah. I'm happy to chat about that. In organizing this Congress, we'd really like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the rangelands of Australia, their history and ongoing connection with the rangelands. And in Adelaide and particularly the Adelaide plains, the Kaurna people who have occupied that land for many tens of thousands of years. And we pay our respects to elders past, present and emerging. Tip, of course, Europeans came to Australia well before Australia was eventually occupied by the British. There were visitations to the West Coast and to the Northern Coast in the centuries before that. When Australia was first colonized by the British, it was set up as a penal colony. But that colonization has led to some terrible outcomes for indigenous people, First Nations people of Australia. And that some of those consequences have carried through to the present day. And we're learning from that history but it's a black mark on what happened 200 years ago.

>> Do you have any idea what the population was of Native Australian peoples before the arrival of the British en masse?

>> No. I have to look that up. I don't have that number. Tip, I'm sorry.

>> No, I was curious if it's even, you know, if that's even known or has been prognosticated. I don't recall seeing those figures even in that book which had a fair bit of research behind it.

>> Yeah. No, they'd be around somewhere. I'm sure they've been estimated. There would be good estimates of the numbers there. But of course, in that taking up of the lands in Australia by the British and not just the displacement of a lot of indigenous First Nations Australians but also, you know, in many cases, there were large massacres that decimated the population. So there's, you know, a very troubling history in the way Australia was colonized.

>> There's been some interesting recent work on I guess flushing out the extent to which indigenous peoples in North America and Central and South America did much more to manipulate vegetation on the continent than was previously believed, probably because we didn't think there were that many people there. But of course, by the time we got there, they would mostly been wiped out by disease. It sounds like there's some, you know, something similar in Australia at least based on a little bit that I've heard. To what extent, in your opinion, you know, were indigenous peoples being somewhat active in managing the landscape for various kinds of provisioning services?

>> So, from what I understand, Tip, and I haven't done a whole heap of research, but the books that are out there would suggest that they were very active. And I think that's coming out more recently. I don't know, you know, how available that was beforehand but, you know, in terms of hunter-gatherer but also managing -- you know, when you're living off the land to survive, you need to know how to manage the land. And, you know, they were doing cultural burns but they were also burning to open up country to help with hunting, for instance. And a lot of our native grasses have evolved with fire. So, yeah, and I know this is not really rangelands but they're, you know, coastal areas and coastal communities, they know how to fish. I think there was records of them even damming in inland like parts of Australia as well. Andrew, you might have had a chance to do a bit more research on the topic. But there's certainly, you know, that local, that indigenous knowledge that people are, you know, starting to acknowledge. And I think one of the great things about the International Rangelands Congress next year is we will be dedicating sessions to traditional or indigenous knowledge where we are looking at organizing an indigenous traditional knowledge forum.

>> Yeah, Tip, just adding to that, there's no doubt that Indigenous Australians very actively managed landscapes right around Australia. And there's very good documentation of that and the stories that have been passed down and illustrated in various art forms around the country. So, there's no question about that. There's a little more contemporary debate around how actively Indigenous Australians manage the landscapes in terms of what we would call European agricultural practices. There's very good evidence of active management of say fish through fish traps and some collection active management of the native grasses for grain supply. So, it's an interesting discussion and debate that has been ongoing particularly in recent years.

>> Yeah. And in more recent years, recent, maybe the last 150 years, Australia has done some things on a larger scale than the United States like livestock. It seems to me that livestock production in Australia has a little bit different character than in the States. I may have this figure not quite right but it's close. I think in the United States, something like 80% of the national cow inventory, beef cow inventory is in herds or ownership of less than 50 head. That's an awful lot of animals, you know, in relatively small batches on small pieces of private land. Are you able to contrast that at all with Australia even if you don't have general statistics?

>> It varies like you have smaller herds but you also have very large, extensive herds depending on where you are. So, you know, large expanses across Northern Australia where you're covering so many thousands of hectares. Yeah, you can have quite a large number of animals spread across a large area versus, you know, closer to the coast where you might have smaller holdings, yeah, smaller herds. So I guess it's -- yeah, it's --

>> Still some variety.

>> Yeah.

>> So, you do have properties that, rangeland properties that are small as a few hundred hectares in the range. They're relatively uncommon in the rangelands. They're more common as you get into the more mesic areas of Southern and Eastern Australia and Southwest Western Australia. But for a lot of the rangelands, the size of the properties is very large, up to and over a million hectares and individual properties can have 20,000, 30,000 herd of cattle, even more, on the very largest ones. And of course, another feature of Australian rangelands and the pastoral industry is corporate ownership of properties so that you have some larger companies that own multiple properties across the rangelands and their total holdings can be as much as half a million herd of cattle. I would add just, Tip, one thing about the arrival of livestock in Australia, ruminant livestock, is that it does differ between say North America and Africa is that North America and Africa had evolved under large livestock.

>> Herbivores, mm-hmm.

>> Yeah, large herbivores. And Australia hadn't evolved under large herbivores in the same way. We've obviously had the marsupial herbivores and the likes of kangaroos and up until as recently as say 50,000 years ago, some quite large herbivores, but not livestock in the way that we're talking about in Northern America and in Africa. And as such, particularly in the last 50,000 years, the vegetation in Australia hasn't evolved under that sort of more intensive form of grazing. And as a consequence, the way that our native vegetation responds to grazing can be quite different to what you see in North America or in Africa.

>> Well, my main objective in doing an interview about this was to plug the conference. And I'm fairly convinced having done a little bit of research on just general psychology and problem solving that we solve problems in our own sphere of influence I guess both socially and geographically sometimes by seeing how other people in other contexts do things, how they manage land and deal with invasives and, you know, think about managing livestock. And I still think that that's pretty significant. Yeah, I'm curious if you have any -- if somebody was on the fence, as we say, on whether or not to try to go to the IRC, what would you say that would be compelling for why somebody should try to attend to learn something?

>> Yeah, I think it's --

>> So I think -- oh, yeah, you go, Andrew.

>> No, no, Nick, you go.

>> I was just going to say, well, Tip, it's an exchange of learning and, yeah, you have your own environment that you're working in, but sometimes you do sort of get stuck in your own bubble and it's just nice to hear other perspectives and other ways of doing things that might actually work in your situation. So, it's a really great opportunity to actually not just showcase your own learnings and your own work but to learn from others and nut out problems.

>> What would you say are some of the I guess primary or leading or presenting ecological problems that you're dealing with in Australia?

>> Well, I think one thing we've known about for quite a while now is landscape degradation. And it's not just management but it's also climate and system shocks. So, you know, flood events or damaging fires or drought. I think, yeah, that's one of the things that we've known about and, you know, there's a lot of work towards getting a better understanding of some of our long-lived perennial grasses and how we can potentially change our grazing systems to support those grasses and regeneration. We know that on a landscape, animals will selectively graze. So, you will have areas of overgrazing, but then you've also got areas that are being underutilized so that causes issues as well. So it's trying to manage -- use different tools to manage livestock on the landscape, not just animal production but also long-term sustainability and, yeah, looking after the landscape so that you've got plenty of rest in those areas that are being overutilized but those areas that are underutilized that you're actually starting to get some activity there as well.

>> For me, it's the biggest ecological issues are current three sorts of areas. First, as Nick just mentioned, is in climate and the way the climate is changing. And particularly, we're seeing that in the way that extreme events are playing out in floods and droughts. We're already starting to witness a changing in the intensity of those extreme events, not necessarily the frequency but certainly the intensity. A big issue in Australia is invasive species, both plants and animals. So in terms of plants, there's a whole range of woody weeds that have been introduced over the decades that are causing major problems through various rangelands of Australia. And invasive animals or feral animals in Australia, particularly in the rangelands, are these cats, foxes, camels, and lesser extent these days, goats. But particularly, cats, foxes have led to a major loss of mammals in Australia. And in fact, Australia has the dubious record of the greatest mammal extinction of anywhere in the world because of the loss of a lot of our small mammals, marsupial mammals, due to cats and foxes. So, the issue of invasives is a huge one and it's a contested one because in some cases, particularly for the livestock sector, you have species like buffelgrass and African grass that was introduced has huge benefit in the grazing industry but is also now a major problem particularly in Central Australia as it invades natural landscapes and some of our most iconic national park areas in Central Australia. So you've got some real trade-offs there with some of the invasive species but for many of the others, they're just a real problem that we've been grappling with for many years. And the third area of concern is in the more mesic rangelands, over many decades, there's been a lot of land clearing, a lot of forest clearing to improve the pastoral value of those landscapes. And in doing so, we've either lost or made very vulnerable a number of ecosystems. So, there are some huge ecological challenges that we do face in the rangeland of Australia.

>> How did the camels get there?

>> Wasn't that during the time of building the Ghan, the train?

>> Yeah, they were introduced across Australia for various things. The train lines are just in opening up new lands because of their ability to carry provisions.

>> Trains. Supply chain.

>> Yeah.

>> Well, we tell people in the States not to feed the bison because they look tamed but they're not and they're unpredictable. How friendly are the kangaroos?

>> I think, yeah, you just respect them. They are wild animals. Those larger male kangaroos can be quite strong, boisterous. Yes. You wouldn't want to get in a fight with a kangaroo.

>> Right.

>> On the whole though, kangaroos prefer flight over fight. So, you hear almost no instances in the press of people being attacked by kangaroos. Unlike say crocodiles but we hear that more regularly. But no, I'm not aware of too many, you know, of people being seriously harmed by kangaroos.

>> You were going to say something, Nicole?

>> Yeah, I was just going to say I did my PhD study on kangaroo meat. So, looking at kangaroo as a source of protein and, you know, basically valuing that product and generating, you know, boosting the economics within these outback remote communities and also, you know, reducing total grazing pressure. Essentially, we've got this -- that resource out there that should be managed particularly, you know, where you can have really high numbers and then numbers that just crash during droughts. So, you know, why not utilize that? I guess it's -- it isn't acquired taste. Not everyone wants to be consuming kangaroo meat and a lot of our meat that we have harvested in Australia for human consumption goes overseas. But yeah, no, I quite enjoy kangaroo.

>> I was surprised to find that I did too. It was recommended to us and I was surprised that there was kangaroo in the grocery store in Broome.

>> Yes.

>> So, we bought some and grilled it on the barbie and it was quite good. It was quite -- well, it's better than I was expecting.

>> Yeah.

>> And kangaroo numbers in various parts of the rangelands have increased way beyond their natural levels due to a couple of factors. We in developing the lands for pastoral production have introduced a whole lot more water points. And also particularly in a country that is dominated by smaller livestock like sheep, there's been -- and also in the cattle country, there's been control of dingo populations which has allowed kangaroos and wallabies populations to increase. So, in parts of Australia there, kangaroos can be a problem in terms of the additional grazing pressure that they apply to landscapes which is well in excess of the historical or natural levels.

>> No, that's interesting. Are the dingoes native because you don't have a lot of large predators natives to Australia?

>> Yeah, the Dingoes, well, are native but they're brought in by the First Nations people. So, in that sort of history, yeah --

>> They've been around for a while. Well, I live in an area that has a fairly high mountain lion or cougar population relative to other parts of the country. We also have black bears and other things that people tend to be afraid of. And there is some risk there but nobody worries about that on a day-to-day basis. I'm curious whether that's the case with crocodiles in Australia because, you know, it's a cultural thing that is associated with Australia, at least the saltwater crocodiles. To what extent is that a part of -- say you live in an area with crocodiles, is that a part of daily life or is it just something you forget about?

>> I think you've got to be wary in terms of daily life if you live in those regions and people who live in those mostly know to avoid going down to river banks where there's no crocodiles. Occasionally, people get careless or a bit enthusiastic in their fishing and want to get closer to the water and you do have accounts of people being taken by crocodiles while fishing near their streams. Even locals, that happens to them occasionally. But often too, it's tourists either unsuspecting or just not fully aware of the risks that get into trouble and are taken by crocodiles.

>> Yeah, definitely listen to the local advice and don't ignore any signs that might say that there's crocodiles in the area.

>> Yeah, that's interesting. I went -- I like to swim and I like salt water. So, when I went to Broome for the Australian Rangelands Society meeting, I brought along some snorkel gear and then of course, quickly discovered that part of Northwestern Australia has some of the highest tides in the world. And so the ocean water never really stops moving and you -- it's difficult to find a place where it's slow enough, you know, to do something like snorkeling. You just never know what things are like. So what is the -- well, if somebody's coming to Adelaide in June, that will be the middle of winter, what's the weather like in Adelaide in June?

>> Yeah, it's a room where -- the Congress is right at the start of the June so it will be getting a bit cooler but certainly not into winter. So, it should be still pleasant weather being getting cooler or not, but hopefully fantastic weather there. Particularly for those people who are on the pre-Congress tours coming into Adelaide, they should have a great time in the conditions that are around them.

>> Yeah, it is a fantastic time of the year, Tip. Like, you know, otherwise it's -- you wouldn't want to have this type of event in summer, for instance.

>> And I can almost guarantee, Tip, that it won't be as cold as most of the SRM events are.

>> Yeah, I think the coldest one that I've attended was in Billings in February and it was quite cold. Well, is there anything you want to say about the International Rangelands Congress in 2025 that I have not asked about or that you had in mind and we haven't gotten around to it yet?

>> Just in terms of the program, we're putting together hopefully a great range of invited speakers from all parts of the world that will make the Congress a really fantastic event. But really at the end of the day, it'll be -- the vibe that comes from the Congress will be generated by the people that turn up and the diversity of views and the exchange of ideas and we think it will be a fantastic event.

>> Yeah. So, I totally agree with that. And we've got the website there that people can go on and they can express interest to attend, express interest to be a sponsor, express interest to have a trade display. We've talked about the abstract submissions but we've also got delegate support. So, delegates that may require some support to attend the Congress can actually will have set up on the website a portal there where they can actually apply for sponsorship. So, we do really want to like in terms of this Congress, we want to capture diversity. But we also want to allow people that aren't normally able to come to these events, just give them a chance to come. So, that's why our sponsorship is very important, not just within Australia but internationally as well. So that international sponsorship will go towards sponsoring international delegates.

>> I was just going to say exactly the same thing there, Tip, so I won't head to that.

>> Yup. We've also got some fantastic mid-Congress tours lined up as well. So, there's lots to do during the middle of the Congress and lots of different options there for exploring Adelaide and beyond, you know, within South Australia.

>> And we're hoping to host a range of pre-Congress workshops, so there's opportunities there for people to put forward ideas to run workshops. These are often around professional development or focusing in on the topic of particular interests where you've got the opportunity by bringing people from all over the world to come together into some of these focus workshops.

>> That sounds good. We will put the conference website in the show notes and probably a direct link to the call for abstracts and hope you get a good turnout. Andrew and Nicole, thank you very much for your time and for your time in organizing this Congress and at a time that I think is quite important. There was some I believe it was in one of Nathan Sayre's essays or the book, Politics of Scale, where he describes rangelands as being places not just that tend to be marginal in terms of production and economics but also places where you find marginalized peoples. And I think that's one of the main objectives of the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists is to highlight, you know, a way of life that is really one of the oldest in human history and is significant and has -- we depend on food production but we're prone to forget about the people that produce food and I think are prone to, you know, lump categories. I don't even like the term producer because it seems to have the connotation it separates us into us versus them. You've got producers and consumers. But people that are caretakers of the land or country, as you say. And I think it's important to draw attention to that. Thank you again.

>> OK. Thanks --

>> Thank you, Tip. Thank you for this opportunity to promote the International Rangelands Congress 2025 in Adelaide.

>> Hear, hear. Thank you for listening to the Art of Range podcast. You can subscribe to and review the show through iTunes or your favorite podcasting app so you never miss an episode. Just search for Art of Range. If you have questions or comments for us to address in a future episode, send an email to For articles and links to resources mentioned in the podcast, please see the show notes at Listener feedback is important to the success of our mission, empowering rangeland managers. Please take a moment to fill out a brief survey at This podcast is produced by CAHNRS Communications in the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University. The project is supported by the University of Arizona and funded by the Western Center for Risk Management Education through the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

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Mentioned Resources

Find out more about tour options, the call for abstracts, and conference details at the IRC2025 website

Learn about Australian rangelands and the people caring for them from the Australian Rangeland Society

The Int'l Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists 2026 website has excellent short films about the people of rangelands all over the world, and materials for sharing the wonder of rangelands with your neighbors and friends.

The Art of Range Podcast is now available on Spotify. Share it.

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