Last week I attended my first British Ecological Society Annual Meeting and I still don’t think I’m fully recovered. With around 1200 delegates, 12 sessions running in parallel at any one time, lunchtime workshops and socials every night, it was a pretty intense experience. But of course it was worth all of the exhaustion; I met a lot of new people (as well as catching up with a few old friends), listened to some really great presentations, participated in several workshops, and got to present some early results of my own PhD work.
Particular highlights for me were:
- The tropical ecology (climate and land-use change) session, including a fascinating presentation by Steven Sylvester who climbed into the high Andes to find pristine forest ecosystems, potentially untouched by humans. This was followed by another excellent presentation on patterns of fire in the Serengeti, and how James Probert is using remote sensing to track fire changes and identify drivers – the interaction between climate and humans look to be interesting here.
- Monday lunchtime workshop on ‘Making Brexit work for ecology and the environment’ run by the BES policy team. Some interesting perspectives on the risks and opportunities for conservation and ecology were highlighted; Brexit might allow for a weakening of current standards of habitat and species protections, but it could also be an opportunity to strengthen the protection of taxa that are particularly threatened in Britain, but not elsewhere in Europe. We have to try to see the positives!
- An interesting mix of talks in the theoretical, interdisciplinary & computational ecology session, including one by a fellow palaeoecologist – Jane Bunting. I particularly enjoyed her presentation on how palaeoecologists and neo-ecologists need to work more closely together. Perhaps a BES palaeo Special Interest Group should be started??
The whole conference was rounded off in style with the Gala Dinner and after-party, which included a live band performing with video from Planet Earth playing on a large screen in the background – a proper ecology party!
For anyone who didn’t make it but is interested in what went on, check out #BES2016 on twitter – there was an incredible amount of tweeting going on! Overall, it was a great conference – exhausting but exhilarating – and I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone considering going next year.