It’s been about a month since the Centennial Ecological Society of America (ESA 100) meeting (August 9-14, 2015) in Baltimore. Overall, I enjoyed the meeting and found it to be an especially productive week for reconnecting with my collaborators and mentors. Although I still attended many good presentations, I spent more time meeting with people and discussing projects than going to talks, which represents a shift from my previous years attending ESA.
Here are a few of this year’s highlights for me:
- Collaboration. I spent the first day before the conference meeting with my co-PIs for my working group on quantifying biodiversity change. This was a great opportunity to catch up, reassess what we’ve accomplished so far, and make plans for our upcoming meeting in winter 2016. Since all three of us live in different countries, taking advantage of an opportunity to discuss progress and plans face-to-face was really valuable!
- Mentoring. This year I led the efforts to fund and plan a new early career mentoring program, with the help of several members on our planning team, which ran the entire week of ESA. The post-meeting feedback from our 10 early career and 10 mentor participants was excellent, I’m really proud of how this program turned out and I hope we get the funding to run it again next year! I’m the product of a series of great mentors, and I enjoyed getting to help connect others. We’ll hopefully post a more thorough assessment of the program on the Early Career Ecologist website soon.
- Invited presentation. My talk in Jens Svenning and Alejandro Ordonez’s OOS “New perspectives for ecology in the Anthropocene“ went well. The session was very broad, including talks from social, conservation, and ecosystem scientists. What I really liked was that afterwards, nearly all the speakers and organizers were able to continue conversations over lunch. At a big meeting like ESA, this can be difficult to schedule, and participants usually disperse quickly after a session without much time for deeper discussion. (My talk is freely available on figshare.)
- Exciting talks: A few sessions I really enjoyed were: Hacking Ecology, Diversity Estimation, The role of biotic interactions in structuring species distributions, and Scaling Ecology.
- Early Career issues: As an officer in the Early Career Ecologist Section, I spent time this year helping out with our drink ticket networking (we will advertise better next year), planning during our annual business meeting (I’ll be Chair for 2015-2016), making connections with other sections (Student Section, Open Science, Inclusive Ecology, etc.), and helping with section organized or sponsored events, such as the “Challenges in personal and professional development” session, which was super interesting and went really well!
- New connections: For the first time, I had several people request to meet with me (as opposed to the other way around). It was fun to connect with new people who have similar research interests, and it also felt like an affirmation that I have moved far enough beyond grad school now that I have expertise and stories to share that can help other student and early career ecologists to cope with the roadbumps along the way. What a realization!
- Reconnecting: ESA is always a great opportunity to reconnect with past collaborators and friends and this year was no exception. I got to spend time with folks from my past lab groups (Weecology, Graham Lab) and new lab groups (McGill, Williams), and I got to see a few ecologist friends that I hadn’t seen in several years, which was a nice surprise.