Over the next few days we will be posting a number of ESA-related posts written by some of Journal of Ecology’s Associate Editors in a countdown to the conference.
Glad to be back!
I am pleased to say that my attendance at the annual meetings of the Ecological Society of America (ESA) closely rivals that of our Journal of Ecology’s esteemed Executive Editor, David Gibson. Between 1982, the year of my first ESA at Penn State University (we used to meet on college campuses then) as a graduate student at Duke University about to finish up my Ph.D., and last year, I—like David—had only missed the 1991 meeting in Hawaii (and for largely the same reasons). I have long enjoyed my involvement at ESA meetings, and for several reasons. I love the talks, the interactions (both professional and social), the feedback on current research I present every year, and even the booths of publishers, journals, and research suppliers. Also, since 2004, the year I first joined the editorial board of the Journal of Ecology, I have greatly appreciated the annual dinner for editors—a splendid combination of excellent food, wine, spirits, and even better company and conversation. My involvement in ESA meetings reached a bit of a zenith when I accepted ESA’s invitation to serve as Program Chair for the 2010 meeting in Pittsburgh. I was glad to be able to use my Chair-related knowledge of symposia to connect with Journal editors that lead to a Special Issue in May 2011: Ecological Consequences of Climate Extremes.
As an aside, I am aware that some of my ecology colleagues eschew ESA meetings because of their size, and I can understand that, for they are large and continue to grow over time. From a personal standpoint, however, ESA meetings present unique opportunities to combine keeping up on state-of-science research and seeing friends I have met through the years who I would otherwise rarely see. Also, my upcoming book published by Oxford University Press, The Herbaceous Layer in Forests of Eastern North America, 2nd edition, began as an ESA symposium in 1998 in Baltimore, Maryland.
So, I have indeed always looked forward to this annual event, and 2012 was no exception. I was hosting a Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Radim Hédl from the Czech Republic, in my Weeds and Dirt Laboratory here at Marshall University from January to July 2012, so we soon made plans to put together a collaborative paper (that also included my colleagues from South China Botanical Garden, Guangzhou, China) to be presented in that microbrew-capitol-of-the-world—Portland, Oregon. I had remembered the great time I had there for the 2004 meeting, so that sweetened the pot even more. I was very pleased with our co-authored abstract that examined the effects of excess nitrogen on herb layer diversity in hardwood forests of West Virginia, Czech Republic, and southeastern China.
In the interim period, however, my son, Ian, was in his senior year of high school and had been actively applying to colleges, including the United States Naval Academy, the latter being his top choice, if accepted. That, however, was a very big if, for the acceptance rate is typically 6 or 7%. So, you can imagine the unmitigated joy experienced in our driveway when my wife and I pulled up from a trip to the Y for a workout, then seeing/hearing Ian leap out the front door—I GOT IN!
Wait… What does this have to do with ESA? Ian eventually accepted candidacy to the Academy and initiated the 7-week hell called Plebe Summer at the end of June, filled with extremes of physical and mental challenges. That would be the longest I have been away from either of my children. One week before the end of Plebe Summer is a special time—Plebe Parents Weekend—a reunion of indescribable proportions. That just happened to begin on the Friday which was the last day of ESA 2012. I simply could not risk missing this event, and so, in some ways reluctantly and in most ways not at all, I withdrew our abstract. As you can see from the picture below, taken by a Baltimore Sun photographer, I had made the right choice.
So, what does that say about this year’s ESA meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota? I will be all the more excited to see friends, attend talks, join my treasured Journal of Ecology editors for another fantastic evening out for dinner, connect with the Oxford University Press folks about my book, and present yet another paper. This one takes a somewhat old topic (variation in forest composition and structure with slope aspect), but adds a new dimension by also examining variation in herb layer and soil microbial communities, as well as aspect-related differences in interactions among trees, herbs, and microbes. (OOS 26-9 “Variation in biotic linkages with slope aspect in a temperate hardwood forest”) As we say in the South—hope to see y’all there!
Associate Editor, Journal of Ecology