I was recently asked by the executive board of Journal of Ecology to highlight presentations and other events that I am looking forward to at the INTECOL conference, taking place in London, August 18-23 (http://www.intecol2013.org).
Well, I will start by admitting that I feel rather bad that I wasn’t able to attend the ESA(merica) this year, after having attended all ESAs since I started grad school. I had to trade-off ESA for INTECOL, as many other Associate Editors of Journal of Ecology and Executive Editor David Gibson (https://jecologyblog.wordpress.com/2013/08/12/coming-home-to-intecol/) had to do. However, I am truly excited to attend INTECOL!! This will be my first INTECOL, and it promises to be a true “Darwinian monster” of cutting-edge ecological and evolutionary science. Even a quick look at the programme shows already that it is going to bring the very best from around the world.
However, before telling you what exactly I am thrilled about in regards to INTECOL, I am going to take the liberty to write a bit on what I am not so excited about: it all looks too good, it is hard to choose! I have spent a significant chunk of today making some decisions on what events I will attend… a summary of my highlighted itinerary during that week based on the fantastic app that INTECOL provides (here – http://www.intecol2013.org/news/INTECOL-Online-App-Available-Now_71.html) tells me that I am overbooked with four-way time conflicts at some times of the day. Oh boy! I suspect that other young ecologists will share this situation at a big conference like INTECOL too. Consequently, I have decided to offer some tips, if I may, that have in the past worked for me when navigating big conferences:
– It turns out that one really can’t be in more than one place at the same time (yep, no matter how fast you run or how young you are). Consequently, breathe in, and remember that the spoken research can also be communicated informally at the poster session (corner that speaker whose talk you missed!), over beers (a free beer can get you a long way), or even later on via email (Dear Dr XXX, I was not able to attend your talk at INTECOL, but I have read much of your research on YYY and I was wondering if we could skype to discuss ZZZ. Sincerely, a proactive student). Missing a talk is not the end of the world.
– Choose wisely, but don’t over-think it! Which event would you rather go to if you have some conflicting scheduled ones? Let’s face it, sometimes flashy titles are not all that they promise, and titles that look not so flashy (ok, I’ll say it: boring) at first glance end up delivering amazing insights into ecological and evolutionary research. It is also a good idea to go to some talks that are really far away from your field of expertise/interest. Thinking outside of the box sometimes often requires listening outside of your conference room.
– Big and small conferences alike are fantastic places for networking, looking for jobs and initiating collaborations. Make sure to schedule “sit down” times with the researchers with whom you’d like to chat. Emailing them with a request for a meeting ahead of the meeting to nail down a day, time and place is a very good idea. If you haven’t done this yet… hurry up!
– INTECOL is an ecological marathon, not a sprint. The conference lasts for a full week. You will have the opportunity to attend many of the on-going symposia, organized oral sessions, workshops, poster sessions and special events. There is not point in running out of energy on your first day. Make sure you schedule your “me time” to think about what you just learned, or simply to talk to other colleagues. If you can’t summarize concisely what was the coolest finding that you learned at the end of a given day of the conference, you might want to re-consider the way you are navigating the conference. Mental saturation is not healthy!
– Make time to see London! I was lucky enough to live there during my MSc, and its multi-cultural background and vibrant atmosphere has greatly influenced my desire to collaborate internationally and to visit and learn from new cultures.
– Plan a vacation after the conference. You deserve it!
Ok, and now that I got that off my chest, here are some of the things that I am looking forward to at INTECOL:
– First and foremost, meeting up with my international colleagues over beer and curry!
– The conference will feature quite a few talks on eco-evolutionary dynamics. I am excited about “Eco-evolutionary dynamics in response to selection on life history” (Monday Aug 19, 12:15-12:30), “Eco-evolutionary dynamics of range shifting: dispersal evolution (Mon Aug 19, 12:30-45), “Impact of heritable traits on population growth (Mon Aug 19, 16.30-16:45), or “Advances in the use of integral projection models to link ecological and evolutionary dynamics” (Tue Aug 20, 12:00-12:15). Some of these talks and many more will take place in a symposium organized by Journal of Ecology Associate Editor Rich Shefferson and myself on Tuesday morning titled “Eco-evolutionary dynamics and the contemporary convergence of ecology and evolution” (Capital Suite 12).
– On the ecophysiological/demographic side of business, I’m very much looking forward to the following presentations: “Life history traits and recent range shifts can predict extinction risk due to climate change (Tue Aug 20, 10:45-11:00), “Variation in plant functional traits across a latitudinal gradient: does intraspecific variation matter” (Wed Aug 21, 10:15-10:30), “Life history trade-offs affect the invasion velocity of spreading plant populations” (Fri Aug 23, 10:15-10:30), “A new perspective to find dispersal traits related to plant colonization across islands (Wed Aug 21, 15:15-15:30), “Allometric scaling of population variance with mean body size predicted from Taylor’s law and density-mass allometry” (Wed Aug 21, 9:00-9:15), “Can trait-based analyses of species distribution change be transferred to new geographic areas?” (Wed Aug 21, 15:45-16:00), and “Reconstructing shifts in vital rates by directional environmental change: a demographic method based on readily available data” (Fri Aug 23, 10:30-10:45)
– Although Journal of Ecology publishes mostly on plant, fungi and plant–animal interactions, most studied animals are but furry plants that happen to move around (imho, that is), so I also suggest: “Life histories have a history: effects of past and present conditions on adult somatic growth rates in wild Trinidadian guppies” (Wed Aug 21, 9:15-30). The research performed on this study system is truly pushing forward biodemography, and plant population ecologists may in my opinion benefit from this experimental approach.
– Journal of Ecology recently published a Special Feature on the evolution of senescence in plants. INTECOL will also offer some very interesting presentations in this regard. Some examples are: “Telomeres and telomerase activity in relation to self-maintenance” (Tue Aug 20, 18:15-19:15), and “Reconsidering the consequences of mortality” (Wed Aug 21, 15:45-16:00) among others.
– The following presentations seem rather interesting from what I could read of their abstract and, time allowing, I’ll try to attend too: “Does organismal intelligence stabilize the biosphere?” (Mon Aug 19, 11:00-11:15) and “Astroecology: spatial ecology reaches the solar system” (14:15-14:30)
– INTECOL will also offer a wonderful array of workshops, of which the following ones seem very interesting, particularly in the new ecological era of “big data, big ecology”: “Maximum entropy and ecology: foundations, methods and applications” (Tue Aug 20, 12:15-14:15pm), “What makes good code good?” (Wed Aug 21, 12:45-14:15), “Managing ecological data for effective use and re use” (Thu Aug 22, 12:15-14:15). In addition, the International Network of Next-Generation Ecologist (INNGE; link – http://www.innge.net/) is organizing a series of activities and workshops for young ecologists that range from career promotion, to open-science, pecha-kucha talks on influential papers in ecology, visions on ecology by senior researchers, and even a social night! (Check out here for more details: http://www.innge.net/?q=node/8).
See you all in London!
Associate Editor, Journal of Ecology
PS: otherwise I’ll be tweeting live @drobcito