ESA expects roughly 3400 to attend their 98th annual meeting in Minneapolis Aug. 4-9. In addition to the 129 traditional contributed oral sessions and 70 contributed poster Sessions, there will be 24 symposia, 34 organized oral sessions, 4 organized poster sessions, 53 workshops, 19 special sessions, 15 field trips and 17 Ignite sessions. The Ignite presentations (20 slides auto-advancing every 15 seconds) reflect the very young demographic of the attendees. I assume that tweeting will figure somehow, somewhere, but I don’t expect flash mobs (although you never know!).
I’ve been attending these meetings for 35 years, and in most years the week fills up with simply trying to hear talks by friends and former students, so that I can say something intelligent when I run into them in the halls or at a bar.
Even after all these years, I still love to hear a well-crafted 15 minute talk, preferably on a subject I know little about. And with several thousand presentations I have plenty to choose from. So at least once during the week I pick a traditional oral session on something that piques my interest, and sit down for a couple of hours. I’m leaning towards talks on paleoecology this year. I’ve always enjoyed that literature without ever contributing to it. But my current research on responses of eastern US forests to climate change has triggered a crisis of confidence in the traditional narrative about post-glacial vegetation development in the northeastern US, particularly with respect to the potential for very long lags in community response to past (and future) climate change.
Surprisingly, I could only find 1 paleo session this year (Tuesday afternoon). I suspect that a number of talks with a paleo perspective are sprinkled in with the ubiquitous climate change sessions (9 by my count). The titles suggest that the paleoecologists are developing ever more sophisticated tools for quantifying past patterns of species distribution and abundance. But like all good history, the real challenge is in developing a compelling narrative to explain those patterns. I’m hoping for some good stories.
Associate Editor, Journal of Ecology