INTECOL 2013 and the BES Centenary celebrations are over, but for me the event hosted in the old docklands area of east London will be remembered for a long time. Remembered for what? It was my pleasure to listen to many excellent talks ranging from detailed presentations of narrowly focused research, to the wide ranging plenaries. As is often the case, I didn’t attend as many talks as I wanted to, and probably missed yours, but really I don’t think I heard a duffer at all.
I was truly inspired with the plenaries. I didn’t attend them all, but will long remember in particular those of Díaz, Hanski, and Tilman as masterful summaries of some of the most important work in ecology. I truly ‘get’ the importance of functional types, the genetic basis for metapopulation dynamics, and the importance of biodiversity (OK, I already appreciated the latter, and the first part of Tilman’s message wasn’t new, but look where it ended up – he advised us to share vegetarian recipes!).
But, what I’ll really remember for a long time about INTECOL was the tweeting. Questions in the plenaries had to be submitted via Twitter and were summarized by the moderator (with help from BES’ Richard English). This leveler stopped the bore at the microphone in his or her tracks, and allowed the shyest person with a smartphone/laptop/tablet to ask a question (I was still worried that my questions might get asked with me identified by my Twitter handle – it didn’t happen, my questions didn’t make the cut), and even allowed questions and comments to ‘evolve’ over the course of the presentation with continued discussion afterwards. By following the live Twitter feed from my hotel room I realized that I was missing an excellent plenary on coral reefs, and was guilted into rushing in from the hallway to catch the last few minutes of Georgina Mace’s presentation on biodiversity conservation.
Has Twitter now come of age for ecological conferences? Or, is it a fad that will quickly pass? Certainly it is an exciting social media tool that livened up an already excellent conference. I was able to follow talks in multiple sessions at once (sometimes thinking that I should have been elsewhere…). The networking available through Twitter is amazing allowing interactions with people attending the conference and remotely (see figure) – going well beyond the chatting in the hallways with friends syndrome (see @EntoProf’s post). Oh, there were a few complaints by Luddites without smartphones and “I’ll never do Twitter” diehards, but I sensed that after the initial surprise at the first plenary many were gradually won over. I gained 21 new followers. As a journal Editor I’m all for more and better ways of communicating our science. For me Twitter works and is an important part of our social media presence. I invite you to follow us @JEcology.
#INT13 interaction network courtesy of @cabbageleek
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