Lessons from the V Reunión Binacional de Ecología

 V Reunión Binacional de Ecología, 3 – 6 November 2013

The V Reunión Binacional de Ecología was celebrated in Puerto Varas, Chile, and the meeting aimed to gather both Argentinean and Chilean ecologists. Like the previous meetings organized by the two ecological societies –the Sociedad de Ecología de Chile and the Asociación Argentina de Ecología- it was a delightful mixture of scientific exchange and human interactions. Despite the fact that researchers from this region live close each other and share similar biogeography and ecological systems, they (we) are still quite disconnected in terms of scientific collaborations and acknowledgement of past and ongoing research. This kind of meeting is the best, if not the only, real opportunity to unify efforts that favors the scientific advancement of the still uncovered southern South America.

There were two plenary talks per day, except the last day when there was only one. I could not attend all of them, but I did attend most of them. I think the opening plenary by Andrew Beckerman was great, because he combined maximum enthusiasm and charisma with scientific excellence moving his talk through different scales of life organization. As a result, he captured the attention of the whole audience. As a South American researcher, however, I felt particularly attracted to the talks of Thomas Kitzberger and Julio Gutierrez. Although both have different focuses, histories, experiences, and systems, they share a common thread in their scientific careers: the test and subsequent rejection of hypotheses, which originate in the Northern Hemisphere. As young PhDs, Julio and Thomas came back from North America to Chile and Argentina, respectively, with the clear aim of applying the knowledge acquired during their PhD studies to explain and predict the nature of their South American systems. Sooner or later, however, they arrived at the conclusion that ecological systems in southern South America did not match expectations from hypotheses originated in the Northern Hemisphere. Both of them nicely showed how their careers began with some frustration but how they succeeded by rethinking hypotheses according to what their systems were suggesting, rather than according to preconceived hypotheses. Definitively, their careers have peaked since that time. The lesson that Julio and Thomas left in the meeting, therefore, is that there should not be a priori reasons to assume that evolutionary and ecological causes of patterns and processes in southern South American ecosystems are similar to those in the Northern Hemisphere.

Frida I. Piper
Associate Editor, Journal of Ecology

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