This year’s International Congress of Ecology (INTECOL 2017) is held in Beijing, China and is happening this week (August 20-25, 2017). The conference theme is Ecology and Civilization in a Changing World. We will get more information and feedback from the conference in few days but in the meantime, let’s talk a bit about China and its ecological research!
China covers about 9.6 million km2 and contains a huge diversity of ecosystems, including grasslands at the edges of the Inner Mongolian plateau and the alluvial plains along the Yellow River. China hosts over 30,000 plant species and is the third most biodiverse country in the world, just behind Brazil and Colombia. The Chinese have a long history of utilising plants, including medicinal plants as part of traditional Chinese medicine. Famous Chinese plant species include, for example, Davidia involucrata, Actinidia chinensis (better known as kiwi plant), Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, Clematis lanuginosa, Ginkgo biloba, Parashorea chinensis, Metasequoia glyptostroboides, Cathaya argyrophylla and Camellia nitidissima.
China ranks second in terms of annual GDP (Gross domestic product) and has the highest population in the world with over 1.38 billion people. Feeding so many people is a major challenge and agricultural development is an important part of Chinese scientific research. Breeding crops to produce cultivars with high productivity and resistance to biotic and abiotic hazards is one of the priorities. Plant based research in China is therefore very hot on the topics of molecular genetics of plant development and metabolism, focusing on the elucidation of molecular mechanisms underlying plant architecture, starch biosynthesis, plant defenses against pathogens and insect herbivores, salt tolerance and high photosynthetic efficiency in agricultural crops, such as rice, wheat and tomato plants. In China, the molecular mechanisms and genomic editing studies of plants receive the most funding, together with research on biodiversity and climate change.
In the past decades, environmental deterioration and pollution has become a real issue in China, with significant deforestation, as well as increased air and water pollution. However, the Chinese government and people appreciate sustainable development and have campaigned to support reforestation, ecological restoration, and pollution mitigation. Note that China is the world’s leading investor in renewable energy commercialisation.
Protecting environmental and plant biodiversity, feeding the highest population in the world, and securing the safety of society has contributed to increasing funding opportunities for ecological research in China. Getting funding and obtaining a Professor position is competitive but often less so compared to other developed countries. You may therefore want to consider China as a place to pursue your carrer in ecology. The supply and tranportation systems, education and medical services are quite good in China and Chinese people and central and local governments welcome foreign scientists. For example, there are national and provincial talent programs that aim at recruiting foreign experts to come and work in China. If you’re interested a good option is to start by applying for a postdoctoral position which will open some doors towards a Professor position. Look for universities, institutions or companies who have already hired foreign researchers and don’t hesitate to contact Chinese colleagues, friends or researchers for help and advice. However, be prepared for a radically different environment with a high diversity of cultures, languages and food that can seem overwhelming at first when coming from Europe and America. The social system is also quite different and it may take time to adapt, but don’t be fooled, the Chinese are very social and making friends with Chinese colleagues is relatively easy.
I hope that you will be convinced that China has a lot to offer ecologists and that it will push you to start new collaborations with Chinese colleagues. Remember that Journal of Ecology welcomes submissions from research carried out in China, or from Chinese authors. For a sample of some of this research, have a look at the recent publications from Chinese authors or authors based in China in our recent special virtual issues:
With many thanks (非常感谢) to Associate Editor Kunfang Cao and several Journal of Ecology Chinese authors, who all helped a lot in the writing of this article.
Pierre Mariotte, Blog Editor, Journal of Ecology