Not long to go now until the 2018 British Ecological Society Annual Meeting where you have a chance to chat to some of our Senior Editors. Get to know the people behind the decision letters in our Meet the Editor series. Below, we talk to Amy Austin.
What can you tell us about the first paper you published?
I learned so much from the first paper of my thesis, working many versions through with my supervisor, Peter Vitousek, on the writing itself, but also a steep learning curve about how to do field ecology (I worked along a precipitation gradient in Hawaii) and analytical laboratory techniques. This paper opened my world to the wonder of stable isotopes, and in particular, 15N. I remember it came back for major revisions and we were able to turn it around relatively quickly. When the proofs came in pdf format, I couldn’t believe my eyes! I am still quite proud of this paper, and have always been thankful to Peter for his continued patience throughout the process. Oecologia, 1998, Austin & Vitousek.
What’s your favourite species and why?
I love working in ecosystems and plants fascinate me, as well as microbes and soil fauna. But I must admit that in my non-scientific life my greatest love may be Felis catus. They are amazing creatures indeed, and balance their wildness living in a human-dominated world. And they do it with style and grace, most of the time….
Who inspired you most as a student?
My university professors were very inspiring, above all for their enthusiasm and passion about their science.
If you could wake up tomorrow with a new skill, what would it be?
I would love to wake up tomorrow as an R wizard, being able to code and run mixed models effortlessly and innovating statistical solutions to the challenges of ecosystem ecology along natural gradients.
What’s your favourite sports team?
In order to maintain domestic bliss, I am required to say Boca Juniors, a well known football club from Buenos Aires.
If you could recommend one place for people to travel to on holiday, where would it be and why?
Of the places I have visited in recent years, one of the most awe inspiring was Sardinia. I expected it to be quite commercial, but it was an incredible mixture of diverse ecosystems with beautiful beaches, gorgonzola cheese, and the cork oak forests. I understand more why people live such long lives there – it is really beautiful.
What was the first album you owned?
I have to admit that I have never owned an album, but my first CD was Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline.
If any fictional character could join your lab, who would it be and why?
I think I am going to have to go with Wonder Woman for so many reasons – protector of the Amazon and The natural world, supporter of an egalitarian society and my guess is that she would be really helpful in the field collecting soil samples and collecting sun leaves from high in the canopy. Additionally, I would love to use her lasso of truth and put it around all the climate change deniers, making them admit that global warming is real, caused by humans, and dangerous for the planet.
How many British Ecological Society annual meetings have you attended? Which one was the best?
This year (2018) will only be my second BES meeting. Coming from Argentina, and right before Christmas, it is a difficult trip to make. And given that, I don’t believe I have a sufficient number of meetings to evaluate which one was best. I hope it is this year!!
Are you attending #BES2018? If so, when is the best opportunity for people to meet you?
I will be attending, my plenary talk is Wednesday and a quick email would probably be the best way to arrange a meet. Of course, if they let me out of some of the board meetings so I am able to wander around…..
Amy Austin is Professor, Agricultural Plant Physiology and Ecology Research Institute (IFEVA) – CONICET, University of Buenos Aires, ARGENTINA. In 2018 Amy was awarded the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards “For her remarkable contributions to understanding terrestrial ecosystem ecology in natural and human-modified landscapes”.
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