#ESA2019 What’s Your Theme and Early Career Researcher Challenges

I always look forward to the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America although by the end of the marathon week I am with everyone else ready to head home. This year’s meeting ended a week ago and as I reflect on it my recurring thought was, what was the theme? I know that the intended theme set by the organizers was “Bridging Communities and Ecosystems: Inclusion as an Ecological Imperative” and I think that was generally achieved through the mix of presentations, symposia, workshops, etc. Indeed, the week was kicked off by a simply excellent opening plenary by Karen Warkentin on “All the variations Matter: Bridging Disciplines and Communities to Study Diversity in Life History and Sexual Behavior” (video link here). Warkentin did a fantastic job weaving together her research on phenotypic plasticity with her perspectives and personal experiences on gender and sexuality studies. Aside from being an incredibly important topic, Warkentin showcased how the ESA is moving forward to address the valid concerns raised regarding the choice of hosting this meeting in Kentucky.

Notwithstanding the meeting theme, my theme reflected my current research interests in phylogenetic and functional trait diversity (see this Editorial) and so I attended as many presentations on this topic as I could find. As a group these were uniformly excellent. For example, I enjoyed listening to Jess Miller’s talk on his work Functional diversity is a passenger but not a driver of drought-related plant diversity losses in annual grasslands just published as part of this Special Feature in the latest Journal of Ecology. Although not on functional traits, I was pleased to meet Melissa Daniels at her poster describing her study Invasive plant response to windstorm forest canopy damage also recently published in the Journal. I’ll mention one other presentation; Amanda Gallinat’s Modelling the evolution of ecological assembly processes mediated by functional traits across North American mammals, birds, and plants was a very nice exploration on incorporating phylogeny and functional traits into environmental species modelling.

Melissa Daniels
Melissa Daniels presents a poster summarizing her recent paper in Journal of Ecology.

I interviewed two of the Journal of Ecology Associate Editor’s that attended the meeting. Both Nicole Rafferty and Iain Stott are early career researchers so in addition to asking about their background and research, I also asked about how they deal with the challenges they face as they have moved into faculty positions. Their thoughtful and enlightening interviews are in the podcasts below:

Finally, I was proud of members of my own lab as they presented posters on the final full day. The late afternoon poster sessions are always a great chance to get lots of good feedback, and they did a great job handling questions from delegates that stopped by.

Above, members of my lab present their posters; left David Barfknecht, top right Guoyong Li, and bottom right Zhe Ren.

Next year’s meeting is in Salt Lake City and I’m already looking forward to it.

David Gibson, Executive Editor, Journal of Ecology

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