Reflections on the Festival of Ecology

It’s hard to believe that it has been a month since the Festival of Ecology!

Like many other participants (if the Functional Ecology Twitter poll is an accurate representation), I was mixing my normal work with attending some of the online conference events of BES 2020. During the main festival, I caught some of the workshops, thematic sessions and plenaries. The workshop on the importance of good data management really stuck with me, especially as the organisers highlighted the importance of including metadata to make sure your research data can be easily understood and replicated.

I have been dipping into other pre-recorded talks over the last month. With around 700 talks and poster presentations available, there was more than enough to keep me entertained.  It was great to hear talks by recent blog authors. For example, Dina int Zandt‘s talk on plant-soil-microbe interactions and, Harper Prize winner, Maria Leunda‘s talk exploring how evidence from ice caves can help us understand long-term environmental change.

Having access to the content for a month following the main event has been wonderful – and definitely one of the highlights of the Festival of Ecology’s online format. At past BES conferences, I’ve always been torn between which session to attend as there are inevitably two (or more) incredibly interesting talks scheduled for the same time. Instead of spending the night before the conference carefully planning my schedule and wishing I had a time turner to cover multiple sessions, I was able to watch talks related to my work, carefully worked my way through the Journal of Ecology playlist, watched talks by friends and even some that covered topics that were completely new to me. I can’t help but think how useful I would have found this a few years ago when I was finding my way into ecology through my interdisciplinary PhD and I hope other early career researchers have continued to engage with the content over the last month. I’ll admit, I’m still a little overwhelmed by the amount (and quality) of content. Thank you to everyone who presented their work.

Another highlight must be the great range of BES 2020 hashtags on Twitter. I took over the Journal of Ecology Twitter account for a few hours in the middle of the week and was very impressed by the level and variety of engagement. Although it may not be able to completely take over from face to face meetings, Twitter proved vital to making connections in this virtual conference setting. I was completely amazed by the incredible drawings posted with #DrawYourStudyOrganism and was even able to join in with #PetsofBES2020 as my cat spent most of my Twitter Takeover parading across my laptop.

Overall, the virtual format was a great success. BES 2020 proves an excellent jumping-off point to make future online events even better. I would love to see future conferences take on an online or hybrid format to make them accessible to more ecologists from around the world. It was great to hear about all of the incredible ecological research going on in the world without worrying about the inevitable train delays or my conference travel carbon footprint.

Thank you to everyone at the BES that was involved with organising and running the Festival of Ecology.


Rhosanna Jenkins Associate Editor for the Blog

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