Last week I attended the annual meeting of the British Ecological Society Macroecology Special Interest Group (or BES Macroecology SIG for something a bit more manageable) at the University of Sheffield. Macroecology deals with ecological patterns and processes that occur over large spatial and temporal scales, and so is a natural fit for a lot of palaeoecological data.
The organisers deliberately moved away from the standard conference format of back-to-back talks, and instead built in lots of time for discussions around several themes (‘provacations’) that addressed the current status of macroecology and possible future directions for it. Several areas for progress were identified here, including finding more efficient ways of generating, curating and accessing large (global scale) datasets, increasing dialogue between numerical modellers and empirical ecologists, and more statistical and computational training for undergraduate ecologists and biologists.
Sessions of presentations were also formulated to encourage discussion and debate, with either rapid, five-minute presentations or longer methodological talks forming the starting point for further discourse. I struggled enormously with the five-minute time limit during my talk (conference talks are often built around a 15 minute slot) but hopefully interested a few people in the uses of 60 million year old pollen for addressing macroecological questions.
A workshop on ‘Spatial analysis in R’ followed the two-day meeting. This was taught by Barry Rowlingson, and was co-organised by the Macroecology and Computational Ecology SIGs. Barry started by introducing the programme R and then went on to demonstrate its uses for handling, mapping and analysing spatial data. This type of analysis was largely new to me, and this workshop was a brilliant introduction to what R can do with geographical data.
To join these British Ecological Society SIGs and find out about other groups visit the BES SIG pages by clicking here.