BES annual meeting: Top talks

December 17, 2015

I am just back from a fabulous British Ecological Society (BES) annual meeting in Edinburgh. Both the city and the science were interesting and exciting. The Science Slam was certainly my highlight “fringe” event and I believe all the slams will be avaliable to view soon on the BES Youtube channel. But you can watch the winner, Rosie Woodroffe, now…

Of the many great science talks I would like to highlight just four here which I found particulalry interesting, by: Stephen Prentice (Queen’s University Belfast), Althea Davies (University of St. Andrews), Tom August (Cente for Ecology & Hydrology), and Kimberly Simpson (University of Sheffield).

Stephen and Althea’s talks were probably the closest to my own research interests in palaoecology. Stephen presented exciting new data on the use of testate amoebae (Arcellacea) as a proxy for tracking past lake eutrophication. I am always interested to see the development of proxies because they provide new insight into past environments and, in conjunction with other proxies, ecosystem interactions. In her talk Althea focused on four fossil pollen records from the Peak District (UK) (Davies et al., 2015). I think that the use of multiple fossil records from the same region is really an important step for palaeoecology as it allows us to explore change at a landscape scale. In her Peak District study Althea clearly showed the spatial and temporal heterogeniaty of environmental change in the landscape.

The talks by Tom and Kimberly were a little outside my immediate field of expertise but grabbed my attention anyway. Tom presented developments made with the Zoon project which focuses on spatial modelling which is exciting in its own right; however, the impressive thing with the Zoon project was the speed and comparability of the modelling approach and the consequent benifits of speeding up this academic dialogue and discussion. Kimberly’s talk was based on experiments to discover the flamability of grasses in Africa. I am particulalry interested in this having worked on the fossil record from Lake Bosumtwi (Ghana) which contains alot of charcoal. Kimberly showed that grass species are differentially susceptible to fire and can burn in different ways; read more in her recent Journal of Ecology paper (Simpson et al., 2015).


  • Davies, A. (2015) Late Holocene regime shifts in moorland ecosystems: high resolution data from the Pennines, UK. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 1-13.
  • Simpson, K.J., Ripley, B.S., Christin, P., Belcher, C.M., Lehmann, C.E.R., Thomas, G.H. & Osborne, C.P. (2016) Determinants of flammability in savanna grass species. Journal of Ecology 104, 138-148.

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