As part of the launch there will be a Thematic Session at the Birmingham meeting entitled “Advancing our understanding of long-term ecology: combining ecological and palaeoecology approaches and metrics”and organised by Althea Davies and Ambroise Baker.
Last week I went to the University of Nottingham for the third BES Macroecology Special Interest Group annual meeting. Macroecology concerns itself with ecological patterns and processes at large spatial and/or temporal scales, and so is a natural place to link palaeoecological research with that of modern ecologists and biogeographers. The conference took place over two days, and comprised a mix of 5 minute lightning talks, longer invited talks (including two keynotes by Catherine Graham of Stony Brook University, New York) and discussion sessions.
There are plans to hold next year’s Macroecology SIG meeting at the Centre for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate (CMEC) at the University of Copenhagen, and I’d like to encourage palaeoecologists to consider attending. Chatting to the delegates at the Nottingham meeting, there certainly is a growing interest in ecological change over longer timescales and the role of history in shaping modern biotas, and so palaeoecologists have a lot to offer to these sorts of research areas. Copenhagen’s got to be a nice place for a conference as well…
We enjoyed so much how this one-day meeting was scheduled, with some formal approach including four plenary and lighting talks, and other informal initiatives such as speed dating and discussion groups. This way, all participants could interact with other non-directly related researchers.
The focuses of the plenary talks were related to different fields within macroecology. In this sense:
Andy Purvis opened the session with the definition of macroecology, the trends and shifts of study topics it has carried out since the discipline began and ended with what macroecology is not any longer.
David Jablonski explored through examples of bivalves studies how climate in time and space affects the studies of diversity dynamics, mainly addressed to three key questions: a) Extinctions, b) Latitudinal Diversity Gradients, and c) Geographical ranges.
Lee Hsiang Liow encouraged us to evaluate both processes and observations, and highlighted the importance of modelling both to take into account the “unobservable” or latent truth including examples of capture-recapture and occupancy methods.
Kathy Willis gave a review of the trends followed for conservation strategies since 1980s, until the development of the “ecosystems services” idea of given an economic value to biodiversity. Her main statement was focused on how palaeo-data can help in providing information to some “knowledge gaps” related to human resources including: a) trends in biomass, b) trends in nutrient cycling, c) trends in in final ecosystems services, and d) sustainability of ecosystems services.
Lighting talks were related to more specific study cases of macroecology, including specific researches about turtles, fungi, beetles, crocodiles, foraminifera or dinosaurs, in several spatial and temporal scales .
We would like to thank again Phil, Victoria, Adriana and Isabel for the great day that finished with a nice and warm wine reception sponsored by BMC Ecology. We hope to attend further events like this soon.
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.