Qaeco Highlights from #ICCB2015 — the International Congress for Conservation Biology

Qaecologists Freya Thomas, Michaela Plein, Darren Southwell, Posing Waiter, Stefano Canessa, Natasha Cadenhead, Kate Giljohann, Heini Kujala, and Zebra Enthusiast (L to R)

Qaecologists Freya Thomas, Michaela Plein, Darren Southwell, Posing Waiter, Stefano Canessa, Natasha Cadenhead, Kate Giljohann, Heini Kujala, and a Zebra Enthusiast enjoy the summer evenings (L to R). Photo: Natalie Briscoe

It’s Spring in sunny Melbourne, and many Qaecologists are returning from what’s becoming an annual migration north to Montpellier, in France. This year, #ICCB2015 – the 27th International Congress for Conservation Biology and 4th European Congress for Conservation Biology; in other words, the big shindig for Conservation Scientists. We thought we’d ask them to share their highlights.

Naturally there’s the delightful weather, wine, and company of Montpellier – but evidently lots of great talks too, many enjoyed from the overflowing confines of a hallway.

For Natalie Briscoe, highlights were hearing research about how climate change may drive local extinctions in species like some butterflies that can have multiple generations per year via a “suicidal” extra generation that has very high mortality (paper here), and how scientists figured out that some aquatic microfauna can protect frogs from chytrid fungus (and paper here).

Stefano Canessa presents at ICCB

Ex-Qaecologist Stefano Canessa carefully points out something fascinating at ICCB. Photo: Michaela Plein

Kelly Hunt de Bie meanwhile enjoyed the symposium “Social Science in conservation in the anthropocene: New paths to a social-ecological wellbeing”. It brought in a mix of speakers who presented significant progress in managing socio-ecological systems, including developing social indicators and methods integrating social science into environmental decision making. She loved the quote from Karma Norman of NOAA’s NorthWest Fisheries Science Centre, “Combining social and ecological disciplines results in conservation that is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Qaecologists at ICCB were pleased to hear wolves and other large mammals on the increase in Europe. Great work conservation! Photo by Jan Nijendijk, Wikimedia commonsns

Qaecologists at ICCB were pleased to hear wolves and other large mammals on the increase in Europe. Great work conservation! Photo by Jan Nijendijk, Wikimedia commons

Libby Rumpff on the other hand, got a kick out of Luigi Boitani’s comment that “We are not used to managing our successes”. This was during the symposium on ‘Evaluating the impacts of conservation interventions’ and discussing the recent expansion in range and numbers of many transboundary species in Europe. (Whilst also pointing out that conservation scientists are really having a hard time establishing exactly what difference conservation interventions have had in comparison to factors ‘we’ have had little to no control over). There’s a whole book to check out, and perhaps another thing to add to the list of things conservation scientists need to do better?

Luke Kelly also enjoyed this session, and was happy to hear that populations of wolves, bears and other large mammals have generally increased across  much of Europe. Of course, it’s more complex than that but it’s still pretty exciting for someone like Luke who is obsessed with mammals and has recently moved to Europe – and it’s nice to hear a good news story from a leading conservation biologist. You can check out more from that group here.

On the botanical side of re-wilding, Michaela Plein enjoyed hearing about green infrastructure (incidentally her fave new jargon of the conference) with wild-flower strips among crop fields as pollinator corridors, and clover among grains to enhance nitrogen fixation.

Chris Baker, like apparently all of Conservation Science on twitter, loved the plenary and reaction to the debate between TNC chief scientist Peter Kareiva and Social-Ecologcial Economics professor Clive Spash. The debate certainly set the conference alive, such as the entertaining live commentary from from Qaecologist provocateur Mike Bode.

But conferences are about so much more than their face-value content, especially in the south of France in Summer! Darren Southwell loved the farewell dinner, while for others the informal haunts capped off the event. Natasha Cadenhead loved the conference, but for her the highlight was one word: Tartare. While Reid Tingley agreed the food was great, it was the conversations with colleagues and old friends (and some new ones) that transpired at the various pubs, restaurants, and cafés along the charming laneways of Montpellier that are really memorable. And for Lucie Bland, the city too had the charm with so many places to go for coffee, lunch, dinner, and drinks. For as we know, conferences are a great opportunity to catch up with collaborators from all over the world. So why not, asks Lucie, do it over a plate of snails and some rosé?

Win. We love conferences.

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