It is snowing in Ghent. Delayed or cancelled flights/trains have made travelling a challenge, but as the weather is settling at least a tiny bit, more and more people are arriving to the Ecology Across Borders in Ghent, Belgium. A snowman with a name badge greats those that managed to reach the conference venue. Outside, the cold wind pinches your skin and freezes your toes. Inside, the magic and excitement of science, plus a cup of tea or several, warms you up.
Here are my conference highlights so far.
On Monday, I joined the full day Ecology Hackathon. Our goal was to make an R package to download and harmonise differed gridded datasets to facilitate their use in answering research questions. We have written code and drafted the key goals of our package, and are excited to continue building on this.
Speed review from the BES journal editors
The speed review session was a great opportunity to get feedback from the editors of some of the BES journals. The session was very useful and it was great to meet some of the editors and talk about the winning elements of a manuscript.
GBIF stall in the exhibition hall
I had a riveting discussion with Dmitry Schigel from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). I’m using GBIF data in my analysis of how rarity metrics (geographic range, mean population size and habitat specificity) affect population change, and it was fantastic to learn more about GBIF and how to best use GBIF data. We love open source data, and we are looking forward to continuing using GBIF – both in our research, and in teaching at Coding Club.
Catching up with people and meeting others for the first time
It’s exciting to see people you haven’t met with for a while, to chat about science and life, and share the conference experience. Equally, it is exciting to meet new people, to ponder a subject area you’ve never though about before, or to see your own area in a different light.
Taking it all in – three floors of people enthusiastic about science, a buzzing conference venue, beautiful photos spread around, and lots of inspiration – it is worth to stop running for a moment (though I find that hard!) to just breathe in the ecology magic.
For those of us that didn’t bring appropriate footwear and are walking around in socks, the conference very much feels like home! And what better home for an ecologist than one where we get to share and discuss our research, pick up new skills along the way and start new collaborations.
Workshop: Transferring quantitative skills among ecologists
Coding Club brings together people at different career stages to create a supportive environment for knowledge exchange and collective advancement of quantitative skills. We combine peer-to-peer workshops and online tutorials to promote statistical and programming fluency. In our EAB workshop, we used a tutorial on analysing big data in ecology to demonstrate how we can deliver quantitative training across academic institutions, after which we made our own tutorials and uploaded them to GitHub!
Interested in learning how to write coding tutorials and create a positive space for knowledge and skills exchange? All of our workshop materials are freely available online and we welcome future collaborations.
We were thrilled that many people attended and engaged with our workshop – it’s fantastic to meet more people keen to build a community around coding and quantitative training!
Talk: Does rarity influence population change in the UK and across global biomes?
Straight from our workshop, I ran to the Conservation science session to give my talk! An exciting jam-packed day!
Species’ attributes such as rarity status, distribution and taxa are often assumed to predict population declines and extinction risk. However, empirical tests of the influence of rarity on population change across tax and biomes have yet to be undertaken, hindering proactive conservation. We combined open source data from the Living Planet Index, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and the IUCN to examine (1) the effects of rarity on rates of vertebrate population change in the UK, (2) the variation in global vertebrate population trends across biomes, and (3) the relationship between detected population change, species’ conservation status, and study duration.
I loved the 2016 BES conference in Liverpool, and the join conference in 2017 was no different!