4 min read

ESA 2014 -- day 1

My first ever ESA meeting began today! Yes, I am excited, but also overwhelmed! Since I got to Sacramento very late last night (at 11pm local time, which was 1am in midwest, where I came from), I did not get up early enough this morning. As a result, I missed the awards session and talk of keynote speaker Kathy Cottingham.

As a first year ESA attendee, I was really glad that I went to the orientation for student attendees organized by Kika Tarsi. We got some general idea about how the meeting was structured, how to get the most out of a ESA meeting. We also got lots of practice about “elevator pitch”. Really helpful session. But it could be better if the organizer can give attendees a little bit more time when practicing.

After three years, I finally met with Elizabeth Borer! I applied for Dr. Borer’s lab three years ago for Ph.D study but did not get into her lab. Before our meeting, I actually did not have good idea about what we are going to talk. But it was a very very nice talk at the end! I showed a little bit about projects I am working on (yes, I am a nerd…) then talked about plans after graduation and got some really helpful suggestions. We also talked a little bit about how the nutrient network came from and how it evolved! After all other useful suggestions and tips, there is actually one tip about meetings Dr. Borer talked: mainly use this kind of big meeting as an opportunity to meet people you want to meet, as well as listen a couple of good talks each day.

After more than one hour (!) talk with Dr. Borer, I went to a talk given by Marko J. Spasojevic about intra-specific functional trait. Intraspecific traits got more and more attention during the past five years in the trait-based community studies. Marko and Jonathan Myers are working on a 20 hectares plot at the Tyson Research Center at Washington University in St. Louis. They divided the area into 20m by 20m grids. When they analyzed the data at this scale, including intraspecific traits did not increase the variations the model can explain. Then, they analyzed the data at 40m by 40m and 60m and 60m scales. With bigger grids, beta diversity among grids was getting lower, i.e. more sharing species among grids. But then including intra-specific traits improved the model. Interesting results, but why? Marko did not talk too much about reasons for this phenomeno. Is it because that at smaller scale, individual species have very similar traits (thus not too much intraspecific traits)? With increasing spatial scale, species are likely getting different because of environmental gradients, thus intra-specific traits get more important to explain the community assembly patterns? If so, then what is the threshold? Is this system specific?

I then run into an ignite session about climate change. It is super cool to have this kind of talk. About 5 minutes for each speaker and no Q&A at the end. With this limited time, people are mostly focus on big pictures. It is nice to listen a couple of these. But after three of them, I did not feel that I learned things I want to learn (do not get me wrong, this session’s goal is actually to inspire ideas).

In the exhibit hall, I came across one of my previous labmate from China. It was very nice to catch up with her in US! At almost the end of the post session, I happened to meet with Ben Bolker! But he was in a hurry to the theoretical ecology section mixer. Hopefully I will get some more time to talk with him later.

I never have been in an ESA student mixer section! It was fun to talk with other fellow students in the bar, get to know some new people and told Kika that she did not introduce herself in the student orientation session! One most interesting thing is that I met a sophomore undergraduate student in the student mixer! I am sorry, are people really attending ESA meeting so young??? I suddenly felt that I was so late/old…

Well, I guess I can call it a good day now! Tomorrow, I am going to meet with Nicholas J. Gotelli. I am really looking forward it!

P.S. Two thoughts about ESA meeting so far:

  1. Why no blank pages at the end of the program book? Sometimes, I do not have a notebook with me and I want to take notes!
  2. The name tag should be printed two-sided so I do not need to worry about whether people can see my name though it is easy just to hand write my name at the other side.