ESA 2012: Monday notes

Spent the morning writing my talk. Good thing my idea to swap the Monday morning and Friday morning activities hasn’t been implemented yet, or I would’ve had to finish my talk before arriving at the meeting. So I missed the award ceremony and opening plenary, sorry.

The convention center is somewhat spread out–there are basically two main clusters of rooms, widely separated from each other. But it also has more nooks and crannies than most places, so you can easily find someplace to pull over for a conversation or to crack open your laptop. And the convention center free wireless performed well for me today.

Meals could become a bit of an issue, especially lunch, since there’s almost nothing walkable from the convention center, and many of the best brewpubs are a bit of a hike (or worse) from the light rail lines. I’ve done fine so far, but I don’t want to fall into the rut of going back to the same few places over and over. Where are folks going for lunch?

Several people came up and complimented me on the blog, which is always flattering. In all seriousness, that’s what keeps me going–thanks for reading everyone!

And for those of you who aren’t reading, maybe you should: I talked to a grad student I know who was caught out in her qualifying exam by a question about one of my zombie ideas posts! Apparently she doesn’t read Dynamic Ecology regularly, but her supervisor does, which is the opposite of what I would’ve expected. But she was saved when another prof insisted that “Blog posts are not mandatory reading!” 😉

Chatted with several folks about what to do about Friday morning attendance. The two ideas that are garnering by far the most votes in the poll (swap Monday morning and Friday morning, and go to a full day on Friday) both seem like good ideas to me, and to the folks I’ve talked to. The former idea could easily be implemented next year on a trial basis. Though I also heard a new idea today: Mike Neubert suggested that people should be allowed to volunteer to talk on Friday morning, with volunteers having their registration fees refunded!

Monday was a bad day for me for time conflicts (strangely, the other days are mostly lacking in conflicts, despite this being the biggest ESA ever–thank you to the organizers for scheduling with my personal interests in mind!). So I inevitably missed many talks I’ll bet were really good. Here are a few highlights from what I did see:

Jon Levine was great as always. Just so clear, deft, and incisive. He showed how replacing two of the conventional assumptions from standard theories about spatial spread with more realistic assumptions–discrete individuals, and spatially-heterogeneous landscapes–leads to completely different predictions. Jon did a great job of explaining where his new results come from, of replacing your old intuitions with new, better intuitions. I always leave Jon’s talks smarter than I was before.

Speaking of spatial spread with discrete individuals and spatial heterogeneity, Brett Melbourne showed the latest results from his very neat flour beetle microcosm system, in which beetles disperse through linear arrays of flour patches, with more patches being added as needed so that they never reach the habitat boundary. Oddly, adding spatial heterogeneity actually reduces rather than increases the among-replicate variance in rates of spread. Which is weird–you introduce a realistic complication into the system, and the dynamics get more repeatable rather than less? And Brett even has a very detailed, parameterized mechanistic model of beetle spatial dynamics–which utterly fails to predict this result (the model predicts what you’d expect: adding spatial heterogeneity increases the among-replicate variance). Not clear what the model is omitting that could be causing this (maternal effects?)–but it should be possible to find out. That’s what I love about microcosms–they throw up tractable surprises. They don’t always, or even usually, do what you expect, and so can reveal new, previously unthought-of possibilities, not just serve as a testbed for existing ones. But when they do surprise you, you often can track down the source of the surprise and modify your understanding accordingly. My own talk on Thursday will make much the same point.

Chris Steiner showed some tight links between patterns and rates of clonal turnover in Daphnia and stability of Daphnia population dynamics. Mesocosm experiments testing some hypothesized causes for this link don’t really reproduce the natural pattern, though, so it’s not entirely clear what’s going on yet. But it looks like a cool line of work I’ll look forward to hearing more about in future.

3 thoughts on “ESA 2012: Monday notes

  1. Pingback: Monday at #ESA2012 – a ripper | Michael McCarthy's Research

  2. Food: I found a very good burrito stand at SW 2nd and Morrison (Fuerta burritos?). But that’s still across the river. Indeed, there are whole blocks of food trucks on the other side of the river, near Powell’s. (I don’t remember the address.)

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