ESA 2013 preview

I’m getting excited for the 2013 ESA meeting! Hope you are as well.

At a big conference like the ESA, it helps to have a goal. One of my goals this year is to hear about the latest stuff in areas in which I may propose to work when my grant comes up for renewal next fall. So that means that I’m going to be trying to hit talks on stochastic population and community dynamics, modeling and experiments on metacommunities, and eco-evolutionary dynamics.

There are numerous talks I’m looking forward to. At the request of a reader, I’ll post my itinerary tomorrow. If you have gaps in your schedule and your interests are similar to mine, you can consider filling your gaps with some of the talks I’m planning to see. In the meantime, here are some other bits of the meeting I’m looking forward to.

One thing I’m really looking forward to at this year’s meeting is Tony Ives’ MacArthur award lecture during Monday morning’s opening plenary. I’m a huge fan of Tony’s work, he’s done such a wide range of wonderful stuff. I’ve really learned a lot from his papers over the years. And he gives a very good talk. He’s going to be talking about using theory to solve system-specific problems rather than make broad generalizations. I organized a symposium around this theme at the ESA meeting a few years ago. The talk should be a nice riposte to those who see mathematical theory as opposed to “place-based” work. It should also be a nice case study of collaboration between theory and empiricism.

This year I’ve volunteered to serve as a mentor, which is something new for me. I’ll be representing the Aquatic Ecology and Theoretical Ecology sections (the sections are asked for volunteers willing to act as mentors). I’ll be at the Networking for Students and Early Career Professionals event on Sunday, Aug. 4 at 6:30, right after the Opening Plenary. And I (along with the rest of the mentors from Sunday night) will be at the Graduate Student and Post Doc Roundtable with ESA Leadership breakfast from 7-8 am on Tues. Aug. 6 in the convention center room 200D. So if you’re planning to attend these events, by all means come and say hi!

I’m also looking forward to the Ignite sessions. As you’ll recall, these are sessions of 5-minute talks, with each slide appearing for exactly 15 seconds. Besides being interested in the talks themselves, and the subsequent discussion, I’ll be curious to see how speakers handle the format. Ignite talks are a new thing, so it’ll be fun to see what people do with them. How much and what sort of information will they try to convey, and how? Will speakers approach Ignite talks as basically stripped-down versions of regular ESA talks, or as different beasts entirely? Some of the Ignite talks will be covering some heavy-sounding technical orย  mathematical material (e.g., maximum entropy). Can you convey even the “gist” or “bare bones” of technical or mathematical material in this format? Will anyone try to “game” the format (e.g., Have three consecutive identical slides, thereby allowing you to talk about “one” slide for 45 seconds. Or have one slide show the axis labels, the next slide adds the data, the third slide adds a regression line)?๐Ÿ™‚ Note that, even though the ESA’s online itinerary planner lets you plan to attend individual Ignite talks, in practice I doubt that’s going to be feasible. If I understand correctly (and someone who knows please correct me if I’m wrong!), all of the 7-10 talks in an Ignite session will be given one right after the other at the beginning of the session, with no time for questions in between. Then the rest of the session (probably 75 minutes or so) will be given over to discussion among the speakers and attendees. So unless I’ve misunderstood, you won’t really be able to just drop in on Ignite session to hear a specific talk and then pop out again, the way you often do for regular talks. Not that you’d want to in any case–the main point of Ignite talks, as I understand them, is to serve as conversation starters for the discussion afterwards. Still finalizing my itinerary, but I’m crossing my fingers and hoping I don’t have to choose between an Ignite session and a whole bunch of regular talks I really want to see. Kudos to the ESA for trying something new, and to all the Ignite speakers for having a go at it. Perhaps the only disappointment is that no one seems to have taken up Nate Hough-Snee’s suggestion to have an Ignite session comprised entirely of joke talks.๐Ÿ™‚

And finally, how can you resist the poetic abstract of Kaspari et al.’s Ignite talk on “Leibig is dead; long live Leibig” (in Ignite session 10, Wed. 1:30-3:30, room 101C)?

Twenty five elements are all that’s required

to build protoplasmic goo

Yet Liebig, dear Liebig, has most of us wired

To only obsess on a few

While Phosphorus, Nitrogen, Carbon are dandy

There’s Sodium spewed forth by Hurricane Sandy

And Copper and Zinc are metabolome candy

With the others arrayed in a queue

So, Geology giveth

Biochemistry limits

Leibig’s Law it delimits

(Hey, it’s only 5 minutes!)

There’s a great talk, right after us, too.

So, what are you looking forward to at the meeting?

p.s. Here are some old posts to help you get ready for the meeting:

Some tips for giving a good talk or poster

How to ask and answer tough questions

Why and how to network at conferences

What to do in the highly-unlikely event that you encounter a crackpot at a conference

p.p.s. Not sure if I’m going to blog from the ESA meeting or not. I may just do a post-meeting wrap-up post this year. In the past, my daily wrap-up posts haven’t been much read, so I don’t know that I’ll bother this year.

p.p.p.s. We have a guest post coming later this week from Minneapolis local and blogger extraordinaire Jeremy Yoder, with advice on where to eat and drink at the meeting.

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