Here’s how I choose which presentations to see at the ESA meeting. How do you do it?

Occasionally in the past readers have asked me to post the list of talks and posters I’m planning to see at the ESA meeting. I appreciate where such requests come from; there are a lot of talks and posters and I’m flattered that some people would like their favorite blogger to help them choose. But I’m a little uncomfortable with such requests. I choose which talks and posters to see for my own reasons, which are probably not (and shouldn’t be) your reasons.

So rather than post the list of talks and posters I’m planning to see, here are some suggestions on how you can choose which ones you want to see. Please add your own suggestions in the comments!

My advice is oriented toward the ESA meeting, which is the only conference I attend regularly, but most of it should generalize to any conference large enough to have at least a few parallel sessions running at any given time. Continue reading

Open thread: where to eat and drink in Portland for Evolution 2017 and #ESA2017

Evolution 2017 starts in in a couple of days, and #ESA2017 is coming up soon after that! We have a local lined up to write a guest post for us about where to eat and drink in Portland for #ESA2017, but in the meantime: been anywhere good? Tell us, and your many hungry and thirsty colleagues, in the comments!

I’ll start: McMenamins Kennedy School is worth the car ride. It’s a historic elementary school that’s been converted into a boutique hotel and brewpub. My wife and I stayed there a few years ago. You have to see it to believe it, it’s such a cool place. Every nook and cranny is put to use. There are several bars, each with its own funky decor; even the boiler room is a (cozy) bar now. The auditorium is now a theater that features classic movies and live music. You can eat and drink outside in the courtyard in the center of the school. The walls are festooned with paintings from local artists, every one of which was commissioned to commemorate the school. And the classrooms are now hotel rooms–that still have the chalkboards and chalk. In the ultra-competitive world of Portland brewing, McMenamins beers are fine, nothing special. Same for the food–it’s average brewpub food. But you’re going for the setting. McMenamins has made a name for themselves with their amazing renovations of historic properties in and around Portland, but they really topped themselves with the Kennedy School. I took my lab group there last time the ESA was in Portland, and might do so again. Maybe I’ll see you there!

I’m speaking on science blogging at #SocialFish #AFS2016 today

Today at 10:20 am Central time I’m giving a keynote talk on science blogging at the 2016 American Fisheries Society meeting. It’s part of the #SocialFish symposium, which runs all day. Come on by if you’re at the meeting, or follow via Twitter if you’re not! It’ll be a mix of old thoughts and new thoughts. There will be zombie jokes. And I’ll be comparing myself to an alligator gar.

Alligator gar - Atractosteus spatula

Me. More or less.

(image source: Wikimedia Commons)

#ESA2016 open thread (UPDATEDx2)

Brian, Meg, and I all skipped the ESA meeting this year. So you tell us–how was it? What’s new and exciting in ecology this year?

Below the fold: brief comments on choice of site. What are your favorite past sites? Where would you like to see ESA meet in future?

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Where to drink in Ft. Lauderdale for the ESA meeting if you’re a beer geek

I won’t be at the ESA meeting this year, but as a service to the community way of procrastinating, here are the fruits of my background research on where to drink interesting beer in Ft. Lauderdale.* Think of it as a specialized supplement to J. Matt Hoch’s guest post yesterday on where to eat and drink in Ft. Lauderdale.

Or, you could just find a nice spot by the beach and drink whatever Steve Walker’s drinking. But I wouldn’t recommend that.** 😉

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Where to eat and drink in Ft. Lauderdale for the ESA meeting

Note from Jeremy: this is a guest post from J. Matt Hoch, an ecologist at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale. Thanks very much to Matt for sharing his local knowledge–and for going so far as to poll his whole college for suggestions! He even told you where to eat in Miami if you have time to pop down there. He’ll be at the ESA meeting, so if you see him thank him in person!

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I’m going to be speaking on blogging at a fisheries meeting. Tell me what to say!

So, I’m going to be speaking in a symposium on social media at the American Fisheries Society meeting in August. I’m talking about blogging, obviously, but I deliberately kept my abstract pretty broad so that I could decide later what exactly to talk about. So, if you were attending this meeting–or if you are!–what would you like me to talk about? If you were in my shoes, what would you talk about? Here are a few scattered but hopefully interesting ideas I’ve had:

(attention conservation notice: short post ahead)

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#ESA100 impressions (UPDATED)

My take-home impressions from #ESA100:


  • I’ve been expecting and hoping for this for a couple of years, and this is the year it finally happened: modern coexistence theory, as developed by Peter Chesson and collaborators, is going mainstream. I’ll even go out on a limb and predict that it’s the next big thing in community ecology. Deborah Goldberg stood up in front of a huge Ignite session crowd and named it as one of the two most important ideas in community ecology right now. A number of people besides the usual suspects gave talks on it, including about how to apply it to new problems. Steve Ellner has invented a new statistical approach that should make estimates of the temporal storage effect (a particularly important component of modern coexistence theory) both easier to do and more accurate. And Peter Chesson presented what may be a major extension of the theory. I’m planning to do my part to get this bandwagon rolling–and help steer it clear of pitfalls–by writing a series of posts explaining modern coexistence theory with minimal (but not zero) math. The emphasis will be on giving you the gist, but in a more precise way than is possible if you just avoid math entirely or rely entirely on illustrative examples. I did the first few a while back, so while you wait for me to write the rest now would be a good time to review the old ones (or read them for the first time).
  • Variance partitioning as a way to infer the processes driving metacommunity structure is dead. At least it should be, in my view. It’s now failed three major attempts to validate it using simulated data generated by known processes–Gilbert & Bennett 2010, Smith & Lundholm 2010, and now Eric Sokol’s very good talk at this meeting. And the reasons it fails probably aren’t fixable. Others would disagree, of course. And Eric himself thinks it might be possible to use other statistical approaches to infer process from pattern here, but personally I’ll believe it when I see it. Variance partitioning as a way to infer the processes driving metacommunity structure was a creative idea worth trying out. But we’ve tried it out, and it doesn’t work, not well enough to be useful at any rate. We should stop doing it. And before you say it, no, the fact that we’ve got lots of data sitting around that it would be really nice to make use of is not a good reason to keep on keepin’ on. If an approach doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, no matter how great it would be if the approach actually did work. And no, the purported lack of alternative approaches to accomplish the same goal isn’t a good reason to keep on keepin’ on either. If an approach doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, even if there aren’t any other approaches that would work. Plus, there actually are plenty of alternative ways to study the processes generating metacommunity structure–you can do all sorts of different experiments, you can collect all sorts of other data, you can do all sorts of other analyses, you can do theoretical modeling… (UPDATE: my comments on variance partitioning aren’t as clear as they should’ve been. What’s dead, in my view, is one popular use of variance partitioning–as a diagnostic tool for metacommunity structure. See the comments and this post for more on this.)
  • A few other talks I really enjoyed: Michael Cortez has a wonderfully simple, elegant idea for how to partition the stability of eco-evolutionary systems. His approach lets us address questions like whether evolution stabilizes or destabilizes the ecological dynamics (and vice-versa). Brett Melbourne showed tightly-linked models and experiments on how well a species in a changing environment will track the shifting environmental conditions to which it is best-adapted. Always cool to see someone develop a simple model that totally nails what’s going on. The alarming upshot is that standard “niche modeling” approaches for predicting species’ range shifts in response to climate change are likely to fail especially badly for precisely those species we’re most concerned about. Even in the absence of more familiar complications like interspecific interactions and barriers to dispersal. Lauren Shoemaker’s talk on how demographic and environmental stochasticity can alter the strength of spatial coexistence mechanisms was very good too. (Note: I saw lots of other very good talks, and I’m sure I missed many as well. Please don’t read anything into it if I didn’t list your talk here, even if you saw me in the audience.)


  • Biggest ESA meeting ever, or very close to it, from what I hear. More sessions than Portland a few years ago, which would seem to imply at least as many attendees.
  • The quality of Ignite talks is more variable than that of regular talks, I think for various reasons.
  • Thanks again to Ulli Hain and Emma Young for the guest posts on where to eat and drink. Those posts got a lot of views, and I heard from a lot of people who followed their advice and were glad they did. I followed several of their suggestions and can confirm that, yeah, the crab cakes at Faidley’s are amazing, and Pitango’s gelato is so good it should be illegal. 🙂
  • My one quibble with the organization this year: I didn’t like having big plenary lectures–including Mercedes Pascual’s MacArthur Award lecture–scheduled at noon. I don’t like forcing attendees to choose between lunch and the MacArthur Award lecture (or between a late lunch and the first half of the afternoon sessions). A big reason people come to ESA is to see their colleagues and friends, which they do over meals.
  • I think the over/under on attendance in Ft. Lauderdale next year is 2500. With a big meeting this year, and a popular location (Portland) coming up in 2017, I suspect attendance in Ft. Lauderdale is going to be limited to folks who never miss an ESA meeting. That’s not a criticism of the choice of location–there are good reasons why the meeting needs to move around the country, and why it’s usually held in hot places. It’s just the reality–the meeting isn’t going to be equally huge every year.

Finally, a big thank you to the organizers, who have a big difficult job and who do it very well. I love the ESA meeting, and this year was no exception!

p.s. I’m on holiday until Aug. 21. Posting will remain light and comment moderation may be slow.

I’m changing the topic of my ESA talk; now it’ll be more interesting!

FYI: I’m changing the topic of my ESA talk. I’m now going to talk about what I think are some very cool experimental results testing for a “spatial hydra effect” in metapopulation dynamics. A spatial hydra effect occurs when increasing the rate at which local subpopulations go extinct increases the persistence of the metapopulation as a whole. So getting your head cut off can be good for you, as it were. The really cool thing is, you don’t have to assume some weird “mythical” world in order for a spatial hydra effect to happen. It’s just a straightforward, but previously unrecognized (as far as I know), implication of simple models of metapopulation dynamics. Besides being a very “cute” phenomenon, I think the spatial hydra effect represents a deep insight into how colonization-extinction dynamics are even possible. I talked about the theory behind the spatial hydra effect a couple of years ago at ESA. The new experimental results come from an ongoing experiment my lab has been running for the past six weeks.

I’m doing this because I want to give the most interesting talk I can. Back in February, when ESA abstracts were due, this experiment was barely a glimmer in my mind. It’d have been way too risky (and technically against the rules) to propose to talk about a study I hadn’t even started yet, so I didn’t. But now that the experiment’s well underway, I’d feel bad giving what I think would just be an ok talk when I can give what I think will be a really good talk instead. Plus, the topic is still community ecology–it involves two species and interspecific interactions are part of the story, so it’s really a metacommunity talk. So the talk is still a good fit for the session (“community pattern and dynamics IV”). Heck, it’s still about protist microcosm metacommunities, so it’s not all that far from the talk I was originally planning.

And if you’re still bummed because you really wanted to hear the talk I was originally planning, you’re in luck. Just do what I’m planning to do and go see Eric Sokol’s talk. It sounds really good. Eric’ll be making the many of the same points I would’ve made, though in a different–and better!–way. (The existence of his talk had nothing to do with my change of mind, by the way.)