Ahead of this year’s British Ecological Society Annual Meeting, Functional Ecology Associate Editor, Julia Koricheva of Royal Holloway, shares her picks for the meeting. Julia will also be taking over @FunEcology on Monday, for a first-hand tour of #BES2018.


Julia Koricheva
Julia Koricheva

Next week the annual meeting of the British Ecological Society will start in Birmingham, and I am pretty excited about it. After downloading the handy BES2018 app and scrolling through the programme, I realized that choosing which sessions to attend each day is going to be difficult as my research interests are quite broad (forest ecology, biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, plant-herbivore interactions, meta-analysis and research synthesis), and there are quite a lot of interesting presentations on each of these themes. Below is a very biased personal selection of things that caught my eye in the programme.

  • I am looking forward to the thematic session T4 “Long-term ecological experiments forever!” on Tuesday (see also the new virtual issue on long-term experiments featuring articles from across the British Ecological Society journals). The topic of this session is close to my heart because for the last 20 years I have been coordinating a long-term forest diversity experiment in Finland. While the value of such experiments is widely acknowledged and increases over time, running the long-term experiments poses many challenges, not least because obtaining research funding for their continuous maintenance and baseline measurements is very difficult. Several iconic long-term experiments such as the Jena experiment in Germany and the climate change experiments run by the Buxton Climate Change Impacts Lab in the UK will be discussed at the thematic session as well as new initiatives such as the Raindrop project. I am hoping the discussions at this thematic session will pave the way towards finding the solution for maintenance of long-term experiments.
  • Another thematic session which I am planning to attend is T6 “Upscaling biodiversity-ecosystem functioning research” on Wednesday. Most of the knowledge we have about the effects of biodiversity loss on ecosystem functioning is gained from the relatively small-scale experiments, but human activities affect biodiversity at much larger spatial scale. How can we bridge this gap and to what extent the biodiversity experiments can represent “real world” ecosystems? These questions will be addressed in this session by an excellent line up of speakers.
  • Session S22 “Novel methods in biodiversity and ecosystem monitoring” on Tuesday morning also looks excellent. There will be several talks in that session on the use of acoustic monitoring in biodiversity research. The popularity of this non-invasive approach which allows to collect data on animal presence, activity and diversity over large temporal and spatial scales has grown very rapidly over the recent years. The use of acoustics for monitoring different types of vocalizing animals such as birds, insect pollinators and bats will be illustrated in the session.
  • Speaking of acoustic monitoring, when you will be attending poster session on Monday, please stop by poster F1.2 by Richard Beason [disclosure: Rich is a PhD student in my lab]. His PhD project is about using passive acoustic monitoring for assessment of impacts of habitat management on biodiversity (see his blogs about his research). Rich has constructed his own acoustic recorders (AURITA) which are able to record both ultrasonic frequencies used by bats and the audible frequencies used by birds. He will be presenting a poster on effects of invasive rhododendron on activity of bats and owls, a work that he did in Richmond Park in London. The results are quite interesting and not quite what you would predict!
  • I will also make sure to attend the lunch workshop on Monday on “Setting up a successful field course” organized by the BES Teaching and Learning Group. Field courses play such an important role in the curriculum, nothing can beat the first-hand experience that the budding ecologists gain by conducting surveys and making observations and experiments in the field. I have taken many field courses as an undergrad and had a privilege to teach several field courses at Royal Holloway. In the Practical Field Ecology course that I teach together with my wonderful colleague Becky Thomas, we are experimenting with the use of social media and field journals. I am looking forward to exchanging tips with other ecologists on what makes a good field course curriculum, how to maximize the learning opportunities and how to avoid the potential pitfalls.
  • Then of course there are plenaries. My favourite type of plenary talk at BES annual meetings is “12 months in ecology”. This year Functional Ecology’s very own Senior Editor Ken Thompson will be presenting his personal selection of important ecological papers and issues that caught his eye over the last 12 months. I am very curious to find out which studies made it into his shortlist!

So I am gearing up for a busy but very enjoyable week ahead. On Monday, the first day of the conference, I will be doing a twitter takeover of the Functional Ecology account and tweeting under @FunEcology disguise about interesting talks that I attend on that day, including the plenary session, the lunch workshops and the poster session. This will be a lot of fun! In the words of Markus Eichhorn, “Forget Christmas, this [BES annual meeting] really is the most wonderful time of the year”.