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ESA 2011: Tuesday – A guest post by Chad Zirbel

I spent Tuesday day meeting with colleagues, and thus attended few talks, sadly. I was elected vice-chair of the Paleoecology section during a productive lunchtime business meeting. If you’re not a member of the section, you can join for $5 any time– even at the registration desk at ESA. Chad Zirbel, an undergrad who works with me in the Williams Lab, has graciously offered to guest blog and share his highlights from Tuesday.

Hello from Austin! My name is Chad, and I will be guest posting for Jacquelyn while she is away missing out on all of the fun. I am an senior at the University of Wisconsin working in the Williams paleovegetation lab on prepping pollen samples. More recently, I starting work on my honors project reconstructing climate from oxygen isotopes stored in lake sediment carbonates. But enough talk about me, and more about ESA!

I have finally become somewhat acclimated to walking outside and being hit in the face with a wall of heat every day. I am also starting to not be so overwhelmed by being surround by thousands of ecologists at all times, this being the first conference I have attended. As an undergrad coming to ESA has sort of been uncharted territory for me, but thus far it has been a great experience meeting a ton of great people including a few possible grad advisors.

I started off my day with a talk on the threats of an invasive crayfish to Japan by @DoctorZen. Nothing starts off the day better than a good Japanese invasion/Godzilla joke, and he delivered. Even though crustaceans are not my organism of choice (I like plants) I found the talk quite interesting and relevant to anyone concerned about the possible threats of invasive species. The talk also included a cool example of some new citizen science which I am a big fan of so I will plug it here now: www.craywatch.org. Check it out!

I started off my afternoon series of talks with one by Sandel Brody entitled Late Quaternary climate-change velocity: Implications for modern distributions and communities. This talk was based off of a Loarie 2009 paper that had been discussed during one of our lab meetings. It was interesting to see some actual quite compelling results on how the speed at which climate change is taking place in a certain area could impact many different ecological functions (e.g. mammals with different functional traits, endemic species, species interactions, and increasing exotics). The idea of climate change having an actual velocity is a compelling idea that I believe will definitely be delved into more deeply in the coming years, including looking at giving it an actual directional (vector-like) value and working in a topographical variable.

My favorite talk of the afternoon was given by Kay Gross on growth forms and predicting species responses to nutrient additions. Dr. Gross’s work over the years is one of the reasons I am interested in ecology today and although her presentation was not on any new late-breaking research per sé, just hearing about the vast amount of data her and collaborators have gathered over time was quite inspiring. I was lucky enough to talk to Dr. Gross later that day about her talk and some of her other work and her enthusiasm for what she works on and working with grad students only increased my respect for her.

I finished up my afternoon with a diverse array of different talks, often finding myself sitting in on talks by a lot of my fellow Badgers. I could not help myself; something about Wisconsin ecology just draws me to it (one of the reasons I am so hesitant to leave for grad school to study somewhere else). I learned a lot about the different research projects going on at my own institution and I only had to travel 1,200 miles to do it!

I hope the rest of the conference continues to be as successful as it has so far, and I look forward to meeting many more of my fellow ecologists in the coming days so feel free to stop and say hi during my poster session on Thursday 4:30 – 6:30pm in the Invasion: Ecosystem Processes section.

Categories: Commentary Conferences Guest Posts

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Jacquelyn Gill

1 reply

  1. Great post! I’m glad you are enjoying ESA as an undergrad. I went to my first ESA in 2008 as an undergrad and it really helped me narrow down my potential grad advisors. Wish I was there in Austin!

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