11 August 2011

ESA 2011, Day 3

The average age of the Ecology Society of America attendees seems to be much younger than most other conferences I’ve been to over the last few years. I mentioned this to someone, who said someone else had made the same observation. Though I had no basis for comparison, apparently there were a lot more “greybeards” at this conference six years ago. Also, I think there are more women than men here.

I have theories as to why this might be, but I’d like to hear from others.

I checked out a session on mobile phones and citizen science in the morning. I thought there might be some useful information I can use for Craywatch. Of course, I learned that what I want to do has, to some degree, already been done by others much better than I could hope to do. Project Noah is an excellent example. It’s a great looking, professional site, which now has some backing from National Geographic. Whatsinvasive.org also has some elements that are similar to what I am trying to do.

There were lots of good ideas, though, for how to get non-scientists into projects. My favourite quote was someone who said, “Don’t think about doing science, think about having fun!” A close second was from Lee Marsh, who summed up the failure of many apps: “I don’t need a KFC app to eat chicken.”

I was fortunate to have lunch with the fabulous Sarcozona. She blogs at Gravity’s Rainbow, which a lot more people should read. She introduced me to the Royal Blue Grocery – the sort of funky place that Austin likes, a combo grocery store and sandwhich stand.

For the afternoon, I was the presider of the predation session. There were several good talks in my session, though, if I am allowed to have a favourite, it would be Mike Clinchy’s talk on how predators affect prey even when they don’t eat the prey.

Through a series of epic field manipulations that were able to protect songbirds from all their predators physically, but still broadcasting the sounds of predators, they should the prey species showed a 40% reduction in the reproductive output. They hypothesize that this is due to stress of the prey, who are constantly living with loud reminders of things that can kill them. More information is available at the website of his co-author Liana Zanette.

After my session, I headed to the poster session. The poster sessions are way too short. I was barely able to see a handful of posters before it was dinnertime.

I was again delighted to catch dinner with the awesome Jessica Garron. We’d met the night before on the Congress Street Bridge, when she stopped me to tell me how much she loved my T-shirt. We went to Blue Ribbon Barbecue. Sarcozona and I had planned to go there for lunch, but there was a line out the door. It was only half full for dinner, though, and it was excellent barbecue.

Jessica and I decided to go back to the bridge and watch the bats fly out again (third time out of four nights for me). Watching thousands of bats flying out en masse never gets old. It’s hypnotic.

To my delight, I have no entries for the Comic Sans name and shame campaign... for the presentations. FOr the posters... well, that's a subject for the Better Posters blog.

Trivia I learned today: Noise comes in colour. You might have heard about white noise, but there is also red noise.

My talk from Tuesday was covered on Contemplative Mammoth blog.

And finally, here’s a little song about my experience as an ESA session presider:

Presider (Sung to the tune of “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child)

Got the PowerPoint runnin’
On a laptop
The presenter won’t shut up
No he won’t stop
The session’s falling behind
All of the others
Feelin’ like babies
Cryin’ for their mothers
All of the time has run out
Need to move on
Next speaker lookin’ antsy
Wants to come on
Someone has got to stop
All of this madness
We need a moderator
Who’s a badass

I’m the presider
I’ve got the timer
You need to sit down
Stop on a dime here
I’m a presider
I’m here to make sure
That you stay on time
Don’t care if you’re tenured


Science Cheerleader said...

You just barely scratched the surface :). There are dozens (literally) of similar, large conferences featuring incredibly useful and innovative citizen science apps (some are similar to Project Noah) and other tools (have you seen Public Laboratory). Careful...it's a real rabbit's hole!
It all keeps us very jazzed and busy at Sci4Cits!

sarcozona said...

Ecology does have a much better climate for women (and minorities) than many other organizations. I've spoken with ESA leaders like Nancy Grimm and Terry Chapin about diversity in our discipline - as an undergrad! The attitude of ESA is really different - they want to be more diverse and support scientists from various backgrounds. I think sometimes they aren't sure how to go about doing it, but they're certainly very open to suggestions. Also, I think the founding and incredible institutional support of the SEEDS program has been really good for the society and our science.