Lindsay F. Banin
Here is a round-up of our Week of Tweets, extolling the virtues of our early-career researcher meetings, with a bit more detail on each. Our time is precious; we have to make choices and prioritise. The temptation may be to prefer larger, international meetings, and attending these has many benefits. But after 8 years of running the BES-TEG early-career researcher meetings we have gained an understanding of why they have their own place and can be an important component of a scientist’s development.
We hope these 7 Reasons give you a greater insight into what our meetings are about and what you can get out of them and encourage you to register for our 2017 meeting hosted by Lancaster Environment Centre. You can register via the Events page on this blog.
- We are the largest UK group of tropicologists, but each year we welcome delegates from Europe and beyond
We are thrilled to say we now have 2,137 twitter followers (correct as of 7th Feb 2017). Despite being a small island far from the equator, we are a vibrant hub of tropical ecologists. It’s always a great pleasure to have delegates from across the world at our meetings; it provides a great stimulus for knowledge exchange and to get an insight into what is happening in other institutions and countries.
- High praise for previous meetings
After our meetings, we always provide delegates the opportunity to give anonymous feedback on their meeting experience, and we also encourage people to talk to us directly about how they have found the meeting. A common response we hear is that it is a really friendly environment, and as such people have the confidence to discuss and share ideas. This is supported by the fact the meeting is quite small and we build in some social time – this ensures people get the opportunity to speak to people in greater depth and maybe even the same person more than once! I was particularly pleased to hear from an academic member of staff that he had thoroughly enjoyed speaking with the delegates at the meeting (whatever career stage) and that discussions weren’t hampered by egos and hierarchy.
- Great value for money
For UK delegates, a BES-TEG meeting is very economical (and potentially with a low carbon footprint) since you don’t need to travel so far. We also offer reductions for BES members, making it even better value for money. We always feature a workshop component that is included within the registration price. This year, delegates get even more bang for their buck with THREE workshops. These include an Editor’s Question Time where a panel of BES journal editors will help delegates navigate their way through the common pitfalls of getting published. The meeting will conclude with a discussion workshop on ‘Shaping the next developments in tropical ecology’ where cross-disciplinary teams will form to develop novel research ideas. For the third workshop, entitled ‘Money Money Money’, join conservation scientist and social entrepreneur Luca Budello, as he tries to demystify the concept of reward-based crowdfunding in order to learn the dos and don’ts of developing a successful campaign strategy. Our meetings are therefore a great opportunity to develop broader skills as an ecologist, as well as the opportunity to practice presentation and networking skills.
- Your early-career peers are your collaborators of the future
It is good to engage with scientists at a range of career stages. You learn so much through the mentoring of more senior scientists. There is also much to be gained from acting as a mentor yourself for more junior scientists. By making good contacts with peers and learning where your interests align and skills complement each-other, you start to develop your collaborative network of the future. I have authored a paper with someone I may not have met if it weren’t for BES-TEG!
- An opportunity to engage with the host institution
Each year, the BES-TEG meeting is hosted by a department with a strong interest in tropical ecology science. It’s therefore an opportunity to learn more about current projects and the people working there – who knows, in the future you may be interested in working there. The
Lancaster Environment Centre, the 2017 host, is a fantastic hub for tropical science and we look forward to hearing more about their fascinating work.
- Large meetings can be daunting for first timers – this meeting provides a friendly forum to practice communication skills
Scientists at the early stages of their career benefit from practicing presenting at a small, supportive meeting where they don’t need to fear that (a) no one will be interested and they will talk to an empty room*, (b) they will be faced with aggressive or highly critical questions after their presentation, (c) they will embarrass themselves in front of big-wigs. One year, the hosts even arranged a feedback system so that delegates could support each other in improving their presentation skills.
*When I presented my Masters research I was pitted against the plenary talk. I had an audience of 10; I was quite glad they had turned up!
- Inspiring keynote talks, and the host of other interesting presentations & posters
Each year, the local host invites a number of keynote speakers, perhaps relating to the overall meeting theme. This usually culminates in a lively question and answer session, and with the keynotes staying for the entirety of the meeting to allow delegates to discuss ideas more thoroughly during breaks and socials. Since BES-TEG covers a broad remit of interests (i.e. anything tropical, anything ecological) we get a great diversity of talks which delegates at all career stages find highly stimulating.
This year’s keynotes will be delivered by Dr Francis Brearley (Manchester Metropolitan University) and Dr Geertje van der Heijden (University of Nottingham). To whet your appetite, Francis summarises his talk on mycorrhizal fungi in tropical forests:
I will outline fifteen years of research on the importance and diversity of mycorrhizal fungi in tropical forests – focusing on the ectomycorrhizal dipterocarp-dominated forests of South-east Asia. I start by outlining the importance of ectomycorrhizas for seedling regeneration in forests of Borneo – specifically their interactions with light, nutrients and the importance of connection to a ‘wood-wide web’. The role of ectomycorrhizal fungi in plant nitrogen nutrition, examined by isotopic approaches, during changing life stages is noted. I then continue by examining determinants of ectomycorrhizal fungal diversity focusing on a number of study sites. In this case, the importance of soil conditions, elevation and disturbance (by conversion to oil palm plantations) are considered. The importance of sampling methodology, especially in the context of next-generation sequencing will be considered. I will complete by considering future work planned.