The 2018 Scottish tropical ecology and biology student meeting

By Jess Rickenback  @jess_rickenback 

The 17th March 2018 marked the 5th Scottish Tropical Ecology and Biology student meeting (STEB), hosted this year jointly by the University of Edinburgh and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. The day started appropriately grey and mizzly, reminding us all why working in the tropics is so popular for Scottish residents. Around 60 participants spent the whole day with us, and a further 10-15 popped in and out.

Plenary speaker Dr. Tiina Särkinen opened proceedings with a witty and insightful look at biome delimitations, and was quickly followed by a presentation on using genetics to identify poached elephant ivory in Cambodia, and one on invasive plants in forest fragments surrounded by oil palm plantations (Alexander Ball, and Emily Waddell respectively).

Plenary Speaker, Dr. Tiina Särkinen

A varied program of talks included the effects of anthropogenic disturbance on bats in Trinidad (Ellen McMurchy), and the floral diversity of Crotoneae (Euphorbiaceae) (Pakkapol Thaowetsuwan). The prizes for best long talk and best short talk went to Nora Villamil-Buenrostro for her talk on ant-pollinator interactions, and Sanna Olander for her presentation on IUCN red listing and how to spot (and solve) common data errors.

Pippa Stone led a fantastic workshop on designing conference posters. It’s amazing how much progress you can make designing with a short time limit. We all benefitted from just having to get something down on paper, and there was a general increase in confidence. One key point that stood out was thinking about who your audience is from the very start. Are they specialists? Non-scientists? Different key messages will be relevant to different groups.

Workshop on designing conference posters

The presentations concluded with Dr Casey Ryan’s interesting and pertinent talk on both the UCU strikes and human-forest interactions in Southern Africa, which presented some surprising results.  BESTEG kindly funded our post-conference drinks event, so the day ended, naturally enough, in the pub. The free flow of alcohol and the change of venue stimulated a truly magical exchange of ideas, and some pretty awful selfies.

One of the highlights for me of STEB 2018 was the presence of so many undergraduates. Integrating tropical enthusiasts at different career points will surely lead to a more solid and sustainable network. Here’s to STEB 2019, wherever it may be.

Socializing after a long day of brain work.