Celebrating global ecology

The British Ecological Society (BES) Annual Meeting took place this year in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on the 10th – 13th December.

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Time for first times. It was my first time in Northern Ireland and the first time I attend a conference as an editor. The first time a BES Annual Meeting was held in Northern Ireland, and the first of these meetings for countless early-career and some senior researchers. And, as we all know, first times tend to be preciously stocked in memory.

After a few days losing myself among the beautiful sights of the Northern Irish coasts and the copious and delicious Ulster breakfasts I headed to the impressive ICC Belfast – barely a mile away from the docks where the Titanic started its first (and sadly last) trip – to join around a thousand colleagues at the conference. The aim of this event was, as the title of the event reads, to celebrate global ecology. The word ‘global’ has never had more sense, as the meeting was home for a diverse community (nice diversity initiatives fostered by the meeting organisers including a LGBT+ mixer, a space for self pronouns in attendee’s badges, gender neutral toilets,…) coming from 40 different countries, and talks covering every biome and habitat on Earth and major areas of the ecology domain.

Along 11 parallel talk sessions and 2 poster ones, we have heard and discussed about so many promising results and emerging ideas in community ecology, conservation science and policy, soil ecology and plan-soil interactions, microbial ecology, ecosystem services, agricultural science and policy, evolutionary ecology, macroecology and biogeography, behavioural ecology, population ecology, ecosystem and functional ecology and data and methods applied to the field. Insect diversity trends, community and plant-soil interactions in boreal ecosystems, clonal plant ecological dynamics and urban ecology have been particularly recurrent topics. And we have enjoyed exquisite plenary lectures – impossible not to mention the very inspirational talk by Esther Ngumbi about the importance of increasing impact of our science beyond academia in order to improve the life of people around the world. 

But, perhaps, the most exciting point of the present year’s meeting was the outstanding enthusiasm and potential of so many early career researchers talking about their precious and promising results, many of which enjoying their very first experience in such a large conference. They have the motivation and talent to move the field forward in the years to come, and Nature Ecology & Evolution has the determination of keeping track of their careers to help them reach such a challenging goal.

Overall, this edition of the BES Annual Meeting was interesting, inspiring and memorable in so many ways. And there is one sure thing: this was my first time at this conference, but it will not be the last.

Abel Barral

Associate Editor, Nature Ecology & Evolution

Abel joined the company early in 2019 as a locum Associate Editor at Nature Plants, where he handled and commissioned articles in the fields of plant ecology, ecophysiology and evolution. He joined the editorial team of Nature Ecology & Evolution in June 2019. Prior to his doctoral studies, Abel obtained degrees in ‘Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity’ and ‘Ecology’ from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and acquired extensive expertise in palaeobotany and palaeocology through his collaboration with international research teams in various palaeontological research projects. He completed his PhD at the Université Lyon 1 and postdoctoral experience at the CNRS, focusing on the feedbacks between plant ecophysiology, biogeochemical cycles and climate during key time intervals of the Earth’s history.