A slightly belated #ESA2012 wrap-up

So, another August and another ESA meeting has rolled by. Here are my thoughts.

Twitter: I live-tweeted a few talks in summary form, with as close to one string per talk as I could manage. By not tweeting during the talk, but instead listening, I tried to rally the single-sentence summary of the whole project. It was actually somewhat challenging, but in a world of digital media, ADD, and 1000s of talks, I estimate this to be the most concise and effective way to do it. I went to talks that interested me, talks on plant community ecology, streams and riparia, statistics, forests and physiological ecology. These weren't the most popular talks of their respective days, with Peter Chesson and Peter Adler's respective talks perhaps being exceptions, but they were what I came to see.
A Great Basin Rattlesnake in Utah the day before ESA.
Statistics: I got to see the wonderful Marti Anderson, creator of PERMANOVA give a great talk, and I also saw Miguel DeCaceres creator of the IndicSpecies package in R give a talk on a separate occasion. I hope to run some ideas by DeCaceres, so it was fortunate that I caught him on the escalator and let him know how much i respected his work. I also trapped Jim Grace while he was eating a snack on the stairs near MLK and Oregon. All were super nice.
On the way to ESA, Idaho was burning.

Community Ecology: This was the area of my research that I focused on during the conference and in the end I saw more talks than I can recall - some were from famous people, some from students. The theme seems to be functional traits, demography and applications. I especially liked Rachel Mitchell's talk on how we assess plant traits and how analytical methods shape our interpretation and application of traits in community ecology. Fons van der Plas from the Netherlands gave a great talk on how bottom-up processes structure traits in grasshoppers in South African savanna systems. He went right before Peter Chesson and had the fortune of impressing the crowd that was there for Peter, myself included.

Restoration Ecology: There were numerous posters that highlighted restoration ecology at its best. The restoration talks were strangely organized, so it was hard to follow an entire session. I'm not sure why the ESA sees it fit to throw any talk with the word restoration together, but it makes for sessions that are less than consistent in the taxa, ecosystems, approaches and geographic areas being worked in. From butterflies to rivers to cheatgrass in 45 minutes. I can guarantee that 95% of the people in those sessions skipped out after the one talk they came to see - usually one talk that could have been paired with other sessions on the same system or approaches.

There was lots of free gear if you went to the right exhibitors. I enjoyed telling the Li-Cor people that the CID Bioscience people were talking crap and vice-versa. Nobody swung on anyone, but not for a lack of effort on my part.

Like any conference, it was great to see colleagues, friends and acquaintances do their respective things and hear how their work and lives have been going. It was really great to see the quality work coming out of the UW from people who I recall from my SEFS days. Portland was great per normal, and I managed to grab time with local friends as well as take in the local flavors and some time on Mt. Hood. Due to missing identification, I also got to experience Oregon and Idaho for an extra 12-hours, driving home rather than working while semi-comfortably on an airplane. Maybe I needed the break, but it was worth the scenery to see the Bonneville Dam and that the entire Great Basin is on fire right now.
The Bonneville Dam on the ride home