Wrapping up the Society of Wetland Scientists' Annual Meeting (#SWS2015AnnualMeeting, @SWS_org)

So, last week brought about the Society of Wetland Scientists' 2015 annual meeting, my favorite annual meeting of the bunch. This year was a bit more involved on my end with some travel surprises, a final taper into a race, and a pair of talks bookending my stay. The highlights of the week were numerous:
  • Seeing friend and colleagues. This is why, although climate change is warping the world around me, I still fly to conferences. Seeing people whom I may only get to interact with every year or two, talking shop, hearing about new projects, all make this meeting a good time and worth the trip.
  • SWS Undergraduate Diversity Mentoring Program. Each year, the Society invites top-tier undergraduates from across the US to participate in a mentoring program alongside the annual meeting. The mentoring program, students are from underrepresented backgrounds in wetland science and more broadly, ecology. The face of ecology, including SWS has been historically white, upper-middle class and male. I'm glad the Society (and the NSF who funds the program) recognizes that this needs to change if the Society is to grow as a representative cross-section of the world we live in and be effective in serving multiple communities. Hopefully the mentoring program students had as much fun telling their science and personal stories as I did hearing them. It's great to see so many rising stars in our discipline, especially those who came through the undergraduate mentoring program years ago and returned as grad students or early-career researchers. My biggest thanks go out to Vanessa Lougheed for organizing the whole thing! Please pass this opportunity onward to wetland science students at your school.
  • Women in Wetlands Career-Development Session and AM Breakfast. WiW is a section of SWS that supports the development of women in wetlands. Each year they put on a career-development session, and a casual breakfast. This year, I was flattered to deliver a talk in the career-development session. Thanks to Christine VanZomeren, Ellen Hartig, and Martha Carlson Mazur for the invite to present alongside so many great speakers in the section's annual symposia. The annual breakfast is a great opportunity to listen, learn and support the section. This year Ingeborg Hegemann keynoted, sharing several anecdotes about her and others' experiences in the professional wetland world. Check out the #WomenInWetlands hashtag for more info.


  • Running in a new city. The last time I was in Providence was probably 2003? Maybe 2004? I was on tour, and didn't spend much time out of the van. Getting to stretch the legs out and see an old city with some history that didn't involve grazing arid lands was great.
  • Talks and posters. This is why you go to a conference - the research. I ended up being booked over several talks, but the sessions I was a part of were great. This year there were also more really good posters than I had expected, and I was extremely pleased to see so many cool natural history projects that classified, organized or made sense out of messy wetland ecosystems. One thing that's great about SWS, is the history of understanding ecosystems and organismal biology at scales both small and large. This history encourages researchers from non-R1 schools to get out and measure the wetlands around them, no matter how big or small, and make some inference about what differentiates wetland soils, hydrology, and vegetation at many scales. Lots of undergrads were using physiological ecology or classification and ordination approaches to understand their local wetland ecosystems - they're way ahead of the curve!
Paul Keddy delivers Thursday AM.
  • Plant Guild and Functional Group Frameworks in Riparian and Wetland Management and Restoration: Models and Applications. This year, I was fortunate to not be on the hook for organizing a symposia as Andy Herb and I et al. had done in the past for the Wetland Restoration Section in 2013 and 2014. Dave Merritt and Daniel Sarr reached out following some discussions at Restoring the West last fall and put together a great group of speakers that included Paul KeddyFrancisca Aguiar, Daniel, Sean Charles (FIU), Siobhan Fennessey, Saras Windecker, and Maria Dolores Bejarano. The talks were extremely diverse, and our little ad hoc wetland and riparian functional ecology group had a great time socializing and talking shop over the course of the week. Big thanks to Dave for finding the resources to bring Dr. Keddy out to receive his SWS fellow award and present in the session. You can find summaries of the session's talks under the hashtag #SWS2015AnnualMeeting and my slides from Figshare above.
Dave Merritt convenes the AM guild session.
  • Meeting researchers whose work I've long admired. This year I had the distinct pleasure of meeting the excellent Francisca Aguiar and Maria Dolores Bejarano, both of whom are extremely sharp scientists working at the intersection of hydrology, plant ecology, and conservation biology in Europe. Thanks to Dave Merritt for finding the funding that allowed them to travel, and Dave and Daniel Sarr for inviting them to the symposium. I also met several Twitter wetland/ecology acquaintances in Saras Windecker, Vanessa Tobias, et al. The hashtag #WetlandWeb was created to aggregate wetland content on twitter and link people up. 


  • Thick New England accents and verbal directness. Maybe I've lived in the West for too long, or maybe Seattle just softened me up, but I find the directness and slightly aggressive tone of the Rust Belt and Northeast comforting at this point in my life. No wavering, no sugar-coating, no passive-aggressive circle talking, just real talk. From my bus ride to the hotel and first cup of coffee downtown to my cab ride to the airport, there weren't any punches pulled.