X INTECOL International Congress of Ecology, Brisbane, Australia
Reported by Dr. Craig D. James
Co-Chair, X INTECOL International Congress of Ecology
General Manager Commercialization and Communication
Desert Knowledge CRC
GPO Box 284, Canberra, ACT, 2601, Australia
A highly successful X INTECOL International Congress of Ecology was held from 16th -21st August 2009 in Brisbane, Australia. Around 1,355 people attended the congress from 60 countries.
There were ten plenary speakers, with two in the opening session on Monday and four on each of Thursday morning and Friday afternoon. Speakers came from The USA, UK, Sri Lanka, Australia and New Zealand. The last plenary, that closed the spoken program of INTECOL Congress was delivered by David Lindenmayer, the winner of the ESA ERA award.
Symposia and general sessions
722 oral presentations were presented over the five-day program covering a hugely diverse array of ecological topics. There were nine concurrent sessions on offer at all times, and more than half the presentations were in organized symposia, increasing their focus and continuity. One of the strengths of INTECOL Congress is the ability to hear perspectives from researchers from all parts of the globe. Often sessions were like a world tour with speakers from several different continents, and this provided a wonderful opportunity to explore ecological similarities and differences. Many of the sessions reflected the theme of the congress “Ecology in a Changing Climate”, examining climate change impacts from an ecological perspective in diverse taxa and ecosystems. Other notable themes represented by several sessions were fire ecology, restoration ecology, and impacts of invasive species. One of the most popular sessions was composed of presentations by the most recent ESA and NZES ecology award winners and included simulated volcanic eruptions, and a demonstration of the importance of pademelons. Thanks to Mike Bull and the scientific program committee for the organizational skills to organize this mass of ideas into a coherent whole.
There were 428 poster presentations displayed over the week of the Congress in the Exhibition Hall. Poster sessions occurred from 4pm each day but the location of the posters where morning and afternoon teas were held allowed excellent exposure earlier. What better way to enjoy a poster than with a lamington in hand? Drinks were also available during the poster sessions themselves, which helped to fuel lively debate. Again, the broad international representation at INTECOL Congress was evident at the poster session, where studies half a world away were neighbors.
This is the first time that public events were associated with an INTECOL Congress, and they proved very successful. The Congress was held during National Science Week, which provided opportunities to showcase ecology and INTECOL Congress topics and delegates. Public posters were displayed at the Queensland Museum Southbank for the week of the Congress. In collaboration with Brisscience and the Australian Science Communicators, 'The Science of Sustaining our Urban Landscapes' at City Hall on Monday night was attended by almost 400 people, including INTECOL Congress delegates, city planners, local and state government representatives, consultants, academics, and many interested members of the public. Again with the Australian Science Communicators, and supported by the Department of Employment, Economic Development & Innovation, BYO Science at the Plough Inn on Thursday night was so popular that there wasn't enough room on the balcony! Hugh Possingham, Nicola Markus and Stefan Hajkowicz provided food for some lively debates about biodiversity markets and valuing our planet. Unfortunately the Friday night ecological film wind-down was cancelled due to illness of the main star. However, that over 150 people (capacity) returned rsvp's for the event indicated that it would have been a well-attended evening and a great finish to the conference.
Professional development workshops
The 10th INTECOL Congress Workshop program comprised 13 different workshops, across three days (15th, 16th and 22nd August, 2009). One 2-day workshop ran on 15th and 16th, four 1-day workshops on 15th, four 1-day and two 0.5-day workshops on 16th, and two 1-day workshops on 22nd. A further workshop (Trends in Journal Publishing) was offered free to all delegates during the main Congress on Thursday evening (20th). A total of 270 delegates registered for the weekend Workshops. The number of delegates per workshop ranged from 7 to 61, with a mean of 21. The most popular workshops were "Plant functional traits, types and climate change" (61 delegates), "Modelling patterns and dynamics of species distributions" (32 delegates), and "How do we record and measure ecological change in a changing climate?" (30 delegates).
Media for the congress
19 journalists attended the Congress for periods from a few hours to all five days, with over 50 journalists in total taking an interest in Congress symposia. The Media team from Econnect generated 15 media releases, covering many topics and speakers at the Congress. Some of these topics included:
● Federal Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett, launches biodiversity report
● Climate change and species movement in Africa
● Ants, snails and scale insects create 'invasion meltdown' on Christmas Island
● 1,300 international scientists call for urgent ecological action
● Rainforest to reef - will our protected areas survive?
● Australian mammal extinction crisis.
These resulted in 9 radio interviews, 4 television stories, and 361 articles in the print media (293 international). In addition to these, many journalists will develop feature articles from the Congress over the coming months.
Sponsors and exhibitors
The Congress was generously supported by the sponsorship of 15 companies and government agencies, and 16 additional exhibitors. Exhibitors were pleased with arrangements whereby delegates had morning and afternoon tea, and the poster sessions in the exhibition hall.
Climate Friendly Congress
Delegates choosing to contribute an additional $5 to their registration costs for investment in renewable energy offsets for the use of electricity consumed at the Congress will be pleased to know that the congress offset 112.6 ton of greenhouse gases that would have otherwise been created by the gathering. The funds were invested through Climate Friendly® (www.climatefriendly.com) in a wind farm project in India.