Dr Audrey Lustig, Associate Investigator at Te Pūnaha Matatini and postdoctoral researcher with the Geospatial Research Institute (GRI) Toi Hangarau, University of Canterbury, presented her work at the 2018 British Ecological Society (BES) held in Birmingham, UK, in December.

Audrey, whose research is focused on spatial modelling of species distribution, presented her paper on regional pest control at the conference, the second largest annual meeting for ecologists in the world. With more than 500 talks and 200 poster presentations, there was an international flavour, which really added to the diversity of speakers, topics, systems and organisms discussed.

BES promotes diversity, equity, access, and inclusion

Audrey said it was a privilege to attend the three-day event. “This really is an exciting place to be for those partial to thinking about the natural world…. It was an incredibly stimulating and well-organised three days, with a lovely balance between unstructured (social) time and scientific talks and posters.”

The BES has taken a national leadership role in promoting diversity, equity, access, and inclusion in science and academia, reflected by a various new initiatives meeting diversity targets across gender, race, and sexual orientation during the event. This included a 1:1 gender ratio at the plenary session, a ‘women in science’ networking session, a LGBT+ and Trans mixer, gender neutral toilets, a ‘meet the plenary speaker for early career researchers’ session, and more.

Conference presentation highlights and challenges

“The wonderful plenary sessions by Samuel M. ‘Ohukani‘ōhi‘a Gon, III on using the Hawaiian Isles as a Model for Biocultural Conservation and by Danielle Lee on cultivating a generation of scholar in your communities were a major highlight of the academic program,” said Audrey.

One of Audrey’s fellow speakers, biologist Danielle Lee, presenting during the BES conference.

“I urge people to view their talks when they become available through the BES [website]. We also all had a good laugh when Ken Thompson started listing some of the most inspirational ecology papers of the year. I will remember that ‘gardening is the perfect antidote to thinking that one year’s field data means anything at all!”

“I somehow muddled through my presentation on regional pest management in the invasive species oral session,” Audrey added. “Unfortunately, I felt like a bit of a zombie that day as my body still insisted that it was night time! On the positive side of things, I interacted with so many great scientists. I finally had the opportunity to meet up with Guillaume Latombe and Tim Blackburn and catch up with the incredible Jane Catford and Stéphane Boyer. Lots of cool research opportunities and potential collaborations, so I’m already looking forward to the next British Ecological Society Meeting!”