INTECOL finished on Friday, but I hadn’t had time to write down my thoughts yet, so here’s my belated conclusions from London (no idea how some people find the time to write daily reports on a conference, I appreciate it though, it’s funny to read what happened in the session next door).
On the plus side, it was a well-organized, truly international meeting (thanks BES!), and there were a lot of known faces, some which I hadn’t seen for a while, so that was great. The meeting was big, but not too big, no problem to jump between sessions, no problem to meet people. Some small things that I didn’t like: commercial conference center instead of uni, keynote questions only via twitter, which didn’t lead to good comments imo, and the fact that most speakers didn’t manage to keep their presentation length to a time that actually allowed for a discussion to evolve (the usual sentence was: we have time for one short question – people: less is often more!)
These are small things though. What bothered me more, and I’m not sure whether this is because I was in the wrong sessions, was that I didn’t see a lot innovation this year, neither from the keynotes nor from the talks. The big guys such as Robert May, Simon Levin, Martin Nowak, Steven Hubbel or David Tilman predictably gave great talks, but nothing that I hadn’t heard or read before. Eco-evolutionary dynamics was big, traits and macro-ecological questions as well, but those are the trends of the last years. Although I’m a bit skeptical about the early warning signal hype, I really enjoyed the talk by Marten Scheffer who spoke in a symposium about tipping points organized by Christopher Reyer and Anja Rammig (who was not there unfortunately). Other than that, a lot of curve-fitting (SAR, keynote about Taylor’s law, MaxEnt), and surprisingly little genetic / phylogenetic stuff (or did I miss all that?). And overall a lot of conceptual / overview / methodological talks that were on a too basic or superficial level to inspire me. What I was missing were some new ecological insights, and some disagreement / fights about ecological questions – an exception was maybe the last day with the first keynote by Martin Nowak, and the second by Tim Clutton-Brook, attacking Nowak’s 2010 Nature paper that calls for the abandonment of inclusive fitness.
The only thing that I could loosely call a new trend is that I saw a lot of movement in bringing traits together with community ecology on the one side, and on the other to develop more mechanistic approaches to macroecological questions, so somehow a movement towards the (mechanistic) community perspective from these two fields that were rather productive in the last years. Would be interested to hear about impressions by other people – same impression, or am I just getting old ;).