For my final adventure of the summer, I traveled to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to present an invited talk about lessons learned from invasive species in the fossil record at the Ecological Society of America (ESA) meeting. I was very honored to be part of an exciting symposium titled: “Ecological novelty in the Anthropocene: Are novel communities novel ecosystems?” convened by Jacquelyn Gill and Alejo Ordonez.
The organizers did a wonderful job of arranging a series of presenters who explored the issue of ecosystem novelty from multiple perspectives including conceptually, experimentally, and policy implications. My talk (abstract here) provided the deep time context and an exploration of what does novel mean within a non-human context.
As a scientist who studies the deep history of life (~450 million years ago), I am always very cognizant of the different lenses with which we can study and discuss patterns at varying temporal scales. One of the key concepts that was emphasized, particularly in the panel discussion at the end of the session, was that novelty is continuously being produced. Earth does not now, and never has, existed in a steady state for extended temporal intervals. So it is extremely important to consider consequences and definitions when attempting to generate a conservation plan. What is it that you are attempting to conserve? Is it a species? Is it ecosystem services? It is energy flow and functioning? These are incredibly important questions that must be answered by policy makers. They are also the types of issues that the fossil record can help to provide insight into as well.
In addition to the formal session, I had the opportunity to spend time with some of the other speakers over meals and down time. I made some new colleagues with potential new collaborations, and learned quite a bit about various areas of ecology that will help me to consider my paleontological questions with new eyes and insights. This was my first time to an ESA meeting, and I hope it will not be my last.
Side notes: Poolside hammocks and bar at the ESA hotel were a nice touch! And the place was crawling with Magicarp and Psyduck (which I dutifully captured for my kids, right for my kids).