This year the AGM of the British Ecological Society (BES) was a joint affair with the Société Française d’Écologie (SFE) and was held in Lille in northern France just over an hour away from London by Eurostar. Given our love of France and in my wife’s case, Christmas markets, there was no way I was not going to attend this landmark meeting especially as the BES were willing to pay my registration fee in recognition of my role as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Animal Ecology. My mother-in-law is also a keen fan of Christmas markets so she decided to come along and keep Gill company.
We left London on a later train than originally planned (strike action in Brussels) and arrived in Lille mid –afternoon Monday to find that our hotel was a good 4 km away from the railway station and almost as far away from the Grand Palais where the conference was being held. Luckily my mother-in-law, although almost 86, is very spry and took the longish walk in her stride. We eventually found the hotel, on the way being amused by an Irish pub with a very non-Irish name 😉
An unusual name for an Irish Pub
Being a Monday in France, not much was open but we eventually found somewhere to eat for a reasonable price, and amusingly were served by an English waiter!
As the conference registration didn’t start until Tuesday evening we spent most of the day sight-seeing and bumping into fellow delegates.
The Christmas market was, however, somewhat disappointing, especially for those of us who were at the BES Birmingham meeting a couple of years ago.
The very small Christmas Market
The damp weather was also a bit off-putting. This was when I started to regret my decision to opt for a comfortable well-worn pair of Desert Boots with holes in the soles instead of a new pair.
Wet, cold feet
The state of my feet inspired me to tweet an appropriate Haiku 😉
Wet Pavements in Lille
Desert boots are great,
except when soles are holey;
then rain means wet feet
The BES and SFE did a great job – a very full programme kept us occupied from Wednesday 10th until late afternoon of Friday 12th December. (Gill and my mother-in-law managed to get to Brussels and Arras for their Christmas markets). My only gripe was that because it was such a popular meeting (over 1100 delegates) that there were a huge number of sessions (62) so I missed a lot of talks that I wanted to hear. This is why in some ways I much prefer smaller conferences such as the Royal Entomological Society annual meetings where there are generally only two parallel sessions. I have long ago given up trying to session- hop, so confined myself to the plenaries and complete sessions such as the Agricultural Ecology, Pest & Pesticides session, where one of my favourite talks was given by Victoria Wickens from the University of Reading on local and landscape effects on aphids and their natural enemies; she was supported in the audience by her identical twin, Jennifer (also a PhD student at Reading and who spoke later in the Plant-Pollinator Interactions session). I first meet Jennifer and Victoria at the BES AGM in Leeds when they were MSc students and student helpers. It was only towards the end of that conference that I realised that there were actually two of them 😉
With careful planning I managed to fit in the Urban Ecology session, the Ecology & Society session, the symposium session on plant-insect-microbe interactions, and a session on herbivory. There were a lot of really good talks and I learnt a lot. I made sure that I attended the Friday morning talk by Grrl Scientist who spoke about the use of social media and crowd funding in ecology. I was somewhat embarrassed (and flattered) to have my blog publicly cited as an example of what other ecologists should be doing. It was lucky that it was dark in the auditorium as I was blushing rather a lot.
The influence of the SFE was definitely felt; the catering was much, much better than we normally get at the normal BES meetings and it was great to see so many French ecologists.
and the free beer at lunch time was a welcome innovation that went down very well with the English delegates 😉
The organisers of the meeting next year in Edinburgh must be feeling somewhat nervous 😉
Very many thanks to the BES and SFE and their local organisers for putting on such a splendid meeting; a veritable scientific and gastronomic delight.
The infamous Desert boots – back home and ready to be put to rest!