British Ecological Society Conference 2019

This year’s British ecological society (BES) conference was the largest ever hosted (not counting the joint meetings with other societies), with more than 1200 participants. This large number was reflected in many parallel sessions and topics, ranging from microbial ecology to macroecology and biogeography, from very specific species interactions to whole ecosystems and from theoretical or computational ecology to very applied conservation and restoration ecology. There was plenty of food for thought for everyone’s taste, but at times it was difficult to keep the overview. Fortunately, the plenary lectures helped keeping things a little bit more general, by discussing important issues in ecology, for example communicating research, contextualizing, i.e. explicitly mentioning scales for biodiversity studies and considering in parallel above-ground and below-ground communities.

I must say, I really enjoyed the whole conference. There were so many great contributions by great scientists. Personally, I really liked the talks of Alexandra Wright, James Buckley and Kimberley Simpson, who spoke about the effects of living plant diversity on the microclimate, herbivore pressure and plant defense along an environmental gradient and growth-strategies respectively. – Seraina

It was great to meet ecologists working on different topics like marine ecology, or theoretical ecology. I could discuss with many people and had some really relevant insights for my project. There were many great talks, and it’s difficult to choose, but I think my favorites were the presentations of  Ian Donohue on ecosystems stability, Jakob Assmann on remote sensing of the Greenland flora and  Korinna Allhoff on competition in seabeds. – Caroline

I am feeling particularly inspired after this conference, especially to explore energy fluxes in grasslands thanks to Andrew Barnes and to link metabolite variation to growth defence trade-offs thanks to a great talk by Tom Walker. I’m looking forward to the BES conference next year already! – Tosca  

It had been some years since I last attended a BES Meeting but I enjoyed every moment there. I met all friends and I made new ones that hopefully will lead to some sort of collaboration in the future. I really enjoyed plenary talks by Jonathan Chase and Esther Ngumbi, truly inspiring for ecologists in any stage. I also liked the presentation by Korinna Allhoff about Bryozoa coexistence and Ainhoa Magrach’s adventures pursuing hummingbirds. Finally, I must say that lab members dancing skills are on point! – Hugo S.

The BES 2019 has been a fantastic event to reconnect with some of my favorite Soil Ecologists working on soil organisms and the ecosystem processes they drive; with no specific order Nicolas Fanin, Ciska Veen, Paul Kardol, Karina Clemmensen and Franciska De Vries. I also think that the BES meeting was great to know better my colleagues as we went there as a group! Overall, it was a good place to make stronger bounds between us and plant seeds for future research projects! – Nadia

The Allan group contributed three posters and four talks to the conference in different sessions. Tosca, Thu Zar and Caroline showed posters about primary results and planned analysis about collembola, plant-herbivore interactions and plant species coexistence in the PaNDiv experiment. Anne presented her work about top-down and bottom-up regulation of herbivores in David Wardles island study system. Nadia talked about how saprotrophic and mycorrhizal fungi decompose litter in the face of nutrient deposition. Hugo used the large data sets of the biodiversity exploratory to show that there are two main thresholds of land use intensity (one for taxa and one for functions), which once crossed cause rapid ecological changes and likely hysteric behavior. And Seraina showed that even though diversity causes comparable patterns in different ecosystem functions, different species contributed to these patterns and likely also different mechanisms.


Tosca, Caroline and Thu Zar


Hugo, Seraina, Nadia and Anne

The many social activities throughout the conference promoted a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and gave the conference a touch of “school camp” for grown-ups to meet old and new friends. We drank wine and chatted at the welcome mixer, discussed about work-life balance in a workshop and danced ceilidh folk dances at the conference dinner. Overall, the conference was very inspiring, and we all came home with a pile of notes and lists of soon-to-be-out studies we must read. We are definitely looking forward to the 2020 meeting in Edinburgh!


Thu Zar, Eric, Seraina, Anne and Tosca

3rd Wild Plant Pathosystems Conference

I (Seraina) am just back from the 3rd Wild Plant sick_ToPathosystems Conference in Frankfurt, which was all about “sick plants in the wild”. It was a very small meeting with excellent presentations of amazing scientists, a museum tour, wine tasting and walks in the forests. I was honoured to present my fungal pathogen results from the PaNDiv experiment and get the chance to talk to many interesting people, working with a wide variety of pathosystems. I learned a lot about viruses and fungal pathogens and their vectors, about the possibility to identify different Uromyces species based on their smell, about the pathogen communities on different plant species and much much more.

Conference impressions on twitter #wpp3 :


BES Annual Meeting 2018

The best thing about Christmas is the BES Annual Meeting. Some of the lab members – Seraina, Eric and Noémie – attended the venue in Birmingham and had the chance to follow an extraordinary selection of talks and posters. Among others, we saw a great session about long-term experiments, what has been done and what is to do next (Andy Hector, Alexandra Weigelt and others). To the question “are you also part of a long term experiment?”, we are now answering: “we just started one”. We also saw presentations about phylogenetic and functional traits linked to multifunctionality (Y. Le Bagousse-Pinguet), upscaling BEF experiments results to landscape diversity (G. Le Provost), a great citizen science project looking at herbivory drivers on oaks (E. Valdés-Correcher) and my personal favourite, tracing C and N flows in grassland plants and soil food webs (M. Chomel).

A whole wall was covered in drawings due to the Journal of Applied Ecology brilliant suggestion to “draw your study organism” (see Seraina’s work of art, #PaNDiv), and we could even play cards with the Catastrophic game supporting systems thinking (P. Holland).

Let’s not forget the great poster about sick plants in grassland communities (S. Cappelli) and a presentation disentangling nitrogen direct and indirect effects on decomposition (N. Pichon).

What a nice and motivating end to 2018 and look forward to 2019!



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Study organism drawings

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The vegetative traits are for sure right

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Noémie and the decomposition

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Another highlight of the conference: Phil Grime in front of his poster

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Seraina and sick plants

ESP Europe Conference 2018

Some people from our Lab – Maria, Noëlle and Abiel – as well as Markus Fischer have been to the Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP) Conference 2018 in San Sebastian, Spain.

We enjoyed a week of great talks and keynotes but also other “services” like local customs showcased during the conference, all kinds of pintxos, as well as the beautiful sights of the city and surrounding landscapes and see.

Our session T2b Linking land management and biodiversity change to ecosystem services organized by Maria was met with great interest by participants. We had lively discussion on how we can bridge from ecosystem functioning to ecosystem services to policy and how we should not forget that they are underpinned by biodiversity. We also agreed that a more mechanistic understanding would further the usefulness of the ecosystem service concept.

Twitter: #esp18eu

ESP session

Maria presenting her talk

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Basque stone-lifting before the poster session

San Sebastian sea

Noëlle and Maria on the beach