Ecology Across Borders: round-up so far

It is snowing in Ghent, too. Delayed or cancelled flights/trains have made travelling a challenge, but as the weather is settling at least a tiny bit, more and more people are arriving to the Ecology Across Borders in Ghent, Belgium. A snowman with a name badge greats those that managed to reach the conference venue. Outside, the cold wind pinches your skin and freezes your toes. Inside, the magic and excitement of science, plus a cup of tea or several, warms you up.


Team Shrub members are currently attending two big conferences – Ecology Across Borders (EAB) in Belgium and ArcticNet in Canada – one might say, we are almost on a conference tour. EAB is in full swing – two days into the conference, we are happy to report that conferences really can be a hub of science joy, discussion, criticism and ideas on how to take ecology further.

Here are our conference highlights so far.

  • Ecology Hackathon

On Monday, Gergana joined the full day Ecology Hackathon. Our goal was to make an R package to download and harmonise differed gridded datasets to facilitate their use in answering research questions. We have written code and drafted the key goals of our package, and are excited to continue building on this.


  • Speed review from the BES journal editors

The speed review session was a great opportunity to get feedback from the editors of some of the BES journals. The session was very useful and  it was great to meet some of the editors and talk about the winning elements of a manuscript.

  • GBIF stall in the exhibition hall

Gergana had a riveting discussion with Dmitry Schigel from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). Gergana is using GBIF data in her analysis of how rarity metrics (geographic range, mean population size and habitat specificity) affect population change, and it was fantastic to learn more about GBIF and how to best use GBIF data. We love open source data, and we are looking forward to continuing using GBIF – both in our research, and in teaching at Coding Club.


  • Catching up with people and meeting others for the first time

It’s exciting to see people you haven’t met with for a while, to chat about science and life, and share the conference experience. Equally, it is exciting to meet new people, to ponder a subject area you’ve never though about before, or to see your own area in a different light.

  • Taking it all in – three floors of people enthusiastic about science, a buzzing conference venue, beautiful photos spread around, and lots of inspiration – it is worth to stop running for a moment (though Gergana finds that hard!) to just breathe in the ecology magic.

For those of us that didn’t bring appropriate footwear and are walking around in socks, the conference very much feels like home! And what better home for an ecologist than one where we get to share and discuss our research, pick up new skills along the way and start new collaborations.

Today has been a particularly jam-packed day for Anne and Gergana, with a workshop and talks!

  • Workshop: Transferring quantitative skills among ecologists

Coding Club brings together people at different career stages to create a supportive environment for knowledge exchange and collective advancement of quantitative skills. We combine peer-to-peer workshops and online tutorials to promote statistical and programming fluency. In our EAB workshop, we used a tutorial on analysing big data in ecology to demonstrate how we can deliver quantitative training across academic institutions, after which we made our own tutorials and uploaded them to GitHub!

Interested in learning how to write coding tutorials and create a positive space for knowledge and skills exchange? All of our workshop materials are online:

Transferring quantitative skills among scientists


We were thrilled that many people attended and engaged with our workshop – it’s fantastic to meet more people keen to build a community around coding and quantitative training!

  • Talk: Does rarity influence population change in the UK and across global biomes? (Gergana Daskalova)

Species’ attributes such as rarity status, distribution and taxa are often assumed to predict population declines and extinction risk. However, empirical tests of the influence of rarity on population change across tax and biomes have yet to be undertaken, hindering proactive conservation. We combined open source data from the Living Planet Index, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and the IUCN to examine (1) the effects of rarity on rates of vertebrate population change in the UK, (2) the variation in global vertebrate population trends across biomes, and (3) the relationship between detected population change, species’ conservation status, and study duration.

  • Talk: Consequences of environmental change in tundra ecosystems: lessons from the International Tundra Experiment (ITEX) (Anne Bjorkman)

Much of what we know about tundra change has been made possible by the International Tundra Experiment (ITEX), a circumpolar network of experimental warming and long-term monitoring sites established in 1990. This network uses a standard protocol to quantify changes in plant abundance, species composition, and phenology in response to experimental and natural warming. These datasets have contributed to several syntheses of tundra community, functional, and phenological change.

We are excited for what the next two days of EAB have in store for us, and of course, we can’t wait to hear more from Team ArcticNet!

By Gergana

4 thoughts on “Ecology Across Borders: round-up so far

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s