During one of my lectures with Dr Griffiths he mentioned the IALE conference and I asked him afterwards if any student helpers were needed. His module in Biogeography introduced me to the concept of landscape ecology and I leapt at the chance to learn more about it!
I had expected to be there only to help out with the organisation of the conference and it was a great surprise when I was invited to sit in on the talks. As always with ecology, my mind was blown once more by how much there is to learn out there! One talk that particularly struck me was on the subject of art and literature in relation to our landscapes; it was perhaps elitist of me, but I have always seen science as very separate to Humanities-type subject and it very much opened my eyes to how they really are not separated at all. Our perceptions and love of the landscapes around us and their expression in poetry or paintings are important in forming ecological policy; real change can only come about when people are invested and passionate. For me, this was the real take home message of the conference and I am very grateful to have been afforded the opportunity to attend.
During the poster session I found myself in conversation with two Russian scientists and the topic of conversation moved to agroforestry, which I was explaining to them. They told me that multiple land uses to maximise space was not something they really considered in Russia, and again I had one of those enlightening moments; values and priorities for landscapes differ hugely in different parts of the world, which may sound obvious but I was unaware I had previously been in my little UK ‘bubble’! If it hadn’t been for the IALE conference I would not have had the opportunity to meet those Russian scientists and broaden my outlook that little bit further.
The photo below is a screen capture of one of my tweets during the conference, of a quote that I felt really summed up what I got from the conference; the vital importance of engaging people and generating passion for landscapes. Download the conference abstracts here.
Steven Warnock's poignant end slide to the 2016 conference (Photo credit: Author)
My sincere thank you to Geoff and Jess for giving me this opportunity (and the glass of wine while looking at posters!).
Meg James is an ecology student at the University of Reading, email: firstname.lastname@example.org @megjames88 (Tweeting about agroecology, climate change, conservation, botany, wildlife).