Ecological Science at the Frontier: Celebrating ESA’s Centennial (in Baltimore)

ESA = Ecological Society of America.

This was not MY conference, actually. I entered using a name badge marked “guest”. Fifteen years ago, that would have said “spouse”. Thirty years ago, “wife”. My husband is an ecologist and chair elect of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Ecological Society of America. I tagged along to the organization’s 100th NATIONAL meeting in Baltimore last week.

I’m good at “tagging along”. I can always find something interesting to do. But I didn’t need this skill to enjoy the ESA meeting! It was exciting. I think the attendance was over 3000, larger than most professional meetings I attend. The demographic was young and the level of enthusiasm very high. I’ve long known that ecologists have fun. After all, they do much of their work out of doors and in the company of fellow enthusiasts. Often they travel. And ecologists are purposeful. The study and understanding of an organism or ecosystem often leads to the desire to protect it, a complex challenge in this age of climate change and sea level rise.

I am also pleased to report that the City of Baltimore, troubled though it has been over the past months, has got its act together. (I did NOT consider withdrawing my participation because of the recent riots.) The area around the convention center was, predictably, heavily policed. My ventures into other areas, “sketchy” but not rock bottom, were brief and uneventful. And the Baltimore Inner Harbor area is great! Full of people and activity. I couldn’t see anything that made it different from the rest of urban, tourist oriented America. The free public “circulator” buses are better than the public transit in Philadelphia or Boston, and the Light Rail, which goes farther from the city center, is quick and convenient.

And, to top it off, the Ecological Society of America really knows how to throw a party! I’ve sat through my share of convention banquets, listening to dull speeches and eating rubber chicken. ESA’s “Birthday Bash” consisted of an excursion to a local microbrewery, where the parking lot was lined with food trucks (ethnic, spicy…) and the beer flowed freely. Add a good country rock band and it was a perfect summer evening. A great time was had by all.

I plan to attend a national meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) in October. Hope it is equally good! Stay tuned

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