Well, ESA isn't over, but the Gonzalez lab contingent is pulling out this morning, leaving the Friday sessions to hardier folks than we. And while the conference certainly felt like it was winding down tonight, ESA definitely went out with a bang.
Overall the last two days offered fantastic talks, with a particular emphasis on competition (especially among plants). Whole sessions were devoted to long-term data sets like the censused plots of Barro Colorado Island and more experimental set ups like Cedar Creek. While I definitely agree that there is much that can be learned from long-term study sites like BCI and Cedar Creek (indeed, much research would be impossible without them), I wonder as to whether there might also be a problematic side to such awesome resources as these. For example, I went to countless talks over the last two days about tropical forest dynamics, probably 90% of which were conducted on BCI. Now, it's not that BCI isn't an appropriate place to study, it's just that it seems to be the only place that is studied, which may lead us to accept idiosyncratic patterns of BCI as typical universal tropical forest trends. Similarly, it seems that so much of our knowledge on the effects of diversity on ecosystem functioning (representing another big chunk of talks I saw over the last two days) comes from Cedar Creek; and while it is an awesome study site, it seems dangerous to let just one experiment inform us so completely on a topic that is so important.
All that being said, it was one of the talks on BCI that caught my eye today, given by none other than Stephen P. Hubbell, who was at once lucid, clear, concise, and humorous. His talk also had me thinking about the nature of star power in science - as the lecture theatre was packed to the brim. People even took pictures of him. It was off the hook.
And on that note, a farewell to Albuquerque.