Top ecologists gather in Kelowna

Some of the newest research into ecology and evolutionary biology will be presented at UBCO in the next week.

Some of the country’s top ecologists and evolutionary biologists will be in Kelowna during the next week for the largest conference yet organized on the new campus of UBCO.

Biologist and assistant professor Jason Pither is heading up the organizing committee and says he expects some 430 or so delegates including some who are at the top of their field will be making presentations during the May 12 to 15 conference.

It’s the eighth annual meeting of the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution, which includes researchers from universities and industry as well as government staff and educators.

In all, he says there will be 225 oral presentations, 65 poster presentations and seven symposia, which will include from six to 10 talks, and most of it will be new information and leading edge research.

“It’s been three years in the works,” Pither admitted. Many of the delegates will be staying on the campus as well, and a number are coming early and leaving some days after the end of the conference.

Although more delegates may be nearby and better able to attend when it’s held in a large city, the Okanagan is attractive to delegates because of its representation as a biodiversity hotspot, and home to many endangered species.

A number of delegates will be professors who will bring their students to present on their latest research which often builds on that of their experienced professors.

As well, he says there will be younger professors who are pushing the envelope, in terms of innovative thinking and research.

More than 20 UBC grad and undergrad students will be presenting their latest research.

Keynote speakers include Pierre Legendre, biology professor at the University of Montreal, who will receive the CSEE President’s Award for his contributions to advancing ecology and evolutionary biology research.

As well, Fred Allendorf, regents Professor Emeritus at the University of Montana, and a world-renowned authority on population genetics and conservation biology, will address the conference theme ‘range margins in a rapidly-changing world.’

During the conference, there will be two public events. Sat., May 11, dhildren are encouraged to come to the EECO in Mission Creek Regional Park to participate in a nature walk organized by UBC grad students. It will include tips to identifying birds by their songs, an introduction to mushrooms and a trip to the turtle pond with a reptile expert.

People of all ages are welcome. It begins at 9 a.m.

On Mon., May 13, Anthony Sinclair, professor emeritus at UBC’s Department of Zoology in Vancouver, will unveil the story behind the science of Africa’s Serengeti.

He has spent more than 50 years in Tanzania where he has studied the cycle of wildlife through years of drought and starvation, the role of predators and disease and the reasons behind the migration of specific species.

It’s in the Mary Irwin Theatre at the Rotary Centre for the Arts at 7:30 p.m. It’s free, but register at: www.sinclairtalk.eventbrite.ca

Field trips for delegates have been organized to the south Okanagan as well as Okanaga Mountain Provincial Park.

While much of the week’s highlights cater to conference delegates, Pither notes that the public is welcome to attend the keynote seminars. Legendre speaks at UBC on Tuesday, May 14, at 1:15 p.m., and Allendorf speaks on Wednesday, May 15, at 8 a.m. Both keynote events take place in Room 130 of the Arts and Sciences Centre, 3187 University Way in Kelowna.

 

For a full conference schedule, visit: csee2013.ok.ubc.ca

jsteeves@kelownacapnews.com