Matthew Aiello-Lammens Ecologist at Work

Thoughts on the 2016 North American Congress for Conservation Biology

I started graduate school in 2007 with the intention of becoming a conservation biologist. I don’t think I had a good sense for what that meant at the time, given my lack of experience, but I knew that I wanted to work toward science that protected natural places and the organisms in them. So, it seemed logical that the first scientific meeting I would attend would be the Congress for Conservation Biology - the 2008 international meeting in Chattanooga to be exact. I went again in 2010 when it was held in Edmonton, CAN, but hadn’t been to an international or North American section meeting since. Partly this is because it’s been hard for me to go to more than one big meeting a year, and that meeting has been ESA. To be truthful, I’ve chosen ESA over CCB because I have a sense that the basic science presented is more interesting at ESA. After attending the NACCB in Madison this year, I think I still feel that way, but that doesn’t matter to me as much.

To be clear, I saw a lot of great talks at NACCB and a lot of great science. Last week I sat down and wrote out a few notes on the talks I saw and was surprised by the number of talks I actually attended. And as expected, I got a lot of great ideas from these talks. Some of the most interesting were those dealing with the theme of the meeting, Communicating Science for Conservation Action. Communicating science is a hot topic right now, and personally, I feel it should be. It’s important that we do this well, and it was interesting (and sobering) to see research on the effectiveness (or lack there of) of communication efforts. But considering all of the talks I saw combined, I came away thinking, ‘yeah, this is the kind of work I want to be doing’. In a few weeks I start my second year as an assistant professor at Pace, and I’m continuing to work to develop my research program and figure out what it will look like. The projects in my lab this summer have all been ‘in my backyard’, in the region around our campus. And each of them has a conservation angle and I feel really good about that. These project might not be addressing any of the grand questions in ecology at the moment, but what they tell us about conservation in our region feels important. And that’s the type of work I like seeing at CCB.