This year the 12th International conference on biological invasions took place in Tartu (Estonia) from 12 to 16 September and AlienImpacts team couldn’t miss it! This conference is biennially organized by NEOBIOTA (the European Group on Biological Invasions) since 2000 and this time it was the turn of Estonian Naturalists’ Society to host and organize it. This year it was the first face-to-face meeting since the pandemic, and around a hundred of people meet in the Library Conference Centre of the University of Tartu, while around other fifty people attended online.
From AlienImpacts’ team only Josh could attend in person while me and Jane had to attend virtually. However, it gave us the opportunity to live the conference in two different ways, and it was extremely well organised to combine the virtual and in-person talks. I can honestly say that it was the best hybrid format I have ever participated in. The sound and image were wonderful, the slides and the speaker were presented in two separate windows in the screen, the slides with more relevant information were enlarged when required and even the virtual speakers could see the applause of the whole room and the faces of the people who asked us questions! If one day I have to organise a hybrid conference, I will definitely ask the organisers of this congress!
The conference brought together experts and colleagues in the field of biological invasions, and it was a pleasure to listen and learn from the diversity of talks ranging from the more applied and management aspects to data collection and modelling aspects. It was a pity not to be able to spend time with them in person at the coffee breaks and see the poster sessions.
Jane was the first speaker in the first day of talks after the keynote. She presented her recent study about context dependency in ecology, and she explained the differences between real and apparent context dependence, the main types, their causes, and potential solutions. It was a good opportunity to think about how often in ecology we attribute unexplained processes to context dependence as a generic entity and how possible it is to try to address it and attribute context dependence to specific causes and thus improve the conclusions of the studies.
Picture 1. Jane’s talk during Tartu conference. View from the Tartu Conference Centre. Photo taken by Josh Brian.
Later that day I presented some results of my last study addressing the Darwin Naturalization Conundrum across spatial scales. According to Darwin’s natural selection theory it can be expected that those introduced species more similar to natives are more successful in their establishment as they share accurate traits to survive in the new habitat (pre-adaptation hypothesis), but also that those introduced species more similar to the natives can be less successful due to competition with natives (limiting-similarity hypothesis). I showed that the relevance of these hypotheses varied across spatial scales for grasslands communities. It was great to share these results and discuss with colleges about it despite the distance.
Picture 2. Question from the audience during Maria’s talk. View for virtual attendants. Screenshots taken Jane Catford. It could be appreciated how clearly could the virtual audience and speaker follow the questions from people in the room.
Finally, Josh presented on Wednesday 13. He talked about his recent synthesis on enemy release hypothesis. Enemy release is one of the main hypotheses explaining the success of alien species in introduced ranges, and it states that during the invasion process, invasive species lose the enemies with which they interacted in their native range, and this allows them to improve their performance and outcompete natives in the new range. He did a great job on compiling such a big number of studies and present the main findings in a simple way to the audience. He explained the different processes driving enemy release, and the relevance of different enemy release hypotheses along temporal and environmental gradients. I’m sure he had great discussions with colleges in Tartu after that.
Picture 3 Josh’s talk during Tartu conference. View for virtual attendants. Screenshot taken by Josh Maria Perez-Navarro.
It was such a great experience to participate, we all enjoyed a lot the conference and we are looking forward to the next NEOBIOTA meeting in Lisbon in 2024!