Tovetorp Research Station has a small colony of wolves, though we weren’t allowed to visit them as they are being observed as part of a study of canid behaviour. But I did see a White-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) which was just as good! And on the last night of the SCAPE meeting there was the usual post-banquet bout of Scando-European dancing by the younger members of the conference, which gave me the idea for the title of this post.
But on to the science! I’ve already talked a little about some of what I learned or was excited about from the Thursday & Friday talks, and Saturday’s sessions continued in the same vein, with interesting and novel research in abundance, including:
- species in 166 different plant families lack nectar as a reward, with an estimated 15-20,000 species (from 72 families) utilising buzz pollination (Mario Vallejo-Marin, University of Stirling)
- Alocasia sarawakensis employs a brood-site pollination system analogous to figs and yucca moths, but without destroying any ovules (Florian Etl, University of Vienna)
- floral scents are more complex in their geographical and anatomical distribution than we realised, and may be used to cheat pollinators into thinking there is a reward in a flower (Magne Friberg, Amy Parachnowitsch & Rosie Burdon, Uppsala University)
- exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides can cause very subtle effects on bumblebee behaviour when they forage on apple blossom, which doesn’t seem to translate into an effect on apple pollination (Dara Stanley, Royal Holloway)
- it may be possible to assign environmental niches to native and introduced pollinators in order to understand how invasive species out-compete native ones (Jonas Kuppler, University of Salzburg)
- functional diversity of floral traits is greater than that of vegetative traits in alpine plant communities (Robert Junker, University of Salzburg)
As I said before, these are just some of the highlights, there were many others. My own talk was about the rate of extinction of bees and flower-visiting wasps in Britain, involving some new analyses I’ve been doing with colleagues over the past 6 months or so. The work seemed to be mostly well received, though there was scepticism from some quarters about the methods we’ve used, and a suggestion that there are better ways to assess extinction which I’m going to follow up.
I returned to the UK at 7pm last night. On the drive home from the airport, Karin asked me what I’d most enjoyed about the conference. The answer was all of it, of course, but what these meetings really provide is an opportunity to discuss science in an informal, friendly (though rigorous and argumentative!) atmosphere, outside the formal talks. Not just the science itself, but also the way we do science, manage our careers, and communicate our findings. I spent some time chatting with Amy Parachnowitsch, who blogs over at Small Pond Science, and her research student Rosie Burdon about the role of blogging in science communication and what we’re aiming to do by releasing these thoughts out onto the internet. Paradoxically these are conversations that are best had face to face I think!
The problem with SCAPE is that it’s over and gone too quickly, but perhaps that’s the point: it leaves us wanting more and looking forward to next year, when it will be in Denmark. Thanks again to the organising committee for a stimulating and enjoyable few days. Any pollination scientists, at all stages of their career, who wish to come along to future SCAPEs would be guaranteed a warm welcome and should drop the organisers a line to be added to the mailing list, or search for the Facebook page of the group and ask to be added.