Tag Archives: Sweden

Spiral Sunday #4 – from SCAPE

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This Spiral Sunday post is coming from the SCAPE conference, where  a bunch of us are sitting in the foyer of the Abisko tourist accommodation centre, waiting for a minibus to get us to Kiruna airport.  I took the photograph last night – it’s a close up of a woven place mat.  Spirals are everywhere, if you look closely….

Looking forward to getting home late tonight and seeing Karin and the family (including cats and chickens).

“I want to see the bright lights tonight” – the 30th annual SCAPE conference part 1

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The 30th annual Scandinavian Association for Pollination Ecology (SCAPE) meeting is taking place at its northern-most, and most remote, venue. We are at Abisko in Sweden, 68O N and 195km inside the Arctic Circle. It’s not too cold at the moment, but there is ice starting to form on the many lakes in the area, and the trees are leafless. It’s a stunning, sparse location for the conference.

About 75 of us have gathered to hear a wide range of talks on all matters related to pollinators and pollination. The programme kicked off at 1925 on Thursday evening when five participants discovered that they were speaking in the first session after a hard day of travelling. I’d been awake since 0330 that morning so was not as receptive to the science as I should have been… Yesterday was much better, in that I was more awake, but it was still quite an intensive day that culminated in my own talk on spatio-temporal stability in a plant-pollinator interaction on Tenerife.  Being last speaker in a session is a mixed blessing and needs a good story to keep people awake.  But I’m not best able to judge if I succeeded.

The quality of the science, and of the presentations, has so far been very good. Here’s a selection of just a few other things I’ve learned or that have intrigued me during the first half of the conference:

Individual pollen grains can be stained a variety of fluorescent colours by a new marking technique involving “quantum dots” (Bruce Anderson)

We are still a long way from understanding all of the subtle ecological and behavioural effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on pollinators and pollinations (Juho Lämsä and Dara Stanley)

There are serious prospects of us being able to track individual pollinators across landscapes using drones (Tonya Lander)

Active “stigma rubbing” by anthers to promote self pollination has been documented for using time-lapse photography (Mohamed Abdelaziz)

The outcomes of competition for pollinations and reproductive interference between co-flowering plant species are complex and certainly not always predictable (Sharon Strauss and James Rodger)

The title of this post refers to a great song by Richard and Linda Thompson called “I want to see the bright lights tonight” and reflects everyone’s desire over to see the aurora borealis during this meeting. We had a brief encounter with the northern lights on Thursday evening, but they were pale and obscured by clouds. Perhaps tonight will be brighter. Before that we have another full day of talks to look forward to, and I’ll try to report back before we leave tomorrow.  For now, breakfast is calling.

The bare-foot conference: SCAPE 2014

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Not strictly bare-foot, most of us are wearing socks and padding around the Tovetorp Research Station in Sweden, where outdoor shoes are banned in the building.  The Scandinavian Association for Pollination Ecology is holding its 28th annual meeting here, starting Thursday evening with three initial talks, and continuing all today.  I’ve posted about SCAPE previously: it’s my favourite conference by a long margin, friendly and informal and attracting some great science.  Although I missed it last year due to my trip to Brazil, coming back this year is a little like coming back to a family gathering, where as well as the elder aunts and uncles, there’s also a large group of younger nieces and nephews, and some long-lost cousins – it’s a great mix of older professors, and newer PhD students.

This is a quick post before we have dinner and the bar opens.  In the last 24 hours I have learned a lot about pollination ecology that I didn’t know before, including:

  • Vincetoxicum hirundinaria does not vary in its outcrossing rate, regardless of the size of population (Anne Muola, Swedish Agricultural University)
  • Arum italicum and Arum maculatum hybridise in some populations (Marion Chartier, University of Vienna)
  • variable weather conditions can result in low bumblebee numbers and increased fly pollination in a north American mountain plant community (Diane Campbell, University of California)
  • nocturnal pollination by moths is more common than expected in Spanish mountain plant communities (Marcos Mendez, Rey Juan Carlos University)
  • “double mutualists” that both pollinate plants and disperse their seeds seem to be more common on islands than elsewhere (Jens Olesen, Aarhus University)
  • colour “purity” is more important than other aspects of flower colouration (Klaus Lunau, Heinrich-Heine University)
  • there’s very little evidence to support any of the current hypotheses regarding the evolution of andromonoecy (Marcos Mendez, again!)

Those are just a few of the highlights from a conference that’s showcasing some of the best pollination ecology research currently being conducted.  Looks like dinner’s ready so I’ll sign off for now.  My talk is tomorrow at 4.30pm – wish me luck!