Christopher X J. Jensen
Associate Professor, Pratt Institute

Hey, ho, Portland Oregon ESA 2017, let’s go!

Posted 07 Aug 2017 / 0
2017-08-06aMount Hood on the descent into Portland, Oregon

Ah, what a privilege it is to get to go to academic conferences! A whole week during which I get to re-connect with old academic friends, make new connections, and do the backstroke in science. And it does not hurt a bit when the conference is in an awesome city like Portland, Oregon!

Before I jump into this brief little preview of this conference, I want to immediately acknowledge the source of my privilege. My dean, Andrew Barnes, had the inspiration to secure funding for all of his full-time faculty to support research activities. I am here in Portland to present some pedagogical research that I have been doing, and Dean Barnes can take credit for getting me here. I hope to make Pratt proud with my talk “Integrating student understanding of ecological flows through concept mapping“, which I will be giving on Thursday afternoon. I will be talking about a concept mapping activity that I have been doing for the past four years in my ecology-themed courses; conveniently the focus of my talk fits well with this year’s meeting theme Linking biodiversity, material cycling and ecosystem services in a changing world.

Beyond doing my part by presenting at the conference, I am also excited to hear as many talks as I can. It is hard to believe, but it has been five years since I last attended an Ecological Society of America conference (not coincidentally, also taking place in Portland). A lot has changed in my academic career in that time. The last time I was at an ESA meeting, I hadn’t yet earned tenure. That imperative had a lot of influence on what I was trying to cultivate in my academic work, as I still felt a pressure to do “conventional scientific research”. Over the past five years my scholarly activity has definitely shifted towards teaching and I have begun to think a lot more seriously about how my position as a scientist might allow me to play a more transformational role in the world. My priorities for what kinds of talks and sessions I plan to attend reflect these shifts in my career trajectory.

If I have a “job” that I need to complete at ESA beyond delivering my talk, it is definitely to try to bring as many teaching ideas as possible back to Pratt. Accordingly I am attending a lot of pedagogically-oriented sessions, of which there are many. On Monday I plan to check out the special session “Improv Your Science: Building Skills for Effective Communication” and the ignite session “Try This to Help Students Learn Ecology Better“. I will also be attending Tuesday evening’s poster session featuring a variety of educationally-themed posters and special session “Implementing ESA’s 4DEE Framework to Transform Your Undergraduate Ecology Course“. And I hope to round out my educational attendance with the Thursday workshop “Empowering Decision-Making through Scientific and Ethical Literacy at Standing Rock: An Interactive Socioscientific Primer for Educators and Students“. Oh, and of course on Thursday afternoon I will be at the contributed oral session that includes my own talk.

There are a ton of sessions at ESA 2017 devoted to sustainability and environmental justice, and I will also be focusing on these sorts of talks as I look for new stories and approaches to infusing social justice issues in my ecology course. On Monday there’s an ignite session “Sustainable Development Goals: Can Ecologists Help Them Transform our World?” as well as an evening special session “Our Living Environment: Causes and Strategies for Alleviating Impacts of Environmental Change on Minority Communities“. And on Thursday morning I am hoping to get in on an amazing field trip “A Crosstown Walk on North Williams Street: Socioeconomic Gradients, Gentrification, and Environment“.

I haven’t lost my passion for basic science, and thus I have targeted a bunch of research talks and sessions. I continue to be interested in urban ecology, so I have picked out an a la carte selection from the many urban systems talks. A particular ignite session with an urban theme that I am excited to check out is Tuesday afternoon’s “Which Trees in Your Urban Forest like It Hotter and Drier Than It Is Right Now?“. Wednesday morning’s symposium “Ecological Lessons from Evolutionary Game Theory: Scaling from Functional Traits to Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services” will allow me to indulge my interest in evolutionary theory. And on Friday morning I am going out on a limb to check out the contributed oral session “Ecosystem Stability And Resilience III“.

Interestingly enough, there are also a couple of ignite sessions on Tuesday morning that deal more closely with my scholarly life at Pratt than any sessions I have ever attended at ESA. I can’t wait to check out “Art and Science Collaboration: Disciplinary Diversity As a Means of Exploring Ecological Systems and Value Structures” and “Ecological Art-Science Collaborations” to see how others are creating intersections between ecological science and art/design. Perhaps I will get some ideas and meet potential residents for our emerging STEAMplant initiative.

On top of all the above scholarship, I am also excited for a Monday night cocktail hour organized by my “department of origin”, Stony Brook University’s Department of Ecology & Evolution. It will be fun to catch up with old pals from graduate school and meet current faculty and students.

Throughout the conference, I will be live-tweeting using the meeting hashtag #ESA2017. I also plan to reflect as much as I can on the meeting via this blog.

Special thanks to my good friend Ben Kates and his wonderful wife Carly for once again putting me up (and putting up with me) during my stay at a Portland, Oregon conference. Ben always takes really good care of me, letting me borrow his bike and assuring that I get enough exercise during my stay…

2017-08-06bPre-conference hike in Forest Park with my friend and host Ben, and his pup Tito.
A Major Post, Conferences, Conservation Biology, Ecological Society of America, Ecology, Ecology Education, Ecosystem Services, Higher Education, Sustainability, Uncategorized

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