Every three years, the NSF LTER Network gathers at the All Scientists’ Meeting as an opportunity to share insights, learn about research and education activities, and develop new collaborations. This year, FIU scientist from the Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research (FCE LTER) program within the Southeast Environmental Research Center joined the meeting for four days of science, outreach, and sharing progress and ideas at Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, California. With this years theme, Next Generation Synthesis: Successes and Strategies, participants were encouraged to discuss and analyze their research data to create a general understanding and develop innovative solutions to pressing ecological problems.
From nearly 600 total participants, 35 people from FCE attended including PIs, collaborators, postdocs, graduate students, REU students, FCE’s Education & Outreach Coordinator, and FCE’s Information Manager attended the meeting. From 270 posters presentations and 81 total workshops, FCE personnel helped organize 18 workshops and presented 13 posters relating to their research studies on “how hydrology, climate, and human activities affect the ecosystem and population dynamics in the ecotone and more broadly, the Florida Coastal Everglades”.
Outside enjoying the sunshine of the Pacific ocean on their free time, scientists gathered around for plenary sessions and events where they learned about new scientific ideas and skills, like in the inaugural LTER Idea Cafe which featured 18 pitches that raised awareness of relevant topics while incorporating creativity to develop exciting new research and outreach initiatives. From FCE, three scientists pitched their ideas including Luke Lamb, graduate student and president of the FCE student organization. He had the opportunity to broadcast his idea about the importance of the graduate students perspective as they are the future leaders of the Network.
“As leaders, it is important for us to think about how ecology will change as we progress in our careers, and my idea is to utilize what we know about the benefits of long-term approaches and design an initiative that gets graduate students to “Scan the Horizon” of the field of ecology, and attempt to envision future ecological breakthroughs, all through the eyes of graduate students,” Lamb proposed.
The meeting had a wide range of workshops, from synthesizing research data to how scientists should communicate to the general public. At the Alan Alda Center for Scientific Communication, participants had the opportunity to learn how to tell their stories and research by conveying their passion and excitement in order to have a better engagement and understanding with the general public. The uniqueness of this workshop and others provided a strong overview of the network’s connection to other networks, which creates a larger community working towards the same goal.
Other workshops instigated discussions including on disturbance and how to use long-term data to understand what a disturbance was and remains over time, as well as on connectivity and if ecosystems over time are becoming more or less connected. FCE scientists, Dr. Evelyn Gaiser and Dr. John Kominoski, co-led a session in ecology theory which discussed how ecology theories are being informed by long-term ecological research. “We found out that moving forward we need to focus on how long-term ecological research can help advance how we use time in ecological theories,” Kominoski said.
As the longest running program in NSF, the LTER network has evolved over the years and has influenced how scientists see themselves, as well as the challenges in ecological research. The meeting gives an opportunity to bring everyone from the network together to view where they come from and where are they going. “LTER ASM is a great place to start collaborations, through workshops or impromptu meetings, that continue after the meeting ends,” Michael Rugge, Program Manager for the FCE LTER, said.
Learn more about the LTER All Scientists Meeting here.