Following #INT13 on Twitter (UPDATED!)

This post was originally published on BioDiverse Perspectives – a research blog aimed at fostering communication about biodiversity.

I was supposed to be doing field work today, but since it was raining, I took the day off to get some writing done for my impending dissertation proposal defense.   Lucky for me (and my tendency for procrastination), the INTECOL meeting is going on right now, and unlike ESA, it looks like there’s enough service in the conference center for people to live-tweet the conference. This being my first ever twitter-only conference attendance, I thought I’d share my observations.

Here’s a little snippet of my own personal meta-live-blog:

11:17EDT. I just started following #INT13! What time is it in London right now, anyway?

11:18EDT. I think I’m in two sessions right now: One on niche-dynamics / species ranges; and one on conservation. According to @Ecopostblog, there are elephants in Mali, and not many people know it:

Dr Canney: many people don’t even know that there are elephants in Mali! #INT13

— EcoPost (@ecopostblog) August 19, 2013

Hopefully, I’ll find out more! 11:20 More on elephants.  Looks like they don’t use corredors much.

11:22. Looks like I’m missing a talk on soil fauna and altitudinal gradients; there was a great workshop; JEcology is having a meet the editor session! Cool! Hopefully someone live-tweets that!

11:23. Just learned that L Seabrook studies Koala poo. I wonder if there was a funny joke about that in the talk.

11:24. More on elephants – someone is developing, has developed, will develop a passage for elephants that’s free of human activities? Not totally sure…

11:25 INNGEcologists are having an early carreer social night. That sounds like fun!

11:27 I’m not sure what happened to the niche-dynamics session…

11:28 Reminder to self: look up Koricheva research on birch clone diversity and leaf mining.

11:29 Lack of implementation of biodiversity plans in South America? That sounds cool!

Andrew knight “lessons can be learned from lack of implementation of biodiversity plans in sa. #int13 — Olivia Richardson (@orichardson12) August 19, 2013

11:30 I have no idea what this is in reference to:

Urban dwellers’ herds is the problem! Outsiders use up the resources of the locals. #INT13 — EcoPost (@ecopostblog) August 19, 2013

Ok, back to work. I’ll keep following along for the rest of the day, and write some general thoughts tonight.

UPDATED:  Ok, It looks like day one of INTECOL is over, or at least the tweets have slowed down.

I should preface my commentary here by saying that I’m fairly new to twitter. I just joined in February. I resisted joining for a long time and am still learning the language. As a result, I probably could have used this:

Don’t forget that we’re giving Twitter tutorials at the BES stand today. Please spread the word! #INT13

— BES (@BritishEcolSoc) August 19, 2013

And I probably missed a lot of great conference material. Feel free to chime in with suggestions for improving my absentee INTECOL experience!

My immediate reaction to a day of conference tweeting is holy cow! That was a lot of information. I’d say that a conference on twitter is pretty incomprehensible, and unless I’m fully devoted to following along, it’s hard to really get a good idea of what any single talk Is about.

Here then, is my summary of day one at INTECOL on twitter:
There were a ton of really great talks on a wide variety of subjects. My favorite talks were this talk linking invasion ecology and climate change (I think):

Meyer: guerrilla strategy in #invasion (long dispersed events of few individuals) enhanced by climate warming #INT13

— Pablo Gonzalez (@pglezmoreno) August 19, 2013


#int13 Meyer dispersal key to plant response to climate change, depending on their enemies. . .

— William Gosling (@palaeolim) August 19, 2013


Meyer: arguing that diversity effects become stronger over time #INT13

— Carly Ziter (@carlyziter) August 19, 2013

And I really enjoyed Sandra Diaz’s plenary talk on plant functional trait diversity (Full disclosure, this talk took place while I was still sleeping, but I was able to look up the tweets and follow along afterwards).

Functional traits taking over #INT13 by opening plenary speaker Sandra Diaz


— Rob Salguero-Gomez (@DRobcito) August 19, 2013


It sounded like the take home message (thanks @JNGriffy!) was that:

Functional traits hold great promise to mechanistically link biodiversity and ecosystem services #INT13

— John Griffin (@JNGriffy) August 19, 2013


Sandra Diaz: more research needed. ‘We just don’t know enough to understand how functional diversity links to environmental change.’#INT13

— EEB&Flow (@EEB_Flow) August 19, 2013



Sandra Diaz is inviting everybody to keep TRYing and upload the forgotten data on plant traits to the TRY database #INT13

— Silvija (@SBudaviciute) August 19, 2013

And for comparison, here’s a summary from Dries Bonte, who was actually there (by the way, check out the Wiley at INTECOL blog. It’s really cool!). It looks like I got the gist of Sandra Diaz’s talk, but I completely missed David Tilman’s talk on biodiversity maintenance. Fortunately, I’m not alone. One of three tweets on that talk:

Could not assist at David Tilman’s conference at #INT13, not enough place in the room for all the fans 😉

— Marine Robuchon (@MarineRobuchon) August 19, 2013


I think following the conference at twitter was a good experience, but it could be better. Here’s a list of things that I really enjoyed from day 1:
Humor (most of which comes completely out of context):

“Mathematics is like sex, its ok to talk about it, but not ok to do it in public” #INT13

— Laura Boggeln (@LauraBoggeln) August 19, 2013


Walked into @theorecol‘s talk late – I wonder what he’s talking about. Just seems like noise #INT13

— Bob O’Hara (@BobOHara) August 19, 2013



“Ants are supercool” from @TomRBishop in his #INT13. He’s not wrong! #ants #ecology


— Heather Campbell (@scienceheather) August 19, 2013


This is brilliant!! #INT13 #INTECOL #ecology #entomology


— Fevziye Hasan (@fezidae) August 19, 2013


Bits of wisdom:

Hugh Possingham: “Never give people an answer, give them a tool.” #INT13

— Michaela Plein (@michaelaplein) August 19, 2013


But there were also some things that I didn’t really like:

First, a common theme was the single tweet about what a talk was going to be about, with no follow up (I’m guilty of doing this at ESA this year, too). I’m sure that there’s some utility to this, but as an e-attendant, it wasn’t very useful. In a sense, I feel like I’d be better off using this great website to read through the abstracts myself.

But most frustrating was that I saw very little communication between people tweeting the conference. It was almost as though there were hundreds of people talking over / past each other.  I first joined twitter as a necessity for getting the most out of the 2013 Science Online Conference, and I loved how people asked questions and commented during discussions.  Here’s a great example from a session on imposter syndrome. I’m hoping that this is the future of tweeting scientific conferences.

If it’s still raining tomorrow, maybe I’ll try again, but overall, this tweet pretty well sums up my experience:

#int13 message of the day. Online no substitute 4 Face2face contact in the field to get people excited about ecology @BESroadies @palaeolim

— Lesley Batty (@LesleyBatty) August 19, 2013

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