Sep 26
ASC Reflections

​‘If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself' Henry Ford.

Ah - the calm after the storm. Looking back on it, the ASC itself could be comparable to such a natural phenomenon: a slow-cooking build-up of activity and behind-the-scenes effort resulting in an intense phase of action where all factors combine in one illuminating and productive outburst. Then the period after when things return to their pre-storm state (unless of course there’s severe flooding, etc…) – only they’ve been shaken in a way that means they're different to before. In other words, the storm might have passed in body but it will stay in spirit.

Several metaphors were used at the conference last week to help explain various concepts to whoever was sitting in on the various talks. There was Yvonne Walther’s restaurant analogy for trade-offs, Phil Levin’s fairy tale parallel for the idea of integrated ecosystem assessments, and Ciaran Kelly’s take on stock assessments, to name a few. Metaphors, it seemed, helped audiences digest ideas in a less scientific and more relaxed way. They also proved one way of helping bring those attending the talks onto the same page. I mean, who hasn’t eaten out?

OK, enough about metaphors. There were plenty of other vehicles used by the speakers to engage people – mostly fascinating scientific nuggets rather than linguistic devices. Algal blooms, jellyfish, charting migratory species, Baltic Sea salinity patterns, invasive Arctic species, the seabed impact of aquaculture, Mediterranean biodiversity, fisheries bycatch, discarding, the environmental impact on different creatures and ecosystems, the list goes on. Every presentation – be it oral or poster – made its valuable mark.

The collective mood was embodied in the science office, where even a film crew shooting outside pulled everyone together to look on.

Bigger picture
But stringing all these neurons together was the brain of
integrated ecosystem assessments, which perhaps provided the overriding theme of the week (along with, on a slightly more alternative note, technofeminism). It provided backdrop questions to every bit of research. How does my subject fit the bigger picture? What affects it and is affected by it?

These questions and ultimate inclusive assessments are seen as the future and are critical to the evolving nature of marine environments, our understanding of them, and ICES plans.

Relive the blockbuster premier from Monday night at the ASC by watching ICES new video on integrated ecosystem understanding (what needs to take place before the assessments are drawn up).

Integrated ecosystem assessments (just like ecosystems themselves) prove that the whole is most definitely greater than the sum of its parts.

Beyond ecosystems
‘Integration’ as a word, however, is a bit of an ASC superhero; a transformative character which assumes many identities. In this case, it didn’t just represent the confluence of sectors (scientific, social, etc) but the way in which many early career scientists turned out and contributed. The ASC is usually a meeting point for the wise(r) old(er) heads and the newcomers, but A Coruña, aided by the addition of a couple of exciting and well-received events (
the bus stop and the career lunch), seemed particularly fruitful. Some people were impressed with the way the youngsters spoke up in post-theme-session discussions, others with the way they weren’t afraid of asking the simple questions. Of course, as per each year, the standout early careers scientist work was marked with awards.

Then there was the location and setting of the conference centre. You could almost taste the historical unity between life in the sea and life on the land as you walked along the harbour front. From the fish landing area and market through to the restaurants of the old town, A Coruña is the heart of the seafaring and fishing trade that has had hold in Galicia for generations. 

And finally, there’s us, the communications department staff, whose job it was (and is) to piece the scientific jigsaw together in our minds before putting it across the public. 

It seems integration - both the word and the ethos - will have wider role to play across ICES community than just in terms of ecosystem assessments.

We'll leave you with this short but very sweet time-lapse recording of perhaps A Coruña's standout landmark, Hercules Tower.

Video by Wojciech Wawrzynski


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