Sep 20
Thursday round-up

Once upon a time in a kingdom far, far away lived a concept. Its name was Integrated Ecosystem Assessments...

OK, that's not exactly how it began, but a fairy tale theme did provide the basis for Phil Levin 's morning plenary lecture (interestingly, as such stories are usually allegories for other ideas rather than being used as allegories themselves). He was on about Integrated Ecosystem Assessments and whether they existed more as a fantastical idea than anything more concrete. 

It was an attention-grabbing and humorous take on a subject that has become one of the focus points of the week, integrated ecosystem assessments. 'What is a healthy ecosystem?' should be asked before 'is the ecosystem healthy? ', and to do this scientists (unable to write the fairy tale alone) need to pitch the question to stakeholders. And that's a challenge as people see ecosystems differently.

Some see IEAs as this fantastical Pegasus, he said, but in reality the more basic tools we already have will do, so we should reach for the donkey instead.

See ICES website news for more...


​Levin, from NOAA​, used an example of eelgrass. Who cares for eelgrass? The public might not on its own, but how about once we start mapping the services that interact around it? 

Continuing thread

Integrated ecosystem assessments will be a recurring subject in this blog, as indeed they have been this week.

Theme session C - 'One size does not fit all - what does an integrated ecosystem assessment mean to YOU?' - picked up where Levin left off (though closing the book of fairy stories) by launching into presentations​ that knuckled down into some of the specifics.

This was then followed by a lively panel discussion, one point of which centred around bridging disciplines.

Also on the integrated front, theme session L - Pelagic ecosystem dynamics from integrated monitoring surveys ​- premiered today. You could see it as one string of the IEA bow, specific to the pelagic zone.​ The complexities of life and characteristics of the open-ocean area​ make multidisciplinary surveys a challenging task. and the studies presented ​addressed many subtopics aimed at furthering ​understanding of piecing together, through the requisite datasets, a picture of the pelagic ecosystem.

The gelatinous zooplankton session carried on from yesterday, meanwhile, before ​the same room was taken over by a new one on harm​ful algal blooms​, where there were many interesting things being said on outbreaks of ​various species of algae as well as its effect on and interactions with bivalves (class of molluscs including oysters, clams and mussels).

There was also a session on a key strategic area for ICES​, aquaculture.​ 

Theme session G entered its third day, with talks on ecosystem indicators and, more so than earlier in the week, uncertainty - a hugely important factor in fish stock assessments and in ecosys​tem-based approaches.

Post-normal science explained in a real nutshell, though it's worth reading up more on.

ASC reflections

Inside the ASC spent again caught up with a few conference participants to see what had caught their respective ears - both today and over the course of the week.

​​Joshua Kilborn; PhD student, University of South Florida:

"Overall I've liked (the emphasis on) the ecosystem approach. It's been something that people are really pushing. I think one of the things we've started to hear at this conference is people starting to say hold on we need to slow down a little with this and have a really good think about what we're doing before we hit the ground running."


Jessica Goldsmith; PhD student, Université du Québec à Rimouski, Canada:

"ICES is a big family. Everyone's so nice and you can talk to them. That's been the best thing."


Jessica Luo; PhD student, University of Miami:

"It's my first time are the ASC. I'm a participant in theme secession A on zooplankton, and that has been really wonderful to be part of, particularly because this is the first tie we've had the gelatinous zooplankton as part of a theme session at an ASC. ​

Lena Bergström, Swedish Institute of Agricultural Sciences:
"I work with integrated ecosystem assessments so that's definitely been a highlight of the week from my perspective. Integrated ecosystem assessments have really been emphasized at this conference compared of to the ones I've been to before."


Jake Rice (left) and Robin Anderson​, ​Fisheries and Oceans Canada​

Jake: "The thing that's impressed me about this conference is that we're talking about has the word 'integrated' somewhere in the sentence. And compared to even a few years ago, that's new, and it really shows that ICES has not lost its edge."

Robin: "Apart for being able to rub shoulders with people like Jake and get their take on all this, which is really important, what I've been really impressed with is the number of young people speaking up in the discussions with great ideas. So it's not just the grey hairs, it's the young people, who are coming forward and saying 'Well, what about this?'"

Outstanding scientist(s)​

At the conference dinner in the evening - a Galician bagpipe-soundtracked stately home ceremony just out of a Coruna - Inside the ASC reprised an earlier theme of the week by catching up with Outstanding Achievement Award winner Bill Karp​. He had this to say about his relationship with ICES and this year's conference, perfectly evoking the spirit of the night amongst the party go-ers.

"I've been working with ICES since 1987, and it's been a sort of symbiosis and a great part o​f my life. And for me I think having these wonderful relationships with people are productive for the science but also really personally rewarding. There are people I've known for 25 years that are as much my friends as they are my colleagues.

When you go to university and work on marine science you learn about ICES, the great people who came through ICES and the impact it made. You never think you're going to be part of the organization.

The theme session I was most interested in this year was the one on the landings obligation. It's a place where there's this interesting intersection between science, policy and industry, and there's turmoil because policies come from the top down and people struggle to try and solve the problem - so there is a lot of creativity and work being done by smart people and you can see it before your eyes."

Bill Karp (right) collects his prize on Monday at the science committee plenary on Monday​


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