Lucky me: I got to visit the Species On The Move Conference in May 2023, and this without being an ecologist at all. My work in science communication focused on ecosystems for a whole while, and Christian, the PI of the BioChangeLab at TUM, strongly supported my approach to learn more about the communication dynamics in ecosystem conservation and environmental protection. He repeatedly challenged me to apply for conferences if they’d cover my field of interest (thank you, Christian).
The SOTM conference took place in the Everglades near Miami, Florida, and did feature a vast array of topics. It was surprisingly open for the field of science communication and other than that, five days filled with all kinds of talks and posters on species conservation projects welcomed us. The contributing research projects very clearly showed: Mainly due to global warming, species indeed are on the move, on a higher pace and in higher numbers than humanity has ever witnessed before, and we better understand how to support their future survival. This is for ethical reasons on the one hand, but for our own species’ survival on the other.
Main conference themes discussed the prediction of species’ movement in several set ups, the implication of moving species for human and animal health, biome and ecosystem shifts, associated conservation paradigms and the management of fragmented ecosystems. The consequences of ecosystem shifts in economical, cultural and social contexts, approaches to understand the drivers and hindering forces of those shifts, bioinformatics, indigenous knowledge on species and, of course, communication.
Although the latter was naturally not the most pronounced field of a conference with a strong scientific focus, it was astoundingly welcome and well represented. A picture project asked visitors to illustrate different feelings through self-chosen motives, the Everglades National Park manager provided me with useful insights and studies after my talk (we remain in contact) and above all, every ecologist I bumped into was happy to exchange about their research, experiences and main issues. I soon had become integrated into an international group of crocodile researchers, of which several had already been bitten by alligators several times.
When I wasn’t hanging out with them, I strolled through presentations and poster sessions in order to get stuck in conversations with impressively motivated scientists. Amongst them were shark conservationists, researchers from Hong Kong who study the pressures on the Eurasian otter through dogs and sea level rise, as well as scientists who are concerned with wildlife refugees and thus suggest a management measure called ‘The Civilian Climate Corps’.
My talk about approaching biodiversity narratives with the help of Systems Thinking received helpful and interested feedback. It showed me how useful and necessary the matter of communication seems to be considered by ecologist, and how much development people like me, who aim to improve communication, will have to cover in the future in order to meet standards which reach broad audiences when it comes to factual complex themes.
Consequently I want tot thank the SOTM board for giving me the chance to present, Christian Hof for giving me the chance to attend and showing interest in my topic, and last, but not least, I thank my dog Cosmo, who’s a rescue and can not stay behind, for taking the plunge and fly to Florida, where he patiently waited from walk to walk, so I could have such a rewarding time (he subsequently was provided many more walks in much colder areas of the U.S.).