Thursday, November 1, 2007

Member Input Shapes January 2009 Meeting in Mérida, México

Who knew that putting “the posters between the booze and the participants” was a suggestion on the tip of the tongue of so many members? This level of detail in member preference is shaping the scope and scale of the next international meeting of the Society as a result of two electronic surveys conducted earlier this year. Dr. David Hafner (david.hafner(at) and his team are using this survey data to plan the next international meeting, to be held in 8-12 January 2009 at Merida, Mexico. Dr. Hafner’s team is wrestling with issues ranging from how to register and entertain the nonscientists traveling with their biogeographer partners to how to recruit and prepare the speakers for the various symposia. Polling results indicate that the success or failure of the next meeting hinges, in the collective mind of members, on several key decisions made well in advance of the actual meeting. The central challenge before the IBS Board is how to maintain the intimacy and intensity of the next meeting while recognizing the explosive growth of IBS.

In the past two years IBS has tripled in size. IBS membership now exceeds 700 and may well grow again, substantially, by January 2009. Biogeography is a hot topic and is attracting increasing attention around the world. Members tell us that being bigger should not be the goal and that we should consider capping membership or meeting attendance in order to keep the international meetings intimate. Such caps may be necessary but until that decision is made other means of accommodating our rapidly expanding membership also are being explored.

In particular, members said that creating concurrent sessions to reduce session size would diminish the value of the meeting. Full plenary sessions allow for a shared meeting experience. That experience forms the basis for conversations and interactions throughout the four-day meeting. However, there is a strong desire to hear additional points of view and to expand opportunities for discussion. Rather than running parallel sessions provocative presentations from a wider array of scientists and graduate students are being proposed. Such an approach would require more pre-meeting planning but would result in greater value for participants.

One idea tested at the Canary Island meetings to stimulate conversation was end-of-day, small group discussions. Initially populated by students who were awarded travel stipends, the demand for these sessions exceeded all expectations. Participants in the small group discussions (each organized by an established researcher who was not a symposium speaker) were so overwhelmingly positive that non-awardees begged to participate. Those who participated were unanimously positive in their praise and asked that the small group discussions become a regular feature of the meetings. The discussion sessions became a kind of “meet and greet” for shy and uncertain students (and some faculty) who nevertheless had much to say. It is easier to ask a question or state an opinion in a group of 12 than stand and speak to several hundred meeting participants. In retrospect, we should have known it would work out this way. Thank you, members, for making this point to meeting organizers.

We also have learned that a large part of your decision to attend the next meeting is the cost of travel. We will be offering travel stipends to students from around the world and to researchers from developing countries. It is still too early to know the exact details of these travel awards but if you are interested in obtaining travel assistance watch for upcoming editions of this newsletter and look for email messages from Dr. George Stevens, VP for Development and Awards, at georgecstevens(at) As before these travel awards will be announced to the membership and applications will be made electronically. Keep your email information updated on the website (or jump directly to the membership portal by typing into your browser) to make sure we know how to contact you in the coming year.

Google maps output showing the location of Mérida, at the Yucatán Peninsula of México

Even for those of you who are not planning on applying for a travel stipends, purchasing your airline tickets in advance can save you hundreds of dollars. Our next international meeting will be begin with workshops on the 8th of January, 2009 and end with field trips to nearby ruins and ecologically interesting sites on the 12th of January, 2009. Book your travel through to airport code “MID.” Shuttles from the airport will be available and included in your meeting registration fees. Currently airfares are $600 to Mérida, Mexico from points in the United States, $1,200 from South America, $1,600 from the UK and Europe, and a staggering $5,900 from Australia.

In the very least, mark your calendar from the 8th through the 12th of January, 2009. If you are unable to attend the 2009 IBS meeting you can expect a slow week as many of your Biogeographer colleagues will be benefiting from your meeting planning advice in beautiful Mérida, Mexico.

George C. Stevens,VP for Development and Awards

Check the latest news on the conference at

1 comment:

ricardo said...
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