Prof. Sam Fey and Hannah Meier ’21 with project collaborators David Anderson, Colin Kremer, and David Vasseur.
Prof. Sam Fey and Hannah Meier ’21 with project collaborators David Anderson, Colin Kremer, and David Vasseur.

Reedies Take the Stage at Annual Gathering of American Ecologists

Participants shared passion and research for pressing ecological matters, from wildfires to wolves.

By Britany Robinson | August 28, 2023

The Ecological Society of America held its annual meeting at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland from August 6–11, with six former and current Reed students presenting research, along with Prof. Sam Fey [biology]. The ESA counts about 9,000 members who use ecological science to address pressing planetary issues including climate change and biodiversity. This year’s theme was ESA for All Ecologists, with a focus on reaching beyond academics to engage public- and private-sector professionals who are in the best position to apply science to the management, conservation, and restoration of species and ecosystems. 

The meeting presented an exciting opportunity for Reedies in ecology to take the stage. Alexander Bentley ’23 gave a talk on how sugar pine and Douglas fir trees in Southern Oregon respond to ecological restoration, while Kate Peterson ’23 spoke on the barriers to sustainable urban restructuring in Santa Rosa, California, following the 2017 Tubbs fire. Fey presented on the conceptions and determinants of freshwater pond thermal refuges, research for which he recently won a prestigious CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation. Four more Reedies, meanwhile, shared their research at a poster session. 

Kit Gurin ’23, who presented a poster on her research into urban and rural wolf populations across Oregon, said she was most looking forward to sharing her enthusiasm with fellow ecologists—especially since nutrient cycling is a newer interest of hers, discovered while working on her thesis. “I’m excited to chat with people who might be interested in getting into this type of research, as well as those who have a wealth of knowledge to share,” she said.

Hannah Meier ’21, who presented a poster on phytoplankton populations, echoed that a big draw to the ESA annual meeting is the range of expertise and experience levels gathered in one place. “You get to experience all different types of work within your field,” she said. “At Reed, it can feel really small. This [event] gives you an idea of the breadth of the ecology community.” Hannah attended her first annual meeting last year, and says it helped her decide to pursue a PhD in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Utah. 

The ESA annual meeting was also a significant opportunity for students to practice presenting and speaking confidently about their research. “When you have an advisor like Sam who talks about their research so easily and it seems effortless—it only seems that way because they’ve done it so many times,” Hannah said. She admitted it can be nerve-racking to present at these types of events. But, she added, that “everyone doing it for the first time is equally as nervous. It gets easier.” 

Rounding out the roster of Reed presenters was Ana Quintana Bernal ’23 on how information gaps for West Coast populations of monarch butterflies limit habitat conservation and Tess Rutstein ’23 on validation of an urban climate refugium for western redcedar in Portland. 

ESA’s next annual meeting will take place August 4–9, 2024, in Long Beach, California.