August 2, 2022, by lzzeb

Lianas and French cuisine at the Society for Tropical Ecology (GTOE) Conference in Montpellier, 7-9th June 2022.

A blog by Geertje van der Heijden, Associate Professor

Just before Christmas, I received an email asking if I wanted to contribute as the introductory speaker for a liana focussed session titled ‘Tropical lianas: functional traits, ecology and impact in the tropics’, which was part of the Society for Tropical Ecology (GTOE) conference in Montpellier from 7-9 June 2022. So, supported by the School of Geography’s Research Committee and the AMAP lab, I set off by train on the 6th June for Montpellier in France to attend my first in person conference since the pandemic. I was excited by the prospect of talking about lianas and tropical forests with old friends –  some of which I have worked with for years but due to the pandemic I have never seen in person – and new friends, and the conference didn’t disappoint. The conference was attended by around 250 mainly European tropical ecologists and there were many opportunities to network and catch up with fellow tropical ecologists whilst enjoying exquisite French cuisine and wine!

One of the highlights of the conference was the key note of Dr. Hans Verbeeck, on ‘The impact of lianas on the carbon cycle and demography of tropical forests’, in which he focussed on the work of his group in incorporating lianas in a vegetation model and the insights this work has provided. This key note provided a great ‘introduction’ to my introductory talk to the liana session which followed straight after. In my presentation – ‘Drivers of liana biogeographical patterns in tropical forests’ – I focussed on some of my previous work in the liana removal experiment before moving on to present some early findings of the data I have collected as part of my Anne McLaren fellowship. The rest of the session contained fascinating presentations on liana-animal interactions and the effects of lianas on tropical forests more generally and was followed by drinks and a lovely meal with some of the people contributing to the session.

In addition to contributing to the liana session, the AMAP lab had also invited me to their lab on the day after the conference to talk about further collaborations. I spend a very enjoyable day after the conference hearing about their work on lianas using drones and the development of the GrowBot, which is inspired by the moving-by-growing abilities of lianas.

I thoroughly enjoyed the conference and the day of collaborating further with the people in the AMAP lab. I would really like to thank Maxime Rejou-Mechain and Begum Kacamak from the AMAP lab for inviting me and covering my travel and accommodation costs and the SoG Research committee for funding my conference fees. As a result of attending the conference and meeting the people in the AMAP lab, I have made new contacts and reinforced old ones, with some exciting new liana projects planned for the future!



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