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Blog

Down, but most definitely not out


Juliet Vickery
BOU President
RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, UK

At the time of writing, I will have been BOU President for 8,784 hours (with a bonus of an extra 24 leap year hours). Like all of you, at the time of my election this time last year, I had absolutely no idea what we would be facing as a global community just one year on.

All of our lives are now disrupted, at home and at work, disappointment around personal and professional events and milestones cancelled or postponed, and worries about the impacts further down the line. I desperately hope none of you will face serious illness or worse, the tragic loss of loved ones.

Tuesday 7 April would have seen many of us gathering in Nottingham for the start of the BOU 2020 annual conference on Avian Restoration, and eagerly awaiting the Alfred Newton Lecture by “Conservation Hero” Carl Jones MBE. Another highlight of the year down; down, but certainly not out. Carl instantly agreed to deliver his lecture at a rescheduled conference in spring 2021, as have almost all of this year’s speakers and poster authors. We’ve been overwhelmed by their, and others, positive and understanding responses to the postponement of our annual conference. And, thanks to our presenters’ willingness to adapt, the hard work of the Avian Restoration conference organising team, led by David Douglas, will still come to fruition with a great conference, albeit in twelve months late.

Nothing beats face to face meetings, and the buzz at the BOU annual spring conference is always special. We had several new initiatives lined up for BOU2020 including an ‘early professionals’ workshop to brainstorm ideas about how to make the BOU a better place for post-PhDs. We would still welcome your thoughts about this via our online survey. I was also planning to lead the first ever BOU fun-run – at least now you have twelve months to train for the BOU2021 5k!

The BOU is a small but unique community and if Covid-19 teaches us nothing else, it will certainly remind us of the value of being connected and part of a community. It has never been easier to stay in touch with the outside world without actually entering it. The BOU has forged a strong presence on social media through platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Weibo in China (see here). Social media can be such a force for good, do use it to share your ornithology highlights and updates and to congratulate and support others.

The BOU is rightly seen as a leader within our community when it comes to communicating avian science via social media. As physical events around the world are shut down, people are increasingly looking to online and remote ways of delivering their scientific research – and the BOU is already ahead of the game. This year we are involved in/running three Twitter conference, starting next month with the BOU-supported World Seabird Twitter Conference (#WSTC6) in May. In August we are co-hosting, with the International Wader Study Group, the first ever International Shorebird Twitter Conference (#ISTC20) and in November, our annual one-day autumn meeting will also be a full-on Twitter event too. You’ll find details of all these events on the conference pages of the BOU website.

If you want to be more at the centre of the BOU community, and indeed help shape it into the future, why not think about sitting on a committee? We recruit people annually to our committees and to BOU Council. Check social media and our website for details.

As many of you are confined to the great indoors, and unable to carry out fieldwork, the BOU’s IBIS journal team is busy putting things in place to cope with the predicted upturn in submitted papers – time to finally get that ‘albatross of a manuscript around my neck’ submitted. Plus, as the first summer migrants are now arriving. Why not take a break from analysing and writing, put your feet up and read some of the fascinating papers in the current, themed issue of IBIS on Avian Migration and Movement.

Stay safe, stay connected and see you when the world opens up for business again at BOU2021 (17,544 hours into my Presidency).

See here for latest impacts of Covid-19 on BOU activities.

About the author

Prof Juliet Vickery is Head of International Research at the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science.

Her key interests are the causes of declines of and potential conservation action required for Afro-Palearctic migrant land birds, the problems relating to the impact of agriculture on biodiversity in temperate and tropical systems and the impact of invasive non-native species on the ecosystems of UK Overseas Territories. Juliet is an honorary research fellow at the University of Cambridge, Chair of the Policy Committee of the British Ecological Society, part of the expert panel for the Darwin Initiative, and on the advisory group for the Cambridge student conference. Juliet was elected BOU President at our AGM on 27 March and chairs the BOU’s Equality & Diversity Working Group. In early 2020 Juliet was awarded an Honorary Professor at the School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, UK.

Follow Juliet on Twitter @juliet_vickery

Blog posts express the views of the individual author(s) and not those of the BOU.

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