Sunday, December 19, 2010

Speciation 2010

  This past week I attended a conference at IIASA, Speciation 2010: First European Conference on Speciation Research.  It started early in the morning, so each day I had to get up well before dawn in order to take the two U-Bahn trips and then the half hour bus ride to get to IIASA.  Here's a photo of a lovely dawn over Donaukanal, quite near where I am staying:

  The conference was held in an old ballroom (or some such) in the Schloss in Laxenburg.  The acoustics weren't great, but you couldn't ask for a prettier room for a conference (especially compared to the drab boxy buildings conferences are usually in):

  The conference was organized by Ulf Dieckmann (who I am working with in Austria) and Åke Brännström:

  There was quite a good turnout for it, somewhere upwards of 130 people I think:

  There were almost 80 poster presentations, and three days full of talks by all sorts of luminaries.  I was the photographer for the conference, so I've got photos of all of this, but I'm not going to post them all here.  (I think Ulf plans to post photos of all the posters and speakers on the IIASA or FroSpects website eventually.)  Instead, I'll just give you a photo of Andrew Hendry, my advisor, doing his talk and sporting his new beard which is the envy of all at McGill (well, OK, mostly of Fred Guichard ;->):

  I went for a walk in the park one afternoon, between talks, with Andrew and Dan Bolnick.  We walked to the castle on the lake at the far end of the park:

  The evenings were mostly occupied with food and wine and good conversation.  One evening we went to a heuriger, another evening, to dinner at the fancy restaurant in Laxenburg, Gallo Rosso.  (We also had lunch at Gallo Rosso every day during the conference; it's really the only decent restaurant in town.) No photos of those events, except for a bottle of very yummy digestif that I was introduced to at the last night's dinner:

  Semi-sweet, semi-bitter, very yummy.  I shall be hunting it down for further investigations.

  The talks at the conference were mostly quite interesting.  A lot of discussion of the role of sexual selection and assortative mating in speciation, a lot of discussion of magic traits and sympatric speciation.  Andrew has done a post about the conference on ecoevoevoeco, if you're hungry for more information.

  I gave a talk on Speciation in Complex Habitats, based on the research I'm doing here in Austria.  Those of you who attended my QCBS talk saw this talk already.  I'll probably do it again, with more results, when I get back to Montreal, as an EEL seminar, I imagine.  It was well-received; I got some nice compliments on it afterwards.  I believe Ulf plans to post videos of all the conference talks, so you might be able to watch it online eventually.

  All in all, a very fun and educational time.  And now, back to work!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The IIASA Ball

  So IIASA has a Christmas Ball, every second year I gather; it was last Thursday, and I was here for it.  Laxenburg is gearing up for Christmas too; here's a photo on the walk over to Gallo Rosso, the restaurant where the ball was held:

  And here's the dining room at Gallo Rosso, just starting to fill up:

  The best part was the food.  To those who were at the YSSP awards dinner, this will look familiar:

  And that's just the cold food; note the silver servers lurking behind, which were empty when I took these photos, but which filled with several kinds of fish, tortellini in a pesto cream sauce, chicken, beef... and they carved a whole roasted pig.  Sadly, I was too busy actually eating the food at that point, and forgot to take photos.  Anyhow, it wasn't amazingly unusual or original food; but it was very good.  Gallo Rosso does a nice spread.

  Here's the folks at my table:

  That last one is of me with Sheila and her boyfriend, who I sat with.  Thank goodness they were there, because I knew hardly anyone else in the room.  (Most of the rest of the people I know at IIASA were also at my table: Jose and Monika.  But I didn't get to talk to them much because they were at the far end of the table.  I don't think Wolf or Olli were at the ball, for those who are wondering.  Ulf and Gergely sat at the next table over.)  It felt weird to be at a IIASA event without all the YSSPers being there!

  The downside to the evening was the music.  Mostly it was one guy on a synthesizer with a drum machine track, playing cheesy renditions of songs that would better have been forgotten decades ago.  My friends Ariel and Suchi tried their best to rescue it with their lovely singing on some Christmas carols, but even there, I'm afraid there is a limit to how many times I can happily sit through Frosty the Snowman, Jingle Bells, etc., and that limit is zero.  My limit for Jingle Bell Rock is, in fact, -1; it makes me unhappy that that song exists at all, even when it is not being played in my vicinity.  No doubt I am a grinch; but why does Christmas music need to be so saccharine?

  All in all, though, it was a fun time, and we staggered off full, intoxicated, and happy.  Can't argue with that!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Back in Austria!

  The blog was dead; long live the blog!  I'm back in Austria for the winter, working on analyzing and writing up the research I did over the summer.  Since it isn't the YSSP any more, it's probably going to be a lot more boring than my summer was.  Nevertheless, I shall do my best.

  When I got here, I was surprised to discover that there was more snow on the ground here than back in Montreal!  I gather Montreal has since remedied this.  This much snow this early in the winter is apparently rather unusual in Vienna; someone I spoke to said they hadn't seen it in the fifteen years they have lived here.  It's all melting now, since today was warm, but I took photos yesterday.  Here's Donaukanal near where I'm living now:

  And here is beautiful Sudtirolerplatz bus station, where the 566 (seen at left) leaves for Laxenburg:

  I have no idea what all those cranes are doing in the background; it was the same way last summer.  Here's the schloss where I work in Laxenburg, which looks nice with the icing on top:

  And the church opposite it:

  Doesn't that poor statue look cold?

  I got here Sunday afternoon, and went in to IIASA for my first day of work on Monday.  Today (Wednesday) is a holiday; I'm doing some work at home, but I also went walking around a bit, exploring my new neighborhood.  I'm quite close to the big park called Augarten; I believe I posted some photos of its marvelous WWII-era flak towers in the summer.  I would have photos of Augarten in winter for you, since I walked there briefly today, except that I didn't bring my camera on my walk.

  Next week I give a talk at Speciation 2010: First European Conference on Speciation Research, which ought to be quite an interesting conference.  Well, to me, anyway.  :->  I may or may not do a bit of live blogging from the conference, we'll see how busy I am.  Those who saw my talk at the Quebec Centre for Biodiversity Studies 2010 Symposium, or indeed those who saw my end-of-YSSP talk last summer, would be utterly unsurprised by the talk I will give here.  I've got to get some new material.  :->

  OK, that's all the news that's fit to print.  Until next time, this is Ben, saying... brrrrr!