What’s a neuroscientist doing at ESA?

Every year at ESA, I meet awesome new people. This year, one of the very most awesome was Zen Faulkes of NeuroDojo. He’s a neuroscientist studying crayfish nervous systems – not exactly who you’d expect at an ecology meeting! But it turns out that the crayfish he’s studying is a new invasive species with some really interesting ecology. (His Scientific American guest post on Marmorkrebs is great if you want to know more about them.) So Zen is a neuroscientist and an ecologist!

One of the cool things about talking to someone like Zen is his perspective as a semi-outsider. ESA is the biggest ecology meeting in the world and it feels huge to me, but compared to big neuroscience conferences it’s pretty small. At the same time, it’s more appreciative of breadth of work, probably because of the urgency of ecological problems and the demand for solutions.

We also had a wonderful talk about the conflict in ecology between activism and research, which he wrote about. Here’s a snippet from his post to entice you to click thru:

Ecology seems to be a field locked in heated argument about whether it is an academic research science, or a mix of science and political action group. The society, and its members, seem to be utterly conflicted, from the point of view of this onlooker.