My head is doing things that I lack words to explain, but luckily, Thursday and Friday are holidays for the University, and I'm getting out while I can. Add to that I'm owed a vacation day from three weeks ago that I got billed for, but never got to take! The conference is completely over, the guests are gone, the mess is all that remains and (luckily) I don't have to clean any of it. I'm back in my office (for now!). It appears I accidentally left lunch in here before things got busy(er).
Enough about me, though. I want to talk about some of the things I learned at the meeting. That's purpose number one of a meeting - communicate science between researchers. Purpose two is to get to know people, find people to work with, etc. I have people who are going to contact me about mink samples, for example. I need to email someone about how they did something so I can do it too. Anyhow. Here's some things:
Talk 262: Phylogeography of Matschie's Tree Kangaroo
My take home message was that first, expert hunters' contributions should be taken skeptically. The researchers found that something akin to 80% of one set of samples were mis-identified to their species, when they did precise analysis. 80% is worse than randomly putting a label on it! The other sets of samples were around 70% and 70% mis-assigned. The author couldn't find any "conservation units," which is a group that can be protected and encompass a representative chunk of diversity, but this might have been because they were looking at slowly evolving mtDNA, and not other, faster DNA markers.
Talk 23: Winter habitat selection by elk in Wyoming with respect to habitat improvement areas
Model stew. It wasn't the fault of the researcher, but the poor quality of data they inherited. They rarely found any signifigant findings (statistically signifigant, that is - which means unlikely to be caused by chance observation), and their best winter habitat models included more parameters than most scientists are comfortable with, espeically given such low support values. I talked to other management people, and they weren't convinced the findings were robust either. Someone is likely to replicate this experiment...
Talk 31: Hibernation and the Ark
This guy knew how to get a crowd, with that title! Half his talk was poking fun of creationists who used his hibernation research to explain how Noah got every animal + dinosaur onto the ark without drowning in anaq and pee (let me add: ew). The other half his talk was about how species that can enter topor (and apparently Australia has a lot of them - this guy was an Aussie) seem to go extinct less than other groups. This might be a reporting bias, but interesting if true.
And speaking of Aussies... There were a ton of them. I wanted to call them all Bruce.
No, I didn't do it.
Anyhow, I have to wonder what it is about Australia and Alaska that causes so many Aussies to go to AK and so many Alaskans to go to Australia. It's crazy.