Proceedings of the 24th Annual Midwest Ecology and Evolution Conference: Introduction
Drake, John M., The American Midland Naturalist
From 5-7 March 2004 more than 175 graduate students gathered at the University of Notre Dame for the 24th annual MEEC. MEEC is the Midwest Ecology and Evolution Conference, an annual migratory conference hosted by universities in the Midwest organized and (primarily) attended by graduate students. The precursor of MEEC was a graduate symposium in ecology held by Miami University in 1979. Only three universities participated in the original forum: Miami University, The University of Kentucky and The University of Cincinnati. The following year, 1980, was the first official symposium (hosted by the University of Cincinnati). In 1981, when it was expanded to include both ecology and evolution, the symposium became known as MEEC. MEEC has grown to include participants from all over the United States, although most attendees study in the Midwest.
The purpose of MEEC is to provide a relaxed, low-pressure environment within which undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral researchers may present their research ideas and findings. This allows students to practice presenting their work before speaking in front of larger audiences of professional colleagues. Undergraduate students involved in active research are also encouraged to present their work in this supportive setting. In the past, professors have attended MEEC to support their graduate students, exchange ideas with colleagues and to meet potential graduate or postdoctoral students with research interests similar to their own.
When a group of Notre Dame graduate students volunteered to host MEEC in 2004, they also decided to try to bring greater visibility to MEEC and to graduate participation in ecology in general. This was accomplished in three ways. First, the highly distinguished ecologist Michael Rosenzweig was invited to deliver the keynote address, titled 'Having our land and sharing it, too', in which he forcefully argued that the only viable future for conservation is to carefully manage cohabitation of the earth by human beings and all other species, a concept he refers to as reconciliation ecology. While it is not included here, we expect a paper from that talk to appear in a forthcoming issue. Second, the conference also focused on two special symposia on Conservation Issues in the Midwest and Conceptual Innovations in Ecology and Evolution. Finally, papers from those symposia and other excellent papers given at the conference were invited to be included in this special issue.
Thus, eight papers that were presented at the conference have been included in this issue. Two of these papers are recipients of awards sponsored by Nature. The paper published here by Regester and Woosley is related to their presentation on "The significance of pond-breeding salamanders to energy flow and subsidies in an Illinois forest ecosystem," for which they won the award for best presentation. In the paper published here, Regester and Woosley present a new method for marking and relocating amphibian egg masses. Individual egg masses can be difficult to relocate and monitor because they are similar in appearance and often are found within communal aggregations. The authors evaluated a method of marking salamander egg masses with visible fluorescent elastomer (VIE). The paper by McGranahan and colleagues is based on their poster "Avian migration patterns and the role of Rosa multiflora" which won the award for best poster. In their paper, the authors describe the changes in bird communities in a woodlot in central Iowa during the autumn migration. They find that individual activity and species presence are positively related to fruit availability of the invasive shrub Rosa mulliflora. This study presents an interesting example of an invasive species affecting community structure in modified environments. It is consistent with Rosenzweig's theme of reconciliation ecology, and challenges our idea of conservation as protection or preservation, as nature separated from society, and instead redirects the focus of conservation to non-antagonistic coexistence of wildlife and human populations. …