On our way back to QC from Saskatchewan, we detoured into the U.S., and geeked out with a few thousand ecologists at the annual Ecological Society of America meeting. Minneapolis is a city for which I had no expectations, and they were far exceeded.
It is difficult to describe how inspiring it was to brainstorm, network, and hang out with so many people widely and deeply interested in how the natural world works. Whether the talk was of grand planet-scale theories and challenges, or the science of the microbes that collect on your TV screen, the common threads were enthusiasm and curiosity.
After several months in the woods, with limited interaction with the outside world and a fairly slim social life, it was an intense-but-much-appreciated week. Jerod spent his days in sessions about behavioral ecology, animal memory, statistical modeling, and other mathemagical realms.
I saturated myself on education and science communication sessions, with a hefty smattering of food systems to round it out. By complete accident, I saw Paul Erlich speak in a symposium about ecology and ethics. And, I wandered through the book fair, making wish lists, gift lists, and possible book review lists - anything to make it feel like I might actually get my hands on a few of the luscious intriguing titles piled all around.
In the evenings, we explored downtown Minneapolis. Each outing consistently led to delightful micro-discoveries. There was a pub with a rooftop terrace, but the terrace wasn't for sitting and chatting. It was for kicking your shoes off, and lawn bowling barefoot, three or more stories above the pavement.
There were pocket gardens with lovely tomatoes ripe for the picking, which the interpretive panel actively encouraged we do.
There was a farmers market which clogged up countless blocks of sidewalk and traffic, spilling into both transportation corridors in a welcome and orderly fashion.
We even had an evening at the Twins' baseball stadium, complete with a guided tour that explained the many sustainability features of the LEED Silver-certified facility.