We have a week of workshop and presentations for our Peruvian research consortium (the Andes Biodiversity and Ecosystems Research Group – ABERG). The venue is the wonderful and spectacular town of Pisaq, in the Sacred Valley north of Cusco and surrounded by steep mountains decked in Inca ruins and terraces. In the town, we use a beautiful house owned by La Catholica University, which is hosting the meeting.
ABERG is a consortium focussed on the transect we have set up in the Andes-Amazon, ranging from the high Andes (up to almost 4000 m above sea-level), stretching down through the Kosnipata Valley on the edge of Manu national park, and stretching out into the Amazon lowlands and Tambopata national park. The consortium started ten years ago as three research teams (myself, Miles Silman from Wake Forest University, and Patrick Meir from Edinburgh University) but has since grown rapidly and in many new directions into a huge group involved more than a dozen research groups, around one hundred international and Peruvian researchers. The project is now an international flagship of tropical research and produced close to a hundred scientific papers. Now many new scientists are being attracted to the transect, bring new dimensions ranging from aircraft remote sensing to river biogeochemistry.
The meeting in Pisac lasts for five days packed with presentations and discussions. There are many new ideas and results floating around, and new projects kicking off (including my big traits collection campaign – CHAMBASA). A key highlight of this year’s meeting (the first big one in Peru) is the large number of presentations (over 25) by Peruvian students. This experience is a key chance for them to be exposed to the breadth of research being conducted by them – often they are embedded in a particular project and do not get the chance to see the big picture. They also get a first experience of presenting their work to an international scientific audience, a huge chance and step in their scientific development. They all do just fantastically and present with amazing confidence and clarity.
This meeting is the tenth anniversary of our first foray down the stunning Kosnipata valley, and in the end we have a broad discussion about where we have come and where we are going. It is wonderful, inspiring and surprisingly emotional at times. What a unique and fantastic week!
Yadvinder Malhi is an ecosytem ecologist and Professor of Ecosystem Science at Oxford University