Saturday, July 11, 2015

Symposium for European Freshwater Sciences_SEFS9 in Geneva

The brilliant waters of the Rhone at Ile Rousseau in the center of Geneva Switzerland.

July 10th 2015_SEFS9 Conference Geneva

In the midst of  political crisis in Greece I was in Switzerland at the Society for European Freshwater Sciences meeting ( in Geneva! Incongruous, but anyway it was well worth it.

The SEFs conferences are some of the best organized cutting-edge inland aquatic ecosystem meetings. They are bewildering, expensive and mind-expansive. We had 8 sessions concurrently so one had to run among sessions rooms held in the University of Geneva. I followed 51 such sessions in four days and participated in two 'technical meetings', one restoration field trip and a cruise: it was exhausting!

In the plane, flying back, I note some personal highlights of the conference and post snap-shots here. These are just first thoughts - I am sorry to have left out many acquaintances and others out of my commentary. This is an unfiltered subjective account of a very small part of this great conference...

  • The conference was a success - a whole-hearted attempt to integrate science, policy and conservation-relevant research in water sciences often in a holistic ecosystemic approach;
  • Wonderful work by the French in river ecology – I particularly enjoyed the work in typology and fish. And a wonderful talk by Benjamin Bergerot on the situation of Brown Trout in France (this was probably the most Hollywood-like talk I listened to – and really excellent interpretations!). Also it was great to catch up with my French Ichthyo-colleagues Nicholas Rochet, Anthonie Maire and to meet others also. Lots of cool French science in this conference!!
  • The focus-group on Temporary Rivers led by the enterprising, smooth-going and with a scientific flare Thibault Daltry!!! It was a real pleasure to meet Cliff Dahm from the US also. Great to listen to American student, Ross Vander Vorste on the hyporheic findings in France. Australia was well represented with such stars including Nick Bond and Cath Leigh (also interesting fish work shown by Mischa Turschwell). Wonderful to greet friends who study streams such as  Maria Sanchez-Montoya, Nuria Cid and Nuria Bonada who pulled of a mind-blowing Plenary Talk!
  • Great to see multiple-stresser stuff: I particularly like this kind of work.
  • Environmental DNA: my first exposure to it – well described by many good applications: nice to meet Phil who is working with Gordon Copp to ID alien fishes in lentic waters in England through this new method.
  • Excellent fish movements, barriers and river networks led by my good Portuguese friends Paulo Branco and colleagues. Great to see the graph theory at work and generally, wonderful work from Portugal from Teressa’s lab at ISA!! Nice to see the German science behind the lift-fish ladder application shown to us by Christian Huber. Also a very interesting talk on hydrology and temperature by Franck Cattaneo.
  • Wonderful to hear experts and wise men such as Leroy Poff who gave us a really great plenary on hydrologic alteration and river conservation in the 21st century. I really appreciate the effort this great thinker has made in this issue of global proportions (eco-flow relevant etc).
  • The work and conservation initiatives on “Small Waters” (a.k.a. small water bodies) led by the really clear-thinking sci-activist Jeremy Biggs (UK - and the very charming Mary Kelly-Quinn (from Dublin) and other great contributors such as local professor Beat Oertli
  • Nice to see people working on pond restoration in Britain (“Cheap & easy” restoration they called it- thanks Emily Alderton and others from UCL!). Interesting urban pond and stream initiatives. Very nice to discuss in-depth also with Paul Leonard on funding mechanisms and citizen science for "small urban waters". 
  • Wonderful urban waters science. For example the talk by Jon Harding (culverts stop Trichoptera movements…).
  • Also interesting approach on WFD river typology stuff – still an active area despite the 15+ years of WFD-relevant science. Wonderful to hear about the “rare river types” concept out of Ireland.
  • Lots and LOTs of climate change/ global change stuff. Wonderful to meet my Israeli friend Yaron Hershkovits (and discuss really exciting networking possibilities…) and also so many others doing SDMs and also fish (Good job by Lucie Kuczynski on stream fish in France…).
  • Great policy relevant work for conservation such as the specialized gap-analysis-plus by great young mind, Vergilio Hermoso. Many great Spanish minds at this conference!
  • Nice to learn some things about Lake Geneva (Lac Leman) birthplace of “Limnology”.
  •  The river restoration work done in the Rhone and its tributary (L'Aire), the and meeting the team of architects and scientists involved. Thanks to our guide Emily (Odonata and Amphibian expert) and the Architect Georges Descombes… (who hugged me to the point of great sensitivity when I revealed my "Greek" identity – thank you for the solidarity my friend...). Great to visit the Rhone riparian restoration area also. Please keep up the great work Swiss experts!
  • Also to meet some Turkish Colleagues, such as Meryem Beklioglu and others from the Balkans and one very nice Armenian too.
  • It was wonderful to meet Elizabeth Meyer again, and to dance and sing together: Greeks and Germans very united at this conference.... Three more Greeks were at the Conference (and my wife Vasso was accompanying me). It was great to hang round and to visit the canteena for cheapish fresh food at the Lake Geneva beach. If you are in Geneva you must not miss out on a summer swim and people-watching at this beach, the wonderful Bains des Paquis ('ete/Buvette.html). 

So why do we go to these big conferences? One reason is to see the “state-of-the-art” and contribute a voice – an opinion- in the scientific community. To build an inland waters science culture that is sensitive and responsive to the broader needs. I for example talked about restoration experiences, shortcomings and prospects in Greece and Cyprus. It was like being a student again for me this kind of really professional conference. Thanks to the organizers, hope to see you in the Czech Republic at SEFS10.

Uni Mail venue, Univ. of Geneva.
Famous limnologists & ecologists doing their art.
Yaron Hershkovits. 
Vergilio Hermoso.
Paulo Branco.
Nuria Bonada.
One of our hosts: Beat Oertli. 
Thibault Daltry.
Leroy Poff.
With Gordon Copp.

Catherine Leigh.
Professor and restorationist, Zsolt Vecsernyes explanes the L'Aire restoration challanges at a session on-site.

The Architect of the restoration (renaturation): Georges Descombes.
Descombes' idea for letting the river form its own morphology, as "she" thinks and acts. (On the left you can see the canal which was once the river water body, now it is braiding through the re-naturalized channel. A novel approach.
At the Plaque de Chocolat section of the re-constructed river: after just two years it is now a more "naturalized" channel.

Restoration success after 15 years and about 70 million Swiss Francs at the L'Aire.
Artificial pit-excavated lake - renaturalized into a "ox-bow lake": Interpreted by the two local girls at centre.

With Paul Leonard at the very generous wine-tasting cave on the Restoration field excursion.
Vassiliki Vlami with our friend Elizabeth Meyer. 

At the Bains des Paquis - people dancing!
Iconic Lake Geneva. Lac Leman, birthplace of Limnologie. I read in wikipedia that the name of the lake: Lemannus comes from the Ancient Greek Limanos, Limènos Limne Λιμένος Λίμνη....meaning port's lake or lake. It is really a grand lake!