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|SER2017 Conference Highlights|
SER celebrated its 7th World Conference from August 28-September 1 in Iguassu, Brazil. This year’s theme, “Linking Science and Practice for a Better World,” brought together 1,000 delegates from more than 60 countries. Less than thirty kilometers from Iguassu Falls, the largest waterfalls in the world and considered one of the great “natural wonders,” Iguassu was the perfect city to host this scientific gathering. SER2017 brought together practitioners, academics, and professionals working to restore globally threatened and degraded lands, and provided an invaluable opportunity for the entire community to come together to provide scientific and moral support.
We were thrilled to host our first conference in South America, a region renowned for its natural marvels. Brazil itself boasts the greatest biodiversity of any country on Earth, but increasing developmental pressures from industry and government threaten its ecosystems, habitat and tens of thousands of species. SER2017 provided local organizations the unique opportunity to network with international experts, attend informational lectures, and obtain scientific literature and resources to take back into the field. Brazilians represented 48% percent of conference delegates, with over 60% of delegates hailing from Latin America. Fourteen percent of attendees hailed from North America, while Asia and Europe each represented about 6% of attendees, and Australia/New Zealand represented 3%. Only about 1% of delegates represented Africa, though SER2019 will take place in Cape Town, South Africa. The geographic diversity of this year’s conference provided a unique platform to address a tremendous range of restoration topics.
For the first time, several plenary talks were livestreamed via the SER Facebook page, allowing SER members across the globe to engage with the conference. Plenary addresses ranged from the intersection of restoration and business with Jakki Mohr, socioecology and restoration with Brigitte Baptiste, and a plenary discussion panel discussing the role of finance and government in restoration featuring distinguished speakers from the World Bank and Convention on Biological Diversity. This year’s theme of “Linking Science and Practice for a Better World” highlighted how new a science ecological restoration truly is, and the ways in which this novelty can simultaneously drive innovation and delay progress. In addition, though 2017 has been marred by political uncertainty for many delegates, the world conference allowed them to engage across borders and disciplines, to learn from each other, and when back home, to improve restoration research and practice on the ground.
The Brazilian local planning committee made sure that delegates had ample opportunity to enjoy the rich culture of their country. Attendees were treated to samba and capoeira demonstrations, as well as incredible live music and caipirinhas, the national cocktail of Brazil. Students gathered together for a Student Mixer, a chance to engage with other researchers and meet the new faces of restoration ecology. During the Celebration Dinner on August 31st, SER recognized groups and individuals that have made outstanding contributions to the field.
SER2017 was a much-needed beacon of hope for our members, and for the world at large. Putting together such an incredible lineup of presentations, field trips, food, and fun was no small feat, and we must thank the many volunteers who spent the last two years planning SER2017 and making it a success. We would especially like to thank our partners at the Brazilian Society for Ecological Restoration (SOBRE) and Ibero-American and Caribbean Society for Ecological Restoration (SIACRE), who helped us bring our first conference to Latin America.