ESEB2019 in Turku, Finland

This year the biannual congress of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology was held in Turku, Finland on 19th – 24th August 2019. Turku is the former capital of Finland (founded in 1229) and is located 165 km west of Helsinki. The congress venue Logomo (a center for culture, arts and creative economy next to the railway station) was a good place for the 1300+ participants. Everything at the congress was done very well. The presentations were excellent, mostly locally produced, and vegetarian lunches were delicious, the public transport was free for attendants, and of course all the organizers and volunteers were helpful. This was one of the best organized congresses we have ever attended. The best thing was that they assigned an official conference pub (Panimoravintola Koulu = “School”) where it was easy to catch up with people in the evening. They even rebranded some of the craft beer for the congress to “Beer Reviewed” and “Drinkage Disequilibrium”, although the quality of the beer wasn’t very good. The plenary talks were from various fields of evolutionary biology and by top researchers. Especially the rap by Pat Monaghan was excellent and raised a lot of attention. Although there was no special symposium within the 36 symposia (543 talks in total!) that was dedicated to social learning per se the field was represented in various symposium from cognition to social transmission by excellent speakers such as Lucy Aplin, Reuven Dukas, Sasha Dall, Elli Leadbeater and many others (including ourselves). Two of our members, Jasmeen Kanwal and Goncalo Faria organized a symposium on ”Design of social traits: genes, individuals and social groups”. Most of the talks were streamed live online and they are still available for viewing here. To keep speakers on time, all kinds of Finnish music played between the talks. The full list is available on Spotify. Due to the large number of participants, the two poster sessions with 570 posters were a bit crowded and overwhelming, but this happens in almost every congress after long days of listening to excellent talks. However, the only way to get free wine during the poster session was to talk with the poster presenters. Each of them had half a bottle of wine to pour in glasses. Wine is a good bait, indeed. Before the congress started, a marathon took place in Turku and some participants used this opportunity for a run. On Thursday afternoon, people had the opportunity to do some guided city tours or field trips, or just to explore the city on their own. Sabine used the sunny afternoon to spend some time at the beach in Ruissalo and to visit Turku castle and learn a bit about Finnish history before ending up with Olli and his friends at the beer festival/conference pub. The congress dinner was one of the high points of the whole congress, as it was at Moomin World. We have never been there before, and it was fantastic. All the main Moomin characters spent the evening with us. Also the food was delicious. This was a fabulous ending for the congress.

Sabine Nöbel & Olli Loukola