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Monday, 2 December 2013

Toward the E/ICCB 2015 - personal report from Montpellier

By András Báldi, SCB-ES President

Montpellier is hosting 2015’s biggest meeting for conservation biology; it will be home to both the International and European Congress for Conservation Biology (August 3-6, 2015 – SAVE the date!).

Street in the old city center. Probably some more people during summer...
Raphael Arlettaz, board member of the SCB Europe Section, and I visited Montpellier from the 24-25th November 2013 to meet the local organizers and researcher colleagues, to see the venue, the city, and feel the atmosphere in general. My flight from Budapest to Paris then to Montpellier was usual the boring travel – except our arrival. The runway of the Montpellier airport is right along the sea shore, and as the plane took a turn above the water, and sank just over the beautiful sandy shore, large lagoons, wetlands, fields, farms, I spotted little pink dots in the wetlands – I am sure those were flamingoes. Montpellier is home to the only breeding colony of this species in Europe.

Then, for 1.60 euro (2 USD) the airport shuttle bus took me to the city in 15 minutes, 5 minutes walk from my hotel (which is 10 minute walk from the old city). It is a great arrival: Evening walk in the beautiful old, historic city center – fantastic. Dinner – great. Price – big.

The venue: Raphael told that he can sleep whole day in these leather armchairs.
Bad news for speaker, good for tired participants.
The venue, Corum Congress Centre, seems to be a good fit for the meeting we expect, not too big or too little to accommodate the expected 1500 or more delegates, posters, exhibitors. The neighborhood is exceptional, just next to the old city, at the end of the Esplanade, a walking street full with little shops, buffets etc., and some green areas.

The local organizers from Agropolis International, our main partner, and other companies working with them, have already arranged a great deal of the local practical issues, and are working hard on the next steps. Our French friends from CNRS, University of Montpellier and the National Park directorate, who joined us for an afternoon brainstorming will help us give a special French flavor of the meeting, including high level science, and field trips to the Camargue for example, historic tours and so on.

View of the old city with cathedral from the top of the venue.
Finally, again a practical point. Getting back to the airport: 20 minutes (yes, a little bit longer than from the airport to the city, as there was a traffic jam on the highway. The driver however immediately left the highway and used rather small, narrow roads; I doubt that this was the official route, but honestly, I don’t know). And finally, there were no other passengers in the check in and security control at the airport, I simply walked through. Not a Heathrow or JFK.

We will be back in January with a larger group, including Geri Unger, SCB executive director to set all the basics for a great meeting. So a lot to do, but promising steps already.

P.s.: Raphael had planned to leave in the evening of the 25th by train. But his train late, then late and again, so finally he came back to the hotel, and at least I had a friend for dinner.

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