Sleepless in Wisconsin

As I somewhat cryptically hinted in my last post, I write this e-missive in Madison, Wisconsin, land of the cheeseheads – the sometimes affectionate term given to Wisconsinites owing to the state’s predilection for fromage and the production of said curd. It is also the nickname for fans of the Green Bay Packers football team who are notorious for their fondness for extremely serious headwear as can be seen here. (Note: in a disturbing development, Wikipedia informs me that cheesehead is also used as ‘a racial slur, towards the person, who is Dutch’. If any Dutch folks are reading, firstly Hullllooooo! Secondly, my apologies.)

I am here, in my jet-lag fueled stupor, with the financial assistance of Birdlife Australia, Greening Australia and the ANU to attend the 5th World Congress on Ecological Restoration. Why Madison? Well, Madison is considered as the birthplace of ecological restoration, the base of legendary ecologist Aldo Leopold, and a producer of very high quality craft beer. A no-brainer!

The conference was carefully timed to coincide with the US Government shutdown (basically a mass-participation mandatory sickie, which has dominated the media and seen many government services, including national parks, closed. Personally, I don’t know what all the fuss is about. I worked for the Australian Government for 9 years and I was shutdown for the vast majority of that.

The conference is a major event. 13 concurrent sessions, running 8am to 6pm for four days,with 1300 participants from across the globe. It’s just like the Big Day Out without the nakedness and overpriced bottled water. Getting to see everything will be tough, but there is a real diversity of topics and presenters, with a number of landholders today giving talks that showcased with enormous pride the results of restoration on their properties. These were largely prairie restoration projects on land that has been thrashed for a century, done on the cheap, low tech, and with amazing results. Inspiring stuff.

Tomorrow brings a session on animals as indicators, with talks by some folks that I’ve followed keenly in the literature that use animal behaviour in assessing restoration effectiveness (rather than just counting species and individuals). Looking forward to hearing those sessions and will post more as the conference progresses. Friday will involve a field trip to the International Crane Foundation’s headquaters and visits to a number of key restoration projects for the species.

Luckily, Dear Reader, you’ve been saved by the (laptop) battery and a welcome urge to sleep after 3 days of sleeplessness, or rather sleeplessness during times sets aside for sleep. Hope you enjoyed the judicious use of paragraphs this time round. Stay tuned for further tales of This American Life. Until then.

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