Annual Review 2019-20

Highlights of the British Ecological Society’s achievements in a year like no other.

Annual Review 2019-20 cover

Explore highlights from this year’s activities below, or download the full review.

Read the full Annual Review 2019-20

Jane Memmott

A challenging year for so many

“This Annual Review contains highlights of all the Society has been involved in between November 2019 and October 2020. Coronavirus has divided these 12 months completely in two. There was before the pandemic and there has been the time since, full of uncertainty, upheaval and challenge in all areas of our lives and work.

“I believe we need to find a balance as we look forward, whether as individuals or organisations like the British Ecological Society (BES). We can be sure that in time we will get back to all the things we most hold dear. But we also should realise that coronavirus is likely to be with us for some time yet, and allow ourselves and each other some care and understanding, given the challenges we all face.”

BES President Jane Memmott introduces a year in which the BES and the global community of ecologists have responded to the pandemic.


Responding to the pandemic

The British Ecological Society moved fast to react to the coronavirus pandemic. Like so many organisations this year, we’ve had to consider all that we do in light of the virus. We made the health and wellbeing of our staff, members and all those involved in our activities the absolute priority. We’ve understood when people haven’t been able to use their grant money as planned when research has been halted or changed. We know that many researchers are facing challenging circumstances, and that will affect the peer review of journal papers.

But we’re also really proud of the way the Society has reacted to provide new opportunities, from free online talks on the latest ecological research and tips for online teaching, to training resources for members on science communication and webinars on maintaining mental health. It’ll all be crowned with a Festival of Ecology this December, when we move our whole Annual Meeting online in a real celebration of our science.

A hub for applied research and practice

Applied Ecology Resources (AER) was launched this year as a dynamic searchable platform for research papers and grey literature (a catch-all term which includes project reports, policy documents and technical reports). This totally new platform can be used for free by ecologists anywhere in the world to search for and access information on ecological management and environmental resources.

The first phase of the AER website launched in March, and the full searchable repository will be live by the end of the year. Our newest journal, Ecological Solutions and Evidence, sits at the heart of AER. The inaugural issue published in July with a fantastic mix of articles from research and practice, just six months after opening for submissions during the 2019 BES Annual Meeting.

A Black Lives Matter rally
Josie Desmarais/iStock

Reducing inequalities

We have launched a BAME Ecologist Network for People of Colour based in the UK. The group is for individuals of all career stages and ages currently studying or working in the UK who identify as Black, Asian or other Minority Ethnicities (BAME), and for whom systemic racism is impacting their education and career progression.

This has been an important step in a year when Black Lives Matter protests have illustrated the experience of Black people in all areas of society. The BES’s Equality and Diversity working group worked with early-career ecologist Reuben Fakoya Brooks to launch the new network in September. With many expressing interest in joining, the group was able to hold an inaugural meeting in October.

Hidden Worlds exhibition
NVTV Belfast

Hidden worlds exhibition

Thousands of visitors were welcomed to our Capturing Ecology: Hidden Worlds exhibition at Ulster Museum in Belfast, which ran throughout February and March. The exhibition revealed ingenious methods used to explore unknown aspects of the natural world and uncover its complexity.

BES members brought their knowledge to life through objects ranging from 3D-printed pollen grains to infrared drone cameras. On a wall of links, visitors also shared their ‘Hidden Connections’ to nature, adding how they aim to protect their environment. We thank our exhibition partners at National Museums Northern Ireland (NMNI), Ulster Museum and Northern Ireland Science Festival.

Supporting the next generation of ecologists

The BES launched a new bursary scheme in 2019 to support aspiring ecologists without the finances or opportunities to pursue their passion for a career in ecology. The scheme was founded through the generosity of John Condron and Naomi Condron, directors of the ecological consultancy, Ecology Resources Ltd. It is now supporting a growing number of individuals who have attended our BES Summer Schools.

Without the bursary I wouldn’t be able to access these learning opportunities. It’s given me the boost I needed to get a foot in the door in such a competitive sector – Isabel Commerford

It’s making a difference too. Our bursary awardees are now successfully pursuing a range of ecological careers, from consultancy and conservation to environmental outreach and filmmaking.

If you would like to develop the next generation of ecologists by supporting our bursary schemes or summer schools, please contact Paul Bower at

These highlights are just a taster of all that we have achieved this year.

Read the full Annual Review 2019-20