Dr. Pierre Mariotte
Toward sustainable agroecosystems

Dr. Pierre Mariotte

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Moving Countries to Navigate the Academic System

Posted on March 15, 2019 at 3:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Here is my last opinion article entitled 'Moving Countries to Navigate the Academic System', published in the journal 'The Niche' (Dec 2018) of the British Ecological Society. If you are a postdoc moving around and waiting to find a permanent position somewhere, you are definitely not alone (#AcademicCrisis) and I support you!




Introvert in Science

Posted on March 15, 2019 at 3:15 PM Comments comments (2)

On November 5th, 2018, I wrote and published a post entitled 'Diversity in Ecology: Introverts' on the Journal of Ecology Blog. It took me about a year to decide how to express my feelings and finally share part of myself with the world. The original post is available in this link https://jecologyblog.com/2018/11/05/diversity-in-ecology-introverts/ and below.

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I am a scientist, an ecologist, and an introvert. In this blog post, I would like to share some thoughts and personal experiences on what it means to be an introvert working in science and how it can be challenging at times in the academic world. This is merely my view but I hope it will initiate some discussion on the topic between extroverts, ambiverts and introverts within our community of scientists/ecologists. Now is your turn to share your thoughts and stories: contact the Blog Team or tweet it with #DiversityInEcology.


Why talk about introverts?


Popularized by Carl Jung in 1921 as a personality type (see also the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myers–Briggs_Type_Indicator#/media/File:MyersBriggsTypes.png), the debate on introversion versus extroversion is still popular nowadays. The topic has recently regained interest after the publication of Susan Cain’s https://www.quietrev.com/author/susan-cain/ New York Times bestselling book ‘Quiet‘ and her accompanying TED talk ‘The Power of Introverts‘ https://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts?utm_campaign=tedspread&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=tedcomshare. In a world where extroversion seemed the norm, Cain’s book shed some light on introversion: what it is, what it means and how to live with it harmoniously. To me, this book was a great attempt to restore the balance on the worldwide extrovert-introvert scale. I can even say that it changed my life and I certainly would not be have written this article otherwise.

 

Behind the debate: Quick scientific facts!


It is important to note that there is a continuum of different personality types from introversion to extroversion, with ambiverts sitting in the middle. Most have an idea about the behavioural differences between introverts and extroverts (summarized here https://www.officevibe.com/blog/differences-introverts-extroverts) but the science behind these personality types is something that is only recently studied (see here for more details https://www.quietrev.com/why-introverts-and-extroverts-are-different-the-science/?utm_sq=ffgmkpvf0l&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=qr+tw). In brief, we are not different, our brains are just wired differently, and extroverts are not necessarily happier than introverts! https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/thrive/201205/are-extroverts-happier-introverts


Scientists, what are you?


Earlier this year, we asked scientists on Twitter how they identify on the extrovert-introvert continuum by asking them to take a test provided by Quiet Revolution (Susan Cain’s website https://www.quietrev.com/the-introvert-test/). Here are the results:




Despite being restricted to the Twitter community and with no means of verifying who were voting, the outcome was quite interesting. Over a week, 482 people voted and according to the results, the majority are introverts (51%) or ambiverts (31%). 


What does this mean for scientists?


To me, this raises the question: does a more introverted personality type fit with the academic system we created or are creating? Here are some of my views and some of my early career experiences as an introverted scientist.


When I started my PhD 10 years ago, I felt that the academic system was not best suited for the introverted me. My career in academia started with very scary situations where I was expected to express my scientific opinion in public, present my results at conferences in front of a (very) large audience, debate at lab meetings about scientific theories, all whilst figuring out how to do ‘good science’.


I quickly realized that these were essential skills, and despite being quite challenging, I ended up learning them. In turn, this allowed me to feel more included within the scientific community. Of course, being introverted, quiet (not shy) and calm, often left me on the fringes. I’ve worked with people who naturally valued more extroverted-attitude types and I often felt that I was not taken seriously as an introvert. But this just made me want to fight harder, alone and in silence! So, if you’re a PhD student, struggling with your introverted side, don’t worry, you can make the most of it (here are some tips http://www.nextscientist.com/benefits-phd-introvert/) and it gets easier!


Becoming a postdoc was somewhat of a relief because I got more freedom to do what I wanted due to having my own fellowship to do research abroad. As a postdoc I am free to work with who I want and free to talk or not talk when I want. Moreover, as your career progresses, you have both less pressure from your boss (because you almost become your own boss) and more confidence in the research you are doing! 


A few difficulties remain though, an important one being conferences. It seems unrealistic that in a world of introvert-ambivert scientists, conferences are still organized on the same template – small crowded rooms where there is just enough air for everyone to breathe and hundreds of posters next to each other with little space to move around. It would be nice if all conferences could provide space for people to take breaks – besides hiding in the restrooms! 


Fortunately, some of us are already thinking about this issue, such as Stephen Heard https://twitter.com/StephenBHeard, who provide some tips for attending conferences https://scientistseessquirrel.wordpress.com/2016/03/01/an-introvert-goes-conferencing/ and some ideas for how to make conferences more introvert-friendly https://scientistseessquirrel.wordpress.com/2018/03/15/making-a-conference-introvert-friendly/.


Overall, academia forced me to embrace my introverted-attitude type; it tested every single aspect of my introversion because I work with competitive extrovert scientists (or more often introverts/ambiverts forced to act as extroverts), express my opinions in public, and share my research through conference talks. Joining the academic world was for me very positive as it helped me to accept my introversion, but should this have to happen under so much pressure? Why do we have to work with the stress of showing off our achievements, the pressure to publish in top-ranked journals, and always yelling to be heard?


I guess that the competition for jobs plays an important role. However, in my opinion, the current academic system (e.g., publish or perish, the louder the better, etc.) are pushing us to lose part of ourselves, including our introverted-attitude type, diverting us from our inner interest and imagination, which is likely the core of our innovative mind as scientists and what brought us into science in the first place. As Albert Einstein said:


"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand."


As an introvert scientist, and probably as many scientists around the world, I am very attached to my imagination and my curiosity and do not want to lose it! Hopefully, as introvert/ambivert scientists, we can come together to find new ways to make our academic system better adapted to who we are (see Find Your Voice, 2016, Nature http://www.nature.com/naturejobs/2016/161201/pdf/nj7631-157a.pdf?foxtrotcallback=true), which to me is an essential step to ensure advances in all domains of Science.


This post reflects my own views but I hope it encourages a debate within the community of ecologists/scientists. If you want to share your thoughts please add comments to this post, get in touch with the Blog Team or tweet it with #DiversityInEcology.


Pierre Mariotte, Blog Editor and Associate Editor, Journal of Ecology 


Video - Harper Prize Highly Commended Paper

Posted on June 18, 2018 at 7:35 AM Comments comments (1)

My paper entitled "Stoichiometric NP flexibility and mycorrhizal symbiosis favour plant resistance against drought" published in Journal of Ecology has been highly commended for the Harper Prize 2017. To better explain the findings of this paper that I wrote with Alberto Canarini and Feike Dijkstra, I prepared a video podcast for the Journal of Ecology Blog that you can watch here:


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Visit of the University of Vienna - Andreas Richter's Lab

Posted on May 31, 2018 at 9:30 AM Comments comments (0)

At the beginning of the month, I had the chance to visit Andreas Richter's lab, give a talk to the group and see all the high-tech equipments they have to study soil microbial community composition and their functioning. It was an opportunity to meet again with my friend and past colleague from The University of Sydney, Alberto Canarini, and continue our great collaboration. Andreas advise will also be very valuable for the analysis of soil microbial communities in our drought experiment (GrassAlt project).



My views on Equality and Diversity at Ecology Across Borders

Posted on January 26, 2018 at 3:50 AM Comments comments (1)

Everyone would agree that Ecology Across Borders (#EAB2017), the joint annual meeting of the BES, Gfö, NECOV and EEF, was a great success. As usual, the quality of talks and the ecological concepts and findings developed during the conference was outstanding. However, what struck me the most was the increasing number of workshops and events dedicated to the working lives of ecologists (topics that apply to all scientists).


The meeting was an eye-opener on the high amount of diversity in our community; and as all of you know, diversity is a main driver of the functioning and stability of any community. We are all different, yet deserve to be equal. I believe that acknowledging our differences and our complementarities is the key for our community of ecologists to make novel discoveries, be heard, and protect our planet.


Below we give you a sample of the different events and workshops that were held during the conference. I attended the ‘Stress Awareness and Mental Wellbeing at Work’ workshop, Melanie Jane Edgar initiated the Accessibility Network, Senior Editor Amy Austin and winner of the 2018 L’Oréal-Unesco for Women in Science award gave a talk at ‘Early Career Development Day’, and Associate Editor Iain Stott was at the the LGBT+ mixer.


The BES has an Equality and Diversity Working Group (EDWG) that was created 2 years ago to develop and oversee the delivery of the Society’s equality and diversity work. The group, led by Hazel Norman (BES Executive Director), is composed of a dedicated team, including among others Karen Devine (BES External Affairs Manager) who organized many of the workshops at #EAB2017, Associate Editor Iain Stott, Senior Editor Richard Bardgett and myself.


Continue reading here: http://bit.ly/2neJvSy

New Paper in Trends in Ecology and Evolution

Posted on December 28, 2017 at 10:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Check out our new paper published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution entitled: 'Plant-Soil Feedback: Bridging Natural and Agricultural Sciences'. This manuscript is the result of an organized session at the EcoSummit conference in Montpellier, France (from 29 August 2016 to 1 September 2016), sponsored by the Special Interest Group ‘Plant, Soils, Ecosystems’ from the British Ecological Society. 


In this paper, we aimed at bridging knowledge on plant-soil feedback between natural and agricultural sciences and propose solutions to both improve the productivity and sustainability of agricultural systems and promote biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in natural systems.

Happy reading!
Get in touch if you want to talk about it.


Back to Switzerland

Posted on September 16, 2016 at 11:30 AM Comments comments (0)

After travelling a lot during the past few months, I finally settled down in my new lab in Switzerland (ECOS lab), although I should say my past lab since it is where I did my PhD few years ago (2008-2012). I already had good times with my old and new colleagues here, as for proof this picture below of our team building this summer. I will be here in Lausanne (EPFL) for at least 2 years, except if I find a more permanent position in the meantime.


You are obviously welcomed to visit and enjoy all the nice places in Switzerland, from the lake to the mountains, summer hiking and winter skying!



Farewell - Australia

Posted on March 25, 2016 at 9:55 PM Comments comments (0)

My postdoc in Australia comes to an end and it is time to say goodbye. Working at The University of Sydney on Camden Campus (CCWF) was amazing. So much work and experiments done in the Dijkstra lab, thanks to a great boss and colleagues. I also met some awesome scientists at the University of Western Sydney and really enjoyed collaborating. Outside work, colleagues became friends with such good times playing Beach Volley and Ultimate Frisbee. Only good memories of this postdoc down under!

 

I will miss you.



My first interview for the Journal of Ecology Blog

Posted on January 22, 2016 at 11:05 PM Comments comments (0)
Listen to my interview with Michiel Veldhuis, recipent of the Harper Prize 2014, for his paper published in Journal of Ecology. Here the blog post that I wrote in addition to the podcast Journal of Ecology Blog.


Phosphorus uptake by plants under drought

Posted on November 20, 2015 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (2)



New greenhouse experiment:


Phosphorus uptake by plants under drought along a soil phosphorus gradient including four native australian plant species (C3/C4).

Today: 32P labelling in the greenhouse when it is 41 degrees outside - Australian heat wave made it sweaty.

Associate Editor in Journal of Ecology

Posted on October 31, 2015 at 11:05 PM Comments comments (0)



I am really happy and proud to join the Journal of Ecology team as a New Associate Editor in charge of the Blog.


I am gonna work with Executive Editor David Gibson and Assistant and Managing Editors Lauren Sandhu and Andrea Baier to manage the Journal of Ecology Blog, commission and write blog posts and organise interviews. I believe that communicating science is an important part of being a ecologist and I will do my best to provide interesting content through the Blog and create a plateform of exchange between researchers.


My first contributions to the blog is an "Ecological Inspiration" post dedicated to one of the first papers that I read when I started my PhD and which considerably inspired my research - Benefits of plant diversity to ecosystems: immediate, filter and founder effects by JP Grime, 1998, Journal of Ecology.

 

 Follow the news in the Journal of Ecology Blog!


Subordinate species and soil food web stability

Posted on October 22, 2015 at 7:30 PM Comments comments (0)

New blog post in Journal of Applied Ecology: Here!


Associate Editor Paul Kardol discusses a paper recently accepted about the role of subordinate species in sustaining the complexity and stability of soil food webs in natural bamboo forest ecosystems by Shao et al. 


In this nice blog post, Paul is citing my research on subordinate species with the "subordinate insurance hypothesis" (Mariotte 2014) and highlight the importance of better studying the interactions between subordinate species and soil microbial communities, which are expected to maintain soil ecosystem functions, especially under climate change perturbations (Mariotte et al. 2015). I am happy to see that other researchers become more and more interested in studying the effects of these low abundant species which might have disproportionate effects on ecosystem functioning.




Conference in High School - Agriculture and Climate Change

Posted on October 21, 2015 at 1:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Last week I have been invited by the French Embassy in Australia to give a conference at The International French School of Sydney (https://www.facebook.com/Lycee.Condorcet). 


My talk was entitled "Climate Change: Ecology in the service of Agriculture". I spoke about current agricultural practices and the massive use of chemical products (fertiliser, insecticides, fungicide etc.). Then I discussed the alernative methods, such as organic farming and direct seeding practices without soil tillage, which both focus on maintaining a living soil. Emphasizing the 2015 International year of soils, I explained to the students the diversity of organisms within soil food webs and their importance in agriculture. I presented some of my work on mycorrhizas and subordinate plant species, which can have some important implications for improving agricultural practices under climate change. We finished by a discussion and a lot of questions, and I was happy to see that students were really interested in scientific research and the different issues in agriculture in a changing world. This conference was a great experience and it made me very hopeful for the future, seing that the new generation has an increasing interest in changing and improving our way to produce food, eat and live in this world.


Cleaning the oceans from plastic: a whale's request!

Posted on August 13, 2015 at 1:45 AM Comments comments (0)

An incredible story of this whale in Sydney Harbour, repeatedly getting boaters' attention until they remove a life-threatening plastic bag from its face. The plastic ban is being debated in Australian Parlament *today* and I believe that this video is a direct message from whales asking us to reduce plastic pollution in the oceans... Watch the video: au.news.yahoo.com/a/29245783


Each year, 8 million tons of plastic enter the ocean. This plastic pollution considerably impacts marine ecosystems and kills millions of animals every year. But it affects also humans; the costs associated to beaches' cleaning are excessive and toxic chemicals released by plastics and accumulating in the food chains are a real threat for human health. 


However cleaning the entire oceans is not impossible as proved by The Ocean Cleanup initiative. Founded by 21 years old Boyan Slat, this initiative aims a cleaning half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 10 years' time. I encourage everyone to support this amazing idea, explained in the following videos!


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You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.



Rhizosphere 4

Posted on June 22, 2015 at 3:00 PM Comments comments (0)




I am currently in Maastricht, participating to the conference "Rhizosphere 4", where I gave the talk "Role of mycorrhizas in plant NP stoichiometry under drought in Australian grasslands". I learned a lot about rhizosphere and the importance of microbes and roots for agricultural practices and ecosystem services. This makes me believe that we already have all the knowledge to stop and survive climate change and to feed the entire world with a sustainable and eco-friendly agriculture. What we need now is more action !

Subordinate plants and fungi: what happens when these minorities join the effort?

Posted on May 3, 2015 at 9:55 PM Comments comments (0)


Another paper from my PhD research, entilted "Subordinate plants mitigate drought effects on soil ecosystem processes by stimulating fungi",  has just been accepted in Functional Ecology! Many thanks to my co-auhors and people who helped me in the field during 4 years.

Plants and the fungal web

Posted on March 24, 2015 at 12:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Plant-soil interactions are an incredibly interesting topic, which surprises and amazes me every day. Here are an example from the BBC, with plants interacting with the very dense and complex fungal web:

"Plants talk to each other using an internet of fungus"


Photo: bbc.com

International Year of Soils - 2015

Posted on January 18, 2015 at 6:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Listen this interesting podcast from BBC Inside Science:

Soils. What have they ever done for us?

Adam Rutherford interviews Prof. Richard Bardgett from the University of Manchester, and other researchers, about the importance of soils for the future, related to agriculture and climate change.


Here also the flyer of the FAO.




Post-doctoral Fellowship

Posted on October 24, 2014 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)


I recently obtained the advanced postdoctoral fellowship from the Swiss National Science Foundation and I am currently a postdoc in the Biogeochemistry group of the University of Sydney (Australia) led by Dr. Feike Dijkstra. My research focus on plant-soil interactions and climate change (drought and fire) in australian grasslands. You're welcome to visit !

Plant-soil feedbacks in invasion

Posted on April 29, 2014 at 12:45 AM Comments comments (0)

New greenhouse experiment:

Plant-soil feedback effets of the invasive Elymus caput-medusahead depending on its density. Feedbacks on its own growth and on the dominant species Avena Fatua. Soils collected in the field in 35 plots along a density gradient ranging from 0 to 1800 individuals of E. caput-medusahead. Thanks to the Undergrads who are helping managing this experiment.