Rounding up our Meet the Editor series ahead of the British Ecological Society Annual Meeting, we chat to Phil Stephens. You can meet Phil and have the opportunity to discuss your work with him at this year’s Speed Review.
What can you tell us about the first paper you published?
It was a Review of Allee effects in TREE. It must have been timely, because another group published a review of Allee effects in TREE at the same time. This meant we had to work out, between us, how to divide the subject between our Reviews. With my co-authors, I had to remove quite a lot of material that I had hoped to include. Happily, that excised material made for a useful paper anyway, which has gone on to be cited more often than the original Review!
What’s your favourite species and why?
Tough question but I think it would have to be a leopard. Something about the combination of grace, beauty and raw power. And I’ve seen them sufficiently seldom (in spite of a lot of searching) that it still gives me an amazing buzz when I come across one.
Who inspired you most as a student?
This is an even tougher question! I will interpret it as relating to my undergraduate days. As a zoology undergraduate at Bristol, I had a tutor called Bob Savage, a palaeontologist. His office was like a museum of curiosity (with, amongst many other things, one of the only sabre-toothed tiger skulls I have ever seen). The breadth of his interest and the tales of his adventures might well have sown the seeds of my enthusiasm for the life of an academic. I’m still waiting for my own academic experience to live up to that …
If you could wake up tomorrow with a new skill, what would it be?
Playing music is one of the few ways I can get fully into the present, so I’d love to be able to play the piano.
Are you a good cook? What’s your signature dish?
I’m a bit hit-or-miss, possibly through lack of practice. My children insist that my egg-fried rice is the best they’ve ever tasted – but they’ve lived quite sheltered lives!
Please share a [funny] story about a paper you had rejected.
When you’re as leptodermic as I am, there is no humour in rejection!
What’s your favourite sports team and why?
Very tough question – especially as I know that my answer’s going to offend a number of colleagues (including senior figures on BES journal editorial boards). However, having grown up watching rugby union in the 1970s, it’s hard not to enjoy it when the Welsh national rugby team remind us of their former glory.
If you could recommend one place for people to travel to on holiday, where would it be and why?
Without wishing to be too overt in my misanthropy, I think everyone should go to Skegness.
What was the first album you owned?
Album? When I was young, one used to buy singles! Good grief, am I really old enough to say things like that? Still, I think an early present from one of my brothers was ‘Dire Straits’ by, er, Dire Straits.
If any fictional character could join your lab, who would it be and why?
These days, truth is unquestionably stranger than fiction. Still, it would be quite handy to have ‘Q’ from the James Bond films, just to run up gadgets to monitor or measure anything in the field.
How many British Ecological Society Annual Meetings have you attended? Which one was the best?
Probably only about 10. Slightly cliched – but the best was probably the first – but I can’t actually remember where it was!
Are you attending #BES2018? If so, when is the best opportunity for people to meet you?
The Speed Review! [Meet the Editors at the BES stand from 18:30-19.15 on Monday 17 Dec. Just make sure you sign up at the stand beforehand. More details available here.
Phil Stephens is an Associate Professor at the Department of Biosciences, University of Durham, UK. Phil is interested in the use of predictive population ecology to inform biodiversity conservation and wildlife management. To that end, his research ranges from population monitoring, dealing with uncertainty in population data, and identifying the drivers of population change, to natural selection as a predictive concept in population biology. He is also interested in species interactions, especially predator-prey interactions and their energetic underpinnings. Tweet Phil @PS_Applied_Ecol.
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