Ahead of this year’s British Ecological Society Annual Meeting, we wanted to give you the chance to get to know some of the people behind the decision letters.
We have already heard from Lead Editors Rosie Hails and Cecily Maller, and the third in our series is Lead Editor Kai Chan. Kai is a professor in the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at University of British Columbia and is flying into the annual meeting all the way from Ottawa, Canada. Here he gives some entertaining and informative responses to our questions.
What can you tell us about the first paper you published?
The very first paper I published was a letter in Science, rebutting calculations of population diversity by Jennifer Hughes, Gretchen Daily and Paul Ehrlich. I was a first-year PhD student, and little did I know that I would go on to do a postdoc with Gretchen and Paul, working with the data that they collected while responding to my rebuttal! Gretchen later joked with a laugh that the trouble that I had with the dataset was my just desserts for the trouble I gave them.
What’s your favourite species and why?
My favourite non-human species is probably the bottlenose dolphin, because of a few magical experiences I’ve had swimming with them in Hawai’i and looking one in the eye while it surfed the bow wave of our boat in New Zealand just two metres below.
Who inspired you most as a student?
If I had to pick just one person, I’d say my PhD supervisor Simon Levin. Simon is not just a brilliant scholar, he’s a masterful community-builder and a generous champion of ecology, evolution and conservation.
If you could wake up tomorrow with a new skill, what would it be?
Dance. I’ve always been athletic, but the musical element of dance has always thrown me for a loop. But it hasn’t lessened my aesthetic appreciation of the wonder of dance.
Are you a good cook? What’s your signature dish?
I love to cook. I’ve had to abandon many of my favourite dishes due to my family’s gastrointestinal problems, so I’d have to say steamed mussels are my signature dish.
Please share a [funny] story about a paper you had rejected.
Following my policy program with Peter Singer, I submitted an environmental ethics paper to a mainstream ethics journal, hoping to push the boundaries of mainstream philosophy. One reviewer didn’t enjoy my efforts, and documented why over a couple of pages (more text than it seemed that he read in my paper), referring to my ideas as “nutty as a fruitcake”.
What’s your favourite sports team and why?
The Canadian women’s ice hockey team. They have nowhere near the kind of money that the men’s team does, but they just go out there and take care of business, showing a genuine love of the game.
If you could recommend one place for people to travel to on holiday, where would it be and why?
It depends who’s travelling. With travel, I’m painfully aware of the tremendous privilege I enjoy. One of my favourite places on the planet is Vancouver Island. It’s got everything we look for: beaches, mountains, forests, arts, culture, and a prevailing progressive liberal attitude.
What was the first album you owned?
I won’t lie: Madonna’s True Blue. I was ten.
If any fictional character could join your lab, who would it be and why?
LOL. I’ve already got lots of larger-than-life lab members! Seriously, though, I’d go with Peter Parker. I’ve always had a soft spot for his down-to-Earth humility and dedication to service.
How many British Ecological Society annual meetings have you attended? Which one was the best?
I think this might be my first. I’ve been to BES meetings, but I think this is my first annual meeting.
Are you attending #BES2018? If so, when is the best opportunity for people to meet you?
Yes! I guess the meet-the-editor session would be the best opportunity.
Kai is a professor in the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at University of British Columbia. He is an interdisciplinary, problem-oriented sustainability scientist, trained in ecology, policy, and ethics from Princeton and Stanford Universities. He strives to understand how social-ecological systems can be transformed to be both better and wilder (‘better’ including considerations of justice). Towards this end, he does modeling and empirical research to improve the management and governance of social-ecological systems. He has a special interest in ecosystem services (ES; while recognizing and working on the concept’s limitations), including cumulative impacts and risks to ES; the evolutionary ecology of pest control; applied environmental ethics; ecosystem-based management; social-ecological systems and resilience; and connecting these ecosystem-oriented efforts to environmental assessment (e.g., LCA).