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Plant Focus

For this Species Spotlight we train our follow spot on an oak that is quite a star of the quercine scene: Quercus hypoleucoides (stage name...

The 10th IOS Conference in Las Cruces, New Mexico

The 10th International Oak Society Conference was held at the end of August and beginning of September at the Las Cruces Convention Center in New Mexico, USA. It was a delight to reunite with friends and meet new oak compatriots in the shadows of the Organ Mountains (colloquially called the Tetons of New Mexico) at the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert, and in proximity to New Mexico State University, Las Cruces. Due to transportation mishaps, I sadly missed the Opening Reception (sponsored by Soil Secrets) and Welcome Address, where Jeff Anderson, Associate Professor with New Mexico State University, centered the Conference and its attendees in the cultural and agricultural wonderland of south-eastern New Mexico.

Conference photo
Participants at the 10th IOS Conference - click on the image to download a high resolution image
© Guy Sternberg

The Conference sessions were opened by Dina Reitzel, Board of Regents with New Mexico State University. Her multilingual welcome perfectly set the stage for information sharing and collegiality between quercophiles in attendance from around the world. Over the next three days, speakers covered topics as wide-ranging as the need to conserve Fagaceae in Taiwan to acorns as a staple food crop. At breaks and lunch, a poster presentation in the hallway gave in-person attendees the opportunity to review recent studies and interact with some of the student attendees.

Las Cruces Convention Center
Las Cruces Convention Center, the venue for the 10th IOS Conference © Guy Sternberg

I was impressed by the hard work of the Conference Committee and support team to run an in-person and simultaneous online event and by the efforts of the venue’s facility staff to make it all work. Appreciation is also to be extended to the virtual presenters who managed unforgiving time zones to join us for live Q and A after their presentations. Though it wasn’t quite the same as being in person, I greatly enjoyed seeing and interacting in real time with colleagues in Mexico, Laos, and China in real time. Recordings of the presentations are now available on the Conference portal to all those who registered for the event, whether virtually or in person.

Mind Deng takes questions
Dr. Min Deng takes questions from her office in Yunnan University, Kunming University, China, following her presentation "Climate Niche Evolution of the Cycle-cup Oaks (Quercus section Cyclobalanopsis) Shed Light on the Formation of the Evergreen Broadleaf Forests in Eastern Asia"

The first day of the Conference closed with the Meeting of Members, where the Board provided updates on the Society’s financial situation and outlook, and Tim Boland reported on the activities of the Oak Conservation and Research Fund and its plans for the next round of grants.

Silent Auction
Items laid out for the Silent Auction

Workshops and working groups met in the afternoon of the second day and oak goodies were to be had during the whole event at the very impressive Silent Auction and from Tree Girl, who was selling her oak-themed wares and bringing the spirit of the forest to our meeting with her unique outfit. The final day of the Conference introduced us to specific oak forests, new oak nursery introductions, and discussions of conservation strategies amid ever increasing challenges. After picking up a boxed lunch that featured sandwiches and seriously spicy southwestern potato chips, attendees loaded into vans and yellow school buses to travel to Dripping Springs, a Natural Area just east of Las Cruces.

Dripping Springs
On the way to Dripping Springs, nestled in a canyon in the Organ Mountains

Dripping Springs is nestled in a canyon at the foot of the dramatic Organ Mountains: sharp, angular peaks that rise dramatically to about 9,000 feet/2,740 meters. The landscape was especially beautiful on our visit due to recent monsoonal moisture, artistic clouds, and lovely afternoon light. Attendees hiked to the springs and beyond and were able to see Q. arizonica and Q. grisea—and hunt for their mysterious hybrid, Q. ×organensis.

Oaks in Dripping Springs
Oaks in the canyon at Dripping Springs

Sadly, our anticipated tour guides were unable to lead this adventure, but many beautiful oaks and varied wildlife made this afternoon trip a delight nonetheless. Along with the resilient oaks, mostly found along ephemeral waterways and on canyon walls, I was taken with Fallugia paradoxa, póñil or Apache plume, and the enormous locusts we saw along the trail.

Apache plume
Fallugia paradoxa (póñil or Apache plume)

Other trip participants reported seeing a rattlesnake near the falls, which were indeed dripping serenely, and feeders in the demonstration garden at the visitor center were hosting a noisy congregation of beautiful hummingbirds. Overall, this field trip was a perfect adventure to help bring the Conference to a close.

coming down from Dripping Springs
Returning to Las Cruces from Dripping Springs

After returning to the Convention Center, the last things to do were closing remarks and the Seed Exchange. Both were completed with good humor and a minimum of pushing before attendees either said their goodbyes or went to change for closing reception, which was graciously sponsored by Ellen Weinacht. With old friendships strengthened and new bonds forged, the 10th International Oak Society Conference and meeting was a true success. I am greatly looking forward to seeing everyone again in 2025 (in Mexico, as provisionally announced at the Meeting of Members).

See Exchange
Quercophiles at the trough: the Seed Exchange at the 10th IOS Conference  © Guy Sternberg

Photos © Zarah Wyly unless specified

IOS members can view additional photos of the event here.