2021 ESA Annual Meeting
Virtually Anywhere
August 2 – August 6, 2021

Deadline: 5:00 PM Eastern (2:00 PM Pacific)
Thursday, November 19, 2020

All ESA Annual Meeting proposal and abstract deadlines are 5:00 PM Eastern so that technical support and ESA staff assistance will be immediately available when submitters need it. If you begin your submission very close to the deadline, you are choosing to take a risk, and we will not make an exception if you don’t complete your submission in time. The form automatically closes at 5:00 EST / 2:00 PST whether you have completed your submission or not.

Proposals that are incomplete or received after the deadline will not be considered.

ESA meetings, open to ESA members and those interested in ecology, are among the most respected meetings of ecologists in the science community. ESA is committed to providing a safe, productive and welcoming environment. All participants including, but not limited to, attendees, speakers, volunteers, exhibitors, ESA staff, service providers and others are expected to abide by the ESA Meetings Code of Conduct. This Code of Conduct applies to all ESA meeting-related events including those sponsored by organizations other than ESA but held in conjunction with ESA events, in public or private facilities. In addition, ESA members and authors of ESA publications must adhere to the ESA Scientific Integrity and Professional Ethics Policy.

How To Submit

You must submit your proposal using the online submission form. Proposals sent by email will not be considered. Click the link below to begin by selecting which type of proposal you would like to submit. You will be able to return to the proposal to edit it until the submission deadline has passed. Information on how to do so will be included in two automated emails you will receive, first when you begin and then when you complete your submission.

Begin an Inspire Session Submission

About the 2021 Annual Meeting

If public health conditions allow, the 2021 Annual Meeting will be a hybrid meeting in Long Beach that combines in-person and virtual elements. If in-person elements are not possible, the meeting will be virtual (with all sessions online).
If ESA is able to hold a hybrid meeting, all presenters will have a remote presentation option.

Proposal submitters are asked to indicate their preference for an in person or virtual session at the time of submission. Organizer preferences will not affect acceptance decisions. This question is specifically asked to help ESA plan for a hybrid meeting scenario. If in-person elements are not possible, the meeting will be entirely virtual, with all accepted sessions held online regardless of the preference indicated in the session proposal. We will keep all session organizers updated as we receive more guidance on best practices from our meeting venue and the state of California. Rest assured that this is only a preference, not a final decision of any kind. If we are able to proceed with a hybrid event, session organizers will have the opportunity to revisit this preference during a later stage of planning.


About Inspire Sessions

We invite proposals for Inspire sessions for the 2021 ESA Annual Meeting. Inspire sessions are Ignite-style sessions intended to stimulate the exchange of new and exciting ideas in a short time period. Proposals are encouraged to address the meeting theme, “Vital Connections in Ecology,” if appropriate, but doing so is not necessary. Any timely and coherent subject of broad ecological interest will be considered. We also welcome proposals that explore interdisciplinary connections with areas of social and natural science outside of ecology or that relate to ecological education at any level.

Inspire sessions will be scheduled for 90 minutes and consist of between six and ten 5-minute talks organized to address a common theme. Each Inspire talk will feature 20 slides that advance automatically every 15 seconds. All speakers who submit an abstract for an accepted symposium will be required to pay an abstract fee of $60 USD at the time of abstract submission. Speakers who lack funding to pay the fee will be able to opt out.

Each session should be organized around a general theme that is related to the advancement of ecology. Inspire sessions are intended to complement the traditional scientific program. These sessions will provide an opportunity for ecologists to share information with their colleagues that would not fit into the usual session types. The concise speaking slot and rapid slide transitions lend themselves to a more conversational and storytelling presentation style. Given 5 minutes to speak, what would you share with other ecologists? What would you most like to learn from your colleagues?

Possible session themes include, but are not limited to:

  • Recent advances in traditional topics – what are the new ideas and findings in the field that are not yet well enough developed for a traditional paper session?
  • Points and counterpoints from the discipline – is there an idea you are passionate about that is being overlooked? Or overvalued?
  • Stumbling blocks and problems within the field – are there insights you could share with up and coming ecologists based on your own experiences?
  • How-to guides and toolkits – have you learned how to use an emerging tool or practice of interest to ecologists and can share a brief introduction?
  • Themes that spark new ideas– what is on the horizon for ecology?

What is Inspire?

The links in this section are highly recommended reading and viewing for anyone considering submitting an Inspire session, as well as any speakers they invite to participate. Inspire talks will require different preparation than typical ESA presentations. Some differences to keep in mind:

  • A presenter will only have time to make 1 or 2 main points that are explained or supported by the slides. It may be best to show one data slide and use the remaining slides to briefly introduce the idea and explain the rationale and consequences of the main point.
  • The slides are not visible long enough to be a major focus of the presentation. The slides should support what you’re saying, not say what you’re supporting.
  • Slides should focus more on quick, powerful visual impressions than on details. If you’re including complex figures or more than a couple of simple bullet points then you’re saying too much on the slides.
  • Data intensive slides are very likely to give a speaker significant trouble pacing their slides.
  • The slides will advance every 15 seconds whether the speaker has said everything they meant to say on the current slide or not. Practicing the timing is critical in order to avoid chasing the slides.
  • Assume your first and last slides (and therefore, 15 seconds) are mostly for introducing your topic and wrapping it up, respectively.
  • You can repeat a slide for more than one 15 second interval if you wish.
  • Don’t let these differences intimidate you! Just be sure to prepare for them.

Some helpful videos:

Some example of effective talks on various subjects:

Career Track

ESA is piloting its first topical track for meeting sessions this year. All sessions included in the career track will be highlighted throughout the program and scheduled to minimize conflicts. Submitters proposing a session about career options, skills and development will be able to indicate that they would like to be included in this track.


Proposal Format

  • Session title.
  • A lead organizer (Required; name, institution, and email).
  • Co-organizers (Optional; name, institution, and email for each).
  • Moderator (Name, institution, email). The moderator may not serve as a speaker in this session. The organizer or a co-organizer may serve as moderator.
  • 6-10 Speakers (name, institution, email, and tentative talk title for each). Only speakers who have been contacted and have committed to the session should be listed.
  • Session description (< 250 words) of the session. The description should focus on the theme and structure of the session as a whole. The description should avoid overly specialized language. Any ecologist attending the meeting should be able to understand it. It will appear in the online program and be read by attendees deciding whether or not to attend the session.
  • Session justification (< 250 words). The justification should describe why the topic is expected to be of interest to ESA attendees and why the topic would be a good fit for the Inspire format. It should not simply repeat the description. The justification will only be used for proposal review – it does not appear in the final program.
  • Summary sentence (50 word max.). This is a very short version of the session description. It will appear in the print program.
  • Is the session intended to be linked to another scientific session? If so, which one, and how?
  • Is the session intended to be linked to a business meeting or mixer? If so, which one, and how?
  • Diversity description (< 400 words, required): Describe how this session involves diverse perspectives and voices as elaborated in ESA’s Diversity Statement.
  • Broader benefits description (< 400 words, optional): Describe how this session benefits broader society (for example through education, public policy, communication/public engagement, application to commercial technology, national security or international cooperation).
  • Would you like this session to be considered for inclusion in the Career Track? Yes/No


Review Criteria

All proposals will be peer reviewed and scored by reviewers selected by the ESA Program Committee. The Program Committee may accept, decline, or offer an opportunity to present the proposed work in a more appropriate format (organized oral session, Inspire, workshop, special session). Session organizers will be notified of decisions by January 21, 2021. Proposals will be assessed using the following criteria. The weight of particular criteria may vary depending on the nature of proposals.

Criteria for a strong Inspire proposal:

Scientific strength

  • features significant contributions to or advances in ecological understanding.
  • presents innovative and original work.
  • benefits broader society (for example through education, public policy, communication/public engagement, application to commercial technology, national security or international cooperation).
  • The proposed session is a good fit for the Inspire session format: 5-minute talks, automatic slide advancement, engaged discussion to end the session.

Structure and organization

  • forms a coherent whole through contributions from individual talks.
  • offers a range of perspectives through the collection of speakers.
  • avoids the appearance of biases toward their organizers’ own perspectives.


  • lists 6-10 confirmed speakers (speakers who have been contacted and have committed to the session).
  • includes a specific title for every speaker’s talk.
  • involves diverse perspectives and voices as elaborated in ESA’s Diversity Statement.

Other details to consider

In the interest of broadening participation, an individual can be the lead organizer for only one invited paper session (symposium, organized oral session, Inspire session).

One presentation rule

The one presentation rule does not apply to participants speaking in Inspire sessions. Inspire presenters should commit to give only one Inspire presentation. They may present something else (a poster, or a different type of talk) as their second presentation.

Meeting registration

All speakers are required to register for the conference. Organizers are responsible for making this clear to their speakers early on when it is easier to replace speakers.


If Your Proposal is Accepted

After acceptance decisions have been made and the scheduling for the meeting is underway, cancellations and schedule changes are very disruptive to meeting planning. It is therefore very important that session organizers obtain firm commitments from their invited speakers before submitting their proposal. If a proposal is accepted, the organizer will be required to submit an up to date version of the session details and confirmed speaker list within a few weeks of acceptance.

In a hybrid meeting scenario, some Inspire sessions will be scheduled in person at the convention center and some will be online only. Organizer preferences indicated during proposal submission will be considered during this process, but we cannot guarantee that every session that requests to be held in person will be able to do so.

  • In person sessions will be similar to recent years, with appropriate social distancing measures and deep cleaning of rooms between sessions. These may be scheduled for any oral session timeslot between Monday afternoon and Thursday afternoon. In person sessions will be 90 minutes long. There will be no time scheduled between individual presentations for questions and answers. Instead the remainder of the session time (typically at least 30 minutes) will be used for extended discussion.
  • Online sessions will include on demand talks available the week before the meeting and one hour of live discussion scheduled during the meeting. Live discussions may be scheduled for any timeslot Monday through Thursday.

In a virtual meeting scenario, all sessions will be online. On demand talks will be available the week before the meeting and one hour of live discussion will be scheduled during the meeting.

In all scheduling scenarios, the program committee will attempt to avoid any overt conflicts between sessions and will give organizers an opportunity to notify us of known scheduling conflicts (conflicts between accepted sessions).

Communication with speakers

If a proposal is accepted as a session, it is very important that the organizer communicates with speakers starting with the acceptance of the session and continuing throughout all stages of program development. This includes communicating with speakers about session acceptance, abstract requirements and deadlines, session scheduling, and expectations for participation in the conference. Ongoing and clear communication will be especially important this year given the uncertainty of current events that could affect the meeting format and structure.

Other helpful information

Here are a few details that all speakers should know up front. Miscommunication about them can disrupt session planning later in the process.

  • We are unable to honor scheduling requests. When asking speakers to commit to the session, organizers should inform them that the session could be scheduled any day Monday through Thursday. We cannot schedule or move a session to accommodate the availability of speakers.
  • Speakers who fail to submit an abstract on time will be removed from the session. It is the responsibility of the session organizer to make sure each speaker submits an abstract for their talk using the unique link that will be emailed to each speaker in early February. It is important to make sure all speakers are aware of the abstract submission deadline early on.
  • All speakers are required to register for the conference. Organizers are responsible for making this clear to their speakers early on when it is easier to replace speakers.



For session organizers

Once a session has been accepted and listed online, cancellation imposes a serious burden. Do not submit a proposal if you are uncertain that you will be able to fulfill your obligation to organize and conduct the session. Once a session is accepted by the Program Chair, cancellation by the session organizers may preclude the organizers from being allowed to submit any proposals for sessions for the 2022 ESA Annual Meeting.

For presenters

When submitting an abstract, presenters should be reasonably confident that they will attend the meeting and give the presentation as scheduled.  We understand that planning ahead is particularly challenging this year, but the presenting author should notify ESA Meetings as soon as possible if a presentation needs to be cancelled.  Please cancel by May 1 if possible, to help us minimize gaps in the final meeting program as well as receive an abstract fee refund if you paid the fee.


Important Dates

November 19, 2020 Deadline for submitting a proposal to ESA.
January 21, 2021 Notification of acceptance sent to organizer.
February 4, 2021 Deadline to submit session revisions and reaffirm speaker lists.
February 25, 2021 Deadline for speakers to submit abstracts.
March 11, 2021 Notification of scheduling (session date and time) sent to organizer.


Dr. Sarah Emery
Program Chair
Biology Department
University of Louisville
Louisville, Kentucky
Phone: (502) 852- 5940
Jennifer Riem
Meeting Program Associate
Ecological Society of America
1990 M Street, NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20036 USA
Phone: (202) 833-8773 x 218