Tak has just returned from the Models in Population Dynamics and Ecology (MPDE) conference in Marseille, which was held over 5th-9th September at the Centre International de Rencontres Mathématiques (CIRM) at Aix-Marseille University. During the conference, Tak presented two new Markov Chain models describing how species abundances fluctuate under environmental variation. The models are novel in that they can be analysed to derive exact expressions for species richness and community abundance, allowing investigation of how these quantities change with increasing environmental variation, for example due to global climate change. Determining changes in richness and abundance is important because they are fundamental drivers of ecosystem functioning. In addition to presenting this work, Tak also took the opportunity to learn more about some of the latest developments in theoretical population biology and ecology, and connect with other researchers in this area.