#SciFri: 22nd European Congress of Herpetology
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past month, you’re probably aware that earlier in September I spent a week in Wolverhampton for the 22nd European Congress of Herpetology, organised by the Societas Europaea Herpetologica (SEH) and a local organising committee. This was the first SEH conference I have been to within the UK, but I have travelled abroad for a couple previously, such as Milan in 2019. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to the delayed 21st European Congress in Belgrade last September, as I was deep in the depths of the final stages of my PhD write-up. So, I was delighted to hear that shortly after the Congress in Serbia, that the next one would be coming to Wolverhampton – my perfect opportunity to network with more European herpetologists, and present some of my PhD research.
Like many larger conferences, there were multiple parallel sessions taking place, with a whole host of interesting and varied topics being covered over the four days of talks. Along with disease (yay!), there were also themed sessions on the roles of museum collections in the modern age, the impacts of climate change on amphibians and reptiles, population genetics, and more. This meant that it was extremely difficult to know where to be in order to get the most of out the conference attendance. Unfortunately, there were a number of times where I wished I could be in two places as the same time, so had to make some hard decisions. Despite that though, I had an amazing time, and got to catch up with some old friends, and make many new ones.
Aside from the parallel talk sessions, there were also two poster sessions on the Wednesday and Thursday afternoon, one of which is photographed above. The high quality of all the posters at the conference made it hard to choose which one was my favourite, there were no stand-outs as they were all amazing. There was also a speed-networking event, where I was delegated as one of the ‘professionals’ (that’s a scary thought), so in my 3 minutes with each student that I spoke to, I had to provide them with as many words of wisdom as possible. I hope they were useful everyone! The thing that I am most grateful for from the conference, was the ability to meet and chat to some of the other researchers working with ophidiomycosis within Europe. When I started my PhD in 2018, I was one of very few people across the continent working on the disease. Since however, there has been a growing community of researchers dedicated to ophidiomycosis. It was great to meet some of these in the process of presenting my own research, as there are certainly avenues and opportunities for us all to collaborate in the future. I’m looking forward to it guys!
Through my stay in Wolverhampton, I did my best to network, which means consuming copious amounts of alcohol and chatting about amphibians and reptile at the pub. This was highly effective as I’ve walked away with a number of new friends and potential colleagues for the future. To me, that is the real importance of these conferences – networking. Some people may disagree with me, and that’s completely fine, but every conference I have been to over the years, I have always walked away knowing more people than when I started, some of which have helped with the advancement of my research or my career. So thank you those people! The other thing I succeeded at was walking away with a lot of conference swag. There were multiple publications on offer for free from stands such as the SEH and the British Herpetological Society, as well as copies of Mark O’Shea’s books (which cost me £50, and thank you for signing them!). So essentially, if something wasn’t nailed down, I was taking it home. This proved to be my downfall however, as carrying it all back on the train very nearly killed me. Still, they’re now on my bookcase and will come in useful for various projects for years to come!
Finally, I would like to thank the Societas Europaea Herpetologica (SEH) and the local organising committee for such a bostin’ time! Although we don’t yet know where the next European Congress of Herpetology will be in 2025, I’m looking forward to visiting that one too, and doing things all over again! If you attended the 22nd European Congress of Herpetology, please let me know what your experiences were like.
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