#SciFri: 9th World Congress of Herpetology Part II
In case you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past few weeks, which is completely understandable given the state of world politics, I wrote a post not too long ago about my experiences at the World Congress of Herpetology in Dunedin last month. However this post was a very brief overview that I hurriedly put together and so I’d like to take the time to explore and discuss a few of the take home messages in more detail.
One of my favourite aspects of the Congress was the poster sessions, which in my opinion were a tad over-crowded. Anyways it was great to see some of the amazing research being done across the globe by so many different people, from varying backgrounds. It really fills you with optimism for the future given the turbulent times that we are all currently facing. I was also lucky enough to present a poster on my PhD research, which in my mind had the best title of any poster ‘Enter The Natrix‘ – unfortunately it didn’t win any prizes but there was lots of tough competition from all sides. Maybe next time! Congratulations to all of those that did win prizes and keep up the inspiring research.
Aside from the science, what really makes a conference that extra bit special? The people. The herpetological community is a tight-knit bunch and this really shows at conferences like the World Congress. My favourite memories of the Congress are from the times when we all went to the pub and let our hair down. Undergraduate students, Masters students, PhD students, Post-docs, Professors. Everyone was unified by two things. A love for herpetology and the need for a good pint. After working in the pub trade for six years you quickly realised that beer is the universal currency of the world and it acts as a social lubricant. No matter how much you revere a professor as a god (or some form of deity), they’re only human. Give them a couple of pints and you’ll be best friends for life as well as being able to ask all of those burning questions. Try it next time and thank me later!
Networking is an integral part of any conference experience and I was over the moon to finally meet Mark Scherz and Jonathan Kobly (two of my amphibian heroes photographed above). It’s also important for forge new friendships that may lead to future collaborations or the sharing of ideas and techniques to your own project(s). Everyone is aiming for the same thing, to help conserve their target species in the most effective and cost-friendly way. Get talking to people and find out if their methods can be applied to your own research, chances are they can. Then take those guys down the pub, unwind and form a friendship as well as a professional relationship.
Although my time in New Zealand was brief and it took me the best part of to days to get there, I think I spent my time wisely. I attended all of the symposia that interested me or included transferable skills for my own research (I’m looking at you chytrid). I questioned people on their science and how it may be adapted so it could be applied to snakes and people asked me about my research. There was an intellectual exchange of ideas, information and banter on so many levels with so many people. Most importantly of all, I taught the attendees from around the world how to make a decent cuppa!