by Matt Tietbohl
As a graduate student, there is only so much time you can spend in one day reading interesting journal articles and following up on your many interests. There are a myriad of other responsibilities you have. To start, there is your thesis which is likely taking up the majority of your time, leaving little room for much else. In that small window of time outside this you must find time for other important activities to help maintain your sanity such as staying in touch with family and friends and exercising. This doesn’t include other, smaller responsibilities you have like checking emails, cooking dinner, completing approval forms for your research, attending seminars, and cleaning the apartment among many other things. And what about volunteering or any outreach you might be interested in to share your science and interests with others? The point is, as graduate students, we have a lot on our plates and not a whole lot of time to read, especially articles or papers not directly related to our thesis work. One of the great things about scientific conferences, like the International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC4) is that they allow you to do just this, in a fast paced form!
“A launching point for your career…”
We all hear from our professors and older graduate students about how important conferences are and how they can be a launching point for your career, and there are some great articles on the web to read more about this (here, here, and here). At a conference, you are surrounded by hundreds or thousands of people, brought together by some common interest for a short window of time. In this whirlwind of activity, nearly every talk you see will contain data from one or likely multiple publications. In the span of a few days, you will be exposed to multiple months’ worth of reading scientific literature in a wide variety of research fields you might never have dreamed of finding any interest in! You may be exposed to more data and research in less than a week then you have been so far through your entire graduate studies! Conferences are amazing places to catch up on a lot of high quality research, especially research that, though distantly related to your thesis or simply of great interest to you, you might not normally find time to read about in your busy schedule. And this is only one of the many amazing reasons to attend a scientific conference!
“There is no better chance to reach out and forge new connections and friendships…”
At a conference, you also have a chance to share your knowledge and research with others and show them what a great scientist you are. You can excite other people! Equally, if not more important, is the chance to network. Conferences are not like going to another lab meeting with the same dozen or so people every week. With this diverse group of fellow scientists around you, there is no better chance to reach out and forge new connections and friendships; these may turn into future collaborations or even job offers or something completely unknown. It’s impossible to guess what may come out of a conversation with another researcher, but the possibilities are endless. And this, along with what I mentioned earlier, are why I could not be more excited for this year’s International Marine Conservation Congress meeting hosted by the SCB Marine Section!
I have been to a few conferences before and will have a chance to get to two more this summer (ICRS and IMCC4). While I am certainly excited for both conferences this summer, I am especially excited to travel to St. Johns in Newfoundland and Labrador for a conference focused around marine conservation science and “Making Marine Science Matter!” As a marine scientist, I care deeply about our oceans and all the wild creatures that can be found below the surface. I believe scientists, graduate students included, play a key role in studying these marine ecosystems and organisms to learn as much as we can. The more we know about how marine life and ecosystems work, the better equipped managers, fishers, politicians, and others will be to use and manage the marine environment in a way without doing it undue harm.
“The chance to network with and hear conservation success (and maybe failure) stories from people who have been actively involved in marine conservation is tantalizing.”
What I am really excited about, is that at IMCC4 there won’t only be scientists who study marine systems themselves and how they work, but scientists that study how to conserve these systems, how to work with locals and government, and how best to navigate the tricky waters of marine conservation (among other topics). My thesis is not directly involved in marine conservation efforts, but this something I find hugely important and fascinating to learn about! There will be so much to absorb and so many great people to meet! The chance to network with and hear conservation success (and maybe failure) stories from people who have been actively involved in marine conservation is tantalizing.
Today, I do not know who I will meet, and I do not know which talks I will end up attending, but what I do know is this. IMCC4 is an amazing chance to take a small step away from my thesis work and submerge myself in the massively important realm of marine conservation science!
And who knows? An exciting collaboration or opportunity just might result. And even if it does not, I will have learned a lot about marine conservation, learned key information I can use down the road as a marine scientist and conservationist! As I work on writing up an abstract, I look forward to the new friends I will meet and the new knowledge I will gain. I would strongly encourage any graduate students reading this who are interested in marine conservation at any level to consider joining us this summer. You never know what great opportunities may arise!