Conferences are a key place for scientists to display their work, learn about other people’s work and to meet potential colleagues. You’ll often hear people talking about networking events, but you can feel quite intimidated by these events whilst you are ‘just a student’. As students, you forget that in a couple of years you could be the one presenting at a conference, and that everyone attending these conferences were students at some point too. It’s great practice to attend as many as possible, not to present at them but to have the opportunity to experience how conferences work, how they are generally organised and what is expected from the attendants. If you attend conferences as early as possible in your scientific career, you will know what to expect and you will be less likely to be nervous when you need to attend or present at them in the future.
Plymouth Marine Laboratory hosted the Plymouth Marine Science & Education Foundation (PlyMSEF) conference this year. It was a perfect conference for people from my course to attend, it was local, free and specifically targeted Masters students, PhD students and post-doctoral researchers, providing a place for them to present their work through oral and poster presentations. This year’s presentations were excellent, they covered such a wide range of marine biology, from coastal processes to marine biogeochemistry, as well as marine ecology and marine microorganisms. They also had an entire section dedicated to human impacts on the sea. A conference like this, that had such a huge mixture of scientific approaches, gives you a chance to explore theories, ideas and discoveries that you might not normally come across in your everyday student life.
We all understand how the development of marine renewable energy can help us move away from fossil fuels, but often the ecological concerns from these man-made structures entering the marine environment can be neglected. Amy Cartwright gave a very informative presentation on the ongoing research being done to study the cumulative ecological impacts of these marine renewable energy installations.
Rebecca Shellock explained how marine science can be combined with psychology and economics to assess the benefits of coastal renovation projects. With evidence that exposure to blue spaces may promote people’s health, a study is currently taking place to examine the impact of a coastal renovation project on the well-being of local residents.
Not forgetting, of course, the micro world. Charlotte Walker presented an interesting area of research about Coccolithus braarudii regulation of SITL expression, explored by placing the species under a variety of growth conditions.
This conference, like many, held a competition on the side for best oral and poster presentations. Big congratulations to the winners: Tarja Hoffmeyer for her talk on the evolution of synaptic proteins, Nils Piechaud for his talk on using computer vision to identify benthic epifauna, Tomas Tangye for his poster on biofouling on plastic buoyancy in variable temperature and saline conditions, and Chloe Game for her poster on deep oceanic flushing on water properties and ecosystem functioning.
The whole conference was fascinating, with scientists from a variety of fields coming together to discuss what they have discovered. With many tea and coffee breaks, a tasty buffet lunch and not forgetting the wine served in the evening, this conference proved to be both informative and good fun. I would certainly encourage any marine student to attend this next year, and to look out for any conferences in the future that may catch their eye.