Vienna, Yorkshire & Exeter

July has passed in a whirl wind, it was a month I had been looking forward to and dreading in equal measure. Two conferences, one European and one International, interspersed with two weddings of good friends is more than enough excitement for me.

Naturally I was looking forward to the adventure, but as is hereditary in my family, also a bit stressed about the prospect of travelling almost constantly for the month. Anyone who relies on public transport in this country will understand the idea of getting a bus or a train to an airport is a bit dicey.

I begin at ECBB – the European Conference for Behavioural Biology, based at the University of Vienna. Here I presented a poster on my current findings on dipper song.

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ECBB 2016 Poster

Sharing my work with the scientific community is the nice thing about conferences, people are genuinely interested and want to know what your work is on and have useful insites and questions about the research. What had me most on edge was walking into a conference filled with people and not making a single friend, standing lonely at lunchtimes… having no one to discuss the days events with. The registration did not disappoint my feelings of terror, everyone I saw seemed to know someone already and were deep in conversation. I sloped out after the first plenary, avoiding the evenings drinks reception with the promise I would try harder tomorrow and that I had been up since 4am and maybe I should just go to bed…

Thankfully the next day I met a fellow loan traveller from University of Sheffield. We bonded over fieldwork with birds and some sort of PhD family tree (my supervisors supervisor is her supervisor..) and from then I began to enjoy what was a lovely accumulation of behavioural plenaries, talks and posters. The highlight of which was the gala dinner in the Rathaus (town hall), such a gorgeous venue.

My husband joined me for the weekend and we had a wonderful time in Vienna visiting the zoo (best I have ever been to), and sampling every local brew and Dobos torte we could get our hands on.

Vienna is a beautiful city with many strange and wonderful things going on, like the surfing we found in a random square.

One wonderful (Yorkshire) wedding later…

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… I was ready to attend my next conference this time at the University of Exeter, ISBE – International Society for Behavioural Ecology.

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 Exeter University Clock tower

My newly formatted poster (50% of words removed – nobody reads them anyway), kept me busy during my poster session. I think I was only stood attempting to make eye contact with passers-by for about 10 minutes of the two hours, which is nice.

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ISBE 2016 Poster

 People generally can’t resist a dipper, the newly renamed “James Bond of birds” by Nick Baker in the opening ceremony. I even managed to fit another cheeky Yorkshire wedding in the middle of the conference…

Now I am home and happy after a challenging month, looking forward to knuckling down and getting my first chapter finished. Having met so many PhD students in that time I feel really lucky to be where I am and to have such an amazing supervisor guiding me through.

Things I have learnt from a month of conferences:

  • People never read posters, the bigger the graph/photo the better
  • A room full of academics can be terrifying – but it shouldn’t be, everyone has to start somewhere
  • An opening ceremony should probably begin with the naturalist… and end with Richard Dawkins (regardless of whether he bigs up dippers or not)
  • Free wine ALWAYS runs out
  • The guy who asks the aggressive question after a talk is usually a knob head
  • If there are a lot of people asking aggressive questions after a talk, it is possible the speaker has made a huge error (and probably shouldn’t be talking)
  • It is impossible not to look cool whilst wearing a lanyard
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Wondering how much of my current body mass is made up of tiny packets of biscuits…

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