Another conference trip for a member of the Gage lab, this time David went off to Exeter to take part in the FSBIs 50th Anniversary conference: Understanding fish populations. Below David recounts his experiences from the conference, including his first ever participation in a speed talk.
No sooner had I touched down in Heathrow airport after a week’s holiday in Texas, before I was off again by train from London to Exeter. Despite being told that the University of Exeter is on a hill and that I should definitely get a taxi from the train station, but a quick look at google maps told me it was a 15min walk from the train station. I thought ‘I exercise, so I can make that no problem’…..mistake, 30 mins later after taking a few wrong turns and climbing up Mount Exeter I arrived at the conference covered in sweat and ready to register. Not the best first impression I’ve made at a registration desk, but my day quickly moved from physical exertion to a far more enjoyable mental exertion.
The FSBI’s overarching concept this year was ‘Understanding fish populations’, which attracted a diverse group of research interests. This was best highlighted by the plenaries, who talked about everything from feminisation of wildlife caused by anthropogenic chemicals, to collective sensing and decision-making in schooling fish. The later talk, provided by Prof Iain Couzin was particularly enjoyable from a personal perspective. Having originally seen this talk 2 years ago while working in Germany I was enthralled by the subject all over again. Surely a good sign when you enjoy the same talk a second time, don’t you think? Another plenary highlight was Prof Isabelle Cote’s brilliant talk on Lion fish invasion in tropical reefs and the multi-faceted repercussions, which painted a vibrant yet sombre picture of the kind of damage invasive species can do to marine ecosystems. Between the plenaries was a smorgasbord (always wanted to use that word in a scientific context) of scientific delights provided by the 15mins speakers. Prof Neil Metcalfe’s talk on his work in metabolic variation in juvenile salmon populations, and Dr Kate Laskowski’s presentation of her research examining predator behaviour and its effect on food web functioning, were also highlights for me. However, by far the most emotive talk was provided Exeter PhD student and eventual winner of the best student talk, Timothy Gordon who let the audience hear what a coral reef sounds like after a mass bleaching event. In comparison to the before sound, the eerie silence punctuated by intermittent clicks from snapper shrimp had a massive emotional and scientific impact on all the delegates I spoke to.
Finally, it was time to give my first speed talk and having never provided such a quick presentation before I was understandably nervous. However, a round of ooohhs and ahhhs due to my title page, which included a mp4 underwater video of my triploid salmon in Norway soon put me at ease. My talk was based on the work that Matt and I have been doing comparing the nutrient quality, specifically fatty acids, of diploid and triploid Atlantic salmon. SPOILER ALERT, triploids may contain healthier fatty acids than diploids per gram of lipid! However, just as quick as that sentence, my talk was over. So did I enjoy giving a speed talk? Yes and no. Yes, because it really makes you think about the importance of your research and specifically what are your most important results and why? No, because just as your talk comes to a close you feel like you’re settling into a rhythm, and unfortunately no questions where allowed to those of us providing a speed talk.
As well as all the talks and posters, the organising committee provided an extraordinary amount of entertainment and food! Our nights off included a BBQ, music set by Land of the Giants, who had recently performed at Glastonbury, and a Festive Banquet with guest speaker Charles Glover (writer of the book, End of the Line). Friday came too soon and the conference was over! As I made my way to the airport (for a flight that turned out to be delayed for 3 hours) my thoughts were cast to next year’s FSBI conference at our very own University of East Anglia and the academic delights to come.
All pictures by Dr Sulayman Mourabit