At the start of December i was given the opportunity to not only attended my first primatology conference, but to also present my research for the first time (!), an eye opening couple of days with a lot of firsts!
The conference i attended was the Primate Society of Great Britain‘s 2018 winter meeting. A chance for primatologists and students across the UK, and the world, to join and share their research, thoughts, knowledge and experience from across both captive and wild primate disciplines.
The Primate Society of Great Britain, or PSGB, is the UK’s national primatological society founded in 1967, with the main aim of promoting research into all aspects of primate biology, conservation and management. The society publishes a journal the Primate Eye three times a year, in addition to hosting bothspring and winter conferences each year, where members and non-members are able to attend.
I became aware of PSGB early on during my masters study when my interest in primatology began to peak. I soon found out the the society offered a student membership at an affordable £15 per year, which includes discounted conference tickets, a copy of the Primate Eye journal and eligibility to a variety of grants the society offer. A few months later i then found out the society’s winter meeting was to be held in Bristol at Bristol Zoological Gardens, easily one of my favourite cities and zoo in the UK, so of course i WAS going to attend. This was to be my first PSGB conference, but also my conference ‘proper’ conference, so initially i decided that i didn’t want to present any of my research due to fear of ‘not being good enough’. However, after much discussion with fellow primatology friends about the experience and opportunities presenting gives i was converted and i submitted an abstract for a poster presentation. A few weeks later i received the email to confirm my submission was accepted! Naturally i was over the moon and so excited to be able to present my research and talk all about my sifaka and brown lemur buddies, but soon the nerves hit me…. however i was determined to not let this phase me, i mean i’d wrote 10,000 words on them so a poster was going to be a walk in the park…..right?
So after a few weeks of planning and poster making it was time for the conference! I was beyond excited as i was also getting to meet up with several friends from Madagascar that i hadn’t seen in months, one which was actually travelling from Germany especially for the conference!
The night before the big day consisted of a lovely reunion, with many drinks and a tasty pizza. Just what the doctor order to calm the nerves for the following day. As mentioned previously i love Bristol zoo and i felt very reassured that my first conference was going to be somewhere that i already knew quite well, calming the nerves slightly.
The first day was a busy and hectic one, as you can see by the schedule below. But wow what a first day! What an unbelievably amazing feeling to be in a room surrounded by so many people that share the same interest and passion as you do for primates and their conservation.
Before i continue i feel i should explain how each PSGB conference has a specific theme across primatology. So this winter meetings theme was, Primates in Peril: Conserving the world’s most threatened primates. This meant a lot of debate around the Top 25 Primates list, the Primates in Peril list, the Top 25 Most Endangered Primates, or whatever you want to call it. Just what to call the list was also a big debate of the 2 days! But whatever name you choose to give to the list, the debates that were had were very much needed and very interesting to listen to and be a part of.
I bet you’re wondering about my poster. Well at the start of the day i put up my post on its designated board, obviously stood next to it for the obligatory photo, then pretty much left it for people to wonder past and read throughout the day. Just before the evening buffet we were given the opportunity to stand with our posters and mingle/talk with people about its content. Through this i got to talking to a lovely lady with a poster next to mine who worked with SEED Madagascar, a fantastic charity working in the south of the island on sustainable development and conservation projects. Even in the northwest of the island i had the ability help support the charities work through purchasing items for their ‘Stitch Sainte Luce’ campaign.
After a lot of talking, networking, food and more talking it was time to leave the zoo and head to the pub to continue chatting and catching up. This conference malarkey is hard work i tell ya!
Day two was another early start, but only a half day this time. However day two was lemur day (arguably the best day), meaning two talks i was very much looking forward to. One was from Giuseppe Donati on his work in the south, the other from Jordi Salmona about his genetics work on the Critically Endangered Perrier’s sifaka in the north. Both really interesting talks that were worth the wait. One thing i really wanted to get from this conference was an idea of some potential future PhD supervisors (a PhD is still a long way off though!), and this was definitely achieved.
Even though day two was short the talks were fantastic reaffirming my love for primates and lemurs, and exciting me for the next PSGB conference in the spring which was to be held at Powell-Cotton Museum/Canterbury Christ Church University, focusing on captive primate care and conservation.
Overall my first proper conference experience was amazing and very valuble in many ways. To any new early budding conservationists and researchers i highly recommend getting to as many conferences as you can to help build your connections and confidence, i do understand however that this can be expensive or in some cases just not possible, but please don’t despair, there are ways around this. As a student you are often eligible to cheaper society memberships and conference tickets. In addition many societies often a variety travel grants, which are worth looking into. I myself in the next year am going to be exploring all these avenues as i look to attend the International Primate Society congress 2020, being held in Quito, Equador, which is going to be very pricey…. but hopefully worth every penny.
Before i say goodbye for now, i want to leave you with a photo of a very smug me at my recent masters graduation, where i graduated with a Distinction in my MSc in Endangered Species Recovery and Conservation.
Till next time