Fun, friendly and affordable, the BOU’s ever-popular annual conference is perfectly geared toward the inclusion of early-career researchers.

Katherine Booth Jones
Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society London, UK

The BOU go out of their way to make their annual conference as valuable to ECRs as possible: and as well as the usual line-up of engaging and diverse research talks, they provide a brilliant range of presenting opportunities (oral and poster) and hold an evening event where ECRs can ask a panel of experts about a given topic.

This year’s conference theme, ‘Avian Tracking: Birds in Time and Space’, was highly relevant to me as a PhD student studying seabird dispersal. However, whatever the theme, I would still take the time to attend this annual BOU event, as it’s a great opportunity to learn about cutting edge ornithological research, network with other researchers and catch up with familiar faces.

After the first day of visually inspiring talks (avian tracking lends itself very well to photogenic talks with impressive animations), the annual BOU ECR event was held in the evening in the main lecture hall because there were too many of us for the usual seminar room. The popularity of the event has swelled in recent years, and for good reason! ECRs are topped-up with a free bar (with waiter service!) and let loose to question a panel of expert researchers on the year’s Q&A theme; this year we were ‘demystifying the publishing process’. The event provides ECRs with honest and informative advice from those in the know. The atmosphere is very informal and friendly, and even those usually too shy to ask questions (myself included) are happy to speak up. This year’s discussion was so popular that we ran out of time after an hour and a half, so it would be good to have more time for this excellent event in the future. As an outcome of our talks, the BOU now plan to hold an ECR workshop next year on how to review research papers.

BOU2015_ECR event

The annual ECR event has outgrown the smaller seminar rooms so it now has to be held in the main hall, but it has maintained its informal, relaxed atmosphere.

As well as a full schedule of engaging talks, research posters are displayed in a light and airy hospitality lounge, conveniently next to the excellent coffee machines. Morning and afternoon breaks are great opportunities to view the posters and chat with their creators, but in case you missed one, the BOU schedule a ‘Poster Oral’ session into the first day of the oral programme. Here each of the poster authors has the challenge of introducing themselves and their research in under a minute, accompanied by a single slide. It is quick-fire and often funny, and a useful way of getting an overview of the topics covered in the posters.

New this year was the inclusion of ‘talking posters’, a collection of unmanned, narrated, short PowerPoint presentations running all the time in their own seminar room. This was an interesting way of presenting research in a different way to the usual oral and poster formats. I made one of these talking posters myself and found condensing all the information I wanted to share into just a handful of slides, and the four minutes of narration, a very challenging but valuable exercise. This new format also looked like it was very popular too with the delegates.

BOU2015_Talking_postersTalking posters – what a great new format for presenting your work!


One of the best things the BOU does for ECRs is to make this annual conference extremely good value for money. For £75 you get your accommodation and all meals included (the hosts at the University of Leicester provide truly amazing food, and you can potentially have three cooked meals a day!), a brilliant programme, the opportunity to network with leading researchers, and the possibility of winning an ECR oral presentation or poster prize.

The BOU have been inspiring early-careers researchers for decades and know their stuff. The BOU’s Godman Salvin Medal was presented to Professor Sarah Wanless (seabird ecologist at CEH). In her acceptance speech she said that the first conference she attended as an ECR was held by the BOU, and the experience inspired her to continue with her research and set her on the journey which now saw her outstanding contribution to ornithology being recognised by the BOU at the conference.
Right: Sarah Wanless, recipient of the BOU’s Godman Salvin Medal, was inspired by her first BOU conference she attended as an ECR.

The exciting demonstration of the use of technology in avian behavioural ecology at this year’s conference certainly has inspired me and I look forward to next year’s conference on Urban Birds. See you there!

Read Tom Evans’ (Lund University) fabulous #Storify summary of #BOU2015 in tweet form!
Some images and views from #BOU2015 on #theBOUblog

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