The BOU supported 12 early career ornithologists’ attendance of #IOCongress2018 in Vancouver. Here’s one of their accounts highlighting the take home messages from a truly international conference.

The ‘Ornamentation in Female Birds’ symposium was worth the registration fee alone

Whilst it can feel very lonely at times, I know I am in the same boat as many of my peers at the moment. I finished my PhD last year and have had a string of unsuccessful job applications, a couple of ‘you were a strong candidate’ and one postdoc interview. So, you can imagine my joy at finding out my application for an IOC travel grant with the BOU had been successful! To once again feel acknowledged and part of the ‘club’ was the morale boost I needed five months after submitting my PhD thesis. By the time August had come around, Impostor Syndrome had kicked back in and I was nervous to attend a conference filled with academic minds and concerned about my ability to ‘talk science’.

Luckily, my worries were abated fairly quickly. Within 24 hours I had found some wonderful #WomenInScience (@BlueTitEcology @scedwards19) to debate seminars with, discuss our latest findings and most importantly – sample the delights of the city of Vancouver with. Not only did I make some great friends, but I got the opportunity to hear (and speak to) some of the people I had cited in my thesis (and upcoming papers).

The symposia which were especially helpful to me, included: ‘Developmental programming’, ‘Cognition, Learning and Communication’, ‘Vocal signals’ and ‘The impact of anthropogenic noise on birds’. During all of which I was able to hear about the research that had been conducted in my field whilst I had been busy doing my own. It was great to have a whole community of people together talking about their work on birdsong and its development and function.

My favourite symposium of the entire conference was ‘Ornamentation in Female Birds’, for me this was worth the registration fee alone. Working with species where females produce song as complex as that of the males is a great area of interest for me. It was a great place for me to update my references and get ideas on what next to try and identify gaps within our research area.

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I was given the opportunity to present my own work in the form of a poster. It was great to interact with lots of people from all walks of life and get their spin on my research, the questions which followed have helped with formulating further plans for my work. My favourite group were a collection of local ornithologists brought to me by a student guide, asking me to explain my work to them in layman terms. They had a better grasp than most, and their questions were most inciteful!

The Expo was a good mix of poster sessions, stalls flogging their ornithological wares and a beautiful art exhibition, which was a welcome break between sessions when you were feeling overwhelmed with information.

IOCongress2018 was a great conference with so many inspiring sessions, it was hard to decide which to attend. The conference itself was well run and in a lovely city, but as an early career researcher with a travel grant it was quite daunting facing 10 days in a city with such a high a price tag.


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